Overanalyzing Game of Thrones: Why I'm Not Celebrating the Purple Wedding

A few weeks ago, something happened on Game of Thrones.

Even if you haven't seen it, you know somebody died.

Since people who freely post Game of Thrones spoilers deserve to languish in the lower circles of hell normally reserved for those people who post Facebook updates about their bowel movements and scream at innocent cashiers to feel alive, I'm giving you fair warning. If you haven't seen Game of Thrones season 4, eipsode 2, there be spoilers ahead.

Turn back now!

Seriously. Last warning. Once you scroll down, you can't un-see what you're about to read, and when you do get around to watching the episode, you'll ignore everything that happens to the 47 interchangeable angry white men while you wait for the pivotal scene to arrive. You don't want that.

They're laughing at you for not heeding my warnings.

Okay, I warned you. You ready for this?

Joffrey Baratheon is dead. 

You're not looking so good, buddy.

Yes, after more than three seasons of demanding the little turd's blood, fans of the show finally got their wish when Joffrey choked to death on poisoned wine at his own wedding. Ding dong, the witch is dead. But before you burst into song and break out the celebratory burning effigy, take a minute to over-analyze the moment. If you do, you might find that Joffrey's death is as much as a sad occasion as it is a happy one. That's because...

Joffrey is just a child. 

Joffrey Baratheon was a terrible king, an awful son, and an all-around shitty human being. He was also just thirteen years old when he died - in other words, he was legally, physically and mentally still a child.

Just like Jon Snow. Who is totally 14, guys.

Thirteen-year-olds are naturally shitty. It's their default state. It's the only way they know how to be. Think about any thirteen-year-olds you know: they make terrible decisions, say horrible things, and they're capable of ball-shriveling cruelty at the drop of their rhinestone-studded hats. Do they really deserve to die painful deaths for that? Hell, think about yourself at thirteen. Would you trust thirteen-year-old you with your life? Your job? Your Facebook account? I couldn't be trusted to pick out a non-stupid hair colour at thirteen, never mind rule a kingdom. 

I am so very, very glad that social media didn't exist until I was in high school.

When you're an adolescent, the frontal lobes of your brain are essentially a big gooey mush of neurons. And that's bad news for everyone who comes in contact with you, because those parts of your brain that haven't come online yet are in charge of things like impulse control, empathy, emotional regulation, and decision making. Sure, on a cognitive level, adolescents know that things like theft and assault and genocide are wrong, but that's a very different from understanding, on an emotional and empathetic level, that these things are wrong. You all know that stealing is wrong, but I'm willing to guess that my entire readership isn't watching Game of Thrones on a bought-and-paid-for HBO subscription.

Or an HBO Canada subscription, since almost half of you are Canadian.

The same thing applies to Joffrey. Yes, he's a tyrant and a terror, and he brought his death on himself. But he's still a child. He wasn't even old enough to shave, let along recognize the moral gravity of his actions. He's a child who wound up in a situation he wasn't capable of handling, asked to make decisions he couldn't possibly understand, and because of it, he died scared in his mother's arms, pleading for her to help him. That hardly seems like something to celebrate. Thanks to forces outside Joffrey's control, he never got the chance to grow up and mature a little. Most people with serious emotional and behavioral disturbances in childhood tend to grow out of it as they age - maybe Joffrey eventually would have too. But any chance at redemption has been taken from him, and the worst part is the person responsible...

This is all Cersei's fault, not his.

Pretend, for just a moment, that you're a middle-aged woman living in a medieval, semi-fantasy universe. Of course, you're not just any middle-aged woman; you are the Queen of a kingdom that effectively amounts to All of the Temperate Areas in Your Region. You married your husband because Power, obviously, and despite his laziness, whore-mongering and spectacular obesity, he's shaped up to be a moderately effective King. Since your husband is too busy sticking his sword - both metal and otherwise - into things all day, you and your super-family of creepy blonde people have some say in what goes on, though not nearly as much as the King of the Cold-Ass Areas in Your Region. Also, despite your wealth and status, you own approximately one outfit.

This one. And you're none too pleased about it.

Of course, no amount of money or influence can change the fact that, as a woman, your entire value as a human being hinges on your ability to fire babies out of your nether regions. Problem is, you hardly want to hop into bed with your husband and his literal crotchload of old-timey STDs. So you look around, notice 'hot damn, my DNA is attractive' and decide to find out what happens when you create a child who shares 75% of your genes. Your repeated experiments in inbreeding have three results: you get a gentle, mild-mannered son; a sweet, charming daughter; and a dead-eyed, crossbow-wielding psychopath.

This might be a stretch for some of you.

Cersei Lannister is responsible for Joffrey's rise - and fall - in three ways. First off, she created him. Yes, I know that the latex condom is probably a long, long way off in the future in her world, but that's not what I'm talking about. Every human society to ever live on this earth has had some sort of incest taboo. Westeros is not ancient Egypt, where sibling marriage was required of the nobility. Cersei's little tryst with her brother's hair (and the rest of the man attached to it) is such a dark secret, Jaime was literally willing to straight-up murder a child to keep it a secret. Even if they are living in the 'quick, fetch more leeches!' era of medical technology, Cersei has plenty of reason to suspect that letting your twin father your children is just not a good idea.

You have endured four goddamn seasons of the 'Bran Stark can't walk' storyline because of Jaime. Remember that.

Still, Jaime Lannister is awfully pretty. But even if we forgive Cersei for taking sisterly love a little too far, she is still responsible for creating Joffrey. In the books (and in the TV show, to some extent), we get a glimpse of the overarching theme of Joffrey's childhood: in Cersei's eyes, he can do absolutely no wrong. Robert wants nothing more than to haul off and slap the smirk right off the kid's face, but Cersei won't hear of it. No matter what depraved, dead-animal-related thing he gets up to, Cersei does nothing but dote on him, actively shielding him from the consequences of his actions whenever necessary. She creates a spoiled brat - a brat with no regard for life, no empathy, and no ability whatsoever to consider how his actions will impact other people. What's more, Cersei raised two other children who are seemingly polite and well-adjusted. In other words, she is apparently capable of being a decent parent, but she reserves all of her shitty child-rearing for the only one of her offspring who is expected to rule over everything that isn't perma-frost.

Who the fuck decided that teaching him to use this was a good idea?

But hey, sometimes people just turn out badly, no matter how hard their parents try to raise them right. Maybe Joffrey was broken from birth; that's hardly his fault, or his mother's. But you know what's still Cersei's fault? Putting him on the throne. She knew full well that her eldest child was a monster. She knew that Robert was not. She also knew that her family had the resources to effectively cover up any ugly deed or rumor they pleased, including all 837 of her dwarf brother's illicit sexytimes. And yet, she is so threatened by someone noticing that Joffrey's hair colour is awfully Lannister-ish that she wigs out and arranges for her husband to be murdered by an angry pig. She lives roughly a thousand years before the onset of DNA technology, and she chooses to put a raging, hormonal teenage lunatic on the throne rather than risk someone pointing out that her son has the same hair colour as his mother.

In book six, Daenerys' armies and dragons abandon her when they realize she was a brunette the entire time.

It was a terrible decision, and it is literally 100% Cersei Lannister's fault. She's not living in a democracy, where the people can vote for a new heir if word gets out that Jaime might be her babydaddy. They're royalty; doubting what they say is goddamn treason. Cersei could claim that the moon itself plummeted down out of the sky to impregnate her, and people would be forced to believe her. She has far less to fear from a rumor than she does from living under the thumb of her heartless son. From her perspective, it hardly even makes sense: as Robert's wife and Queen, she gets to rule alongside him for the rest of his pudgy, hooker-banging life. As Joffrey's mother, she'll be relegated to Queen Regent for maybe four or five years, and then she'll lose power completely. If she'd just waited, Joffrey still would have ended up as King - after he had matured into an adult. Despite what crotchety old people with shotguns would have you believe, kids get less psychotic with age, not more.

Didn't really think that one through, did ya?

If she was going to murder someone to keep her family's claim to the throne safe, then all she needed to do was bump Ned Stark off the mortal coil. Since he's the only person alive who decides that a family resemblance between nephew and uncle is suspicious, he is the only threat to the Lannister's position. Killing Robert doesn't help her; it just catapults her son into power long before he's actually prepared to be there. And we can hardly blame Joffrey for accepting the throne. He was groomed for the role; every moment of his childhood that wasn't spent impaling puppies and kicking little girls was devoted to listening to other people tell him that he was born to be King. Of course he would agree to rule, after his mother offered him up the throne on a silver platter.

But once his extravagantly clothed behind hit the Iron Throne, Cersei Lannister became the least threatening member of her clan. Because...

Tywin Lannister is a psychopath.

Joffrey Baratheon was cruel in exactly the way you'd expect a teenage boy to be cruel. He grows bored of people quickly. He bullies everyone around him to make himself feel powerful. He has a fragile ego, and he lashes out at anyone who tarnishes it. He's rude to his mother, abusive to animals, savage towards women, and generally hateful to the world around him.

Joffrey, enraged. Or constipated.

Thankfully, he is also fairly predictable, in exactly the ways you'd expect a teenage boy to be predictable. He has a childish perspective on what it means to be king, and happily leaves most of the actual ruling to his family. He always targets the people who are least able to defend themselves. And he has no interest whatsoever in letting his mom or grandfather cramp his style; Joffrey only takes orders from Boobs.

These boobs, to be exact.

Naturally, this makes Tommen Baratheon, Joffrey's younger brother and the next heir to the throne, a preferable ruler. Despite his incest-tastic origins, Tommen is kind, gentle and sensitive. He likes sweets, kittens and baby deer, and will almost definitely not behead anybody and display their head on a pike. He also happens to be freaking 9 years old, which means he will almost certainly take a whole lot of direct advice from his dear old Grandpa.

Which is bad. Very bad.

Tywin Lannister is the psychopath Joffrey could only dream of being. While the latter expressed himself mainly through ineffective, petulant temper tantrums, Tywin is patient and calculating enough to get whatever he wants. He is equally capable of orchestrating a war or a marriage to get his way. He doesn't trifle with bullying the weak; he strikes the strongest when they least expect it. He's even willing to literally murder his own children in order to keep his family's firm grip on power. And he almost certainly does not take orders from Boobs.

Nope. Not even those boobs.

Joffrey is a dangerous man to have in power because he's short-tempered and childish; Tywin is a far more dangerous leader, because he's a goddamn psychopath, and he knows exactly what he's doing. Joffrey killed a prostitute. Tywin killed the Stark family. In fact, the only real threat to Tywin's power was Joffrey himself; no matter how cunning, or experienced, or ruthless Tywin may be, Joffrey was still his King. If Joffrey ordered Tywin to dance through the castle in his underwear, Tywin would have to do it - there's no authority Tywin can invoke that will override the King's word. The pair butt heads over everything; Tywin has to have drawn-out arguments with his grandson and resort to petty measures, like failing to tell him about meetings, in order to get his way. Joffrey was, in a lot of ways, the lesser of the two evils, and as he got older, he would almost certainly have gotten more adept at thwarting his grandfather.

For instance, Joffrey would almost certainly have put an end to his grandfather's twerking.

But now Joffrey is dead, and Tommen is King. Sweet, innocent Tommen, who so desperately wants to please the grandfather his admires. Tommen, who will almost certainly do as Tywin says without question, leaving Westeros in the hands of a vicious psychopath by proxy.

Winter is coming, indeed.

What did you think of the Purple Wedding? Leave it in the comments! 

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