ADWD, Tyrion VI:
Cersei is as gentle as King Maegor, as selfless as Aegon the Unworthy, as wise as Mad Aerys. She never forgets a slight, real or imagined. She takes caution for cowardice, and dissent for defiance. And she is greedy. Greedy for power, for honor, for love. Tommen’s rule is bolstered by all of the alliances that my lord father built so carefully, but soon enough she will destroy them, every one.
Okay, let’s have a talk fandom. I feel like some people have taken this description of Cersei from Tyrion to heart. And the thing is, it’s not an untrue description, necessarily. Cersei is indeed a cruel, greedy person, with intense paranoia, who believes that if she doesn’t get her way, other people are doing it to her, and who frequently charges in without thinking things through. And yes, she does one by one destroy her father’s alliances. So if that’s what you want to see when you look at Cersei, I suppose you’re welcome to it.
But let me tell you what I see, because honestly I think it’s a lot more interesting. I see a woman who was raised by a man who only knew how to take. Tywin Lannister was cruel and ruthless. He saw an insult as a slight, too. He put down rebellions when he was a young man, you should hear that song about him, you know the one, the Rains of Castamere?
And Cersei has a twin, a twin who is the same as her in every way, except that he’s a boy. A twin who is her equal, who she should be treated equal to. But instead he gets freedom and swords, and father’s attention. And she gets cages and dresses and womanhood, alone. And what does she want? Well what Jaime has, naturally. But she’s denied it. Sure, she can have glimpses of what it might be like, when she dresses as Jaime and does what he does for a moment or two, but it’s not the same. So she says fine, if this is my lot then I’ll be the best at it. I’ll be beautiful and perfect and I’ll be the Queen, because if I can’t be Jaime then I can at least be the highest thing I can be.
And she has her father’s ambition, and her brother’s will. His mistakes are her mistakes. They are both brash, they both rush in without thinking. And he looses an arm for it, but you don’t see anyone calling him someone who mistakes ‘caution for cowardice.’
Likewise with her alliances. Do you think Mace Tyrell respects Cersei Lannister the way he would Tywin, or even Kevan or Jaime or Tyrion? No. Because she’s a woman. His own mother is the best player in the game and he never notices because she’s a woman.
Yes, Cersei is a greedy, selfish, brash, paranoid person. But isn’t it more interesting to care about why? To see the way she works in parallel to her brother, to both her brothers?
Because Tyrion is greedy, too, especially for love. Tyrion jumps in without thinking, or do you think he was planning on killing his father and his lover when he woke up that morning? Tyrion remembers every person who slighted him in his interior monologue, he remembers and he pays his debts, he is a Lannister after all. And Tyrion tolerates dissent only because he spews it himself, but he doesn’t tolerate it from women.
The three siblings’ mistakes are the same, because they are all crafted in the mold of their father. His flaws and his talents are fractured into his three children, and they can only work in tandem. Unfortunately, he also taught them to hate one another, to be jealous of any presumed favor, and to always believe they are in the right.
In Jaime this results in his lack of ability to care about oaths and promises and honor, in Cersei her lack of apologies for the atrocities she commits, and in Tyrion with his spectacular talent for denial.
Of course, this all falls apart if you read the first as “swagger,” the last as “innocent,” and the middle as “bitch,” but hey, that’s your loss.