The New York Times‘ review of HBO’s A Game of Thrones has stirred up a minor geeky shitstorm over Ginia Bellafante’s statements, among them the ironically patronizing claim that it’s “boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.” She believes, apparently, that women have little to no interest in Tolkienish epic fantasy, and that HBO amped up the sex in A Game of Thrones just to draw in the ladies.

This is pretty dumb, of course, or simply ignorant. A nice refutation can be found on Geek with Curves. The main point is this: tons of women read fantasy in all forms. If you still picture fantasy as a fandom of sweaty male shut-ins, your stereotypes are at least a generation behind the fact.

Frustratingly, I think Bellafante does reach some highly relevant conclusions about A Game of Thrones itself, criticizing it for “serv[ing] up a lot of confusion in the name of no larger or really relevant idea beyond sketchily fleshed-out notions that war is ugly, families are insidious and power is hot.”

My god! It sounds as if HBO’s version is actually an incredibly faithful adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s well-written but manipulative and mentally bankrupt book series! A series I threw down in disgust midway through the fourth novel when I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The fact I’d read to the fourth novel proves Martin’s series is highly readable and initially engaging. But after a while, I started to get impatient for the long, long, looooong setups to pay off (give me the fucking ice-monsters already!); for his enraging habit of ending every chapter on a cliffhanger and then, when we return to the cliffhung character 50-80 pages later, we’ve found all the action has already passed; for his Saharan lack of ideas besides “people with power should be good, but they usually aren’t”; for the utter inability for the good guys to come out with a single victory (I like grit as much as the next guy, but throw me some hope now and then); for his creepy sex scenes of old men and teenage girls; for his ever-expanding roster of side characters that draw us further and further from the reasons we were reading in the first place…

So for Bellafante to nail down one of the most valid criticisms of A Song of Ice and Fire, only to have her observation lost beneath her hilariously bygone stereotypes? Man, that’s frustrating. For all it insults women, it manages to insult another subset of fantasy fans: those of us who should be inclined to love Martin’s work, but instead find it manipulative, foolish, and overrated.

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