Alternative title: Why People Who Have Only Seen Game of Thrones Rather Than Read It Should Probably Refrain From Making Sweeping Generalizations About the Series' Problematic Themes. There are no specific spoilers in this post, but there's some hints relating to a vague outline of Daenerys' plot. Burt, I'll wait for you to run away with your fingers in your ears shouting "LALALALALALALA I CANNOT HEARS THE SPOILERS."
Has she had a chance to flee? Ok, cool. Let's get to it.
Some of you doubtless saw the i09 article shared to the mainpage earlier today by Jessica Coen — the one about the problematic nature of Daenerys' story. It's actually quite well-written, and brings up a LOT of good points about how "Daenerys as the white lady savior of these poor savage brown people" is a plot rife with problems. Nothing in that article is even really incorrect in its basic thesis, and the specific "look at the white lady crowd-surfing brown people" scene is especially problematic. I pretty much agree with everything written in that article.
And yet, despite the fact that it is objectively correct, it makes me want to facepalm until I have no faces left to palm.
I want to stress that I am NOT one of those people who gets all snooty about those who don't know what happens in the books. Full disclosure: I've read a book and a half, and that's it (Martin may be a great plotter, but he's a TERRIBLE writer) — but I've meticulously combed through every plot summary I can find (because unlike 95% of the human race, I loathe suspense). I know what happens in books 3, 4, and 5 — mostly lots of fun stuff, it turns out. Suffice it to say that for many of the characters you love to hate, Winter May Be Coming, but riding ahead of it in the vanguard are the forces of Uppance. So no, I don't have any condescension towards people who haven't read the books.
The issue that gets me is this: if you haven't read the books, or at least don't know where the plot is generally headed, you should really refrain from making predictions or saying things that are going to make you look kind of dumb a year from now. It's one thing to not look up book spoilers and let the show surprise you, but it's an entirely different thing to do that while confidently making predictions and pointing out issues which everyone else can immediately prove to be ill-founded using 15 seconds and the magic of Google.
Here's the deal: while yes, it's clear that the seemingly inevitable "Dany raises a slave army of loyal brown folks to help her conquer Westeros" plotline has its issues, someone else is fully cognizant of that fact, and it's someone show-only watchers might not be expecting. Here's a hint: his name starts with "G" and ends with "-eorge R. R. Martin." It's supposed to be problematic, people. Books 4 and 5 are all about the perils of falling victim to your own savior complex, as well as how you set yourself up for failure when you view yourself as the just and rightful beacon of civilization and other cultures as alien and incomprehensible (this is true not just of Dany, but of Jon Snow, too). GRRM is trolling you. Suffice it to say that from this point forward, things do not turn out for Daenerys as she would have hoped, and only the slow realization of her own frailties and problematic way of thinking offer her any hope for righting her ship in book 6.
So to anyone thinking Daenerys' plot is problematic: yes, it is, and it is supposed to be. I may think Martin gets lost in minutiae and has crap for lyrical flow (and I do), but you can never criticize him for being too predictable. Chances are, if it looks like he's setting things up for one extremely problematic, trope-filled direction, he's about to bait-and-switch on you and completely subvert what he's done so far. The Red Wedding should be ample evidence of that for those of you just suffered through that trauma for the first time two weeks ago. Have at least a modicum of faith in his plot-making abilities.
Someone, either on GT or on the mainpage, asked me recently what it was that made GoT so special, and I'm realizing it's this: its entire arc was pre-determined. How many shows get to say that? Babylon 5 for the first four seasons, definitely — but even it ran into a mess when they had to smash together two seasons into one with season four (and then were inexplicably given a fifth season that turned into a series of blind shots in the dark). It's possible this was the plan with Supernatural's first five seasons (it would explain why I'd rather eat rat poison than watch anything after season 5), but there's enough leeway and doubt there that I'm not confident in making that judgment. DS9 had some of this going on, but even it didn't wrap everything up and seemed to lose track of some of its threads. Can anyone name any other shows that adhered to this principle?
It didn't matter to Benioff, Weiss, and Martin if GoT got only one season or 8; they weren't going to panic, weren't going to change their grand, intricate plan merely at the whim of ratings. People complain about Firefly not getting any closure, but 15 episodes that ask a lot of questions and don't get a chance to answer them is infinitely better than 15 episodes that hurriedly give terrible answers just so they can have some kind of resolution. Better to leave things unresolved than to cheapen and blacken your art. I continue to believe that a steadfast commitment to the integrity of the plot above all else is what makes for truly great TV — even if droves of Americans are too dumb to appreciate it and would rather go watch So You Think You Can Luge or whatever the hell else major networks are throwing out there these days.
Actually, scratch that; I would TOTALLY watch So You Think You Can Luge. Carry on, people.