Green Room

50 Shades of Garbage

posted at 10:26 am on July 10, 2012 by

My bad case of the Mondays must have drifted into Tuesday because I’m in the mood for a culture rant. I’ll be honest, I simply don’t understand the current nationwide obsession with the novel 50 Shades of Gray. I only made it about halfway through the first novel before I removed it from my Kindle entirely and read the remainder of the plot on Wikipedia. Seriously ladies, the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy is pornography, not literature. The books, which currently hover at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, detail the relationship between reclusive billionaire Christian Gray and Bella Swan-esque young woman, Anastasia Steele. For those of you who have been living under a rock, 50 Shades of Gray is an erotic “romance” which highlights sexual practices of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism). Seriously, don’t Google it.

I tried to enjoy this book, I really did. However, like I experienced with the Twilight series during High School, I just couldn’t get into it. I’m somewhat of a literary snob, so I do enjoy well written novels from which you can actually pull out a (positive) lesson or two. Besides coming to terms with the fact that I truly am 21 going on 35, I wasn’t able to extract any sort of positive lesson from the book. Or any sort of morality for that matter. However, this novel still is holding steady at the top of the charts. A movie version of 50 Shades of Gray is even in the works. Thanks but no thanks. I think I skip it and spend my money on The Dark Knight Rises instead.

What does the obsession with this novel tell us about ourselves? Sure, I know the current explanation is that 50 Shades of Gray is merely a form of escapism for lonely housewives. Perhaps I’m just not old enough to understand. However, while I agree that literary escapism can be a form of positive relief, I’m pretty sure there’s a better way to go about it. What happened to the Rhett Butlers and Mr. Darcys of the world? Do young women really have to spend their time idolizing the sexually perverted Christian Grays and clingy Edward Cullens? I know it’s literature and I know it’s fantasy, but culture defines our worldview. I really don’t enjoy being part of a culture where women fawn over men like Christian Gray who, to be honest, have little respect for women at all. Whips and chains may excite Rhianna, but I don’t find them to be indicative of a healthy relationship.

Not only does this novel degrade women, romance, and marriage, but it sends a negative message to men about how to treat women and conduct themselves in relationships. Ladies, do we really want men thinking that women are merely sexually crazed schoolgirls who need a heavy dose of pain to form a lasting relationship? Excuse me, but no. 50 Shades of Gray aside, here’s what women really want romantically. Women, like men, want to be treated with respect in a relationship. Respect entails a mutual partnership that rises above the sexual component of the relationship. A real romance should highlight the love (not lust), companionship, and interdependence of two people. Hey, what you do in your bedroom is none of my business. However, when rough sex is the starting point of a relationship, perhaps you should be rethinking the strength of your bond. Sorry to break it to you men, but a relationship is about more than just sex, no matter how tame or extreme it may be.

All right, that’s my two cents. Read 50 Shades of Gray if it strikes your fancy; I don’t care. I’m not going to pull a Bloomberg and suggest that the novel should be banned. However, I encourage women (and men) to have more respect for themselves. Look for novels of value. And by value, I don’t mean “shock value.” Trust me, you will get more out of Pride and Prejudice than you will out of 50 Shades of Gray. And don’t think you have to stick to the classics. There are contemporary books around which offer just as much literary value. Think Hunger Games or The Help. Good books should nourish your mind rather than feeding other desires. Sure, it’s just a novel, but what the phenomenon sparked by this book tells me is a bit darker. I’m not exactly comfortable with a culture obsessed with 50 Shades of Gray. We’re better than this, ladies. While you’re “tied up” (pun intended) with the sexual fetishes of Christian Gray, I will be busy enjoying the battles of Middle Earth and romances of Victorian England.

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What is with these fanfic authors getting rich off of re-working fanfic based on other people’s work? See also Cassandra Clare, whose Mortal Instruments series is basically just a rehash of a Harry Potter fanfic trilogy she wrote in the early 00′s known as the Draco Trilogy.

tdpwells on July 10, 2012 at 10:48 AM

So I should send you an advanced reader copy of my upcoming YA fantasy novel, then? Darkness Rising, Book One of The Catmage Chronicles, which I’ll be publishing via Amazon and their CreateSpace in August.

There is absolutely no sex in the book. :-)

Meryl Yourish on July 10, 2012 at 11:07 AM

(P.S.: It’s entirely my idea. I’ve never written fanfic in my life.)

Meryl Yourish on July 10, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Meryl, message me through my website! http://www.youngfederalist.com

Amy Lutz on July 10, 2012 at 11:17 AM

Meh. The book does seem interesting on its face, it’s not one that i would run out to buy.

I have a female friend that *loves* the books, but as far as it being considered “classic erotica” (that’s a actual category too!) it’s got a lot of hype to live up.

Ah, wth, I will borrow it and read it and see.

Right after The Dark Knight Rises…:o)

BlaxPac on July 10, 2012 at 11:20 AM

I do enjoy well written novels from which you can actually pull out a (positive) lesson or two.

50 Shades of Gray may be terrible, but I don’t think that positive lessons are a prerequisite for a valuable reading experience. American Psycho certainly doesn’t have any positive lessons, but it IS incredibly interesting.

sobincorporated on July 10, 2012 at 11:47 AM

It’s Twilight for menopausal women.

Jeddite on July 10, 2012 at 12:27 PM

While I absolutely agree with you that the writing is horrid, I can not agree that there is no merit to this trilogy. I have read all the classics and have many of them in print and ereader formats. It IS quite possible to like both.

The 50 shades trilogy is poorly written, but I enjoyed the stories for what they were to me. A fun afternoon read that allowed my mind to wander. While I prefer Mr. Darcy to Christian Grey in general, I have many different moods and at different times I may prefer one over the other.

I have enjoyed your other columns, however this one took a sanctimonious holier than thou tone that sounds a lot like the tone of a NYT book or movie reviewer when they don’t like something written or made by a conservative.

Chocktopus on July 10, 2012 at 12:33 PM

American Psycho certainly doesn’t have any positive lessons, but it IS incredibly interesting.

I couldn’t agree more.

Chocktopus on July 10, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Amy, do you contend that there could be no place in a loving marriage whatsoever for BDSM?

(I have my advance tickets for The Dark Knight Rises all ready for next Thursday night, can’t wait!)

thebrokenrattle on July 10, 2012 at 2:23 PM

“thebrokenrattle”–I do agree with you. What people do in the bedroom is none of my business. The problem with 50 Shades of Gray is that BDSM is both the starting point and the central factor in the relationship. (also…I’m excited for The Dark Knight Rises as well!)

Amy Lutz on July 10, 2012 at 2:31 PM

I simply do not understand the fascination women have with 50 Shades. I have not read it, but everyone tells me the guy essentially owns the woman as though she were a slave. He controls her life down to the smallest detail, and uses her like rented mule.

One question I have been hearing as a male, is whether or not the book is proof that women want to be dominated and controlled, even if they don’t understand that is what they want.
That isn’t a good question to bring up or play to, and I think the popularity of the book with women, does just that.

Hard Right on July 10, 2012 at 3:24 PM

Go to Amazon and read the reviews. You’ll laugh so hard you’ll be crying. There’s no reason to read the books after that. Unless you enjoy reading about her biting her lip or whatever she repetitively does.
The books started as fanfic and apparently that’s the level of the writing. However, this week 20,000,000 copies will have sold.

vityas on July 10, 2012 at 4:05 PM

‘The Story of O’ was the original, written I believe by a frenchman in the 1800s. Nasty book, main character is ultimately branded with her master’s ‘mark’. All others are pale comparisons, I served during wartime and still had to digest it in small sections. No redeaming qualities.

However, on the other side of the spectrum the movie ‘The Secretary’ is a very good representation of how two broken people can find each other and become whole and happy when their ‘broken-ness’ compliments each other.

As long as it is two consenting adults (and I don’t have it shoved in my face, for instance thin walls in an apartment) I really don’t care, I am broken in my own way and found someone who can deal with me, so to each their own.

majordomomojo on July 10, 2012 at 4:09 PM

I have enjoyed your other columns, however this one took a sanctimonious holier than thou tone that sounds a lot like the tone of a NYT book or movie reviewer when they don’t like something written or made by a conservative.

Chocktopus on July 10, 2012 at 12:33 PM

It’s HER opinion! She even said, “read it if it strikes your fancy”. How is that “holier than thou”?
You sound like a liberal who doesn’t want anyone to think any different than you do about things.

Or is it that you don’t want anything said that might give you the “guilties” for reading something you know is trash?!

You said yourself that it is horribly written(or “poorly written” and the writing “horrid”). So that suggests that the only thing that titillated you about it was the perversion factor. Guys have been saying they read Hustler and Penthouse for the stories for decades, and maybe they do(as a side activity), but they don’t read the stories because they are great literature, if you know what I mean?!

All this said, it doesn’t surprise me that women find these kind of books “interesting”. Go you your local public library, in the “young adult” section, and take a gander at some of the books written for tweens and teens. It will then be apparent why some “grown-up” women have no problem with these types of stories.

The last time I was in our public library(and it was indeed, the LAST time), I was with my daughter in the kids section, which happens to be in the same area as the “young adults” section, and I saw a book with what I thought was a weird title for the kids section, so I took it out to glance through it. I didn’t have to go far before I saw things in there that would make Howard Stern blush. I mean, graphic portrayals of teens doing “stuff” to each other! Don’t believe me, check it out for yourself. The book is called “Boy Toy” I believe(it was a long time since I was there). I took the book to the librarian that was there, and she told me they can’t read every book that comes in. The head librarian, whom I know, saw me in a store and came up to me to tell me that she looked at the book and agreed with me, and that the book in question had mysteriously “disappeared”, so it won’t be there anymore.
That should have been enough to let me relax my guard and let my daughter in that library again, you would think, right?! The problem I had was that that was the second time it had happened. The first time my wife had brought home what she thought was going to be a nice story which she had picked up from the teen section, once again. She showed me some parts in it as to why she quit reading it. It was the same type of graphic sexual stuff.

I don’t blame the librarians. I realize they can’t look over every book that comes into the place. But I also can’t send my child into an area where she is going to be exposed to this sort of filth, aimed at our young children by vile minds.
This tripe is nothing more than written pornography. The same sort of written pornography that those men “read” in the girly magazines. Except this pornography is meant for and read by our children.

So no, it does not surprise me in the least why some women find such literary perversion “interesting”. They grow up with it. It is normalized for them.

Sterling Holobyte on July 10, 2012 at 4:47 PM

50 Shades was horribly written. Had to edit profusely in order to keep it on my kindle. (I LOVE that I can rewrite stories when they’re in electronic format, btw.)

Nothin wrong with erotic literature, healthy fantasy lives actually reduce real-life deviancy.

alwaysfiredup on July 10, 2012 at 5:25 PM

The books started as fanfic and apparently that’s the level of the writing. However, this week 20,000,000 copies will have sold.

vityas on July 10, 2012 at 4:05 PM

God bless America and capitalism.

alwaysfiredup on July 10, 2012 at 5:31 PM

It’s HER opinion! She even said, “read it if it strikes your fancy”. How is that “holier than thou”?
You sound like a liberal who doesn’t want anyone to think any different than you do about things.

First of all, you made me laugh telling me I sound like a liberal. Oh Mylanta, that’s funny.

Second point, it’s not that she doesn’t like it that I find to be sanctimonious, it’s the fact that she doesn’t allow that people can like both traditional classics and not-so-traditional books. I can and do like both. I felt Amy took an elitist attitude and feels like she’s better than someone that liked the trilogy. THAT is what I take issue with. I absolutely respect that she doesn’t like the books.

As far as the perversion or pornography charge you throw out there, Yes, I liked it. I was curious about it as I have no actual frame of reference. Does it mean I’m perverted for being curious? No, I’m afraid it does not. I actually DO LIKE the story, but it is poorly executed. I have since read another book by a much better author. The lifestyle is not for me, but to each their own. It is not for me to judge you for liking or not liking, as the case may be.

Chocktopus on July 10, 2012 at 6:46 PM

majordomomojo on July 10, 2012 at 4:09 PM

I agree with your entire post. I’ve read the “Story of O” and no thanks. I find nothing redeeming in that at all.

“The Secretary” is a really good movie and Maggie Gyllenhall and James Spader both give really good performances in that film. You summed it up nicely.

Chocktopus on July 10, 2012 at 6:51 PM

Hey I haven’t met you, and this crazy, but I’m a College Republican president too, so marry me maybe?

I’m only kidding if it creeps you out. Okay fine, I’m kidding even if it doesn’t creep you out. I wish there were more girls my age who thought like this, and that more of these girls attended Southern Methodist University.

Not only does this novel degrade women, romance, and marriage, but it sends a negative message to men about how to treat women and conduct themselves in relationships. Ladies, do we really want men thinking that women are merely sexually crazed schoolgirls who need a heavy dose of pain to form a lasting relationship?

It was this passage that triggered my lyrical outburst.

vegconservative on July 10, 2012 at 7:44 PM

Amy, FIFTY SHADES probably belongs in a subgenre of romance, erotica. I’m not a fan of erotica, but I know many good women who’ve made decent money writing it. To each his own. The romance genre itself, for which I have tremendous respect, spans a wide gamut from sweet to steamy. I know some romance authors who prefer to keep the steamy out of their manuscripts but are encouraged to include explicit sex scenes by their editors (one said to a writer: “We’re all adults here.”) Sex sells, but I’m happy to report that romance sells just as well without it, too! Fans of romance who want a read without the heat might look for the “inspirational” subgenre, which includes faith elements but whose books are not at all preachy. In fact, inspirational romance reminds me of books from back in the day — where faith wasn’t hidden or absent. Just some thoughts from Libby, the Hot Air resident novelist (hah – a title I just gave myself!)

Libby Sternberg on July 11, 2012 at 7:21 AM

So I should send you an advanced reader copy of my upcoming YA fantasy novel, then? Darkness Rising, Book One of The Catmage Chronicles, which I’ll be publishing via Amazon and their CreateSpace in August.

There is absolutely no sex in the book. :-)

Meryl Yourish on July 10, 2012 at 11:07 AM

Can I jump on the self-promotion bandwagon?

CurtZHP on July 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM

Does it mean I’m perverted for being curious? No, I’m afraid it does not. Chocktopus on July 10, 2012 at 6:46

Well, you keep telling yourself that. But vile things have a way of getting into your head and getting you further and further into that kind of thing. Pornography is a major factor in people who go on to rape women or molest children, for instance. That is not opinion, that is fact.
Remember the saying, curiosity killed the cat. That has more meanings than one.

The lifestyle is not for me, but to each their own.
Chocktopus on July 10, 2012 at 6:46 PM

Why do people always rationalize doing things they want to do which may or may not be morally ethical with that statement – “to each their own”? Or “it’s not for me to judge”?
We are supposed to make judgements. We make judgements every day, on what we let our children watch or who they can be friends with(well, unless you are a totally permissive parent, that is); on what streets we should not go down; etc. They are judgements.
Jesus did not just say to the prostitute, “Neither do I judge you”. He also added, “Now go, and SIN NO MORE!” He was judging her. A lot of people forget that part, or intentionally leave it out when reprimanding someone for judging someone else.

Sterling Holobyte on July 11, 2012 at 5:46 PM

Pornography is a major factor in people who go on to rape women or molest children, for instance. That is not opinion, that is fact.
Remember the saying, curiosity killed the cat. That has more meanings than one.

So now you’re telling me that I have a higher probability to rape women or molest children. Get over yourself. People who are inclined to commit those crimes may look at pornography at a higher rate than people that don’t, but there are literally MILLIONS of people who look at porn that have NO inclination WHATSOEVER to participate in either of those crimes.

Why do people always rationalize doing things they want to do which may or may not be morally ethical with that statement – “to each their own”? Or “it’s not for me to judge”?
We are supposed to make judgements. We make judgements every day, on what we let our children watch or who they can be friends with(well, unless you are a totally permissive parent, that is); on what streets we should not go down; etc. They are judgements.
Jesus did not just say to the prostitute, “Neither do I judge you”. He also added, “Now go, and SIN NO MORE!” He was judging her. A lot of people forget that part, or intentionally leave it out when reprimanding someone for judging someone else.

It is not for YOU to judge me. I will happily accept judgement from Jesus Christ when I’m standing at the pearly gates.

As far as being morally ethical, it is subjective. What you deem morally ethical obviously differs from what I believe to be morally ethical. What I read has NO bearing on my ethics. None. I know what kind of person I am and I am at peace with it. I know that I believe in Jesus Christ and am a good person at heart. Who are you to say or imply otherwise?

Chocktopus on July 12, 2012 at 11:57 AM