The New York Times has taken a firm stand: Game of Thrones, the venerable paper argues, is for boys only. How bizarre is that? The show is obviously targeted exclusively at women. Here's why.
The Times' Ginia Bellafante, who recently argued that Supernatural is about the Detroit auto industry, has gotten it all wrong. In her review of Game of Thrones, which she tags as a "global-warming horror story," she argues that the series is for boys only - with a little kinky sex thrown in for the girls. She writes:
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.
Spoilers ahead, for those who haven't read the books.
OK, well I will grant you that scenes of explicit sex, especially the rape and brother-sister incest we see in Game, have traditionally appealed only to female audiences. So Bellafante has a point there. Men generally prefer softer images of sexuality - erotica, if you will. But to say the rest of the series won't appeal to women? Honestly, I'm stunned.
All this time, I've been asking myself what there is in the show for men to like.
First of all, the entire story is basically a historical drawing room melodrama - it's Jane Austen set in a semi-medieval world, with weather systems that seem to mirror human emotion. From the very first episode, we're asked to listen to endless discussions about family melodramas, who slept with whose brother and who gets to have the nicest throne room. Children are endlessly and obsessively the focus of practically every scene. Who but a woman would even be able to keep all those Stark children's names straight, let alone all the other people connected to the Stark family?
Two of the main characters, Sansa and Arya Stark, are suffering through dilemmas that are basically Gossip Girl plotlines, only with dire wolves instead of purse dogs. Sansa is in love with the rich prince who would rather hang with his mom and murder people than bring her flowers. Plus, he's always trying to get her drunk. And Arya just wants to practice her swordfighting homework, but somehow winds up eavesdropping on gossipy discussions about who will be killed. I ask you, would men really have patience to watch a show that's so focused on who told who what?
And that scene where a knight whose symbol is a flower shaves the chest of his guy friend? You're telling me that's for the DUDES? I have personally never met a man who would stand up indignantly in the middle of a sports event and demand to see some chest-shaving, or he's going to ditch his buddies.
Don't even get me started on a major subplot of the series, which revolves around Daenerys, a woman who becomes queen of the horse-riding, nomadic Dothraki people across the water from the kingdom where the Starks and Lannisters spend all their time gossiping and sleeping around. Daenerys secures her power by taming her savage husband with sex, munching on raw animal hearts, and bringing new direction to a powerful nation nearly ready to invade Westeros. Similarly, the King's wife Cersei Lannister basically goes around murdering and fucking everybody in sight - including her brother - to consolidate her family's power and rob her husband of his throne. Seriously, can you imagine a guy getting into these stories about women taking power and ordering everybody around?
I'll grant you that there's a little bit thrown in here and there for the fellows. There are a few scenes of bawdy humor among the poor knights who guard the Wall, and I suppose men will like the characters of Ned Stark and the King - but honestly, those men are just condescendingly thrown in to appease the testosterone-enabled half of the population. It's sad, really.
But I suppose some men might like it - you know, if they have a taste for this sort of thing.