Friday, April 15, 2011

Game of Thrones is Most Certainly for Women

by Sara N.

I'm a woman. I read books. In particular, I read and love a series by George R.R. Martin. But don't tell Ginia Bellafante that.

Bellafante, a critic for The New York Times, has reviewed the new HBO series "Game of Thrones." The show, which premieres Sunday, is based on the four-book fantasy series by GRRM. It promises to be lavish in scale and epic in storytelling, and fans of the books have been atwitter for months waiting for the show's premiere.

Based on her review, Ballafante doesn't seem terribly impressed with the show, or the fantasy genre as a whole. That I can forgive; everyone is entitled to her opinion. But this passage cannot stand unchallenged:

The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this (sexual) 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.

Listen, I don't know a single welder who reads the Game of Thrones books. Do you suppose that's why they included so many swords in it? That's sure to attract people who work with metal, after all.

To be blunt, Ms. Ballafante, you're wrong. And I'm sorry that your literary circle is so closed off that none of your friends have ever recommended an amazing new fantasy book to you. Remind me not to accept an invitation to any of your book clubs.

To dismiss this show and the books it is based on as boy fiction is breathtakingly short-sighted and flat-out wrong. It's insulting to the men who have read the books, and it's an extra affront to the women who have done the same. These are sprawling, meticulously constructed books that feature intricate world building and characters so rich and broad that they're practically four-dimensional. And guess what? The books feature sex. Lots of it. It was in the novels to begin with, and it wasn't dropped into the show as an afterthought to lure the wimmins or other weak-minded folk. The sex is there because this is a book about people, and people lie and scheme and joke and fall in love and hurt each other and forgive each other and, oh yeah, they also have sex.

To insinuate that you have to tart up a show with sex and relationships in order to snag women viewers shows what a small view you have of women. We appreciate shows with strong plots, good writing and interesting characters. We require more than heaving breasts and shirtless bohunks to have a good time.

I'll admit that I'm at a disadvantage in this debate because I haven't seen a full episode of the show yet. But you know what? I'm guessing Ballafante hasn't cracked the spine on a single one of GRRM's novels, either. Perhaps if she did, she'd see what she was missing. Then she can join the rest of the women who are browsing the sci fi/fantasy section at the local bookstore. If I bump into her there, I'd be glad to recommend a good Robin Hobb series for her to read next.
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  1. Well said, Sara!


  2. I'm glad I let you write this, Sara. I was only able to come up with some sputtering and swearing and calling for my shiv to effect a good old school shanking.

  3. Ok, this has to be said. That Iron Throne sucks. It's supposed to be hammered from actual swords and cut people who sit in it.

    That thing is as hollow and plastic. (Which makes this rant on topic.)

  4. I just watched the 14 minute preview today and I have to say that (as a woman) the only thing I was disappointed by was the fact that the characters are older in the show then they were in the books.

    Oh and I have a college education and designer shoes just like you Ms Ballafante! So there.

  5. I'm also glad you wrote this. To be frank, GRRM is not the best storyteller I know of, however his world is unique. It is gritty, realistic, and when you pick it up.. you are reminded of the warring factions of congress.. fighting each other.. losing on all sides.. and yet you feel a reality is about to hit where the valiant and good as well as the intrinsically evil have been lost.. yet the enemy keeps advancing and now the "less than great" must stand up and fight.. and protect the people.. because its their last hope.

    As far as women go, I think GRRM has done more to balance the scale than anyone I have ever read. To him sex is just a weapon like a sword. He states it, and he uses it. His women are in my opinion FANTASTIC! Some use their wits, some play like boys, and some play like women, you have women who want to be men, woment who want to control as a woman, and better yet, you get their views on WHY they did this and HOW pissed they are to be in a man's world.

    An essay against couldn't be more wrong.