The virtue of a Dragon
It is fair to say that Game of Thrones has introduced some of the most complicated characters in TV history. The audience started liking and hating them from the very first episodes. They evolved and changed a lot during the 8 seasons of the show. Some characters journeyed toward redemption and some toward demise which gave them the edge that made the show interesting. Daenerys Targaryen is one of the characters who was being praised by the audience from the very beginning. She held high moral standards in dealing with people during her rise to power and helped a lot of people on her way. However, at the end of her journey, she takes a drastic turn and does actions that goes against her moral standards. In the end, her thirst for power overshadows all she worked for the entire series. The show takes 7 seasons to establish characters and develop their arc which was ignored entirely in season 8. However, I will leave season 8 entirely out since the purpose of this essay is not to analyze the writing of the show. For most of her journey, Daenerys Targaryen follows an ethical code that she has established for herself, and although her ultimate goal is to win the Iron Throne, she helps as many people as she can along her way.
The complexity of Daenerys Targaryen’s character is because of the fact that she wants to do good and be strong while following her desire. This is one of the reasons many female fans started praising her. She was the portrayal of a strong woman who rose to power in a man’s world and helped others along the way. In his book Understanding Popular Culture, John Fiske points out that an important factor in a character’s likability can be because of the way she helps the audience deal with similar struggles in their daily lives. (Fiske 105) It was as if Daenerys had a map that could help her navigate through a world ruled by men. She rose to power when no one believed she could.
Moreover, as someone who grew up having no control over her own destiny because of her gender, Daenerys developed compassion for weaker people and tried to help them however she could. In the book Getting a Life, Benjamin Woo explains this compassion as a set of “internal goods”. (Woo 57) Daenerys also develops an ambition to win the Iron. In Woo’s terminology, the goal she puts for herself can be seen as “External goods”. (Woo 57) Woo sees internal goods as a factor that benefits society and external goods and things that a person pursuits for herself. He states; “Importantly, internal goods are also, in a way, public goods. External goods are characteristically objects of competition in which there must be losers as well as winners. Internal goods are indeed the outcome of competition to excel, but it is characteristic of them that their achievement is a good for the whole community who participate in the practice.” (Woo 58)
Furthermore, Daenerys Targaryen is a character who operates on a certain set of moral standards. She frees slaves because she thinks humans must be free and she empowers women who serve her to be strong and answer to no man. In Woo’s terms, she is virtuous because she puts the good of the people first. Woo expands on the meaning of virtue by saying; “virtue also means "excellence” and in the vocabulary of virtue ethics, they are not simply about being a good person in some Pollyannaish way. They are dispositions that lead us to act in particular ways, dispositions that aid our ability to realize or achieve specific goods, given the constraints of concrete situations.” (Woo. p58) Daenerys liberates men and women and operates on a set of moral standards that helps her win people over. These established standards are the reason why men, women, and warriors follow her on her path.
In Conclusion, because of the way Daenerys Targaryen becomes a powerful woman in a male-dominated society, she gathers a massive following and becomes one of the most praised characters on the show. She has an ethical code established for herself, that makes her do good and help people. Moreover, she liberates men and women on her journey to power which causes them to love, respect and follow her. She becomes a role model in the real world because she learns to navigate a male-dominated society and rise to power. Following Fiske’s theory, this is the reason why she is loved by many female audiences. Furthermore, because of these sets of moral standards and how she acts on them, she can be seen as a virtuous character. Afterall she does good in society while she fights for her throne. As Woo puts it, virtue is not just about being a good person, it is about how one acts upon it.
Fiske, John. Understanding Popular Culture. Routledge, 2011
Woo, Benjamin. Getting a Life The Social Worlds of Geek Culture. McGill-Queen's University Press, 2018.