Not so long ago we got to experience the last season of Game of Thrones. While everyone was betting on Daenerys to take the throne, she was betrayed by her lover and finally murdered by him. The brother of her killer got to take the throne. Bran the Broken.
But how broken was he? After snooping on Cersei and Jaime Lannister, Jaime pushed him from the window, and since then Bran was paralysed. Obviously, that’s horrifying by real-life standards; not necessarily by Game of Thrones standards though. Daenerys was dependent on her abusive brother. She’s forced to marry a Dothraki, so her older brother can get support to reclaim the Iron Throne. Her marriage, even though forced upon her, develops into a happy one and Daenerys finds strength in it and a voice (let’s not question how rape can turn into a happy relationship; or maybe should we?). Her brother is murdered by her husband for threatening her. She then loses her husband and child. This does add up to a high number of traumas, doesn’t it? Things happen to women; we’re used to it. In the beginning, submissive Daenerys develops into a strong character, a ruler, ruthless and relentless, but also with a moral compass as far as that’s possible. She’s what the West represents: a white saviour who lives by imperialism.
What happens to Daenerys then in the last season seemed like a character assassination to many. Others claim that she had shown signs of that madness in earlier seasons, e.g. when she decided to crucify 163 Meereenese masters as an act of justice. To be fair, they had killed children. The question is if she was inclined to go mad, wouldn’t it have happened earlier? Wasn’t she reminded again and again of her mad father? Suddenly, she loses her best friend, the only major black female character on the programme. She loses Jorah. Her dragons. The North doesn’t like her and her dragons, and she has no place there. Jon starts to treat her differently. Well, that must make a woman go mad, when her lover spurns her? Forgotten was her alliance with Yara or Daario. Or, the people who loved her. They still existed, were only elsewhere. The writers needed her to be isolated to become the Mad Queen.
There was a chance here to end the series, which was celebrated as different and feminist, on an unusual note. It wasn’t particularly intersectional, and the strong female leads emulated traditionally male roles of power. How feminist can this be? All of the female leads were victims of patriarchy and sexual violence. There was potential here to turn at least one of them into an empathetic leader doing things differently than their fathers, husbands and brothers. Couldn’t have one of them at least turned into an ally of the oppressed people of colour? Abuse doesn’t have to translate into other languages. Can one person really change the system? Of course, Daenerys was brutal, so her development was not too far off. Should her motivation really have been that of a crazy and power-hungry woman? Ruling and defending the slaves has always been an internal struggle for Daenerys, but has she always been just a crazy woman? Just her father’s daughter? A woman rejected by her lover can only respond that way? I was literally waiting for her to get rid of Jon (not as in murder him, but as in dispose of him in a more discrete way) and then he leaves and kills her because she was an evil witch? A cliché? As problematic as Daenerys’ character was, the ending was so typical for a powerful woman in a man’s world. While men get away with horrible things (Joffrey, Tyrion and even Jon when he executed a child), a woman is not allowed to make mistakes. When she does, she’s the crazy bitch that has to be stopped immediately. Couldn’t be closer to real life! See Hillary.
And then Bran, the white, broken, privileged boy, grown into a very absent and robotic man, who can’t stop dreaming about the three-eyed raven and then turns into it, gets to take the throne! Poor Dany. Thank God, she didn’t have to see how the rich oppressing the poor never even came close to being challenged or changed. Really, no one was thinking about breaking the wheel anymore. The remaining lords and ladies got to choose. The elitist, rich children got to elect the new king. The privileged stayed privileged. The imagination had to stop here, otherwise the programme might have turned out too educational. Again, couldn’t be closer to real life!
All of the main characters stay within the rules of the “Game of Thrones”, none of them challenge them or break the wheel. It’s certainly not the story that I’d write. As a woman of colour that is.
Even though there’s more representation of minorities on TV now, it still needs to go much further. It shouldn’t be ok to recount a story of imperialism, and then the imperialist gets to be celebrated as the Mother of Dragons. It shouldn’t be ok to give men constantly a pass, while power-hungry women are judged much harsher. Game of Thrones, how we watched it, and how we reacted to it mirrors the misogyny, sexism, racism, and classism that still runs deep through society. And there’s no end in sight. These stories still please millions. Most of the criticism isn’t so much about how it ended, but more about how it got there. People aren’t bored of seeing the same kings yet. People still relate to the noble, privileged families. Who wants to be a commoner? Who wants to be oppressed? Who wants to be a woman? And yet, most of us are one, or the other, or all of these things.