“Do you know what kept me standing through all those years in exile? Faith. Not in any gods. Not in myths and legends. In myself. In Daenerys Targaryen.”
We won’t sugarcoat it, it’s not exactly the happiest time to be a Game of Thrones fan (let alone a book snob). Even if (for some reason) you were pleased with the ending to Season 8, the fact remains that we’ve spent 10 years in Westeros and now it’s done with. But as disgruntled fans pick up the pieces and made their disappointment heard through petitions, memeing, and aerial advertising, there’s also been a great deal of love expressed towards the cast and crew behind Game of Thrones, especially Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryan), who has overcome so much to portray Dany and who has done a masterful job despite the…decisions made about her character. This love has been best expressed through a fundraiser started on, of all places, the lawless frozen wasteland of r/Freefolk , by reddit user elle_Ellaria, that hopes to raise money for Emilia Clarke’s charity Same You, which works to aid young adults recovering from brain injuries and strokes.
In a cast that has spent the season making chicken salad out of chicken shit, Clarke has been consistently singled out for her absolutely stellar performances. Even as the story rocketed towards a collision course with D&D’s “bittersweet” ending, she deftly filled the many roles that Dany served this season…even as some of those roles showed up and disappeared seemingly at random. It was heartening, then, to read in Entertainment Weekly that Clarke herself was not a fan of the shocking changes being made to Dany’s character, how she cried and had to be alone for a stretch of time to cope with Dany’s shift from “Breaker of Chains” to “Burninator of Peasants”. This shock all happened after Clarke’s revelation earlier this year, just before the new season began, that she had spent much of the first three seasons secretly fighting for her life behind the scenes against two massive brain aneurysms. She was staring down the prospect of memory loss, loss of speech, sensory deprivation, and even death, all while Game of Thrones was becoming a global sensation and Daenerys was becoming a household name. Thankfully, after a series of nightmarish operations and a long period of recovery, she was able continue doing what she loved and return to making Game of Throne. But she didn’t want to forget what happened. She decided to wear it like armor, and founded Same You earlier this year.
Clarke founded Same You in partnership with the Royal College of Nursing and Nursing Now (both of whom she also serves as an Ambassador), as well as the Stroke Association and Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The organization advocates and funds research into both the benefits of neurorehabilitation as well as the specific needs of young adults recovering from acquired brain injuries like strokes, tumors, outside trauma, etc. It works with nursing organizations in both the US and the UK to develop new certifications and protocols that prepare nurses to aid their patients in recovery, while also funding clinical research into how that care can be improved and built on heading into the future.
We had a chance to talk with elle_ellaria, who started the whole thing with a reddit post yesterday.
The Fandomentals: What spurred the creation of the fundraiser?
ell_ellaria: I have a huge amount of affection and respect for Emilia, especially after learning what she’s been through with her health. It resonated with me on a personal level. Knowing that Emilia fought through two brain injuries and survived to give us the most stunning portrayal of Daenerys anyone could have asked for gave me the fire to keep on fighting my own battle.
So then reading the post-finale interviews she gave, it seemed like she really struggled with Dany’s sudden turn. I mean, a lot of us did, but this was a character she not only invested so much of herself into, but also drew strength from in her darkest moments. I thought it was really sad that the rug was pulled out from under her feet that way, without giving her the time to mentally prepare for this sudden “Dany was Hitler all along” reveal. It must have messed with her head.
It was at that point that I thought, ‘I want to do something nice for this woman’. This remarkable woman who has inspired me, and probably thousands of others, to power through it all and survive. And what better way than to donate to a charity she founded and in turn aid other survivors of brain injury in their recovery?
FM: Much and more has been made of the now infamous petition (also created on r/Freefolk) to remake Season 8, with Isaac Hempstead Wright calling it “absurd” and Sophie Turner calling it outright “disrespectful.” Was the fundraise meant as a complement or counterpoint to the petition?
EE: Definitely a counterbalance. The petition has well over 1 million signatures (EN: Nearly 1.5 million as of this writing) at this point, and even the cast have been quizzed about it repeatedly. Unfortunately a lot of people seem to have gotten the wrong end of the stick. They see headlines and make assumptions – which is a shame, because the petition is very well written. So I do hope this fundraiser will help clarify things, especially for the younger actors like Isaac, Sophie and Maisie. Nobody is upset with them, quite the opposite in fact.
FM: What’s it been like, getting this sort of response?
EE: Cathartic. The season finale was so disappointing, it took this (and a hell of a lot of memes) to get over it. In all seriousness, though, it’s genuinely heartwarming to see people rally like this. We’ve spent 8 years playing the game of thrones, so closing the chapter on a positive note like this is the best thing I could ask for.
FM: Some people are surprised this came out of Freefolk, the wildest of the fansubs. Are you surprised?
EE: Not at all. The freefolk are a rowdy bunch with a very particular sense of humor but, they have good hearts. I knew they would get behind the campaign. Although, there’s been a surprising number who can’t seem to read and think we’re donating money directly to Emilia Clarke’s bank account but, aside from that…they’re a good bunch.
FM: Is there an endpoint for the fundraiser?
EE: I’d like to see where it goes. It would be nice if it totally blew up and hit a million, but even the 10k we’ve managed to raise on the first day is a wonderful and generous sum. I’m grateful to everyone who donates and shares. Even if it seems like a little, it adds up and makes a difference to the lives of the people this charity touches. And, it’s a lovely thank you and farewell gesture from the fans.
Since first posting, the fundraiser has already received £11, 472 (nearly $15,000) from 642 donors, with a tentative goal of £20,000. Donations of any size are welcomed, and if you can’t do that, the organizers hope you can share the across social media, especially to the cast and crew who the fans are so thankful for. And of course, raise your glasses one last time to the true Queen of Westeros:
Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, The Rhoynar, and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains.
Long may she reign!
All images via HBO, Game of Thrones, and SameYou