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 York Times 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 I was 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 (A Game of Thrones is the first book in this series), 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 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 plotpoint). 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 was reprinted from Geek With Curves, a blog written by our own Amy Ratcliffe.