50 Shades of Grey is absolutely everywhere. You can’t go outside or check your Facebook without being reminded of the release of the unconventional film this Valentine’s Day, or if you’re not, then you probably are seeing people complain about it. You already know the book sold well, managing to shift over 100 million copies, being translated into 52 languages and setting a record in the UK as the fastest selling paperback of all time in our country.
But as you may have heard, the book doesn’t exactly live up to the hype. Despite the devastating popularity of the franchise, 50 Shades of Grey has seen enormous amounts of criticism from authors and public figures, for example everyone’s favourite Indian author Salmon Rushdie claimed the sensational series “Made Twilight look like [Tolstoy’s] War and Peace”. Rinse!
Just in case you havn’t had the pleasure of reading the book yourself, here’s a few quick snippets to give you the gist of the content:
“Holy crap! He’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar.”
“Christian Grey’s feet… Wow… What is it about naked feed?”
“My stomach somersaults – he wants me… in a weird way, true, but this beautiful, strange, kinky man wants me.”
“It was chocolate hot fudge brownie sex that we had, with a cherry on top.”
“I don’t remember reading about nipple clamps in the Bible.”
Are we both on the same page now? Good. The problem is, the book isn’t just being criticised for being poorly written, the franchise has also drawn several controversies such as the unhealthy depiction of BDSM and its unhealthy romanticism of abusive relationships. There’s even been a study has even been published about the book, that identified Intimate partner violence (IPV) in almost every interaction between the two lovers, Ana and Christian. This included stalking, intimidation, isolation and pervasive sexual violence.
But that’s sexy, right? That’s what people are buying into, the fantasy of losing control to an enigmatic, dangerous and potentially unstable hunk who actually really cares about them, deep down, behind the abuse. He’s just misunderstood, Salmon Rushdie doesn’t get it. But all jokes aside, this is a sex story written by a woman, primarily aimed at women that includes a sexual relationship of mutual satisfaction between two consenting adults, and that’s obviously not a bad thing, it’d be perfect if it weren’t for that pesky bit of serious emotional abuse that comes attached.
The problem, many people argue, is that we should be considering the audience. What if an impressionable person were to enjoy the book or film and want to replicate these unhealthy, dangerous habits in real life? What if they start letting their partner act like a little Patrick Bateman, thinking there’s a heart of gold underneath all their intense hatred of humanity and consistent abuse and really knows what’s best for you? A whole lot of problems, I’ll bet. Please understand that these detractions don’t come from uptight prudishness from people who are angry about sex on screen, the backlash is coming from BDSM bloggers and sex experts worldwide who are insulted that their passion is being boiled down to simple, inarguable, domestic abuse in 514 pages, and being heralded as a sexual awakening for women worldwide.
But we’re all responsible adults, we know the difference between fiction and reality. Just because we enjoy the fantasy of losing control, doesn’t mean we will, we’re more mature than that. But it’s still worth picking apart the reputation 50 Shades of Grey has developed as a revolutionary romance and seeing it for the simple, fun, ludicrous fan fiction it is. Just like Twilight, you should feel free to enjoy it, but you need to understand that the dark, handsome teenager who follows you around and can’t live without you, is not husband material.
So please, don’t be afraid to lose yourself in the dark, dominating adventure that is the 50 Shades franchise, you’re not wrong to enjoy it. Just please understand to take the material with more than a pinch of salt, and as star of 1996’s Matilda, Mara Wilson says, “do yourself a favour and read Abigail Barnette’s The Boss series” and widen your horizons.