Carlos, a 30-year-old in Georgia, was so excited about Game of Thrones that he decided out of nowhere to get a tattoo. He was at a comic convention, about to meet one of his idols: Ian McElhinney, the Northern Irish actor who played legendary knight Barristan Selmy on the show.
Carlos wanted a tattoo to commemorate his devotion to Thrones, a show he’d loved for the past six years. In particular, Carlos loved one of the leading characters, Daenerys Targaryen, the captive-turned-queen who spends the series battling to reclaim the Iron Throne, and for whom Ser Barristan fights. So he showed his support of Dany with a giant tattoo of her house sigil.
The tattoo was “sort of spur of the moment thing, but I loved having it,” he tells MEL.
Fast-forward to 2019. In season 8 of Game of Thrones, Daenerys goes increasingly psychotic, committing acts of genocide in the belief she can rebuild the world in her image. She burns her allies with dragonfire and razes King’s Landing, Westeros’ capital, killing women, children and surrendered soldiers without mercy.
In Sunday night’s series finale — spoiler alert! — Dany’s lover and nephew Jon Snow finally kills her, before heading back North. Bran Stark becomes king of the realm, Sansa Stark is Queen of the North, Arya and Drogon go on their own separate adventures, and milk-fed brat Robin Arryn is hot now. The final season ended eight years’ worth of story arcs and character development for the show’s leads. It has been a notable disappointment for many fans, Carlos included.
“I loved Dany’s journey from a girl who just wanted to ‘go home,’ like in the first season, to someone who freed slaves and oppressed people. She just wanted to make the world a better place,” he says.
Carlos’ gripe is similar to how many fans felt about Dany’s dark turn — that after nearly a decade of growth, her sudden bout of madness felt like a stab in the chest. Even Daenerys herself, actress Emilia Clarke, has a Game of Thrones tattoo too — and she hopes Beyoncé doesn’t hate her after the finale.
“If they were going to make her go all ‘mad queen,’ it should have been earned, like they did with Walter White over five seasons in Breaking Bad,” Carlos laments. “The character I fell in love with in the early seasons has been destroyed in order to arrive at a forgone conclusion.”
And of course, it renders the tattoo kinda silly. “If I had even a small hint of Dany going nuts in the earlier seasons, I would have never gotten it,” he says. “It just makes me sad.”
Carlos made me promise not to publish it, but he sent photos over to prove the tattoo is real. The red-and-black Targaryen dragon symbol certainly could have been more embarrassing — like, say, a detailed drawing of Daenerys’ face. His girlfriend thinks he should keep it, but Carlos is too pissed about the letdown finale. Keeping it would mean the showrunners win. “I’m going to get it covered up,” he says. “I’m not sure how, but I guess I will have to find a pretty creative artist.”
As fans raged against the last two episodes of the highest-grossing series in television, many people wondered what’s happening to all the people who named their kids after a character who’s now a genocidal maniac?
It turns out, the same thing is being said about tattoos — an equally permanent thing you only get to stop making excuses for when you’re dead.
So how are other tattooed Game of Thrones fans doing? Carlos might be ditching his ink like Jaime Lannister left Brienne, but others are more like Varys to the realm… Sorry, that got confusing. Let’s just say they stand by their ink.
Teejay, 27, Staten Island:
Right after binge-watching seasons one through five right before season six started, it happened. I decided I needed a Drogon tattoo. I just loved him. His dark-black color, with the red hints scattered throughout his scales, was so dope.
I have always connected with reptiles growing up. [I had] plenty-a-many of iguanas, anoles, bearded dragons. Drogon just felt right. Plus House Targaryen and their dragons interested me for the whole show. I find them almost mythical in a sense.
And despite the events of this season, I don’t regret anything. Drogon did nothing wrong. [He was] only listening to his mother.
I’m not one that believes that every tattoo needs to have a meaning. You like it, you get it. In 20 years I’ll look back and either remember Drogon fondly or just claim I have a badass T-rex breathing fire on my inner bicep, lmao.
Spencer, 27, Minnesota:
House Clegane & Little Bird
The little bird has aged the worst, but it definitely looked like a bird when I got it.
The moment that pushed me to finally pull the trigger on my tattoo when Sandor [Clegane, aka the Hound] offered to take Sansa out of King’s Landing before or during the Battle of Blackwater Bay, and later when he saved Arya during the Red Wedding. The character had my respect, and every step of the way, I liked him a bit more each time.
During this season I was pretty confident his trajectory was fairly set, but given the rather strange plotline, nothing was off the table. My biggest “oh I might regret this” was after [he] survived the battle with Brienne. I was afraid he might turn from the path he was on and just become a bandit. But gladly it didn’t go that way and as he increasingly met new people (read “cunts”), that gave him more room to do the right thing.
Strangely enough, this season gave him more just treatment than most of the big names, specifically during the Long Night, the feast afterward and, finally, with Cleganebowl.
The Hound is a protector, he’s unabashedly rough-around-the-edges and by no stretch of the imagination an innocent, but at the core of his being he always stands up for those he considers to be weaker or more vulnerable, and in practice he stands up for and protects many of the major child characters in the show.
So, I completely stand by my tattoo and always will. I’m happy with the art and the style. It’s representative of my enjoyment of the character, the series and what I feel the character represents on some level.
Trish, 34, New York
When I first read A Song of Ice and Fire, there were only three books, but there was a flourishing online community creating theories and hunting for clues as to where the story might be going. There were two mysteries that always drew me in: the meaning of Valar Dohaeris, and Jon Snow’s parents. I had been kicking around a tattoo that combined those ideas for years, but I was hesitant to get a text tattoo that I couldn’t translate.
The day that A Dance With Dragons was released, I made the appointment to get inked. The translation really spoke to me, as a reminder to do the best you can with the life you have (kind of an anti-YOLO). I was not living my best life at the time, and now I have the tattoo to serve as my daily affirmation to do better.
People have always made comments about my tattoo. A woman with a tattoo that says “All Men Must Serve” has a negative connotation that I hadn’t really planned on. I think I get fewer comments now because now there are so many people with Game of Thrones tattoos, and the show has given everyone some context, so no one ever asks what it means anymore.
Overall, people just think I really like the faceless men. When I got the tattoo, it was just as much about belonging to a group of fans that really connected to the world that George R.R. Martin built, and sharing our love for the books with one another.
Nothing that happens on the show can take away from that sense of community, and what the tattoo represented to me at the time when I got it done.
That being said, I was disappointed that the show didn’t really dig into the mythos of the faceless men or why they say “Valar Dohaeris.” One friend said to me this week, “Hey, remember when we were complaining about how the show was ruining the faceless men storyline? We didn’t know how good we had it.” After the backlash this season, I think my tattoo probably got off easy.
Lianna, 28, Baltimore:
On April 19th, 2019, in anticipation for the greatest season of TV ever, I decided to finally brand myself with a piece a history.
Since the show [first] aired, I eagerly devoured book after book, becoming so obsessed that my friends started calling me Cersei. I was blond. I was assertive. It worked, okay? About six years ago, I began writing erotica exclusively under the alias of Dirty Cersei. I was raised Catholic. I won’t get into the details of all that, because, well, we know how America’s butthole seems to clench at the mention of a woman embracing her sexuality. I’m either a ho or a woman craving attention. *Insert eyeball here*
My blog blew up on the internet. I started writing a series of true-life erotica, basing my past sexual partners on characters from Game of Thrones. PEOPLE LOVED IT. I loved it. I thought it was hilarious. It was a way to vent about all my experiences in a safe way that was still anonymous. While I wasn’t “viral,” my blog was receiving thousands of hits a week, which was pretty sweet. This eventually led me down the Reddit path! I started recording audio of me reading my porn and eventually got into reading other people’s work.
So, why did Dirty Cersei decide to get a “Dracarys” tattoo? I have always related to Daenerys. I’ve never been close to my family. My dad is nuts. I’ve really only been close to my sister. She is no Viserys. She’s a doll. But the point is, I’ve had to forge a path in a world riddled with obstacles. I’ve experienced a miscarriage. I’ve lost countless people I’ve cared about. I’ve had people turn on me.
“Dracarys” is a Valyrian word for dragonfire. [Dany] has used the word to command literal fire. Daenerys is girl power incarnate. I love the way it looks in a script font and love the meaning behind it. I needed it on my body. My best friend and I do something called tacos and tattoos every few months. Since my birthday is June 6th, my friend offered to pay. I get the tattoo near my clavicle because it’s a sexy placement and because I’m running out of room on my arms.
Episode five happens. Without any buildup, other than a few moody looks, my girl, after 72 hours of character development, turns from hero to zero. She seemingly cracked after Jon Snow didn’t give her the D, and like, honestly, girl, GET OVER IT. Your best friend died. Your son died. I totally get it. If she would have lost them right before she made Drogon pull an Enola Gay, I would have been like, YES, REVENGE! BUT ONLY ON CERSEI AND HER DUMBASS TOWER. NOT REVENGE ON A CITY FULL OF INNOCENT PEOPLE.
People keep telling me, ‘OMG, those people, like, totally deserved it. They wanted Ned dead.’ No, honey. Those NPCs do not care about who is in power as long as they are fed. They also don’t have TV, so seeing someone beheaded was probably the equivalent of me tuning in to Game of Thrones on a Sunday.
I still love the tattoo. I keep making jokes to my friend about starting a GoFundMe for laser tattoo removal and donating the remaining proceeds to the King’s Landing Disaster Relief fund, but, like, no. I won’t remove it. Why? Because this rushed story by the show runners IS NOT the FULLY FLESHED-OUT version. I won’t regret anything unless Martin decides to publish the book and then fully skip over Dany completely.
Aimee, 25, Louisiana:
Daenerys Book Quote
I decided to get my tattoo when I was around 18, got it done at 22, and I’m 25 now. I knew I wanted it as soon as I finished reading the first book because I related a lot to what Daenerys was going through in that time of the story. I had just moved out of my parents’ house after a particularly nasty period of my life where my dad become suicidal. I was struggling with the fear that because my dad was an alcoholic with a slew of mental issues, eventually I would be too.
My relationship with my parents was very strained, and because all of my friends had gone to college the year before and we all sort of lost touch, I felt like a girl who had lost everything and had no one. So when I watched the show and read the books and saw Daenerys, I was immediately attached to her. I saw myself in her and in her struggles, and watching her evolve from that scared girl into someone powerful and confident was insanely inspiring. I’m not sure if she ever did say it in the show, but in the books, whenever things start to get overwhelming, Dany thinks to herself, If I look back, I am lost.
And as soon as I read that line, it really, really resonated in me, and I knew I wanted that reminder with me forever. My feelings toward the character and the quote really haven’t changed much, because, to be honest, these last two seasons don’t even feel canon because they’re SO bad. I don’t regret it at all, because like all tattoos, it’s just a reminder of what I needed at that part of my life. Also, I feel like I got off easy because I just have a quote.
Maybe I would feel differently if I had a giant Targaryen sigil on my back.