Composite image of Rhaenyra and Alicent's character posters for 'House of the Dragon'

I Have More Than One Bone to Pick With How ‘House of the Dragon’ Is Being Promoted

This is missing the point!

Every day that brings us closer to the premiere date of House of the Dragon season 2 fills me with immense joy—because if there’s one thing I am, it’s an ASOIAF stan with a soft spot in my heart for that family of disastrous blondies and their fire-breathing lizards.

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Still, even with the haze of hype clouding my mind, there’s something about the way in which this new season is being promoted that just rubs me the wrong way, and I think it’s finally time I put it out there.

On the one hand, I understand that the main objective of the marketing department over at Max is to make sure that the biggest number of people possible tune into season 2. They are, after all, selling a media product and they’re willing to achieve this goal by pretty much any means necessary. It makes sense.

On the other, there are no words to express how much I deeply, deeply hate the choice to reduce the entire series to a fight over Team Black vs. Team Green. The dueling character posters were alright, and the contrasting trailers were more or less fine, but this video where cast members had to defend “their” side really tipped the scales over for me.

The fandom is going up in flames worse than a dragon’s next meal

The ASOIAF fandom had always been active, even before Game of Thrones started airing. It has only grown zestier with the new influx of fans and discourse brought over by GoT and then by HotD. While big fandoms are known for being pretty difficult to navigate—unless you’re peacefully living in a Discord bubble with only a handful of like-minded friends—and prone to escalating arguments, the ASOIAF fandom has really made an art of it over the years. 

Taking after its “parent” fandom, House of the Dragon spaces can be some of the most toxic I’ve seen in recent years—and that comes from someone who has been in the Star Wars trenches. 

Because sure, we all love our shows. Taking them seriously—rather than fleeting entertainment that disappears from your mind once the end credits start rolling—is one of the things that at least for me define being in a fandom. Then again, I think we should all collectively draw the line at urging people to do bodily harm to themselves or judging complete strangers’ moral compasses just because of a show.

And that’s what’s happening inside the House of the Dragon fandom. Again, not everywhere—but I’ve seen plenty of threads that go beyond arguing about the story’s broader themes and discussing the characters and their complexities and instead descend into hateful name-calling. 

Queen Alicent Hightower, played by Olivia Cooke, on the way to her son Aegon's coronation in season 1 of House of the Dragon
What drives me up the walls the most is people saying they want more complex female characters when the fandom can’t even handle Alicent Hightower, just like it couldn’t handle Sansa Stark (Max)

The type of marketing that Max is going for is doing nothing to keep people calm but instead escalates everything to a nuclear level and as someone who just loves this particular narrative world—sadly I am and forever will be an ASOIAF girlie—it saddens me to see how so much of the fandom has turned into your average soccer supporters on derby day.

And that’s not just because derby days are notoriously virulent—trust someone who comes from a country where soccer is a way of life—but also because reducing the entire history of the Dance of the Dragon to a screaming match over who’s right and who isn’t is missing the entire point of the Dance by miles.

*** Spoilers ahead for the ending of the Dance of the Dragon, taken from Fire and Blood. Proceed at your own risk if you don’t know anything about how the story continues and end.***

The Dance is so not about teams

While Team Black and Team Green are undeniably big parts of the broader story of the Dance, the point of this dreadful civil war isn’t who should sit on that stupid pointy chair. Sure, it is within the story but not thematically. I refuse to believe that in 2024, after almost thirty years of ASOIAF being released, there are still people who think that Martin is doing anything but a scathing critique of absolute feudal monarchy and the terrible violence it brings on everyone, nobles and smallfolk alike.

The point isn’t whose murderous ambition you support more, who has the “purer” Targaryen lineage—and honestly, the way the fandom is forever on the edge of reinventing eugenics to support their faves in a show never fails to boggle my mind. All Targaryens are rotten from the inside, doomed in the same way that Valyria was, beautiful and decaying and pathetic and condemned by the very same thing that sets their family apart from other Westerosi nobles—you can’t escape your lineage’s doom-rot when you keep on marrying your closest relatives, after all—that’s what’s great about them, that’s what makes them captivating characters.

And it doesn’t really matter who is right between Rhaenyra and Aegon. Rhaenyra is the previous King’s designated heir, but said King has never done anything to really prepare her for the throne and she herself has decided to move all the way to Dragonstone instead of staying in King’s Landing and spreading her own political web. Aegon is the secondborn but he’s a man, which makes his ascension to the throne more in line with Westerosi customs—because the biggest god of that place is and forever will be the patriarchy—and he has a family that actively participates in the game of thrones. 

Both sides have their reasons, both sides have made their good moves and bad moves in preparing for the inevitable conflict that, to be honest, goes all the way back to Viserys being an awful King just like his grandfather Jaehaerys was a spineless one. And these reasons seem to matter in the moment, sure—Rhaenyra and Aegon call their banners and the rest of the realm declare for one or the other.

But then what happens? The Seven Kingdoms are drenched in blood, countless lives are lost, the dragons all die and the Targaryens decimate themselves. Sure, Aegon III eventually sits on the throne and maybe Rhaenyra and Daemon laugh about it from the other side—even though Aegon III succeeds Aegon II and Rhaenyra does not appear in the official list of Lords of the Seven Kingdoms, so technically both Blacks and Greens can claim victory. 

Still, what remains is a traumatized child who has seen his own mother devoured by a dragon and whose father plunged from the sky to his death. A child whose three elder siblings are dead, a child who is forced to marry another equally traumatized child who has witnessed her twin’s beheading. A child who comes from a family that—again, because there is inescapable doom in their blood—has just caused its own descent from the apex of its power by eradicating its biggest weapon. The literal definition of “congratulations, you played yourself”.

Rhaenyra and Daemon Targaryen, played by Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith respectively, learn that King Viserys I died in the finale of the first season of House of the Dragon
Sure, they are the direct ancestors of Daenerys, but does it really matter? When they’re both dead? When their son is so traumatized he will be known to history as Aegon the Unhappy and the Broken King? (Max)

So was the point really what team was right or was it the fact that hunger for the throne and for power leads to death and destruction, even of the two people who originally started this whole dispute?

(featured image: Max)


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Author
Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.