You killed her wrong.

Like most youth, I have my fair share of TV show obsessions.  My movie taste is very messy in a sense that I don’t have a specific genre I am attached to.  But, I always find a character that resonates with me.  And, obviously, the characters have a lot in common.  They all are powerful, strong, and (often) compassionate women.  Most importantly, they are smart women.  You might judge me for being biased, but the truth is I grew up looking for role models in imaginary characters.  This stuck with me and at 23, I find myself connecting with a queen of a notional empire.  This is not a film critique.  And I am not just going to tell you about my favorite characters.  I am gonna tell you about how they died.

The Queen of the seven kingdoms.

Cersei Lannister was the type of woman that will do anything to get what she wants. She was cruel and selfish. She was human. Not a perfect embodiment of what a woman should be, but flawed, envious, vulnerable and alive. She had endured a lot, including the death of all of her kids.Naturally, she had many enemies—she was a queen. Her enemies cut her beautiful, long hair and made her the laughing stock of the people of the city. But Cersei had a plan. On the day she was supposed to get judgment from the priests that captured her, she watched from her bedroom window—red wine in hand—as the entire Cathedral burned to the ground. She had organized an underground mob to turn the entire place to ashes. Can we just take a moment to acknowledge how powerful she was? Even imprisoned, she could snap her fingers and get people to do what she wanted. So, how did the famous HBO decide to seal her faith? Cersei Lannister died terrified, running around with a building collapsing on her head. Eight seasons of power and dedication, yet she died as if she was a filthy, disgusting rat.

The Shield Maiden.

Here is a fun fact: when archaeologists discovered a Viking skeleton known as the Birka Warrior, they refused to believe it was a woman even though it had a female pelvis. Their reason was simple: the warrior was buried with all weapons intact. They argued there was no way it could be a woman. Sadly for them, DNA tests revealed the skeleton did, in fact, belong to a woman. The truth is Viking women fought at battles, worked as farmers, had kids; they did almost anything they wanted. One of those women warriors was Lagartha. Lagartha was a well-known and much admired shield maiden. She was one of the most skilled warriors, winning many battles and fighting in many wars. History channel portrayed Lagartha very elegantly—then they ruined it. There is no actual record of how Lagartha dies in real life. How did History channel kill her? …Stabbed on a muddy road at night by her drunk step-son. That is not even the worst of it; when her stepson saw her, he thought she was a gigantic snake. This respected, talented, loved warrior was killed as if she was a monster.

Real life was not that different.

You might be thinking, “Oh! This millennial! Going on and on about movies when there are real problems in the real world!” But bear with me. In the middle ages women were burned alive with their bodies tied to poles. Thankfully, humankind has moved on from burning “witches” out in the open. The truth is, many of the women that were considered witches were actually individuals that possessed knowledge the rest of the community lacked. Some of them had medical, geographical, and strategic knowledge; and some of them were just darn good con artists. But in any case, when word was out there was a woman that could do this or that, she was burned at the stake. For me the saddest witch burning was that of Joan of Arch. Joan is a French heroin that played a decisive role in the victory of France in the Hundred Years’ War. Sadly for humanity, this phenomenal woman was captured by French nobles and handed over to the British. The British held a trial, deemed her guilty and burned her at the stake. Joan was only 19 when she died. In my opinion, what modern day TV shows are doing is no different from witch burning. It is punishing powerful women for being extraordinary by destroying their characters.

Why does this matter?

This matters because of the intention behind the killings. I am well aware there are many men that meet such sad ends. But there are many men who don’t. Of the few women on TV screens we get to see be powerful and courageous, we must witness as they are stripped of their dignity and their power. I did not grow up watching Cinderella thinking I would one day find a prince to sweep me off my feet. I grew up watching Mulan, admiring scarifies she makes to protect her aging father. I believed if Mulan could go to war and actually be able to create a chain of events that lead to the victory of her country, there was nothing I could not do. So when I see Cersei and Lagartha and the few other powerful women in movies, I see possibilities. I see hope. I see power. This matters because when their power is stripped away, many others like me and I feel discouraged. I hope the younger generation experiences something different. I hope they read Comic books like Hawi and feel their own power rise. I hope they find many more women action figures, queens and shield maidens to admire. Most of all, I hope those imaginary role models die a dignified and powerful death.

Written By: Hellina Hailu Nigatu