Finally I read it, (in 9 hours!) for research purposes (honest!)
For some of the context of my next novel, I’ve been exploring the complex, often colourful and frequently grubby aspects of what has been described as our ‘hyper-sexualised’ culture. Considering the hype around ‘Fifty Shades’, I felt I could no longer ignore its impact, or at least my curiosity about its success. For that, I have to give credit to the author, regardless of my personal opinion of the book, which did live up to my expectations that she had hit on a multi-million dollar formula; Mills and Boon meets Soft Porn, complete with Virgin/Whore archetype; Harlequin Romance with Bondage; Fairy Tale with Frisson; Snow White meets Dark Knight; Cinderella with Carabiners (had to look them up). I could go on.
Before I do, I must point out that I do not want to patronise the millions of EL James’ readers who have enjoyed the book, for whatever reason. That’s good enough for me (fabulous for Erika). However, for the same reasons as I think it is important that people are aware and educated about the power of advertising and the media, I believe we need to engage in all aspects of our popular culture with open eyes as well as minds. To my mind, a healthy society embraces a questioning attitude, a willingness to challenge ideas presented to us and the ability to make informed choices, whether we are choosing cereal, a politician or a good read.
So, if ‘Fifty Shades’ thrilled you as an erotic fantasy or whatever, whilst recognising that in real life you (and your daughters) would actually be more likely to be happier with a partner who was more respectful/open/affectionate and less controlling/creepy/abusive/damaged etc., well, why not?
Personally, possibly because I’m not into BDSM, but more likely to do with the comic-strip exclamations (“Aargh”!!) and the repetitiveness of his hotness, her wetness, his pants hanging on his hips “that way” and fifty more examples, I found the story only the taddest titillating; too often touching on tawdry for my liking. I read it in one sitting because after the first few pages I knew that if I put it down I would not be compelled to pick it up again, to plough through it, irritated by the quality of the writing, the contradictions and the “Crap”, “Double Crap” and “Holy Crap”s appearing on virtually every other page.
When I finished it with relief, one overriding impression of the behaviour of the main character, Christian Grey, stayed with me, summed up in one word: