The Mother of Dragons on the popular HBO show Game of Thrones is the clear favourite for many viewers. The doe-eyed Daenerys Targaryen won the hearts of many with her badass dragons and unwavering determination to sit on the Iron Throne. The question is, is she just another exhausting imperialistic leader with a dizzying repetitive white saviour complex?
When we first see Daenerys she’s a frightened young girl trying to survive the schemes of her manipulative brother, Viserys. Her character develops rapidly and soon she’s wielding an entire army and 3 dragons in her quest to lay claim to the Iron Throne. However, much like all white empires, hers was built on the backs of people of colour.
After her marriage to Khal Drogo, Dany takes on the title of Khaleesi yet continues to undermine the actual Khalasar in her fight for the throne. This is particularly evident when she is made to join the Dosh Khaleen (as all widows of deceased Khals are meant to) but finds that it inconveniences her plan and decides to burn the place down instead with no regard to the heritage it was built upon. She happily bears the title Khaleesi, but only when it works in her favour. The customs and culture of the Dothraki were only useful to her when they gave her a title and authority, after that they became unnecessary.
Later on, the Dothraki are given a speech by Daenerys that they will cross the sea and break down castles of stone and kill iron clad men, obviously not mentioning that most of these men are just innocent Westerosi. The speech seems to spur the Dothraki to join her but for what purpose exactly? Daenerys doesn’t want to save the poor savage brown people from themselves, she wants to use their brute force to win herself a crown. Again, she only finds them useful when they have something to give her, this time being their fighting force and ultimately, their lives. It bears a hollow echo reminiscent of people of colour in real life; misled by flowery words of imperialists and giving up their lives for a mere pittance.
Daenerys just happens to stumble upon the concept of slavery on her way to gaining armies and in true white saviour fashion, decides it is her right to stop it. The place literally called Slaver’s Bay, must now stop slavery because Daenerys says so and is therefore entitled to intervene, thus placing the slaves in her debt. Dany, after freeing slaves in Yunkai and Astapor and gaining an army of unsullied soldiers, turns to Meereen where she successfully ends slavery cold turkey, which naturally leads to the immediate socio-economic collapse of the city. Daenerys is so caught up in trying to save all the backwards brown people from their evil masters that she forgets the actual people. Whilst we can all agree that the notion of a people being owned and forced to work for next to nothing is inhumane, it cannot go unnoticed that the way Daenerys freed them was out of a place of entitlement and as a result, it gained her loyal followers because they now “owed” her an unspoken favour.
Clearly she isn’t the sharpest dragon in the den but more importantly, she’s a terrible leader. She uses military force to get what she wants, encourages insurgency and ignores the customs and culture of the people she’s governing, until it’s useful for her conquest. She governs with her emotions rather than strategy, which to be fair, isn’t always a bad thing but it leans heavily on the tediously repetitive trope that women are too emotional and therefore inefficient leaders.
A foreign white queen who wants to use the force of native armies, who she knows nothing about, to win a throne in a land she’s never been to since she was a baby. Dany is the epitome of white liberator barely grasping native traditions before ruling them.
This could possibly be a good thing though as the show now has the opportunity to show exactly how the white saviour trope never succeeds. We already see Dany’s empire straining due to the collapse of the economy and the threat of insurgencies in Meereen. With the right direction, the show could very well become a lesson on how the white “liberator” will eventually fall. We can only hope that the character serves as a cautionary tale in the end.
Author: Sadiyya Dockrat
Editor: Precious Mayowa Agbabiaka
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.