There are many titles we could grant to Daenerys which would be more fitting than “The Breaker of Chains” – imperialist, incel, war criminal, and so much more. Daenerys was always going to take the Iron Throne with fire and blood. I could repeat in full length that the show and the books foreshadowed this, but I’ll leave you with this link instead which will explain it far better than I could. Daenerys’s worst impulses had been checked several times by her advisors, but, ultimately, her own impulse for fire and blood won in the episode horrifically titled “The Bells” when she committed mass murder by burning thousands of innocent people. Would Jon, Sansa, Davos, Brienne (and countless others) do the same? No. Can we consider someone who murders a rape victim, crucifies slavers without a trial, or torches prisoners of war a moral person? Sure, the show set up Daenerys’s descent into darkness poorly – that could have been achieved with more episodes – but viewers and readers had been made aware of just what Daenerys Targaryen was capable of however cartoon-ish the villains were in Essos. They chose not to listen and bought into the “Breaker of Chains” propaganda. Even I hoped that she wouldn’t succumb to her worst impulses, but it became more apparent as this season progressed that she would.
I discussed earlier that ‘Ice and Fire’ are dualities, two sides of the same coin. The Targaryen sigil is shockingly similar to the symbols and messages that ‘The Other’s’ left. But I think it, also, represents another thing – the wheel. Daenerys has often spoken about “breaking the wheel,” but another Targaryen on the throne means continuing the wheel that her ancestors had created. The wheel will continue its cycle until the throne is destroyed; the Iron Throne, in this story, represents ‘the ring’ (LotR) and the pursuit of the ring brings absolute power. Monarchy is absolute power based on genetics and ruling, in this manner, will always reproduce rulers who are unworthy and unfit to rule. The most satisfying conclusion to the show would be if a ruler was elected through a democratic process and then rules alongside a council.
Let’s talk about Daenerys Targaryen, the incel. Remember Alek Minassian? I spoke about him in ‘Look Around You, Incels Are Everywhere.’ Minassian, inspired by the 2014 Isla Vista shooting, killed 10 pedestrians, mostly female as a result of his involuntary celibacy (incel). Similarly, Daenerys freed slaves in various cities in Essos. She fought alongside the North to defeat the White Walkers. In her mind, she had done the right thing, the nice thing. Yes, Cersei did not send her troops, but Cersei is a villain, and Daenerys claims to be a heroine. Considering the White Walkers were aiming to wipe out the Westerosi population and that Daenerys would have to deal with them eventually if she chose not to fight, how does it make sense for Daenerys to feel entitled to Westeros for doing what she had to do in the first place? Likewise, Incels believe they are entitled to sex because they have been ‘nice’ even though ‘niceness’ is something that factors into being a dutiful human being. Daenerys, angered by Jon’s refusal to resume their previous intimate relationship, angered that the Westerosi do not love her, believed that it gave her the right to rule through fear which resulted in the massacre of thousands of innocent citizens. They didn’t love her, so she murdered them. It is not for nothing that many fans dislike Daenerys’s sense of entitlement.
Considering that I studied ‘Superpower Relations,’ (Daenerys v Cersei) the Vietnam War (the Field of Fire), Hiroshima (“The Bells”) and the British Raj (Daenerys’s imperialism) in college, I am surprised (and slightly mortified) that I did not pick up on how Daenerys’s story (and the inclusion of the Iraq War – Daenerys conquering Meereen) is a parallel. All this spelled that Daenerys was an imperialist, a coloniser, a war criminal, and though I questioned the morality of many of her decisions, it wasn’t until I researched Daenerys that I discovered what Daenerys really is. Daenerys achieved this through her “Breaker of Chains” propaganda that she herself believed using vague rhetoric such as “breaking the wheel.” Similarly, the ‘domino theory‘ was used as propaganda by the U.S. In this case, one could argue that Cersei and Daenerys are parallels to the U.S. and the Soviet Union with Cersei being presented as the threat; in actuality, Daenerys and her very own WMD, her dragons, present just as much as a threat, if not bigger.
How Daenerys murdered thousands of civilians is very much a similar tune to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which claimed the lives of 129,000-226,000 of which most were innocent civilians; Japan, consequently, surrendered. The bells rang the surrender of King’s Landing; Daenerys no longer cared. It wasn’t enough. Truman called for Japan’s surrender with a warning attached: “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” Daenerys states in the previous episode: “They should know whom to blame when the sky falls upon them.” We shouldn’t sympathise with Daenerys, not any longer, or try to humanise a Hitler-like character. Nor should we plead the insanity defence; that would be a grave injustice and take away the severity of Daenerys’s crimes. What Daenerys did does not make her a ‘Mad Queen,’ she hadn’t lost her senses. By trying to plead insanity as a defence, by sympathising with Daenerys, we contribute a similar energy to Fox News and Daily Mail defending and humanising mass shooters by piling on a tragic backstory and a mental illness. Many people have mental illnesses, and they do not commit mass murder.
War is terrifying and not as glamorous as some stories tell us. This is why it is imperative that we saw it from Arya’s POV. Some have called this decision contrived because Arya is a fan favourite. I agree that it must have played a part, but, let us not forget, that Arya is an assassin. “I know death. He’s got many faces. I look forward to seeing this one.” But now Arya has seen enough death, she’s had enough of it. And when you see what war really is, how war makes men and soldiers beasts (think My Lai massacre), how women and children are raped and murdered, you will distrust those who wage war and disguise their intentions as doing it ‘for the greater good’ when really seizing power is the underlying motive. There is nothing heroic about war – especially ones that never needed to be fought in the first place.
Do you think Daenerys deserves sympathy? Should grief, mental illness, or hurt excuse criminals? What do you think of ‘entitlement?’ What are your thoughts on war? Let me know in the comments!
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