Beaniekins (beaniekins) wrote,

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50 Shades of Lame

Ok, first things first. I'm gonna talk about sex, ya'll. Specifically, the bestselling trilogy "50 Shades of Grey." I'm not going to get uber graphic or anything but if you are a parental unit or family member of mine, or just a friend who prefers we not discuss sexy books, bow out now. No harm, no foul, I'll see you at the next family dinner and we can totally talk about how cute puppies are and how rainbows are super nifty. But if you're curious about my thoughts upon reading these books, and I hope you are, read on.

So. As I'm sure most of you know by now, "50 Shades of Grey" is an elegantly written, intelligent and thoughtful book about a woman's sexual....hahaha, psych! Nope, I'm sorry, I can't do it. "50 Shades of Grey" is what the "Twilight" series would have been if Stephanie Meyers wasn't Mormon and her heroine wasn't a minor in a creepily pedophiliac relationship with a dude who looks 17 but is really pushing 200. And also, if no one sparkled. Seriously, these books actually started out as "Twilight" fan fiction, written by a woman going by the handle, Snowqueens Icedragon. (Guys, I used to online role-play and I have seen some Smurfy handles...I even once actually met in REAL LIFE a woman who introduced herself as WolfKat [spelling is just seems to fit] at a FUNERAL, so when I tell you Snowqueens Icedragon is an epically bad handle, you must believe.) But for one reason or another, she decided to change the names, make everyone of legal age and up the orgasm rate by a kajillion. Oh yeah, and she decided to throw in some BDSM.

Here's what you should know about these books.

The plot. Anastasia Steele is a soon to be college graduate. Even though she sees herself as a plain jane with no special talents other than clumsiness (Oh, hi Bella Swan!), every dude in her life totally wants to get with her but she's such a special, innocent snowflake she has no idea and isn't interested in any of them anyway. She ends up having a meet cute with Christian Grey, a mega hot, 27 year old, self made billionaire. They are instantly wildly attracted to each other because that is how these books work. Duh. Before long he is trying to sign her up (literally) for subversive sexytimes in his sex dungeon which she smurfily calls his "Red Room of Pain." That's right, the twist is he likes his women submissive and he wants to chain up our pure little apple blossom and do naughty, naughty things to her. Like spank her every time she rolls her eyes. Why? Because he's, "fifty shades of fucked up," he tells her. Will Anastasia take the plunge into his world? (Duh.) Will she be able to handle it? (Yes, then no, then yes again, duh.) Will he ever believe himself worthy of her love? (Duh.) Will she be able to heal his emotional scars with her purity and innocence and sexual athletics? (DUH.) Will they end up happily ever after, which in romance books means married with children after only six months of knowing each other? (DUH TIMES INFINITY.) And this is why....

They are bad. ...They are. They're badly written, badly edited, badly plotted, bad, bad, bad. But you probably figured that out, cause of the whole "Twilight" comparison. So let me just tell you....

They are weirdly addictive. Look. We're humans and we do bad things to ourselves every single day, even though we know better. We smoke, we break the speed limit, we watch reality tv, we get drunk and then use a phone, we eat a whole bag of Doritos even though we know it will make us feel gross and we'll get orange "cheese" stains on our clothes and furniture and Doritos aren't even that good. I can't explain why these books are addictive. They're not surprising in any way. If you've ever read a romance book in your life, or seen a Lifetime movie, you know exactly what's going to happen. And yet, even though I told myself repeatedly, "Bea, you are unemployed and poor. You don't need to be making some crap fanfic writer richer!" I still found myself saying, "Fuck it, I gotta know how this shit turns out." It's weird. But in the grand scheme of crappy things we do to ourselves, reading some poorly written erotica isn't so bad. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself today. Because there are plenty of people screeching about how these books are demeaning and degrading and bad for women, but let me assure you....

They will not ruin feminism. They just won't. I'm not going to sit here and try to make the case that they're helping the feminist cause, because they don't. There's plenty of gross, patriarchal shit in there that is supposed to be "romantic." When will I read a romance novel where the heroine isn't a virgin/so inexperienced she might as well be a virgin? (In the "50 Shades" books, she's a 21 year old virgin. Also, she's never masturbated, Come on. I will reluctantly buy into the fact she's a virgin, but she's 21 and never touched herself? Nope. I call shenanigans. Is there a woman by that age who hasn't experimented with the shower nozzle? Or seen late night Cinemax? Or, for heaven's sake, sat on an unbalanced washing machine? COME ON.)

And ladies, can we all please, for the love of little baby kittens, agree once and for all that stalking is not sexy?? Not if he's a 200 year old vampire sneaking into your bedroom to watch you sleep and not if he's a 27 year old billionaire who routinely tracks your cell phone and keeps a folder with info that includes your bank account and social security numbers. It's not romantic. It's illegal. And in real life, if someone is doing that shit, you need to call the police and get a restraining order because that dude is not trying to buy you fancy cars or give you eternal life. He's going to straight up rape and murder you. Got it? Good. End of PSA.

But even with all of Christian's, "Anastasia is a fragile flower made out of moonbeams and fairy dust and must be protected at all costs, even if she says to leave her alone and demands to go to work without a security detail and a tracking device, you must ignore her, for she is but a woman made of morning dew and cotton candy, and you are a super hot, genius, billionaire man, and you know better," crap, I still don't think these books are going to ruin feminism. And frankly, to say that they will doesn't give women enough credit. Guess what? I read these books and I still think I deserve equal pay. I still believe a man who truly loves and respects me will not try to dictate my every waking moment. Women are smart and I'm pretty sure we can read these books for what they are, which is adult Disney-esque fairy tales, and still wake up in the morning and have the intelligence and self-respect to not take this kind of shit for real. And that's mostly because....

They are ridiculous. It's impossible to take these books seriously. I mean, the girl who never so much as used her electric toothbrush inappropriately is suddenly deep throating the dude on her first ever blow job like a porn star. But that's not even the most absurd thing in the books. That seems like the most normal thing in the world when you discover that she's 21 years old and has never had an email address. That's right. Someone who was born in 1990, raised in the age of the internet, a college student at a college that is at no time referred to as an Amish college...didn't have an email address until the billionaire genius buys her a laptop, so she can conduct research on BDSM and email him every other minute. With her new email address. That she never had before. Email. 21 years old. College student. Not Amish.

But that almost pales in comparison to how Mr. I'm a Genius Billionaire doesn't know how to chop a vegetable. That's right. Christian, we are told, is smart enough to get into Harvard but then drop out after 2 years to found his company, which makes him a billionaire (at one point he tells Anastasia that he makes, "roughly $100,000 an hour.") but is stumped by the mere act of chopping a pepper. He actually stares at the pepper in confusion. Anastasia has to show him how to chop a pepper. And then the book goes on to say that while she cooks the rest of the meal, he is still chopping that one, first pepper. Genius. Billionaire. Pepper. I rolled my eyes so hard I'm amazed Christian Grey didn't rise out of the book to spank me. Because he likes to spank women. Because he's so sexually subversive! Except....

They're not really that subversive. A lot has been made of the BDSM themes in these books. And I am the first to admit that I am not an (s)expert. But...there was nothing in them that I found particularly shocking. Maybe it's because I spent my early teens reading V.C. Andrews. Maybe I've been listening to Dan Savage for too long. Or maybe I've seen one too many episodes of "Law & Order: SVU", but a few handcuffs and blindfolds isn't anything to clutch your pearls over these days. Just because they do it on a piano doesn't make it subversive, Snowqueens Icedragon! It just means you've seen "Pretty Woman." Christian makes a big deal about "vanilla sex" and how he's never done it before Anastasia came along. But really almost all of what they do is pretty vanilla. MAYBE neapolitan. With whipped cream. But subversive? Eh.

So, what's the bottom line here? I don't know. There's plenty to dislike in these books. The creepy, possessive stalking. The fact that apparently the author has only two euphemisms for vagina and one of them is, "down there." The repetitive nature of every conversation and sex scene in the books. The weird, overly formal way these two supposedly young people talk. (Who says, "as do I," these days in casual conversation? Wouldn't you just say, "yeah, me too?") The cliche of Christian being so devastatingly handsome that every single woman who sees him becomes a blithering idiot with brain cells leaking from her ears. (Except the one lesbian! Obvs! And one woman over 50. But she was probably a lesbian, too!) The part where a male friend lends Anastasia his jacket because she's cold and when Christian sees this, he doesn't immediately strangle the male friend and is GIVEN CREDIT FOR THIS. Oh, yeah, CONGRATULATIONS. You didn't KILL SOMEONE because you were able to restrain your TERRIFYINGLY INAPPROPRIATE GROSS JEALOUSY. Let's throw you a fucking parade and nominate you for the Nobel Peace Prize.

On the other hand there are a few things to like about the books. They are very sex and even kink positive, which is nice. Safe sex is promoted, always good. It's fun to see a woman be daring and unapologetic about her sexual choices. It's hilarious! (Though unintentionally so.) You can freely roll your eyes without fear of being spanked! (Unless that's your thing, in which case, you go girl.)

Does the good outweigh the bad? No. But we know that when we buy the Doritos and yet we eat them anyway.

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