Fifty Shades of Grey and then Some

(I’m not sure if I have to post this warning – but the Fifty Shades of Grey book series is not too appropriate for the workplace or young eyes. No guarantees I won’t talk about some iffy stuff in relations to that.  I’m trying to figure out how the “more” option works to keep any spoilers of questionable material beneath a warning but it’s not working out too well for me and I’ll get it fixed as soon as I can)

A Good Book Has No Ending.

Like most people, I bought a case for my Nook when I got the ereader. The above quote is imprinted on my particular case. It was the first time I’d seen the quote and loved it immediately. Well with my current book – I’ve come to the realization that while a good book has no ending, sometimes a bad book doesn’t either.

This is the third time I’ve read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. When there was all the hype about the series and it first became popular, I read through all three books twice – I typically do that with a series because I typically enjoy rereading the earlier books and seeing how that connects with the ending. I could not get into them and didn’t particular enjoy the reading but all those books sales can’t be wrong, can they?

I decided to reread them when I saw the announcement of who will be playing one of the main characters – Christian Grey – in the movie version. It’s Jamie Dornan, who I pretty much fell in love with as the Huntsman/Sheriff Graham in Season 1 of ABC’s Once Upon a Time. So I thought ‘let’s reread it. Maybe I’ll like it better when mashing Jamie Dornan with Christian Grey’. Google it. Because seriously – who could not love a cutie patutie like him?

Yeah. It didn’t help.

I could probably rant for pages and pages on end about every issue I have with this trilogy. I started to bookmark every page that had something that I took issue with and very quickly nearly every page was marked. Let me try and summarize it as best as possible.

E. L. James isn’t a particularly good writer.

The series started as Twilight fanfiction. I love reading fanfiction. I love it. I first discovered fanfiction in middle school, waiting for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to come out and was pretty hooked since. A good book has no ending and a lot of times it’s easy to want to stay in the fictional world created long after the author has decided to end it. It’s really interesting to me to see where the authors, pretty much always amateur authors, take the settings and characters and put them into other situations beyond the canon work. So my issue is not, even a little bit, about fanfiction itself. My issue is that E. L. James should not be a multi millionaire for writing based so heavily on on someone else’s work. I only every read the first Twilight book and didn’t particularly enjoy it so Twilight fanfiction is hardly my cup of tea. But as I read through Fifty Shades, the main characters read so similarly as Twilight’s do. E. L. James may have renamed Bella and Edward to Ana and Christian but it seems like she never thinks of them as anything other than Stephanie Meyer’s characters. I know plenty of others have looked up the similarities and as former fanfiction, some similarities could be expected. But this many? Seriously? Stephanie Meyer should get a lawyer to look into copyright law because she could probably sue the hell out of E. L. James.

E. L. James chose Washington as the setting for the trilogy (to be similar to Twilight perhaps?). Ana moved around the United States with her mom quite a bit but never left the country until during the series. Christian traveled but was still born and raised in the United States. So why do they both – and other more minor characters – regularly speak in British lingo? Probably because the author’s British. Early into reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I remember thinking that Ana speaks in a very formal tone. It drove me crazy but it wasn’t until Fifty Shades Freed and a google search that I really got the implications of that. In the third installment, Christian’s adopted sister Mia talks about going clubbing and “throwing some shapes”. What the hell does that mean? I’m only 24, not too old to recognize the slang of a recent college graduate like Ana and the company she keeps. So I googled it. And while the first response was urban dictionary telling me that apparently throwing some shapes means to dance, the next several were all discussions on Fifty Shades and the usage of British phrases throughout. I mentioned reading Harry Potter fanfiction earlier. That used to be a huge pet peeve of mine. Harry Potter would not say he put his broomstick in the trunk of the car – he’d put it in the boot. An American writing as Harry Potter talking like an American would drive me crazy. And now having read Fifty Shades, I know a British woman writing as an American woman talking like a British woman is just as annoying.

E. L. James needs to take some of the money from these books and buy herself a thesaurus. The sheer amount of times the same word or phrase is repeated is honestly sickening. Mercurial. You’re always ready. Laters. Come. Oh My. There (as in “he kissed me and it tingled there). Murmur! Everybody is freaking murmuring constantly in the book. Barely a page goes by without someone murmuring and the times no one does, it’s probably a page where no one is speaking. When I first noticed it, I thought that it was just Ana murmuring a lot. At the point, she was being set up as the submissive character so I thought it was a subtle reminder that she is below him and as such speaks in a lower tone then him. Still repetitive but I could understand the implications of that. But nope – Christian murmurs all the damn time too. This dominant, powerful, megalomaniac (that’s another word that appears WAY too often) is talking quietly and low all the damn time. Because that makes sense at all.

All of the above I could maybe handle if the story was thrilling and enjoyable but:

The characters aren’t any easier to read.

Just about everything about Ana Steele drives me up a damn wall. She’s smart, very attractive but doesn’t know it, has loads of guys interested in her but is inexperienced romantically, claims not to cry often but is weepy every other chapter. But that’s not even what annoys me most. Just before her wedding in Fifty Shades Darker, Ana is talking with I believe it was her mother and she says something about how she’s always been old for her age. Well that’s news to me. When we meet Ana she is 21 just about to take her finals and graduate from college but she regularly acts much younger than that. Back in middle school and early high school, if my friends or I got a crush on a boy, we’d think of a nickname to call him so we could talk or write notes without it being obviously. These were typically thinly veiled references to something regarding the crushee. 42 was jersey #42 in soccer, the bobblehead came up behind us at a school dance and nodded for a few minutes to the music (bringing to mind the toy), pirate commented on the fact that I watching Pirates of the Caribbean in homeroom once. Totally ridiculous but completely age appropriate for young teenage girls. Very much less appropriate for a 21 year old college graduate. One time Christian says about himself that he is “50 shades of fucked up”. From then on out throughout the 3 books, Ana repetitively thinks of him as “Fifty” or “Fifty Shades”. The playroom is the “red room of pain”. Going to drinks with Kate becomes “cocktailgate”. Christian’s ex dominant is “Mrs. Robinson” even after we learn her real name. Her pregnancy is “blip”. Downright infuriating from a grown woman.

Along the same lines – In Fifty Shades Darker, Ana starts the pill (of course to satisfy Christian), but then stops taking it for whatever reason and when her period is late, its utterly shocked by the possibility of getting pregnant. Sex leads to pregnancy and even with the high success rates of birth control, you have to assume and prepare for the possibility of failure and should never act like it is literally mind boggling ridiculous. After the pill incident she goes back to the doctor to take shots – the doctor kinda shames her for not taking it, it is great. Then in Fifty Shades Freed, Ana skips out on 4 or 5 appointments and ends up pregnant. Her response – again shocked and very upset. Christian’s response – “you have one thing, one thing to remember. Shit! I don’t fucking believe it. How could you be so stupid”. Ana’s thoughts after this is about how the mental response is about how the shot was ineffective because the doctor suggested that it ran out a bit early – but if she went to the first appointment there wouldn’t have been that lapse but since she didn’t, there was the lapse and pregnancy.

And Mr. Fifty – I doubt I need to go into how he truly is fifty shades of fucked up (I promise this is the only time I will refer to him as such) because goddamn this boy has issues. There’s a huge difference between asserting dominance for sexual gratification and the kinda shit he puts his submissives through. From Friday to Sunday – he owns them. They do what he wants, when he wants, or he can punish them however he sees fit. They eat what he tells them to, sleep as long as he demands, wear what he says, and work out to fulfill his requirements 24/7 – eve when they’re not with him. You wanna play in the bedroom? – have a blast! But that kind of complete control is in no way a healthy relationship.

But hey – you don’t have to like the characters to appreciate everything overall. I religiously watch Scandal on ABC and don’t really enjoy most of the characters as people but they can be just so fascinating when they’re put into these situations but:

The plot is hardly fascinating stuff.

I’ve gotta admit, I was pretty interested in the story line Fifty Shades of Grey (the first one). The writing was crap and the characters were annoying but I was intrigued enough to want to know how Ana was going to respond to Christian’s proposal/contract. They took things slow and tried out some stuff but the first time Christian punished Ana – she broke their designated rules re safe words and bolted. Things are pretty much entirely downhill from there. In Fifty Shades Darker and Freed, it seemed to me like E. L. James realized she couldn’t possibly write any more books on Ana and Christian’s relationship alone. Gotta throw in some plot twists. It seemed like she was grasping at these straws of plot ideas and just when they start to get interesting, they fade out and we just get some more sex scenes.

I’ve read some crappy plots with god awful characters and even enjoyed them if this genre but:

The sex scenes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

I’ve read my fair share of erotic, adult romance novels. I’ve even read a decent amount depicting similar sub/dom relationships like we see here. But E. L. James’s writing is completely lacking. Some of the ideas may be hot to consider but the words themselves don’t really invoke any of that feeling. The only reason to read these books and it is just so not worth it. If the sex scenes seem enjoyable, it’s the readers imagination running away with them because the author’s words themselves aren’t doing it.

Final Thoughts

I think I’ve got a really sex positive viewpoints and don’t have a problem discussing any of that with anyone. Hell – someone I met at a party Saturday night asked me during a game intimate details about my sexual past and I didn’t think twice about answering. While I’m not alone in that, particularly compared with my generation and region, there are many cultures that are more sexually repressed that that – particularly with regards to women. Boys will be boys watching porn and touching themselves but a lady doesn’t act like that – or similar sentiments are really prevalent at times.

As a result, despite all of these books many (many many many many) shortcomings, I have appreciate them for the ability to start dialogue. It seems like everybody and her mother’s read these books. My mother’s mentioned coworkers reading them who would blush and giggle when they were discovered and I think that’s great! If reading E. L. James’s books spark ideas in women’s heads who may not have thought of it themselves or been comfortable asking about it otherwise, that seriously – kudos to Ms. James.

I just wish that if an erotic novel of this nature was going to be the top of book charts grossing millions in profits, that it was one depicting a more healthy relationship between two people who are far more dynamic characters than either Christian or Ana.


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