Nobody’s said that you can’t like Dany??? Or that you can’t be invested in her story??? That you’re a bad person because you like her???
However you should acknowledge that her narrative in BOTH the books and the show revolve around her white savior complex (that’s not the only thing about her)…
I think the tricky part of attributing “white savior complex” on Dany is that despite obviously having people of many colors, the racial barriers are not as pronounced in Martin’s world. Westeros is definitely an Europe-inspired world, and most of its inhabitants are white. Essos is more colorful, but with its not inconsequential subpopulation of white natives.
Examine the last episode of the third season, “Mhysa”. We see the very white Varys and the very white Shae discussing how they are considered “exotic” for having been born in Essos.
Don’t misunderstand me. Daenarys does consider herself a liberator, but she does not deny that she’s a conqueror. Her entire crusade this season has been about liberating the slaves of several Essosi cities. But she is indeed imposing her Western belief system on a foreign land. It’s not white savior complex, but a very clear analogue of it.
And Dany (and the writers) made a very sincere effort to have her deny her ability. She proclaimed that she did not give the Yunkai slaves their freedom; it was their own to claim. (Let’s not forget that her “freeing” Yunkai involved sitting in a fancy tent while she sent three men to kill a dozen guards.) She even made herself vulnerable by walking past her guards. But in the end, what the writers didn’t understand is why a sea of brown people couldn’t uplift a white woman without garnering the wrong impressions.
They are way more pronounced than you’d like to admit. When someone is not white, GRRM usually acknowledges that by othering them, either by their customs or having the other characters hint at their savagery. Tyroshi, are not white most likely resemble someone Asian in our world. Summer Islanders skin is described as Black, they wear colorful clothing and more sexually liberated than the people of Westeros (which is also problematic considering the hyper-sexualization of Black people). The people of Dorne are generally brown. Dothraki (who are called outright savages by multiple people) are definitely brown. I’m not denying that white people could live in these places, and be from anywhere besides Westeros (and vise versa) but it’s clear that the brown population is higher outside of it.
I’m think Shae is a PoC. The actress is German but of Turkish decent, but if she is white there’s an issue with the main representation of people from Essos (which is more diverse than Westeros) being white.
“But she is indeed imposing her Western belief system on a foreign land.”
But why is she doing this? Because she thinks they need her help (because she’s been taught that her western beliefs are better), as if that they cannot make decisions that are best for them and have been making those decisions before she came along. That is not a very clear analogue of the white savior complex. That is the white savior complex.
I am not angry that she is a conqueror, and denying her ability is irrelevant. She’s already imposed her beliefs on a group of people before she questioned herself. Does that justify it? No. It means she’s acknowledged that she’s naive, yet in rectification instead of not forcing people into her beliefs she repeats the action only becoming their “mother” in the end. And for Dany’s narrative becoming a mother again is poetic and important, but when she’s the mother of only brown people, who are generally nameless in this story, it makes it problematic. She basically does something bad, realizes it’s bad, does it again, and gets rewarded for it when most people in this story are punished for their bad deeds. There’s a bias in the narrative towards Dany and it makes it even more problematic when all of her wrong doings are geared toward POC.
I feel like the phrase “garnering the wrong impression” is a simplification of why people are upset about this.
I knew I hadn’t stated my point well. Metatextually, yes, Dany is a big ole white savior. But, textually, her liberation kick is simply about slavery. The East has it. The West doesn’t. Outside the world, I fully agree that white savior complex can be read. Very roughly, Westeros is Europe and Essos is Asia. But within, I believe that racial issues simply aren’t the same. Essosi of all colors are considered equally “exotic” to Westerosi.
And I also never meant to imply Essos wasn’t diverse. I’m aware of the racial analogues of the populations of the cities of Essos, the Summer Isles, and Dorne. I’ve studied them in depth for my own fanfiction reasons. It’s one thing I like about Martin. His love of description makes the ethnic composition, white and POC, of his major characters explicit. My point was simply the “otherness” of Essos can’t be equated to its non-whiteness. Heck, the silver-blond-haired, violet-eyed, fair-skinned ancestors of Daenarys are Volantine. Essosi. Dany’s conqueror spirit? It’s not something that she learned from white Westeros culture.
I’ve never understood the argument that the Essosi are portrayed as more “savage”. The Dothraki are portrayed as more savage than Westerosis, and perceived as quite savage by characters within the book, but at the same time, Martin also designed their tribes to number in the tens of thousands, the size of small cities. As for the walled cities that Dany visits, they are shown to be much more formidable than Westerosi castles, which are sacked right and left. It seems to me that Martin had a lot of respect for his “Asian” cities. Perhaps not enough, but certainly a lot. The conquering of each of them required a great amount of cleverness by Dany.
When it comes down to it, the distinction I’m trying to make is pedantic. Dany is not a white savior; Martin is writing her as a white savior. Because of our history and our knowledge of social issues, we can interpret these issues clearly. But from the worldview of the book, we see no indications that it’s Dany’s skin color that gives her power.
But outside, I won’t disagree that it’s not. Dany’s conquest has been at least 98% luck. And luck means that she’s given favoritism by the author. Is she given preference because she’s white? Perhaps, but only indirectly: Martin obviously designed his Westerosi characters and families first. Because he’s a white man, he gives preference to his white characters. I can’t blame him for that. (I can’t blame it; you feel free to.)
To tell you the truth, I’m also peeved by Dany’s success. But it’s more about the poor narrative structure. He’s a guy with quite a talent for designing intricate social situations to form exactly how he likes. Yet, Dany wins all her battles through deus ex machina.
I come to Martin’s defense on this topic because while I agree he misses the mark, he certainly strikes closer to the bullseye than most writers. I’d love to see how he’d manage by focusing more on his POC characters. Writers who are halfway there often give us better material to analyze and critique.