Queen of Sad Mischance: Medievalism, “Realism,” and the Case of Cersei Lannister

  • Kavita Mudan Finn
Part of the Queenship and Power book series (QAP)


George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire and the accompanying HBO television series Game of Thrones have garnered both praise and censure for their treatment of women. Through a close analysis of the character arc of Queen Cersei Lannister, this chapter unravels some of that perceived realism and considers the implications of Martin’s particular brand of medievalism on perceptions of premodern women. Proponents of cinematic “realism” tend to emphasize the “dark” in Dark Ages when depicting medieval Europe, and there are many examples to choose from—The Tudors, The Borgias, Vikings, and so forth. The “realism” defence asserts that the misogynist, racist, and ableist attitudes in Game of Thrones merely reflect the culture on which the series are based, namely Western Europe in the medieval and early modern periods and, in a superficial sense, it’s an accurate assessment. What this defence fails to take into account, however, are the specific interpretive choices Martin makes. A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones are not reflections of premodern Europe, but rather, refractions that provide a distorted, sensationalized impression of the period. Cersei is the only prominent member of the Lannister family who is never given the benefit of the doubt in the books and only rarely in the fandom. This chapter explores Cersei’s divergent arcs in the books and the HBO series as well as fan responses to her representation.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kavita Mudan Finn
    • 1
  1. 1.ManchesterUSA

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