HBO’s ‘House of the Dragon’ Continues Frustrating Representation of LGBTQ Characters
It is hard being gay in Westeros. In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, there are a few LGBTQ characters. Sadly, even when they did exist, they were some of the first figures on the chopping block. In the most recent episode, we saw this again with the very quick introduction of Lord Joffrey Lonmouth, the lover of Laenor Velaryon.
House of the Dragon spoilers ahead!
In order to make amends between the Targaryen and Velaryon houses after the latter has been slighted multiple times, it is arranged that Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen will marry her cousin, Laenor. However, it is made clear to the audience that Laenor’s “true nature” is that he is attracted to men. For Rhaenyra, who has no interest in honoring this marriage, it works to have this marriage of convenience to make their parents happy while having other lovers. For Joffrey Lonmouth, he decides to make jokes about this to Sir Criston Cole and is bludgeoned to death right before their lovers—Laenor and Rhaenyra respectively—are about to be wed.
The moment was brutal and very much in line with the cruelty this franchise is used to. However, it means that the representation we had of a gay couple is now just one person—at least, for now.
Despite what some may think, I don’t have issue with gay characters dying in stories, but it is very jarring and frustrating to have one be introduced and die within the same episode. There is also the weirdness of the fact that Joffrey died so differently in the show than in the boom it’s based on. In Fire & Blood, Joffrey dies by Cole’s hand, but in a tourney during Laenor’s wedding to Rhaenyra. Joffrey rode as Laenor’s champion, and Ser Harwin Strong rode for the princess. During the tourney, Cole cracked Joffrey’s helm with his morning star, causing a fatal brain injury. He died six days later, without ever recovering consciousness.
At least, in that end, (a) Joffrey died with dignity, and (b) it makes sense that Cole could kill him and get away with it. Now, Joffrey was literally murdered for being too shady. It is change that might seem small, but very much impacts the way we see the characters—much like how, in Game of Thrones, the character of Loras Tyrell was transformed from someone who was a knight just as capable as Jaime, who deeply loved Renly, to a foolish stereotype.
Female queerness has largely been reduced to subtext and even some basic moments like Cersei engaging in a one-sided same-sex relationship with Taena that was removed from the show. We didn’t go back in time to explore characters like Rhaena Targaryen, who is implied in Fire & Blood to have been bisexual and have a group of girls she hung out with and loved who were dubbed “the Four-Headed Beast.” Just because this story takes place in a part of the world where being gay is not allowed by the faith, doesn’t mean queer characters don’t exist. And only having them to add some color and drama to the stakes before killing them brutally and without any dignity only serves to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
Hopefully, they will be able to do better with the rest we see of Laenor and the other few queer characters (Jeyne Arryn) we should get during this lead-up to war.
(featured image: HBO Max)
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