Monday, April 02, 2012

The New York Times Takes A Dump On Game of Thrones Again

I think it takes a particular kind of arrogance to tell the readers of a review that they are basically too stupid to be able to follow the plot lines of a narrative work because there are a lot of major and minor characters.

But the New York Times has done this not once, but twice regarding the Game of Thrones on HBO.

Last year, Ginia Bellafante said the following:

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".

And this year, Neil Genzlinger took an equally vicious slash at New York Times readers who may have wanted to join the fun this year:

The character board for the series on HBO’s Web site has 49 head shots on it. Thinking of jumping into the new season without having seen the first? Don’t even try; your brain doesn’t have that many neurons.

Because it isn't the fact that they don't like it, because hey, we are all entitled to our opinion, and he is getting paid to share his. No, it is the dismissive attitude that the critic is using to paint Game of Thrones as this thing that only geeks... no, scratch that... something only this small subset of geeks could ever like.

It is part of the reason Roger Ebert's dismissal of video games irks me as well... because there is this attitude that anyone who likes them is dumb or wasting their lives. That's what these reviews in the Times reek of.

It's as if somewhere down the line, editorially they've just decided that fantasy is juvenile and should be treated as such. A commenter on the Io9/Geek With Curves article discussing the NYT review got right to the point of these reviews: "in short, 'if you're a basement dwelling NERD, go right ahead. the rest of us ADULTS have more important and artful things to watch, harumph.' "

The reason why I like Game of Thrones isn't the setting. It could take place during the Second World War, the High Middle Ages, in Japan, in the far future, and it would still be compelling. The setting is made for the struggles of its characters, it is true, but with tweaks, it could take place almost anywhere, any time. It is the characters themselves, in both the books and as portrayed on the small screen, that make it compelling in many of the ways other shows championed by critics (including at the New York Times) are.

Using the genre trappings of a series to utterly dismiss it is the worst kind of criticism, since it is based not on the content. You couldn't write a book report with that kind of superficiality, but apparently reviewers for one of the most prominent papers in history can get away with it.


Lee Sargent said...

I'm not a fantasy reading kind of guy, lord knows my wife has tried to get me to share in her passion but I just haven't been able to.

The show Game of Thrones though is a different kettle of fish. I've really enjoyed it and not once have I been concerned about the number of characters or plot lines.

In fact I marvel at the idea that in a show there are three major stories going on that all could warrant their own shows but are here interwined in a way that makes me love all of them and hate them as enemies at the same time.

So I'm your typical non fantasy person and even I can wrap my head around the show...

Semaj said...

It would be interesting to see what kind of shows these reviewers like and we'd get a better picture. I agree with you.

I wonder if they felt the same way about The Wire considering ALL the characters in that show. They would add 10-15 characters each season.

BTW, Loved the first episode of s2.

Kristyn said...

I've not read the books yet, I simply don't have that much time right now, but as soon as I do I plan to read them. I really, really enjoy the show, but I can't seem to get my husband interested, even though he IS a fantasy reader. Strange.

Either way, I think there's a problem asking people who are clearly not fans of the fantasy genre to review or give their opinions on fantasy content. It would be like me trying to review a hockey game, of course I'm going to see it as violent and pointless, I'm not a hockey fan--no offense to those who are, just saying I know nothing about hockey.

They need to find people who know something about fantasy to review fantasy.

Ashraf said...

i have watching the serial and its a very nice one and interesting too, after end of season two i will read the book