Even if you are the New York Times.
See, when you’re the New York Times, or you’re writing for the New York Times, people tend to believe what you say, and take it seriously.
One minute you’re disparaging an HBO series as boy fiction, the next a little girl is taking her Star Wars thermos to school and being told the Force is only with boy Jedi.
Amy Ratcliffe well-rebutted Gina Bellafonte over here, and Alan Kistler at Newsarama had a great response too….A visual representation (brilliant) is here: For my part, I started getting annoyed on Twitter:
Hey @nytimes, as soon as you say "Boy fiction" you're saying I can't/shouldn't/automatically don't like something because I'm a girl. Eff that.
And I kept getting annoyed the more I thought about it. Bellafonte’s review, as others have mentioned, does not REVIEW anything. One of her only insights is the line “HBO has distinguished itself as a corporate auteur committed, when it is as its most intelligent and dazzling, to examining the way that institutions are made and how they are upheld or fall apart” (she then goes on to list other shows that featured institutional inquiry but doesn’t seem to see how Game of Thrones fits into that mix).
Game of Thrones is about SEVEN KINGDOMS. That’s like, AT LEAST SEVEN INSTITUTIONS. Compare and contrast Game of Thrones and Rome, which Bellafonte evidently believed more worth HBO’s time and money….. the differences are primarily in the scope of the battle scenes and the number of commanders to which it is possible to swear allegiance. Are you House Stark or House Barantheon or House Lannister (goddess have mercy on your soul) or House Targeryen? Are you out for yourself or proud of your loyalty? How do you govern a giant-ass kingdom from a throne you stole? How do you regain that pesky throne? Can you even have politics without institutions?!
The writing of George R.R. Martin is, as I have mentioned before, problematic for women because so many characters are victims of misogyny and rape – main characters who fight back, like Arya and Daenarys, and supporting characters who are assaulted, insulted, shoved aside. My bottom line is that you can claim “medieval realism!!!” to justify your anti-woman brutality all you want – if you really wanted realism, you wouldn’t have included dragons and magic. Just saying. But that doesn’t mean I don’t, can’t, won’t, didn’t, and haven’t read and enjoyed this series.
I enjoyed The Hobbit and there’re barely 3 women in it. And none of them are even human or like, shop at The Gap so I know to identify with them, or drink Cosmos so I know to aspire to their level of sophistication, or anything! I love Star Wars even though Princess Leia is pretty much my sole point of woman-to-woman identification. I love Ender’s Game (woman count: 3). I love Dune (woman count: 5ish).
I don’t say this to let (male) science fiction and fantasy writers off the hook for creating more worlds for women and people of color and queer folks. I love best of all Mercedes Lackey and Tamora Pierce, Phillip Pullman and Garth Nix for their more inclusive representation and general kickassitude.
But we still live in a world where guys at my brother’s Games Workshop get into arguments about whether women can be Space Marines. Marines (which women already are) in SPACE (WHERE NOBODY IS).
And attitudes like those belonging to Ms. Bellafonte and whatever schmucks approved and edited this piece for the New York Times are part of the problem.