'Game of Thrones' Isn't Being Very Kind to Cersei

Game of Thrones walks an interesting line with feminism — the women who go by the title of "Lady" are often far more than just wives to their Lords, and the women are wildly strong. We have fighters like Brienne, the young Arya, and Dany is attempting to rule a nation. Then, we have Ygritte shoot an arrow at Jon Snow because he can't be with her (or just knows nothing). In this utterly humanistic — to the point that it's pessimistic — show, these women don't always have the most genuine motivations. The ones who do not seek vengeance are by and large the less interesting characters (we're lookin' at you, Sansa Stark, the Pawn Princess in Littlefinger's Mustachioed Game), and the ones who make us worried for the sake of humanity. This week, Game of Thrones did it again — gripping us to the screen and making us question our values, and begging the question "is Game of Thrones feminist at all?"! Because in Game of Thrones' sixth episode this season, "The Law of Gods And Men," we saw that the women are particularly vengeful — starting with two certain ladies named Cersei and Shae.

Well, it didn't take much for us to pinpoint that about Cersei. Cersei, undoubtedly one of the most fully drawn, if hatable, characters on the show, has been this amalgam of a mourning mother and a vengeful Ex-Queen Regent. Yet the entire trial (which was so great we should just give Peter Dinklage his Emmy for it already), if you think about it, was an orchestration of Cersei's. Vengeance is her game; that is how she plays the show's namesake game. She'll put on a farce (as Tyrion accurately called it) of a trial to see what she wants to happen. Of course, she's a woman in pain, but her way of putting herself in a powerful position — one where she can be even-handed with Tywin (who looks awfully at home sitting in that Irone Throne) is by executing revenge on her brother in front of the entire Kingdom.

Shae did it, too. We saw her come back in a surprise appearance to testify against her lion. If you didn't want to bawl your eyes out for Tyrion during her testimony, I'd like to order you a set of emotions. "Shae The Funny Whore" was never so funny, but did you think she was vengeful? Vengeful enough testify against Tyrion because he sent her away? That she'd want to see him dead? While most of her testimonial was indeed true (actually, everyone's testimonies were true, just put into terrible, terrible context) that whole garbage about Tyrion and Sansa plotting to kill Joffrey was grade-A bullshit. But no matter, what really cut deep was that she used their relationship against him. Ouch, Shae. That one hurts more than those leeches Melisandre put in Gendry's pants.

It's pretty clear that what Shae did was a vengeful thing to do, and consequently, it's painful to watch. But as a woman, just because women are truly running the show — Cersei is pulling strings like a grand marionettist with some serious eyebrows, and Shae's testimony drove Tyrion to demand trial by combat — doesn't mean we're cheering in the stands. These women's acts of vengeance are against one of our favorite characters, so it's all downright devastating.

The portrayal as women as spiteful, vengeful, hateful people is, of course, not feminist — but these characters are too hurt, too fully rooted in pain to get labeled with such a sticker. They're people. They're not two dimensional. Since most women in Westeros don't fight, save for Brienne, Arya, and Yara, words and manipulation are all that some of these women have. And at times, like right now, manipulative vengeance is stronger than an iron sword.

Whether that's feminist or not is up for debate — women have a key role in the fate of a man, but on account of seeking revenge.

Still, it's not just women who favor vengeance as the weapon of choice. Consider every act that's been happening an episode of someone trying to seek revenge. Even if we may roll our eyes at how some women might be portrayed (and some feminists at large might accuse Shae of taking strong acts in response to heartbreak as weak), while cheering on other women, we can't deny that if vengeance is the best used weapon in Westeros — better than a Valyrian steel sword — and women are using that weapon, that the show, indeed, has some feminist aspects to it.

Image: HBO