Thursday, September 12, 2013
Review of 50 Shades Of Grey
First, my synopsis. Anastasia is a nice, smart, simple girl finishing college and working at a hardware store who is seduced by Christian Grey, a powerful, young magnate who is disgustingly rich, invidiously charming (which pisses me off…because I’m not), and is brain-injuringly attractive—which, let’s be honest, if he weren’t, this book would never have been read by anyone…not even me. Dude’s every girl’s Mr. McDreamypantsandsocks. When he finally woos her, he reveals a passion of his: a BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) playroom. You should have seen her face. He wants a relationship with her that makes her his submissive, and him her dominant, and he wants this relationship to extend to all areas of their lives, not merely sexual, as long as they are together. This scares her, but he slowly warms her up to the idea, and she begins to interact with him with an understanding that it will be temporary. As it turns out—and this is the KEY, the author’s stroke of genius that keeps women reading—he’s been abused as a child, and she feels sorry for him and somehow excuses away his selfishness as a sort of handicap—much easier to excuse, remember, because he so hot that nuns pour their holy water on him to boil the hell out of it. So, Anastasia decides she’s going to do this whole ‘weird’ thing with him because she thinks there’s hope for their relationship, which never existed apart from the fact that, as I mentioned before, he was so hot that she needed to peel his clothes off with a spatula. Finally she ends up realizing he is not going to be over his wanting-to-spank-her-hard anytime soon; and she ultimately gets offended enough after an especially hard spanking (literally), and depressed enough after the especially hard spanking (again, literally), that she determines he doesn’t really love her, and she leaves him. After the especially hard spanking. Again. Literally.
Okay, I laugh, but all you haters have to keep in mind that this book was numero uno on the NY Times bestsellers list for 30 weeks, has been translated into over 50 languages, the trilogy have sold over 35 million copies in the United States alone, and over 70 million copies worldwide, setting the record as the fastest selling paperback of all time, and this writer that people castigate as being inept and amateur made $95 mil last year. We have to keep in mind that this writer, though her fanbase is now mostly middle-aged women (she was mid-forties when she wrote it), began writing the series as a friggin fan-fiction (unauthorized spin-off stories) on the internet for the Twilight saga. Her characters were even named Bella and Edward for the good Lard’s sake! She removed them from the site after complaints about the eroticism, and posted them on her own 50 shades website before publishing. That’s how they started, but there was a HUGE demand obviously for this kind of writing, or it never would have made it anywhere. So when a Sir Salmon Rushdie, may he live forever, says about the book, "I've never read anything so badly written that got published. It made 'Twilight' look like 'War and Peace’”, I respond with a, “Hey, Rushdie’s reading 50 Shades? I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.”
As far as the whole message of the book, apart from the obvious ‘kink’ factor, I would say James is wanting to leave readers with a warning to, simply put, be careful who you give your heart too. Intimacy without trust is fun while it lasts, but ultimately love is about mutual care and concern for each other. If you play, you’ll pay. A quote in the book is sent to Anastasia from Christian, taken from Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, “Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me? Ladies know what to guard against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks…” That’s the overt message that James would like to be credited for ‘teaching’. But, c’mon, we all know this isn’t meant to be read as a warning. This is a titillating ride, and the stop at the end, though it ends with grief and loneliness, is but an invitation to get back in line and ride it again. The meta-message, even beyond the author’s conscious, intended moral seems more to be this: risky relationships and edgy sex are fun while they last, so don’t be a wuss. Honey, bite that juicy apple! You’ll survive to tell your story, and maybe make $95 mil in the process. Maybe. Or you’ll just ruin the rest of your earth-weary life and call every man you meet a pig.
The religious community and many conservatives have made quite a stink about it, but I’m not sure it’s warranted. Even the Jews put an entire book of erotica in their Hebrew Scriptures to show their support for the genre, which also happens to be in the Christian Canon—Song Of Solomon, which is very graphic and sexually explicit when all the metaphors and meanings are parsed out. And as far as scenes or descriptions that some may find offensive, we need to keep in mind that nearly every single one of us will put up with any number of offensive themes and images in movies, shows, books, and other media to enjoy a good thrill or a transporting drama. My concern would be more related to the cause of the hype surrounding this book, and the reason why so many singles, mothers, and wives feel so bored with their existences that a ‘desperate housewife’ mentality is starting to appear fairly common. I think it’s okay to try new things and explore ways to spice up one’s love life, but while reading this book it became startling clear that this Christian character was extremely selfish in all ways, and completely and utterly devalued and dominated this girl. The ONLY reason she stuck around was because it was fun and he was…did I mention this?... so hot you could cauterize a machine-gunned extremity on his abs. Too far?
So often girls complain about guys who are only seeking trophy-wives for their own self-aggrandizement. With this book, guys have the opportunity to reverse the accusation: there are girls whose wettest dream is to be objectified by guys who seek to make them their trophies. Kind of sad, but that’s what the success of this book might indicate. Or not.