"Daenerys Targaryen. I do not seem to be able to separate my feelings towards her story and my feelings towards her." Can you talk more about your problems regarding her story, please?
Um, well, this is not a subject that I like to delve in tbqh. My frustration and aversion to the way GRRM write huge chunks of this story often trips me up and I find myself mostly unable to be as coherent as I’d like to be, and as the subject deserves. I’ll do my best with it but I’d recommend reading @valiantnedspreciouslittlegirl’s post on the subject because it puts into words a lot of what I dislike in Dany’s story.
My problem is that Martin employs a lot of racist tropes in constructing Dany’s story. We’re introduced to Dany as she goes into her marriage to Khal Drogo and experience Dothraki culture, making her the one to shape our view of said culture, aided by Jorah Mormont who serves as her advisor from the very beginning. Not only is there a problem in having our sole view of one of few prominently non-white societies filtered through the eyes of white characters, but the narrative sets Dany up as the white girl coming to civilize and gentle the savage POC, and oh aren’t the Dothraki so savage and uncultured, they do not even have a word for thank you!!!
While the Dothraki culture is definitely one that needs lots of reforms, Martin’s depiction of them in general is deeply racist. He falls back on stereotypes and dehumanizing portrayals to carry the story, reducing them to a monolithic society built on violence, subjugation and sexual submission. He never bothers to flesh them out, he never bothers to give distinction for different characters that isn’t built on brutality (can you tell me what differentiates Irri from Jhiqui, or Aggo from Rakharo from Jhogo, or any of the khals from each other?), he never bothers to give them substance. He stomps all over them because they are mainly set up to contrast Dany’s own views and beliefs, and to bring her to the point where she “births” her dragons. He leaves them undeveloped and then uses that to make them bow down to the white, western-coded, civilized girl that has earned their loyalty to the point of them going against their deeply-believed and upheld social norms because she walked out of a pyre unburned, even though the Dothraki loath witchcraft. Sure Jan.
From the start, Dany’s story relies heavily on the white savior trope
which is fundamentally racist.
It’s a trope that has a white person descending on a non-white society
to reform it and force a societal change that the residents of the
region can’t or won’t force . It often goes hand-in-hand with the
implication that the white person is doing it ~for the good of the
nation they have invaded~. The story of an external white force coming
to correct the injustice or the wrong behavior that exists in a
non-white society is racist, for it often implies that the non-white
society is incapable of reform on its own, that they need the
intelligent white person to teach them and show them how civilized people do it, and it’s something
that has been frequently used in our real world by imperialist forces
to justify their occupation of a region. (Which hits too close for me because Middle-Eastern history is rife with such attempts. When you’re constantly told you’re oppressed and the progressive white people are gonna help you be better, you tend to have a visceral reaction to any fictional work that builds upon the same idea.)
Whether with the Dothraki or in Slaver’s Bay, Dany is the white woman bringing humane reforms to the savage cultures she comes in contact with, she is the enlightenment movement coming to the backwards POC cultures to fix it. This isn’t a defense of either culture because both really need serious reforms, but for that force of change to be the teenage white girl saving the
indigenous people has serious racist connotations, not made at all better by Martin infantilizing the slaves that Dany frees by literally having them call her Mother. Because why not.
And the problem is that Dany does not quite fit the trope, she is not an imperialist despite Martin using imperialist writing in her story. She does not fall upon Slaver’s Bay because she wants to take advantage of the resources of the region, neither does she employ empty rhetoric about helping people to mask her imperialist ambitions or starts from a place of believed superiority. She truly cares about the slaves she frees. She is motivated by how powerless she felt herself and wants to spare others that same powerlessness. She respects the cultures she encounters and isn’t out to replace it with her own (implied superior) culture; on the contrary, she tries to preserve it and work within it to make away with the dehumanizing aspects without forcing a complete cultural shift. For me, Dany is a victim of her story because it is the single most racist narrative in the whole series by virtue of how utterly racist the writing is. That’s on Martin, not Dany. But like I said, I deal with how deeply uncomfortable I am with the story by disassociating from it, which affects how I connect to Dany despite my best efforts :/