It is understandable why Dany is a fan favorite - she has a lot of potential to be a great, powerful, and interesting character. But there are aspects of her, and the choices that she makes, that should not be ignored or pushed to the wayside in order to contribute to this popular “badass” conception of her. Glorifying her is damaging and, in effect, misses the point, as she often serves in the books as a representation of white savior imperialism - a fact that must be acknowledged in order to adequately discuss her character.
[Disclaimer: I would ordinarily never make a post like this because I don’t want to be an asshole, but I think this is an important thing to talk about, and I’m tired of getting an ask a day about it]
This post only deals with the events of the third book/season
At the beginning of the series, Dany subverts conceptions of femininity and female strength, and presents a different picture of power. She takes control of her shitty situation and, by herself, finds new ways to cope, which I really loved. I still think that she’s a very interesting picture of female power in the first two books, and although I don’t necessarily agree with the way that she always conducts herself - she seems to have a penchant for ignoring anything that is told to her and just doing what she wants, regardless of her youth and inexperience - I was very invested in her. It wasn’t until the third book, when that rapidly began to change.
As she runs through Astapor, and the various other cities outside of Westeros, she sets to killing massive parts of the population, the “masters,” and consequently “freeing” the slaves. These actions are not badass, they are not desired, and they should not be glorified. In historical terms, they really only paint her as one thing, a representation of the white savior complex, or imperialism - the idea that the ‘superior race’ can go around doing whatever they please wherever they please, freeing people from their slavery and making themselves into some kind of deity.
Let’s focus on Astapor. Dany knows nothing about the culture of this city, she is a stranger and an outsider who is looking to buy an army. She projects her own conceptions of what is right and wrong onto the population, deciding that this one slave trader is a representation for the entire city, and that it is her right to do something about it. She does her whole “a dragon is not a slave” business and sends the unsullied out into the streets, to kill everyone except for children, because that is SOMEHOW OK AND TOTALLY WITHIN HER RIGHTS and then frees the slaves, and the unsullied, from their bondage. Reality check : the unsullied might be “free” in Dany’s mind, but they did not make a conscious decision to go with her. So much of their humanity has been leeched from them already, that they go with her because she has the whip, because they are meant to, because that is the only place for them to go (newsflash, their city was destroyed due to a stormborn and her dragons, it’s not like they have anything else to do). The people in the city go with her for similar reasons - city still destroyed - but also because she has become a deity, a beacon of hope, because surprise! SHE HAS DRAGONS. Of course they follow her, without any actual conception of what is happening or where she is taking them, because she is mystical and, in effect, some kind of god. So, in recap, Dany makes the executive decision that the people of this culture (which she knows nothing about) should be free - which is, of course, not really her call - and then asks them to follow her into the desert where they can subsequently half starve to death, while she’s concocting some half assed plan to take back westeros. She can be the mother of dragons all she wants to, but now that she’s dragged entire races after her in some feeble attempt to create a “people” (which more or less is meant to function as an ill organized army that stands outside city gates), she has a responsibility over them that she does not uphold. She doesn’t know how to take care of these slaves that she has supposedly freed. She considers herself a savior, sent down divinely from House Targaeryn to save these people from their dreary lives - but for what? To be her army? To have their culture destroyed and laid to waste?
And here’s why I call this white savior imperialism, over all other terms. Westeros, in general (other than Dorne), is a white dominated place, and therefore the people of that kingdom are privileged over the cities outside of Westeros, which have more diversity (free cities, Volantis, Braavos, Astapor, etc). Ergo, Dany is a) white and b) privileged due to her heritage (not to mention that she comes from a famous, old family that embodies colonialism itself - let me come in here with my superior weapons and destroy your cities and force you into submission). I want to make it clear that I’m not saying this is an exact comparison to actual imperialism, as it is not and race relations work differently in westeros, but it is a representation of something that has actually occurred in history. So when she goes to Astapor and decides that she is going to “free” the people from their “oppressors,” she’s using the language of the white savior complex or, in other terms, ‘the white man’s burden.’ She thinks it is not only her duty, but her right, to come into this culture that she knows nothing about and free the people from their lives, which seem barbaric to her. Sound familiar? Sound like every instance of imperialism ever? All she really needs is a religion to indoctrinate everyone in, and she’ll be a literal embodiment of Britain in the nineteenth century - oh wait! Mysha! There’s a deity being worshipped if I ever saw one.
But even past all of the historical implications of her storyline, I truly believe that she would be a terrible ruler of westeros. She’s exactly like the other Targaryens - ready to lay waste to the land in any means necessary in order to take back what is ‘rightfully hers.’ Where does this sense of entitlement come from? The Targaryens took Westeros (with fyre and blood), the same way that Robert did in the rebellion, so I see no difference in their claims. Dany, unlike literally everyone else who is vying for the throne, has never lived in Westeros. She has no concept of the culture, the people, the land - anything. All she has is half baked stories from her brother, and a vague conception from what Jorah told her. The only viable reason that she wants to return is because she believes it is somehow owed to her. She brays on and on about being special and I WILL TAKE WHAT IS MINE but hey that’s not what I want in a ruler ever???? How does that make someone qualified to run a kingdom? Why would you want a queen who invades the land, burns down half off the kingdom, and forces herself onto the throne??
It upsets me, because I really do think she has so much potential to be a strong, interesting, great female character - but she consistently falls short of that. If she was just conscious of what she was doing - that she was parading around with a white savior complex, that she was destroying cities for her own gain, NOT for their well being - than I could really, really love her. All I want is that recognition, that understanding that she is destructive, an acceptance that what she is doing is not necessarily for the common good, but for herself and her own concept of entitlement. Instead, we’re given a bratty girl who won’t listen to anyone’s advice and runs straight forward into things because she thinks they are owed to her. She ignores negative descriptions of her family, and demands allegiance. I WILL TAKE WHAT IS MINE isn’t a feminist anthem, it’s the declaration of a girl in a privileged position, who is doing all the wrong things with that privilege. Which is why I so ardently hate when people glorify her and act like she’s some “badass” warrior princess, when really she’s doing a great job of embodying white savior imperialism.