Emilia Clarke's natural selfie sparks conversation about women ageing after brutal criticism

Games of Thrones star Emilia Clarke has been savagely criticised across social media after sharing a natural-looking, smiling selfie with her 27.3 million followers on Instagram. 

The 36-year-old, who skyrocketed to international stardom for her role as Daenerys Targaryen on the hit HBO series, last week shared a sweet snap of her smiling face alongside a mug emblazoned with the words: "You're doing f**king great". 

"Mum got me a mug. I felt it was important to share this new found wisdom. Use it and reap the rewards," she captioned the snap, along with the hashtags "#ItsTimeToStartBackingYoselfPeople [sic]" and "#MyColdJustGotItsMedicine".

Despite the positive message, some of the feedback that began circulating on Twitter in response to Clarke's appearance was anything but. 

In a tweet that has been viewed 31.5 million times, gamer Jon Miller shared a screenshot of Clarke's photo with the caption, "Lmao wow Daenerys Targaryen didn't just hit the wall she flew into it full speed on a dragon", referencing the character being the 'Mother of Dragons'. 

The remark quickly prompted a war of words among other users. While some defended Miller or backed his point of view, many others rushed to criticise the harmful rhetoric in society, particularly among men, around women ageing. 

"When women hit a certain age, around 30, it's a steep decline," another man agreed, while a third attempted to explain Miller's thinking with the comment: "It's normal he feels this way. Our image of her comes from the show, we saw her during her 20s... He probably didn't see her until now when she's getting close to the big 40. So for him it's like she suddenly aged 10 years."

Comments - mostly from men - under her Instagram included, "Very hard to understand why so popular", "This is why you wear sunscreen", "Just going up like your hairline", "Are you going bald?" and "Damn someone hit the wall and didn't age well".

The majority of commenters supporting Clarke referenced the fact she is now 36 years old - 12 years older than when she first garnered international fame for her portrayal of Daenerys - and called out Miller's apparent inability to understand the natural ageing process.

"[People] will bemoan filters, surgery, Botox, and all the youth obsession, but also see a normal 36 y/o chick in less than ideal lighting after a brain surgery and call it 'hitting the wall'. Gonna take a while for humans to adapt to all this 'new' tech I guess," one responded.

Quote-tweeting Miller, another replied: "Emilia Clarke was beautiful when she was 22, she's still an extremely beautiful woman here. She's just aged... which hasn't made her any less beautiful. I fail to see the problem with this picture."

"This is a normal looking woman? Do people not know anymore how people outside of edited social media posts look like?" a third weighed in, with a fourth adding: "Imagine dunking on a woman because she looked more perfect when she was younger in movie-quality lighting, makeup and camera angles."

"She's beautiful. God forbid a woman is allowed to age for goodness sake. She's had major health struggles too. Kindness is free. You should try it," said another.

One user deadpanned: "Man learns for the very first time what 36 year old women with no botox look like," which was echoed by another: "The rise of surgical and procedural interventions has seriously warped people's perception and acceptance of other people... checks notes... ageing naturally."

Taking to the comments on Instagram, many of Clarke's fans and followers applauded her natural appearance and shared their appreciation for a candid, unfiltered photo, with one declaring: "This is by far the most beautiful woman in Hollywood."

Magician Marc Spelmann added: "Your smile is utterly infectious and quite beautiful. Keep shining, you utter goddess."

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
Emilia Clarke shot to international stardom for her role as Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, which she played for all eight seasons. Photo credit: HBO / File

During an interview with Elle, Clarke, then 34, said she has a positive outlook on ageing and appreciates the visible signs of growing older, noting that she wants her face to reflect the time she has spent on earth. 

"You've got this idea of ageing, and then you've got the idea of what ageing makes you look like. At 34, I am wiser, more intelligent, I've had more experiences, I've done all this stuff, and I'm proud of that," she said. 

"You can only do that because you are the age you are. Time is the only thing that allows you to do those things," she went on. "So, if my face is gonna reflect the time that I've spent on this earth, I'm down for that."

During the filming of Game of Thrones, which ran for eight seasons from 2011 to 2019, Clarke suffered two life-threatening brain aneurysms - the first in 2011 and the second two years later. 

In 2019, Clarke revealed a large amount of her brain "is no longer usable" and in 2022, revealed "quite a bit is missing" following the surgeries.

"It's remarkable that I am able to speak, sometimes articulately, and live my life completely normally with absolutely no repercussions," she said during a BBC TV appearance.

"In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug. I asked the medical staff to let me die."

Clarke has since made a full recovery and has continued to act in film and television projects.