Stick them with the pointy end: Believe it or not, but the ladies sure do love them some fantasy

HBO’s adaption of Game of Thrones premieres tonight amid a new storm of controversy about women and fantasy. What could possibly have soiled the premiere of what is probably the biggest fantasy literature event of the year? (Well, the biggest one that doesn’t involve boy wizards and horcruxes, anyway.) Why, yet more false assumptions about women and what they watch and read, of course!

It was all sparked by Ginia Bellafante’s New York Times review. Behold this bit of ‘wisdom:’

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.

Uh-huh. There’s plenty one can say to this, but since I am the absolute last fantasy-loving female in the blogosphere to address it, here are a few selected responses:

The reality check. Emily of The Discriminating Fangirl responds to many of Bellafante’s misconceptions. Key quote: “…How can the show require MENSA-member viewers and be too stupid/silly for HBO?”

The feminist. Sarah Louise of Bleeding Cool takes on the gender normative tone of the review. Key quote: “The main thing I find shocking about all these sweeping remarks is the fact that the piece was written by a woman. Aren’t we all supposed to be in this thing together?”

The ally. Alan Kistler wonders where the actual review was in his Newsarama Op-ed. Key quote: “We didn’t get an informed opinion on the show. In fact, in her whole review, the story premise is barely touched on and not one character, plot point or scene is mentioned. ”

The snarky: Annalee Newitz of io9 asked (with spoilers) why would men want to watch Game of Thrones? Key quote: “Who but a woman would even be able to keep all those Stark children’s names straight, let alone all the other people connected to the Stark family?”

The full package. Amy Ratcliffe of Geek with Curves talks about what she really wants to see in the series. Key quote: “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 author. George R. R. Martin breaks his own rules to say something about the review. Key quote: “…if I am writing ‘boy fiction,’ who are all those boys with breasts who keep turning up by the hundreds at my signings and readings?”

And naturally, amid all this? A Today piece on how ladies power viewership for SF/F TV. How long must we have to harp on this before the Ginia Bellafantes of the world catch on?

UPDATE: Bellafonte responds. What does she take from this? ‘People on the internet are mean?’ So much facepalm.

7 thoughts on “Stick them with the pointy end: Believe it or not, but the ladies sure do love them some fantasy

  1. eliz

    *deep breath* *SIGH*

    Why why why do we still have to have this discussion? I mean seriously, why is this still an issue?

    Will my 4 year old daughter have to defend liking superheroes and Star Wars and whatever else strikes her fancy but someone who’s head is stuck in 50’s social stereotypes tries to demean her involvement or appreciation of?

    I am SO TIRED of this arguement. Why are people so darn afraid of letting go of stereotypes and just accepting of people for whom they are? Especially when we all learn that people don’t fit those stereotypes anyway.

    *SIGH*

    I for one will be watching Games of Thrones. I’ve just read the first book and loved it, now on the second. My favorite characters are Tyrion, Arya, and Bran, with a shout out to Dany, though would’ve liked it better if she’d crowned her brother herself.

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  2. ImperialGirl

    Heh. To Sarah Louise’s question of “Aren’t we all in this together,” setting aside the obvious answer to that (no), it doesn’t surprise me at all that a woman, especially a woman in the mainstream media, wrote that. I’ve got free subscriptions to Glamour and Allure right now, all edited and largely written by women “for” women, and apparently women in the ‘women’s media’ industry really do think we all want to be reading chick books, talking about men, relationships, and how stressed we are by work and children and dating/marriage and ridiculously expensive clothes and makeup. And of course we would only watch TV shows that aren’t about the above subjects if there’s a chance of seeing attractive actors with their clothes off. (I’d say shirts, but this is HBO. Forget shirtless, we can hope for full frontal.) I find women who purport to speak for what women want out of television, film, literature, etc. make sweeping generalizations far more often than men.

    I enjoy looking at attractive men. I fully admit that I’m not put OFF by, say, Henry Cavill taking his clothes off in “The Tudors” or the fact that James Purefoy complained he barely ever got to wear clothes while filming “Rome.” But those were nice fringe benefits to dirty politicking in the former case and lots of nice ancient Roman treachery in the latter.

    If men are only watching for boobies and can’t keep the names straight, but they only put cute men in to attract women because they don’t like all the swords and evil plots…who on Earth are complex plots for? Eunuchs?

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  3. Sammygirl

    I’m hoping it’s a last gasp of ignorance from someone who clearly doesn’t read the fantasy genre regularly. Sitting through all 3 LOTR movies does not make one an expert on fantasy. Not that I’m saying this particular critic has managed to do even that.

    Assumptions about women drive me nuts. I had an editor (female editor) once ask me to make a home improvement column I wrote “for women, by a woman” which ticked me off. There’s plenty of men who can’t fix stuff around the house–I’m married to one, and I do the home repairs while he cooks.

    Anyway–rather ignorant assumption by the critic above. WTH is “boy fiction?” I’m picturing Encyclopedia Brown.

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  4. carlalute

    I love Encyclopedia Brown. Honestly, Game of Thrones holds zero insterest for me, in great part because of the “illicitness”, but yeah, the broad sweeping gender generalizations are kind of eyeroll worthy.

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