Saturday, 4 July 2015

A Critical Review on 'Grey' (Fifty Shades)

Let me first clarify that I am a true student of English literature, and a graduate of creative writing. That being said, I had refused point blank to succumb to societies insistence that I read Fifty Shades of Grey. Reason being, I've read the works of classics such as Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, to the more contemporary literature of Ian McEwan, Virginia Woolf, Philippa Gregory...
I therefore think supporting the likes of E.L James is a sin against literature. It degrades the work of the many brilliant writers out there.

In recent weeks though, I decided that I couldn't justly get involved in critical discussions about the Fifty Shades hype without taking some of it in. So finally, I have gone against my principals and sat down to read the new version of the book from Mr Grey's point of view. I turned on my kindle with an open mind, prepared for feelings of shock, disgust, desire, confusion, horror at the awful style of writing which I've heard much about from my peers, but perhaps interest, a little inner argument, maybe some enjoyment (the way a person can enjoy cheap sweets but would prefer Belgium chocolate). I'm building up to say I was setting myself up for a deeper fall into disappointment than I had even anticipated.

The book is, as any well read scholar will know, badly written. I don't claim to be an expert of grammar or even a top notch writer myself (I am after all young and still learning) however the writing style of this author is bland, un-original, amateur.

The character development I'll give is an improvement on the style but not by much. Christian is the typical brooding multi billionaire who is conveniently young and handsome too, his abuse of power and stalker tendencies we'll look into later. The man is rich so yeah, he's Mr Right...? I guess. Mr Darcy? ...Noah from 'The Notebook'?.... Mr Rochester? Well no, but as I said he's rich, it appears rich and handsome is all a modern day woman is interested in from the hype I've heard about this trilogy.

Moving onto Ana, our heroine, our leading lady...I can see where a woman relates, Ana thinks she's plain and boring...ordinary. A little socially inept, shy and clumsy. I think women with self esteem issues around the world are recognising themselves here, so lets give half a star to E.L James for doing what most authors can do in their sleep: Create a stereotypical character people can relate to.
Of course the multi billionaire Christian is head over heels for this plain Jane despite the many sexy blondes who throw themselves at him, because that happens all the time right?

I'm really not here to discuss the unrealistic plot, or the flaws in the syntax. What I want to discuss is the main theme of this book, the BDSM relationship between an innocent young Virgin and an experienced multi billionaire. Oh yeah of course she's a virgin! Heaven forbid a woman worthy of a billionaire's attention should have slept with more than one person! We're not so far into the 21st century after all. (Note the sarcasm please)
I've read erotic fiction before, and can immediately state that the sex scenes of Fifty Shades of Grey do not compare. I'm a woman who likes sex, I like trying different things, I'm responsive. The sex scenes in this did nothing for my libido. NOTHING. I can also say I think Christian Grey shoots the gun a bit early for me to deem him any good in the bedroom. So as 'erotic fiction'...EPIC FAIL.

The BDSM theme, I expected to read about the complexities of such a relationship on a psychological level, the fine line between pleasure and pain and how it can be explored in such a relationship that revolves around a legal contract of yes and no's. I can understand from a 'bedroom' perspective that when your senses are sexually heightened a bite can feel like a kiss and a tug on the hair can feel like a tingle...this is a subtle example of testing limits. The BDSM relationship is taking that several steps further for both partners enjoyment, experimenting with limits in a safe environment with safe words.

The control factor everyone can relate to. When a woman straddles a man she's taking control, when a man switches it around he's taking control, and both offer elements of satisfaction for both parties. The contract between a Submissive and Dominant is more intense and a one way street, giving all the control to one person (Dom)  while the (Sub) is consenting to giving up total control. I thought this book would explore that gently, as Ana is new to the 'lifestyle' I thought the book would highlight that this relationship is for consenting adults who both get enjoyment from the acts involved. If my boyfriend says "get on the bed", hell yeah I like that, but that's because I know there would be no negative consequences if I said no. And he knows that too. That's the definition of a trusting loving sexual relationship.

It's not like that in Fifty Shades.

So anyone that says they like the 'love story' between Ana and Christian is an idiot. There is no love story. The pair barely talk except for email flirting and of course talk about sex, Ana talks about herself when Christian asks and usually gets the control freak attitude in response. She can't have a man look a her without Christian seemingly considering murder. She can't be friends with a guy she's known for years, she can't visit her mother without being followed! Christian doesn't say a lot. He refuses to communicate mostly about his issues and things that happen in his life E.G. friendship with Elena, things at work, you know normal stuff like "Hey babe, how was your day at work?"
"Oh well I had a meeting and this happened......."
... a response in this book goes more like:
"Hey babe, how was your day at work?"
"I want you in the playroom in five minutes Ana."

 Whenever Ana tries to get him to communicate, he initiates sex, which apparently she can't say no to, in terms of the contract. "he wants her whenever and wherever he wants" so basically he wants to rape his girlfriend even if she's not in the mood, but he wants a piece of paper that says this is cool.
My main issue is the difference between sexual play-pleasure pain and the testing of limits I discussed above and physical abuse.
ABUSE is a word that should not feature in a loving relationship, sexual or otherwise. Abuse is what I read here in this story.

When a woman says to a man with uncertainty and fear "Are you going to hit me?" I class that as abusive. The fact that man can so easily be comfortable with himself when he's asked this, is gross. There's a difference, a great difference, in giving pain for pleasure purposes to just wanting to hit somebody.
Example: giving your girl a spank across the backside during sex because she likes it and you get off on seeing her enjoy it, is one thing.
Hitting someone, hard, to the point it leaves marks on the skin without any sexual act going on at the time or because of, and simply because you wanted to hit them is bullshit! ok, this book is bullshit!

What self respecting, modern day, educated woman would put up with that shit?
What kind of example is E.L James setting for our women?
That because a guy has a helicopter and kisses you afterwards that it's ok to belt you?
If you hit anyone (man to woman, woman to man) because you want to hit them and cause them pain, then you're being abusive. Christian says several times, he wouldn't hurt her past what she could take...
That's supposed to make this better? I can take the pain of a blood test, it doesn't mean I'd go and have one for no good reason. My disgust is in Christians argument that he 'needs' to be like this, 'needs' to do the punishment acts. What the F!
Here is a character who wants to be a partial rapist, and abuser of women and is using psychobabble and his dark past which he wont discuss to make it acceptable. This is a story that says because there's a contract between them it's ok to beat a woman and demand sexual acts at will and on whims. I hope E.L James is using her money to pay for a good therapist.

I quote from a scene of punishment: "I smack her again, and trace the pink handprint I've left on her skin. her ass is pinking up nicely. it looks glorious....I smack her again, she cries out again. I spank her over and over-the same pattern, she yelps each time. My palm is stinging, and my cock is rigid."

Smacking someone to leave a handprint, so your palm is stinging...does anyone else agree that this sounds sick? He wants to see her skin hurt, he wants to cause her pain but oh nothing she couldn't take! And he gets aroused by this. I am a firm believer that if you care about someone you never want to see them in pain, if you cause the pain you feel guilty and awful even if it was an accident while having a play fight or you stepped on their toes while dancing.

Moving onto the control factor, Christian is not just a control freak. He's a stalker and he's obsessed. Ana can't go five minutes without texting him because he freaks out. He monitors everything she does, what she wears, what she eats, how much she eats, where she goes, how she gets there...absolutely everything. Is this modern day slavery? Are we saying it's ok?  I don't see anything endearing in his attitude or his low self-esteem which contributes to the jealousy if you want to go down that route. He's an absolute weirdo, and it's only this bloody contract he wants her to sign that stops this man being arrested for rape, abuse, stalking, and slavery.

I'm not angry with E.L James for writing this. Perhaps she had inner issues she had to get out and writing this has given her something other than all that money and notoriety. I'm actually angry at the many women in the world who have confessed to 'loving' this book, being 'addicted. 'loving' Christian Grey.  Are all those women saying they would let a man hurt them and use them, degrade them and control their lives if he had money to lavish on them? Is that what our sex have come to? 2015 and women are still in the mind-set of being cattle to bargain and auction off to the highest bidder. That's the image I'm getting. Maybe you disagree, maybe you enjoyed the book for other reasons, maybe you haven't read it. I'd love to hear from you whatever your opinion. I want to understand the hype and why, why so many women like this book?
I don't want to believe my sex is so disrespectful of themselves never mind the English language and the form of literature. I will end here. I could have said much more, I have kept this short, believe it or not, because my thoughts on this could easily fill a short book, and it would probably be more interesting than E.L James work.

Signing off.

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