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House of the Dragon and its gender politics


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HBO’s new show House of The Dragon is a much-appreciated prequel to the well-loved Game of Thrones series, and another way for the fans of the show to obsess about the mystical world of Westeros. The series is set 200 years before the timeline of Game of Thrones and involves a whole different set of characters and many of the ancestors of the beloved characters from the original series. Based on the book Fire and Blood by George R.R Martin, the story follows the civil war the Targaryen children of King Visarys I must fight over the Iron Throne. While the show has an abundance of extremely important characters our main characters are Rhaenyra Targaran the daughter of the king and his wife Alicent Hightower and the bloodthirsty feud that develops between the two women.

Emma D’arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryan

Despite the base of the show being about power, protection, and status, it contains a lot of themes that relate to bigger societal issues, primarily the oppression of women and the fight for the female voice. Our main character Rhaenyra represents feminism in an extremely obvious way as within the first episode she is declared the next heir to the iron throne, despite her sex. Emma D’arcy, who plays Rhaenyra, is a London-based actor who commented on the gender politics of the show and they also spoke on how the opposition to the heteronormative structure within the show is what led to their interest in the role. Our first glimpse of D’arcy as Rhaneyra is shown as a physically weakened woman, after just giving birth, yet she has this immense strength about her as she still commands and seeks out the best for herself and her family. Rhaenyra owns her femininity as well as her power something that drew D’arcy to the role as the actor said to ID Magazine that the character of Rhaenyra is “Someone who feels that they are, to some extent, at odds with the heteronormative framework”.

Aegon Targaryan Played by Ty Tennant and QueenAllicent played by Olivia Cooke

Darcy’s comments on the opposition their character feels towards the patriarchy and its withholdings actually seem to apply to all the women in House of the Dragon. Queen Alicent, played by Olivia Cooke, who makes the transition from Rhaenyra’s best friend to her worst enemy, fights the patriarchal world perhaps more than anyone. While she is mainly just seen as the weak wife of the king, she slowly begins to own her power and her place as not just the lover of the king but the powerful Queen that she is. British-born actress Cooke told Today that she recognizes that her character does some “pretty despicable things”. However, at the root of these actions, Allicent is portrayed as someone who will do anything to protect her family, which is in many ways something that has made her more respectable than the king. While King Viserys tends to ignore Alicent and their children, his focus on Rhaenyra leads to a feeling of neglect on Allicent’s part, forcing her to be her own savior and her children’s only parent.

These deeply flawed yet strong female characters make the show what it is, as they fight the patriarchy and its issues in both overt and submissive ways, making it an obvious favorite for women everywhere. It is not often that fantasy shows set in medieval eras have women as their leading members, House of the Dragon is a refreshing new take on what it means for female characters and actors to be taking roles in this genre of film.

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