Fact: I do not remember a time when I didn’t love to read. I like a wide variety of books and I’ll often ask others for recommendations on what to read. Someone told me “if you liked the Twilight books, you will like 50 Shades”. I wish I could remember who said that so they could get a well-earned thump on the noggin.
Fact: I am not a book critic nor am I very literary. My favorite author is Danielle Steele and I just admitted to liking Twilight. Team Edward all the way, baby, in case you wondered.
The hype surrounding the initial release of the book has died down but as the release of the movie gets closer there is more chatter about 50 Shades and the perpetually insatiable dysfunctional guy with mommy issues that we all know and love as Christian Grey.
I’ll give my thoughts on this work of “Fan Fiction” and yes, girls, it is Twilight Fan Fiction. Let me recap just in case anyone has been living under a rock and doesn’t know what I’m talking about:
50 Shades was written by E.L. James, who didn’t think the Twilight series had enough sex. I find it creepy that someone read a book about high school students (granted, one had been 17 for a really long time) and thought there needed to be more sex, but there you have it.
There are 3 books in this painful (pun intended) series. Set in Seattle, the protagonist is Anastasia Steele who closely resembles Isabella Swan: plain, awkward, clumsy, neurotic, has a childlike mother who isn’t quite treated as an adult and close to her dark skinned platonic male friend Jacob Jose. Sounding familiar?
Our heroine meets smokin’ hot, emotionally distant Christian Grey in a situation that is so totally out there I can’t even be bothered to comment on it. He is inexplicably drawn to her but pushes her away at the same time. He doesn’t like to be touched and is a textbook commitmentphobe with what anyone who can pronounce the word “Sye-coll-oh-gee” can recognize as abandonment issues.
Disclaimer Time: I didn’t finish the series. I read the first 2 books and somewhere during the first chapter of the third book, I asked myself “why the hell am I reading this crap” and clicked exit.
Once Edward decided that he had to have Bella (oops), he presented her with a detailed contract that specified how she’d be his on-call sex toy for shenanigans mostly taking place in his “red room of pain”. Totally not legally binding (anyone who ever watched JAG or LA Law should be able to figure this out) but who cares about details when you are sucked in to detailed descriptions about Christian’s unruly copper colored hair (again, sound familiar?) Bella Anastasia hemmed, hawed and fretted over that contract like it was the Magna Carta. To say Christian Grey likes a side order of freaky is like saying Matthew McConaughey is pleasant looking.
Despite the fact that Edward Christian wants a regular romp devoid of emotion, these two predictably fall in love and get married. Shocking. Although his desire to control her every move freaks Anastasia out (as most things do) their weird courtship moves at lightning speed. They were on their honeymoon when I decided I’d had enough. I am assuming they lived happily (and freakily) ever after but if there was some kind of plot twist, I’m in blissful ignorance.
Why I don’t like this book:
1. Double Standard: This book is labeled “mommy porn”. The minivan driving forty-something rocking the high waisted capris and white Keds is reading a detailed account of BDSM sex while sipping her latte at soccer practice. And that’s okay because “mommy porn” sounds harmless? We chuckle over the idea that our fictional soccer mom is reading erotica but turn the tables. If a forty something year old dude rocking carpenter jeans and a comb over was reading “daddy porn” in the same situation, we’d be giving him the stank eye and getting our kids the hell out of there. Am I right?
Does calling it “mommy porn” make it less pornographic? Is it more socially acceptable for women to admit to enjoying porn if they have their own, more benign sounding category? What’s the difference?
2. It’s not a healthy book for young women: I have seen so many posts and tweets about “how I long to find a man like Christian Grey” and “my boyfriends’ great, but he’s no Christian Grey”. Why is this desirable? Why are we romanticizing fetishes and control? Christian uses coercion and threats to make Bella Anastasia do his bidding. He chooses her clothes and monitors her social schedule. While Anastasia lamely expresses the level of control “freaks her out”, she happily lets him buy her all kinds of expensive crap. She finds it both exciting and distressing when he whispers threats about “really making it hurt” when she dares to do something against the almighty Christian Grey’s wishes.
3. The book is poorly written. I am not the grammar police. I am probably not even that great of a writer, but there is something decidedly un-sexy about a sex scene that reads as if it were written by a seventh grader.
The author is from England. The books are set in Washington. I am not sure how her British-isms didn’t get tossed out in the editing, but there are some snippets I doubt that I’d understand if I didn’t have the advantage of hearing people speak British English daily. And there is way (way, way, way) too liberal use of the word “jeez”. Jeez.
I can overlook a few run-on sentences but the author is definitely rocking some poor writing. I find little about this book that is in the ballpark of realistic. The frequency at which sex occurs in this book is a joke. 5+ times a day, every single day? I’m just not stepping in what you’re throwing down, E.L. Picture bunnies on Viagra. And maybe some blue meth. I think your guy parts would fall off if you do it that much. But that’s just me…if it’s normal to do it that much, please no one tell my husband.
In all seriousness, the fact that young women find this lack of autonomy desirable is discouraging. I totally get the draw of having a guy buy you presents when you fret about things not going your way. Having an oh-so-discreet live in maid to wash your unmentionables and cook you breakfast after a night of debauchery? Well, who wouldn’t like that? But finding lack of control over your decision making sexy, just because the guy is hot and rich? I find that sad.
Do we want our daughters to read this kind of stuff and idealize this excuse for a relationship? Do we want to raise strong, independent women who control their own future or sniveling sea sponges who fear making a decision without the stamp of approval of a clown who poofed out of nowhere and declared himself her “master”? Blech!
My personal thoughts – and yes, I know my mom and daughter read my blog. Mom, Sissy, you might want to skip this part. I feel it is wrong for me to get excited by porn (any porn, and yes, 50 Shades is porn) and then be intimate with my husband. It takes my focus off of where it should be during that moment (and it only should be on my husband). For us to do the stuff that married people do because I’m titillated by reading about some college student getting beat with a whip…well…I am just going to be the party pooper and say “that’s not cool”.
I know what’s right for me. It’s not my place to tell you you’re wrong if you see it differently. If you like a good dirty book, more power to you. But look elsewhere for a good dirty book because I don’t think this is one. My convictions aside, I think this book just sucks.
If getting lost in the tale of the BSDM antics of an insecure college girl and a control freak with deep seated mommy issues sounds like a good way to spend a couple of lazy afternoons (trust me, people, this is a fast & easy read), rock on.
If you are not so inclined, I’ve pretty much written down the plot, so you don’t have to trouble yourselves with reading it from scratch. You’re welcome.
Jill Robbins writes about post adoption life and random mom topics at Ripped Jeans and Bifocals. She enjoys running, dry wine and dry humor, and Lily Pulitzer (because it hides all the crap her kids spill). Her most recent accomplishment is learning to tweet. Her mother is very proud. Her next project is an anthology of adoption stories titled But They Are My Own – Tales from the Checkout Line, which you can read as soon as she snags a publisher. You can follow Jill on Facebook and Twitter.