Season One, Episode 10 of Game of Thrones, “Fire and Blood,” was one of the most memorable season finales in TV history. The long-suffering eternal victim Daenerys Targaryen emerges miraculously unharmed from the flames of her dead husband’s funeral pyre; the savage Dothraki, in an unprecedented moment for their culture, kneel before their new Khaleesi, a queen who rules over them in her own right; and a newly hatched dragon roars an announcement of the fiery rebirth of the Mother of Dragons. We realize this is the kind of story Game of Thrones is, one where even in the midst of wretched injustice and brutality sudden shifts are possible, the powerless becoming powerful, the victim becoming victor, and we thrill with hope and inspiration—at a white princess surrounded by kneeling, rapturous brown savage people.
Oh my, oh dear. Haven’t we seen this exact trope before, and, err, isn’t it supposed to be a bad thing now? Haven’t we condemned the idea of a white person installing themselves as the leader of a whole non-white civilization? Aren’t we supposed to have moved past this?