There are people who like Cersei Lannister because they think of her as a complex, interesting character who has the virtues of actively, apologetically, and aggressively resisting the patriarchy.
There are people who dislike Cersei Lannister because they think of her as a character who is oppressive towards people with less privilege than her and has multiple distasteful flaws
There are people who recognize both of these aspects of Cersei and, for their own personal reasons, like or dislike her (sometimes on alternating days.)
The problem with how readers deal with Cersei stems from the assumption that liking/praising or disliking/criticizing Cersei is a reflection of that reader’s level of feminism— particularly when this impression is based off of one post, decontextualized from the overall content of the person’s blog. And while people have the responsibility to not say problematic stuff, it’s also important to remember that praising Cersei a lot for specific traits is not the same thing as claiming that she, overall, is a feminist role model, and that praising specific actions she takes isn’t problematic unless those actions oppressed other people. Likewise, it’s important to remember that criticismsof Cersei are not an indicator of internalized misogyny, unless the criticisms perpetuate misogyny. Neither criticizing nor praising Cersei is necessarily an indicator of whether or not a person “likes” the character.
Both liking and disliking Cersei Lannister are valid opinions. Using Cersei Lannister to perpetuate problematic ideologies is not acceptable. Assuming without supporting evidence that someone who praises certain traits of Cersei Lannister is dismissive of all her flaws is not okay. Assuming without supporting evidence that someone who criticizes certain traits of Cersei Lannister is dismissive of resisting patriarchy as whole is not okay.
George R.R. Martin can’t tweet because he’s killed off all 140 characters
Spoilers for all the books
Elia, Oberyn, Arianne, Doran, dem Sand Snakes, Quentyn. Every member of House Martell can be considered a badass on some level. Quentyn, for all his haplessness, still went toe-to-toe with two dragons. The Sand Snakes are the Sand Snakes - Obara, Nymeria, Tyene, Sarella, Elia, Obella, Dorea, and Loreza - and they know how to mess people up. Doran is a master manipulator pretending to be a tired old man. Arianne is clever, conniving, courteous, and charming. Oberyn is Oberyn. And then Elia, who, despite her lack of physical appearances, is mentioned to have fought like a tigress against Gregor Clegane.
Oberyn Martell was a jerk. He was rude and insulting and generally acted like a troll to almost everyone, and that’s not even going into how he treated some of his baby mamas. But I still liked him, because it is possible to appreciate characters who are jerks - I love to hate Kathryn Merteuil from Cruel Intentions, and Atia from Rome, and Rorschach from Watchmen, and Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon A Time, because these are people with sharp tongues who do bad things but acknowledge it. They know that they are manipulative psychos and they use that to their advantage shamelessly. Oberyn is the same. He never pretends to be a paragon of virtue and kindness. He is Oberyn “yolo” Martell, and he will have (at the very least) eight babies out of wedlock and be proud of it.
Arianne is one of the prime examples of Westeros women using what they have to get what they want. She’s hot and she’s smart, and she isn’t afraid to put all of that to good use. Just look at Arys Oakheart. He took his Kingsguard vows much more seriously than most, yet he still fell for her. That was just the only way she could have gotten him on her side. Arianne can read people - just look her talking Cedra ‘round. Arys wasn’t going to break his vows unless he was in love, so she made him fall in love. That is Arianne Martell getting stuff done.
But she isn’t heartless, and that aspect is a huge part of her character for me. After Arys dies, she feels genuine guilt and actually dwells on it for quite some time while she is in the tower. In ASOIAF, so few game players feel any sort of empathy that it was incredibly refreshing (not to mention relieving) to see someone who actually retains her humanity, even in the face of all these manipulations and power plays.
Quentyn. Oh, Quentyn. I’ll be honest, he’s probably my least favorite Martell. Not to say that I don’t like him - I just didn’t care as much about him as I did the others. Maybe it’s because of the onslaught of new POV characters in ADWD, or maybe because he was just… so normal. Normal, nice characters can be fun - like Vorenus in season one of Rome - if I can see them being put into badass situations and showing that, while they may be polite on the outside, they can still be tough and take some names. Quentyn’s quest was doomed from the start, so it was really just a matter of waiting for him to die, something that I was not surprised happened. I felt bad for him and wished he’d had a cleaner death, but I didn’t dwell on it.
Still. He may have been dumb checking out those dragons, but it took some guts.
The Sand Snakes are badass. You’ve got Obara, who owns things with her spear and warriorness. Nymeria, who can hide a dozen daggers on her person. Tyene, who seems sweet and innocent on the outside but will poison you and your family and your dog and your sensei if you screw with her. Sarella, who is totally Alleras and will totally become a lady maester. Elia and Obella, who were sent to the Water Gardens and became a terror of the pools. Dorea, who also goes to the Water Gardens, where she knocks oranges off trees with her morningstar (Dorea is eight, by the way). And Loreza, who is six and will likely grow up to be just as badass as her sisters if she isn’t already.
Doran is the epitome of Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass. He looks like he’s just some gouty old man who will forgive every slight, when really, he’s one of the smartest players out there because he is patient. So many terrible things that happen in Westeros and Essos could have been avoided if people had just been patient. If Viserys had waited for his crown. If Catelyn had thought things over before kidnapping Tyrion. If Dany had reconsidered Meereen. If Joff had let people talk to him about Ned before lopping his head off. Doran does think things over, hedoes wait, he does check himself before he wrecks himself. He is lying in the grass, and pretty soon, a lot of people are going to be feeling the burn of his fangs. Because revenge is a dish best served cold. White Walker cold.
Elia Martell. Guys, Elia Martell. All we know at first glance is that her husband jilted her and then she died horrifically. That’s putting any sort of speculations or headcanons aside. By the end of the first book, those two things are all we know about her. Gradually, little details begin to trickle in. She had a sharp wit, she was a good and gracious lady, she fought The Mountain like a tigress. She birthed one baby that nearly killed her and then birthed another one, and was just like, “Will you make a song for him?” while Rhaegar did his harp thing. Elia of Dorne has never been spoken of badly by anyone save for Cersei, who refers to her as some flat-chested chick with black eyes (Just going out on a limb here, but I think Cersei might have been bitter). Elia was Elia, whose death has resounded in Westeros for over a decade. And I want more Elia.
tl;dr: I rant about the Martells and it’s really, really, ridiculously long.