George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire begins its TV adaptation this weekend with the first episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. As a longtime fan and evangelist of the book series, I’m naturally excited about the TV show after seeing what appears to be a staunch faithfulness to the original material. Advance reviews have started showing up online, and one in particular has stirred up a hornet’s nest today.

Ginia Bellafante at NYTimes.com posted her thoughts about the first episode of the series, and nearly everything about her article befuddles and / or infuriates me. I hate to send traffic their way, but in the interest of showing you her ignorance, here’s a link to her pseudo-review. It’s clear that she didn’t like the episode, which is fine. Game of Thrones won’t be for everyone, just as fantasy as a genre isn’t for everyone. I’m fine and accepting of that. What really made my jaw drop in an “oh no she didn’t” way was the willfully ignorant sexism that wafts out of practically every paragraph. Let’s deconstruct, shall we?

The opening salvo contains a warning about the complexity of the series and the vastness of the cast of characters:

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.’ ”

Game of Thrones, if it’s anything like the books that inspired it, will be hard to follow and confusing for people with short attention spans or folks who aren’t into complex narratives, so her warning is a fair one. I think it’s interesting, however, that she suggests that people who can’t connect with the show should go back to watching Sex and the City. I really hate labeling entertainment as being specifically for one sex or the other, but if I had to make a short list of “chick shows,” Sex and the City would sit somewhere toward the top. So Bellafante basically is saying, “Ladies, if you have a hard time following this stuff with your little lady brains, don’t worry. There are still lady shows for you to enjoy.”

The real stink bomb doesn’t come until a few paragraphs later, though, when Bellafante lets loose with this ripper:

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.

I’m half temped to insert an audio file here of a record scratching, but in the absence of such a MP3, please imagine that noise, followed by shocked silence. The “illicitness” Bellafante references is the nudity and sexual content of this first episode of Game of Thrones. I haven’t seen any of the series beyond HBO’s promotional clips, but I know from the books that there is a lot of purposeful and plot driven naughtiness going on in the land of Westeros. Presumably a faithful adaptation will include the affairs, intrigue, and incest of the books, something this reviewer seems to think HBO inserted just to give cheap thrills to any female viewers who accidentally happen upon the show. Because, you know, only women watch things with nudity and sex in them, right?

Even beyond that ridiculous implication is Bellafante’s assertion that geek women to not exist. Has she missed all the cultural progression of the past decade or so? For that matter, has she missed the point of feminism, a topic she loves to throw around in many of her other articles (try Googling her)? If Ginia Bellafante’s worldview is to be believed and accepted as truth, women have their place, and it’s nowhere near excitement, intelligent fantasy, and geekery. They are supposed to sit around with their girlfriends, passing around traveling pants and sharing divine secrets while they roll their eyes about their neanderthal men back home watching silly TV shows about, like, medieval sex and politics, or something.

This is patently offensive to me, and I never would allow an article like Bellafante’s to be posted on Fandomania. I actually am active in geek culture, and I see the number of women who are active in and passionate about geeky fandoms. I run a website specifically about geeky fandoms, and more than half of our active staff writers are female. In fact, the writer who will be reviewing Game of Thrones this season is female and is one of our best and geekiest writers. The most excited and vocal Game of Thrones fans I’ve seen in the leadup to the show’s premiere have been women posting on Twitter and Facebook. And yes, the vast majority of those women also are big supporters of Tolkien.

Given that geek women do exist and are not mythical goat sucking chupacabras, how and why does Ginia Bellafante come to the conclusion that they are so rare? I legitimately wanted to know, so I did some divining via the digital crystal ball that is Google. I wasn’t able to turn up much in the way of explanation, but I now know that one of Bellafante’s favorite movies is Talladega Nights, and she’s a Dolly Parton fan. Okay, so that’s not the full story. She also lists Dexter, The Wire, and Mad Men among her favorite TV shows. She clearly knows quality entertainment every once in a while, but she somehow went way off track with her geek girl suppositions.

Then I found a Time cover story Bellafante wrote in 1998, called “Feminism: It’s All About Me!” The article basically posits that feminism in the late ’90s abandoned the “Old Guard” goals and went “Hollywood.” A moderated discussion followed the article’s publication and later was transcribed and archived on Time’s website. In her article and in the discussion, Belafante attacks Ally McBeal as a counterproductive and anti-feminist character. An online reader asks a question, and Bellafante responds:

Sckanaday asks: What is the big threat Ally McBeal poses to old school feminists? I’m amazed at the backlash against a young, well-educated woman with choices who opts to live by her own agenda, not someone else’s! Isn’t that part of what feminism has stood for?

Ginia Bellafante: I think feminism worked long and hard to erase stereotypes of women as neurotic incompetents unconcerned with matters of public life. Ally McBeal, in my humble opinion, is helping undue [sic] that work.

Bellafante’s seeming desire to support feminism and to point out cultural stumbling blocks seems at odds firstly with her current 2011 supposition that there are “boy fiction” and “girl fiction,” but secondly and most distressingly with her suggestion that women have no interest in “boy fiction” and would be weird to take such interest. Is she a proponent of feminism, or does she think women can’t handle intelligent and occasionally brutal fiction? I have a hard time reconciling that she can have it both ways.

She’s not a stranger to internet scorn. Ginia Bellafante was the target of a blog post in 2009 skewering her for inaccuracies in a TV review she wrote about a Mike Judge cartoon. I have no desire to personally assail the woman or to call for her head, but what she writes seems to perpetuate a lot of ongoing misunderstanding and contradiction. I claim no understanding or position on her views of feminism or anything else beyond the one glaringly incorrect facet of her worldview that caused me to get on my soapbox.

Geek girls do exist, and haughtily presuming that they don’t is nothing more than a display of archaic ignorance and irresponsibility. Further, geek girls are awesome and fuel the good parts of pop culture, making most of the TV shows and movies that I love into bona fide fandoms.

If you’d like to check out more responses to the Game of Thrones pseudo-review, take a look at the great new post from Amy Ratcliffe at Geek With Curves (thanks to @DarthAqueous for the link).

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