Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fifty Shades of Garbage.

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Quick, if I asked you to name a book that came out in the past year, you'd probably mention Fifty Shades of Grey. Dubbed as "porn for the housewife," the trashy tale has become the fastest selling book of all time. That's right. And if anything, it'll just speak volumes about how inarticulate we are becoming. Does that scare anyone else besides me? Look, I haven't read Fifty Shades, but I've read enough reviews--both good and bad--about the book because I'm fascinated by it's success. And while the book may get you trembling at the knees and send chills abound, it certainly remains articulately inept. Anyways, there are three major problems I have with what I'll call the Fifty Shades Effect.

1) Horribly Written.
Okay that one's not a shocker to anyone. And at the risk of sounding redundant, that'll be the last time I mention the word inarticulate. Oops, I did it again. My twin sister read the book and loved it, but as for the writing, she bluntly said "it was awful; it sucked." Let me provide a few examples.

"Double Crap" - Anastasia thinks as she falls into Mr. Grey's office. Double crap? That's the best you could think of? The last time I heard someone say double crap was when I was in third grade and my friend Ben got caught chewing gum. The writing style reminds me of some corny Focus on the Family video. for some BDSM stuff.

Doesn't Christian Bale remind you
of Christian Grey?
Anastasia notes that Mr. Grey is "so freaking hot!" She's really beginning to sound like that girl you went to school with who had rich parents. You know, the one who died her hair platinum blonde and spent every spare moment shopping and never developed any sort of worldly sense? Yeah, that one. The same one who,  when she speaks, automatically inserts the word "like" in place of every comma and prefacing every preposition or action verb. Oh, and can't forget about the one at the beginning of every sentence. Ex: "Like, he's just so, like, freaking hot and like, with his new haircut I just wanna like, see if he wants to like, do something like, this Saturday." I can only read this quote from Anastasia like she's some hormone inflamed middle school girl, so I imagine she extends "so" to "soooooooooo" and that Christian is "soooooooooo freaking hot!" But if she texted it she'd probably spell "hott" with two T's because that's how girls spell and she seems attracted enough to Christian that he isn't just hot, he's "hott". But seriously, "so freaking hot!" was the best you could come up with? Someone get E.L. James a thesaurus.

If you want reasons to avoid the book, check out this blog. If you want more examples, including awful quotes, check out this blog. It even includes the abhorrent line about Anastasia's "Christian Grey-flavored popsicle." There is so much immaturity, corniness, and just plain weirdness in that line, but at this point you have to give E.L James a merit star for using a three syllable word.

In fact, most voices out there agree that Fifty Shades reads at about a 5th to 6th grade reading level. This should, one, speak volumes about the state of literacy in our country. As recently as 2010, US students ranked 14th in reading out of 34 countries, and it appears that our reading abilities don't rank much better as we get older. Which is sad, and actually detrimental because of the connection between vocabulary and intelligence. And while it takes quite a few steps to get to literacy levels from erotic fiction, I would argue that the sex and bondage isn't the most important issue with Fifty Shades. Rather, the horrid writing and lack of analysis are the real problem.

2) Some women call it "empowering."
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Look, this one is going to be short and sweet. This Philly Mag blog, this news report and this video clip all talk about how Fifty Shades has empowered women. I would question whether or not these people actually know the plot of the book. It is about a young girl in a submissive relationship with a rich businessman. Remember: submissive relationship. The very essence of the word submissive means giving into the desires of others, and in Anastasia's case, giving into others in a sadomasochistic form. If being submissive empowers you, I'm guessing we have very different views on empowerment. This article from Her Circle Magazine, I think, does a great job of talking about the female submissive character, and I would recommend reading it. I would venture to say that, by featuring a submissive female character, the book does more to reaffirm age-old social views of man and woman politics than it actually lends itself to female empowerment.

3) Trashy Erotica is exploding with popularity.
While it may be redundant to call something "trashy erotica," I'm sure somewhere out there lies a decently written piece of erotica. The closest thing I've ever read to actual erotica was probably Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, but it wasn't as much erotic as it was blatantly obscene. But anyways, I happened to be walking through a grocery store the other day when I passed a bookshelf full of blatant knock-offs of Fifty Shades. Granted, a grocery store bookshelf isn't a place to look for any sort of stimulating literature, but I was still taken aback. The new arrivals were clear cut attempts to capitalize off the success of E.L. James book, and lacked the creativity to even change font set and cover color. Namely, Harlequin Mills & Boon has re-issued twelve erotic short stories. Separately, of course, to make more money. Tara Benson, Head of Marketing at Harlequin, was quoted in Digital Spy as saying the twelve books "are a selection of the best editorial from our finest writers, re-jacketed to speak to fans of Fifty Shades who are looking for their next erotic read." So they re-issued and re-jacketed all the books. In other words, the folks at Harlequin are really hoping you do judge a book by it's cover. In fact, they're banking on it.

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Also, it would be laughable to call any of these authors the "finest writers." If Harlequin wants me to judge a book by it's cover, I'll do so, and my judgement leads me to believe these are just plain trash. Just look at this spread of all twelve shades, and compare them to the style of the Fifty Shades cover. Also, try not to laugh. Titles include "Cuffing Kate", "Taking Her Boss", and the subtly ambiguous "Going Down". If they weren't already book titles, they'd be great names for the new Victoria's Secret bras.

In conclusion, if you're looking for an intellectually stimulating book, Fifty Shades offers a different kind of stimulation. In fact, you'll probably feel pretty unintelligent. And ladies, you won't feel empowered either. But on the bright side, as long as you can read at a 5th grade level, you too can write erotica.


  1. I totally agree with you, but my wife has the same problem: she just can't lay the books down, allthough she finds them shitty written! It's really uncomprehensible, but hey, if it gets me laid, who cares...

    1. Why are critics so cerebral about this book?! It is not meant to be intellectual high glory. It pertains to another equally important aspect of our brains. It is a success because it appeals to our (men and women) instrinsic need to dominate and be dominated. The book provides a fantastic escape that gives into age old societal ideals.

  2. If you actually read the books you would know Ana has all the power...not Christian. So much for non-readers who take the term "submissive" and think they know all about it and that she must be a victim. E L James wrote the book like you would talk to your friends in real life, down to earth with no pretense. Do you use million dollar words when you talk about sex or life in general? If so it would take all the fun out of it. Sorry....when I talk to my friends I don't say "I find him rather charming and very desirable"...I say "OMG he is sooo freaking hot". At last count there has been 40 million readers of this trilogy and movie/movies in the works so I think E L James did something right, and laughing at all the critics all the way to the bank. :)

  3. You have written your viewpoint but stated that you have not read the books. I don't understand how you can have a voice when you are only judging based on what others say. I agree with the above Anonymous whom states that it is indeed an easy read and written as people generally speak. Before reading the books, I was under the impression that the books were intense with BDSM. I was incorrect. The books are about two people that find "true love." Yes Christian has issues but who doesn't in this crazy world. As stated in the book, the relationship was based on trust. All relationships should be based on trust but as we know, most are not. Christian is a man that knows himself well and I find that to be truly wonderful. At no time did I find any of their relationship to be abusive in any way. Ana consented to all that happened and she was warned of outcomes should she act in a manner not acceptable.

  4. I gave the book a chance today...and I regret it so very deeply.
    Didn't know anything about it other than the casting has been making headlines and the books are on display in bookshops all over the city.
    I'm 22 and I wouldn't call myself a genius, but Jesus, who was the idiot who published this? I mean, seriously? Empowering? You have GOT to be kidding me. Right now, this is the biggest joke to me. It's trashy, badly written and the heroine makes me so unacceptably violent, not just because she sounds like an under-brained crash test dummy, but also because I've seen fan fiction written by 20-year-olds outdo this 50 Loads of Crap by ten million miles. Unbelievable.
    Why don't these women just type up "porn" while Chrome is in Incognito mode? If they're so hard up or something.
    This is an insult to legitimate authors everywhere who actually spent time working on their things...this author seems to have just stayed up late fantasizing about Mr. So Freaking Hot and deciding to write it all down and got lucky when someone was dumb enough to let it out into the world. Unbelievable.
    If people wanted so badly to read erotica, why couldn't they at least just go for ones that were actually written well? I'm pretty sure Anne Rice's stuff could more than serve whatever need they have to get off while reading--talking about the ones she wrote under a nom de plume.
    And don't bother with the "it's selling out all over the world and she's so successful and making a lot of money so phooey on you" because that argument falls flatter than the damned trilogy. Just because someone managed to tap into a market does NOT mean they're in any way brilliant. It just proves how incredibly sad the state of the world has become, namely the tastes in literature and how alarming the intellectual levels of the people have plummeted en masse.
    I get it, to each his own, but god, proper grammar, proper writing and at LEAST a touch of common that too much to ask?