House of the Dragon Perpetuates Orientalist, Sexist Stereotype
House of the Dragon has more than 10 million viewers a week, which makes the franchise unstoppable. It does all the things the Game of Thrones brand is known for that had fans flocking in droves: a fantasy medieval world of duplicitous, backstabbing court assholes plotting for control of the throne, dragons, and the terrible treatment of women. However, by episode two, it has also perpetuated an Orientalist, sexist stereotype when it really didn't need to. This is in the form of Lady Mysaria, a prostitute and mistress of Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith playing full "Dickhead" mode), who becomes one of the pawns in his rebellion against the throne.
Mysaria is played by Sonoya Mizuno, literally the only actor of East Asian descent in the entire cast. Mizuno is British and has a normal British accent in real life, yet is directed to speak with a weird, cod-Asian accent in the show to denote her foreignness. She says she was sold as a child to a brothel, so it doesn't even make sense for her to have that accent – she should have lost that accent and picked up the same accent as everyone else in Westeros by adulthood. This is not a good look for the show or the producers.
Hollywood and the UK have a Blindspot about Asians
The figure of an Asian (-presenting) sex worker is a racist and sexist stereotype. Asian hookers are often presented as disposable victims in Hollywood and British movies and TV shows with little agency. Being Asian is presented as being even more disposable and abusable than non-Asian women. This is at a time when random racist acts of violence against Asian women are on the rise in the West. Given that House of the Dragon is largely a British production with a largely British writer's room and British casting, this indicates a continuous blind spot the British TV industry has with East Asian actors and representation – they're either cast colour-blind or written as inaccurately-portrayed Asians by white scriptwriters.
House of the Dragon follows all the Game of Thrones tropes we are familiar with now: everyone is an awful asshole who makes the wrong and worst decision possible at the worst time because it's Game of Thrones (and also the default character action for every HBO show because they only ever have antiheroes). The women are diminished, undervalued, and neglected, and feel pissed off about the unfairness of it all. Some of them will pull massive Girlboss moves like Cersei, Arya, and Princess Rhaenyra but are still denigrated by the men for it. That is the way of Game of Thrones, especially the misogyny.
In the sourcebook Fire and Blood, Lady Mysaria is a reviled figure often nicknamed "Lady Misery" by her detractors and enemies. Born in Lys and considered a foreigner, she is initially Prince Daemon Targaryean's mistress, then later becomes a major player and plotter in the treacherous game of thrones before meeting a nasty end in an even more brutal variation of Cersei's Walk of Shame. The book never described her ethnicity other than her pale skin, so the decision to have her as Asian-presenting with a silly foreign accent is a decision by the show's producers. Here an Asian woman is used to represent Otherness in House of the Dragons. She is actually considered an Other and outsider in a cast of creepy incestuous, inbred aristocrats. Imagine that.
Who is Sonoya Mizuno?
Sonoya Mizuno deserves better than this. She is an accomplished actress and dancer. You can hear her normal British accent in Crazy Rich Asians. She was the lead in Alex Garland's Science Fiction miniseries Devs, where she played a grieving computer programmer with a neutral mid-Atlantic accent with no cod-Asian accent at all. She is currently Off-Broadway playing the lead in a production of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. That she can only get on HBO's biggest show by playing a character who's essentially an Asian prostitute says volumes about the industry. If the show follows the book and she becomes a ruthless major player, then she'll be playing a Dragon Lady figure, which is another Orientalist stereotype. It's not the actress's fault, it's that she is literally the only actor of Asian descent in the entire show and inadvertently becomes the only representation of Asian actors in the show. All of this is a bad look for the show and HBO.
Does "Game of Thrones" Really Need Sexism as a Trope?
Pedantic misogyny is an actual trope in the Game of Thrones series by now. George R.R. Martin and the show's writers like to claim that medieval times were sexist and treated women as property. This is a disingenuous and intellectually dishonest defense because the world of Game of Thrones is not real. It is not the real 14th Century. It is completely made up, and they chose to wallow in the misogyny. Simply presenting sexism as a social reality is not enough. That is not commentary when it lacks any real insight or surprise. "Sexism is bad" is just cliché. Women fighting against sexism and failing is not insightful. "Things were awful in medieval times" is not insightful. "Things were awful in our completely made-up fantasy past" means nothing at all – it's just kitsch. Women throughout history have found their own spaces and power, and many have been successful in power, but the writers of Game of Thrones choose to ignore that reality to stick to the reductive narrative of "women were kept down, yo!" The fact that the Game of Thrones TV franchise is also still terrible with diverse representation is disappointing but not surprising. The writers know better and really should do better.
House of the Dragons is on HBO.