Note: I talk about sexy stuff and sexual things in this post. So stop reading, Mom.
A few months ago, after I read every single painful page of Twilight Saga, I decided I might as well continue on in the ‘batshit insane’ line I was walking and jump straight into the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I figured it would be a fitting continuum since FSOG is a direct ripoff of Stephenie Meyer’s work; the writer, E.L. James, actually started the work as a fan fiction of Twilight, decided she had struck a porno gold mine, and changed around key details in order to sell it as an original novel.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to buy any of these books. I work in a bookstore, so I would secretly bring copies of the books to the staff room to read during my meal breaks (unlike Twilight, I felt too embarrassed to read it during slow times on the selling floor). When I left work, I’d find .PDF files online and read from my computer or my phone. There was no way I’d actually pay for these things. Although funnily enough, I have paid for copies of the trilogy for other people; my BFF begged me to purchase a few copies for her while we were in London two years ago because they were about 5 bucks each.
I was prepared to be completely offended as a feminist about these books because of what I’d heard about them – mousy 21 year old virgin gets boned right by super creepy guy whose mom was a crackhead so clearly he’s into kinky shit, because TRAUMA. I wasn’t necessarily worried about the sex/BDSM, simply because I’ve read worse. Side note: If you’re looking for actual submission/domination literature I recommend The Story of O or anything by the Marquis de Sade, although if you were shocked by anything in FSOG you may need to take a deep breath before any of Sade’s work.
So I was greatly surprised when I found the books to be much more enjoyable than The Twilight Saga. Here are a few reasons why.
It’s unapologetically dumb, unrealistic sex. This is the literary equivalent of going to RedTube and scrolling through a playlist; the lead characters bang every four or five pages with ZERO care about joints, or bones, or genitalia that might get sore after a few hours. Seriously, how was there not a conversation in which Ana looked at Christian and said “Dude. We have to stop. I’m chafing.” E.L. James doesn’t let things like “plot” and “character development” get in the way of what she knows the readers are asking for. They want porn, and they want it now. But don’t get it twisted – this isn’t super dark bondage porn like everyone thinks it is. As I’ve said, I’ve read MUCH worse than this. In The Story of O, O gets her master’s name branded on her ass and then has padlocks attached to her labium. This is just vanilla sex with whips and nipple clamps attached to make it spicy. And let’s be honest – it’s hilarious. My personal favorite is the heavy employment of periods throughout the sex (and no, not just the time Christian removes Ana’s tampon so he can bang her menses-style). “You. Make. Me. So. Happy. I. Love. You” just sounds like it’s grunted out in between thrusts, and not in a sexy way but in a “I HAVE to say nice things or else it’s just going to look like I’m defiling this chick” way. Also, holy god who talks this much during sex?! But all in all, this isn’t the worst thing I’ve read or seen. Tory Lane does worse than this on a slow Tuesday at wherever she makes her crazy films. If you’re looking for a Harlequin romance novel with blindfolds, here ya go.
Ana has a backbone…kind of. I’ve been very, very vocal about my complete and utter hatred of Bella from The Twilight Saga, mostly because she’s a horrible bitch who hates everything and everyone for no reason and treats everyone around her like shit. Ana is mousy and demure, yes, but what surprised me about this trilogy is she actually is really good at not taking any shit from anyone. She’s incredibly strong but in a vulnerable way, and has a lot of snarky moments that I didn’t expect. Are there still huge problems with her characterization? Yes; Ana’s virginity borders on hermetic, and it does read like she needed the ‘right guy’ to give her a seismic lay (why do these characters NEVER masturbate? Oh right, because that’s a dirty ‘guy’ thing and SEX IS FOR THE PLEASURE OF MEN), and her refusal to discuss her genitalia in actual terminology is hilarious (It’s a vagina, Ana. The word won’t poison you). All in all, in a cage fight I’d pick Ana over Bella. Although that’s a moot point because we all know Katniss would smoke both of their asses. Although I wish she’d stop talking like such an infant – the repeated notions of holy moses and holy cow got super tiresome.
E.L. James doesn’t even try to pretend these characters are American. James clearly didn’t do any research on American figures of speech or speech patterns, let alone try to tackle how people from Washington State talk in conversational dialect. The entire thing reads as a bastard cousin of high English and mid-Atlantic accents, and I thought it was hilarious.
The INSANE plot twists because clearly James had zero other storylines. The crazy ex-submissive. The “Mrs. Robinson” who taught Christian Grey how to dominate. The psycho ex-boss who shoots down Grey’s helicopter (yes, really). The whole thing read like a Passions episode and I loved it.
I haven’t even gone over the insane laundry list of bondage stuff Christian has in his contract, because it clearly looks like James Googled “submissive contract for bondage” and C/P’d the results right into her book .doc file.
I can’t help but think I should hate this book. It propogates insane and dangerous ideas about bondage, S&M, and submissive/dominant relationships, and Christian Grey does one too many irredeemable things that take him past ‘complex’ and into ‘psycho’, and Ana eventually turns into a mother substitute for Christian by marrying him and ‘healing’ his troubled past as a poor abused kid from Detroit. That particular plot point made me want to yell at the book “Not every girl is your mother, Christian!” I found it annoying, too, that Christian’s interest in BDSM was entirely because he had a traumatized past. I know several people who have dated people in the BDSM community, and the overwhelming consensus is that they do their sexual practices for the same reason that you and I and everyone else who isn’t mentally ill engages in their sexual practices – it gets them off. You don’t need a traumatic backstory to engage in “kinky fuckery”, but then again, had Christian just ‘really liked’ to tie girls up, that isn’t complex enough for Miss James. Give us a traumatic, wounded-boy syndrome so the young virginal girl can ‘heal’ him!
Also, lines like this: “You beguile me, Christian. Completely overwhelm me. I feel like Icarus flying too close to the sun.” There will be no book prizes awarded to this prose.
And yet, I don’t hate the books and I will probably end up seeing the movie when it comes out. Why?
Because sometimes I’m sick and tired of hating everything and I just want to read something incredibly stupid, involving dumb and gorgeous people who have a lot of insane acrobatic sex in Red Rooms of Pain, and fall into subplots involving crazy Bitch Trolls and ex-subs who try to shoot them before getting sent back to a sanitarium.
Twilight infuriated me because it carried a subtext of dangerous propaganda. It was trying to get a message across to young girls about how they should comport themselves around men and with themselves. Fifty Shades of Grey has zero subtext. It is inflamed, engorged, swollen text, and it doesn’t give a shit if you like or or hate it. It’s just there, and it just wants your eyeballs on it. It is the literary equivalent of Guy Fieri’s Donkey Sauce, and I didn’t hate it. I should have, but I didn’t.
And I will be seeing the movie because it is directed by a woman and written by a woman from a female-written novel with a female protagonist. And Jamie Dornan.
Also, Beyonce’s reworking of “Crazy in Love” is so dark and twisted and operatic, and I love that she did it exclusively for the film. Also, I have to support everything Yonce does, or the Beygency will be on my ass.