Fri
Apr 15 2011 5:10pm

A Response to the NY Times Game of Thrones Review

When I sat down tonight I intended to write about my experiences with the Game of Thrones food truck last week and meeting George R.R. Martin. Instead I clicked on a review from The New YorkTimes about Game of Thrones. It sidetracked me. The review by Ginia Bellafante feels like a direct slam against a woman like me. A woman that loves Game of Thrones. It feels like a flaming insult to geek girls. It was such a direct contrast of an article from Wednesday that Susan Young wrote for MSNBC about geek girls powering viewership for sci-fi/fantasy TV that I was jarred. Then Iwas angry.

Why did the article get my geek girl knickers in a twist? I encourage you to go read it, but I’ll pull out some highlights:

...Game of Thrones is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half...

...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...

At least she concedes that there are women in the world who read Mr. Martin’s books... right after she states that no woman alive would watch the show without the added “illicitness.”

Ms. Bellafante: How about you, I don’t know, get crazy and try to seek out a female fan of Game of Thrones? Trust me, there are thousands of them! Then you could have asked her why she likes the series. Or you could have been more scientific and asked lots of female fans. This is better than simply making the arrogant claim that this is boy fiction.

I am a woman. I read and adore A Song of Ice and Fire (the series of which A Game of Thrones is the first book), and I will be watching the show. Another woman recommended the series to me. In my personal experience, I have seen more women showing excitement about Game of Thrones than men. I’ve seen this on blogs, on social media, at Game of Thrones events, and at conventions. I’ve sat on the Iron Throne, I’ve watched every trailer and making of for the series, and I’ve chased down the food truck and met George R.R. Martin. I am insanely excited to watch one of my favorite series brought to life. And not because of the sex scenes.

The series is hardly “boy fiction.” Where does this phrase come from? Is it automatically for boys because there are swords and mutton? The series weaves an intricate tale of power spread across a vast kingdom. The major houses play the game of thrones, and the lesser houses and peasants deal with the fallout. A vast Wall to the north keeps out Wildlings and supernatural beings. The seasons have no determined length and winter is coming. The characters are rich and layered (and yes, numerous), and none of them are safe. There are also a lot of kick-ass women and girls. Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Catelyn Stark, Arya Stark—they all survive hardships and fight in the best ways they know how. They fight for power, their families, and for their lives.

I will say that the fact that there is sex in the series does contribute to one of the reasons the series stands apart—it’s gritty. It is not your average fantasy tale full of squeaky clean Legolas-like characters (I do love Lord of the Rings, but it’s a very different sort of story). The pages of the series are stained with blood and gore and lust. Do I pick up the books specifically for the sex scenes though? Not at all.

I’m not tuning into the television show to see sex either. I won’t lie—I’m not unhappy about seeing Jason Momoa shirtless as Khal Drogo, but that isn’t the primary reason I’m watching. I want to see Westeros on screen. The detailed, harsh world that George R.R. Martin created is bound to be visually incredible. I want to see the Wall and the White Walkers. I want to watch Cersei Lannister and Ned Stark exchange words like they are weapons. I want to see Arya learn how to dance. You get the picture, right? I’m not saying, “Wow, I can’t wait for that Dothraki orgy scene.” Of course, I can only speak to my feelings. Other women could be tuning in just for the “illicitness” but this woman would watch even if Jason Momoa kept his clothes on.

All this said, it is a review and Ms. Bellafante is entitled to her opinion (though I don’t think it’s much of a review—as Daniel Fienberg points out, it doesn’t mention a single actor, character or plot point). The purpose of reviews is for stating opinions. She didn’t like the show, so what? But reviews are not for making sweeping generalizations about women. Generalizations that also happen to be incorrect. I understand that she may not personally know any geek girls. That doesn’t mean we don’t exist. One giant brush cannot paint all women the same color. It’s presumptuous for anyone to think they can do so.

How dare anyone say that Game of Thrones is “boy fiction.” What a crude and useless phrase. I am proof that it is not the case, and I am not alone.

Also? I love The Hobbit.

If you feel so inclined, you can submit a letter to the editor of The New York Times about the review.

This article originally appeared on Geek With Curves


Amy is a fan of most things sci-fi and fantasy. When she’s not writing, she’s either dressing up as Han Solo, reading comics, playing D&D, or attending conventions. It usually happens in that order. Visit her blog Geek with Curves or check out her Twitter feed for rambling on all those topics.

65 comments
Kat Clay
1. Kat Clay
Yeaaaaahhhhhh!!!! Right on!

The reviewer was obviously a woman who frowns on genre! She kind of forgot that LOTR was one of the most successful films/books of all time and doesn't bother to do any research into why people might actually like a well produced fantasy show. I personally can't wait - HBO plus George R.R. Martin - what could be wrong about that? And I'm a girl.
Kat Clay
2. cranscape
While this fandom probably has more guys in it than the majority of the ones I am a part of I'd say it is 50/50 depending on where you go to find the fandom. LJ is female tilted. Site message boards seem to be male tilted. There are different watering holes but the quality of conversation and variety of topics are similar. There doesn't seem to be any more "hot guy" talk than there are "hot girl" talk. People are mostly talking about characters and stories. Gender has little to do with enjoyment of that.
M D
3. Abalieno
But why should it even be framed as an insult to a *geek* girl?

Why if one likes something, he has to be branded like a "geek", and so becoming like some sort of curious case?
Kat Clay
4. Ryamano
Damn, I hate these reviews that are so condescending towards works of fantasy. Because, you know, it's not like Game of Thrones has anything to do with Rome. Families that conspire? Political machinations? Wars? Assassinations? Incest? None of these was in Rome, right? But you just add one fantastic element to the story, and BAM, it's fantasy, not serious anymore. And Game of Thrones is probably one of the less fantastic of the fantasy series, since we only see magic literally at the prologue and at the end of the books. The rest could be a historical novel, with some changes.
Marcus W
5. toryx
Holy shit. That was one insulting article for any fan and especially female fans.

I never thought I'd say this, but now I'm kind of glad that the Times has put up a pay wall so that I have less reason to read it.

I want to say something more coherent in protest to the article but words are simply failing me.
Delos Rifenburgh
6. KaijuGamer
I agree whole-heartedly with your response! I read this article to my wife (who very much detests fiction/movies that treat women as inferior to men) and she also agreed! aSoIaF may have fewer female characters than male characters, but most of them are very strongly written and are not ones to be 'fainting lilies'. Hell, I personally would rather not have sex scenes in my books/movies unless they were specific to the plot and/or character development. From what I've read, that is exactly the purpose all of them have served!

The real shame of all this is that a once respectable publication has bowed so low as to allow this sort of writing to go on.
Kat Clay
7. ninjapenguin
You know, I'm so used to seeing (and arguing against) the "Scifi is for men; fantasy is for women" stereotype, that it took me a while to realize that here was a person honestly arguing that women don't like fantasy. If you, as a reporter, don't like or know anything about the genre you are covering, it behooves you to do some research: not say "I and my two friends don't like it, so we obviously represent half of the freaking world."

The author believes that the sex scenes were added to tempt women into watching. Obviously, I haven't seen the show yet, but the majority of filmed sex scenes I've seen in my life have been heavy on the naked women and much, much lighter on the naked men. Why would a heterosexual woman care about seeing boobs?

She talks about "boy fiction." Is this to distinguish Martin's works from Twilight's ilk? If it's not strictly and solely about Romance, it can't appeal to women? How disgusting and misogynistic, and from a woman, too.

Women read fantasy. Women write fantasy. We don't need excuses to do so, and we don't need articles like this one.
john mullen
8. johntheirishmongol
Sounds like she's still got the attitude that scifi/fantasy is just for boys. That's not really been the case for a while.
L S
9. foundling
Blimey charley. I haven't even read A Song of Ice and Fire yet (but I am looking forward to it a lot), and I felt offended! What an idiotic thing to say.

Try telling Ursula le Guin that women don't like fantasy, or that sex scenes are only included to keep the women interested (and as ninjapenguin said, most sex scenes are almost entirely naked woman/clothed man, so why would that excite us?).
Kat Clay
10. Cheryl C
The woman who wrote that review obviously shouldn't have been the one to even watch the show. It isn't meant for her as the audience just like I know some of my friends (male and female) wouldn't watch it. But to assume that fantasy/sci-fi is made for "boys" annoys me to no end. I grew up playing with Star Wars toys, plastic dinosaurs, watching Star Blazers and Time Bandits, and programming my Vic 20 (yes with the cassette deck). I love to read, however, the only thing from the best sellers list would be Martin, Jordan, Sanderson, and Butcher, to name a few. I haven't read any of the books that my Mom's book club would read, and I wouldn't write a review on them either. Of course, when I get excited about the next issue of my graphic novel, some people think I'm weird. I also hate when I tell people I'm a gamer, they think I play Farmville, solitaire, or Bejeweled. No, it's COD, Halo, or RPGs, D&D, Munchkin, or Carcassone. This woman shoudn't be writing a review for something she obviously just doesn't get.
Teresa Jusino
11. TeresaJusino
Yeah, I wrote a letter to the editor the second I saw the "review." What's funny is that my roommate told me about it yesterday, and framed it like "Game of Thrones" was bad for women. I was all ready to be mad at GoT! :) Then I read the review and was like "No, it's Ginia Bellafante who's ill-informed."

What bothers me, though, is not just that she doesn't take "geek girls" into account, but that she seems to think that NO woman will find value in a story like this. There are plenty of non-geek women who still enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies! Plenty of non-geeks like HBOs True Blood! Just because you don't geek out about this stuff doesn't mean you won't/can't find value in it!
Pamela Adams
12. Pam Adams
refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to The Hobbit first...

Maybe because we don't join that type of book club? My book club is right here on www.tor.com. I suppose this idiot would have objected to Jo Walton's re-read of the Aubrey/Maturin series- after all, naval history fiction must be boys only!
lawrence henderson
13. justinius23
well said! ridiculous "review"

there are sex scenes in the book. so what? we're all adults here. if anything i imagine they'll be toned down. and that's not even the point.

author (and i use the term very loosely) of this article is deluded. too many things to list that are just WRONG about it.
Brian Linden
14. vorkon
My God, even if you IGNORE the blatant sexism in that article, it's still one of the most offensive reviews I've ever read.

"Embedded in the narrative is a vague global-warming horror story."

Huh? What the hell is this woman talking about?

...I was just in the middle of writing up a detailed response to all the things that were wrong about that review, but it was making me too angry, and I decided she just wasn't worth it.
Kat Clay
15. Ian P. Johnson
Yes, as we know, all fiction is gender-segregated. Fantasy and science fiction is for men. Not only do women never read fantasy or science fiction, their brains are basically incapable of processing it. Like dietary fiber– it goes right through their heads.

…Or that's basically her argument. And it's nice how she doesn't mention a single plot-point or character in the story. Makes her seem really well-informed, doesn't it?

All I have to say is this… Boogedawaaaaah?
Kat Clay
16. trench
That review read like a bunch of throw away lines the author had stored up and saw there was an opportunity to string them all together to get a reaction from readers who are uniformed about asoiaf. The writers views were totally biased, and misiformed upon the subject matter. What the hell happened to the NYT and actual journalism?
Kat Clay
17. Sonia
Why did she even watch the show?

Okay, I don't like the book, but it's not because I am a girl. I didn't want to read something where I wanted most of the characters dead (I think the strength of my response says something about the book!).

But I am looking forward to the TV version. Or I would be if I had HBO.

And honestly, I am not sure what she thinks is boy fiction. All the action movies? Thrillors? That's just silly, because that's what I enjoy most. I thought the time (the 50's!) when people thought sceince fiction and fantasy was only for teenage boys was long gone.
James Whitehead
18. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
Kinda shocked really. I mean it was my mum who introduced me to The Hobbit & LOTR. Also, Jackson's movies would not have made the money they made if it was a geeks only thing; and geek boys at that.

You need to be Warren Buffet to follow the show? Really? How dumb does she think we are? Pretty dumb I guess if we should go back to watching Sex in the City - or at least you geeky girls should. ;-) She never heard of I, Claudius?

As for the sex, well it's time for someone to leave the 1950s behind I think. Sex is part of the series of course but it is hardly the main focus. And what's so wrong with creating a language for the Dothraki? Star Trek delved into Klingon to bring greater depth to the show. Lucas played with numerous languages to spin his own in the STar Wars movies.

Hell if the creators were so lazy as to use Mongolian, for example, for the Dothraki I would've been terribly disappointed with them. Also think of all the pissed off Mongolians calling up HBO complaining about stereotyping. ;-)

Kato

PS - @10Cheryl C, I think I'm in love. ;-)

PPS - @11TeresaJusino, good points.
Skye Peters
19. Eilastri
There's lots of things I could say, but I think my 7 year old daughter says it a lot better than I ever could: "There's a girl on the internet who thinks girls don't like The Hobbit? That's stupid! Why can't girls like The Hobbit *and* Barbies?"
Fabio Fernandes
21. fabiofernandes
@findmeastorm: If Ursula K LeGuin could give a damn about this so-called "review" (because, as Amy pointed out, it is most definitely NOT - it offends reviewers), she would tell this so-called "author" (who is also NOT an author) to fuck off.

Sorry all - I had to let off some steam. I couldn't even read the whole NYT article to the end - it doesn't make any sense.
Kat Clay
22. Dustin C
That review pissed me off as well!
Not only condecending to women, but to anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre!
Feh.
Jennifer Fiddes
23. junefaramore
What you said. I am not big on writing letters, prefer to save the words for fiction, but I may in the morning after I am cooled off. That "woman" needs to lose her job. Total crap reporting job even if I agreed with her, I'm not sure she even watched the show it's so misinformed. And the Times wants people to pay for shill jobs like this?
Linnea Custead
24. ElanaNancypants
She's just upset that no one interesting wants to join her book club.

Grrrr... so mad at this. I spent hours that should have been spent studying scouring the internet for anything GoT related and rereading the series (again) in prep for the show and book this summer. I am repurchasing HBO just for the series. But clearly I am just interested in the sex scenes...
Claire de Trafford
25. Booksnhorses
What a odd rant! So, thick women shouldn't watch GoT? Well, maybe she's got a point there. And how does she know how well Warren Buffet plays cards? And what's that about the book club? And global warming? I'm thinking she should go back to her shopping and reading those high brow gossip magazines - seems about Gina's intellectual level. Perhaps the real critic was off ill that day.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
27. tnh
My theory: Ginia Bellafante doesn't know how to parse and interpret fantasy. That's why she misidentifies A Game of Thrones as a "vague global-warming horror story," and why she can't discuss the actors, characters, or plot points: she literally couldn't tell what was going on in it. Unfortunately, instead of admitting that she was in over her head, she took refuge in cheap snotty dismissals.

In spite of this camouflage, her incomprehension shows through. She admits that she can't tell how the book's initial status quo came to pass. She implicitly admits that she has no idea why a guy from the Language Creation Society was brought in to create the Dothraki dialogue. And then there's this statement:
Game of Thrones is a cast-of-at-least-many-hundreds production. ... Keeping track of the principals alone feels as though it requires the focused memory of someone who can play bridge at a Warren Buffett level of adeptness.
The thing that organizes fictional details in our minds when we read, and makes them memorable, is the story in which those details occur. If Ms. Bellafante couldn't suss out the story, she wouldn't have been able to keep track of the dramatis personae, either.

The NYTimes needs to use a different reviewer.
j p
28. sps49
Well, yeah.
The New York Times.

This attitude, outlook, and dismissal of core facts is what I expect from that publication.
Kat Clay
29. Ian P. Johnson
@27: Yeah, I don't know what pisses me off more: the fact that this "reviewer" didn't mention a single detail about the setting, characters, or story, or the fact that she admitted that she couldn't even KEEP TRACK of the story.

But then again, Ms. Bellafante doesn't seem to be exactly the kind of person who would read and enjoy fantasy. That is, a SMART person.
Fabio Fernandes
30. fabiofernandes
@tnh: she acts like she reads "good literature" instead of this
"vague global-warming horror story"misconstrued as "fantasy" - however, when she complained of keeping track of characters, all I could think was: WTF, didn't she ever read CHARLES DICKENS?

Hmmmm. No, I bet my albino direwolf she didn't.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
31. tnh
Ian --

This is what privileged/deprivileged states are all about. When Bellafante can't figure out the not-exactly-obscure storyline of a show she's supposed to be reviewing, she doesn't feel any obligation to look closer, read up on it, or talk to someone who's more familiar with genre fantasy's tropes and conventions.

Instead, she starts throwing around terms she doesn't understand, but clearly intends as insults -- geek, "Dungeons and Dragons aesthetic," wenches, "boy fiction" -- and makes vague allegations about discreditable sexuality.

Translation: Game of Thrones made her feel stupid, and she resents it. Thus the nerd-bashing. She conceives herself as having no journalistic responsibility toward anything she can dismiss as the province of geeks and nerds.

Want a little consolation? Over time, it's going to get clearer and clearer how dumb that review is. With luck, it may turn out to be the single most famous piece of writing she ever publishes.

I watched this same thing happen years ago when Bladerunner came out. People who didn't know how to parse science fiction were baffled: "Why is it raining all the time? Why is everyone Chinese? What's all that stuff on the outsides of buildings? How can an old market vendor have an electron microscope?"

Those who knew a bit about science fiction would answer: "Climate change. Immigration. Retrofitting. Advances in technology."

To which they'd reply: "How did you know that?" They really and truly couldn't track on the worldbuilding or follow the story. It's why the original release of Bladerunner got saddled with that obnoxious voiceover narration.

I won't say you get used to this crap when you work in the genre, but you do learn to recognize it.
James Veitch
32. JamesDamadan
@tnh Yeah, when reading the review, I remembered Chip Delany's statement that being able to understand genre fiction was a skill that some people didn't have and couldn't learn. Ginia Bellafonte admitted in her piece that she was in that group and shouldn't have attempted to review Game of Thrones. I'm tempted to argue that she didn't attempt to review it anyway.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
33. tnh
Fabio --

It's that privileged/deprivileged thing again. If she were reading Dickens, Tolstoy, Fielding, Melville, or some other comparable writer, and she was having trouble following the storyline or keeping track of the characters, she'd have felt some obligation to read up on it, or re-read those sections of the book, or even take notes as she read, because it's Literature.

(Never mind that there was a period when critics classified Dickens as Merely Popular. I'm sure that Ginia Bellafante feels superior to wonky Hist. Lit. Crit. types, too.)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
34. tnh
James Damadan --

Dead right. You should hear him on the subject of bad mainstream reviews of genre writers.
Arthur Pendragon
35. IveKilledPeople
An ignorant, biased,misleading, opinion piece from the NY Times! I'm shocked! In other news water is wet,grass is green, and Ted Kennedy's in hell.
Yuliana Todorova
37. megera23
At first I was amazed and angry about the review, but when I got to the part where A Game of Thrones is discribed as a
"vague global-warming horror story," I burst out laughing.
I would have been less offended if the "reviewer" were a man, but such a piece written by a fellow woman... it's just as degrading as saying that the only place for a woman is in the kitchen.
Kat Clay
38. TheAdlerian
Good article!

I read the review the other day and thought it was stupid and reductionistic. Person type X will like Element A and Person type Y will like Element B. Is that really why people read books and watch movies/TV?

Bob: Why did you like this show?
Fred: At minute 5, 20, and 40 I saw a sword. At minute 35 I saw a tender sex scene, which I liked, in spite of the fact that I consume hours of hardcore porn on the net. I may have learned something about myself!
Bob: What did you think of the story?
Fred: The what?

I haven't seen the show but I could throw out some generalizations about the genre too. So, I wonder if the reviewer watched the show at all since she didn't talk about the plot or acting.

Also: I've been in plenty of bookstores and have seen many women buying fantasy, not so much SF though, but still countless women of various ages.
Marcus W
39. toryx
Daniel Abraham wrote a beautiful response to this review and the equally obnoxious one on Slate.
Reviewing the Reviewers

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how it's done.
Jennifer Berk
40. jcberk
The Washington Post reviewer, while not accustomed to genre, did a much better job of providing an actual review. It can be done.
Kat Clay
41. Cecil McLuary
I am guy geek (too old to be called a boy) and I would like to weigh in on the subject. After reading the initial review it was obvious to me that the reviewer is an anti fanasy/sci fi person with an agenda to slam the show. I truly dis like this type because they tune the neutrals that would otherwise watch the show out.

I work in a book store, the books are more popular with Girl and Lady Geeks than with guys. In fact fans of our genre are expanding considerably with books like Mr. Martins.

My second point is this: My mother introduced me to Sci fi and Fantasy in the late 60's, considerably before the term girl geek was coined. Stand up and be proud Girl and Lady Geeks you can favorably influence future generations of geeks!!
Kat Clay
42. Amarie
As a female fan of the books I resented the implication that a woman watches a tv show just to see sex or hot bodies or whatever. And we are not talking about not a relatively less complicated action fantasy work either it is Game of Thrones, it is about the intriguing plot with political games deep characters that practically binds you to the series. Who would watch all that complicated political games just to catch some sex scenes?

The fact that more and more historical or pseudo historical or fantasy shows have an more grittier and openly sexual outlook might be worth discussing on some level but relating that sexual component to female viewers is something I really do not get. Since when women watch tv shows for sex scenes?

I also have to say I would be that person who would argue on talking about The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time on a book club meeting. I mean it is Tolkien we are discussing here a man who has a professorship on his name in Oxford!
Kat Clay
43. Lady T
Well said. This article reminded me too much of one from 2003 (also written in The New York Times) that made generalizations about women who liked Lord of the Rings. I wrote about both here, because I couldn't resist:
http://funnyfeminist.com/2011/04/16/hey-did-you-know-women-dont-like-the-fantasy-genre/.

I also feel like it's worth mentioning that, if a woman DOES like the sex scenes in the show...so what? Why do these "journalists" think it's impossible to enjoy a text on more than one level? I already have a humongous crush on Kit Harrington, but I also love Jon Snow as a character, and my finding him attractive doesn't mean I can't also analyze Jon's growth as a character.

Pfft. Silly pseudo-journalism.
Kat Clay
44. Josh GGG
I sent this to the editor of the NY Times:

Give Grandma Bellafante some reruns of The Golden Girls to review if
Game of Thrones is too mature for her. Besides the fact that I loved
the show, I couldn't help but notice the "review" lacked any mention of
plot, characters, or the actors. Winter is coming grandma. Best start
knitting a heavy quilt.

haha...
Kat Clay
45. iola
Okay, having just watched the first ep (and having never read the books), I have to say this Times reviewer was out of her mind if she thought the sex/erotica was thrown in FOR women. I don't have a problem with lots of boobies in a show, AS LONG AS there is a balanced amount of naked men. I don't have a problem with men in the "power" position in a sex scenario as long as there is equal with the women. There wasn't in this. I mean, thanks for the shirtless brothers and Jason Momoa, but that's it. Tons of boobs/ass, the men in the sex scenes wearing all of their clothing, the men being in the "power" position, or throwing women around, or making them cry, etc. That was not at all done for titlating women, sorry.

Also, I was excited about seeing Jason Momoa in this. Huge, huge problem with he and the other POCs being reduced to "barbarian, vicious, sex-crazed (in a "bad" way), gross food, one-word-knowing, mandingo, evil army." I am told this "gets better" and there are potientially other POC cultures that are shown in a better light, but for a first ep I can't imagine many other POCs watching any further. Just trying to put a "I didn't read the books" POV out there.
John Mann
46. jcmnyu
My letter to the editor:

How terrible it must have been for Ms. Bellafante to be forced by her editor to review a show, Game of Thrones, for which she clearly has no use. Admittedly I've never been a television reviewer, but I did pay attention to the teachers when I was learning how to present a critical point of view. It seems that Ms. Bellafante for got the fundamentals of sticking to the point. Instead of reviewing the script, actors, direction, or characters, she decides to turn her review into a treatise on other topics. Ms. Bellafante in turn disparages women who like fantasy television (they don't exist), women who like Sex and the City (they are dumb), Americans who watch show that depict sex (they want it removed from reality), women who would watch television shows that depict eroticism (they are only in it for the sex), women who would not watch television shows that depict eroticism (can't handle the sex), women in book clubs who read fantasy (they only read one type of book and they are unreasonable), networks that try new things (HBO should stay with the dramas set in the real world), and Dungeons and Dragons players (they are different than everyone else). I would hope that in the future, Ms Bellafante would be relieved of the clear unpleasantness of being forced to review shows which are so distasteful to her. Instead maybe the task could be given to someone who will actually review the show instead of the perceived audience.

John Mann
Silver Spring, MD
James Whitehead
47. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@46jcmnyu, well written & nicely put.

It is sad that the Times has fallen so far these days. That paper really was the standard at one time.

That said, my if my 12 year old wrote a review like that one for any class at school he would've received a failing grade. This is the equivalent of sending a baseball beat reporter to cover a NASCAR event & all he does is disparage the fans as 'rednecks' or 'yokels.'

Whether you like the subject matter you are covering or not does not excuse you from acting in a professional manner.

Kato
Marcus W
48. toryx
I read the Washington Post review this morning and while it's not nearly as insulting as the Times one (doesn't take much) it still felt like it was one of the jocks in high school pointing out all the reasons he's better than those geeks and nerds who fill the hallways.

The guy actually suggested that fandom doesn't bother to do their laundry. On top of that, he called the series "Tolkienesque" (I don't think that word means what he thinks it means) and couldn't help but mention that the one time he lowered himself to playing D&D he was so bored he decided to go help a friend's mom cook rice krispie treats instead.

What does any of this have to do with the show? I haven't seen it yet because I don't have HBO and I don't know if I'd even like it. I don't expect everyone to like it, and I am fine with negative reviews. But it'd be nice if a negative review of the show critiqued the show rather than the viewers.

Is that really so hard to do? Or are reviewers these days really still in high school?
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
49. tnh
Toryx, some of them might as well still be in high school. They don't believe that literature is a meritocracy. They also don't believe that in the long run, the final arbiters are the readers, not the reviewers. They reassure each other that they're right about that. They're wrong.

A consoling thought: There are writers who today are only remembered because they wrote reviews that unjustly trashed John Keats. We also remember that Keats' big sin was being an upstart ex-tradesman, rather than a university-educated gentleman. Both Keats and the reviewers are dead now. Keats' work is in the permanent canon. Meanwhile, his reviewers have dwindled down to cardboard characters in a cautionary tale for young writers, the moral of which is that you shouldn't let yourself be unduly distressed by pismires.
Kat Clay
50. Peachfuzz
First, I apologize in advance for de-lurking just to offer snark. Second, as long as we're stereotyping genres and genders, why do the other HBO series get a pass in the review? Are westerns and gangster shows really not boys fiction?

"...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 “Shane” first. "Deadwood” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half."
Kat Clay
51. PW_Shea
Here was my letter to the editor.

To the editor

As a long-time reader of the Times and a one-time reader of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, I have to say I was deeply disappointed by Ms. Bellafante’s review, or lack thereof, of HBO’s adaptation of the books. I read nothing that sounded half-way like a critique or review. There was plenty of sneering dismissiveness on hand. Especially awful was the smallminded jab at the sort of woman Bellafante imagines might like the show or the books (apparently, what gets women interested in a show like Game of Thrones is the sex. Yikes). Frankly, given a snide remark earlier in the review about the complexity of the plotting in Song of Ice and Fire, which remark boils down to, “us dumb girls should stick to Sex and the City,” it feels as if the whole review was written in bad faith. The next time you need someone to phone in some snark, call me. I will charge you less.
Kat Clay
53. Katiya
YES! That is all.
Kat Clay
54. Nebula
First of all, thanks for a great rebuttal article.

I could not let this pass. I'm not sure if I should be laughing or indignant. This woman must live on another planet (in a galaxy far, far away). She can’t possibly be from Earth living in the twenty-first century.
I will also be secondarily indignant over a post here:
#44. Josh GGG Sunday April 17, 2011 10:59pm EDT

Why? I am not only a “grandma”, I am a 65 year old Great-Grandmother, several times over, and I don’t knit, ever. I am too busy reading and watching science fiction and fantasy. I also attended (in costume) the gaming convention here in Wisconsin, every year until it moved away from here a few years ago. (And oh yes, my 86 year old Step-Mother reads fantasy as well.) So let’s not introduce the age insult along with the female insult. OK?

As for the NY Times reviewer, crap like that review is one of the many reasons the NY Times is not on my list of things to read.

I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy since I learned to read. I read Sinclair Lewis, H. P. Lovecraft and Isaac Asimov when I was 8 years old and haven’t stopped reading the genre since. I’m sorry, but watching a bunch of topless women on TV is hardly what attracts me to fantasy. What on earth could you be thinking lady? All I can think of is that she is not capable of reading or watching a story so rich, diverse, and complicated and must assume all females (of whatever age) are too stupid to understand a complex story. And obviously she has no imagination whatsoever. (And I was taught by MY Mother, that imagination is a sign of a quick mind.) Shame on her!

Oh yes, something else she denigrated, D&D! Love it! Started playing when it was first introduced. Taught it to my kids and have played with my grandkids. Role playing is a bit too physical for my health these days, but I spend all too many hours playing RPG games on my computer now. Deep into Neverwinter Nights right now.
Kat Clay
55. smackajawea
i am too pissed to be eloquent. screw ginia bellafante and her stupid book club. she's a dumbass.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
56. tnh
Good responses, almost all of which are more engaged and intelligent than Ginia Bellafante's review. Also, Iola @45 has added a worthwhile bit of criticism that Bellafante missed entirely.

I am still finding it consoling to imagine this review becoming the single best-known piece of writing in Ginia Bellafante's career. Want to help make that happen? Remember her name.
Kat Clay
57. JustinS
I was laughing at her as soon as she started talking about how many seasons of Mad Men this could fund.

Apart from being different networks, and despire her name tossing of HBO shows she apparently liked, she does not even get the concept that HBO takes risks with developing programing. She can't think of why anyone would want to create a show that she would not want to approve of.
Justine Greene
60. FairyFan
Amy, we're with ya. We also published a rebuttal on GeekSpeakBlog. This lady really got my dander up. LOL
Kat Clay
61. PirateOtter
The woman that wrote the Times article clearly does not know what she is talking about. And she felt no compulsion or guilt to research it. I am a woman and I read SciFi, Fantasy, fiction, mystery, classics, manga, among lots of other choices. I am a woman and I game; I play WoW, LOTRO, Star Trek Online, among others. I cook for my family, I discuss time travel and theoretical physics with my husband at dinner time. I know there are lots of other women out there like me; I am not alone. I am not interested in the sex in Game of Thrones; I am interested in the actual world and how the people are portrayed in said world. Maybe this reviewer is ashamed to be a woman? I'm not.
Kat Clay
62. KPower
I have been reading science fiction/fantasy for nearly 40 years. I was an adult with children when The Hobbit was published and became famous. Love Martin's Song of Fire and Ice, love Faith Hunter and C. E Murphy, Charlene Harris and just finished debut novel of John Scarsi, Old Man's War - brilliant. Clearly your reviewer was speaking from sheer ignorance.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
63. tnh
KPower @62, I don't think it was ignorance. I think it was a dispassionate and impersonal career move. That's why I've been encouraging readers to neither forget nor forgive it in the years to come. I'd like to see Ms. Bellafante derive far less benefit than she expects from her foray into nerd-bashing and genre-bashing.
Kat Clay
64. Adrienne Dellwo
This is the response I wrote to the New York Times, which I'm posting here in full because the paper's word requirements only allow me to submit the first two paragraphs:

In reading Ms. Bellafante's review of 'Game of Thrones,' you get the idea that women can't follow a complex storyline, keep lots of characters straight, or possibly relate to something that's not full of gratuitous sex. It seems that she doesn't have the intellectual capacity to follow the plot and therefore the rest of us must not either.

I've never read anything so derogatory toward woman that was written after 1972. A highly intelligent woman recommended the HBO series to me and I have enjoyed it so much that I want to buy the books so I can experience the greater complexity that a book always provides. I'm not watching for the sex scenes but actually enjoy a rich storyline populated by diverse, complex characters with multi-layered loyalties and motivations, facing difficult decisions and dangerous situations. It's a fascinating political dance that's relevant in any era.

To say the length of the seasons is some vague reference to global warming is absurd, which she actually points out herself -- no, the long seasons are not the result of inefficient HVAC systems, but thank you for stating the obvious. The natural cycles, abnormal as they are in this particular fantasy world, are an important part of the narrative and not some silly attempt at warning us about long winters ahead as the polar ice caps melt. It's far more akin to Arthurian legend, in which the health of the land was tied to that of the king. Oh -- but I suppose that too is just a "boy story" with some sex thrown in to appease the brainless bimbos. I'm sorry, Ms. Bellafonte, I forgot that as a woman you'd be blissfully unaware of literary history beyond what you learned from Elle Woods.

I'm certain it's accurate that women in book clubs don't often prefer The Hobbit over the latest chick lit, but that's because women who prefer actual literature don't often join insipid book clubs. We're not bored suburbanites using a book as an excuse to get out of the house once a week -- we're busy NOT submissively falling within the narrow boundaries of womanhood as defined by long-dead men and foundering media; enjoying the company of creative, dynamic people -- both men and women -- who are our intellectual equals and challenge us to explore the world and our own psyches a bit deeper than 'Sex in the City' reruns would allow. And besides, we read The Hobbit in middle school.

I just spent the weekend at a sci-fi/fantasy convention where I saw plenty of women in armor, carrying swords, and even teaching swordplay. I spoke with fascinating female authors who actually create their own fictional worlds and populate them with lots and lots of characters and actually have female readers who can keep them all straight. George R.R. Martin will be the guest of honor at this convention next year, and I know hundreds of women will be there to see him, and not because he looks hunky with his shirt off.

'Game of Thrones' is a beautifully shot, excellently written and well-acted story that features several strong women and girls, human flaws, political maneuvering, and yes, some graphic sex and violence. You, Ms. Bellafante, are welcome to paint yourself into a corner and stick to shallow "female-focused" forms of entertainment, but don't try to drag the rest of us into your corner. (I mentioned we have swords, right?) Why don't you review something that's more on your level? I'd suggest the latest 'Real Housewives' series or whatever Paris Hilton is doing these days.

Thank you.
Michael Maxwell
66. pike747
I suppose we should take that Bridge comment as a compliment. But seriously the folks who love fantasy and write it are very sharp.
Kevin Maroney
67. womzilla
This thread is the first Google hit on "Game of Thrones global warming" and I might not have found it otherwise.

I don't think it's insane to think of global warming after reading/watching A Game of Thrones, but not because of the literal climate of the novel. No, the reason to think of global warming is Ser Jeol Mormont's short speech to Jon Snow toward the end of the (first) novel: something enormous and catastrophic stirs beyond the Wall, heralding the end of all human life, but the kings and lords and princes would rather play at their little games of blood and thunder than pay heed.

The horn is sounding but does not wake the sleepers.
Kat Clay
68. Ian C
We just watched season 1 straight through in a single weekend because both the women in the house loved it so much and were totally addicted. Me too of course : )
AI1
69. AI1
Just have to comment though I'm sure others made similar comments I am too irritated to fully appreciate others posts--please forgive.
What woman tunes in to watch the sex scenes? When did soft porn become such an attractant for women in particular? Actually, I find the sex sort of irritating--first because these scenes are uncomfortably expoited no doubt due to the anxiety they create for both the actors and the audience, but more importantly, in this series, it's mostly about women getting f'd. Women are involved to acheive a largely political or financial goal, men to achieve orgasm, or to establish a power dynamic. I don't find this appealing particularly. But I guess if you are a female writer for the NYT, you get all excited and squishy by this--this is likely an accurate representation of what the politics of that particular workplace requires of women. Let's face we are all compelled by that closest to us, so this is her fascination projected on us all. Getting f'd has never been a route to my success, which BTW has been considerable, if anything such a thing would have marked me for abject failure--but I don't work at the NYT, I have a responsible job. So if anything I could do with a lot less of this in the series and am disgusted that a woman would make such an assertion.
It seems to me that in fact there are a number of strong women represented in the series, bound in the time and politics of a medieval world. Too bad that this unfortunate NYT reviewer doesn't understand that she is duped by the men around her into believing that this ugly f'ing is sexy and a substantial draw for other women to watch the show. Sad really.
Kat Clay
71. Lissy
I hate such stuff even more when it's coming from a woman! -.- It feels like being slapped twice...This whole article is an offend from bashing Sex and the City to mentioning Spartacus and GoT in one sentence. I'm not a girl with just one side to me. I love fantasy and epic battles most of all I love these characters and their stories witch includes their sex life. But I also love shoes and purses and hanging out in my pyji with bad hair and I hate if some person means to measure everything by the same yardstick in such an arrogant way. Boy fiction my ass! I'm really annoyed^^

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