Friday, 13 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey

Wow, where do I start? I mean genuinely, how do I actually begin to comment on this series?

After much reluctance, despite being hammered repeatedly over the head every time I saw a chat show, listened to the radio, read the paper, visited the bookshop counter, I finally just gave in and downloaded the wretched thing. Here are some of the reasons I was originally not going to download - some cynical some maybe not quite so.

Firstly, I was irritated by the mass media support of the series as if it was actually global news - a genuine cultural revolution and another triumph of the indie press movement. The cynic in me noted her husband's highly influential media connections *coughs* same husband who is now reputed to be releasing a children's book in the next couple of months.

Secondly, it's based in fan fiction - I have no problem with this in principle; It's great fun, fabulous community involvement, creative and just all round brilliant for the author - but then to go and commercially publish that fan-fic having effectively 'stolen' a whole premise and concept feels, in my humble opinion, inherently WRONG. But then I've always had a total bug bear about plagiarism.

Thirdly, that it was 'cheap' formulaic erotica that perpetuated worrying power relationships which would be potentially damaging for young women.


So I read Fifty Shades of Grey in a couple of days. There is no doubt that it is captivating- however I'm still trying to work out whether it's captivating in a magical way or in a watching-a-car-crash-kind-of-way. There is no denying that the characters of Christian and Ana are quite endearing and more complex then I had pre-conceived - however, is this because essentially they are the same psychological characters as Bella and Edward from Twilight? (I am an unashamed Twilight Fan)

I was surprised to find Meyer come out in support of the series when there are descriptions and figurative phrases that appear so close to Meyer's that they could almost lifted from the pages of Twilight; especially the descriptions of Christian. It made me feel defensive of Meyer and her creations, and a little irritated that with a more imagination there could have been more distance between the two. There are of course romantic literary hero tropes and the employment of these is fine, but Edward's copper hair is SO 'Edward'.

The continual sex scenes were also ... tiresome - yes, that's the word I'd use. There is genuinely too much of a good thing - like pudding! However, I do applaud the promotion of safe-sex what with all those 'foils' being ripped but I couldn't help but cast a wry smile over Christian (CEO of a multi-national corporation) walking around with his pockets stuffed full of condoms - just on the off chance. Then the safe-sex message was rather undermined with the very creepy arrival of the doctor and her almost 'enforced' contraceptive injections.

The whole submissive, dominant 'thing' was not as offensive to me as perhaps it has been to others - I understand it is in the realm of a specific form of erotic-fantasy and it has been intriguing that the fantasy has been so collective to the mass public. What I find more distressing is the reinforced message about Ana changing Christian. This is worrying because it perpetuates a very dangerous message that there's a certain female superpower capable of 'changing' an abusive, bullying, controlling man into a hearts and flowers romantic.  To me this is a much more dangerous fantasy than a bit of clich├ęd BDSM sexual play between two consenting adults; and it is especially when the media have 'normalised' this work, making it 'acceptable' for young women as young as fifteen and sixteen to read it (and they are, I've seen copies stuffed in school bags in much the same way we used to sneak in Jilly Cooper's 'Riders' and giggle at the carefully folded down pages.)

I will confess I purchased the second but I won't be buying the third.  There's no reason for me to. I've completed my 'research' and discovered everything I want to know about Ana and Christian - like over intense dinner party guests, they were interesting in the beginning but then they just became a bit of a bore, full of self indulgent naval gazing and pseudo-psychological angst.

In conclusion, the series makes for a quirky little read but in my humble opinion, I still maintain it is a complete travesty that this has outsold some of the most influential and talented works of the twenty-first century. It also saddens me that for a huge percentage of the readership, this will be one of the very few books they read post school days.


  1. You definitely hit the nail on the head. I also view it as a train wreck you can't help but look at to see what the fuss is about. I had the same trepidation as you about reading this series after all of the hype and controversy. I agree 100% with your commentary on the first two books. As of right now I'm not sure I will finish the series.

    The only pro I see is that more people are reading but my *wish* is that is leads to better book choices. There are much better choices in both the romance and erotica genres available if that is what people want to read.

    1. Thank you, Marissa. I thought maybe I was a little alone in this one. It seems to have divided people into a love and hate camp, but for me it was more complex than this. Fascinating situation and debate nevertheless.
      I saw in WHSmith's window today that the publisher are releasing another erotica novel this Thursday using the same 'packaging' / 'branding' as The Fifty Shades of Grey series; it's going to be interesting to see what happens. It will also be interesting to see how many 'authors' this unique publishing carries along with the tidal wave of commercial hype.

  2. Hi Katie, would that be Bared to you by Sylvia Day? I actually found that to be written better & not as repetitive. I was addicted to Fifty Shades I have to admit & whilst reading the first book I really wasn't sure about it at all but had to know what happened throughout the series so did read them all & actually enjoyed them but like yourself the sex scenes were too often & got bored wiv them in the end, who in real life has the time? He suppose to be a billionaire business man so you would expect him to be just too busy to get jiggy that often. Over all I did enjoy the series & you kinda get swept away wiv all the hype as it seems to be all over the social networks wot wiv the movie news etc & I will admit I'd probably go and see the films too just to compare the books to it....... Sad but true, lol. I can definitely see your points of view thou Katie :) xx