Republishing this as its own post to avoid confusion:
I would, however, like to see someone write articulately and critically about some of the issues with ASOIAF—like the “barbarism” of the Dothraki, Dany as the “white savior,” or the fact that I’m afraid I’m supposed to hate Cersei*.
Here’s a start:
The main problem with Martin’s depiction of the Dothraki and the other Eastern cultures isn’t that they’re shown to be inherently barbaric or decadent as opposed to the Seven Kingdoms. The Seven Kingdoms are all, in their own ways, at least as barbaric and decadent. Barbarism and decadence are universal attributes of human society in these books.
Nor is it an issue of race, necessarily. Martin makes a point of having a real “United Colors of Essos” thing going on with regards to the skin color of the residents of the various Free Cities, cities of Slaver’s Bay, and other lands near and far. The people of the decadent, insular, slave-based society of Qarth, for example, are the whitest people in the whole series.
And yet the cultures of Essos still come across as “foreign,” in a way that can easily be interpreted as orientalist. Why? I think it comes down to speech patterns. While the people of Westeros, from Dorne to the Iron Islands to beyond the Wall, all sound basically like Englishmen, the speech of people from the other cultures is almost always either florid or stilted. They speak with accents, they speak with strange pronoun usage, they speak with alien idioms, they speak in vaguely sinister or portentous or blandishing tones. No matter the commonality between their less pleasant customs and those of Westeros, no matter the color of their skin or eyes or hair, they sound foreign. You hear them and you think “Okay, this person is not like us,” “us” being real-world readers and fictional-world Westerosi, the inheritors of the shared cultural relevance of medieval Europe. It’s a huge structural obstacle that instantly otherizes everyone across the Narrow Sea.
Unfortunately, Martin has pretty much doubled down on the distinction by saying that this is the story of Westeros, not Essos, so he’ll never make a non-Westerosi a POV character. I’ve long thought it would be both funny and eye-opening to shift to a non-Westerosi POV, and suddenly a character who’s been all “this one” this and “it is known” that sounds perfectly “normal” inside their own heads. Because of course, they are normal, within their own cultural context. But that’s a context Martin denies us.
(As for your other points: 1) I think Dany’s experiences in Slaver’s Bay are riddled with enough mistakes and bad acts that she’s at least as much destroyer as savior; 2) It’s okay to root for a villain now and then, especially one whose villainy is complicated by her obvious, realistically portrayed mental illness.)