White Saviorism In HBO’s Game of Thrones
Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO series, Game of Thrones, was originally introduced as a young-ish girl (she’s teenaged in the books, but I’m not sure about the show’s canon, so?) being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by her unlikable, despicable, disgusting brother, Viserys III. Her mere existence in GOT was one of a child bride’s. Which is fun.
Said brother and herself are the result of the Targaryen family’s incredibly prevalent inbreeding (ew, ew, ew). Daenarys is genetically 75% of her father. She technically shouldn’t have made it past childhood because of how common rare genetic, fatal diseases are in cases of incest.
Meaning — her grandfather, Jaehaerys II, married his sister, and then his son, Areys II (often called the “Mad King”, due to his tyrannical reign and absurd plans, like blowing up King’s Landing by planting green fire underground; nevertheless, the nickname is ableist as fuck) married his sister. “Consensual” abuse was somehow normalized in House Targaryen, but whatever. It’s fine, I’m fine.
(If Westeros were the real world, it’s entirely impossible that Viserys and Daenerys would even exist, due to the fact that inbreeding makes each resultative person sterile, i.e. not able to have children. This sterility is most likely why her and Khal Drogo’s first attempt at a child didn’t work. That, or magic; who knows.)
Disregarding the godawful ridiculousness that is House Targaryen, Daenerys is another mess on her own. Finding herself Khal-less, after Drogo died due to Bad Nonwhite Reanimation Magic, she decided to immediately do “good” stuff. This “good” stuff eventually lead to Daenerys and her army, the Unsullied, “freeing” Slaver’s Bay. Except, the people aren’t really all that free.
If you didn’t know, GOT pushes heavy European medieval imagery — so, yeah, like 98% of the main cast are white. It’s racist in that it when it first represents a nonwhite population (the Dothraki) as “savages” who pillage and rape. White people are always the heroes, kings, queens, and villains. This imagery revises history, fictional or otherwise, as white-centric, as if people of color have submitted nothing to civilization.
I won’t even mention the poor treatment of women within the show and book canons. But, that’s another issue for another time.
The Slaver’s Bay arc puts Dany onto center-stage, where she’s the selfless hero (swoon) saving enslaved people she doesn’t know from their ruthless masters. She’s called the Mother of Dragons, and is hailed as a liberator. We don’t actually know why Dany wanted to free the enslaved, we’re never really given any explanation about it. It’s whatever, though, because Daenerys Targaryen thinks slavery is evil and she obviously knows what’s best for everyone (even though she’s never been to or seen Slaver’s Bay before her #freethepeople campaign).
The whole arc is horribly unnerving, but it reaches Peak Gross Levels in the last scene of Season 3 while Dany is “freeing” the enslaved in Yunkai, one of the Bay’s major cities. Imagine a bunch of newly freed brown people surrounding and touching a skinny, weirdly pale white woman with platinum hair in almost reverent adulation, praising her as “mother” (“mhysa”) while she crowdsurfs. Yes — that’s the actual scene. Do you think I’m making this shit up?
That’s it! Quick — someone kill me! I’m ready to die! Blame my death on the head writers of Game of Thrones!
On a serious note, I have a lot of issues with GOT’s writing; this is near the top of the list. Daenerys Targaryen’s entire character arc is the fucking epitome of white saviorism. GOT is white as hell, okay, I think we all get that. But, goddamn! These people seem to be completely okay with some random ass white Westerner invading their country and proclaiming herself queen. Have you no thought on race or respect for people of color? Fuck Dany, we’ll save ourselves, thank you very much!
Dany is no hero, quite the opposite, in fact. You see, she conquers in the name of freedom. For whom, however, it’s questionable. Daenerys doesn’t really want to help people, she wants to sit on the Iron Throne. This article says it best:
She didn’t free the Unsullied, liberate the slaves of Yunkai and Meereen, and execute the Meereenese aristocracy just to be nice to brown folks (especially since she destabilized Meereen’s socioeconomic system overnight with no restructuring plan). She did it to get as many people as she could to help her take the Iron Throne.
Dany is Selfish, with a capital “s”. At the end of Season 5, the most recent season, Dany spills blazing fire. Literally.
If you watch the whole scene, including the ending, Dany is smiling. She murders a bunch of people through arson, and smiles. What kind of “mother” commits a heinous crime like this, thinks it’s justice, and then quirks their lips up as others burn to death? Shitty abusive ones, that’s who.
So — is Daenerys Targaryen a “queen”, in the white-women-being-worshipped-for-frankly-disgusting-actions sense? I don’t know. Depends on if you want to call a white imperialist interventionist, with questionable intentions, a “queen”. (Cough, cough — Hillary Clinton — cough, cough.)
There are some people who like Dany, and think she’s great. To those people, I say: get the fuck out of here with your white conqueror apologist rhetoric, and come back when you treat PoC like human beings.
Fuck Dany. Remove her white savior ass out of my gaze. (In-depth on Dany as a white savior, here.) Thinking she can “save the coloreds”, or some shit. Pfft. House Targaryen is The Worst. Here’s to Daenerys’s death whenever it comes.