The cultural phenomenon surrounding E.L. James’ book, 50 Shades of Grey baffles me. Who knew that all it took to awaken the libido of thousands of women was a handsome billionaire who dabbles in S & M?
As I’ve said before, I’m a joiner when it comes to pop culture trends so I wanted to see what all the excitement was about. I downloaded 50 Shades to my Kindle for my vacation read. (No one needed to know I was reading porn at the pool.)
Maybe it was all the hype, but I don’t get it.
The characters and plot are implausible at best, ridiculous at worst. The protagonist—a young, pretty woman with the soap opera name Anastasia Steele—is graduating from college and we are supposed to believe she is a virgin who doesn’t have a laptop computer or smart phone. In comes the hero— 27-year-old entrepreneur Christian Grey– to save her from the rock she’s been hiding under. Really?!
The first book takes place over just a few weeks and despite his presumably busy schedule making million dollar deals and running a giant company, Christian manages to show up wherever Ana is, to make sure she’s not misbehaving. Hmmm.
It often felt like I was peeking at the daisy-covered journal of a high school girl experiencing her first crush. The hackneyed writing is repetitive and made me cringe more than once. A search on my Kindle determined Ana says holy shit 56 times and crap 93. If I had to hear about the “electric charge” between them once more, I might have electrocuted myself.
Of course, no one’s reading it for the eloquent prose. The curious want to check out the dirty parts. James paces the many sex scenes well and does create a sense of suspense and passion between Ana and Christian. I was unfamiliar with the world of domination so the details about the expectations and practices were eye-opening.
But even the leather riding crops and fur gloves weren’t enough to overcome the cheesy story. I was not expecting fine literature but the tawdry writing and silly narrative were distracting to the flow of the story. I kept getting pulled out of the action by another eye roll-inducing line. Here’s one of Ana’s thought streams:
“Jeez, he looks so freaking hot. My subconscious is frantically fanning herself , and my inner goddess is swaying and writhing to some primal carnal rhythm. She’s so ready. I lick my lips instinctively. My blood pounds through my body, thick and heavy with salacious hunger. What is he going to do to me?”
Out of context, it’s almost funny, right?
Nearly everyone I know who has read 50 Shades has enjoyed it and immediately purchased the second and third books in the series. I guess I understand the escapism and the fantasy of that intense attraction– especially when you are either lonely, or have been with the same person for a long time (or sometimes both.)
I’m sure this post will make me wildly unpopular with those who have so willingly converted to Christi-Ana-ty. But there are about 20 other books on my night table that I would rather read. Maybe that makes me cynical or even prudish. I prefer to think of it as selective.
For those of you who love the books and can’t wait for the movie, you can vote for who you think would be the best actors for the roles of Ana and Christian when the lusty lovers hit the big screen here.
And check out this hilarious “Saturday Night Live” spoof of women enjoying the book perhaps too much here.