Despite its many problematic themes, I’ve always been a huge fan of Game of Thrones.
Like everyone, I have my favorites (Arya and Sansa forever!). But when the show first aired, Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, Mother of Dragons was it for me.
The show did a great job of painting Dany as the perfect feminist icon. She overcame the abuse of her brother Viserys and her despicable excuse for a husband Khal Drogo, whom she later fell in love with after he raped her (the rape never happened in the book, but don’t get me started on that).
She proved herself to be a strong leader of the Dothraki people after Drogo’s death and came out unscathed from the fire at his funeral and emerged with three dragons. She was fulfilling her destiny as the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. She was going to kick Cersei’s ass and bring peace to the land.
Then the season three finale happened.
Season three played with our emotions. It introduced the worst character since Joffrey, Ramsay Bolton, and of course gave us the infamous Red Wedding.
But it was the final shot of Dany being lifted up by the Black and brown people of Yunkai that was the last straw. It looked like one of those pictures white tourists take with impoverished kids in Africa.
Dany’s worldview is better than those of the “uncivilized” brown people she claims to love and respect. If you look back at season one, you’ll remember the look of disgust she and her brother gave to the Dothraki at her wedding ceremony. But it was okay because she was there to save them from their savage ways, right?
From the Dothraki to the people of Yunkai, Daenerys gained the trust and support of the people of color in the Game of Thrones universe. She’s that picture-perfect politician who speaks eloquently and banks her win on the Black and brown vote. But in the end, she’s no better than those who want the same thing: power.
Liberating people from an oppressive circumstance is commendable, but she didn’t do it purely out of the goodness of her heart. She used those people to reach her main goal and then abandoned them. It reeks of colonialism.
If this all sounds familiar it’s probably because it’s a common trope: the white savior complex (think Avatar, Dances With Wolves, The Help and most recently Green Book.)
The well-meaning white character is often categorized in a Messiah like way. They rescue people of color from disheartening circumstances that they wouldn’t be able to get out of if it weren’t for the white character. We also see this in mainstream media with massive celebrities like Bono, Angelina Jolie, and Bob Geldof, who held the first Live Aid in the 80s.
There’s only one more episode left in the series and I’m hoping Daenerys doesn’t get to sit on the sought-after Iron Throne. From the beginning, the show tried to make us believe that she deserved this victory. But she never did and, in fact, no one does.