50 Shades of Meh

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?

 The erotic novel has struck a chord with women of all ages who apparently like the idea of a dude with a helicopter and a garage full of fancy sports cars controlling their every move.

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.

7 responses to “50 Shades of Meh

  1. Erica Schon Pollak

    I had to see what the buzz what is all about. I have downloaded to my Kindle and have just started. I saw a gal at the pool on Saturday who couldn’t put the books down and was on Freeze. She read the because they are “hot”. Well, I do most of my reading on the Metra into/out of the city from work. I sure hope they don’t get me too “hot” on the train……..now that would be funny ! LOL

  2. Oh my gosh, I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks these books are just plain silly. I started the first one and couldn’t even make it through. It wasn’t because it was too blush-worthy for me, it’s that it was so poorly written. “Jeez!” “Holy Crap!” I couldn’t take it. I made it almost half way through the first book and then deleted it from my Nook. Meh is right.

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more. I too love all things pop culture, and am an avid reader. I am so happy to find someone else that didn’t love these books. We’re totally in the minority. I found the writing to be dreadful. Book one was ok at best, and book three was so pathetic I don’t know how I got through it. Thanks for posting.

  4. Sherrie M.

    Hmmm. Just bought this in Costco last week….think I’m gonna return it now. I am not intrigued by the story but wanted to see what the hype was about. Like you said, I’ve got dozens of books on my nightstand I’d rather read.

  5. Ha! I guess you just can’t help yourself! I did ask a friend to give me the cliff notes version of books 2 and 3 but could not waste the time reading them. They are long!

  6. I totally agree. And the constant references to Anastasia’s “subconscious” and “inner goodess” – so annoying! That said, I’m in the middle of the second book, and it’s a page turner. Garbage, and so redundant, but a page turner nonetheless. Loved the SNL skit. Check out 50 Shades of Suck: http://50shadesofsuck.tumblr.com/