The Best Weapon Is a Woman

Comments (0) Issue 3, Non-fiction, Writing

The Best Weapon Is a Woman

By Brandon Thompson

 

     In the poem “Ozymandias,” by Percy Shelley, ordering the murder of an innocent child in order to hold onto his legacy is exactly the type of thing Ozymandias would do. Cersei Lannister, the main character in the popular series Game of Thrones, does this, as well as other things, which show her as a ruthless, self-absorbed leader who is only concerned with keeping her power and establishing a legacy. While not having all the same resources or position of power as Ozymandias, Cersei manages the same level of control over others by using sex, blackmail, and manipulation to get her way. These are the kinds of tools needed to control people when one doesn’t have the autonomy of a position like Pharaoh. Ozymandias was born into his position as king and given all the tools he needed to stay in power and build his legacy. Cersei was also born with status, but not that of a king. However, being queen means that she has the chance to establish a lasting legacy for herself and her family in the form of her children. Perhaps this difference between Cersei and Ozymandias was why he chose to focus purely on himself when leaving behind his mark on the world.

     Cersei was not handed a position of ultimate power yet was able to gain control. Ozymandias did not choose to be the Pharaoh, but he was not considered lesser. Though there are great burdens that come with ruling, certainly it is better to be the ruler than to be ruled. Ozymandias did not let his destiny as Pharaoh damper his goals as some might. He was not satisfied with just being king, instead he claimed to be “king of kings” in his lasting message to the world [1]. He thinks of himself in such high regard as to be superior to all other leaders, placing himself above them in status. Cersei Lannister is similar to Ozymandias in most of these ways. While not being born a princess, she was born into nobility to the wealthiest family in the seven kingdoms of Westeros. So with her status, she was chosen by her father to marry the new king as a replacement for his dead fiancé. With great entitlement, she now found herself in a place above everyone in the kingdom, with only one exception. Cersei never achieved the status of Ozymandias, being almighty ruler. She was always secondary to husband Robert Beratheon or her son Joffery, who would take her husband’s place or her father’s as head of her family. Because of this she uses social manipulation in order to get the people she can’t control to do what she wants.

     Ozymandias and Cersei had different versions of the kind of legacy they wanted to leave on the world. Ozymandias wanted to be remembered so that even people born long after his death would be able to see his majesty. The way he chose to do this was with a great statue of his likeness.[2] This statue would be so big its legs would shoot up like tree trunks out of the desert sands.  It would be there after he was gone to tower over all who would look upon it. He even had a message inscribed at the base of the statue for those too simple to comprehend his greatness. This statue would be the legacy he would leave behind to the world. This is where we see what is the greatest difference between Ozymandias and Cersei. The one thing Cersei truly cares about in the world is her children, Joffery, Myrcella and Tommen. Of all the members of her family she only genuinely cares about her own children. She would do anything to protect them, even pulling Joffery away from a battle to defend the capital as it was under attack.[3] For Cersei, her children are what she will leave behind when she dies. They will carry on her dynasty for future generations.

     Cersei and Ozymandias both show themselves as cold and emotionless in order to distinguish themselves from the rest of their people. One way Ozymandias did this was with the expressions he displayed on his face, or rather lack of expression. The speaker of the poem, Ozymandias, describes the features on the face of his statue in the poem by saying “whose frown,/ And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command.”[4] His statue was the personification of how he presented himself in life. That is to say as a leader he remained cool, calm, and collected, so that his subjects would never see what he was actually feeling. The only emotion showing is from his entitled sense of arrogance shown through wrinkled lip. Cersei has also mastered this control over her emotions but uses it to a much greater extent than Ozymandias. Rather than just remaining stone- faced in every situation, she uses them carefully as a way of manipulation. Even when faced with impending death from an attacking army she keeps her guise in order to pacify the other women.[5] Her only consistent expression is one of arrogance while in the presence of those not worth her time.

     What is most interesting about Cersei is what sets her apart from other leaders. Cersei found herself being used by others for their own gains, something that is never mentioned in Shelley’s poem. Cersei was used by her father to secure a higher standing in the kingdom by becoming the bride of new king.[6] She was also used by the king as a replacement for his dead fiancé. This chip on her shoulder would change her from simply a noble woman into a fierce tyrant and manipulator like Ozymandias. Ozymandias on the other hand was Pharaoh of all of Egypt and supreme ruler over all its people so it is unlikely that he was ever treated in this kind of way. However that did not stop him from living up to the connotation that comes with the title of Pharaoh. The speaker in Shelley’s poem creates a vision that is every bit as ruthless as the visual performance of Cersei in Game of Thrones.

     Cersei’s abilities to control and manipulate people from her position as queen are truly frightening. When compared to the great god King Ozymandias, she lacks the same immunity and authority that he enjoys, but she is still able to get everything she needs to create her own dynasty. Instead of slaves, she has people like her brother, Jamie, whom she uses like puppets to keep and increase her position of power. She has the same vicious arrogance as Ozymandias which she uses to get rid of anyone who would stand in her way. Even though in her version the legacy was less self centered than Ozymandias, I would argue that a living heir could have a larger impact than even the most hyperbolic statue. Because all statues, no matter how grand, eventually become ruins, a family line can continue for as long as their will to fight and survive lasts. With the level of control Cersei was able gain over everyone around her, it makes me wonder how much power Ozymandias wielded, and whether there was someone like Cersei surreptitiously manipulating him.

[1] Percy Shelley, Ozymandias, 1811.

[2] Percy Shelley, Ozymandias, 1811

[3] Game of Thrones. “Blackwater.” Season Two, Episode Nine. Directed by Neil Marshall. Written by George R.R. Martin. HBO. May 27, 2012.

[4] Percy Shelley, Ozymandias, 1811.

[5] Game of Thrones. “Blackwater.” Season Two, Episode Nine. Directed by Neil Marshall. Written by George R.R. Martin. HBO. May 27, 2012.

[6] Game of Thrones. “Blackwater.” Season Two, Episode Nine. Directed by Neil Marshall. Written by George R.R. Martin. HBO. May 27, 2012.

 

References

Shelley, Percy. “Ozymandias.” 1811

Game of Thrones. “Blackwater.” Season Two, Episode Nine. Directed by Neil Marshall. Written

     by George R.R. Martin. HBO. May 27, 2012.

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