‘The Mad Queen’

If you care about Game of Thrones, but haven’t seen the most recent episode, stop reading now because this post will have spoilers.

If you don’t care about Game of Thrones spoilers, or you’re caught up with the show, then please keep reading.


Still here? Great.

Game of Thrones has become one of the most talked about television shows in recent years. Fans have waited with baited breath for this final season to come out, only for most of them to be disappointed. Most recently, that disappointment is due to the fiery temper of Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, who used her last remaining dragon

Daenerys Targaryen. Credit HBO.

to burn King’s Landing and the Red Keep to the ground. Many are calling her the Mad Queen, which brings back echos of the Mad King that Jaime Lannister famously killed. And from a mental health perspective, I wanted to explore this idea of her suddenly (or maybe not so suddenly) being the ‘Mad Queen.’

It is true that she killed thousands, maybe even millions, of innocent people after trying so hard over the last seven seasons to protect the innocent and free them from oppression. It is true that taken by itself, that doesn’t seem to make sense given her desire to protect  the innocent and free downtrodden. And so, many are attributing her illogical actions, particularly given that the city had already surrendered, as a sign of madness. This makes added sense given her family’s history and given that, as Lord Varys reminds us, “every time a Targaryen is born, the Gods toss a coin, and the world holds its breath.”

It is also true that mental illness can have a family component, so if her father was the Mad King it is possible mental illness spread to her. Yet in recent episodes we saw her lose a friend and trusted adviser in Missandei, have other trusted advisers betray her, most notably Lord Varys, but also in her eyes Jon and Tyrion, and she has had her love rebuffed by Jon Snow after he found out that they were related, a fact which creates separate tension by giving Jon a superior claim to the the throne, despite his claim of not wanting it. Not to mention the recent loss of her second dragon at the hands of Euron.

So feeling isolated, betrayed, and consumed by grief, I am reluctant to say that her actions are the work of mental illness, rather than a product of the circumstances. And while I decided to name this post ‘The Mad Queen,’ because that is what everyone will recognize, I think that name does more harm than good in the long run. Mental illness is not the same as grief or betrayal, which have logical explanations associated with them. And even if for argument’s sake it was mental illness, the moniker ‘Mad’ carries with it negative connotations such as dangerous, and unhinged. While that might work for an ambitious dragon-riding queen, it is less apt for mental illness in general.

So yes, Dany is a character spinning out of control, much to the dismay of the show’s fans (and much to Tyrion and Jon’s dismay it seems). Yet, it isn’t clear that such actions are mental illness. Even if they were, the mad name helps no one. While the show had other problems, which I won’t touch on here since this isn’t a television review, the repeated dismissal of Dany and her actions as caused by mental illness troubled me. Hopefully, such outdated and negative phrases for mental illness soon find themselves as dead as Cersei,  Jaime, The Hound, The Mountain, Lord Varys, Euron, Theon, Jorah, Lady Mormont, Melisandre, and so many many more who have perished leading up to this fiery, but not mad, moment.

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