September 24, 2022

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Is “Home of the Dragon” Burying Its Gays?

HBO’s “Home of the Dragon” will not be for the faint of coronary heart. There’s incest, struggle, manipulation, traumatic beginning, and a lot of violence. However the tragic – and notably brutal – loss of life of Joffrey Lonmouth in episode 5 nonetheless managed to lift many followers’ eyebrows.

When you missed the episode, the essential thrust of the storyline is that princess and inheritor obvious Rhaenyra Targaryen (a distant ancestor of “Recreation of Thrones” protagonist Daenerys Targaryen) is about to marry Laenor Velaryon, the inheritor to Driftmark (and Rhaenyra’s second cousin). The match is advantageous to each homes, and the couple involves a snug settlement: they may have youngsters and marry for obligation however are free to have lovers as they see match.

This settlement is initially useful to each events, as Rhaenyra is sleeping together with her sworn knight Criston Cole (and has a complete factor happening together with her uncle, Daemon) and Laenor, her future husband, is homosexual.

Following the dialog between Rhaenyra and Laenor, we see the inheritor to Driftmark along with his lover, Joffrey. In a scene that feels notably smooth for “Home of the Dragon,” a sequence that to date has largely portrayed its characters having intercourse out of obligation, obedience, and political manipulation slightly than for pleasure, Laenor and Joffrey kiss on the sand dunes close to Laenor’s house, and have fun their good luck: not solely can they keep collectively, however Laenor’s meant appears to each know and settle for that he prefers males.

However by the tip of the episode, the scene feels extra of a bait-and-switch, as what had appeared to me the introduction of a loving relationship ends with Joffrey brutally crushed to loss of life by Cole in a rage.

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That kind of about-face is not atypical for Home of the Dragon. Throughout the board, the sequence performs with viewers’ (and characters’) expectations. After King Viserys sacrifices his spouse to maintain his toddler son alive in childbirth, the infant’s loss of life is abruptly and shockingly revealed when viewers see the tiny physique alongside his mom’s funeral pyre, for example. Different characters are sometimes killed simply minutes of being launched, together with Daemon’s spouse Girl Rhea, in the identical episode.

However what feels totally different about Joffrey’s loss of life is that these characters have been queer and, momentarily, comfortable. In media, a typical plot trajectory is to “bury your gays” – what scholar Haley Hulan describes as a literary trope the place “a same-gender couple and with one of many lovers dying and the opposite realizing they have been by no means truly homosexual, typically operating into the arms of a heterosexual associate.”

In recent times, “bury your gays” has been much less about returning to heterosexuality and extra outlined by tragedy, as with the CW’s “The 100” or AMC’s “The Strolling Useless.” After the previous present killed off beloved queer character Lexa, a number of tv writers and producers even created a pledge, saying that they, amongst different issues, “refuse to kill a queer character solely to additional the plot of a straight one.” And in case you are considering these deaths are merely a coincidence, Autostraddle did a round-up of 225 useless lesbian and bisexual characters on TV.

The trope hurts queer viewers past only a fondness for a present’s characters. The message is obvious: you may be homosexual, however do not anticipate a cheerful ending. And after repeated publicity to this message, tales like Laenor’s and Joffrey’s do not feel remoted – it seems like a warning, or generally even a risk. To not point out that queer illustration on display screen is restricted sufficient; shedding queer characters prematurely may be irritating, once they’re already within the minority.

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However is not unhappiness, human messiness, ego, and violence the primary hinge level of “Home of the Dragon”? Actually, nobody is truly comfortable on this present. The King is dying, the patriarchal realm is about to reject Rhaenyra as queen, and marriage is extra confinement and political obligation than a dedication of affection and belief. Even so, simply as soon as it might be good to see a queer couple last more than one episode.