This Geek Girl Would Like to Disagree

So, some of you might be acquainted with the whole Ginia Bellafante/Game of Thrones/Boy Fiction thing that’s been going on in the last couple of days.

If you haven’t, that’s the article in which she is „reviewing“ HBO’s Game of Thrones. And this is her reaction to the mass of outraged replies that first article has earned her.

In a nutshell, I’m with those who say they don’t care about whether she did or did not like the pilot episode of GoT. I usually watch what sounds interesting and don’t really care about what critics or – for that matter – anyone else thinks about it. And I think it’s fair that people don’t like what I like and the other way round. What I care about is that I, too, felt personally offended by what she wrote, and I’m not even that much of a GoT fan. I have only read the first book and enjoyed it a lot and I partly read it now so that I would be able to watch the show with a bit of context.

However, there are already a lot of blog posts out there from girls like me who have written down their thoughts and I agree nearly completely with what they all have to say, so I feel there’s no special need for me to write another reply in which I say what hundreds of other people have already stated very clearly.

What I would like to say though is that I’m always so disappointed when I come upon people who look down on what other people like and act like they’re better because they read supposedly  better books or watch better movies or even don’t have a TV at all, because TV is bad and books are great. 

Hey, guess what? I read lots and lots of books and I currently don’t have a TV for most of the week and when I’m at home on the weekends we sometimes manage to spend it nearly entirely without watching. I’m still able to stare in amazement at some of the crappier shows and love every minute of it without being ashamed to talk about it. 

In her reply to the comments Bellafante writes:

At the same time, I am sure that there are fantasy fans out there who may not know a single person who worships at the altar of quietly hewn domestic novels or celebrates the films of Nicole Holofcener or is engrossed by reruns of “House.”

I’m not sure what counts as quietly hewn domestic novels, and I think I have seen nothing by Mrs. Holofcener, but I really love watching „House“. I also watch „How I Met Your Mother“ and „Grey’s Anatomy“ and „Psych“ and „Parenthood“ and „The Chicago Code“ and „Supernatural“ and „Dexter“ and… yeah, you get the picture. (Too many shows, basically.) My last books have been some fantasy and science fiction novels, but also some classic children’s books (The Enchanted Castle and Anne of Green Gables), Room by Emma Donoghue and the heart-breakingly sad and charming The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Yes, I enjoy fantasy and science fiction. I might enjoy them a tiny bit more than lots of other genres, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fantasy and sci-fi fan. I’m a book fan. I’m also a music fan. And a TV fan. And a movie fan. And the only reason why I don’t watch horror movies anymore is not because I think they’re stupid, but because I won’t go through another week where I have to get up at 3 am to babysit my TV to make sure that no goddamn girl crawls out of there. I also watched only about half of I Am Legend because for the other half of the time I had my hands before my eyes. I like horror films, I’m just not very good at dealing with them.

But I’ve watched plenty of artsy French movies from the 60s as well as Japanese anime, comedies of all kinds (the romantic and the funny), thrillers, dramas, and I still think that Twister is really cool and Con Air is freaking awesome. I can do all these things.

I guess my issue with Mrs. Bellafante’s review and the quote isn’t even that she seems to be looking down on fantasy fans. That is bad enough by itself. What’s even worse is that she cannot seem to imagine that you don’t even have to be a fan to like reading fantasy. I’m not a fantasy fan per se. There is a lot of what is probably essential fantasy that I haven’t read and don’t currently plan to. I just like it a lot.

One reason why I enjoy fantasy and science fiction literature so much is that the really good stuff is mind-blowingly inventive. The nature of these genres allows them to go to places other literature can’t easily go as the authors are free to make up a world entirely of their imagination. But that doesn’t make the genre any better or worse than other books. (And it’s not that I’m saying other books can’t be imaginative and inventive, but it’s somehow different there. Read The Eyre Affair or Un Lun Dun  or Neverwhere if you want to know what I mean.)

What I do take pride in is that I never let any label determine whether I like something or not. I feel that as an intelligent woman I can just read and watch and listen to anything I like and I don’t need to care if it’s considered good or bad or high-brow or low-brow or if it has any label attached to it. I assume that I can decide for myself whether I like it or not and that others are entitled to their own opinion and that we can happily agree to disagree.

The notion that we are divided into genre-lovers disturbs me on a level I can’t quite explain. Basically it sounds incredibly stupid to me. But that’s the subtext I read in the articles of Ginia Bellafante. First she says she doesn’t know any female fantasy lovers. When called upon that she admits that there might be some, but automatically adds that there is a chance that these fans might not be interested in what she’s interested in.

When I felt offended it wasn’t as a fantasy fan, it was as a girl who enjoys reading fantasy books among others and doesn’t like to be assumed to fall into any category that defines what she should and shouldn’t like. I was offended as a person who enjoyed reading GoT and other „books like Mr. Martin’s„. And I was offended by a lack of professionalism and respect for other people which resulted in a review like that.

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