Sunday, July 22, 2012

50 Shades of Aaargh

I try so very hard not to judge a book without at least attempting to read it - which is why I've never trash-talked Twilight, although I will happily mock the movies I have seen, and this kind of bit me in the behind with 50 Shades of Grey. 

I'd been hearing a lot about it, from both ends of the spectrum: people (hilariously) trashing the novel online, and people declaring it the best piece of erotic fiction ever. Although I had an instinctive dislike of 50 Shades of Grey, I reserved judgment...until I saw a librarian writing about how nice it was that any book was getting his teenagers to spend more time reading. 

At that point, I couldn't resist the urge to examine 50 Shades more closely, so I ponied up for an ereader copy. The housemates fortunately joined me in what turned out to be an incredibly painful experience, and we spent the next five nights taking turns reading out loud and doing voices for all the characters.

Result: I have many, many problems with 50 Shades of Grey. The most superficial complaint is that the writing is shoddy. This book could have benefited greatly from a few good editors, particularly ones willing to point out that no one cares very much about the main character's "inner goddess." 

My other complains are much more bothersome, at least to me personally:

  1. The relationship between Anastasia and Christian Grey is borderline abusive, yet never really identified as such.
  2. People who choose to practice BDSM, either as a lifestyle or just in the bedroom, are portrayed as suffering from deep-seated personal issues.
  3. I'm completely certain this writer has never, ever, done any of the sexual things mentioned in the book. There just isn't very much "erotic" in this fiction.
Of course, I feel that I should also give some space to people who don't hate the book quite as much as I do (which still making great points), such as the Bitch Magazine article Thinking Kink: Safewords:
Whatever else 50 Shades of Grey may have got wrong—and I know many of you feel that it got A LOT wrong!—the book does at least acknowledge the existence of safewords. Unlike other media representations of kink that I've already discussed here, 50 Shades reminds readers that in BDSM, “the Dominant may make demands of the Submissive that cannot be met without...harm” and therefore “the Submissive may make use of a Safeword.” The infamous contract that Christian Grey presents to Anastasia Steele also helpfully details the difference between "yellow" and "red" as safewords (the former tells the dominant the sub is close to their limits, the latter is a call for the dom to stop everything 

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