Monday, April 20, 2020

Tyrion and Cersei, parent ersatz

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Another thing that came to me while listening to NotACast's disection of ACOK Sansa III was the question of how the hell Joffrey could be reigned in by the two misfit siblings if they had actually had more ability for self-reflection and cooperation. It's a long shot, I know, but it reminds me of my BLAP about Tyrion and Tywin getting along. Yes, unlikely, and yes, it would be a different story, but how could they actually go about it if they were so inclined? 
Jeff and Emmet talk about Tyrion threating Joffrey with Cersei, which gets the boy to back down. However, they also rightly note that Cersei herself is an awful human being and that Tyrion is incurring the wrath of his nephew with his semi-public humiliation of Joffrey's. It all started with the infamous slap in Winterfell, so all of the following will go a but against Tyrion's character. Take it with a grain of salt, is what I'm saying. 
So, what could he do better? 
The first important aspect is to get Cersei on board. Tyrion needs to talk to her about this in policy terms. Lay out the problems he is creating, how he will be seen as Aerys III, how Tywin himself has seen the same thing, the whole piece. They have an aborted version of this talk once, when Cersei brushes him off with a "Joffrey doesn't listen to me", but this is obviously not true. Joffrey does fear Cersei's reaction, and they need to use that. 
That means that Tyrion is going at this from the wrong angle. He tells Cersei that he will make Joffrey fear him, because Joffrey doesn't know that Tyrion won't hurt him, but that's a really bad idea. The other way around would work much better. We will see how this could work out soon, but let's stay with Cersei for a bit.
In "A Clash of Kings", she is desperate when it gets to Joffrey. It's obvious that she has totally lost control over the boy, and she rightly fears what he will do. However, being Cersei, she can't admit to that to anyone, least of all Tyrion. So, instead of basically taking the last shreds of respect that Joffrey has for Cersei - the fear of mother's punishment -, Tyrion should lean into it and leave that part to her. She's the lioness after all, the one to be feared. Tyrion fears her, doesn't he? That's the message he needs to get across. 
It's his role to be the advisor, not the whip. He is the Halfman, the one who thinks about stuff and is unmanly and can tell the king how bad it looks to the sheeple when he hits a girl because Tyrion is just so unmanly he doesn't understand Joffrey's urges anyway. Much better than to shame him in front of his football team. It's a division of labor that actually works for Cersei. It demands debasement of Tyrion, but if he would take his own advice to Jon, that would be a price worth paying. 
Now that we have Cersei's hypothetical buy-in, what do we do next? You get a discussion with Joffrey under six eyes. Instead of shaming in the Lower Bailey and forcing him to back down in front of everyone, suffering insubordination from Sandor Clegane of all people, they should go the solar. Here, Cersei is bad cop to Tyrion's good cop. Maybe she even storms out the chamber at some point. Then Tyrion can come in as the good cop and explain to Joffrey how he can avoid Cersei's emotions. That womanly stuff, you know, Joffrey, you're a clever lad, you can outwit mommy. You just need to put on the show. It's a gender-inverted version of "wait until your father comes home". 
Now, Joffrey isn't exactly the type to take such advice easily, but I think he might be more open to it if it's not presented as a defeat in front of his audience, to say the least. Likely his takeaway will be to torture Sansa in private from now on or some such, but there's at least a sliver of a chance to make Joffrey a tiny little bit less awful. 
Of course, this is no permanent solution.  However, we can see the germs of one in "A Storm of Swords", when Tywin and Jaime come back to King's Landing. 
Tywin promises a "harsh lesson" to Joffrey. I'm not entirely convinced that this would actually work, but at the point Joffrey's at, it wouldn't make things worse. And Joffrey is shared shitless of his granpa, so there's actually a decent chance. Not that I condone such methods of education, but with Joffrey, everything is better than the status quo. 
But even more promising is Jaime's approach. We don't see him interact with Joffrey, but when he tears into his brothers in first official meeting, he makes pretty clear where his avenue is:  "The king is eight. Our first duty is to protect him, which includes protecting him from himself. Use that ugly thing you keep inside your helm. If Tommen wants you to saddle his horse, obey him. If he tells you to kill his horse, come to me." 
Jeff and Emmet in their podcast emphasized - rightly, I might add - that the failure of the assembled elites to act is the real problem, and Joffrey only a symptom. And honor where honor is due, Jaime gets this and starts to reform the institution where he can in the limited capability he posseses. Tyrion never does that. It is one of the many shortfalls he has; his vision for reform is practically non-existant. He works within the system, tries to warp it for his own ends. Jaime, having the advantage of being utterly uninterested in power, can (rather absurdly) do this better. 
And this is the approach that's needed. Joffrey's whole social circle needs to be incolcuated to his sadism. The kingsguard especially, but also all the lickspittles at court, must be put on notice that all favor flows from the Queen Regent and the Hand, and that the king is not likely to remember a disgraced courtier when he comes of age in three years. Tyrion and Cersei need to butter the breads of these people, and to be a lot more proactive in weeding them out. 
So, Boros Blount and Meryn Trant get the night shift of guarding the king. We foster Arys Oakheart's and Balon Swann's better angels by giving them the full backing of the Small Council and prop up their spine and inherent reluctance to go along with Joffrey's orders. 
We remove all useless courtiers as far as possible and put people around Joffrey that are more interested in Cersei's and Tywin's favor (by proxy Tyrion) than Joffrey's. This obviously works well for Cersei in "A Feast for Crows", so it shouldn't be too hard to find spineless cretins that want to please you instead of Joffrey. 
Bereft of his audience and socially isolated, Joffrey would need to adapt. And he's absolutely ready to do that; we can see it in "A Game of Thrones", because for all their faults, Barristan Selmy and Robert Baratheon, Renly Baratheon and Jon Arryn certainly don't allow for him to break up the facade quite so blatantly. 
What Tyrion and Cersei need to do is to put up a new facade. It's not good as solutions go, but it's a whole lot better than what they have on their hands in "A Clash of Kings" and "A Feast for Crows". 

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