By what right does a wolf judge a lion? By what right?
Joffrey Baratheon has been referred to as a “top tyrant” (1), and Joffrey makes it one of the audience’s most hated characters (2). Yet as the audience sits from a modern-day couch in the comfort of modern-day safety, Joffrey Baratheon was taking steps to end the 8,000 year old medieval age of the Seven Kingdoms. In this debate, Pro will prove that Joffrey had the right attributes to make a great king of the Seven Kingdoms. You will see that through Joffrey’s reform mindedness, the king could have brought the kingdoms to prosperity. In this debate, Pro will showcase how Joffrey’s masterly charisma and charm would help the smallfolk. The voters would learn of Joffrey's natural ability in playing the Game of Thrones, his wits in the politics of personality being a match for the likes of Tywin Lannister. Finally, the voters will be informed of how Joffrey makes good analysis as a natural historian and politician. Con, who already violated rule #4 by accepting without a comment, will try to mislead you. Con may twist Joffrey’s triumphs and make the losses or exaggerate is otherwise understandable mistakes. Perhaps, Con will appeal to your modern-day sensibilities and twist Joffrey as a bad person, rather than politics. What Con says can be true to an extent; Joffrey has flaws and is a product of his time. There’s no denying that Joffrey Baratheon was made for Westeros, not DART moderating. Yet on behalf of the side of truth and justice, I must inquire you to consider Joffrey’s circumstances, and weigh the evidence to see that Joffrey’s natural aptitudes for rulership was good for his society. Con, his benefactors, and twenty-first century voters with the benefit of hindsight: by what right does a wolf judge a lion?
Point 1: Joffrey Baratheon - The End of an 8,000 Year Old Dark Age?
Society in Westeros, despite having been functional for thousands of years, is more or less stuck in the Medieval Era. Men like Ramsay Bolton or Janos Slynt hold dominion over lands. The smallfolk are starving and uneducated with little prospect for success (3). The king doesn’t hold power to actually rule the kingdoms, so he must rely on lords who have ever dividing loyalties and squabbles. Joffrey Baratheon was just the lion to usher in a new post-medieval era.
Joffrey understood the problems of medieval rule. He asked “Why should every lord command his army? [...] Its primitive, no better than the hill tribes” (4), and he’s correct that the arrangement causes civil conflict to be strife. Despite getting almost no attention from Robert on “how to be a man”, Joffrey’s reforms were both feasible and very necessary; had he the room to carry them out, the reforms would have made Westeroes stronger.
Consider Joffrey’s proposed plan about a royal army. A standing, professional army has never been established in the Seven Kingdoms; it's a radical idea, and it’s been proven successful by history. “A standing army loyal to the crown, trained by experienced soldiers” is far ahead of time, but it could have fostered Westeros’ nationalism (5), united the realm, reduced the economic toll of peasant levies, made the army stronger, and cut down on civil wars. True to his words, a standing professional army would have helped Cersei, as it wouldn’t be routed as easily in Oxcross or faced the level of desertion it did in Blackwater Bay. Furthermore, Joffrey’s dismissal of Ser Barristan was a crucial step in reforming the Kingsguard. Regardless of Barristan’s skill at arms, Joffrey is true when he says shat Ser Barristan actually does have a mixed track record in saving the king (he had three kings die in his service, Robert having been killed when Barristan was on active duty). The point Joffrey makes about Selmy’s age makes sense (6); Kingsguard is a demanding job. By breaking with tradition and dismissing Barristan, and then establishing that talent is the main factor in Kingsguard entry by replacing him with a mere shield, Joffrey took good steps in Kingsguard reform. Again, Joffrey’s reforms in changing the Kingsguard from a lowkey way of stealing heirs or a group of celebrities featured in songs to an effective, practical force was another reform that events the series to prove him correct on. Tywin Lannister was only able to get Jamie back due to the “prerogative” Joffrey set, and its exactly this procedure that enables Jamie to use his military mind instead of his golden hand (7,8). From having ideas about the military beyond his time to enabling the talents of Kingsguard members to be better utilized, one can see that Joffrey’s lack of training didn’t stop his effective policy making. Joffrey Baratheon was a King who saw the problems in the status quo and worked effectively to fix it, like a Westerosi Emperor Meiji. This trait would have eventually led to his rule seeing Westeros as a stronger, more cohesive power.
Besides being good at pinpointing the mistakes of the present and past, Joffrey has a remarkable skill in taking the good of history. Although Joffrey most certainly wasn’t groomed to rule, he has shown in multiple occasions his vast knowledge of past Kings. Joffrey, for example, seems to have good knowledge of historical dragon warfare. He recognized before anyone the threat of dragons, correctly extrapolating Aegon’s conquest in asking “How do we know these are not the dragons brought the world to heel? (9) ” Joffrey’s analysis and application of Aegon’s conquest is true; dragons always beat non-dragon armies in conventional war. Aware of the casualties of war, Joffrey never deludes himself on his safety, noting after mentioning the conquest that in war, everyone is in danger (12). Joffrey was also correct when claiming that historically speaking, Tywin Lannister didn’t attack Aerys II out of fear he could wound up on the losing side (10). Living in a Lannister-dominated city with the Grandmaester being a Lannister crony, it's amazing Joffrey was somehow able to come up with the truth about Robert’s Rebellion. Finally, we see that Joffrey is extremely knowledgeable about previous kings, to the point of being able to tour the entire Great Septor while reciting facts every king without pausing once (11). In contrast to his father, who hated all Targaryens, Joffrey extensively studied these kings, and thus made the, his own teachers on how to rule. The lessons Joffrey comes up with from history, such as “sometimes severity is the price we pay for greatness”, are on point as well (ibid). Joffrey, a king who used his self-taught history to build new infrastructure (12) and discover potential threats, could have ruled knowing what actions were effective.
Point 2: Hear Me Roar!
Many good leaders have a way with words. The job of a king demands good charisma, and this is a trait Joffrey Baratheon has. Joffrey’s fine rhetoric would have his speeches studied as history, and lent popular support to his reforms, which as we have seen, were much needed. Unlike the great reformers of the past, Joffrey’s charisma would have elevated his name in the Seven Kingdoms.
First, we must consider that Joffrey definitely has a skill in words. Even when speaking to large crowds (13), Joffrey Baratheon doesn’t stammer or pause. Joffrey can even make up policy on the fly with perfect speech (14), not needing to think of any of the words he speaks. We must also note that Joffrey’s choice of words in general are effective. It's also seen that Joffrey has a good legal mind (16), and is able to swing cases to his favor when he needs it. Between Joffrey’s delivery (13, 14) , gestures (11), diction (13), and even fashion sense (15), it's clear that Joffrey was a charmistatic king who could have defended himself and his actions.
Firstly, Joffrey is handsome. Portrayed by Jack Gleeson, Joffrey’s looks make him incredibly attractive when Joffrey needs to be, having been praised by the likes of Sansa multiple times in the show. It may not be fair, but attractive people can look more charming, and Joffrey can definitely pull this off. Furthermore, its evident that Joffrey has good skills in courtship. Joffrey was able to make Sansa fall head over toes over him when Sansa’s and the North’s opinion still carried weight in court, even getting her to just accept his feuds with Arya (17). Joffrey is “a beautiful golden lion, not the boorish stag of his father”, and as such, his looks and charisma could have gotten him nearly any queen in Westeros. As exemplified by his securing of Sansa and Margaery, Joffrey could have had any Queen he desired as king.
Point 3: The Secret Master of the Game of Thrones
To be a Westerosi King one needs to be adept at politics. In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. While many people may have a bad view of Joffrey, it's important to note that his skill in the Game of Thrones, for an untrained child, is actually exemplary. From knowing the right men to do the right jobs, to making chess moves for the entire nation, Joffrey takes after his grandfather and uncle in ways so good the audience didn't even recognize him as a threat.
- The Best Judge of Character.
Tywin Lannister once said “There is a job for every tool and tool for every job.” Joffrey Baratheon, without dispute, is one of the most naturally talented judges of character. Firstly, Tywin Lannister has a great reputation, especially in the Lannister dominated court. It is hard in this instance for Joffrey to distinguish between fact and legend, but Joffrey actually is perfect when it comes to Tywin’s beast strengths. Firstly, Joffrey recognizes that Tywin Lannister has a far more extensive political record then a military record (18). Tywin blundered by giving his untested, rash son so much of the Lannister army, reasoning that “my grandfather's idiocy in the field of battle is the reason why they have my uncle in the first place” (18). Even Joffrey’s quote that the North “put too much value on their women” is a factual analysis, not a sexist jab. Sansa (kept out of inheriting Winterfell by Robb) and Arya (a 4th child who’s female) didn't have much value as hostages, but Catelyn released Jamie (a heir to the throne) for the Stark girls. Joffrey’s statement here was absolutely correct. As mentioned, Joffrey is also correct about Tywin’s cautious playstyle, and is the only one to call Tywin out for essentially freeloading the rebellion. Of course, Joffrey still recognizes Tywin’s good prowess in the field of politics, having named him as hand of the king (6) due to his financial and political skills. In essence, he knew better then anyone in King’s Landing what Tywin was good in. This judgement of character goes to anything Joffrey says. Uncle Kevan is indeed notable for his loyalty (5), as a capable follower. Joffrey is right in agreeing Margery “is beautiful and intelligent.” Tommen was indeed a weak ruler, as Joffrey understood about the second-in-line to Casterly Rock better then anyone (22). Joffrey’s even correct in saying that Tyrion “has always been a sucker for tradition”, since he did read books.
Furthermore, Joffrey spends his time with capable advisors. Joffrey is quick to push Cersei away, showing good judgement in advisors (12). Instead, he demands for his counsel with the able Margery (20) and Tywin Lannister. According to Jack Gleeson, actor for Joffrey, Joffrey is picking up on talented and experienced players of the game. Seeing the experience Joffrey, Jack Gleeson said “he [Joffrey] completely alters his vision of what it is to be a royal and to be at the upper echelon of society, and to be sitting that throne, because he realizes that perhaps being moral and looking after and looking for one’s citizens is not to be dismissed”, and this cue he so readily received shows that Joffrey is willing to adapt ways to become a better king. Jack Gleeson also continues on to say Joffrey is really genuinely concerned for the people, saying he does this “because you do get satisfaction from that, you do get feedback from that, and you realize people don’t hate you as much when you’re kind to them [...] it plants a seed in his head, that perhaps being king is more than just doing what you want (21)”. Joffrey is able to quickly realize that Cersei’s dangerous advice, that “you are my darling boy and the world will be what you make it”, is wrong, and this talent of Joffrey to make good friends would serve him well. If Joffrey had time, he would have continued filling the realm with capable administrators, continuing to make good calls like prioritizing Tywin and Margery while distancing himself from the destructive Cersei.
The moves Joffrey makes in the Game of Thrones are actually really good. Firstly, Joffrey realizes faster than anyone that executing Ned Stark is not a good idea (6), only executing the Northerner when Littlefinger manipulates him into doing it. (Littlefinger is vastly more experienced than Joffrey, was able to play characters like Tyrion and Cersei, didn’t do anything to raise suspicion before Joffrey took power, and had a crowd of people supporting what he wanted, so Joffrey's mistake here is perfectly understandable.) Joffrey's strength against the peasants, when taking into account rioter actions with the High Sparrow even after the Tyrell’s fed them into account, actually was the right move to make, since no urchin ever lifted a finger against the crown again when Joffrey ruled. Had Joffrey been on the throne, his courage and knowledge of history would have found the High Sparrow's murdered by Gold Cloak soldiers a long time ago.
Furthermore, all the calls of Joffrey are factually correct. Daenerys turned out to be the biggest threat against the realm, and it was Joffrey who noticed this first. The crown’s army panicked too easily due to inexperience, and this was something Joffrey foresaw when he talked of a royal army. Jamie Lannister was not going to succeed in protecting Joffrey if there was an attack, and Joffrey really did predict correctly he wouldn;t be saved by Kingsguard if he gets assassinations, since he died.