Camelot, The Borgias, Game of Thrones: Failing Us, One Episode At A Time

I’ve been trying to articulate my feelings on women’s treatment in these three new shows that the fantasy geek in me is inevitably drawn to. Thank goodness for the internet:

The Dothraki
While I love fantasy novels, I’m a Black woman and I can’t help but get a little sad, that I always feel just a little bit out of place as a fan and reader. And not because we don’t show up. But because when we do, we are murderers, thieves, prostitutes. Or in other words, we are on the periphery, in the margins. And if I wanted that I would just watch the evening news.

Camelot, The Borgias, Game of Thrones: The Spectacle of Rape
And yet, apparently, the rape of delicate blonde women seems to be something that Starz, HBO and Showtime assume their viewers want to watch. The aesthetic of Camelot and Game of Thrones is particularly sickening – they give us rape with soft lighting.

Women & Sci-Fi/Fantasy Don’t Mix (Lead Me To A Fainting Couch, I’ve Heard This One Before)

Let me just begin by saying, me and my delicate girly-brain will be watching Game of Thrones (and Camelot, and all the sci-fi/fantasy I want to).

[Image: A screencap of Ginia Bellafante's wikipedia page; text reads: Ginia Bellafante (born March 31, 1965) is an American writer (of incredibly poorly written articles) and critic, for the New York Times, New York Observer, and Time (magazine).]

Ginia Bellafante’s Wikipedia page is not kind (and rightly so- though yes, Wikipedia pages are supposed to be ‘objective’, etc) and describes her work as “poorly written”. Unfortunately, she is read at the New York Times, which gives her undue credibility. Her most recent offense offering is A Fantasy World of Strange Feuding Kingdoms, a startlingly sexist (critique??) New York Times article on the new show, Game of Thrones, and what she deems is its failure to appeal to women and its success at being “boy fiction”, whatever in fresh hell that means.

I’ll warn you now, this article didn’t meet a sexist entertainment media gender stereotype it didn’t write an ode to:

Keeping track of the principals alone feels as though it requires the focused memory of someone who can play bridge at a Warren Buffett level of adeptness. In a sense the series, which will span 10 episodes, ought to come with a warning like, “If you can’t count cards, please return to reruns of ‘Sex and the City.’ ”

The show has been elaborately made to the point that producers turned to a professional at something called the Language Creation Society to design a vocabulary for the savage Dothraki nomads who provide some of the more Playboy-TV-style plot points and who are forced to speak in subtitles.

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.

You’ve got your bingo cards out, right?

Epic fantasy as a boy’s only activity. Check.

Heternormativity. Check.

Complex story lines (and apparently, too many characters!) being beyond a woman’s limited understanding. Check.

Reinforcing an oppression (in this case racism, “savage Dothraki” wtf?) instead of critiquing it. Check.
(What’s interesting here is that she misses the opportunity to critique the show on its racist othering of characters of color in the Dothraki. Instead she uses “savage” to describe them and seems to be more annoyed at the mere existence of subtitles (because y’know, subtitles were created just to inconvenience privileged.)

It doesn’t forget the classic, the romance was put there for the delicate flowers that are our women. Check.

So, you ever wonder why there aren’t more Sarah Connors on your TV/movie theater? Because mess like this still gets published in major media.

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