How “House of the Dragon” ties real-world events into its world of fantasy

Medieval medicine clearly had its limitations. However, a critical scene in the “House of the Dragon” premiere will certainly connect with many viewers in a manner that transcends fiction and touches on real-world issues regarding women’s reproductive rights.

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

The queen, Aemma Targaryen (Sian Brooke), is in the middle of a tough labor in the first chapter of the HBO series. In order to insure a male successor to the kingdom, her husband, King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), is anxious for a son.
When informed that the baby is a breach delivery, the king is faced with a horrible choice: either lose the baby or sacrifice the life of the mother in order to attempt to save it.
After much deliberation, the monarch opts for the latter, with the blood loss from the gruesome surgery killing the queen.

Watch: House of the Dragon

Aemma alludes to women giving birth as “our battleground” earlier in the episode, and due to the restricted instruments of the period, this is especially true in the show’s reality. According to James Hibberd of the Hollywood Reporter, “the first season does for giving birth what ‘Game of Thrones’ did for marriages.”
While the series is billed as a fictitious fantasy, it is hard to separate it from the ongoing controversy about abortion since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in June, igniting passionate debate over concerns of forced birth and women’s ability to make their own healthcare decisions. In this case, it is the husband (who is also the head of state) who eventually chooses for her, with disastrous repercussions.

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The baby’s death does not absolve Viserys’ acts, however it does ultimately inspire him to name his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), as his successor, despite the break with convention and the assumption that a future boy, born to a new queen, may urge him to usurp her.

As the makers have admitted, the first season of “House of the Dragon” is based on issues about a patriarchal culture in which boys are favoured in the drive to guarantee royal lineages and chaos and strife may result if such clear lines of succession are not established.

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

In response to these concerns, executive producer Miguel Sapochnik stated that a fundamental tension within the series is “the patriarchy’s perception of women,” noting that exploring such material – including the decision to center the story on female characters – “made this show feel more contemporary.”

Although the main goal is to showcase an earlier chapter in author George R.R. Martin’s quest for the Iron Throne, the filmmakers were plainly aware of the show’s early critics. This includes including individuals of color into the “House” ensemble and, as Salon pointed out, portraying sexual violence in a more restricted manner.

The scope and location of “House of the Dragon” clearly indicate that it is attempting to appeal to a wide range of people on several levels, including spectacle, escapism, and its link to the mythology contained in Martin’s literature and the prior series. However, drama has a way of touching on issues that are important to our lives even whether it is set in the past, future, or an other universe.

So, rather than dismissing the series as pure fiction, as the opening indicates and subsequent episodes will reaffirm, don’t be fooled by the dragons.

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