It’s a comparison that has oft been made — whether fairly or unfairly, in jest or seriously — by the viewing public. But in her new book on the 2016 election, What Happened, former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton drew an analogy between herself and Game of Thrones’ Queen Cersei Lannister for the first time.
The comparison was limited, however, to Cersei’s most sympathetic moment on the show: that time she was walked naked through the streets of King’s Landing by the Sparrows, while jeering crowds hurled rotten vegetables and a nun with a bell chanted “shame.”
Clinton described the disrespectful treatment at Trump rallies as exactly this kind of mob mentality in a chapter titled “On Being a Woman in Politics”:
It’s not easy for any woman in politics, but I think it’s safe to say that I got a whole other level of vitriol flung my way. Crowds at Trump rallies called for my imprisonment more times than I can count. They shouted, “Guilty! Guilty!” like the religious zealots in Game of Thrones chanting “Shame! Shame!” while Cersei Lannister walked back to the Red Keep.
Nothing wrong with that analogy, even if it does mean that Clinton is temporarily aligning herself with the most devious leader in Westeros.
But she’s right, of course. The crowds at Trump rallies were disrespectful and bloodthirsty beyond anything we’d seen before in American presidential politics. Attendees seemed to delight in dissolving into mere misogynistic mobs.
And the Westerosi comparison is a fairly neat stepping stone to the key analogy in the next paragraph: those crowds (not to mention the merch they bought) were practically medieval, even mythological.
As Susan Bordo, a Pulitzer Prize–nominated gender studies professor, put it in her book The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, “It was almost medieval.” Mary Beard, the Classics professor at the University of Cambridge, observed that this venom harkened back to an even earlier time. One popular image among Trump supporters, found on everything from T-shirts to coffee mugs, depicted Trump holding up my severed head, like Perseus from ancient Greek mythology, lifting high the head of Medusa.
We can only hope the 2020 election will be more a refined 21st century debate on the issues, and less Game of Thrones. With luck, this is the last time a female presidential candidate is able to compare herself to a fictional Queen who maintained her dignity while walking through a baying mob.