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Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Daenerys Stormborn as the/a true Villain in Game of Thrones

Kelsey L. Hayes's answer to Why do people think Daenerys Stormborn is an incompetent governor and an idiot? - Quora

"Daenerys is a perfect example of how context and perception can influence, even manipulate, how people view a character. Just about every other main character has another character who interacts with them and provides context for their actions. This is why, for example, Cersei can seem pretty great to herself in her own POV (when she gets one), but other perspectives around her show what sort of person she really is.

We don't really get this with Dany. The closest thing is Barristan and Quentyn's POVs in the fifth book, and even then, you'll notice that they never interact with her directly within their own chapters. They also have a vested interest in painting her in the best possible light: Barristan has hitched his fortune to her and Quentyn wants to marry her.

All of this a long way of saying that of course Dany comes off as well-meaning and sympathetic, because we only ever see her the way SHE SEES HERSELF.

I also point to her opponents in Essos. They are either laughably incompetent enough to make her victories pretty easy (like the Astapori who after hundreds of years of selling Unsullied apparently never once thought of including a failsafe) or the most over-the-top, evil, sadistic, mustache-twirling types imaginable. Most readers see this and just think how wonderful she is for standing up to them. Few people bother to wonder why GRRM made her adversaries so one-dimensional and grotesque. I suspect it has to do with "throwing" the context and lulling people into a sense of ease with rooting for her, before she gets to Westeros and interacts with actual complex people, where she might not look quite as good. (He does this with Tyrion, too; next to Cersei and Joffrey he looks pretty good, but change the scenery and he becomes the bitter, vengeful, pathetically self-pitying person he actually was all along.)

As far as Dany's governorship, this is a person who destabilized an entire region, caused the deaths of thousands and thousands of people and who, I'm pretty sure, hasn't actually learned how not to repeat her mistakes. She gets burned by Mirri, then turns around and confides in the Green Grace, another seemingly harmless old woman who's bent on destroying her. I've studied counterinsurgency at the graduate level and can say with confidence that she's doing just about everything wrong trying to "fight" it.

She crucifies dozens of people who may or may not be guilty of any crime (she never bothers to check), she commits systemic torture, she allows the Unsullied to kill young teenage boys in Astapor based on their dress. She claims to be anti-slavery, yet she was willing to let Drogo slave to pay for an army. And then when she didn't want to pay for an army, slavery became bad again. And now she keeps uncompensated labor (read: slave labor) to do public works projects in Meereen, and allows the Meereenese to sell themselves for her profit.

She goes over the top when she should back off (torture and crucifixion), yet is often oblivious to actual threats like the Grace. Her people are starving while she eats figs and lamb on her rooftop. Apart from holding court and going to the temple to get married, she shows absolutely no interest in venturing out into Meereen or learning anything about its history and culture and families, despite wanting to rule them. She owes literally everything she has to her dragons, yet locks them up in a dungeon and ignores their training.

She still maintains that she's the rightful queen of Westeros, despite knowing very little about it and refusing to hear what sort of man her father really was. I can't wait until she has to acknowledge "Aegon," to see if her belief in legal succession can withstand someone with a better claim than her own. It's easy to support the law when she thinks she's next in line. But if she decides to take Aegon out, that makes her no better than Robert.

But, you say, she's just learning! So thousands of people in Essos should die for her "lesson"? She means well! Good intentions pave the road to hell; does meaning well erase the horror of a terrible outcome? Quentyn said Astapor was the closest thing to hell he ever hoped to see. Do good intentions excuse that?

But look at the evil people she's fighting! Which goes back to my point about context and perception -- if she has to be surrounded by the most ridiculously evil people possible to look good, is that really a high point in her favor? But, but she frees slaves! Tell that to the person digging her bean ditches. She's freed them with absolutely no long-term social and economic plan, which isn't enough.

It's actually a very smart sleight of hand on GRRM's part. Make her crusade against slavery and pit her against comic book villains, and few people will dig deeper to evaluate what she's actually doing. The result being, a lot of shocked people asking where this came from when she arrives in Westeros with thousands of mouths to feed, a desire for vengeance and not a single clue.

Dany is actually a very tragic character: someone who ostensibly means well and yet destroys virtually everything she touches, be it cities, people and societies. And people want her to be queen of Westeros? Haven't they suffered enough?"


The fear of Daenerys Targaryen is setting up Game of Thrones’ final battle - "Growing up in the Free Cities of Essos, first under her brother’s tyrannical control and then as a self-made queen, Daenerys learned to deal with her enemies cruelly to make sure no one would oppose her. Over the course of the series, she’s burned a witch alive, locked traitors in a vault for a slow death, and tricked slave masters into selling her an army in exchange for a dragon, only to burn the sellers with dragonfire and take her dragon back. Her cunning actions helped her gain a lot of power quickly, but her experiences have also made her prone to solving her problems with fire and to take any steps she sees as necessary to preserve her power.Her new allies may not have all of these details from her history — though Varys likely does, and may well have passed some of it along — but even if they don’t know the steps that made her decide to burn the Tarlys, they’ve seen her ruthlessness up close. By season 8, episode 2, we’re seeing characters with no reason to love Jaime making a reluctant effort to protect him from the gory punishment Daenerys is dangling in front of him."

Game of Thrones season 8: How Daenerys Targaryen became a feminist icon - "Images of Dany’s scaly children burning men alive are perfectly suited to the pseudo-misandrist, “men are trash” discourse that has permeated pop culture feminism for the past decade. But Dany worship has also infected political discourse. In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton was compared to the mother of dragons on more than one occasion. (One since-deleted tweet referred to Clinton as “Hillary Stormborn … 1st of her name, Unburnt, the Silver Queen, Mother of LGBT & Breaker of Chains.” It also featured Clinton’s face superimposed onto actress Emilia Clarke’s body, emerging naked from the funeral pyre with a baby dragon on her shoulder. Celebrities like Jessica Chastain and Clarke herself shared the image on Instagram.)After a particularly good performance by Clinton in a debate against Trump, the Daily Beast claimed she went “full khaleesi, [and set] the CNN debate stage on fire.” There was even a Tumblr account that superimposed Dany quotes over photos of Clinton and Trump. After the election, the khaleesi worship found a new target: Nancy Pelosi... Why is Elizabeth Warren claiming we need more khaleesis when Dany’s most recent plot points all seem to involve a ruthless quest for power?... maybe Daenerys is the best political avatar for a moment in history when so many people consider buying a T-shirt a feminist act."

Kelsey L. Hayes's answer to I have been reading a lot of commentary on how Daenerys seems OOC in the first episode. Do you think if Daenerys turns dark, her fans will be able to tell when she started her descent? - Quora - "Here’s me, writing in June 2013, almost six years ago:
Daenerys is a perfect example of how context and perception can influence, even manipulate, how people view a character.
Dany is not out of character. What’s changed is the context around her and the people at whom her ire is aimed. It may look like she’s changed because we’re seeing her take aim at characters who are much more sympathetic — to put it mildly — than her previous opponents. But to Dany, an opponent is an opponent. I gotta say, I’m beyond amused by this notion that Dany’s getting a character transplant all of a sudden or that the writers are putting their thumb on the scale against her in terms of likeability and overall instincts. For writing all of that above, I’ve been called a sexist, a misogynist, an idiot, stupid, a hater and jealous of a fictional character, told I didn’t “get” Dany, that I was being “too hard” on her.What do you think is the Venn diagram overlap of people who gave me and people like me unending abuse for having Dany pegged so early on, and the people who look at Dany now and think she’s radically different from what she once was?"
On Game of Thrones

Kelsey L. Hayes's answer to Why do people make me feel bad for liking Daenerys more than Sansa? She's not mad, she's not evil but some fans make me feel guilty for rooting for her. - Quora - "Ever been accused of actually being pro-slavery? Or sympathetic to slavery? Or a traitor to feminism? Or a sexist or a misogynist? Or generically just stupid?Whatever guilt you may feel people are laying on you now for liking Dany, just consider the outright abusive shit people have taken over the years who have disliked Dany and vocally said so when it was extremely unpopular to do, back in her Slaver’s Bay “free the slaves” days...
You like who you like and don’t need anyone else to validate your opinions. Do you think I suddenly decided I liked Dany after being called a misogynist for the nth time?"

Kelsey L. Hayes's answer to What do you think about the rivalry between Sansa & Daenerys being labeled as “gendered” and “regressive”? - Quora - "How many pissing contests have we seen in this story between men that were actually about absolutely nothing important? How many of those run-ins were labeled as “gendered” or “regressive”? But somehow a realistic and very legitimate animosity between two important female characters — whatever you think about either of them, what’s going on is very much in line with them as people — is somehow anti-feminist? I think it’s actually quite feminist to treat two women as having their own minds and opinions, especially about each other... Sansa and Dany joining up and being friends because hey that’s what women do, innit? Who needs to worry about ice zombies and food supplies when we can just gossip and braid each other’s hair, right? This is the one goddamn time so far we’ve seen any sort of healthy, red-blooded rivalry between two women, where it wasn’t (too) obvious that one of them was an evil bitch or clearly misunderstanding the other, like Arya’s misplaced (and now corrected) mistrust in Sansa last season. We didn’t even get that between Cersei and Sansa, or Margaery, or Olenna, because it was always obvious that Cersei was the nutjob. But somehow this is problematic?Yeah, it might be unpleasant if two popular female characters come to blows. What, did people expect everyone likeable to all end up on the same side?"
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