Matters of Taste

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. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to ”The Hobbit” first. ”Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.
– Ginia Bellafante

She forgot to mention puppies too, for women.

It’s coincidental (or is it?) that there’s a Korean TV show called ‘Personal Taste‘. It kind of blends this and last weeks’ topics to a kind of perfection I usually only see on TV. (See what I did there?)

Personal taste is a funny/interesting thing. We each have our own interests: this morning, for example, I procrastinated on doing this blog for a good two hours watching alternating episodes of Daria and Sailor Moon. (Does this say something about longing for childhood? No? Good.) But our own tastes are usually what brings us together as well, as friends, a club you might be in, a culture. In general, we can work out which TV shows will work with which demographic. But not always.

Ginia Bellafante has decided in her New York Times review for Game of Thrones that GoT is “boy fiction”. As a high-heeled feminist, this doesn’t sit quite right with me. In fact, I tend to agree with the Huffington Post response to Bellafante’s article:

When we categorize books as “boy fiction” and “girl fiction” it’s just another way to promote gender stereotyping. It is predicated on the assumption that people will only read books that reflect their personal experiences, so therefore women will only deign to read about dating, shopping, and kitchen intrigues. This is patronizing to women and undermines one of the core purposes of literature, which is to take us on voyages beyond the scope of our personal experience so that we expand in our understanding and capacity for empathy. And I think most women get this; I think most women are willing to read novels with male protagonists in worlds apart from their own. To imply otherwise is an offense to the gender.

We don’t only watch shows that interest us. If we don’t experiment, how on earth will we even know what we like? Since beginning this course and hearing about all the “quality TV shows”, I’ve watched a ridiculous amount of shows I’ve never watched before and never thought I would be interested in. I’m now a complete Breaking Bad fanatic, I watch The Sopranos when I’m feeling a bit too Mafia-ish and miss the ducks in my swimming pool, I adore Liz Lemon, and Buffy, and I can’t wait to find out who the killer is on Twin Peaks. And NONE of these shows would I have ever googled if it weren’t for this course.

In saying all that, however, I don’t like Game of Thrones.

I don’t like the show, according to Bellafante because I’m a girl. This reasoning actually makes me sick! I don’t like it because I find it boring. I have never liked TV shows set in the none-time-specific past. I find it too hard to relate to, I find my suspension of disbelief is constantly being broken. And to totally girl out on everyone, I don’t like the fashion! Watching GoT I am honestly thinking 75% of the time: PUT A BRA ON DAENERYS! It

Daenerys sans bra - as per usual

drives me crazy. But guess what? I can turn the TV off! Just like the girls who don’t like Sex and the City can flick channels (or website tabs) to GoT. Or they can alternate episodes like I was doing this morning! Female empowerment go!

Even though I don’t like GoT in and of itself, there are aspects I appreciate and connect with on some level. Having read some of (one of) the books, the chapters I most liked reading were Arya’s. The girls do hold their own in the later episodes, something I enjoy seeing in any show. And then there’s the essential suck-you-in-at-the-very-last-moment-so-you-NEED-to-see-the-next-episode trick.

As posted on the GeekFemme blog:

“There are a lot of kick-ass women and girls. Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Catelyn Stark, Arya Stark – they all survive hardships and fight in the best ways they know how. They fight for power, their families, and for their lives.

I want to see the Wall and the White Walkers. I want to watch Cersei Lannister and Ned Stark exchange words like they are weapons. I want to see Arya learn how to dance. You get the picture, right? I’m not saying, “Wow, I can’t wait for that Dothraki orgy scene.” Of course, I can only speak to my feelings. Other women could be tuning in just for the “illicitness” but this woman would watch even if Jason Momoa kept his clothes on.”

Hey girl - Unbelievably GoT is still appealing even when Jason Momoa has a shirt on!

Hey girl – Unbelievably GoT is still appealing even when Jason Momoa has a shirt on!

What would it matter if females were tuning in just the sex scenes anyway? I’ve known many a smart woman to read 50 Shades for no other reason. We are the post-Sex and the City generation, after all.

Myles McNutt dissected the early reviews of GoT in his Cultural Learning Blog, focusing in one section on the appeal of the show to men:

“When the article was tweeted (and then retweeted by the official Game of Thrones account), the point [that the show appeals to men] was even more succinct (and alliterative!): “Beheadings, barbarians, bastards & boobs. Why We F***ing Love Game of Thrones.””

So yes, it does indeed appear to anyone who has watched the show that GoT does appeal to a number of demographics, something I think it does well despite not appealing to me personally.  Who really cares if boys and girls take different stances on what appeals to them? We can all see how the show appeals to men, so why should anyone stop them from making a alliterative list of things they like about it? It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it in our own way, too.

And anyway, wasn’t one of the very first scenes and GIRL beating a BOY at archery?! Don’t tell me that doesn’t appeal to women!

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3 Responses to Matters of Taste

  1. lucydayman says:

    Nice stuff Zoe! I really enjoy your writing style. Your statement “[W]e don’t only watch shows that interest us. If we don’t experiment, how on earth will we even know what we like?” was very interesting, as I was commenting on narrative complexity and ‘quality’ programs on another blog earlier where I discussed the fear more ‘elitist’ viewers have of watching a program that isn’t necessarily considered ‘quality’. I feel like it’s an important issue within the evolution of TV and TV genres, because there would be nothing worse than switching on the TV and having to watch something, not because you personally enjoy it, but rather because it’s considered the ‘right’ or more ‘cultured’ thing to do. I feel personally it could become a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome, where people start praising something because everyone else is. I guess the lesson to learn here is try a little bit of everything, or don’t bother watching anything, huh? Cheers.


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  3. I every time spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s posts everyday along with a cup of coffee.

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