Outrage Over Game of Thrones Turning Daenerys into 'Mad Queen' Proves We Love 'Benign' Dictators
I hated the writers of Game of Thrones for making Daenerys Targaryen do things she has been threatening to do all these years. I belonged to the naive group that believed Dany won’t go the Mad King way. I always knew she wasn’t a woman of democratic-liberal values but I felt she was the benign dictator we deserved. Her relapse into total madness has left many of the fans distraught and dejected because we do tend to, from time to time, back benign dictators thinking they would turn out to be different, they would destroy and replace the old elite but would be beneficial for the starving masses.
Anyway, let’s leave politics and see what’s going on in Dany’s subjective world from the psychoanalytic perspective.
She has suppressed her desire to blow up cities earlier, and she indeed ended slavery in the slave cities. Then what justifies her complete surrender to her impulses when she is so close to her goal? One needs to understand the slave cities that she liberated were not part of her identity, she didn’t belong to these people. They merely satisfied her need to be seen as a liberator, worshipped, elevated in her stature. They were objects outside of her subjective self. So, she was able to take rational decisions regarding them defeating her innate drives and impulses.
But the moment she takes a hard at the Red Keep, something snaps. The Red Keep is a part of her identity and her inner world — a world in which she imagines she is the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdom and that people were waiting for her return to be freed from the tyranny of the present rulers.
Unfortunately, that was only in Dany’s head. In reality no one was waiting to welcome her, no one trusted or loved her in Westeros, and worse, didn’t have faith in her ability to become an efficient ruler.
What the contradictory feeling that consumes her is called "cognitive dissonance". This is perhaps the most likely psychic conversation happening in Dany’s mind — “This is where I belong, this is my entire being. But wait, why do the people not love me and trust me?” To overcome the destruction of her self and this existential crisis, she does what most rulers do — separate the land from the people that inhabit it. While, the land continues to be a part of her self, by identifying the people as the other, she is able to unleash violence on them.
By burning down Kings Landing, she has altered the object of her desire forever, disfigured it, made it weak and needy so that she can love it and own it in her own twisted way. She needed King’s Landing to be a mess, not a thriving place to begin her reign because that’s the kind of people she has ruled over always — frightened, enslaved and the deprived. That has always been her attachment pattern — a mother, a ruler, a chain breaker. That’s what happens in projective identification — you deny the very objecthood of the object that you have identified and established a relationship by the virtue of it being a part of your denied self.
Another reason we blame the writers is that they didn’t efficiently build up her descent into madness. Again, what we forget is that Dany has lived in constant denial of her violent side from the first season while overplaying her 'mother' image. Despite not being one, her image was that of “mother” even if of dragons. She even punishes her babies by locking them in a tunnel when they attack a child.
While she embraces her feminine side by being the nurturer of her baby dragons and the chain-breaker, unlike Cersie who likes to portray dominance in a masculine way, Dany forgets to integrate the animus. In Jungian analysis animus is the masculine side of a woman. She began with the certainty “I am not my father”. Only if her primary assumption would have been “I may just become my father, but I will choose not to”, she could have been the queen we all imagined her to be.
This was the nugget of advice that Dumbledore gave Harry Potter — our choices shape who we are, and not the thoughts that cloud our mind and create internal conflicts. Which is why schooling, apprenticeship, and formal training are so important. No matter how great your struggles are, and if you began from a place of complete disadvantage, education and training are still what you would need once you achieve your goal. A good mentor trains and makes you better in your skills but also helps you look at life from a philosophical distance and not be consumed by its vagaries. Without Dumbeldore and his training in Hogwarts, Harry could also have become his own Voldemort. Life struggles helps you set up a goal but it’s education and formal training in governance that prepares you for real power.
In fact, closer to GoT, we have Arya to demonstrate the importance of a mentor in your life. She had her father Ned Stark, her step brother Jon Snow, Syrio, and Jaqen H’ghar to give her some lasting life lessons. Despite being trained as a highly skilled assassin she retains her humanity because of her upbringing. Dany unfortunately didn't get any mentor. Her personal charisma and leadership qualities took her where she did. As for her advisors, we all know how much real power they have. In the absence of a mentor, her downfall was a given.
For those of us rooting for Dany, she is not acceptable in this form — the complete take over of the the darker side or shadow over her ego-consciousness has alienated her fans. In Jungian analysis, shadow is that part of the psyche which remains unconscious and is not owned by the individual. It's usually some "bad" attribute like sexuality or aggression. We liked the Dragon-wielding badass queen as long as she was killing slave-keepers. But we never questioned if beneath the mask of chain-breaker and harbinger of justice, she unconsciously got a kick just out of burning people. We never asked what place do fire spewing dragons have in a just society. The pro-Dany campaign humanised the dragons. It's almost like humanising nuclear power in the hands of crazy dictators. As long as the makers made her kill the hateful other, we were quite happy to see the roasting fest. But as the carnage hit home, all hell broke loose.
Dany’s livid fans are living in such grave denial that we now think not the Targaryen but the writers are the main villains of the show. You just have to look at the hatred for D&D in different online communities to truly gague the intensity if the smear campaign going on against the duo, of which I have been a part. The denial has reached a frenzied and delusional level — seven lakh people have signed a petition for the last season to be remade. Despite David Benioff and DB Weiss giving us some of the most spectacular moments on television for all these years. The directors are more hated than any of the real bad people in the world are. But again this follows the usual script. That’s how followers of dictators rationalize the acts of their leader — by projecting the evil of their leader on some external factor.
Finally, let’s tackle the feminist argument that Dany’s character has been undermined to make a man sit on the throne. I think while destroying one stereotype, this narrative strengthens another. While celebrating women becoming powerful talking-heads for important issues of global concern, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that tyranny isn’t solely a masculine attribute. By doing so, we would be denying the animus in us, we would again be doing what masculinity did with power — unleashed surveillance and extreme control over human mind, and destruction of nature. We don’t have to bow our heads to a female tyrant just to overcompensate for the exploitation of the past
One complaint that is true is the makers are rushing toward the end, but every good thing must come to an end. The show will end the way the directors want it to. It’s their story. What the outrage over the penultimate episode has revealed about the viewers is that we might hate being roasted but we certainly don't mind living under the threat of fear of being roasted if the one at the helm is charismatic and makes tall claims of delivering justice, however abstract.