Alicent Hightower: The Queen of Self-Hatred


The Lady Alicent of House Hightower, the Green Queen of Westeros, the mother of Aegon II Targaryen, the childhood companion of Princess Rhaenyra, and the unfortunate Queen of true, unhinged self-hatred.

It goes without saying that the writers of HBO’s House of the Dragon did a far better job with this antagonistic character than her original creator George R.R. Martin. And originally this seemed like an impossible feat. 

Fire and Blood, the fictional historical novel that inspired House of the Dragon, painted Alicent into a tight, one dimensional corner. She was the epitome of the overdone and lackluster “wicked stepmother” trope. 

She had no depth, characterization, morality, or even properly conceived motives. This is not an attack on Martin’s writing since Fire and Blood is meant to be an unreliable telling of the rise of House Targaryen. 

But showrunner ​​Ryan Condal and actresses Emily Carey and Olivia Cooke were given the chance to breathe actual life into a character who sometimes reached Disney levels of evilness. 

They made Alicent into an actual person with nuance and emotion, and one clever way the writers ensured she’d become a proper protagonist within this complex political tapestry was to give her the fatal flaw of self-loathing. 

Alicent is a woman who can’t stand to look in the mirror and her self destructive tendencies will forever be her greatest rival. 

Rhaenys put it best: “you desire not to be free, but to make a window in the wall of your prison. Have you ever imagined yourself on the Iron Throne?” 

This quote perfectly sums up Alicents inability to think and fight for herself simply because she will never consider herself worthy of anything. 

But we must backtrack and ask ourselves what is a fatal flaw and why is this such an important tool for writers to use them when creating a complex, compelling character? 

It is a literary device typically used in Greek tragedies that gives the protagonist a trait or flaw that ultimately leads to their downfall. But this trope isn’t only found in ancient storytelling, it’s found in Christian theology. And this connection to religious text is shockingly relevant to Alicent’s story and character. 

Her family, the Hightowers, have been financially funding the Faith of the Seven for centuries. 

Alicent is a product of religious trauma and is an example of how monarchies and religious institutions have historically destroyed the ones who live within these societies.  

House of the Dragon argues that not even a queen of seven kingdoms can ever benefit from such a toxic system. 

Condal and the entire writers team took a literary device that has been used for hundreds of years and implemented it into the core of Alicent. 

Every step this character takes is fueled by this unending hatred for the person she is. At a young age, she allows her father to use her as a game pawn to achieve his own ends. 

In numerous scenes, she is found picking at her nails and skin, which is an actual disorder called dermatillomania. This continued self-harming shows the audience the lengths she is willing to go to make herself suffer. 

And she even plots to usurp the throne from Rhaenyra not out of worry for her children or the realm but because she does not believe women are fit to rule the seven kingdoms. 

She became the bitter green queen because she had to watch as her friend, who’s lived a life of privilege, openly mock tradition and the faith. In a sense, Rhaenyra is the perfect rival to this new Alicent Hightower.

Rhaenyra is a woman who lives without consequences and believes herself superior to others. The Princess of Dragonstone sees herself as a woman who could do no wrong. Alicent, on the other hand, is a woman who knows she’s a victim of the institutions she is under, but refuses to do anything about it because she thinks “this is how things should be.”

That is what makes House of the Dragon’s Alicent the brilliant character she is. She’s a pitiful figure we cannot help but to feel empathy towards and nervously watch as she makes her life and the lives of everyone around her a living hell. 

Alicent Hightower’s story is one of true disgust of who she is forced to become due to iron thorne, it is a modern day Greek tragedy that warns us to never let our deepest insecurities consume us and lead our every step. We as viewers now must anxiously wait and see if Alicent is able to free herself from the chains of Westeros, or forever be bound by them and let it drag her down until the bitter end.