Who reads "Boy Fiction" anyway?

When it comes to internet comment pages, I have long been reticent to respond. I have no urge to comment on news stories or YouTube videos, no matter their content. Why waste time scribbling on the bathroom wall of the internet?

I felt that way until April 18, 2011 – a day that lives on in infamy for geeks webwide – the day Ginia Bellafante’s trite, smug and deeply irritating review of Game of Thrones was posted on the New York Times website.

Game of Thrones is the new HBO television series based on the George R.R. Martin fantasy series of the same name. The NYT assigned Ms. Bellafante to review it, though she admits she knows nothing about the fantasy genre. This would be the equivalent of asking John Madden to write a nuanced review of Pride and Prejudice or asking me to write about Babe Ruth calling his shot in Wrigley Field. Sports writing is not really my strong suit (nor presumably is it Mr. Madden’s to write on Jane Austen, though I apologize if it’s a secret passion).

Still from Game of Thrones, new HBO original series

The New York Times actually has removed her original review from the website. The comment section was closed immediately, presumably after a flood of mail from angry geeks like myself. I was driven to write the following:

Dear Ms. Bellafante,
It seems strange to me that the New York Times would assign you as a reviewer to a television fantasy series, when you clearly have a contempt for the entire milieu.
I couldn’t help but wonder about the source of such spite; your entire article is suffused with it. Perhaps you envision female fantasy readers with unkempt hair and coke bottle glasses, planning our days around Dungeons & Dragons tournaments and sewing costumes for World of Warcraft conventions.
While I don’t bother to ask that a television reviewer actually crack the book on which the series is based, please don’t insult us with cliched generalities (“the Dungeons & Dragons aesthetic”).
The deepest cut, perhaps, is this paragraph:
“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.”
The only patronizing turned out here is emanating from you, Ms. Bellafante. There’s really no need to insult the multitudes of men -and- women who happen to enjoy fantasy.
To love fantasy is to love a world other than the one we inhabit. Fantasy invites us down the morlock holes, through the looking glass, into the magic wardrobe, back to the past and into the future. Bad fantasy is laughable, but every genre has its embarrassments. The fantasy and science fiction of yesterday is the technology of today.
Is it escapist? Yes. But who has not submerged themselves willingly in their favorite book, movie or television show without that end in view? What’s so flawless about the world we live in that we can’t leave for awhile?
In closing, I can only return to your own words: “the series…ought to come with a warning like, “If you can’t count cards, please return to reruns of ‘Sex and the City.’ ”
Ms. Bellafante, Carrie and Friends await.


Anna, “Boy Fiction” Lover

You can read her defensive response to the wrath of the geek hordes here: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/pull-up-a-throne-and-lets-talk/?smid=tw-nytimes