The book is even more shocking because we are inside Cersei’s head. And her moment of self-realization is shattering. What the daring HBO series refused to do was to show the naked Cersei as anything but attractive. After all, this is Lena Headey, whose breasts may not be as high as they once were, or of equal size, but the carpet matches the drapes and her hips are thin, her rear pleasantly round. She’s naked and humiliated but she’s still hot. What added insult to injury to the Cersei of the book was the realization that she was no longer the fairest in the land. After giving birth to three children and a steady diet of red wine, she is no longer an object of desire but repulsive in her nakedness. And this is something that she discovers reflected in the squinty eyes of her subjects. She has become closer to crone than sex goddess, and she realizes that as a woman she has lost her sexual power even as her political power is in jeopardy. Remember: this is the woman who recoiled from her lover/brother Jamie because he had lost a hand and was no longer perfect. Her self-loathing at the discovery of her fallen flesh is even more damning than the repulsion she sees on the faces of her subjects.
As terrible as is Cersei’s fecal-filled walk of shame through the narrow streets, the deeper comeuppance is that of her self image: she is not longer a desirable beauty but a hag left alone with all the foul deeds she has committed — her outside now matches her inside. The horror! HBO lacked the guts to go that far. Even though the series continually pushes the envelope of what we see on screen, the image of a misshapen, possibly menopausal nude is not one they will venture to display, opting instead for the whitewash of Headey’s undeniable attractive form, even though the camera angles attempt to show her body as grotesque. With her golden cap of hair, she’s a little too St. Joan than incestuous, homicidal Queen Cersei.