Maybe you missed it, but New York Times writer Ginia Bellafante just insulted about half of HBO’s new audience share.
It took place during a review (and I use that term loosely, here) of HBO’s new series Game of Thrones, adapted from George R. R. Martin’s exceedingly popular Song of Ice and Fire series of gritty-but-epic fantasy novels. I haven’t read them, but my former roommate has. In fact, when she heard that HBO was making a ten-episode series from one of the novels, she started saving what remained of her grad student budget to upgrade her cable. But according to Bellafante, my old roomie must also be a zombie, because “no woman alive” would watch this series, much less read it:
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.
There are a lot of things wrong with this review. Let’s count them:
- There’s precious little explanation of characters, setting, or plot, much less actors. Instead, there are complaints about how many characters and settings and plots there are. That’s not insight, that’s just laziness.
- The review is neither positive nor negative. It makes no recommendation about whether or not the series is worth the hype. Instead, it discusses the series’ budget. That’s not an aesthetic sensibility at work, that’s Google.
- The piece insulted about half of its audience, implying that not only would “living women” not want to watch the series, but that they shouldn’t, because they are better suited to watching Sex & The City and because Martin’s work is “boy fiction.”
Allow me to pull from my roots in studying Donna Haraway and cyborg theory, and suggest that the myth of “boy” anything, is a harmful one. Like anything that slices us down the middle, binaries hurt. Gender stereotypes like these are the reason we have meaningless controversies over a boy wearing pink nail polish in a J. Crew ad.
Let me explain something to whoever it was that approved this column: geeks of the female variety, be they straight or queer, furry or non, costumed or civilian, have it tough enough. Only a small percentage of our preferred content is actually marketed at us. We’re still considered “booth bait” at major geek events like Comic Con. It still takes web series like Felicia Day’s The Guild to get us into main character positions. (That’s female fans as main characters, not females as main characters in genre shows that fans enjoy. I’m with you, fans of Olivia Dunham.)
In other words: you’re not helping.
It’s sad when women cut other women down. And I don’t mean to do that to Ms. Bellafante. But on a grander scale, the Gray Lady is letting us down. The NYT has been plagued with trouble this year, from absurd paywalling and anti-Twitter policies to the general rot at its core. But stories like these, even though they are relatively trivial television reviews, don’t do anything to convince readers of the paper’s value.
I write about geeky things. I blog for Tor about anime. I’ve written for io9 and Online Fandom and SF Signal. This weekend, I’m going away to work on revisions on my first novel for publication. It’s a science fiction novel. It has robots in it. Killer robots. Killer female robots.
That’s why you should give me Ms. Bellafante’s job, NYT. Because I’m a writer, and I know my shit. And I’m a living woman.