Game of Thrones and Gender

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 18, 2011 -- 12:29 a.m.

I haven't had a chance to watch the entire first GOT episode yet, but I did take time to start browsing the reviews and see what critics were thinking.

A mix of good and bad, mostly. And a bit of the expected pooh-poohing of the fantasy genre by mainstream critics. I have no problem with the critics who disliked the show...from the first clip of the first episode, I kind of had a "well, this is pretty good but also a little meh" feeling, partly because some of the acting didn't live up to the gorgeous scenery and cinematography, and partly from fannish gripes: ie, it seems like they de-awesomified Catlyn, I could shoot a bow and arrow better than Bran when I was his age, etc. Stupid complaints, really. It looks like they went above and beyond--I saw a documentary talking about how the right-handed actress for Arya had to learn to do everything left-handed and I was like, Really? Even I'm not obsessed enough to care about that. Besides the acting, there were also some odd...SQUEEEEE! TYRION! OMG! SQUEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway. (*Brushes off soiled dignity*)

But when critics go outside the show and start criticizing the audience for fantasy novels, I start getting a little pissy. I thought this kind of talk would lose some of its steam after Return of the King's Best Picture Oscar.

Par example, from the New York Times:

"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."

Um...(*raises hand*). Isn't it a little patronizing of said reviewer to decide what females do and do not enjoy? And, of course, it couldn't possibly be that a reviewer from the New York Times who scoffs at the entire fantasy genre might be moving in different circles than those who enjoy such literature. Or perhaps she thinks she can recognize a fantasy fan by sight? Because we save our dragonlance t-shirts for the conventions, we must not exist?

I don't have the surveys on me, but between 40-60 percent of fantasy readers are female. I suspect G.R.R.M.'s demographic tips male because of his cruelty to the characters, but if you look at Tolkien's fans, I bet it's a different story. Just because female nerds are still more socially stigmatized than their male counterparts (this may not be true--but I know I certainly draw funny looks every time I plop down at a M:TG table) and so don't wear our geeky cred so openly, doesn't mean we don't exist. [I've actually been thinking about trying to found a sci-fi/fantasy book group at my local college, coincidentally enough.]

I haven't bothered to send her an angry email. The internet backlash has already begun. (I wrote this before perusing the web to see what fire has been unleashed, and the Huffington Post does a better job of summing up the stupidity of this review than I do.) I figure the review writer will just ignore the electronic tempest or say she was using rhetorical hyperbole to make a point (I have a stuffed unicorn named Hyperbole, by the way. Speaking of nerdness). But I thought I'd make my representative stand on teh internets, anyway. If you don't like the show or the fantasy genre, fine. If you don't like the feminist implications of Martin's work, fine. But don't assume that a group that you obviously have no knowledge of is a cul-de-sac of white, horny, pimply Comic Book Guy lookalikes dressed in elf ears just because that's what your television has told you. Because we're all around you, girlfriend. Fat and thin, near-sighted and not, socially awkward or well-adjusted. And some of us don't like being talked down to by reviewers who assume that everyone of a single gender will share a single opinion.


In other news, I get to go to grad school. And they gave me a scholarship and research-assistanceship that means I won't have to pay a cent for tuition. We turned in our final for Brandon Sanderson. I finished 80,000 words in three and a half months, and turned in another 10,000 word outline. Yay me!


  1. Anonymous said...

    Hi escapist, I realize this entry is way old but I just found it today and strongly agree. While there has been more acceptance of geeks lately (mostly of the wannabe fashionable variety if you catch my drift), being a true geek and a girl to boot still means being an overall outsider. But I get the feeling that that Riff is bigger in the US; I live in Germany and have at least 3 girls in my inner circle of friends that can Be described as geek-y.
    I play videogames, RPGs and love Fantasy/Science Fiction as much as any male geek but there aren't as many of us out there and so we tend to be forgotten by the masses. But Felicia Day is working on it :-)
    I really like your site which I have found today and will come back to.

    Astrid, Geek

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