Feminism

The Church vs. Game of Thrones!

First of all, a big fat SPOILER ALERT for Game of Thrones! The books as well as the TV show.

OK, everyone ready? So the next season of Game of Thrones has one of the biggest moments for Cersei, played by Lena Headey. Cersei is an awesome character: she’s a woman living in an incredibly misogynistic, patriarchal world who is trying to grasp power in the only ways that she can. That means marrying someone she hates, Robert Baratheon, in order to be queen. It means staying married to him and keeping up appearances despite the fact that he abuses her. It means pretending that her children are the product of that marriage, despite the fact that they are obviously the product of her super sexy incest. And now, in the show’s timeline, it means fighting to retain power despite the competition from the younger, prettier, and possibly better positioned potential queen Margaery, who, like Cersei when she was younger, is prepared to marry whoever she can to gain power.

In the books, the way Cersei fights Margaery is by using the patriarchal power against her. Cersei empowers the Church and arranges a conspiracy in which Margaery is essentially framed for having sex outside her marriage, and considering her engagement to a future king, this is considered treason and Margaery’s life is at stake. Past kings, including the two most recent of Joffrey and Robert, constantly had sex with whoever or whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, but the rules are different for women.

The plot backfires, though, and Cersei ends up being punished by the very forces she organized against Margaery. Cersei rose too high up and abandoned all the accepted roles for women in Westeros: Madien, Mother, or Crone. For behaving like a man in her scheming and her sexing, the Church reminds her that women are powerless and can never hope to overcome the structures in place against them, and they do that with the perfect misogynistic punishment: they strip her naked and force her to walk the city. All her subjects now see her as a weak, pathetic whore.

Now, that’s what happens in the books. What happens in the TV series remains to be seen. Lena Headey stated that she did not want Cersei to appear nude up until this moment, because it wouldn’t serve the story and in fact would take away from the power of suddenly seeing her stripped down. So Headey was excited to do this scene, and do it the right way. Naked.

Unfortunately, the Church of St. Nicholas has other ideas. That’s the Croatian church that the production uses as the Great Sept of Baelor in the town of Cavtat. According to TMZ, they are none too pleased with the prospect of public displays of sexuality, and so apparently they have not only denied the series access to film in the church but have also pressured the local authorities to deny the production the permits they need to film.

In other words, a Church is using moral outrage over a woman’s sexuality to stop the filming of a scene illustrating the danger of a Church using moral outrage over a woman’s sexuality to punish a woman. And for that we will all be punished.

Don’t worry, though, I’m sure the Game of Thrones producers can think of a way around this, whether it be recasting the Church or dressing Andy Serkis up in a motion capture suit and adding in a digitally-created naked Cersei later. Hopefully the former.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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7 Comments

  1. Minor comment: in the books, it is not at all clear that Cersei hates Robert when she marries him; in fact, what she claims suggests that she was at least infatuated with him, but that his actions (including being drunk during their wedding night, saying someone else’s name during the consummation, and then promptly falling asleep, as well as others) drove her to despise him. While it is certainly the case that the marriage was a political one (on both sides), and that access to power was a big part of it from the point of view of the Lannisters, it seemed at least that she thought at the time of the wedding that it wasn’t a bad bargain.

    1. Well, in the books, she makes it clear she wants to be queen more than anything. Not that marriages of convenience are necessarily horrible for the woman; Alys Karstark, for instance, chooses her own husband, but it’s very much for political reasons.

      I should add that at the time, Robert was Lord Baratheon; remember, the Baratheons were orphans. (Not that being lord means you’re free to marry for love. Isn’t that right, Robb?) So the marriage was his choice. (Though, of course, he wanted Lyanna.) Cersei…didn’t have that.

      She’s still not exactly a sympathetic figure, but her march to the Great Sept of Baelor shows an odd bit of empathy, as she starts seeing her various victims (the ones she thinks are dead) among the crowd.

      It’ll be interesting to see how the Faith Militant (Yes, Martin takes the term ‘church militant’ more literally than it’s meant.) will play out, since there are a few theories about the new High Septon.

    1. Well that is part of the scheme” Cersei tries to damn hard. So does Baelish and between themselves they bring down the whole kingdom.

      Cersei has a massive chip on her shoulder thinking she has been looked over for being the wrong sex. Which of course she has been but that does not make her competent.

      Its the same even more starkly with Tyrion who is the most competent administrator of the lot but is humiliated for being a dwarf.

      1. Tyrion is more than just a competent administrator: he is truly smart and cunning in the same mold as Tywin. Hence her aunt’s comment to Tywin that he only had one real son, and that was Tywin. With Cersei, it is certainly the case she is overlooked because she is a woman, and she is expected to exert her influence in the manner in which women are “supposed to”. But her real downfall ends up being what Tywin tells her in the tv series: “I don’t distrust you because you are a woman; I distrust you because you aren’t half as smart as you think you are.” Her plotting in “Feast of Crows” proves it: it is heavy handed, ill-thought out, and short-sighted.

  2. I can’t wait to see what GRRM does when he gets into the religious theology bit. It looks fairly clear that we are set for a religious war between the followers of the Old Gods, the seven and R’hllor.

    The seven is a pretty good parody of trinitarianism and the clerics have the same smug stupidity. They utter a load of utterly stupid incoherent twaddle and then ‘explain’ the contradictions by sighing and saying that God moves in mysterious ways.

    God is seven, no he’s not, he’s one, no wait! three, how about five? Does it have to be an odd number or prime? Hang on, one isn’t prime. Or is it? Perhaps God has other ideas.

  3. Hold on. “We” are being “punished” because some place across the sea has decided that they don’t want nude scenes being filmed in their facility? I’m a fan of GoT and not so much a fan of Christianity in general, but is that really what we’re going with here? GoT is the most successful show HBO has ever done, and a large amount of it is greenscreened/digitally created anyway, I’m sure they’ll manage.

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