Slate’s review of the HBO television adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” had me wondering if the editor took the week off, and whether there may be an opening in the writing staff I might apply for. The article begins with three paragraphs of numbingly unfunny, office-trope-mongering, doldrums-drawling sarcasm. The typist (author would be unearned) decides to replace their own experience for the review, an experience which seems to lack, might I say, production value.
I’ll say right off the bat that I understand the natural, if adolescent, impulse to sicken and wretch in the sight of all the geek-love buzz and HBO’s heavy promotion of “Game of Thrones”, which included food trucks and iron-throned pedicabs. That might knee-jerk a reviewer into playing hater for a day. Nobody likes to be led by the nose. This is the web, after all, and ranting is more fun than writing. Of course, neither Martin nor HBO are beyond reproach, either for their fan status or their obvious success. I don’t care how much money Twilight made, it and its fans deserve to be blamed for the irresponsibly messy poo "Twilight" made in our collective living room, and I will say why ad nauseum if I’m asked.
Perhaps that’s rude of me to say, but if I were to review "Twilight", I’d explain my point of view. The review of “Game of Thrones” I’m complaining about literally has nothing to do with it’s purported subject. If anything, it appears to be one of those papers a student writes in defiance of the professor’s assignment, but that’s probably actually giving it more honorable motive than this proto-solipsistic drivel deserves. It doesn’t even mention the subject of the review until the third paragraph, and then only to talk about the hype surrounding the title. It refers to the show as “dragon-ridden” which, considering that there are no dragons in it, is one of those oh-so modern “opinions” which needs “fact-checking.”
The reviewer goes on to compare his task to someone who hates "Harry Potter" having to read and write about one of the books, which means he probably should turn his paycheck in. From this point on, the article begins to make curious, although sumptuously worded, criticisms that imply the author decided to review the thing he didn’t want to watch, rather than actually watching it. He complains about the violent and sexual content as if it’s a sop to a crowd of lechers, when it’s quite at the heart of the story and is honestly must less prurient than the pandering other “gritty” critical darlings pepper themselves with. He calls the writing “unscaleable slabs of expositionistic dialogue”, a phrase so titillating it must be true – although it probably means that he never actually watched the materials sent to him. The dialogue scenes in “Thrones” are quite quick. He complains that there is no “revelation of character through action”, when that is precisely what happens on screen. Lord Ned Stark is introduced to us forcing his young son to watch a beheading that he himself stands executioner for, a lesson he feels the boy must learn over his mothers protests. That is precisely revelation of character through action.
What’s hysterical to me about all this is that another Slate author called the first on the carpet in an article that gives the first much more benefit of the doubt than they deserve, or that he showed to “Game of Thrones”. The very existence of this response calls into question the veracity of the first – as if the two decided in advance to play a little game. The problem is, the second author seems fairly on-point, so I’ll have to keep my media-conspiracy fantasies for myself (or pen a winning, gritty AMC drama about it).
A far less honest second-stab has been posted to the New York Times, where the original author of a review that prompted nuclear war from the “geek girls” on Twitter has posted her version of “I heard you”. It does far less than apologize for her ham-handed, if unabashedly ignorant review, and in fact refuses to acknowledge that her critics even deserve to have responded to her. She lays out the fact that she has been criticized as if its somehow amusing that the unwashed masses have dared to use that internet-thingy to voice their rabble-rousing. She even goes so far as to claim the fact that she knows no people who enjoy fantasy fiction as a kind of badge of honor, or at least (or actually, worse), an excuse for her point of view. This is the nicest possible way for me explain that nonsense: its like saying its okay to be of the opinion that milk is just for stupid babies because she doesn’t know any babies.
She goes on to claim that she’s allowed to have whatever opinion she wants, which is always a fascinating argument, but she actually goes on to boast that she is a “more than suitable stand-in” for the “average non-fantasy viewer”. I find this interesting because she’s actually saying, in an I-didn’t-quite-say-that-hand-waving way, that her opposition to the genre somehow makes her a kind of hero of the true book-readers, meant to stand against the hordes of semi-literate fantasy fans. Which is, again, like claiming that since you despise Ethiopian cuisine, you are eminently well suited to recommend to others which Ethiopian restaurants they might enjoy, just in case they don’t hate it.
Which is even more funny because I like Vladimir Nabakov and somehow, beyond all reason, still manage to enjoy G. R. R. Martin. I mean, I watch foreign language films with subtitles and I like them, and I still loved "Game of Thrones". Tell me, oh great and powerful wizards of culture: which one should I feel guilty about?
Just don’t tell anyone I like Stephen King, or I’ll lose all credibility.
Patterson’s Review on Slate:
Seitz’s Response to Patterson and Bellafante:
Bellafante’s response on NYT: