In our hyper-woke 2017 society, gender roles are often the topic of public discussion. Hollywood has only over the past few years started to get with the times in casting characters- especially women -who don't fall into one gender-defined trope or another. In my most recent listen of the audiobooks (HIGHLY recommend if you want to get a greater understanding of the series than reading or watching alone) I noticed a clear pattern in the behavior of Cersei and Jaime. It seems as if Martin was ahead of the curve when he wrote these two- Cersei and Jaime's character traits fly in the face of traditional gender roles to such a great degree that it seems as if the two might have been intentionally swapped, with Jaime inheriting the trope of the doting female support character, and Cersei that of the assertive, traditionally masculine, protagonist. Let's deconstruct, shall we?
You've probably noticed that Cersei is not your run-of-the-mill subservient female character. In a world where women are relegated to the roles of arm candy, husband-assistant, prostitute, or commodity to be wed for familial gain, she clearly breaks the mold.
Whether she’s condemning people to death, manipulating the court, or seducing Taena Merryweather, Cersei’s character traits fit squarely within what would be expected of a traditionally masculine character. This is especially apparent when you look at her in contrast to her twin.
“Jaime and I are more than brother and sister. We are one person in two bodies.” Says Cersei- but what if Jaime is the female half, and Cersei the male? In terms of their relationship to one another, it fits all the stereotypes- Jaime has only ever loved Cersei, while Cersei has had multiple flings throughout the series, although they are typically for personal gain. Jaime needs Cersei- he spends all his time at Tully Castle imagining his reunion with her. Cersei, on the other hand, seems to need Jaime only insofar as she needs something from him- more often than not something that only he can accomplish due to his having been born a man. Jaime, devotee as he is, bows to her whims.
“The things I do for love” applies not only to Jaime’s defenestration of Brann. Jaime took up the white cloak, in defiance of his father, to be close to Cersei. As the male heir, Jaime is expected to rule Casterly Rock after his father’s death- but he relinquishes this post when he joins the Kingsguard. And the reason for his taking the white? Cersei asked him to. Cersei, who, as a woman, is not entitled to her father’s lands, has even greater aspirations- while she would undoubtedly have loved to be heir to Casterly Rock in Jaime’s stead, she’s set her sights on the entire Seven Kingdoms.
When Jaime’s hand is chopped off, his relationship with Cersei is irreparably and fundamentally changed. Jaime was valuable to Cersei insofar as he was able to command the respect and fear that she so desired. The source of Jaime’s authority came primarily from his skill in battle. Without his sword hand, he has effectively had his penis removed- and Cersei’s initial reaction is revulsion, followed by a swift dismissal of any remaining value that Jaime could have for her.
Gender roles are infinitely fascinating to talk about, and George R. R. Martin writes better female characters than had been seen in fantasy up until that point. Cersei and Jaime’s relationship, and how it defines traditional gender tropes, is just the tip of a huge and world-encompassing iceberg.