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Can Game of Thrones make us overlook our incest squick?


The moment we’ve all been waiting for between Jon and Dany happened during Game of Thrones on Sunday.

In an episode filled with very important events, little compared to the moment when Dany and Jon agree to join forces as allies, and perhaps more. Jon even called her my Queen, while Daenerys agreed to fight the Night King and dead army with him. Fans have been waiting for this pairing since the show started, and the chemistry between Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke helps. The creators of GoT have been building up their budding attraction throughout the last few episodes, but the chemistry between the two was apparent from their first meeting earlier this season.

Dany is fire and Jon is ice. He is the King of the North and she is the Mother of Dragons. Their pairing has been hinted at and predicted from the very start of Martin’s bestselling series. Their pairing could bring peace to the seven kingdoms, and hopefully destroy the Night King and his dead army. Apart, Westeros has little hope of survival.

Let’s be real though. Most of us haven’t wanted Dany to get with anyone quite so much since the death of Khal Drogo. Jon hasn’t fallen for anyone since Ygritte, and he isn’t that experienced with women, anyway. Jon and Dany can bring stability to the seven kingdoms, so if they have to be with someone why not each other?

This is all fine and good until we consider one thing. There is a massively strong chance Jon and Dany are aunt and nephew. They have all but said that Jon is the love child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Dany is Rhaegar’s little sister, and both Jon and Dany have a claim to the Iron Throne. Despite this universally known tidbit, it seems most of us do not care if Jon and Dany might be sharing a bloodline. Here are a few theories about why this is.

First and foremost, we as an audience can rationalize this relationship because we know it isn’t real. This is a fantasy show. It’s narrative fiction, and Dany and Jon are not real people or real relatives. We can also rationalize the fact that Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke aren’t actually related, to our knowledge. It’s okay for them to pretend to be together, because it’s make-believe. Incest is truly a taboo subject in our society, and so it’s interesting that we can make concessions for the make-believe idea of incest, so long as the actors pretending are not really related.

Additionally, Dany has made it clear she cannot have children. Her dragons are her children. Part of what makes incest so problematic is the fact that the bloodlines lack diversity, which can cause a host of health-related issues. It seems like a lot of people condemn incest because of the fact that offspring might become disabled or have health concerns. On some level, the idea is ableist, although this isn’t exactly a topic many disability activists are interested in pursuing for a host of reasons.

Another idea for why we might be willing to accept a Jon and Dany relationship despite the incest is the idea of beauty. These are two very good-looking people, by societal standards. Jon and Dany aren’t the only incestual relationship we’ve accepted on Game of Thrones. Incest isn’t new to us in this world. Cersei and Jamie are a perfect example of this, as well. From the beginning of Game of Thrones, we’ve witnessed the relationship of Jamie and his twin sister, Cersei, quite intimately.

If you’ll remember back to Season One, to hide the fact that they were in a long-term intimate relationship, Jamie shoved Bran out of a window. For years, there had been rumors of their coupling, and as of season seven, Cersei is ready to reveal to the world that Jamie is the father of her baby. Before they died, Jamie was confirmed to be the father of all of her children, on multiple occasions, and nobody really seemed to care. That is because Jamie and Cersei make an aesthetically pleasing couple, which seems to override the incest ick factor. Jon and Dany are no different.

Finally, we are more willing to accept a Jon and Dany romance because they are royalty. We already accept shows about cousins being intimate quite readily, especially on shows about historical monarchies. This was done throughout history, to preserve the bloodline, and keep commoners from contaminating it. It’s a historical fact of our own world. George R. R. Martin had also already established that the Targaryens married their siblings, before the show debuted. In Season One, Dany’s brother, Viserys expected her to marry him, and be his queen. Her father, Aerys, “the mad king,” married his sister, Rhaella, so Dany herself is a product of incest. We’ve been exposed to the idea of Dany being in an incestual relationship from the beginning, and Jon is clearly a better catch, anyway!

Incestual relationships, while considered taboo in principle, have found ways of heating up screens before. The Borgias toyed with the relationship between Cesare Borgia and his sister, Lucretia in a similar way. Actors Holliday Grainger and François Arnaud had amazing chemistry, and near the end of the series, their characters consummated their relationship. They also fit the parameters for being an aesthetically pleasing pair. The fact that rumors have persisted of an actual incestual relationship between the real Cesare and Lucretia, royalty in Rome as the children of the Pope, plays some role in the acceptability of their relationship. Our support for their relationship manifested in similar ways to what we are seeing with support for Jon and Dany.

Despite many of us thinking that incest is unacceptable in the real world, most of us will continue to watch Game of Thrones, and continue to root for Jon and Dany, both individually and as a couple. Besides, as Dany says, she can never have children. Jon, despite knowing nothing, clearly understands what she means, and so do we. No child should come from this union. At the end of the day, we guess that’s enough.