Allow me to preface this ‘novella’ with the fact that I hated the Twilight series. Nothing against the fangirls (and fanboys?) out there, it’s just that the writing quality got way too distracting. Also, Bella and Edward are in some serious need of a hobby. If Bella was in a book club and Edward started a fantasy baseball league it may have been possible for them to think about something besides each other, and I imagine there could have been a lot less drama. I did, however, make a fabulous and accurate portrayal of our favorite mumbling and lip-biting heroine in my sorority’s recruitment skit last year, so I guess the story has found a soft spot in my heart, if only for that reason. I mention this because the 50 Shades trilogy got its start as Twilight fanfiction, because of course it did, and there are more than a few parallels between the two. The only major differences are that Jacob is now José and the characters bone like drunk, masochistic rabbits instead of saving their virginities until marriage. Fully aware of my previous hatred toward Twilight, I made a conscious effort to remain unbiased so that I may better enjoy my journey and exploration of the female sexuality.
**While some plot points are revealed, I made sure to keep out the more important and surprising story lines so as not to spoil a potential reading experience.**
Meeting the Characters
Narrator and protagonist Anastasia “Ana” Steele is pretty far from being sratty in that:
•She only has 2 friends, literally.
•All of her clothes are from Old Navy or Walmart.
•She is critically insecure (remind you of someone?).
•The first time she ever got drunk was AFTER she graduated…from college. It’s very difficult for me to understand how this is possible.
Remember that socially awkward girl from high school that marched to the beat of her own drum, only talked to girls, and despite all this still managed to convince herself that her very own Mr. Darcy would come and sweep her off her feet? Me too! Ana is probably who that girl turned into after college, as long as that girl was a regulation hottie. Guys pretty much throw themselves at Ana daily, yet she somehow managed to make it to her 21st birthday without going passed first base.
Then there’s Christian Grey, AKA every woman’s wet dream. Handsome, loaded, philanthropic, and dark, Christian is tailor-made for erotica. For those of you out there who are dying to meet a beautiful man who’s an asshole to everyone but you, this is your dream guy. Christian is some sort of business wunderkind who has made his billions through several entrepreneurial projects. He also has a dirty secret that he decides to share with innocent little Ana.
The sexy time scenes start off pretty tame. They also start off extremely unrealistic. Before deflowering Ana, Christian makes her orgasm by…touching her boobs. Forgive me, but I don’t buy it. Even if this guy can work nips like an Asian teenager works X-Box joysticks, it just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Eventually they do move towards disturbing territory. I don’t want to delve too much into the details and ruin the shock value for any potential readers out there. Needless to say, I wasn’t turned on by the more extreme sexual acts, you know, some of the “hardware store stuff.”
Most of it isn’t so bad after you get over the initial shock, but every now and then the sex gets seriously creepy. And yes, there is a TON of sex. I don’t think there is a single page in any of the books that wouldn’t be embarrassing to read aloud to your grandmother. Also, where there is sex, there are Anastasia-gasms. Homegirl is overcome with pleasure literally every time Christian’s perfect penis is within a 5 ft radius. While this kind of sex life is but a pipe dream for the rest of us, good for Christian “Moses” Grey for leading his lady to the promised land all day long. The first book contains the most shocking sexual material, followed by a more mellowed out stretch in the second installment. A good balance between the two is struck in the third book, providing a good mix of lovemaking and…saucier acts.
One of the least arousing parts of the series was Christian being possessive and controlling. He pretty much stalks the shit out of Ana in the beginning, and when she doesn’t respond to his emails or texts, he freaks the fuck out. On top of that, he won’t allow her to go anywhere unaccompanied and refuses to let her see her two friends most of the time. I don’t know about y’all, but this reminds me of all of those Oprah episodes about abusive boyfriends. It also reminds me of this:
Ana, of course, loves this kind of attention. While this behavior would be a huge red flag for most of us, she sees his actions as a validation of his interest in her. Can you tell she has daddy issues?
50 Shades of Good God Woman, Buy Yourself a Thesaurus
I’m not sure how it’s possible, but E.L. James manages to find a writing style that is equal parts 7th grader and middle-aged British woman. Humorously enough, E.L. James is a middle-aged British woman. James obviously tried very hard to ‘Americanize’ her novels, even going so far as to research the major highways in Portland and Seattle and working them into the writing…often…like way too often. Ever seen the Californians on SNL? It’s pretty much just like that. But, for all of her efforts, she misses the mark regularly by using terminology no 21-year-old American would use. For example, when referring to the mainland of America, she uses “continental United States.” This would be appropriate to use a few times, but James uses it every time.
“I’ve never been outside the continental United States.”
“I longed to go outside the continental United States.”
“Though I had ridden a plane many times, I have never been outside the continental United States.”
See what I mean? Who talks like that? Do British people even talk like that? I also don’t know any 21-year-olds who sport a bush like Ana’s. Yes, Ana has a big, furry bush. Like 19th Century French hooker bush. Like “While you’re at the hardware store picking up some snowtire chains for our bondage sessions, you might want to grab some hedge trimmers” bush. It is discussed often.
It is quite obvious that James, like Stephanie Meyer, is a first time writer. I had a hard time getting in the mood with these books because of the constant repetition and lack of diction. I’m pretty sure James selected five adjectives and refused to stray from her list. In high school, my best friend and I once wrote our own little romantic novel (perhaps the reason for my longtime membership to Team Bacon) starring several of our classmates, one of whom carried around a pocket U.S. Constitution everywhere she went and sported a fedora. The love story featured different plot twists that made them all do some prettyyy embarrassing things. Even at the tender and inexperienced age of 16, I’m fairly certain our stab at erotic literature featured a better quality of writing (without the German-level bondage) featured in 50 Shades. But, at the end of the day, these books are really just lady porn, so the quality really isn’t that important.
Side Note: Two of the weirdos we included in our notebook romance novel ended up dating a year after graduation. Though it only last 2 months, it was the best two months my friend and I ever had and lead to the most hilarious first kiss story in history. We like to think our literary masterpiece, which featured the star-crossed duo sporting only fedoras while getting freaky, helped those two find love in a hopeless place.
To give credit where credit is due, E.L. James goes through great efforts to create a plot that goes beyond “boy and girl meet, boy and girl have sex with handcuffs and blindfolds.” There is a little bit of mystery, a lot of intrigue, and even a few car chases. There is also far more character development than in any other book geared towards female cat owners.
Regardless, these books are worth the read if you’re even remotely interested in hopping on the bandwagon, if for no other reason than to share the 50 Shades bond, and become a part of the sisterhood, if you will (which involves a whole lot of making fun of the books). I mean, did I enjoy my time reading the trilogy? Sure, though I didn’t exactly go out and buy whips and handcuffs nor did I reach a new level of sexual empowerment, but I couldn’t be happier that some women did. I think it’s great that the books are encouraging women to be more comfortable with their sexuality and more confident expressing it.