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View Full Version : You're Not Supposed to Respond to Negative Reviews, Right?



SPMiller
04-18-2011, 02:17 AM
When a writer begins a blog post with, "I usually make it a policy not to comment on reviews, especially negative reviewers," as George RR Martin did yesterday, you know what follows will be delicious.

First, I'll get some links out of the way so you can do background reading if you like. The New York Times review in question is available here: the review that started it all (http://tv.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/arts/television/game-of-thrones-begins-sunday-on-hbo-review.html).

tor.com's response (http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/04/a-response-to-the-ny-times-game-of-thrones-review)
the writer's response (http://grrm.livejournal.com/210874.html)
more drama via Google for your viewing pleasure (http://www.google.com/search?q=%22boy+fiction%22)

Ginia Bellafante has written a textbook example of the oft-heard claim that some reviewers and critics simply hate genre fiction. Thus, I present to you my review of her review, execpt I'm actually going to refer to specific points in the material I'm criticizing.

Her review is best summarized as a dismissal of A Game of Thrones as "boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half," here referring to women. Boy fiction, huh? Clearly, she has not read the source material, and she is unfamiliar with the fantasy audience, much of which is female. I wouldn't have been surprised had she gone on in the very next sentence to denounce romance as nothing but bodice-rippers. It's the same sort of nonsense we genre writers have had to put up with since, well, about as long as the notion of genre fiction has been around.

Ms Bellafante wastes no time in drawing attention to her own short-term memory and attention span. Early in the review, she writes that, in her opinion, "[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." I don't think it's reasonable or appropriate for her to project her own shortcomings onto the viewership at large, but that's her prerogative.

She goes on to baselessly impose the modern global-warming/climate-change debate on a story that was first written twenty years ago. Ms Bellafante writes, "Embedded in the narrative is a vague global-warming horror story." Apparently, she has never heard of the Fimbulwintr (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fimbulwinter) of Norse myth, or the many other examples in ancient religions that are antecedent to the idea.

Her first truly offensive statement comes with a knock on little people by equating them with the dwarves of fantasy. She writes, "We are in the universe of dwarfs, [...]" No, Ms Bellafante, we are not. She never mentions the name of the character she's referring to, who happens to be Tyrion, but he is not a dwarf in the mythological or Tolkienien sense. He's a dwarf in the little-person sense, and we have plenty of those in the real world, thank you very much. I'm sure they appreciate your disdain.

She asks, "What is “Game of Thrones” doing on HBO?" I don't know, Ms Bellafante. Probably the same thing True Blood is doing there: earning money for the network, like any other show.

She proceeds to question why someone of Mr Benioff's caliber would deign to participate in the production of a fantasy television show. To her credit, she notes that he "fell in love" with the story and actively sought to involve himself. Clearly, he saw something in the source material that Ms Bellafante did not, yet it doesn't seem to have occurred to her that her own view may not reflect the audience's.

One of the comedic highlights of the review is her denigration of the incest plot point, which she describes as "sibling intimacy [...] hardly confined to emotional exchange." Later, she lauds the Rome HBO series, which I agree was quite good. However, she has obviously forgotten that brother-sister incest was a plot point in that show, too. Whoops. That has to be embarrassing.

Another show she considers an example of HBO at its "most intelligent and dazzling" is The Sopranos. Because that was such an excellent portrayal of "real-world sociology," right? Why, it might as well have been a documentary. And it certainly can't be described as a show centered around the "notions that war is ugly, families are insidious and power is hot."

By far the most offensive paragraph is the one in which Ms Bellafante suggests that the sex "has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise." My reaction has been better expressed in some of the links provided above, but let it suffice to say that there are a lot of women upset about that and related statements.

All of that said, I can only conclude Ms Bellafante was not serious and has instead carefully crafted a troll review designed to violate not just logic but also as many standards of good taste as possible. By the way, I searched teh intrawebz for a photo of her, and here's what I came up with:

http://img535.imageshack.us/img535/1056/trollfacew.jpg

jennontheisland
04-18-2011, 02:23 AM
Aw, the poor thing had to read subtitles too.

sheadakota
04-18-2011, 02:26 AM
Boy fiction? Really? Wow-

Xelebes
04-18-2011, 02:43 AM
I read the review and felt it was more of a slam against HBO than anything.

fourlittlebees
04-18-2011, 02:47 AM
I read the review when it was tweeted by Felicia Day and was offended without having read or seen Game of Thrones. I love SF and fantasy, as does my 11-year-old daughter. I thought that her "icky boy cooties" review was sexist and unprofessional. If you can't review something without dragging your own baggage into it like that, you shouldn't be reviewing, much less for the NYT.

SPMiller
04-18-2011, 03:01 AM
Oh, and the show itself is airing (cabling?) in a couple hours.

fourlittlebees
04-18-2011, 03:05 AM
Oh, and the show itself is airing (cabling?) in a couple hours.

I actually wish I had cable right now just so I could watch it.

jennontheisland
04-18-2011, 03:15 AM
I actually wish I had cable right now just so I could watch it.
Me too. Only I'd need a tv as well...

jennontheisland
04-18-2011, 03:23 AM
I love that the review itself has been rated only 1.5 stars.

cameron_chapman
04-18-2011, 03:23 AM
My personal experience with NYTimes reviews of just about anything, whether it's books, movies, or TV, is that if they hated it, there's a good chance I'll love it, and vice versa. The NYT's reviewers seem to have this uncontrollable urge to prove that they are intellectually superior to the "masses", and in doing so have become so out of touch with everyone but their own little mainstream-media clique, that their reviews hold little real value (outside of possibly humor) for 95% of people, including their own readership.

Honestly, the overt sexism and the obvious lack of any real research into the history of the series on the part of the reviewer doesn't surprise me in the least given the general quality of NYT reviews.

Disclaimer: I've never had a NYT review, and likely never will given my choice to self-publish, so this is by no means sour grapes. :wag:

rugcat
04-18-2011, 03:39 AM
Here's a quote from TV critic Tim Goodman, who thinks The Wire is maybe the best TV show ever. (As do I.) He's not a particular fan of fantasy, but he is a fan of smart and interesting shows.
What are the elements that drove people to love a show like Sopranos? Was it the bad guys killing their rivals over turf? Was it the plotting and scheming ó New Jersey vs. New York? Was it the nudity and sex? Complicated antiheroes? These are all prevalent in Thrones. The point is, donít let the fantasy aspect toss you off course. A great drama can be set nearly anywhere, and Thrones proves that in every hour. Nuanced dialogue sets it far above most historical dramas, and there are quality performances throughout (especially from Bean, Dinklage, Addy and Maisie Williams as Arya Stark).

Perks
04-18-2011, 03:53 AM
I think Mr. Martin handled it well. In this case, the response was warranted.

JoNightshade
04-18-2011, 03:56 AM
Yeah, I don't see a problem with GRRM responding to this. First, it's not even a review of his writing... it's a review of a show based on his writing, which I'm sure he has a fair degree of influence in, but a lot of things are out of his control as well. Plus, he's not just going "OMG she doesn't like me!" He's responding specifically to some very specific statements she made, not about him or his subject matter, but about a huge portion of the population.

And seriously, could she be any more wrong? I'm a woman, and I prefer sci fi to fantasy because, to put it in the author's weirdly gendered worldview, fantasy is too "girly" for me. Not only has she not read GRRM, or any fantasy at all, it seems clear she doesn't even KNOW anyone who has.

On a side note, I very, very strongly suspect that the NYT prints this kind of crap on a regular basis in an attempt to boost click-throughs and readership.

Stacia Kane
04-18-2011, 04:20 AM
io9's Annalee Newitz wrote a very funny, extremely tongue-in-cheek rejoinder to the NYT story, too.

http://io9.com/#!5792574/really-why-would-men-ever-want-to-watch-game-of-thrones


.

Darzian
04-18-2011, 04:21 AM
Funny article. I've would've ignored it if I'd been the writer in question. The whole thing is ridiculous and a response isn't necessary.

SPMiller
04-18-2011, 04:45 AM
On a side note, I very, very strongly suspect that the NYT prints this kind of crap on a regular basis in an attempt to boost click-throughs and readership.Yeah, that's what I meant when I said it's a troll review. She seems to have written it to incite responses, which is the definition of trolling. Whether that was done at an editor's request, I can't say for sure, but the consistency with which the NYT does this is indeed suspect.

Momento Mori
04-18-2011, 04:15 PM
NYT Review:
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.

Since when did women only watch historical or fantasy drama for the nookie? Is that why they have Don Draper shagging everything in sight in Mad Men (which I note the reviewer seems to view as good TV)? There was nary a bare boob in sight during Lord of the Rings (at least, in the version I saw in my local cinema) and yet women were queuing up in droves because it was an example of good visual storytelling.

Sigh. Silly NYT.

:pets:

MM

shaldna
04-18-2011, 04:56 PM
I have a couple of friends who were extras on GOT, and maybe I'm a little biased because filming of the series here was a huge boon to the local economy and is going a long way to helping push Northern Ireland up the film and television production ladder.

In addition, I am a huge fan of the books, and last time I checked, I was still a woman.

I think the initial review wasn't a review at all, it was a rant. The only two points that were made were that it has a large cast - it's a fantasy epic, sorry that it requires more thinking about than a four piece cast and plotlines that are more complex than buying shoes. The other point was the sex and the inference that it had been added to make the series more appealing to women. Yeah, because when I sit down with my mum to watch tv, what I really want to be seeing is a lot of graphic sex. o__O

It's clear that the writer isn't familiar with the source material, and that is fine, because she wasn't reviewing the books, she was reviewing the series. HOWEVER, in that context she should have at aleast commented on the series. An insight into how the programme looked, were the episodes too long/short/just right, were the costumes good, what about the effects? How was the acting, did the cast have chemistry, what about the script - was it good, cheesy, too wordy, too dumbed down? Was it interesting enough for people who aren't familiar with the genre to watch? Did it make you want to watch again?

THOSE are the issues that should have been addressed by the writer.

However, it seems to be a running theme in her reviews, there are many responses to her reviews of different programmes which start 'did she even WATCH programme x?' and from this review, I suspect she probably didn't, at least not fully.

gilesth
04-18-2011, 05:00 PM
I really wanted to watch the premier of GoT, but after this review, I want to buy the DVDs as soon as they're available!

JamieFord
04-18-2011, 05:09 PM
There are some places the NYT is ill-qualified to go, and the realm of fantasy reviews is one of them. They should stick to Olive Kitteridge and leave reviews of actual creative writing to someone else. Martin's response was perfect.

icerose
04-18-2011, 06:02 PM
I'd say this is the review and the response that breaks the rule of don't respond to negative reviews the right way. If you're going to break that rule, make sure it's a review like this, and make sure your response is a reach out to the fans rather than getting down and personal.

Jamesaritchie
04-18-2011, 07:35 PM
I like the books, but it doesn't look like a series I'd have any interest in, and I some parts of this review strike me as valid. You can't use women who like something to say many, or most, women do not. That's a numbers game, and would take a valid scientific poll to decide.

The series is presented as "gritty". To me, this reads as pure trash.

But what difference does it make? Responding to a bad review is stupid, no matter who does it. Those who want to watch the series will watch it, those who don't want to watch it will change channels.

Phaeal
04-18-2011, 09:53 PM
There was nary a bare boob in sight during Lord of the Rings (at least, in the version I saw in my local cinema) and yet women were queuing up in droves because it was an example of good visual storytelling.


No bare boobs, but close -- some of the most stunning decolletage in movie history on the part of Liv Tyler and the cunning costume designers.

I think the girls were lined up to drool over Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Karl Urban, David Wenham, and Orlando Bloom. Except for the ever immaculately coiffed and groomed Orlando, never have actors looked sweaty and scruffy to better effect. :D

Ahem. As for the review in question. Girls like sex on screen, but boys don't? Huh. I did not know that.

Blatantly anti-genre. But I'm used to it. I mean, our local movie critic was incensed that following the success of The Fellowship of the Ring, those damn studio pigs concocted a "sequel," that is, The Two Towers. And, what the hell? After THAT was a success, they came up with yet another blatant sequel, The Return of the King! The ungodly cupidity!

smcc360
04-19-2011, 06:50 AM
The Gray Lady looks grayer every day.

Momento Mori
04-19-2011, 12:52 PM
Phael:
No bare boobs, but close -- some of the most stunning decolletage in movie history on the part of Liv Tyler and the cunning costume designers.

Exactly - they were an example of good visual storytelling. :D


Phael:
I think the girls were lined up to drool over Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Karl Urban, David Wenham, and Orlando Bloom.

:shifty eyes:

Not necessarily. I was there for the ... Ents.

:shifty eyes:

:polishes shrine dedicated to hot sweaty men:

The whole anti-genre prejudice thing amuses me more than annoys me. If some twonk at the NYT wants to bash on fantasy then it says more about them than it ever does about the genre.

MM

Polenth
04-19-2011, 02:40 PM
Ahem. As for the review in question. Girls like sex on screen, but boys don't? Huh. I did not know that.

You know how it goes... women download porn from the internet, while their innocent menfolk prefer to read sweet romance novels so they don't get embarrassed. Imagine how different the world would be if men liked watching sex too.

Torgo
04-19-2011, 03:24 PM
It wasn't even a review of the TV show - it was basically a review of the genre. It was quite impressive, as someone said on Twitter, to have done a TV review without mentioning a single character, situation or plot point. So I think no problem for GRRM to respond.

The most baffling bit for me:


Embedded in the narrative is a vague global-warming horror story.

Whut? No there isn't. Where on earth did that come from?

Kitty27
04-19-2011, 03:34 PM
Exactly - they were an example of good visual storytelling. :D



:shifty eyes:

Not necessarily. I was there for the ... Ents.

:shifty eyes:

:polishes shrine dedicated to hot sweaty men:

The whole anti-genre prejudice thing amuses me more than annoys me. If some twonk at the NYT wants to bash on fantasy then it says more about them than it ever does about the genre.

MM

I understand,MM. We were there for the plot and the wondrous works of Tolkien being brought to life. We paid absolutely no attention to Viggo Mortenson striding about, bursting with testosterone and such*clutches pearls and fans self*

Ahem.

I don't understand the dislike towards fantasy. I WUV it. I watched the first episode and I quite like it. Responding to bad reviews is never advisable. Give a Kanye shrug and keep it moving.

KathleenD
04-19-2011, 11:37 PM
It's widely known that women can't handle intricate plots or casts with dozens of supporting characters. That's why you never hear about females watching soap operas.

SPMiller
04-20-2011, 12:34 AM
Now that the reviewer has defended her position in a blog post hosted on NYT servers, I'm further convinced the article was trolling for hits. Not providing a link because I don't want to give them hits.

dragonangel517
04-20-2011, 12:53 AM
It's widely known that women can't handle intricate plots or casts with dozens of supporting characters. That's why you never hear about females watching soap operas.


This.

I love fantasy, and the more intricate the plot the better.

Libbie
04-20-2011, 01:09 AM
The thing I thought was so goofy about her review was that she just blanket-assumed that women don't like Martin's series. I've read a lot of fantasy, and ASOIAF is by far my favorite, for many reasons, but among them the fact that Martin writes female characters so well...and has such wide variation in his female characters. That's something not often seen in any book, movie, or TV show that's targeted "just for boys," as many of them are.

So fantasy stuff isn't for everybody; I get it. I will admit that after the first time I read ASOIAF I didn't bother with any more fantasy; I realized, and still believe, that nothing in the genre can top it. Fantasy isn't everybody's bag. But it was pretty short-sighted of her to declare that Game of Thrones is obviously No Girls Allowed just because it's got swords and knights and stuff. Smart women like a good story, no matter what its setting, and ASOIAF/Game of Thrones is pure good story all the way through.

Libbie
04-20-2011, 01:14 AM
Yeah, I don't see a problem with GRRM responding to this. First, it's not even a review of his writing... it's a review of a show based on his writing, which I'm sure he has a fair degree of influence in, but a lot of things are out of his control as well.

Well, to be fair, Martin is one of the screen writers for the series, and he wrote the pilot and one other episode entirely by himself (I think it's the forthcoming seventh episode, if I remember correctly.) Or maybe I'm totally wrong about that; but I know he is definitely on the writing staff for the show. He got his start writing for TV, so it's only natural. ;)

Torgo
04-20-2011, 01:50 AM
Well, to be fair, Martin is one of the screen writers for the series, and he wrote the pilot and one other episode entirely by himself (I think it's the forthcoming seventh episode, if I remember correctly.) Or maybe I'm totally wrong about that; but I know he is definitely on the writing staff for the show. He got his start writing for TV, so it's only natural. ;)

Even if he is, and I'm too lazy to Google it, the review didn't criticize or even mention anything he thought up. It just beat, trollishly, on the genre.

Torgo
04-20-2011, 01:52 AM
(Yeah, so I read Bellafante's 'response', and it still didn't provide any more evidence that she'd actually watched it.)

MJNL
04-20-2011, 02:05 AM
As others have said, it's completely sexist to insist that women are only interested in the sex and not the political intrigue. If she's the type of woman who can't wrap her mind around a complex plot, fine. No need to claim the rest of us are as intellectually stunted.

bettielee
04-20-2011, 03:03 AM
I've never read this series, but I am always interested to see how my fave genre is recieved/televised/movie-fied.

My take: Some people don't like that the geeks are going to rule the universe eventually.

*shrug*

oh, and I Love GRR's response, esp:



2) thank you, geek girls! I love you all.

elasticmonkey
04-20-2011, 04:25 AM
I'm just curious as to why she thought the sex was in there for the ladies. There were a lot of boobs in that episode, and I believe (generally speaking) guys tend to be more aroused by boobs than girls are.

But hey, troll is successful I guess.

Whatsherface
05-06-2011, 08:06 PM
Mmm, fantasy my only true love in this world.

The grittier, the better. Game of Thrones is quickly becoming my favorite show of.. pretty much all time, ever and forever.