Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Reading: Is Game of Thrones Fantasy Crap?

game-of-thrones-hbo-poster-03Matt Zoller Seitz has some words for his fellow television critics: cool your jets.

Seitz, television critic for Salon, recently took umbrage at some of his critic colleagues’ thoughts on the much-anticipated HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones. He specifically calls out Slate’s Troy Patterson and Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times for dismissing not only the show too readily but the entire genre of fantasy.

Patterson’s review, “Quasi-Medieval, Dragon-Ridden Fantasy Crap: Art Thou Prepared to Watch Game of Thrones?” channels a faux-fantasy voice that Seitz argues is less a parody of Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin and “more like a goof on what Patterson imagines fantasy fiction to be.” It’s hard not to see Seitz’s point when Patterson begins paragraphs with fluff like: “Thus does the reviewer feel daunted to face an old nemesis at a late hour.”

Seitz then derides Bellafante for pigeon-holing Game of Thrones as “boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.” Female audiences are less easily plied, argues Seitz; simply tossing in graphic sex scenes willy-nilly (which Seitz feels Thrones isn’t, anyway) is a way into a teenage boy’s heart, not a woman’s.

That Game of Thrones has elicited such tepid and generalized responses from Patterson and Bellafante is intriguing. That their responses have so incensed Seitz is no less intriguing. It may, in fact, boil down to genre. I know people who can’t get into fantasy because they’re put off by all the funny-sounding names. Seitz believes that such an excuse is just that, an excuse:

“Imagine if a review of Deadwood had mocked the very idea of a Western series telling morally complex adult stories, or if a review of The Sopranos proceeded from the assumption that gangster tales are inherently worthless as popular art. You can't. It's unthinkable.”

We’ll surely have some Game of Thrones coverage over the next few weeks. Be sure to sound off in the comments if you think it’s just fantasy fluff or riveting drama that meets the bar built, set, and raised by HBO.