Thoughts on the Various Reactions to Daenerys Burning Down King’s Landing

“Mother of Dragons, Daenerys thought. Mother of Monsters. What have I unleashed upon the world. A Queen I am, but my throne is made of burned bones, and it rests on quicksand. Without dragons, how could she hope to hold Meereen, much less win back Westeros? I am the blood of the dragon, she thought. If they are monsters, so am I.” Daenerys Targaryen; A Dance with Dragons

After ‘The Bells’ aired, many protested that Daenerys’s arc had been assassinated, that it was their right to receive a feminist role model in Daenerys. However, it is not the role of creatives to create feminist role models, nor are we entitled to demand fictional feminist role models – ironic, considering that Daenerys burned down King’s Landing because she was rejected the love she felt entitled to.

Books and television are here to tell stories, to explore the entirety of the human emotional spectrum, to display the strengths and flaws of its characters. More importantly, we shouldn’t be looking for role models in fictional characters; that is the role of our parents, our teachers and our politicians. You’re looking for role models in the wrong place.  

As a feminist, it would be a great disservice to me if women in fiction were whittled down to ‘the strong woman’ figure instead of allowing them to be complex, fascinating, and even brutal. Love her or hate her, Daenerys is ultimately one of the most uniquely written fictional female characters of all-time. Moreover, we were given a ‘strong’ and ‘just’ female character. Her name is Sansa Stark – she embodies feminine strength, the ability to make quick character assessments (a feminine strength that should be prized in politics), she possesses empathy and the capacity to forgive, but also to dispense justice when she needs to. And how did some fans react to Sansa? With disgust. And what happened? Sansa was right. You were given a strong female character, but you chose to invest your empathy in a character who repeatedly burns people. That’s on you.

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A disturbing reaction I witnessed were fans claiming that King’s Landing civilians deserved to be massacred because they cheered the execution of Ned (thankfully, these fans are in the minority). Mindy Kaling also shared this sentiment; though, Mindy Kaling also joked in ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’: “The best revenge is acid in the face. Who’s going to love them now?” King’s Landing civilians were victims of propaganda, some of the victims of the massacre were children who were not alive to witness Ned’s execution, and Ned would never approve of burning thousands of innocents in his name. They don’t care who sits on the Iron Throne or for the nobles, like Joffrey, who starved them; they just want to feed their families. Moreover, Ned confessed treason to the King’s Landing crowd, so what else were they to believe? They don’t have social media, they’re not able to keep up with the lives of nobles. They’re very much kept out of the loop. But whatever you can to deflect Daenerys toasting them, right?

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” (Malcolm X)

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Many labelled Tyrion and Jon as ‘enablers.’ Tyrion and Jon cannot escape culpability. Prior to this, a faction of the fandom believed Tyrion or Jon should rule. I strongly disagree. Tyrion is cunning, he is book-smart, but his idealism prevents him from seeing people as they are. Neither Jon and Tyrion possess much emotional intelligence, at least not in comparison to Sansa, Arya, and, yes, even Daenerys. Tyrion believed that Cersei was sending help, Sansa did not, and she was right. Sansa and Arya accurately predicted that Daenerys was not to be trusted and the former was especially aware that Daenerys demonstrated limited capability to rule. What happened? Daenerys burned thousands of innocents. Sansa and Arya were proven right. However, we can talk about the many things that Tyrion and Jon did wrong, but, ultimately, it is Daenerys who committed mass murder. Not Jon. And not Tyrion. Let’s not play the deflection game to assuage your own conscience for trusting Daenerys.  

The cast, except for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, for a long while didn’t display any concern regarding Daenerys’s prior actions and much of that can be blamed on D&D. The audience weren’t always shown the negative consequences of Daenerys’s actions; Daenerys’s Green Book antics were ignored and perhaps that fed into the audiences perception of Daenerys. I guess they made a lot of sales from Khaleesi merch as well. Regardless, why do fans need directors and the cast to tell them what is right and wrong? Shouldn’t fans apply their own critical thinking skills? Or is it a case of ‘safety in numbers’ which resulted in many jumping onto the ‘Daenerys is a saviour’ bandwagon despite the many times we were shown Daenerys unfairly burning/murdering people? Audiences bought into Daenerys’s propaganda because she was the hero in her own story in Essos, but when the context shifted to Westeros and her fury was directed to characters we love and care about, some finally started to see what Daenerys truly is.

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Despite some of the disappointing reactions, this show has been an excellent social experiment and it has given me the opportunity to learn more about people. Sadly, it’s taught me that people often aren’t great readers of people, that anyone can be brainwashed easily so long as you repeatedly sell yourself with ambiguous pretty words, and that people oftentimes are willing to cross their own moral boundaries to support fictional characters. Importantly, it taught me that many would not do well in leadership positions. Including myself. Oh, my repeated refrain of “Sansa rocks!” doesn’t change the fact that I am, for the most part, more like Arya with a dash of Tyrion. I may be perceptive, educated, but I am often impulsive.  

Many relate to Daenerys in the sense that they do feel entitled to a lot of things. How many times have we heard people say: “I’ve done this for them! They should do it for me!” What I love about Islam is that it teaches us that though we deserve fair treatment, we should never perform acts of kindness simply to get something in return. Many Daenerys fans believe that she has earned Westerosi’s gratitude for doing things she should do anyway. This kind of behaviour, if left unchecked, is ultimately destructive.

In conclusion, thank you for the many lessons, Game of Thrones, I will never forget them.

-Sophia Ismaa


What are your thoughts on Tyrion and Jon, are they at fault? What do you think of the audiences reaction to Daenerys burning down King’s Landing? Do you believe it is a writer’s duty to create feminist characters? What are your thoughts on Sansa after this episode? Let me know in the comments!

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17 Comments

  1. I agree on the point that fictional characters shouldn’t conform to a need to create feminist (or any other kind of) role models. They should fit into the story and feel authentic.
    I wasn’t impressed with the massacre / rampage she went on, but not because of feminist ideas of any such thing. I just don’t particularly enjoy innocents being murdered. Even fictional ones.
    My first reaction was basically along the lines of “this woman needs therapy”. :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, but I’m not altogether surprised that Daenerys fans signed those petitions – entitlement breeds entitlement. If they want a feminist agenda, then they can turn to marketing and advertising industries instead, they’ll offer plenty. You can question a creatives story, but you can’t lay claim to it.

      Same!! Real or fiction, it’s never a pretty sight to see innocents, especially children, being burned. Pahaha! Therapy, for sure, and lots of anger management lessons and perhaps some relationship counselling.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t want to say she’s lost her mind because, in real life, we have enough of news channels cheapening the lives lost at the hands of white terrorists who say it’s all because they have mental health issues. She did it because they didn’t love her. Just another entitled white person. Emilia Clarke can go to hell for justifying it too.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I do, that’s why I wrote a gazillion 1k+ essays (I’m a history nerd, so I understood the historical references). I loved the ending! The Starks were fine, that’s all I care about paha. ☺️

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  2. It’s been interesting to watch the GOT fans discuss all this from an objective observer’s standpoint (I’ve never read or watched the series, and don’t really think I will). Thanks for writing- your opinion is well reasoned here!

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  3. Such an interesting post! I really agree with you about not wanting female characters whittled down to the “strong woman” type. And Sansa was the better person by far (but then I’ve been #TeamSansa over #TeamDany for a while now 😉 )

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    1. Male characters get to be diabolical, angsty, brave, basically everything they can… but female characters? Only strong? No!

      Awesome! Sansa is awesome. I still hope we see more characters like both Sansa and Dany! 🙂

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  4. Sansa *hands down* is my all-time favorite character from the show. I really hate her in the first season but oh my, how much she has changed! I really want to write a blog post about her. 😆 God, it’s been forever since I last blogged!

    Dany has a good impression on me at first, she was really cool with the dragons and stuffs (like being the Unburned). I started hating her on season 2 though cause she believed she is the rightful heir to the throne. Her reason was she was born to to rule, it was her destiny, it was because her father was a king too and she want to reclaim what was once her families (emphasizing on the ONCE). It never makes sense to me. I expected her to want to rule because she wanted to help the people, to make Westeros better but that is so not how she is. The last episode of GOT wasn’t surprising to me. What was the first thing she wished to do when she claimed the throne? She wanted to continue conquering! And she said it was to free people, man, she wasn’t very smart eh? Arya was impulsive but she has a good mind. While Dany…does not. I don’t really get it, Dany didn’t even have a plan of how to rule people probably. What is she gonna do after she has conquered them all? Leave them there in chaos to starve to death? What I’m disappointed about is when John killed her, she still hasn’t realized how much she was wrong. She was probably just thinking John is evil, John has betrayed. Never had the time for her to reflect on her actions really, but who am I kidding? With a mind like her, she will never admit that she is wrong. She thinks of herself as a god or something. So maybe it’s best to just kill her.

    I agree on the Tyrion, he always sees the best in people. Such an optimistic person! Even though he was hated and treated poorly by Cersi his whole life, he still loves her and forgive her, believing in her and willing to give her a chance to change. So sweet and nice of him but lol, that was also his biggest mistake. Tyrion is my second favorite character, I thought he was fitted to rule but after he joined Dany…I was like “nahhh”. “I thought you were smart dude!”. I don’t know why he keeps making excuses for her horrible decision, thinking that he can restrains her impulses and thinking underneath she is a good queen.

    Bran was made king instead. It was so rushed, I didn’t feel very convincing, I hope the book will be able to explain this better. Bran is so bad with emotions, just look at his emotionless face haha. He has seen too much, nothing ever surprises him anymore.

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    1. I found her annoying in the first season, but then when I saw her being abused by the Lannister’s, I thought to myself “what am I doing? She’s literally an 11-year-old child” 😭. She’s grown the most out of all the characters! Haha, you should write a blog post about Sansa, we definitely need more Sansa love – really annoy the misogynists. 🤓

      I agree, Dany was so likeable in the first season, she was the underdog. Remember when she spoke to the Spice King, demanding him to give her ships? That was the moment I thought that somethings not right here, the guy spoke sense but many of us didn’t want to see it because Dany was really young and desperate at that time… but she really held on to it at the end. The ‘born to rule’ doesn’t make sense because she wasn’t even first in line, so if her family had survived, unless the other Targaryen’s died, she wouldn’t have even been Queen. I think she lied to herself, the whole “breaker of chains” manifesto was to make herself more appealing to the small folk and make her actions more palatable to her own conscience, but at the same time I do understand her actions in the slave cities – what was she to do? Turn her back on the slaves? But the people of Westeros are free already. I think that’s the trouble with going overboard and cheering on those in power, they become convinced they can do no wrong and we see a few people like that in real life and it’s a great reminder to all of us to remember that we’re not always right. Arya is quite similar, but Arya never pursued for the sake of power, and her revenge was only concentrated on those who had truly harmed her family, she could differentiate between who’s good and bad – to Dany, by the end, anybody who disagreed with her was wrong. The former slaves in Meereen sold themselves because Dany couldn’t create a profitable economy – I wouldn’t blame Dany too much for this, she doesn’t have the political experience, but it seems she didn’t want to learn either – but how would the westerosi have eventually revolted given that they were too scared of her? That’s some 1984 s***.

      I admire Tyrion’s ability to empathise with Cersei in the show, but I’m going to reserve my judgement and see how the books play out because in the books he wants to do horrible things to her that really disgusted me. I’m going to wait and see if he changes. Tyrion by the end is much better than the Tyrion I saw before – he’s just too white man for me, too intellectually arrogant when he clearly isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is. That’s a lot of white men for you – and the whole “people don’t love me because I’m a dwarf” I can sympathise with, but he gave me major angry incel vibe and a lot of white men who like Tyrion hate 11-year-old Sansa for being beautiful and ‘entitled,’ *I have to laugh*, so I won’t rate Tyrion until Tyrion fans rate Sansa.

      I do believe that that’s the whole point, Bran is free from desires, wants and needs, so it won’t get in the way of decision-making, but mostly he serves as a figurehead for a more democratic Westeros. GRRM will get to that pivotal moment better though.

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