***Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5***
Daenerys Targaryen, in the second last episode of the HBO hit show “Game of Thrones” went full blown Mad Queen. She set fire to King’s Landing, and massacred civilians. In a modern, contemporary context- Daenerys Targaryen is a war criminal. In a previous blog post, I wrote about the humanity of Daenerys Targaryen, and why it’s important. However, many in the Game of Thrones fandom beg to differ.
There has been widespread outrage from the fandom to how Daenerys has been treated by the writers. With a petition garning close to a million signatures, and numerous media outlets expressing rage at the show. Simply put, people are angry. But is it bad writing, to make Daenerys a villain? Of course, with any good twist there has to be foreshadowing and built-up. Whether or not D&D did that can be debated. However, people aren’t angry because of a lack of foreshadowing, they are bitter because of a specific plot choice by the writers. Let’s interrogate that!
Can Characters Be Both Good And Evil?
Of course they can. We know Melisandre was capable of both good and evil. Have we really reached a stage in our fiction consumption- that we can’t accept that a character can have both positive and negative traits? It’s frankly ignorant to expect someone to not have moments of goodness or evil. Why is Daenerys different? To put it simply, just because you painted a picture of Daenerys being a good person doesn’t mean that she is going to be. People change and evolve, and rarely do they fit into tiny boxes of good and evil.
Daenerys massacring smallfolk doesn’t undo her good work of freeing slaves, and likewise, her good deeds don’t make her violent acts okay. Why can’t Daenerys be complex? I think people want intricate characters, but when they get them, they are not satisfied.
Writers Are Under No Obligation To Make You Happy
Oh boy. This is a tricky point, because I understand the perspective of a reader. We spend alot of time and money on our fiction, and we are always allowed to voice our unhappiness. What I can’t stand is when that spews into entitlement, or demands that an author writes in a particular way.
D&D were under no obligation to write Daenerys as a hero. If they wanted to write her as a despotic tyrant, they have the right to. The right of writers to have freedom and choice over their art is more vital than an audiences desire to be satisfied. It’s a harsh truth, but it has to be said. By all means, critique the writing of D&D, but do not demand the story to be written in a certain way.
Adding on to this, it must be remembered that art isn’t always about making you jolly. A good work of fiction makes logical sense, and you could debate whether or not D&D have done that. However, good fiction can be miserable and dark. Being moody and sombre doesn’t automatically make a masterpiece, but writers can be those things. I never want an aspiring author to be under the toxic impression that they can’t write in a dark way.
I understand wanting happy stories, but not every story is going to be like that.
The Issue Of Sexism & Daenerys
Sexism in Game of Thrones has been heavily discussed, with multiple perspectives explored. I don’t find GOT, at least for the most part, to be sexist. But this section isn’t about the show as a whole- it’s about whether or not the narrative decision to write Daenerys as a villain is sexist.
As I said prior, people are complex. As are females, and throughout history there have been women who hurt others and are tough as well as remorseless. Writing a character as a villain isn’t an insult. Ironically, Cersei Lannister is a female villain who has shown to be both power hungry but also complex and multi-layered, with odd moments of caring for her children. Is that sexist? I don’t think it is.
I don’t want one-note female characters, I want characters who feel human. Before anyone screams ‘but it’s fantasy, it’s fiction’- remember, that in order for fiction to be effective, it must seem real to the audience. We don’t have to believe in dragons, but we must believe that the characters are fully-fleshed out humans capable of a variety of actions.
Therefore, I don’t consider authors who write realism to be automatically sexist. If anything, there is something appealing about art that presents humanity as it is, not what we wish it to be.
Concluding Thoughts About Daenerys Targaryen
As the final season wraps up, I will say that Game of Thrones is far from a perfect show. Bad writing- no matter if its coming from your favourite show- should be critiqued. However, I do not agree with the status quo in regards to the Daenerys Targaryen twist. If anything, I like it- because it shows us that humans are complex, can’t be easily understood and exist in shades of grey.
I’ll leave this blog post on a quote I discovered recently:
“The best men are not consistent in good—why should the worst men be consistent in evil?”Wilkie Collins, The Woman In White
What do you think of the ongoing discussions about Daenerys? What are your thoughts? Comment below, I’d love to read them!