Critic Ginia Bellafante, who writes in the New York Times, has angered fantasy fans by suggesting that HBO's adaptation of George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is 'is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.'
'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.'
In other words: Action and gore for the boys, some sex for the girls. Stereotypes aside, this strikes me as odd, given that there has been – to date – far more bonking than bloodshed in Game of Thrones. Using this warped logic, it would make more sense to describe the series as 'girl fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population's other half.' However, both these statements are naïve and condescending. Game of Thrones is so much better than that.
The overall tone of Bellafante's review is one of vaguely sneering condescension:
'The series claims as one of its executive producers the screenwriter and best-selling author David Benioff,' she writes, “whose excellent script for Spike Lee's post-9/11 meditation, “25th Hour,” did not suggest a writer with Middle Earth proclivities.'
'If you are not averse to the Dungeons & Dragons aesthetic, the series might be worth the effort.'
Such comments suggest different reasons for this critic's dismissal of HBO's production. What she is really saying is that no woman alive would watch this because it is fantasy. But what, exactly, is wrong with fantasy? Ms Bellafante explains:
'Since the arrival of “The Sopranos” more than a decade ago, 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: the Mafia, municipal government (“The Wire”), the Roman empire (“Rome”), the American West (“Deadwood”), religious fundamentalism (“Big Love”).
When the network ventures away from its instincts for real-world sociology, as it has with the vampire saga “True Blood,” things start to feel cheap, and we feel as though we have been placed in the hands of cheaters. “Game of Thrones” serves 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.'
Since all institutions are made, and then are either upheld or fall apart, then Ms Bellafante is saying that HBO is at its most intelligent and dazzling when it examines institutions. But only real world institutions. When those institutions are fictional, then it's somehow “cheating”.
This same attitude explains why so many publishers declined Orwell's Animal Farm. Talking pigs? Getoutahere! It seems to me that there are many people (often those with leanings towards literary fiction) who dislike, or have trouble accepting, fantasy because rather than simply holding up a mirror to human conflict, fantasy takes that conflict and applies to it a process of abstraction, whereupon the real world is often viewed through the lenses of metaphor, analogy, allegory or satire. These are lenses of the imagination. Some people have no trouble peering through them, but others struggle. They see no worth in examining human conflict or human institutions if they are presented outside recognisable real-world parameters. What's the point of imagining anything beyond our own experience? Dragons?Fairies? Minotaurs? Gods? Giant Beanstalks? Talking wolves and magical glass slippers? Getoutahere! Such foolishness, they seem to snigger, has no real value. I disagree, of course. But then, I, like all fantasy readers, have this odd ability to suspend disbelief, to let myself wander happily through places that I know don't exist. It's one of the benefits of having an imagination.
Game of Thrones, like all stories, is about people. It's about conflict, power and love. It does have dragons in it. And it is superb.