“Unless you’re privileged and rich, life is hard enough without seeking it from your *fantasy* stories.”
The penultimate episode of HBO’s hit fantasy show “Game of Thrones” aired Sunday, and one particular plot twist outraged feminist fans.
At issue is the behavior of character Daenerys Targaryen, played by English actress Emilia Clarke. The dragon-taming claimant to the Iron Throne, whose character arc has seen her transform from a timid captive to ruthless conqueror, has come to be seen in many circles as a sort of feminist icon.
“Daenerys (or one of her many nicknames) has become shorthand for an often superficial notion of women’s empowerment. Even Elizabeth Warren is a khaleesi stan,” Vox’s Gaby Del Valle wrote in an April piece, in which she noted that many people are naming their babies after the so-called Mother of Dragons.
The valorization of Daenerys made her character’s tyrannical actions during a climactic battle Sunday night feel like a betrayal to many of her feminist devotees. After the dragon-riding Daenerys and her army decimated their opposition at King’s Landing, earning the surrender of her enemies, the heroine turned heel and torched thousands of innocent citizens.
The act appalled legions of fans, who viewed the plot twist as a misogynistic trope – women in positions of power can’t handle the pressure and let their feelings drive them to hysterical behavior.
“GRRM: I have written a complex, massively multi-character, ten-thousand page epic which shall end with a final clash informed by the theme of– TV writers: Bitches be crazy?” tweeted novelist Scott Westerfeld.
“What a sexist, racist finale. Women go mad under pressure, and the brown horde and poor White folks from the country destroy unarmed White innocents. GRRM needs to disavow this mess. Immediately,” wrote blue-checkmarked University of Pennsylvania professor Ebony Elizabeth, an avid “Game of Thrones” fan who breathlessly live-tweeted the penultimate episode.
Elizabeth’s Twitter thread traced a gradual descent into disgust with the show. What started off as giddy excitement about the second-to-last episode of the series and admiration for Daenerys’ character, collapsed into ranting about privilege, racism, sexism and capitalism.
“Unless you’re privileged and rich, life is hard enough without seeking it from your *fantasy* stories,” Elizabeth opined.
One more thing: both racism and sexism predate capitalism. They're going to lose money over this mess. No one is coming back for prequels, lol. Why would they? Unless you're privileged and rich, life is hard enough without seeking it from your *fantasy* stories. #GameofThrones
— Ebony Elizabeth (@Ebonyteach) May 13, 2019
Journalist Jose Solis saw the show’s fifth episode of the season as evidence of why “diversity” is essential.
“When people ask ‘why do we need diversity’ point them to this season of #GameofThrones, when straight white men are in charge, women are always villains, POC die, and culture gets destroyed,” the writer, whose worked has appeared in The New York Times, wrote.
Meanwhile, film director and radical queer activist B.J. Colangelo held Daenerys up as a paragon of the worst aspects of “white feminism.”
“Daenerys Targaryen is the ultimate metaphor for white feminism. Everyone holds her up like some voice of the voiceless but she only gives a shit about her own personal agenda and will destroy anyone that threatens it,” Colangelo, who is white, wrote in a tweet.
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) May 13, 2019
Whether it be commentary on “Game of Thrones’” depiction of feminism, immigration or gender – the show and its cast seem unable to escape the broader culture’s penchant for injecting all facets of society, no matter how frivolous or seemingly apolitical, with political or ideological significance.