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House of the Dragon’s Alicent Hightower doesn’t deserve the hate she gets

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

Humour me for a moment and imagine this: the castle that has kept you safe your whole life suddenly becomes a cold reminder of a role you were manipulated into. You’re a young woman, married to a King over twice your age. You are his second wife, and from the very beginning, one detail has been clear… you and your children will always come second. You’re on your own, and on your own, you carry no power. Walls talk, and when you’re a woman in a court full of dragons, you hold no power and will perish — because the walls talk against you.

This is Alicent Hightower’s reality. 

Based on George R. R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood, HBO’s House of the Dragon gives life to the period in the Targaryens’ rule called “dance of the dragons,” a civil war within House Targaryen. The show differs from the book in the details, which the author has confirmed to be canonical truths and one thing it has done differently in beautiful ways giving the perspective, growth and history of both Rhaenyra and Alicent within this civil war.

Nevertheless, while Rhaenyra is celebrated as a character, Alicent has gotten more often been hated and criticized by fans. Why?

Yes, Alicent is not a Targaryen, but what people call her “selfishness” is a necessity. As the character says in Episode 6 of Season 1, she is alone and has no one to defend her or her children despite being the Queen.

If you had no one else, would you not act in your own self-interest because no one else will? Under the threats of the question of succession to the throne, would you not want to assure the safety of yourself and your family?

Society and her circumstances have given her no other choice; pitted against Rhaenyra, she has been treated as a pawn by many close to her in the game of thrones.

To her father, Alicent has only been a means to an end. She was pushed to pursue a relationship with the King, for the sake of his power, knowing Alicent relied and would listen to him and influence the king.

To the King, Alicent was a convenient comfort. She was there when his first wife died. She offered empathy and took care of him. When he announced he’d wed her, she gave no protest. When he then would call for her at night, she dutifully would.

All she could say then was, “The hour is late,” and let him do as he pleased. That was her role. It made her important – or so she was conditioned to believe.

Finally, when Lord Larys Strong approaches the Queen with a promise of loyalty and favours to help her in this court, even that came with a price. In Episode 9, it is revealed to us that Larys uses Alicent for his own fetishes, not giving her the support she needs until she’s shown bits of herself for his pleasure.

Once again, all she could say was, “The hour is late.”

Altogether, what has constantly been shown to Alicent Hightower throughout her life is that she has a responsibility to the men around her and the rules they’ve made. She has never been allowed to feel worthy unless she is performing for others as they want her to be.

Alicent craves freedom from this, and we see this in Episode 9 as she begins to push back against her father’s wishes and do things her way, because, despite everything, one thing she still has to her name is her title: Queen Alicent Hightower of Westeros.

At the very least, she wishes to protect her children from her same fate.

So is she selfish? Or is she realistic, just a woman trying to grasp a life past what the patriarchy has imposed on her?

Why do we feel the need to hate Alicent and not the system of abuse of power she’s been conditioned through?

If she were a man, she would be praised for her self-regard.

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Melanie is a journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University from Caracas, Venezuela. She has moved more times than she can count, which has only fed into her love of stories in different cultures. She has a passion for creative writing, music and good food, though what drew her to journalism was the beauty of putting together the art that is people’s experiences.