Crappy Caption Commentary: The Evil Queen, Cersei and The Scarlett Archetype
By Alex Cranz
This past Sunday my television exploded with two straight hours of fantasy goodness. Something I haven’t been able to enjoy since ye olden days when ABC was always making terrible miniseries with crappy CGI. And as I was sitting there queefing over all the nerdery on display I realized something. The South was rising again y’all.
Okay. That came out wrong. Yes racism is more overt than it has been in my personal living memory, but what I was actually referring to was the return of the Scarlett archetype.
See Scarlett may not be the first antiheroine, but she’s certainly the most enduring and popular. When Gone With the Wind was published in 1936 it was a massive hit. And then the film was released in 1939 and become one of the most awarded and highest grossing films of all time. Because Rhett Butler was a Wang? No! Because Scarlett was being a Scarlett. The kind of antiheroine you root for despite her many significant flaws.
Scarlett is like an antiheroine–only about twenty times more morally repugnant. In the last few years the line between hero and antihero has so blurred that every single dude seems to have a few antiheroic traits.
Which means new antiheroes have to be created and they have to be even more depraved than their ancestors. They have to be Wangs. And their female counterpart? Those are Scarletts.
Chief among the new breed of Scarletts is Cersei. The evil queen of Westeros who is madly in love with her brother, genuinely concerned with the welfare of the kingdom and possessing a penchant for wielding her power like a claymore.
But an hour earlier over on ABC you have another Scarlett. One who rapes and then murders dudes, condemns an entire universe to misery because no one wants to date her and rocks the finest cleavage on television.
“But wait!”, you’re asking, “what do those three have in common besides a penchant for pissing off neckbeards?”
Funny you should ask! I made a handy list!
They’re not the only ones. Cordelia Chase was like a baby Scarlett on Buffy only significantly less evil. Later this year Charlize Theron will play another Scarlett–though seeing as she’s playing the same character as Regina of Once Upon a Time we could probably change the name of the archetype to Evil Queen.
And Angelina Jolie is playing none other than Maleficent in a reboot of Sleeping Beauty told from the queen’s point of view and due out next year. The evil, misunderstood queens are on the rise and that can only mean good things for the representation of women.
For a long time women weren’t allowed moral ambiguity. We were either Penelopes or Circes with no inbetween. Then Scarlett came along and now Sunday nights are a feast for lovers of misunderstood ladies villains who often blur the line between villainesses and heroines.
But they’re still not the perfect counterpoint to the Wang. The Wang is lusted after by teenage girls who want someone violent and heady and scary but sexy. The Scarlett isn’t lusted after by teenage boys. Instead, she’s revered by teenage girls. She gets fan art and songs and short stories written about her. She embodies dark desires that are perhaps considered too dangerous to really be applauded in pop culture (because of sexism).
That could change. Regina on Once Upon a Time could usher in a new age for the Scarlett. Right now she’s the villain but there’s that suggestion that maybe there are worse things than Regina Mills. Maybe she too is just a heroine waiting to be saved (much like Rumpelstiltskin who is also serving double duty as the Beast). Up until now Scarlett’s story always ends in misery. Rhett leaves, Jaimie is captured and the stable boy is murdered. The Scarlett never experiences the redemptive arc that Wangs get.
Here’s hoping Emma Frost doesn’t remain the only Scarlett to experience a complete heroic journey. Because I for one, would like a Scarlett who’s wardrobe isn’t limited to bustiers and belly shirts. Also I really just want Regina and Cersei to win at everything.