Steven Universe, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Avatar the Last Airbender. All of them very different stories, with very different worlds. However, characters of unrelated narratives can secretly be the same exact person. This is the case with the way that Jasper, Cersei, and Azula share so many traits. So much of their personality, lives, and personal histories intersect in interesting ways, in terms of Hierarchy, Bad Parents, Personality, and Tragedy.
Cersei, Azula, and Jasper are from cultures with birth focused hierarchies. Azula is the fire princess and one of the highest ranking members of the Fire Nation. Jasper was raised in the Beta Nursery and was the most powerful gem made there. Cersei was born to one of Westeros’s most powerful families. They all have and are given power. Each in turn uses it to control and abuse subordinates.
During the show’s run, Princess Azula is second to only her father, Fire Lord Ozai in terms of power. She is highly esteemed both for her rank and skill in firebending. She becomes everything a Fire Princess should be, right down to the classicism. She uses her position of power to intimidate and scare others into her bidding, such as Ty Lee.
“There you are, filthy peasant!”—Azula to Katara.
Quartz and gem General Jasper is one of the most powerful gems in the series. Her role in the gem hierarchy is as a soldier. She is highly valued for how ‘perfect’ she is. And like Azula, she completely embraces her role and perceived dominance to others. As she said in crack the whip: “Fighting is my life.” Jasper has no conception, no idea about having a life where she doesn’t dominate or control someone else. Jasper is even seen rounding up corrupted gems and forming an ‘army’. Jasper takes no time to question the role she plays in her relationships.
During the events of A Feast For Crows, Cersei is the Lady of Casterly Rock, the only daughter of Tywin Lanister, and only child of his in a position to inherit. She was born into the feudal hierarchy as one of its most powerful people, even before Jaime gave up his claim and Tyrion was stripped of his. She has the luxuries and benefits mined from the smallfolk given to her by her status, and she completely buys into it.
Cersei, Jasper and Azula are all certainly abusers within their stories, but were abused by the heads of their hierarchies. While this is not meant to excuse their actions, it explains their tendencies, and the painfully realistic way in which these narratives examined the continuation of the abuse cycle.
Azula was raised by Fire Lord Ozai, one of the worst fathers ever. Under his influence, she grew up without having any of the emotional parenting she needed. Worse still is that Ozai was the only parental figure of her family that ‘accepted’ her. Her own mom had trouble loving her. (Oh Ursa, another terrible parent, but in a different way.) Ursa gave most, if not of, her love to Zuko. Her uncle Iroh thought she was inherently “crazy.” (Come on Iroh. You’re better than that). Ozai was really the only one that raised her. As such, she lacked any balance growing up.
Jasper, on the other hand, was raised by gem society. She was conscripted into the army the day she was born. She’s a literal child soldier, which could be argued for Azula as well. This society made Jasper to be a general and nothing more.
“When a gem is made, it’s for a reason. They burst out of the ground already knowing what they’re supposed to be, and then… that’s what they are. Forever.”—Rose
Cersei was born to Tywin, who is probably also one of the worst fathers ever. Worse still, for the better part of the series, her societal position was validated by toxic people in her life like Qyburn. (Oh Qyburn. You deserve a post of your own.) She’d never been challenged or had the need to change and reflect, though the events of A Dance with Dragons may be taking her in a different direction.
Azula, Cersei, and Jasper were formed by their experiences, how others treated them, and who they were born to to become the people they are.
“I can see your whole history in your eyes. You were born with nothing. So you had to struggle and connive and claw your way to power. But true power…the divine right to rule…is something you’re born with.” —Azula to Long Feng
Being raised so similarly, is not very surprising Jasper, Cersei, and Azula share several character traits. The most obvious and subject of these paragraphs would be their need for dominance in their relationships. And oh boy, do they have dominance issues.
Consider Jasper first. Jasper feels nothing wrong when controlling or taking over others. She is constantly fighting someone or something for power. A good example of this is in “Crack the Whip”, where Jasper uses two corrupted Jaspers to terrorize the crystal gems. Or “Lost at Sea“, where she tries to re-fuse with Lapis so Jasper can have the power of Malachite (The stone of positive transformation, healthy love, and growth! Their fusion is ironic.) again. Everything this fiery gem does lets her assert her dominance. From belittling Amethyst, to forcibly fusing with the corrupted [what I’ll assume is an] Ocean Jasper, Jasper has a pattern of power tripping, and deriving pleasure from it.
Azula is much the same in that she is also dominating in everything. We can see this is how she treats her ‘friends’ Mai and Ty Lee. Ty Lee had finally found herself as a circus performer. Then Azula showed up to recruit her to catch the Avatar. Ty Lee kindly declines because she’s finally happy where she is. Then during one of her performances Azula uses her influence to make it so difficult and deadly for Ty Lee that she has no choice but to join Azula. (Fortunately Mai joins without coercion. She does it just because she’s got nothing better to do. She’s the Daria of the series.) Azula needs to dominate show up again in The Beach episode, The Beach(effective title, not very creative, but effective). Even something like a simple game of feet beach Volley Ball turns into a match of dominance. She even goes so far as to exploit the girl with the pigtails’ leg injury. Azula shows her intensity again when talking to a Fire Nation boy and talking about how they’ll be married and become unstoppable together.
The lioness Cersei. Oh lord, Cersei. Let’s see, her entire treatment of Sansa, her abuse to her brother Tyrion, complacency in Qyburn’s terrible experiments and torture (that poor Bard. Too pure for this world), abuse of Tommen, abuse of Margaery, murder of her husband, abuse of Bran, her treatment of small-folk, ageism, all her attempts to subvert the valonqar prophecy (murder, encouragement of murder), and probably a few other things I’ve forgotten or are too small to mention. All of these, examples of her abuse and attempts to dominate everyone in every freaking thing. It’s a challenge to find someone she hasn’t abused, and if we do, they all are usually because people she doesn’t abuse have more power than she does.
Loneliness and Mental Breakdown
This compulsive need for dominance from these these has lead all of them being incredibly lonely, and lacking the self awareness and reflection to know why they are lonely. These relationships end terribly because they hold so close to their dominance and role in the hierarchy. It’s said that its lonely at the top, and Azula, Jasper, and and Cersei serves as examples for that maxim.
Azula’s loneliness is apparent by the series’s finale. She has no friends, family, mentors, and has dismissed pretty much everyone from her court. Her final battle is frenzied, tense, and a bit pitiful. She is so insecure in her power. She uses this insecurity to fuel her fire. Ultimately when subdued, she quickly has a complete mental breakdown. Tears stream down her face as she contorts and yells. She even blasts blue fire from her mouth with in a desperate attempt to do something.
Loneliness in Jasper’s case is more subtle. In season 3’s episode “Earthlings,” Jasper slowly grows more desperate and manic. Her ‘army’ abandons her and the corrupted gem (probably an Ocean Jasper) she had forced to fuse with her runs away. This causes the Ocean Jasper’s corruption to spread to Jasper. As such, she slowly grow more and more manic. Before anything else happens, she starts to reveal some depth. “Nobody I fuse with ever wants to stay,” she explains, followed by a creepy laugh. (Oh Jasper, so close to realizing why your actions are so so wrong, but still too far to realize. Why? Was a question you never bothered to ask.)
This shows that on some level this restless Gem is lonely, and like Azula is too self-conceited and ignorant of why. Jasper then maniacally laughs and refuses Steven’s attempts at help. She talks about how she’s constantly fighting. A blueish corruption, the same color as the ocean Jasper, spreads. Spikes and spots spread over her as she grows more manic, her voice cracks and sounds like knife through heart, until she becomes fully corrupted; becoming a literal monster.
The ever lonesome Cersei grows ever more isolated as she descends further and further desperate. By the end most of her allies are stripped from her. The ultimate climax of her arc is her walk of “atonement”. She is stripped naked and objectified by the whole of king’s landing. The beauty and respect she once had crumbles away, largely due to her internalized misogyny. Crap is thrown and at and her blood seeps out of her feet. The only difference is now she has a new knight/zombie Clegor as her own Kingsguard and Qyburn the mad scientist. (So more than nothing, but not much.) Even her twin Jaime abandons her, burning her letter when she had requested his help.
These moments in Cersei’s, Azula’s and Jasper’s show desperation, destruction, and a complete mental breakdown. In these last moments they’re so pitiful, they’ve hit rock bottom, and seemingly have no way of getting out, and as such act like cornered animals.
What is interesting to note is how Jasper, Cersei, and Azula are slowly unraveled and revealed. All of them are initially seen as strong, intimidating adversaries. But as their stories develop, they grow less and less stable, until they become desperate. Despite being in positions of power, despite their influence, despite their status, they are all their own worst enemies.
Characters like these three become interesting thematically. They are perpetrators of abuse and violence and come from perpetrators of abuse and violence. Cersei; Tywin, The Diamonds; Jasper, Ozai; Azula, all of them are born to these abusive people and regimes. They have no means of recourse, and lack any sense of self awareness or guide to help them. Jaime at least had Ser Arthur Dayne, who taught him away from Tywin, Zuko had Uncle Iroh, who taught him away from Ozai, without these men, would Jaime and Zuko have ever considered changing? Jasper might have Steven to help her, but she may or may not be beyond saving, only time will tell. (Seriously Crewniverse. Where are you going with her?)
These characters show us how important teaching and learning about how to treat people is important. Equally important is self awareness and understanding how you affect others. Otherwise breaking the cycle of abuse is nearly impossible. The main theme of these character can be boiled down to one thing: tragedy the cause of one’s suffering by the one’s own actions.
Design and Other Tidbits
Another interesting tidbit is how Jasper, Cersei and Azula are associated with the color red. Cersei wears red becasue its her house color, Azula because she is of the Fire Nation, and Jasper because she based off of a Jasper stone. There are interesting psychological effects that occur when someone sees the color red. The color red is passionate, exciting, and intense. You’ll see this color in marketing to invoke excitement and emotion. These design choices only add to what we know about Jasper, Cersei and Azula. They are dominating and intense, and their designs complement their characters. On a more meta level, the color excites the viewer subconsciously.
Also interesting is how green to blue fire shows up for these characters. The blue flames in the background as Jasper and Lapis form Malachite, Cersei and the green wildfire while she burns the tower of the hand, Azula and her blue flames.
It’s so interesting that these very different characters could be so similar. Despite being from different authors, from different time periods, they all maintain some level of mirroring. It’s funny how different people can be so alike to one another, even though they don’t even exist in that same universe. Or more, it’s because they were all created in this universe. Because they all showcase the same pattern of tragedy. Food for thought.