Reel Women: On ‘Game of Thrones’ and the Stupid Idea of Gender-Exclusive Media
Is 'Game of Thrones' a show that only men can truly love? One writer seems to think so, which raises an important discussion: We need to do away with this idea that shows and movies are gender-exclusive.
I wasn't even sure I'd have a column for you guys this week until I came across this "piece" over at Thrillist, in which Renata Sellitti writes about "Why Girls Hate 'Game of Thrones.'" It appears to be an attempt at humor, with a simple list of reasons why women don't like or are unable to enjoy the show, including:
- We hate gross things. Know what’s gross? Screwing your sibling.
- It’s hard to follow. Brilliantly developed storylines are great, but whipping out a dry erase board and Venn diagrams to figure it all out isn’t our idea of a good time. Unless we’re talking about soap operas. Those are perfectly fine.
- It reminds us of the kids that used to play magic cards in the cafeteria. And people who go to Renaissance festivals. Eating a giant drumstick and drinking out of a goblet is cool, just not every Sunday night for three months straight.
- It’s all naked chicks. In addition to the actual ladies of the night on the show, there seem to be a lot of...unofficial ladies of the night on the show. This is why guys love it, we get it, but we can do without seeing topless wenches in loin cloths.
There are so many things wrong with this article -- first, the idea that women don't like 'Game of Thrones' because we don't like gross things (like incest); because it's too hard to follow with its myriad characters (but it's easy for us to follow soap operas because that stuff is hard-wired into our DNA, apparently -- but also, 'Game of Thrones' is too hard to follow for our little lady pea-brains?); because it reminds us of the dorky kids at school who were made fun of for loving fantasy and RPGs (as if none of those kids were girls or had feelings -- this point is just cruel); and because we don't like seeing so many naked women on television (because we're prudes or we're jealous? This I don't follow).
The article goes on to give advice to men on how to get their ladies to watch 'Game of Thrones,' like selling them on the romantic plots because women hate action and violence, but we love kisses and cuddles, or telling them about Ser Loras' character because women love gay guys (but guys don't love gay guys? Again, I don't follow). But the biggest issue with articles like this one and its ilk is that they seek to perpetuate negative gender-exclusive stereotypes about media consumption. It's the same thinking as the outdated joke about a guy going to see a "chick flick" with his significant other for the promise of outstanding thank you sex. Put up with a bad romantic comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker or Katherine Heigl, and your patience for sitting through cinematic garbage is rewarded with a sexual act.
There is no male equivalent terminology for a "chick flick" (a "d--- flick"? a "bro show"?), and media has evolved to such a point that "chick flick" is offensive and kitschy. One need only look to the success of female-centric comedies like 'Bridesmaids,' 'Easy A,' 'Friends with Benefits,' and 'Young Adult' to see that audiences of both genders are eager to devour female-heavy entertainment as long as it's smart. "But what about stuff like 'Safe Haven' and 'Twilight'? Are those not chick flicks?" you ask. If "chick flick" is your term for something that explicitly targets and exploits a female demographic, and seeks to perpetuate negative gender stereotypes and the idea that women are reliant solely on men for their well-being and sense of identity, then sure. That's a chick flick. Whatever helps you sleep at night. We need to stop thinking in terms of entertainment "for them" and "for us" and open our minds to the universal idea of good entertainment.
Sellitti compares 'Game of Thrones' to soap operas in terms of the inundation of characters on screen every week, so is that the inverse? 'Game of Thrones' is for boys, 'Days of Our Lives' is for girls? I'm a woman and I've been watching 'Game of Thrones' every week since season one. I am equally invested in the romantic subplots and the grisly action, and like any normal human being, regardless of gender, I am often repulsed by Joffrey's behavior and the hacking of limbs in equal measure. I didn't play Magic: The Gathering or go out LARPing as a teen, though I did dabble in a little 'Final Fantasy' on our Playstation at home. I have never been to a Renaissance festival, nor have I ever actively wanted to visit one, and I've never eaten a giant turkey leg (though not for lack of desire).
Similarly, I am not interested in soap operas. I find them convoluted, exceedingly melodramatic, poorly acted, and the plot lines have never once appealed to my sensibilities. Do I enjoy things some would say are "girly"? Yes. My favorite movies as a kid were 'The Little Mermaid,' 'Labyrinth,' and 'Clueless,' and I was really, really into 'The O.C.' I paint my nails, I like a good period drama, and I've defended Katherine Heigl. Out loud. To other people. I also recently paid to see Michael Bay's 'Pain and Gain' in the theater.
My point is this: the idea of gender-exclusive media is silly and immature, and trying to tell men and women what they can and should enjoy is equally ridiculous. Sellitti's post reads the same to me as seeing a parent in a toy store, telling their little boy he can't have a Disney princess toy, or telling their little girl she can't play with Iron Man. We like what we like, and as human beings, our likes and dislikes are wholly subjective -- this is the only universal truth. If you believe that there should be separate shows and movies for boys and girls, then I hope you're up to date on your cooties shot.