Game of Thrones' Joffrey Baratheon is horrible, despicable, cowardly ... and some fans adore him.
Most people will agree that Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is one of the most villainous characters currently on television. That's saying a lot, coming from a series that brings a healthy dose of lies, backstabbing and murder every Sunday (9/8c, HBO). But what divides fans of the show is how they feel about this evil character. Let's examine the reasons why people either love or hate him:
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Hate: Joffrey is bad. Period.
Game of Thrones is appealing because of the ambiguity and complexity of its characters, whose moral compasses swing wildly from episode to episode. Good people may be driven to extreme and unethical lengths, while so-called bad people may prove to be misunderstood. Not so with Joffrey. "There aren't goodies or baddies," co-star Natalie Dormer, who plays Joffrey's betrothed Margaery, says. "Well, there are when you talk about Joffrey." The teen tyrant has let power go to his head. He beheaded his ex-fiancee's dad, forced her to look at the decapitated head later, demanded that she kiss the sword he planned to use to kill her brother and took out his sadistic fantasies on two whores at his mercy. What makes him even more loathsome is that if he's physically threatened, he's actually a huge, mewling coward.
Love: Joffrey is just a character, and a fun one at that!
Sure, Joffrey is completely depraved, but he isn't real. No one wants him to actually leap from their screens and run rampant. Fantasy is a safe place to indulge in some of our darker natures, and it's not the first time that we've enjoyed watching people do bad things. And at least he's straightforward about it, unlike Dexter over on Showtime who is portrayed as a pretty nice guy, except for his overwhelming desire to kill people. Besides, the Starks are the heroes of the series, but for the most part can be preachy and boring (except for Arya, who gives in to her entertaining rebellious side). Any scene that Joffrey is in is another opportunity to delight us with his awfulness. He never disappoints.
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Hate: Joffrey's mother doesn't even like him.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) loves her tow-headed monster, but that doesn't mean she likes him very much. Once he took the Iron Throne, he ignored all of her motherly advice and has threatened her life after she (very rightfully) slapped him.
Love: Joffrey's twisted history is intriguing.
Joffery is the product of incest, so he could be literally insane, like the Mad King Aerys. Also, although he should be accountable for all of his actions, we understand that Cersei is the one responsible for spoiling him rotten. "Cersei knows the trouble with Joffrey," Headey says. "But she's so proud, that she would never, ever, ever admit it or ask for help. It's her private struggle to just keep him to safe. She doesn't even care that he's crazy." This will make for some fun insults and fights between mother and son this season!
Hate: Joffrey brings out the angry, aggressive side in fans.
The young king does not engender a lot of fuzzy feelings in viewers, who often voice the wish to see him die on the show. Here's hoping that this unhealthy, bloodthirsty attitude doesn't transfer to Gleeson. Producer David Benioff says, "Jack is genuinely one of the sweetest and one of the most interesting people I've met... But people take the show very seriously. I think we were a little surprised at first what an impact that Joffrey made on an audience. We get worried that Jack is going to wander into a bar someday and somebody — who is drunk and hates Joffrey and doesn't entirely separate fact from fiction — takes a swing at him."
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Love: Gleeson is a brilliant actor.
Since Gleeson is the opposite of Joffrey, we're even more fascinated by the character. We can't help but marvel at how Joffrey's every whine and lip curl can be so completely heinous, and yet not be part of Gleeson at all. Dormer got to know the actor over the course of the season. "He's erudite and studying at Trinity College in Dublin in theology," she says. "He's very sensitive, he's very articulate, he's very quiet and calm. He's a very well-, soft-spoken, kind, generous, intelligent human being, which just makes the performance even more astonishing."
Hate: Some annoying young fans worship Joffrey un-ironically.
Joffrey should not be a role model, but some young, male viewers have quoted Joffrey or cited his deplorable treatment of women as threats against real women online. Although most of these hateful comments could be seen as harmless trolling, it isn't healthy to encourage such a degrading mindset or behavior towards women.
Love: Joffrey has inspired creative memes and awesome "slap" videos.
Fans feel so strongly about Joffrey, that they've created their own memes, fake Joffrey-shaped shooting range targets and delightful videos such as this one [Warning: Language is NSFW]:
What do you think of Joffrey? Do you love him, hate him or love to hate him? Weigh in below!
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO. Here's a preview of "Dark Wings, Dark Words":