Posted by IdeaSmith
Do read my earlier post on Fifty Shades, if you haven’t already.
I finished reading the second Fifty Shades book – Fifty Shades Darker. I retract everything I thought while reading the first. This is not a good book. This is not a good story. These aren’t strongly etched characters. Fifty Shades of Bad Writing.
My biggest grouse with the books is that they’ve been grossly miscategorized, in an obvious attempt to reach a larger audience. It stands to reason that not even a fraction of the readers they’ve had now would have even stopped by an aisle (or online category) titled ‘Erotica’ or ‘Pornography’. But this push for more sales has I think, hurt the story. Genres, cover art and blurbs go a long way in setting reader expectations even before the first page is read. Fifty Shades is about as misleading on all of these as any book can possibly get. Fifty Shades of Dirty, Rotten Lies.
It’s bad enough business to fool the customer; it only results in resentment. But here’s why I’m most pissed off. Genres like Romance & Chicklit convey a certain impression that the stories they tell are what life is like or is supposed to be like. Never mind how unrealistic they may seem or even regressive; within the social setup that we all live in, they make us, their target readers feel good. Romance is out and out candy for the soul laced with a little sex talk couched in a ‘safe’ manner that doesn’t threaten most women. And if you’re wondering about the ‘safe’ business, most women learn an emotion that most men never do, in bed – fear. Fifty Shades of love is supposed to be fun, not scary.
It’s debatable whether ChickLit is really empowering to women but at least superficially, it places a woman at the center of the story, much time is spent examining her moods & motives, which hitherto don’t find adequate expression in real life or in popular media. Having someone talk about things that you’ve been told are stupid or irrelevant, all your life gives you a burst of energy in a way that only people who’ve been marginalized in some way, would understand.
In contrast, Fifty Shades is dark, forbidding and hopeless – I can’t imagine anybody actually feeling good about it. The female protagonist Anastasia Steele appears to be little but a hapless victim of an abusive, hostage-situation relationship and subjected to any manner of mind games and deviant sex. If I’d found this categorized as BDSM or the larger genre of Erotica, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Different strokes for different folks (pun entirely intended) and so long as it doesn’t involve children, animals or murder, I don’t judge. I believe that we have different tastes but I also think that anything that doesn’t fall under ‘plain vanilla sex’ (as the book calls it) caters to niche audiences. I have a problem when someone tries to pull a con by mainlining a niche offering.
Books are powerful medium of expression after all and a more intimate one than the other mainstream media. A good writer can effectively get into your head and possibly even change your outlook on life. Imagine giving the kind of power to someone who believes that pain is fun, control games are a birthright and sexual abuse is the cure to physical abuse. That’s what these books have done. Fifty Shades of This is Madness.
The first book at least piqued my curiosity, having brought up things that you don’t normally hear about in mainstream reading. It also ended with Anastasia Steele taking a strong stance against the madness. The second book lost it all with Anastasia’s supposed stance crumbling in a mere 4 days and her running back to the abusive madness of Christian Grey. And as if to justify a third book, the ending pulls a flimsy deus ex machina in the form of a barely disguised villian with murderous intentions. Twilight couldn’t have disappointed me better. Fifty Shades of I’m so disgusted I won’t waste my time reading the third.
Tags: #FiftyShades, 50Shades, Abusive relationships, Anastasia Steele, BDSM, Books that should be banned, Child sex abuse, Christian Grey, Deviant sex, Dominance-submissiveness, EL James, Erotica, Fifty Shades, Fifty shades Darker, Fifty shades freed, fifty shades grey, Harmful books, Harmful messages in mainstream media, Kinky relationships, Pain in sex, Pornography, Propagandaistic books, Psychology & sexuality, Torture sex, Wrongly categorized books
Posted by IdeaSmith
I’m reading the Fifty Shades trilogy right now. It took me about 24 hours to get through Fifty Shades of Grey. It is that kind of book, that kind of story and maybe I just have that kind of time at the moment.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have bought this book myself. It’s been making such a splash on the media and I never quite trust products that need such hardsell marketing. Someone said it’s like Twilight again and that was enough to put me off.What’s more the books are in first person narrative and present tense, two things that tend to put me off in fiction. But someone else bought these books and they’re standing on my bookcase right now. They’re there and everyone’s talking about them. How could I resist the lure of that?
So, now about Fifty Shades of Grey. It is a romance…sort of. It’s not girly or comforting or silly-funny the way chicklit is supposed to be. It’s not even fantasy-level unrealistic & beautiful, the stuff of romances. But it is about a relationship between a man and a woman so it falls short of the Thriller & Psychology aisles. I think men would like reading it too. It never gets soppy and it’s oozing so much sex that in the first 100 pages, I thought I was reading porn/erotica. Let’s just say that it uses sex to illustrate some very dark corners of the human mind.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers because I believe I am going to be recommending this series for readers. Let me just say that it is about an extremely disturbing character, a very fucked-up relationship. Mr.Darcy looks like a sulky boy as compared to Christian Grey, the (anti?) protagonist.
Maybe because I’ve just ended a rather toxic relationship, it feels like the right time to speak about this. Book 1 ends with the couple breaking up (and that is *not* a spoiler, see the blurb of Book 2!). I am becoming painfully aware of things that I thought I knew but never really internalized. We live with fanciful notions of life and love and relationships and men. We want it so much, we need so desperately for it all to make sense in that way that we set ourselves up for disappointment over and over again.
Why do so many of us have a Mother Theresa complex? And does it occur to us that there isn’t a male equivalent of that? (Not that there haven’t been male do-gooders & martyrs but none of them have lent their names to any male-specific complexes, have they?). We are drawn to needy, incomplete, even toxic relationships and we stay there. I think something inside each of us is still repeating nonstop,
“You exist to serve. You exist to nurture. You exist to take care of. You have no needs or rights of your own.”
I’m very angry right now. I’m so pissed, I’m practically seething and crying lava-hot angry, angry tears. I’m angry because of the compassion and nurturing instincts that have only proven to be bad for me. I’m angry because it was never supposed to be this way. Do good and good shall happen to you is a myth fed to keep human beings subservient and who’s a better example of that than us – the weakened sex? To every foolish woman (including myself), I’d like to say,
“If he says he can’t give you something, maybe he means it. It’s not ‘I can’t’ where he means ‘I won’t’ and just needs to be coaxed out of it. In fact, if he needs coaxing, he’s not worth it. Really. Let his therapist or his mother deal with his issues. You are NOT here to sort his life out. You deserve a good one of your own.”
To come back to the book, my rant will make a lot more sense when you read the book and I hope you will. That is to say, I hope you’ll read it after you turn 20. I don’t believe in censorship but some things, like sex for example can be damaging if they occur too early in a person’s life. Fifty Shades is a bizarre story with some horribly disturbing characters. It’s also engaging and a powerful story, the kind that could influence thought and action. Which is why I have my fingers crossed that the next two books resolve the story in a way that’s powerful and not disempowering.
I take heart in the fact that the main female character, Anastasia Steele is a strong one. Not conventionally so, she’s shy, awkward and by her own admission, scruffy. But she has good instincts, is brave enough to take chances and doesn’t confuse self-preservation with selfishness when she decides to walk away from a situation that’s bad for her.
I think too many of us have gotten trapped in a Superwoman complex, acquiring male egos while trying to compete with them but with the nagging self-doubt that they don’t have. It’s harder for us to walk away, burdened as we are under guilt, pride and fairytale notions of ‘Forever’. The other end of it is our generations-old conditioning of caution. We don’t take enough of risks, we don’t play enough and once we’re in, we sign away our right to get out and save ourselves.
Anastasia Steele is breaking many of those norms in the first book and I hope she will in the two to come as well. I’ll report back when I’m done with the series. There are some interesting Twitter conversations happening over at #FiftyShades and #50Shades.
Update: I’ve finished the second book Fifty Shades Darker and I revise my opinion. They are morbid, miscategorized, deviant and badly written. Do NOT waste your time on them. If you’d like a more detailed explanation for my strong turnabout, read my review.