Game of Thrones is one of the most feminist shows on TV

I watched the second episode of Game of Thrones last night, and I was even more pleased with the adaptation of the book than I was last week. After the episode ended though, the first thing I thought about was Ginia Bellafante.

Like most female fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, I was very disappointed in Bellafante’s review of the first episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, but I passed off her disregard for the show (and fantasy in general) as part of the same sentiment older women have for video games – the view that fantasy (and video games) are just for children or young males. When Bellafante says she doesn’t know any woman that likes fantasy, I believe her. She is from a time before video games, before the rise of the internet.   Bellafante’s culturally learned distaste for the fantasy genre (and most geek culture) is also indicative of her outdated view of gender constructs.  Ilana Teitelbaum writes it well in her Dear New York Times: A Game of Thrones is not just for Boys:

When we categorize books as “boy fiction” and “girl fiction” it’s just another way to promote gender stereotyping. It is predicated on the assumption that people will only read books that reflect their personal experiences, so therefore women will only deign to read about dating, shopping, and kitchen intrigues. This is patronizing to women and undermines one of the core purposes of literature, which is to take us on voyages beyond the scope of our personal experience so that we expand in our understanding and capacity for empathy. And I think most women get this; I think most women are willing to read novels with male protagonists in worlds apart from their own. To imply otherwise is an offense to the gender.

There is room for a discussion of Martin’s books, and the genre as a whole, from a feminist perspective. But that is very different from dismissing the genre outright as “boy fiction” — a dismissal that exhibits as much maturity as a children’s clubhouse bearing the sign “No Girls Allowed.” Now in 2011, can we grow beyond that, please?

I didn’t take Bellafante’s insults seriously (because of her age and weird view of what women like and don’t like) – but as a writer I was ashamed at how little research she did on the series before watching her special episode and writing her review. I am hoping Bellafante watched the second episode last night, because it puts her words to shame:

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.

Bellafante’s statement implies that the women of A Game of Thrones don’t do anything more notable than get naked (and nakedness freaks her out). Had Bellafante read some short plot summaries of the books before watching the HBO premier, she would have known the women of the series would get way more screen time with their clothes on. The females of the series are just as integral to the plot as the men. This isn’t a story about men doing brave things and occasionally fucking women on the side – this is also a story about women (and girls) doing great things to protect their loved ones, their interests and themselves. And if the women end up having sex along the way, that is fine too.  The females in the series are equally, if not more, powerful than their male counterparts.  It appears as though Bellafante’s disgust over the series came from the “teenage” girl that was sold to a barbarian warlord, but if Bellafante had read anything on the series, she would realize that while this character was originally used for sex, she becomes powerful in a completely different way.  Even by the second HBO episode, the audience sees the teenager empowering herself through sex, in direct contrast to the first episode where she could exert no control over her environment.

Besides the teenage barbarian queen, by the second episode the audience is shown a young girl that doesn’t want to conform to her gender role despite her older sister who has. You have a mother that thwarts an attack on her bed-ridden son and then decides to make a perilous journey, and a beautiful queen that plots the death of those in her court.  How could women viewers not be interested in this series, in watching female characters deal with problems in a unique way? You’d think the modern woman would be bored with all the current TV shows about “dating, shopping, and kitchen intrigues”, and embrace a series that portrays women in a time before electricity and the automobile.  Bellafante has me believe otherwise.

Besides not doing research, Bellafante also appeared to not pay any attention to what the characters said to each other. She might have watched the entire episode on mute; she did write about the cinematography but not about the dialog.  I say this because in her New York Times review, Bellafante wrote “dwarfs” when the only “dwarf” is the brother of the evil Queen who was born that way, and he is a bastard in his father’s eyes. How Bellafante missed this when the “imp” was mentioned repeatedly (and made fun of), I am not sure.

I agree with Ilana Teitelbaum when she writes  Ginia Bellafante’s piece had “so many wrong things at once” and

 The piece is rife with inaccuracies that could have been avoided by a cursory skimming of the book (or even back cover copy), is openly, even proudly contemptuous of the entire fantasy genre, and — perhaps worst of all — is patronizing to women readers.

making me wonder…

Was Bellafante trolling for hits?

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One Comment on “Game of Thrones is one of the most feminist shows on TV”

  1. [...] cleverly suggested that fantasy is not just for boys and it would be patronizing to think so. Eördögh has also marked that it is not a story about men’s heroic deeds, but one where women play a [...]


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