To quote the great Dr. Evil, “I’m hip. I’m with it.” Actually, I’m no more “hip” or “with it” than Dr. Evil and his Macarena, but even I, she of the rock dwelling, have heard of 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Like many of the socially awkward, I’m more likeable in a digital format, so I spend a decent amount of time on Facebook. Whenever a bestseller comes up as a frequent topic of conversation, I like to be able to chime in with a self-satisfied “oh yes, I already read this, here is my opinion…” So I was vexed when 50 Shades was everywhere and I hadn’t read it. I looked up the synopsis, and it didn’t sound that intriguing, but the sheer volume of readers it had made me feel left out.
Heck, even my Mom was telling me all about it. Actually, she was telling me that one of her co-workers’ husbands had taken to hiding from her because 50 Shades had turned her into a wanton woman. A little bit of background information on 50 Shades… It started out as Twilight fan fiction. Fan fiction can go in all sorts of directions, from re-writing endings to writing unauthorized sequels to just taking the beloved characters you’ve grown attached to and throwing them into an alternate universe. 50 Shades is Edward and Bella, minus the supernatural, plus the super lustful. For every instance where Twilight was wholesome (the characters didn’t sleep together until marriage at which point Bella conceives a lethal Halfling child- a cautionary tale to the teen readers I presume), 50 Shades is, well, filthy. It’s erotica.
50 Shades didn’t invent the genre. Steamy romance novels have been around forever. My college roommate Chrissy introduced me to them. Harlequin romance novels, to be specific. It was fun to take a break from studying to read a trashy book. It was downright hilarious to read them aloud in a group after a few cocktails. Frankly, if you need smut to inspire you to read, so be it. It may not be great literature, but you’ll improve your vocabulary (creatively!) and indulge in escapism. Win-win. So, if you read 50 Shades of Grey and you never read anything else, I applaud you! Yay for reading! You can stop reading this blog right now, because I’m about to completely trash your favorite book.
You’re still here? Okay here goes. My problem with these books (they’re a trilogy, I read the whole thing) is not the S&M element. Well, maybe a little bit. But only because Anastasia wasn’t really sure she wanted to be doing it, but did it anyway. But you know. I’m nobody’s moral authority. Nobody else’s nocturnal activities are any of my business. My problem with these books is that they send the WORST POSSIBLE MESSAGE to women about their independence.
Oh did I just get political there? Yes, I did. It makes me angry. Being a recent college (or high school, or grad school or whatever) graduate is terrifying. You’re officially out of the world of academia and expected to figure out what to do with the rest of your life, find gainful employment doing so, and somehow manage to support yourself in the process. People make mistakes, they learn, they grow. But you know what never happens? A gorgeous BILLIONAIRE never falls madly in love with you and buys you a publishing company to play at while he lavishes you in finery. Also, with the amount of nookie going on in these books, I frankly can’t figure out how anyone ever slept at all. And THAT is unrealistic. Because people sleep and snore and drool and fart and that’s just LIFE, okay?!
I hate the idea that the new “ideal” man is a hunk who wants to control you to the point of dictating your eating habits. And if that weren’t enough, Ana, through her love and devotion, “FIXES” Christian’s problems. Yeah, there’s a therapist involved. But really, it’s romanticized to her being all “oh let me fix your broken psyche.” Because American women don’t fixate enough on “improving” the guys in their relationships. A single episode of daytime television will show you how well THAT works out! I’m not anti-romance. But I am anti “if I just wander around being adorable someone will come along and make all my life decisions for me so I never have to think and I’ll also get to wear designer shoes every day.” (I’ll admit it, I might be a little jealous about the shoes…) Not to mention, Ana has really low self esteem and can’t figure out why this Greek God of a man wants her. You know why she can’t believe it? Because it’s ridiculous. Even the main character has trouble suspending her disbelief in light of her situation.
Don’t be stupid ladies. If you want to read these books to indulge in a little scandal and spice, then by all means, enjoy. But for the love of Pete, don’t try to glean any life lessons from them. Please. Sorry for ranting.
PS- Is anyone else concerned about how they’re going to make this into a movie? I really can’t see how it can be done without being full pornography. There’s precious little story to go along with the spanking and shenanigans.