‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ success illustrates societal depravity
Published: Friday, August 24, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 24, 2012 06:08
E. L. James’ "Fifty Shades" trilogy is the most recent novel that has sexually repressed housewives flocking to booksellers everywhere.
Originally written as a "Twilight"-based fan fiction, James saw rapidly rising interest, changed the names of the characters and sold the e-book rights to a virtual publisher in Australia. Due to a limited budget, the first book, "Fifty Shades of Grey," was sold on an on-demand basis. Religious followers pounced on this release, and the print book quickly became popular through word-of-mouth. As of this month, "Fifty Shades" has become the no.1 best-seller in Australia and has grossed more in the UK than the Harry Potter series.
So what, then, is the appeal of this so-called "mommy porn"? It has been stated that the intended demographic is married women over 30, though it has trickled down into a few women in their early-to-mid-20s. The writing is subpar at best and only provides a watered-down picture of BDSM. The characters are hardly well-developed, and Anastasia is as flat as the character she was originally written as, Bella Swan. It clearly isn’t the diction that is attracting tens of thousands of women to this "Twilight" wannabe.
There certainly has been a shift in what is considered "appropriate" reading. Ten years ago, even five years ago, no self-respecting woman would have been caught dead with a book like "Fifty Shades" in their hands in public. Today, it is sold in our very own WVU Barnes and Noble bookstore. When did it become acceptable to read erotica in public? I must have missed the memo, though I do admit to being a prude.
This series sends a very difficult message to generational readers. First, the publishing industry is beginning to give the impression that anyone can write a piece of fiction and become famous through blogs and self-publishing sites. Just because my 50-year-old mother can write about her fantasies on the internet and publish them doesn’t mean she should. This sort of self-publishing is tainting the once-prestigious name of the original book publishing industry.
Second, E. L. James sends out the message that women no longer need to think for themselves and be strong or independent. No, for a woman to be truly happy, she must literally sign her life away to a man who will then take care of but fully control her. For years, women have fought for equality, only to make these regressive novels popular.
Yet there are countless Internet memes expressing an interest in a Christian Grey-like character to swoop in and handcuff them. Could it be that women are so equal to men that they desire that submissive nature? Or is it possible that James has stumbled upon a hidden comment on women’s enduring lack of rights?
Despite the influx of novels and movies that depict a strong female lead, female audience members still want to see the cliched romance unfold between a vulnerable young woman and brooding older man. As wonderful as it would be to see women burn their bras and roar about their self-reliance, it’s difficult to ignore the masses of women who spend hours crying over emotionally distant and unavailable men.
In March, Universal Pictures announced it would produce the film adaptation of "Fifty Shades of Grey," a decision that has women guessing the actor who will play Mr. Grey. The excitement continues to build for what is sure to be 90 minutes and 50 shades of uncomfortable.