Aug 10 2012
In the first of (hopefully) many future team-ups with contributors, I’ve partnered with our own Remy Carreiro today to take on a topic that has gone without comment for far too long: 50 Shades of Grey. It’s not a TV show, video game, comic or movie (yet), but it is a pop culture phenomenon, and I finally broke down and felt I was neglecting my job if I didn’t see what the hell people were so excited about. I recently read the book, which was born as Twilight fan fiction and then changed into its own story for legal reasons. It became popular with older women, long the typical consumers of romance novels, but soon spread to every female age group.
I wondered what all the fuss was about. Steamy novels have been entertaining housewives for decades now. What was it about this book that was so special, the thing had to become a national best seller? After reading it, I’m still trying to find the answer to that question. If you’re thinking about reading it for yourself, know up front that it’s pornography. That’s not hyperbolic, it’s actually literary pornography with sex scenes FAR more graphic than I was ever expecting to find. That’s nothing against porn or people’s right to watch it, but 50 Shades being a best seller is roughly equivalent to NBC broadcasting a primetime show starring Jenna Haze and Mandingo. It may be popular, but how in the world is it socially acceptable?
I’ll give Remy a chance to chime in here. Poor soul, I subjected him to this and now I feel kind of bad now that I know what I got him into. Remy, what did you think of the book? (Spoilers follow in our discussion)
The book doesn’t have pictures, so we’ll have to do with Matt Bomer as Christian Grey.
It was like I went through the seven stages of grieving while reading it. Initially, when I started reading it, I felt shock and denial. How can this be so widely accepted, I thought. Then pain and guilt. Did you ask this of me as a punishment? Is this like the movie Secretary and you’re introducing me to this world? I was so confused, and slightly scared. The next step I hit was anger and bargaining. I was going to write you and ask you if maybe I could watch a Madea movie marathon and review it or something, anything but this.
Then the depression and loneliness stage hit me, where I was ashamed I had this book, and that I was reading it, so I didn’t leave the house (for a day) and then I felt the upward turn and it tricked me for a minute. I really believed that every woman on Earth must be a freakishly horny nymph waiting to be placed in a scenario where they willingly sign sexual contracts. Then the reconstruction and working through it phase, where it hit me this was by no means a reflection of woman in general, and moreover, was poorly written smut being passed off as literature.
And finally, as the book fell to the ground, I felt acceptance and hope. That as putrid as this bile was, we would be able to at least have an interesting back and forth that might make a good read for some people, and spare them the horror that is 50 Shades Of Grey.
The thing that stood out to me, besides my pangs of nausea, was how it was OK that woman across the country were carrying this book around and reading it on a bus or at break at work. To me, it would be like a guy carrying around a Penthouse magazine so he could read the letters when he gets bored. That wouldn’t ever be Ok, so why is this?
Don’t get me wrong, when my lady met me I had a whip hung up over my bed, so the lifestyle doesn’t bother me at all. What bothered me is full on smut being passed off as literature, like you said.
Also, there is a really good author who writes about S&M that some people may have heard of, his name was Marquis de Sade, and he actually did something that people who read may find interesting, he wrote well.
Alright, I was wondering:
So when did you realize this book was NOTHING like you expected?
And if I may, what did your fiancée think when she saw you, curled up on the couch with the book? I warned my lady ahead of time to avoid such scenarios.
Ooo imaginary Christian Grey, you so dreamy.
I guess I wonder if this book is actually popular and well-liked, or if it’s simply being so widely read because it’s controversial. Women are saying to each other “oh you HAVE to read this, it’s so scandalous! But I don’t think it’s beloved the way say, the Twilight series is. I think it’s simply created controversy among a group of people who wouldn’t normally be caught dead near “normal porn.”
To answer your question, when I realized it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be was almost at the end, actually. I thought that it was building to something. That there was some reveal planned that was going to give the book some semblance of an actual plot. But there wasn’t, not ever. Perhaps the characters are more fully fleshed out in the sequels (which I will in no way read), but as it stands the entire plot of the book is a girl being relentlessly pursued by a billionaire who happens to be the most beautiful man on earth and dynamite in the sack. There’s literally no other plotline. Their relationship is the entire story, from start to finish. You can’t have a book based entirely on that. Even Twilight has a overarching plots that are past the central love triangle the books are famous for. Even traditional romance novels have a sexy warrior saving a princess or a sexy fireman rescuing a maid. This is just a really rich guy with odd sexual quirks who is as obsessed with a seemingly normal girl nearly as much as she’s obsessed with him. It’s a daydream that someone bothered to write down, and it doesn’t make for an interesting read.
For me, the sex scenes were jarring at first because I didn’t realize how graphic they were going to get, but as time went on, they became the most boring parts of the book. Even the “weird” stuff wasn’t truly that bizarre. You mentioned Secretary earlier, and it’s certainly no more extreme than that film, probably less so. It just describes the acts in greater detail in long, drawn out scenes that last pages. I found myself waiting for the sex scenes to be over in the hopes that in the intermittent dialogue I might discover an interesting plot point. I found none.
And yeah, my fiancée made fun of me plenty when she found out I was reading this. I’m actually telling her to read it because I want to get a female perspective of someone close to me as maybe she can shed some light on why girls like it.
Did you find anything about it that could possibly explain why it’s this popular? It reads like bad fan fiction, and it literally is bad fan fiction, as that’s how it started. What did you make of the characters and their alleged “dark relationship”?
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