Why Readers Continue to Astound Me.
Seeing as everyone else has been writing about Fifty Shades of Grey, and you can’t seem to swing a synonym without someone ranting or raving about it, I thought I’d publish my own thoughts here. Deep in the heart of the internet where no-one will ever find them.
The book is awful. We know this. The people who read it, published it and even the ones who liked it, know this. It’s just a fact. The poor dialogue, badly created characters, faux tense love affair, and the ‘love a rich man’ attitude, throwing in references to expensive technology at every opportunity. And then, there are the sex scenes.
So, just in case you’ve been living under a rock (you lucky thing, you) here’s the skinny: Anastasia Steele (yeah, of course you’re called that) accidentally meets young, handsome entrepreneur Christian Grey when covering an interview for her roommate, who’s on the college paper. (Erm…that doesn’t happen. No, really.) He then stalks her a bit, using all his resources, because he’s super rich, and then decides to proposition her. Not in the ‘let’s date and then have sex’ kind of way. More in the ‘I want to beat you with sticks till one of us orgasms or dies’ kind of way. Therein, lies the all-encompassing crux of the story. She likes him, but doesn’t want an S and M relationship, he likes her, but doesn’t know how to do the standard relationship thing. Dum dum dum. Drama.
There are many, many things wrong with this book, the majority of which come down to bad concepts and bad writing. But what I’m more worried about are the responses from women reading this book, and the way women are presented.
–Anastasia is a virgin. In her second year of college. In all likelihood, she’s not going to start an S and M relationship straight away. The ‘young woman coming of age’ drama has been a storyline since forever. EL James jumping in with a girl who orgasms five times the first time she has sex, then happily agrees to sex on her period, is not only misleading and confusing, but just…gross.
–It’s pretty damn offensive to the S and M community. I doubt James has actually taken part in S and M situations, and she has said in interviews that these are her fantasies that she’s expressing on the page. That’s fine. But S and M is a legitimate sexual choice for certain people, and whilst Christian sets out a set of rules and limitations, James ruins this by later explaining that the reason he can’t have a ‘vanilla’ (boring, have-sex-in-front-of-the-television-almost-comatose type) relationship, is because his mother was a crack whore and he was pretty much sexually abused by a Mrs Robinson character.
This is BAD CHARACTERISATION. Is also sends the message that you are only into this type of relationship if you are massively fucked up. It then alternately makes women desire this kind of relationship. Hence all the readers should feel fucked up. Or they suddenly want to nurture the poor twisted hot guy, as is the way of silly women.
–Women talk about this relationship as if it’s an ideal. This seriously worries me, because the ‘great romance’ between these two characters is terrifying. If your best friend was in a relationship with a man who bought her a phone and a laptop so that she could text him and phone him wherever she went, told her what she could and could not eat, what to wear, what to drive, and isolated her from all of her friends, whilst demanding she stay in his house to be a sex slave, would your response be ‘Oh, but he’s so rich and dreamy’? NO. At least I hope not, or you’re a bad friend. Your response should be ‘this guy is a terrible control freak with endless resources and a desire to put you in dangerous situations and hurt you. Get out, idiot.’
I worry that if young women are reading this and believe this is an ideal relationship, all equality, friendship and other stable bases of romance will be gone, and we’ll be pretty much throwing away a good part of the women’s movement. Do not date control freaks. At best, you will end up alone six months down the line with no friends, no home and no idea of what you think of anything. Worst case, you’ll be trapped in a Red Room of Pain.
-Sex Personality vs Real Personality
Okay, so how you are in bed is your own damn business. Perhaps you get a little wild, speak a little differently. But when the voice of your main character goes from ‘I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul’. (Please excuse me whilst I throw up somewhere. Have you got a colour palette for exactly how dark your soul is, Christian? Are we thinking Pantone 2767? Let’s not be vague or melodramatic here) suddenly gets into the bedroom and becomes all ‘yeah baby, do it for me, yeah.’
Really? The overdressed, overeducated, control freak suddenly resorts to ‘yeah baby’s when he’s an S and M expert? Nope, not buying it.
-The Sex Scenes Aren’t Sexy.
There, I said it. I’m sorry, maybe it’s that I’m not the target market, which appears to be sexually frustrated mothers of a certain age. Maybe it’s because I unashamedly read a fair amount of chick lit that has decent sex scenes. Hell, even regular fiction has good sex scenes. There’s a few bits in American Psycho that are very steamy before he goes all psycho killer on them. So, in the same way that you should not think this is an ideal relationship, please do not think this is ideal sex. This is pretty much the poor literary equivalent to all those Cosmo advice columns on how thwacking his member with a tennis racket will make him like you more.
Well, there is a far from comprehensive list of reasons this book is not only bad, but potentially dangerous for the clearly baffling reading public. Also, you should check out this list of most hilarious quotes from the book. And, speaking of American Psycho, I’m really intrigued as to why Brett Easton Ellis is so obsessed with the series. He’s been posting up possible actors to play Christian in the film adaptation on twitter. And I have to admit, as much as I hate this book, there is likely to be a hottie playing the ridiculous main character. And as we all know, it’s fine when it’s a bad movie, just not when it’s a bad book that outsells Harry Potter.