George R.R. Martin Defends the Misogyny in Westeros in House of the Dragon Comic-Con Panel

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Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen in <i>House of the Dragon</i> Credit - Ollie Upton—HBO

A Song of Ice and Fire author and Game of Thrones mastermind George R.R. Martin made a rare appearance at the House of the Dragon panel at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The writer has been holed up at home the past few years during the pandemic but took time to answer questions ranging from when, exactly, he’s going to finish his long-awaited Winds of Winter book to why his fictional world of Westeros is so misogynistic.

The upcoming HBO series House of the Dragon, a Game of Thrones prequel that centers on the ancestors of Daenerys Targaryen, begins with a question of succession. The character Rhaenys Targaryen (played by Eve Best in the series) has been passed over as queen in favor of King Viserys (Paddy Considine). She comes to be known as the “Queen Who Never Was” and advises Viserys’ daughter and would-be heir, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (played by both Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy at different ages on the show), that the people of Westeros will never let a queen sit on the Iron Throne.

During the panel, host Jason Concepcion asked Martin why, exactly, the characters of Westeros have such a problem with female rulers.

“My books are fantasies obviously, but I do follow history a lot. I take elements from history and turn it up to 11,” said Martin. “Game of Thrones, as many people observed, was based very loosely on the War of the Roses. This show was based on a moment in history called The Anarchy.”

Martin went on to describe that moment in British history. “When Henry I, when his only legitimate son drowned, he was left with his only legitimate child Matilda, and he named her his heir and forced all the lords to swear fealty to her,” he explained. “And some years later she died, and all the lords forgot that oath.”

He concluded, nodding at past criticism of his work, “I don’t think Westeros is more misogynistic than what we call real life history.”

Game of Thrones was heavily criticized by journalists for sexism. The old series included a plotline in which a woman fell in love with her rapist, a scene that focused on the pain of a man who witnessed a rape rather than the pain of the victim herself, and the problematic trope of powerful women turning overly emotional and crazed at the end of the series.

Read More: Daenerys Deserved a Better Ending

D’Arcy added that in 2022 we still tend to pick male rulers and that the show will resonate with modern audiences. “I think the question of the story is if you’re a woman, how do you convince subjects that you’re not other?”

Martin has advised on scripts for the new series but hasn’t been able to visit the set because of COVID-19 protocols. “It’s pretty exciting,” he said of the series. “You’re always nervous at the beginning because these books, these characters are like my kids, and when you give your kid to someone for adoption, you wonder how they will be treated…I think [co-showrunner] Ryan [Condal] has done a good job of adapting the books.” He paused. “Well, so far.”

When a fan asked if Martin would go on set at some point and maybe even make a cameo, Martin boldly proclaimed he would not visit the set until he finished his finale to the Song of Ice and Fire series. Many fans have long assumed the book, which was expected to publish before Game of Thrones aired its finale, would never be published. Martin has since claimed he will finish the series and that the ending will differ from that of the show.

“I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but there’s a book I’m working on that’s a little late,” he said at the panel, laughing. “I don’t see myself visiting a set until I finish that book.”