Another weekend gone and so another episode of Game of Thrones has aired. I have been enjoying this season so far (minus the whole Theon Greyjoy sub-plot, which is just difficult to watch) but I have noticed a trend. Namely, Daeneryus Targaryan likes to free her some slaves. Now this compassion for the oppressed isn’t exactly a new thing, as you’ll remember that her standing up for female captives about to be raped by Dothraki raiders in Season 1 is what set in motion the events leading to her husband, Khal Drogo’s death,
Remember to always use Polysporin on you sword-wounds.
and later, the birth of her dragons.
But she has been really amping up her bleeding heart sensibilities in the last few episodes. There was a plot arc in the first few episodes of the season where, upon arriving in the city of Astapor, she resolved to free all of the city’s slave-soldiers at great personal cost. Although admittedly she did end up tricking the slavers which culminated in perhaps the series’ best sequence thus far.
Fast-forward to last night’s episode, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” and we see that Daenerys (SPOILER ALERT) is up to her old tricks again. This time her and her army arrive at the city of Yunkai, and while Ser
Friendzone* Jorah makes it explicitly clear that the city has no strategic value, Daenerys has this overwhelming hankeing to liberate the city’s 200,000 slaves. Furthermore, she demands that the city masters free all of their slaves and load them up with food and riches as recompense for their years of servitude. Presumably these slaves will go on to live free, happy, and prosperous lives.
Does anyone else see a problem here?
Take that scene I posted the link to in the second paragraph; she tells thousands of slave-soldiers who have been brainwashed to be obedient, fearless and self-sacrificing their whole lives, that they are now free. They can either seek life elsewhere or voluntarily join her in taking back Westeros.
Well, no surprise here, rather than pursue an unfamiliar and foreign lifestyle, these trained killers would rather keep on killing with the nominal distinction that they are now free. And even though I don’t know how the liberation of Yunkai’s slaves will play out, I can only imagine that the slaves there are similarly ill-prepared for freedom.
Now I don’t want to be misunderstood here; I am not advocating for slavery, or opposing emancipation, but I think that simply telling someone they are free after years of conditioning them to be slaves can’t really work.
Remember this scene from The Matrix? The key part is when Morpheus tells Neo,
“Most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependant on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”
Do you see what I’m getting at here or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?
Whether you wanna call it Stockholm Syndrome or learned helplessness, or simply being a house nigger, I think there are many disenfranchised people (most of the population) that have been so conditioned to see themselves as lowly that they will happily fight for scraps from the table their whole lives rather than attempt to take a seat.
“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” -Proverbs 23:7
Relating this idea back to Game of Thrones, a liberator like Daenerys would realistically (I’m aware of the irony of that word in this context) face a slave population that would largely reject the idea of freedom (or perhaps go on to take their own slaves, like the renegados during the Barbary slaving-era) and she herself would probably have some nagging doubts about the volition of her army of “free men.”
This is one of the things I like about this show: You can watch it absently and take it for face-value or read between the lines and see that there are some important questions it raises.
*This joke was made by my friend, Matt. Gotta give credit where credit is due