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Why the New York Times should give me Ginia Bellafante’s job:

Maybe you missed it, but New York Times writer Ginia Bellafante just insulted about half of HBO’s new audience share.

It took place during a review (and I use that term loosely, here) of HBO’s new series Game of Thrones, adapted from George R. R. Martin’s exceedingly popular Song of Ice and Fire series of gritty-but-epic fantasy novels. I haven’t read them, but my former roommate has. In fact, when she heard that HBO was making a ten-episode series from one of the novels, she started saving what remained of her grad student budget to upgrade her cable. But according to Bellafante, my old roomie must also be a zombie, because “no woman alive” would watch this series, much less read it:

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.

There are a lot of things wrong with this review. Let’s count them:

  1. There’s precious little explanation of characters, setting, or plot, much less actors. Instead, there are complaints about how many characters and settings and plots there are. That’s not insight, that’s just laziness.
  2. The review is neither positive nor negative. It makes no recommendation about whether or not the series is worth the hype. Instead, it discusses the series’ budget. That’s not an aesthetic sensibility at work, that’s Google.
  3. The piece insulted about half of its audience, implying that not only would “living women” not want to watch the series, but that they shouldn’t, because they are better suited to watching Sex & The City and because Martin’s work is “boy fiction.”

Allow me to pull from my roots in studying Donna Haraway and cyborg theory, and suggest that the myth of “boy” anything, is a harmful one. Like anything that slices us down the middle, binaries hurt. Gender stereotypes like these are the reason we have meaningless controversies over a boy wearing pink nail polish in a J. Crew ad.

Let me explain something to whoever it was that approved this column: geeks of the female variety, be they straight or queer, furry or non, costumed or civilian, have it tough enough. Only a small percentage of our preferred content is actually marketed at us. We’re still considered “booth bait” at major geek events like Comic Con. It still takes web series like Felicia Day’s The Guild to get us into main character positions. (That’s female fans as main characters, not females as main characters in genre shows that fans enjoy. I’m with you, fans of Olivia Dunham.)

In other words: you’re not helping.

It’s sad when women cut other women down. And I don’t mean to do that to Ms. Bellafante. But on a grander scale, the Gray Lady is letting us down. The NYT has been plagued with trouble this year, from absurd paywalling and anti-Twitter policies to the general rot at its core. But stories like these, even though they are relatively trivial television reviews, don’t do anything to convince readers of the paper’s value.

I write about geeky things. I blog for Tor about anime. I’ve written for io9 and Online Fandom and SF Signal. This weekend, I’m going away to work on revisions on my first novel for publication. It’s a science fiction novel. It has robots in it. Killer robots. Killer female robots.

That’s why you should give me Ms. Bellafante’s job, NYT. Because I’m a writer, and I know my shit. And I’m a living woman.

8 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Ciro Faienza

     /  April 15, 2011

    Well-played. Spreading the word.

  2. Megan

     /  April 15, 2011

    I love your review! Yes, they should give you her job.

  3. Fred W.

     /  April 15, 2011

    THANK YOU! I think NYT should give you Ginia Bellafante’s job, too.

  4. Mary

     /  April 16, 2011

    So (snif) proud of you. TOL (tears over lids)

  5. Ann

     /  April 16, 2011

    I would definitely welcome your voice over that ignorant arrogance. Nicely done…and thank you!

  6. i’m with you girl. i wrote a serious rant about it on my own blog and am so proud of us girl geeks that i can’t stop reading all the amazing blogs out there that are 100x better than that NYT “review”. xo

  7. radf9760

     /  April 21, 2011

    Ms. Bellafante’s article touched a nerve and I’ve been gleefully lapping up the wave of internet responses ever since, yours is one of the best. I’ve since read other articles by Bellafante and been similarly disenchanted, she and I are clearly from different walks of life and I find her sneering elitism thoroughly off-putting. Her tone, however, is her business. What I can’t abide is lazy writing. You’ve rightly indicted her on that count in the case of GoT and it would appear that a lack of research and even basic comprehension is a common theme throughout her work. What a shame that Ms. Bellafante is derelict in duties a writer like yourself would enthusiastically embrace.

  8. Hey, I hate hobbits and sci fi but you’re spot on about Ms. Bellafonte. Read her article in today’s times about decorated townhouses in Manhattan. It starts with some fake hipster vision of NY without kids turning into a horror show of child-pandering elitist hedge fund zombies. She’s a drag on every level.; someone should enroll her in a sport. (mask-less ice hockey goalie?)

  • Madeline Ashby…

    ...is a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity, Tor.com, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

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