Opinion | ‘House of the Dragon’, the feminist series that never was

Sofía Téllez is a film and television translator.

I grew up reading tales of princesses, not queens. Very few stories have permeated popular culture with a woman at the head of a kingdom. It is not surprising: the history of the world itself has had few cases of women leading and directing, deciding and bringing to fruition the future of a people or a nation. Mexico has never had a female president; To date, only 14% of all state leaders are women.

The good thing is that we always have fantasy worlds and imagination. When House of the Dragon it began to be presented, it was talked about as a series more attached to a feminist agenda, to a female perspective away from explicit sexual violence. At this, many eyebrows were raised at the same time, but the reasons behind that raising were diverse. The first to doubt that this was possible were many of the women who saw the previous series, game of Thrones. Are we talking about the same universe inspired by the Middle Ages? The one in which women were treated like merchandise, traded, sold to the highest bidder, raped, abused, kidnapped, beaten and tortured? Are they saying that the Westeros of 170 years ago is more progressive than the one we saw during the eight seasons of game of Thrones?

As if it were a decoration or an ornament, House of the Dragon It was promoted as what would seem to be a turning point in fantasy series: a banner of gender equity with an anti-patriarchal discourse. Calling this announcement into question in a post-#MeToo era, where commercial gender issues abound, was inevitable.

The other segment that raised eyebrows was that of the die-hard, mostly male fans of the gaming world. game of Thrones. It is enough to carry out a non-exhaustive search on YouTube to find all kinds of opinions from men offended by the “indoctrination” of the series. They accuse the creators of forcing a “progressive agenda”, of wanting to force people who watch HBO to change their ideology, their conception of good and evil… a lot of nonsense that culminates in videos full of screams and tantrums of men who see the inclusion of strong female characters as a sincere affront to masculinity.

And in reality House of the Dragon Does it comply to some extent with that supposed feminist ideology that some of us saw with suspicion and others pointed out with hatred and revulsion? Not really.

Wow, at least it doesn’t have the shortcomings of Game of Thrones, which began airing in April 2011. There, when men lose their honor and everything they fight for, they are deprived of power, influence, territories. When women lose their honor, they are deprived of dignity, of free will, of their humanity. In the first episode, an Emilia Clarke in the character of Daenerys Targaryen appears completely naked, her eyes fixed on nothing, her will defeated. That would be the first time that we would understand that the women of Westeros not only do not aspire to power, but that they are not even masters of their own lives.

In this sense, House of the Dragon takes a step forward and detaches itself from the narrative in which women can only offer their own bodies because they have nothing more to lose or gain. Rhaenyra Targaryen (played by Milly Alcock), the leading character, will be the first female heir to the throne in the history of her kingdom; by appointment of her father, the king. Not without significant resistance from different powers close to the Iron Throne, which she has already taken the opportunity to rule from a woman. A generation earlier, Rhaenys Targaryen, Rhaenyra’s aunt, was denied this right despite being her direct heir. That is why she received the nickname “the queen she never was”.

Westeros is not ready for a woman to occupy the throne, everything seems to indicate. Rhaenyra’s own mother tells her: “Childbirth is our battlefield,” referring to the women of the royal line. But the battlefield that Rhaenyra has in mind is war, where she would like to cover herself in glory as a knight; with the blood, betrayal and scheme that all that implies. That is, the dream of the new candidate for the Westerosi throne is to be like a man.

Although it is refreshing to see leading women with edges that are not limited to suffering and pain, but have ambitions, values ​​and dreams, once again, they find themselves surrounded by men who want to determine their destinies and, in the end, it seems that they will achieve it. . So, what is the objective of an audiovisual product that would ideally question gender issues if it does not go beyond that?

The feminists who view all this short-range social conscience display with suspicion and the misogynistic detractors of YouTube may have more in common than one might think: it seems that the creators of this series only used feminism as a label that was can put to a product to improve its profitability.

This year I have had the opportunity to see The Sex Lives of College Girls, Hacks Y yellowjacketsjust to mention some American series that have a good dose of criticism of patriarchal societies and that do not need to be presented in the media as part of a “culture woke up”. Her characters are women with various dimensions, as well as with sexual and ideological diversity. At almost no time do their decisions and questions revolve around what a man does or does not do, nor do they aspire to be like one.

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House of the Dragon He arrived promising a story full of “girl power” (is he still called that?). And, although in some ways she manages to detach herself from the rampant misogyny that game of Thrones could get to put in the box, it is far from being the standard that its advertising teams want us to believe.

Feminism has to stop being treated in television and cinema as an added value that increases surplus value to an audiovisual product. And, if creators want to help foster tangible change in popular culture, they need to start asking themselves if they have the right stories to do so. There are still some chapters left from this season that will help us confirm if House of the Dragon will go down in history for the good treatment of its female characters or if it will stay like the series feminist that it never was.

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