I’d like to apologise to people who do not watch Game Of Thrones, I know it’s irritating how the whole world continues to rant and rave about it and I thank you for reading this anyway – if you are.
Through articles like this one, and this one (all quotes are from them), I’ve encountered time and time again many of the show’s fans pushing an analysis of Daenerys as a wolf in sheep’s clothing; a character that the enlightened few know to keep an eye while the rest of us, in slumber with hypodermic syringes sticking out our shoulders, fall for her womanly womanny woman-ness state.
As a woman with a philosophical interest in what kind of character traits are best to have within morality and politics, Daenerys is not only interesting to me but familiar, as the show’s access to her point of view and personal journey of accruing wisdom and self-awareness makes her one of the most warm and relatable female characters in anything I’ve seen. She’s not a Fighting Fucktoy, she’s not a Feisty Female, she’s certainly no Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, she’s something actually thought through and substantial. So it’s something predictable and worth unpacking as to why turning against her is being painted as The Edgy and Informed Opinion to take. Here are some of the common themes to the concerns I see written about her.
With a father who became too ‘insane’ to rule with debilitating paranoia and violent anger, the number one concern is that despite appearances, Daenerys has actually failed to escape her genetics and is becoming more and more savage, cruel, and impulsive. The desperation to see these violent slips of character in her tend to really demonstrate hypocrisy and double standards. Daenerys spent a long time being passed and sold around as a wife or a slave, and has up untill very recently spent her time far away from the familiar Westeros, sorting herself out and, after that, slowly gathering herself support and an army despite the sticky politics. Only now, has she started to put the action behind her plans for the throne – compared with the constant fighting and violence from all the male characters in Westeros as bum after new bum sits on that Throne.
And yet I read about Daenerys that “she’s a vengeance seeker” who is “obsessed with burning her enemies alive” (using her dragons). This is despite the show taking the time to linger over her self-reflection and deliberation over whether she would use them or not – a degree of self-questioning I haven’t seen in any of the other male characters no matter how much they would really have benefitted from it. They say that in battle – “she didn’t choose a select few leaders and punish them — this time she went for everything in sight”. But how have ANY of the other battles worked differently?! In every single battle soldiers just kill fighters on the opposite side whoever they are, until they get killed themselves. And this is ‘glorious war’. It’s ‘noble’ and ‘just’ in men to fight tooth and nail for the better world they believe in. After all, who is levelling this against any of the male characters such as Jon Snow, who I assume is planning to just indiscriminately kill ALL the white walkers? Shouldn’t he get to know them and only kill the worst ones, who harm him personally?
“The Mother of Dragons doesn’t just kill anyone who gets in her way: she burns them, just like her father did.”. Again, how have the other male characters ‘just killed’ each other? We’ve seen them plunge their swords into each other again and again and again, which is arguably a more direct and intimate way to murder than giving the word to your dragon. But for men, that’s bravery and honour, certainly according to Jon Snow rattles on about how the man who sentences the criminal should also be the one to cut his head off.
Neither is Jon Snow being called a ‘vengeance seeker’ despite his hunger for revenge from Ramsey for imprisoning and raping his sister and taking the castle he grew up in. That too, was rape and suffering, just as Daenerys endured. I think it’s particularly interesting to ask why men might be feeling the need to wrinkle their noses at Daenerys’ get-up-and-go about her revenge and her rights. For some, she apparently takes too much pleasure in it, stating “they [Daenerys’ captors] spent a significant chunk of time insulting Daenerys and talking about how they intended to rape and kill her — but watching her burn them alive was still an unnerving moment for some viewers, especially because it looked like she took pleasure in watching them die”. Why the discomfort at a woman who is completely self-assured and unashamed in bringing men exactly what they deserve? In men, this would be the Noble Pursuit of Justice.
A woman with confidence and who knows her worth is overpowered, apparently. She’s got her dragons, they say, but what else? Well, more wisdom and forethought than any of the others. But perhaps more importantly, to us, a woman with a dragon doesn’t feel like an overpowering perk, but something that evens the playing field. In the real world, and perhaps even more so in the GOT world, men are protected and propelled ahead of woman socially, financially, and psychologically. Women can be sold, raped and worked to death at the drop of a hat or a man’s ego. There are brothels on every street – which, I’d like to point out, are houses of violence and rape frequented by much loved characters such as Tyrion and Bronn. When the privileges that men reap are embedded by a system bigger and stronger than any individual, a couple of dragons seems about fitting, and it’s interesting that men are completely blind to that.
Distaste for Daenerys’ confidence I think comes both from this place of protecting men’s consequence-free treatment of women, but also just general background simmering sexism. “Jon never asks to be a leader, he’s just the best man for the job. It’s something Daenerys — with her Targaryen dynasty and ambitions — would never understand.” Yeah yeah we’ve seen this a million times before, women should be modest and only ever bat away compliments about themselves whether they come from others or a quiet self-awareness from within. One Direction explained to us “You don’t know you’re beautiful, oh oh, That’s what makes you beautiful” in 2011 and in the workplace women with an ounce of assertiveness are labelled “bossy bitches” and judged more harshly for asking for raises and promotions. We mustn’t forget that Daenerys is, just like all other women, partial to uncontrollable, emotional, hysterical moodswings who often “sees things in black and white” and “can be just as destructive and changeable as her dragon children”. We have conveniently forgotten the harm and deaths caused as a result of two of the Stark brothers forgoing their oaths and promises to run off with the women they wanted. But for a woman, as a result of making decisions in these silly states – “Murdering evil people may seem like the right thing to do, but what would happen if Daenerys’ moral compass was ever skewed?”. This statement is utterly trivial and applies evenly to every single moral agent in reality. If other people’s moral compasses are different to yours, you’re in trouble. It seems to be particularly bloody rude if it’s a woman though. Women don’t need moral compasses, they’ve got kitchens.
What I would call all this is Margaret Thatchering – the sudden realisation of the seriousness, recklessness and sometimes violence of certain traits which are seen as noble and admirable in men, once they’re exemplified in a woman, even if they are in fact displayed in much more slowly thought out and controlled ways. The message received is that the nearest reluctant man would make a better king and leader than a self-assured, passionate and thoughtful woman with first hand experience of enduring and escaping abject suffering – with dragons to boot.
On a final note, I don’t care if her claim to the throne isn’t as ‘strong’ as others. She’s the best person for the job.