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Why are fans sexualizing Daemon and Rhaenyra in “House of the Dragon”?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ASU chapter.


Once again, we as a society have fallen into HBO’s trap, taking the bait that we all now know and love as “House of the Dragon”. Like with a toxic ex we promised we would quit (after the travesty that was the final season of Game of Thrones), we come back every time for another round. The only difference this week is that young Rhaenyra nearly hooked up with her uncle – but the internet apparently likes it? (I feel like I should get this out of the way first: I am in no way condoning this.) 

This last Monday, after falling asleep to the most recent episode’s credits the night before, I opened my TikTok to find something I never expected: steamy edits of Daemon and Rhaenyra in the hostel. Of course, this surprised me. I had naturally assumed that, like me, everyone recognized the scene between Uncle Daemon and his niece as disgusting, not something to lay Sam Smith’s new song ‘Unholy’ over in an edit. Still, it happened, and ultimately begs the question of why we are so readily excusing the incest of this season when fans so fervently (and justly) condemned Cersi and Jamie for their escapades in GOT. 

My theory comes down to one simple answer: the intention of this season is different. In the books written by George R. R. Martin, readers know that the relationship between Daemon and Rhaenyra is more long-winded than what we’ve been shown so far, and it plays a more significant role in the plot development overall. Because of this, the directors of HOD need to make the dynamic more appealing to their audience. No one wants to watch an uncle and niece get it on (reasonably so!), and because of that, they need to wrap it in sexier paper. Hence the Matt Smith casting. Hence the crazy actor tension. Hence the hand-clasp zoom-ins last Sunday. 

The intent of their filming and positioning of the actors is to convince the audience to abandon their morals. It seems they are so far successful, considering my FYP was loaded with content just a day later.

But what does this say about us as people? What are the boundaries and limits on our perceptions? With GOT, the relationship between Cersei and Jamie was clearly wrong from the beginning, but with HOD on the rise, we have to ask: would we have seen them differently if the directors had shot their scenes in a blurred, steamy setting? Because they had underlined the scenes in GOT with intentionally disturbing imagery (i.e. Jamie pushing Bran out of the window, Jamie almost assaulting Cersi in the crypts over a coffin, the Sparrow’s trials), it was obvious we should hate them. The decision being made with Rhaenyra and Daemon is intentional, and it’s important to recognize that moving forward, to avoid falling for it. 

I know what some of you might say in response: that this is accurate to the Targaryen line and that we can see this in our own histories amongst royal lines in attempts to maintain purity. To that I say, I agree. I totally get the historical accuracies Martin decides to include. He is a historian, after all. All I am wanting to investigate is our willingness to sexualize certain incestuous situations and to condemn others. 

Another level of this conversation related to the actual situation that was at hand in the last episode. The reality of the scene we witnessed is that Daemon wants the crown. He wants to be reinstated as heir and wants to have his ascendancy secured again. Throughout the show so-far, we’ve learned this. He is motivated by greed and power only, not any true feelings for Rhaenyra.  

In a statement at the end of the episode, when speaking on how he interpreted the interactions, Matt Smith said that the intricacies of the episode lie in Daemon’s need for control in situations. He was entirely fine with the intercourse until Rhaenyra began reciprocating. Once she started taking control of the situation, Daemon immediately lost interest, because he couldn’t actively manipulate the situation. Despite all this, though, we’re seeing an influx of fans drooling over the interaction instead of discussing the much more appropriate scene Rhaenyra shared with Christon Cole. 

I just think it’s interesting to consider this as a broader commentary on our perception of media and how easily we can be persuaded. Still, at the end of the day, I’m not going to be the one judging people over a few TikTok edits. 

Mia Milinovich is a junior at Barrett, the Honors College, studying English (Literature) and Journalism & Mass Communications. She enjoys writing, reading, listening to garage rock, and going to random, last-minute concerts.