Friday, April 15, 2011

Color me Offended and the Resulting Changes to A Reader's Ramblings

Today I read an interesting article at The New York Times which claims to be a Television Review of HBO's Game of Thrones (read the full article here)

For the most part it reads as a criticism of the whole project- the reviewer isn't a fan, which is totally okay, not everyone will love everything. Then I got to the following paragraphs:

"Like “The Tudors” and “The Borgias” on Showtime and the “Spartacus” series on Starz, “Game of Thrones,” is a costume-drama sexual hopscotch, even if it is more sophisticated than its predecessors. It says something about current American attitudes toward sex that with the exception of the lurid and awful “Californication,” nearly all eroticism on television is past tense. The imagined historical universe of “Game of Thrones” gives license for unhindered bed-jumping — here sibling intimacy is hardly confined to emotional exchange.

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."

The insinuation here is that no woman in her right mind likes stories like this unless there's some hot sex with hot boys involved. That we, collectively as a group, are champions of the likes of Lorrie Moore- who may be in fact be a phenomenal writer - but I've never heard of her, despite being a fairly well-read person. Thanks to wikipedia I now know that is she is "an American fiction writer known mainly for her humorous and poignant short stories." Great for her, but definitly not my cup of tea. And if I was in that particular book club, you can bet your ass that I'd be standing up and demanding some Tolkien (Silmarillion anyone?)to be included in the required reading. In fact, I'd hope that we'd be reading a wide variety of books- from YA and HisFic, to Fantasy and Chicklit. Of course if there was no chance of that kind of diversity, I probably wouldn't even bother to show up. Maybe that's why "no single woman" has challenged their book club on this, we simply think it's not worth the time. We are probably at home watching Lord of the Rings while wearing our Star Wars t-shirts and hanging out with other sci-fi/fantasy geek girls. In short, color me offended by the insinuation that my only interest in fantasy books, movies and tv shows is due to the sex scenes. To be fair- I certainly don't HATE that there are sexy guys running around, much in the same way that male watchers aren't turned off by they beautiful woman shown on the screen. Clearly this makes me a closet perv who can only be lured in by hot (naked) boys getting it on with anyone they can grab- the world building, the intrigue and the way that fantasy almost always is making a statement about historical events or the current state of the world is obviously lost on me.

Additionally, I worry about what message this line of thinking sends. As someone who is a current Library Student and who harbors a desire to work with Teens in the library setting upon graduation, I cringe when I think of how it will impact girls who like Sci-Fi and Fantasy. If we, as adults are being talked down to because we like this genre, then how will youngers girls feel? To be told that if you enjoy this genre then you must be only interested in the racy, illicit scenes is troubling. It implies that if you do like it for other reasons (as I do) that you are somehow outside the norms for your gender. Don't teens have enough to worry about without having to defend their choice of books, tv and movies to people?

So what does this mean for A Reader's Ramblings? How could it possibly result in changes here?

So here's the deal. My biggest gripe about this article was that it was presented under the guise of a journalistic review. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing a scathing review about something that you didn't like, so long as you back it up with some sort of facts. When you begin to make broad generalizations without backing it up, as the review here did by lumping women together in an anti-fantasy pile, you cross the fine line between professional review and editorial. This read as the reviewers thoughts and opinions as opposed to a proper review. Immediately upon sharing this criticism with some friends I felt like a hypocrite. Isn't that what I do here everyday, share my personal opinion on books? Sure no one is paying me, but why should they be held to a higher standard then I am? So here we are, and I've decided to make some very small, but I think important changes.

Moving forward:

1. While the posts will not change in terms of what is included (i.e. my personal opinions on the books I read), how I refer to these posts will. From now on they will not be called reviews. Instead every post will be "My Ramblings on [book title] by [author]. It may seem like a small change, but it makes me feel like less of a hypocrite, and since it's my blog, I get to make these monumental, world changing decisions ;)

2. I'm eliminating the rating system from this blog. I don't particularly think it's adding to the posts and I often find it hard to hammer down a starred rating.

So those are my thoughts on this particular article as well as the changes that I'm amking here on the blog. I'd love to hear what you all think- are you offended too or am I totally over-reacting? Where is the line between review and opinion piece and where do we bloggers fit in? Sound off in the comments (but keep it clean!).


  1. Amen, sister! I've actually read the entire series and appreciated Martin's monumental world-building and complex characters. Heck, my favorite part is the appendix where he explains the mottos and symbols. Shades of Tolkien, indeed! I generally skipped the more "steamy" scenes because they weren't why I read these kinds of books.

    Concerning book bloggers: As an author, I think book bloggers have every right to say whatever they want about a book.
    It's their blog.
    It's their right.
    It's their responsibility.

    Now, can someone please give me a hand off my soapbox. Thank you kindly.

  2. Thanks Darby! I think there are far more Geek Girls out there then the reviewers realizes (although I'm sure she will here from most of them!)

    As far as my blog changes- I figure I can't call her out for disguising her opinions as a journalistic review and then do the same thing here- although I hope I never insult a whole group of people by tossing out broad generalizations like she did! (And if I do, I hope someone drags me away from the computer, because it's probably time for a break!)

  3. Ironic that the author is putting a stereotype on women and what we read considering the post written was very narrow minded.

    I for one very much enjoyed Eragon, LOTR and Am looking forward to the Rangers Apprentice. I don't read books for the sexy scenes and honestly prefer to read a book without those scenes.

    Thanks for posting about this, I appreciate your opinion and for standing up for what you believe in. (And doing so without degrading another person)
    Jennifer Kjovus

  4. Wow, that is a pretty upsetting comment. I have to say, that people in my life (family and such) are always surprised that I like fantasy and sci-fi. It's still thought of as a guy thing. But that's definitely NO excuse for saying that the only reason a girl might like those genres is for the sexy stuff!

    And I don't think you're being hypocritical at all. You write reviews based on your opinions. That guy wrote a review with his opinions, but threw in a little sexism on the side. Totally different things.

  5. I think that is crap that the person decided to say that women couldn't possibly want to read sci-fi/fantasy unless there is a lot of sex involved. Sure romance adds to any story but the story does not need it to be interesting.

    As for reviews, I feel all reviews have a person's personal touches on them. The point of going around to the different blogs is to see what each blogger thought about the book. Sometimes this leads to many great reviews/opinions and a bought book and sometimes it doesn't.

  6. It's interesting to hear everyones thoughts- especially on the idea of the "review". I'm aware that I may be over-reacting a bit by re-organizing how I personally discuss books here- but to be honest, it's an idea I've been toying with for awhile. When contacting an author/publisher I always hesitate to say I'm a reviewer, instead I say I'm a Book Blogger. Perhaps I put too much weight on the that one word and what I think it means.

    That being said I kind of dig the post title being "My Ramblings on ..." then I won't feel bad when I go off on complete tangents- which if you follow this blog at all, you know happens frequently!

  7. Oh come on! men don't tune into shows because of the sexy stuff? The irony is that I know plenty of women, myself included, who actually find shows that use gratuitous, hedonistic sex as a gimmick to be offensive and a total turnoff. I'm actually less likely to watch a show that is saturated with sex. And btw, I am also a huge fan of fantasy, sci-fi, and martial arts movies/shows/books. Th author of the article obviously doesn't know too many women (or knows only one particular type) and possesses some sexist preconceived & narrow-minded notions of what women like and look for in their entertainment.

  8. Okay...I know there maybe some...maybe a lot of women out there that fall into this category. I personally know a few. However, I am not one of them. Yes, I enjoy Fantasy, Sci-fi and all the above. But I like some guts, some heart to my stories. I am totally turned off by the fluff...the hot, gratuitous sex. Yes, I am a girl...a woman...I enjoy some romance. I don't read or watch something just for the sexiness though.

  9. I have always been a big fan of fantasy and Sci Fi--since I was a teen, in fact. I loved being able to escape into wild adventures into other worlds. I saw all three LOTR movies in theaters, the Star Wars, and Star Treks too, I love watching Merlin--not because of the sex but because of the fantasy... I love swords and sorcery and in fantasy we we get that adventure and magic. What I am trying to say is that while some romance is fine in fantasy and Sci fi, it is not why I watch or read those genres. I love the action and the adventure, and when the story becomes too much about the sex my interest wanes. I love these genres, but not because I am looking for some bodice rippers--I am looking for an engaging imaginative story that can transport me to adventure in another world. To imply that women only watch Sci Fi and Fantasy because they want to watch the sex is insulting, because I know a lot of us who just want a good story.