50 Shades of What?

I’ll be honest for a second. When I was in middle school/ early high school, I read all of the “Twilight” books. Looking back, I sort of hate myself for reading them, and for even semi-enjoying the first two. It’s not just the way the novels are written and the fact that the vampires (who are supposed to be fearsome and all) sparkle more than Ke$ha does after a night at the club, it’s the implications behind the characters actions and the way that readers seem to perceive their actions.

Growing up, I understood a girl’s ideal guy to be a prince or a knight riding up on his horse to save her from whatever trauma she might be experiencing. But now, Edward Cullen seems to have become the embodiment of the ideal guy. Looking closer, who wouldn’t want to date a guy who watches you while you sleep and wants to drink your blood? Really, it’s normal for girls to want guys to think that their blood smells wonderful, instead of thinking that they’re smart or beautiful.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” has become a bestseller. The novel isn’t like “Twilight,” it basically is “Twilight.” E.L. James, the author, originally wrote the story as “Twilight” fan fiction, but changed the names before publishing it.

From what I’ve gleaned about the series, it’s a level or so below the “Twilight” books, which is saying something. Not only is James’ writing comparable to or worse than Stephenie Meyer’s writing, but the violence and themes are worse than those in “Twilight.”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that violence in books is a bad thing, but it’s the nature of the violence that bothers me. It seems like there’s something wrong when a book about the relationship between a controlling and essentially abusive guy and his victim is considered romantic. Not only is there the BDSM aspect (which is pretty much what the entire book is about), but there’s also the fact that the supposed heroine allows a guy that she barely knows tell her how to dress, what to eat and what to say.

Yes, the main character “chooses” to engage in all of this, but does her ability to choose really make her a heroine and justify the nature of the relationship? It seems to me that it just makes her and the book itself encourages readers to excuse her and her partner’s behaviors, and accept their relationship as sexy, and even romantic.

I’m not saying that the books are evil or that people should stop reading them, but it’s one thing to consider the books entertaining, and another thing to consider the characters’ behavior as acceptable or their relationships to be romantic. Really, how many of us grew up fantasizing about our future partner being a controlling stalker or a domineering sadist? Read the books if you want, but please remember what century we live in and that women no longer have to choose to be in relationships that strip them of their ability to choose.




4 thoughts on “50 Shades of What?

  1. Morgan Akens (@TennMorgan) says:

    First, “50 Shades of Grey” is an erotic novel. It isn’t the first of it’s kind, it’s just the first in long time to top the best seller charts. So take it for what it is.
    Second, I also read The Hunger Games trilogy but I don’t camp outside in my backyard with a bow and arrow looking for silver parachutes to drop from the sky. I read for pleasure, not because I am looking for a new role-model.
    Third, I wouldn’t recommend writing an editorial about a book that you have haven’t read. Spoiler alert: the main character actually protests the BDSM in the series and doesn’t end up choosing that lifestyle. It really just winds up being about kinky mutually enjoyable sex. Which is at the core of any erotic novel.
    My mother had the same comments to make about the “50 Shades” series. However my mother’s comments were entirely based on opinions of people who either are unfamiliar with graphic novels or hadn’t read the books. I suggested she give it a try and
    when she did, she was pleasantly surprised.
    I actually find this book series very inline with the “century we live in”… it’s a century where it should be perfectly acceptable for women to be open with their sexuality and read whatever kinky novel they may be into.

    • Kasey Jones says:

      I am well aware that erotic/romantic novels are not a new concept. I never claimed that they were. I didn’t write the article as a book review, I wrote it as an analysis of a theme that I found disturbingly prevalent in both “Twilight” and “50 Shades of Grey.”
      It’s not the BDSM aspect of “50 Shades of Grey” that bothered me. I’m not trying to discourage it as being an archaic form of male dominance. Both men and women engage in BDSM, and women may play the dominant role, as well as the submissive role. It all depends on what each couple prefers.
      What bothered me about both books was the role that the leading male played outside of the sexual relationship. In “Twilight,” Edward spied on Bella, followed her and even tried to control where she went and the people with whom she associated herself. Similarly, Grey tries to control Ana beyond the sexual aspect of their relationship. Grey stalks Ana, coerces her into signing a non-disclosure agreement and seems to want complete control over her life.
      Within the sexual boundaries of a couple’s relationship, I think it is acceptable for each person to place his or herself within the other person’s control. After all, sex places people in a state of vulnerability that often requires that they give themselves over to the other person. This doesn’t necessarily change with BDSM– the nature of the relationship is a little violent, but the implications are essentially the same. Outside of the sexual relationship, however, each person should be able to make decisions for his or herself, and should not have to submit his or herself to the will of another person.
      I wasn’t trying to say that people are looking for role models when they read these books, or that they will try to emulate the characters after reading the books. All I’m saying is that readers should take a closer look at the nature of each couple’s relationship and recognize that the dominance that the leading males try to exert on the heroines outside of their sexual relationships isn’t romantic and that they should be able to make choices outside of choosing what their partners have already chosen for them.

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