I’ve never read Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, and I’m not particularly interested in the upcoming series on HBO. Which, apparently, isn’t surprising because… I’m a girl. And girls don’t like fantasy.
No really, I read it on the internet. In the New York Times, to be precise, in a review by Ginia Bellafante. The review is kind of full of itself and overly flowery, even for the New York Times, but let’s cut right to the chase. Here’s the paragraph that’s causing all the trouble:
The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.
The first thing I think of is the famous alleged Pauline Kael quote about not understanding why Nixon had won as she didn’t know anyone who had voted for him. Just because you don’t know any women who would rather read The Hobbit than… whoever Lorrie Moore is, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. In large numbers. It also makes me suspect that you aren’t necessarily the best person to be reviewing this show. Surely there’s someone at the New York Times who is even slightly interested in fantasy?
I do think I understand part of what Bellafante is trying to say. There are a lot of movies that are straight up actiony and explodey and then wtf here is a love story that seems to be thrown in just so guys can convince their girlfriends to go see it with them. This strikes me as more of a problem with the perception filmmakers have of their audience than with the audience itself. (I personally go to see actiony explodey movies in spite of the awkwardly patched-in love story, not because of it.) But to follow that observation up with the assumption that women aren’t interested in fantasy except for the beefcakes in loinclothes or the tragic romance verges on ignorant. I hesitate to use that word for someone writing for the New York Times, but it really shows a lack of knowledge about the genre or the people who consume it.
Mostly I just think the review is a poor one. Whether or not the show is any good, I simply don’t trust a review by someone who is obviously the completely wrong audience for the story. I’m also slightly offended by the ending:
If you are not averse to the Dungeons & Dragons aesthetic, the series might be worth the effort. If you are nearly anyone else, you will hunger for HBO to get back to the business of languages for which we already have a dictionary.
So Bellafante is equating the show with ALL of the fantasy genre. No. A show or story is good or bad irrelevant of its genre. Not everyone who is into a particular genre likes every aspect of that genre. Not everyone who reads fantasy plays D&D. (Hi!) This black-and-white assumption just drives home that Bellafante might know television, but she doesn’t know fantasy. It’s possible to review a genre you don’t normally enjoy, but you shouldn’t make grand sweeping statements about the genre. And since Bellafante never showed any indication that I should trust what she says about “Game of Thrones,” I still don’t know if I want to watch it.
So basically, I think we should all just feel free to ignore this. The review and the offending paragraph are making the rounds of the internet, and I obviously cared enough to write about it, but really—what’s the use in arguing with someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about?