WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
If you know anything about Sunday’s Game of Thrones penultimate episode, you know how MADDENING it was to watch Queen Daenerys and her dragon torch Cersei Lannister’s town to the ground even after the city surrendered to the Mad Queen! WTF, GoT?!
Despite the show constantly waving the ALL TARGARYENS GO NUTS trope in fans’ faces, Dany’s character development was a big reason why the dark turn fell flat. That, and even though it was a predictable “twist”, it didn’t feel like an earned one. Most fans just weren’t convinced that the Dragon Queen could go mad AFTER already winning.
And while we have our own reservations about what went down as a result of the “Queen of the Ashes,” especially since she swore she’d never go down that path, here fans are: confused, and disappointed, and a little shaken. While everyone knew Targaryens could go mad, it seemed to most that the show was setting her up to OVERCOME the trope. Guess not.
But if you’re hurting over the developments, well, you’re not alone! CNET caught up with clinical psychologist (and huge Game of Thrones fan) Janina Scarlet, who has some interesting thoughts about how the show actually hurts its fans when it pulls things like Daenerys’ wild moves last night!
No, seriously — the thought is that GoT has historically functioned as something of a refuge for people who have actually survived trauma in their real lives, and they can use the show to establish something of a connection with characters on air who endure suffering, as well. But when Khaleesi goes full heel turn like last night, fans who have established a connection to her epic story arc of overcoming some awful circumstances may feel quite betrayed — and adversely affected — by the “new” Dany.
The Psychology Of It All
Scarlet describes it more (below), while using the term “parasocial relationship,” to describe the bond a fan might form with a fictional character like one on GoT:
“Parasocial relationships can help fans to feel less alone in their mental health struggles, can inspire hope, and create a dialogue about trauma and recovery. Seeing a person who came from an abusive childhood, experienced violence, assault and tragedy can inspire many other trauma survivors, especially women, to better understand and process their traumatic experiences as well.”
Not surprisingly, now knowing that, it makes sense that the Daenerys we saw slaughter EVERYBODY at King’s Landing doesn’t exactly jive with the image she’s previously portrayed in, like, the entire damn show.
Confusing? Sure, but it’s more than that. Scarlet argues it’s actually kind of like pulling the rug out from under fans, which can in turn be emotionally distressing (below):
“For many fans, especially women, who might identify with Daenerys in terms of being a survivor, this sudden change can be both confusing and emotionally distressing. Such story arc can appear to take away from agency that many trauma survivors may develop through parasocial relationships.”
That may not seem like a big deal, but to some fans — especially those who have the show as escapism from their own struggles with mental health, abuse, or other real-world issues while developing these parasocial relationships with characters — there may be something larger at play going on here.
To that end, Scarlet makes an interesting recommendation for showrunners and producers in future epic TV series like Game of Thrones (below):
“It is my hope that in the future, writers of television and films will consider having cultural and/or mental health consultants on staff, especially when writing storylines dealing with trauma, shock, and horror in order to be conscientious about the potential effects the particular episode or scene may have on the viewers.”
What do U think about that, Perezcious readers?! Are you buying this idea of parasocial relationships? Should shows do a better job considering their audience’s minds and feelings when developing character arcs?! We’d love to hear ALL your thoughts on this… sound OFF in the comments (below)!!!
[Image via HBO]
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