“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.
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)
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.
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.
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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