In a series full of ruthless trope subversions, Tyrion-as-hero (or at least as sympathetic underdog) is a plot that’s easy to get behind. He’s highly intelligent and well-read, he speaks bluntly about how things “really are,” he’s constantly making sarcastic comments, and, unlike most powerful people we see in the series, he wants to do right by the people of Westeros. Throw in the fact that his efforts and intelligence go unrecognized, due to the fact that he’s ugly and a dwarf, and he makes the perfect reader stand-in as the unappreciated (but highly deserving) hero.
But Tyrion’s plotline is not only a subversion of “the handsome man is the hero, the ugly man is the villain.” It’s also a subversion of the entire concept that the underdog is the true hero. Although Tyrion is an interesting character, he is not always an admirable one, whatever he might believe. He deals with his own feelings of powerlessness by asserting his power and his superiority over others who are even more powerless, aka women. He is, despite his own feelings of benevolence, deeply misogynistic.
And, as compelling as Tyrion’s storyline may be, readers’ eagerness to defend him is more than a little uncomfortable.
This post contains spoilers through A Dance with Dragons.