Is Joffrey Baratheon Game of Thrones’ Most Controversial Character?


  • Game of Thrones has plenty of villains to balance out the heroes in the world of Westeros.
  • The two most polarizing villains are Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton, who were among the most hated characters in the series.
  • There is one character more controversial than the other, thanks to their unique choice of punishments and sadistic treatment of female characters.

This article contains mentions of sexual assault and rape.

The world of Game of Thrones is full of characters that make people question the morality of humans. Among the worst of the worst are Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton, two characters who terrorize those around them, regardless if they’re enemies or allies. Deciding which one is the most polarizing in Westeros is a matter of breaking down their most abominable acts and taking into account of how many people they hurt along the way.

Whether it be for indisputable power of the Seven Kingdoms, sole control of the North or proving themselves regardless of their illegitimate status, Joffrey and Ramsay’s respective cruelties weren’t born out of nothing. They were playing the same game as everyone else in the books and the show, but their strategies and execution left much to be desired. In both Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire by George. R. R. Martin, Joffrey and Ramsay are written as thorns in the sides of those trying to win their own battles in Westeros. Though they both lost by the end of their streak, their days of terror remember them as the most controversial characters in the saga — but which one takes the crown for being the most sadistic and cruel?

How Joffrey Baratheon Became Game of Thrones’ Controversial King

Worst Things King Joffrey Did In The Books

Joffrey was no saint, even from birth. His mother, Cersei Lannister, spent a day and a half in labor with him. Unlike his younger siblings, Joffrey showed early signs of an inhumane and sadistic streak that would foreshadow his reputation as a malevolent king. The books cite a childhood incident when Joffrey killed a pregnant cat to cut open her belly and show the kittens to his believed father Robert Baratheon. His vicious nature only continued in his older years, worsening when he was king. Even Cersei, who loved him unconditionally, believed he was the gods’ punishment for hers and Jaime’s incestuous relationship. The latter is Cersei’s twin brother and Joffrey’s biological father.

During the events of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, Joffrey used his newfound status as the unrightful king to reign panic among the noble and common people of Westeros. He ordered the execution of Ned Stark, a highly respected nobleman in the entire country, claiming he was a traitor of the realm. Continuing his smear campaign of the Starks, he emotionally and physically abused Ned’s daughter Sansa when she was a captive at King’s Landing, claiming she and everyone else was his to torment. As he was still a young boy, Joffrey’s entitlement was a dangerous trait that prevented him from making good decisions for the sake of his own entertainment.

In the source material, Joffrey would shoot at starving smallfolk, who make up the majority of Westeros, and allegedly orders the assassination of Bran Stark. The latter ultimately started the War of the Five Kings, which left the country in a politically and economically desolate state. Sooner or later, Joffrey would pay the price for his misdeeds as he was poisoned at his own wedding — an event where he openly mocked the death of Robb Stark in front of Sansa and humiliated Tyrion’s stature, which he so often did.

How Ramsay Bolton Became Game of Thrones’ Most Sadistic Villain

Ramsay Bolton in Winterfell in HBO's Game of Thrones.

Harsh Realities Of Marrying Ramsay Bolton

Once Joffrey was out of the picture, Ramsay moved in to claim his title as the most cold-blooded antagonist of the series. Even more controversial than his characterization is the story changes made from the books to the show, especially in terms of his victims. But the principles of his cutthroat and brutish personality still remain in both works. Ramsay was born as Ramsay Snow, an illegitimate child of Roose Bolton. He eventually earned the last name Bolton after aiding his father in the Sack of Winterfell and using a kidnapped Theon Greyjoy to siege Moat Cailin, occupied by ironborn.

Even these acts — which included flaying living people — wasn’t the worst of what he committed. Ramsay takes Theon as a hostage for a long time, not so much as a political or war advantage but just as an outlet to relieve his sadism. After long spells of psychological and physical torture, Theon is brainwashed into thinking he is “Reek,” an animalistic servant for Ramsay. Theon’s skin is removed from several of his fingers and toes and his teeth are removed because Ramsay hated his smile. The books hint that Ramsay either sexually abused or castrated Theon, the latter of which was confirmed in the show. But Ramsay’s stretch of torment doesn’t stop there.

In the books, Ramsay marries Jeyne Pool, disguised as Arya Stark, and repeatedly rapes her before she escapes from Winterfell. The show switches Jeyne Poole out for Sansa Stark, who’s forced into the marriage through an agreement between Petyr Baelish and Roose, and suffers just as Jeyne did. In both the books and show, Ramsay sends an infamous “Bastard Letter” (also known as the “Pink Letter” in the books), threatening to kill his captive (Mance Rayder in the books and Rickon Stark in the show) if his bride or Reek aren’t returned. As Jon Snow is still dead in the books, it’s yet to be discovered what Ramsay will do with Mance Rayder, but viewers of the show knows that Rickon suffered a fate of death due to Jon’s retaliation.

Ramsay Bolton Is Game of Thrones’ Most Controversial Character

Ramsay Bolton talking to Rickon in Game of Thrones

Worst Things The Boltons Ever Did In Game Of Thrones

Both Joffrey and Ramsay are considered the signature villains of Game of Thrones, never once making it easy to sympathize with them. But only one can wear the crown as the most controversial character, and that will be Ramsay Bolton. Ramsay’s technique of flailing men, coupled with raping his wives and mutilating Theon stirred the pot among Game of Thrones fans. Jeyne Poole being replaced by Sansa was met with wide distaste, putting a female character through sexual exploitation and abuse as a false means of strengthening her. At the heart of that is the writers, but in the world of Game of Thrones, that blame is placed solely on Ramsay.

In comparison to Joffrey, Ramsay was considerably wilder than him. Ramsay killed his own father, step-mother and infant brother with little concern for consequences, showing how unpredictable and sinister he would be for control of the North. As just an illegitimate child, he took Theon captive and robbed him of his humanity. In Joffrey’s case, he needed power in order to be sinister. Without it, he was a little boy crying wolf, screaming empty words that could be stopped or calmed down by others in more powerful positions.

Tywin Lannister used Joffrey as a puppet, pulling the strings to make the Lannisters the most powerful house in Westeros. At the end of the day, if Ramsay and Joffrey’s titles were taken away, it would be much easier to deal with Joffrey’s childish tantrums than Ramsay’s physically barbarous punishments.

Game of Thrones is available to stream on Max.

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