Winter is coming, and Ginia Bellafante thinks that the ladies won‘t like it.
The Winter in question is HBO’s adaptation of George R. R. Martins political fantasy epic, Game of Thrones and Ginia, the New York Times reviewer who saw the screening in advance, is less than impressed. She feels that the TV show is an overblown over-sexed extravaganza whose budget could have been better devoted to keeping Mad Men on air. In this land of “dwarves and loincloths” there are too many characters, she thinks, perhaps the show should warn people who can’t count cards to go back to watching Sex and the City re-runs?
The show does have a lot of characters but then, so do the books. I like to read a bit of fantasy, and I am a fan of Game of Thrones and the series it is part of. And I know plenty of other people – male and female – who‘d agree with me. When I worked as manager of a games and bookstore in Ireland for two years, one of the most common questions was, “Do you know when the next George R R Martin is coming out?” That question came up so many times, from all genders, that we joked that we should just stick a sign up behind the till saying, “No, Book Four is not out yet. Direct complaints to Mr Martin, please.”
While there are many criticisms you can throw around about the books – including an impassioned plea to Martin to just release book five already – there is no denying that they have many fans of both genders. Bellafante is clearly not a fan, which is fair enough, but she assumed that what held true for her applies to everyone with a uterus. Women, she stated, simply weren‘t going to like it – not because it was badly-cast, or poorly scripted, or just plain boring – but because it is fantasy.
“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.”
Now, I’m not a Hobbit fan nor in a book club, but I am better placed than Ms Bellafante to judge Martin’s writing, and fantasy generally, by the simple virtue of actually having read some. I wasn‘t aware that having boy parts was a prerequisite to enjoying the genre and I didn’t find the books particularly patronising, but Ginia’s belief that women don’t enjoy epics is getting right up my nose.
Bellafante’s dismissal of fantasy as “boy fiction“ led to lots of heated responses, some vitriolic and other more thoughtful, so much so that she weighed back in a few days later, trying to pour oil on troubled waters with a piece entitled, “Pull Up and Throne and Let’s Talk”. This probably didn’t come out as well as she hoped. Ginia started by explaining, “I write from a perspective that is my own, not one that seeks to represent a big tent of varying opinion.” Which is fair enough, even her previous piece included an offhand blanket statement about half the darn planet.
And then she continued, “As I wrote in the review, I realize that there are women who love fantasy, but I don’t know any and that is the truth: I don’t know any. At the same time, I am sure that there are fantasy fans out there who may not know a single person who worships at the altar of quietly hewn domestic novels or celebrates the films of Nicole Holofcener or is engrossed by reruns of “House.””
So, not only does Ginia believe that she doesn’t know a single woman out there who likes to read fantasy, but also that these exotic female fantasy fans (who she has never met) may well conglomerate in groups, trading sorcery and sword novels and refusing to read or watch outside their tiny circle of knowledge. Roaming their homes in chain-mail bikinis, purchasing “Hot Dwarves Monthly” and throwing axes at the TV to activate the extended and expanded Directors edition of Lord of the Rings.
Not just, you know, reading good books and enjoying them, regardless of their reproductive organs.
To which all I can say is, Ginia, the problem here is clearly not Game of Thrones or the fantasy genre. It’s that you need to meet more women.