Sunday, May 13, 2012
Fifty Shades of Grey is Crap.
Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the worst books I've read in a long time--and I'm taking into account the combined mind-numbing boredom of Applied Statistics and the SAS Programming Language and the mindless vapidity of Twilight (my mother made me read it. Shut up).
“His lips part like he’s taking a sharp intake of breath, and he blinks. For a fraction of a second he looks lost somehow, and the earth shifts slightly on its axis, the tectonic plates sliding into a new postion.” There are endless, teenage-girl-tinged repetitions of "Holy cow. Holy Shit. Oh, boy." It’s not just that the writing is atrocious (though that’s part of my antipathy, I’m sure). It’s not just that Ana, the main character who replaced Bella Swan in EL James’ little fanfic enterprise, is constantly doing all the same shit—stammering, blushing chastely, getting involved in a relationship with a domineering, hyper-controlling man--that annoyed me in the Twilight series. It’s not just that this is one more in the already vast naïve-little-virgin meets older-experienced-man genre. It’s all of this put together. It’s compounded by the fact that this series is being lauded as ‘mommy porn,’ appealing to women’s sexual tastes and desires, when it is inherently and utterly male-centered. In the quote above, I’d say the reason the earth shifts on its axis is because in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ the world doesn’t revolve around the main characters’ relationship, or (Heaven forbid!) Ana’s sexual satisfaction. Not to be crude, but the earth shifts because now it revolves around Christian’s dick.
Some feminists are up in arms because it contains *mild* BDSM elements—a little bondage with Christian’s tie here, a light spanking there. Perhaps I’m just part of a jaded generation, but I don’t see any problem per se with getting a little rough, doing some roleplaying or tying up a partner. That’s not inherently anti-woman or anti-feminist. Hickeys are bruises, after all, and who’s never had one of those? Though it’s obviously not the case in this book, there are also plenty of kinky women out there who identify as dominant rather than submissive, and thus would be the ones doing the tying up and spanking. But here’s the caveat: games of dominance and submission are only healthy, fun and sexy as long as everyone involved knows what the rules are (e.g., you can put me in handcuffs and tease me, but if I start to freak out and ask you to take the cuffs off they have to go immediately). In this book, it’s obvious—indeed, it’s repeatedly emphasized—that Ana doesn’t have one lonely goddamn clue what she’s doing, something Christian manipulates to his advantage despite his tortured protestations that he shouldn’t. It’s that whole troubling wolf/lamb, creeper/naïf scenario that got played out in Twilight all over again. Well, quelle surprise. And then this is passed off as pro-female erotica, when not once in the course of the book (or at least the portions I managed to choke down—admittedly, for the purpose of eviscerating it) does the action center on what Ana wants or of her sexual self independent of Christian. It’s better than calling women ‘sluts’ if they have any sexual desires at all—something that should be safely 50 years in the past but is, unfortunately, still with us as Rush Limbaugh recently proved. Still, telling women that pleasing their men should be their greatest desire doesn’t feel like five-million-dollar movie deal material. It feels like the same old, same old.