HBO’s Game of Thrones may be a medieval fantasy drama, but it just exposed a big problem with modern society’s views on men, women and promotions
Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, aptly titled ‘The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’, was certainly a humdinger. Not only did Arya and Gendry shippers get the feminist sex scene of their dreams, but we also saw Daenerys Targaryen find out that her new boyfriend, Jon Snow, is actually her secret nephew, Aegon Targaryen. Because… well, because Game of Thrones.
The Mother of Dragons knew something was up long before the revelation, of course: Jon (Kit Harington) had studiously been avoiding her as much as is humanly possible when you’re the dual commanders of the biggest army Westeros has ever seen. And so, when she approached him in the crypts beneath Winterfell, she did so cautiously.
“Who is this?” she asked, gesturing at the statue he was staring at moonily.
Jon informed her that the statue had been created in the likeness of the late Lyanna Stark, prompting Dany (Emilia Clarke) to question how her brother Rhaegar could be a singer who gave to the poor, but also, a rapist. Jon responds by informing her that Rhaegar did not rape Lyanna, but, loved her, married her, and had a secret son with her who was passed on as Ned Stark’s bastard after they both died.
“And guess what?” he finished (we’re paraphrasing here, of course). “I’m that bastard!”
Naturally, this was a lot of information for Dany to take in. However, rather than focus on the accidental incest (because, as previously highlighted, this is Game of Thrones), she decided to hone in on the fact that Jon is – if his tale is true, of course – the last male Targaryen, and the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms.
“That’s impossible,” she tells him, coolly dropping his arm and earning the scorn of GOT viewers everywhere (see this week’s Twitter reactions, if you don’t believe me).
“I wish it were,” he responds.
Jon might not understand Daenerys’ fury, and viewers at home might think she’s being a “bitch”, but everyone is missing a key detail here. If Jon is the last male Targaryen (emphasis on the word ‘male’), then he has power over the claim she has been staking since birth. He is more likely to get the job she has been working towards winning her entire life.
And he doesn’t even want it. Can you imagine how bloody frustrating that would be?
Well, Emilia Clarke can. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about her character’s reaction, the GOT star explained: “The related thing, to her, is so normal. She could have easily married her brother. It’s not a thing. It’s a thing for Jon, but let’s just forget about that.
“The main thing is we’re up for the same promotion and I’ve been working for it for my entire existence. This is my whole existence! Since birth!
Dany literally was brought into this world going: ‘RUN! These fuckers [in Westeros] have fucked everything up’. Now it’s, ‘You’re our only hope’. There’s so much she’s taken on in her duty in life to rectify.
“There’s so much she’s seen and witnessed and been through and lost and suffered and hurt to get here.”
Privilege is famously invisible to those that have it, which is why plenty of men are unable to understand the concept of male privilege. It’s hard for these men to get that the game has been rigged in their favour, and that our patriarchal society provides them with all sorts of unearned advantages (let’s talk about the gender pay gap, shall we?).
Indeed, research has found that, although women and men say they want to be promoted in about equal numbers (75% and 78% respectively), women are significantly less likely to make it to the next tier in their organisation. Indeed, across all organisational levels, women are a whopping 15% less likely than men to get promoted.
And Daenerys, whether she’s a ‘Mad Queen’ or not, just learned that things are no different in Westeros.
Is it any wonder, then, that so many people believe that Dany will use her dragons to melt down the Iron Throne and thus put an end Westeros’ sexist rules of primogeniture once and for all?
The self-titled ‘Breaker of Chains’ has long been a fan of putting power into the hands of the people, so it makes sense that she should be the one to usher in a new era of democracy, put an end to the landed aristocracy, and offer the commonfolk the chance to choose their own leaders.
As we’ve mentioned previously, Daenerys has attracted such a huge following because she offers them something they have never been offered before: the freedom to choose: Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), the Unsullied and the Dothraki all believe in Daenerys. They have chosen to follow her based on her actions, not because of her impressive lineage. Even Jon Snow, who refused to bend the knee when Daenerys demanded that he do so, has since chosen to do so because he has seen the woman she is – and truly believes she is the right ruler for Westeros. More important, though, is the fact that Jon decided to bend the knee to Daenerys after learning she can’t have children of her own – and, in doing so, became one of the first GOT rulers to recognise that women are so much more than the sum of their body parts. That a queen’s role does not have to be reduced to anything as base as “lie back and bring forth children for your king”. That they can rise to be so much more than the head of home and hearth. That they can be brave, and smart, and calculating. That, most importantly of all. that they can be rulers in their own rights, making valid and vital decisions about the future of their own people.
To put it in the words of one savvy viewer, “the Game of Thrones can only ever end when the throne is removed from play”. But will Daenerys be brave enough to do it? We’re tempted to think so. Especially after seeing the official poster for the final series…
That’s right: it may look like the Iron Throne but, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice a pair of glowing orange eyes, arguably located where the armrests should be.
They are, of course, the eyes of a dragon, with the rest of the throne doubling up as the head of Daenerys’ scaly pet. Undoubtedly, the implication is that there’s more at stake than just a fancy chair. And that Drogon will play an important role in who sits (or doesn’t sit) on it, too.
It’s certainly a compelling theory, especially now we know Dany is feeling the frustrations of being a woman in a man’s world (and, if you’re interested, you can read it in full here). In the meantime, it might be worth a) redressing your views on Dany’s very reasonable reaction, b) learning how to recognise the six signs you’re being underpaid, and c) reading up on how to talk about your achievements while asking for a raise.
Good luck, women of the world.