OPINION: House of the Dragon corrects Games of Thrones’ biggest problem

Can the HBO series beat the misogyny claims?

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(L-R): Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy), Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best). The three female characters are all fully complexed and all suffer greatly for a chance to sit on the Iron Throne. (Photo: House of the Dragon, HBO, 2022)

Hailey Valdivia

Spoiler warning for Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon!

Before Game of Thrones ended up infamous for having one of the worst endings to a series, the show was on top of the world.  

One of its biggest critiques of the show was its treatment of its female characters. Many of the female characters in GOT were needlessly brutalized, assaulted and vilified. 

Sisi Jiang’s tweet addresses the main arguments that people bring up against GOT. To many people, the gratuitous depiction of violence against women in Game of Thrones feels unnecessary or voyeuristic. The point that the original show was trying to make feels lost in translation from book to TV to viewers.  

In response to this backlash, George R.R. Martin said, “I don’t think that Westeros is any more anti-woman or misogynist than real life and what we call history.

House of the Dragon is set 172 years before Daenerys Targaryen is born and it faces the critique about the treatment of women in the franchise.

Daenerys Targaryen is the last of her bloodline after her family is ousted from the Iron Throne. She spends the whole series trying to regain the throne as she believes it is her birthright. House of the Dragon is about her ancestors. 

House of the Dragon purposely shows the way Westeros treats women and frames the hardships they face to show the audience that the system in place benefits no woman. The system of Westeros is meant to be a reflection of the patriarchal system that exists in our society. 

The showrunners, Miguel Sapochnik, Ryan Condal and author Martin show the violence and misogyny purposefully as a way to get the audience to think about how violence and oppression against women has been a tool to keep patriarchal systems in place. We see this with three characters in particular, Rhaenyra Targaryen, Alicent Hightower, Rhaenys Targaryen. 

Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) stand in mourning. Rhaenyra mourns her mother and brother but also the fact that she is not enough for her father. (Photo: House of the Dragon, HBO, 2022)

The show is based on the book Fire & Blood by George R. R. Martin and showrunners make several changes to enhance the narrative. One of the biggest changes so far from the book to the show is the friendship between Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower. In the book, no such relationship exists. 

Their friendship is one of girlhood with the expectation that neither of them will ever have any kind of true power. This sets them up as foils to one another, Alicent is compliant while Rhaenyra is unruly. 

Alicent fits into the idea of what the ideal woman of Westeros should be. She is pleasant, minds her status, yet she is in a loveless marriage. She has lost her best friend in the process and has been forced to grow up too fast. 

These major changes really do make a difference to their characters as it adds depth to both of their characters instead of them coming off as one dimensional. I really liked that the viewers are able to see the path these two women will go down and how it separates them.

Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) sit by a tree. A snapshot of their friendship before everything changes. (Photo: House of the Dragon, HBO, 2022)

House of the Dragon sets out to make us question Westeros’ treatment of women. There is an intentionality to the new show that Game of Thrones lacked towards women. Time will only tell if it will continue down this path or if it will follow in GOT footsteps.