Media: Disabuse Thyself of Thy Superiority Complex

Believe it or not, there is a prejudice – a stigma – attached to fantasy these days. Particularly, it would seem, from our sneering overlord gatekeepers, the Media. A lot of controversy in the news recently about the media snubbing fantasy fiction as not even worth their attention, as though it were somehow beneath them to recognize the genre’s existence and thereby tacitly admit that it is a legitimate art form.

As though somehow Glee was better than, somehow.

The current ruckus was started over in the UK, when the World Book Night opened with massive giveaways of selected titles. The WBN was designed to promote literacy, and gave away over a million books. The BBC decided to use the publicity of the WBN to do a series of specials on the subjects of reading and books. The specials aired on BBC2.

The only trouble was that the BBC specials omittedentirely – the great works in the fantasy, sci-fi and horror genres, despite the fact that many of the books given away at the WBN were of these genres. It was as though these great works didn’t really count, or possibly that they didn’t even exist in the first place. So great was the snub that many authors are calling for a reckoning. A petition was written up and signed by over 85 big names in the fantasy/sci-fi/horror genres, including Greg Bear, Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Moorcock, David Brin, Harry Turtledove, Tamora Pierce, and others.

The other bit of media sneer strikes a bit closer to home. Here in America, media reviewers have been panning the recently debuted HBO fantasy series, A Game of Thrones, based on the bestselling book series by George R. R. Martin. Now, I’ve not yet seen the show, but so far as many fans can tell the reviews aren’t panning the show for being bad. They’re panning them because they’re fantasy.

The trouble here is that the reviewers seem to have an avowed distaste for fantasy. Slate’s reviewer, Troy Patterson, actually admits to despising the genre, having actually canceled a date with a girl when he found out she participated in becostumed Renaissance fairs. The title of his review? “Quasi-Medieval, Dragon-Ridden Crap.”

Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times makes the same sneers in her own review, but makes her own with no actual evidence to support it (she gets through the entire review without mentioning a single scene, event, location, character or bit of dialogue that she found so distasteful). On the other hand, she does reveal her inner snob in short order. The plot to Martin’s work turns on the intricate relationships between men and women. Bellafante, however, thinks otherwise. She dismisses the entire thing as nothing more than “boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.” The love, sex and romance are apparently there only to draw the girls in, because everyone knows girls hate fantasy. The last refuge of socially-deficient adolescent males and all that, right? This pathetic insult is only slightly better than the one I was honestly expecting – the girls were hopelessly exploited for the sake of a little eye candy for the virgin nerds holed up in mom and dad’s basement.

Therein lies the stereotype. Fantasy is somehow perceived as being the last refuge of the geek boys, clustered around a D&D table and making squealing noises as they role six-sided dice. The fact that these reviewers seem to think this is what fantasy is disqualifies them from reviewing such content. No one’s arguing Game of Thrones should get glowing reviews if it doesn’t deserve it – and remember, I havn’t seen it yet – but for the sake of Pete, assign the review to someone who will at least give it a fair hearing.

It’s high time the media got over itself.

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