I’m going to admit to something I thought I would take to my grave: I recently read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I hadn’t planned on sharing this, but I find myself inspired by this daily prompt, and Fifty Shades certainly gives me something to talk about. So, here’s the thing…
Fifty Shades of Grey (and its sequels) are ridiculously awful.
When I picked up the first book, I knew little about the premise other than it was an S&M flavored bodice-ripper that was making housewives across the country weak in the knees. (This includes some of my friends, like Angie who shall remain nameless.) I’m always up for a literary aphrodisiac – bring it on!
As soon as I started reading, it only took me a few pages to become annoyed with Christian Grey and all of his “Miss Steele” business. My maiden name is “Miss Steele” and I wanted to pop that smug prick in his chiseled jaw halfway through the first meeting. Also, Ana Steele was a giant wuss who cursed like a six-year-old, even within her own internal monologue. Double crap? Really? I hadn’t read clumsy banality like that since the Twilight saga. In fact, the only remarkable thing about the writing was how incredibly similar its subpar quality was to another series: Twilight. I couldn’t get over the likeness. Of course, I soon found out that’s because Fifty Shades of Grey is Twilight fanfiction, and it is supposed to sound exactly the same. (Apparently you can sell millions of books doing that now.)
Disgusted with this drivel, from the “Miss Steele” business to the whole fanfiction concept, I quit the book before finishing the first couple of chapters. Then I told anyone who would listen that Fifty Shades of Grey was everything that was wrong with literature and I went back to reading Hemingway and Steinbeck and volunteering at the homeless shelter. (Actually, only the part up through slamming the books is true; I made the rest up to illustrate how fancy and superior I was feeling at the time.)
A year or so passed, and for reasons I still don’t understand, I decided to give Fifty Shades another try. I muscled through the lackluster writing and the myriad typographical errors. (Do publishing houses seriously not employ proofreaders anymore? What is going on here? I know we have spellcheck and all, but there is no substitute for a set of well-trained eyes. I am tired of reading published books with typos. This has become an epidemic and it is making me lose my faith in humanity. Please, someone do something about this. Sorry for that tangent, folks.)
Needless to say, since I’m writing all of this, at some point, I started to like it. I can’t begin to describe how painful it is for me to admit that not only did I read all three of the books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series, but that I actually enjoyed them. I suppose it’s apropos, since the entire plot of the books is predicated on a young woman who unwittingly finds herself sucked into the web of a handsome sadist who enjoys causing pain and spoiler alert: she likes it too!
Of course I could write some feminist dissertation on everything that is wrong with the premise of these books, but it’s really not that serious. The whole thing is so ridiculous that it’s not worth debating the social mores or implications of the relationships found therein. Mostly you just skim over the poor choices, roll your eyes, suspend your disbelief, and hope you get to the good parts while your husband is lying next to you in bed and not when he’s out of town running a drywall trial at a manufacturing plant in Wyoming. Or maybe that’s just me.
The best part of indulging in this guilty pleasure was quite unexpected. (No, I’m not talking about my sex life – that benefit was wholly expected.) E.L. James, the author of the Fifty Shades series, actually did me a great service. See, I love writing, and I love books. I read as much as I possibly can and of course I’m inspired by my favorite authors. But something E.L. James did for me that none of my favorite authors have been able to do thus far was this: she put writing within reach. Because if this lady can sell her mediocre “Spank Lit” and make millions, there’s a market for me too.
I can’t wait to be someone’s guilty pleasure.