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 WERE MY PRE-CONCEIVED IDEAS FOUNDED?
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 clichéd 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.