Full disclosure: I only made it through the first 100 pages of Fifty Shades of Grey. For five years. Until two nights ago when I tried it again. I skimmed through it, rather than actually reading because I still can’t handle the writing. And Ana’s “inner goddess” still brings out the rage in me.
I hate the books the same reason most people hate them. Awful writing aside, the relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele makes me stabby. The power imbalance in the relationship, the typical virginal heroine, the stalkerish “hero”, the control issues, the emotional blackmail, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
But I added a couple more to this list since reading it. And surprise, I find something redeeming about the book (cue gasp). For those who know me this is a major breakthrough because I break out in hives with just the mention of FSOG.
Add to the hate list is the fact that Ana is a jerk. I didn’t realize how manipulative Ana was too. Almost on par with Christian Grey. I particularly found it disturbing that when she had asked Christian to show her how much worse it could get, and he proceeds to show her (the final confrontation in the first book), she walks out on him. Cold. She had asked her partner to be open with her, to show her his true colors, and when he did, she rejected him. Imagine being in a relationship where you reveal to your partner what you think is the worst part of yourself after being asked to do so, and gets promptly rejected. It was a bitch move. At this point, I wanted to yell at Christian Grey to run. But I guess he doesn’t run based on the fact that there are two more books after that god-awful final scene.
Christian Grey is needy as f*ck. Grow a pair, man, and find some girl who can meet you on your own terms without pressuring you to reveal things about you you’re not ready to share. Sure, sure, we want Ana to be assertive, to learn to demand things from her lover. But woman, let it go, and wait until he’s ready. You can’t push people to open up to you until they’re ready to do so. It’s not fair to ask, worse, it’s not fair to badger. Of course, she’s free to walk away when Christian stays closed off, but she doesn’t. Instead she nags and whines. She doesn’t leave until his last revelation and decides its too much for her. I suppose the stalking and control issues were not enough to make her run. She had to bring him down too. Leaving him broken and exposed.
I know, I know. Nothing new to see here. Me again bitching about the book. And it’s not just me being bitter that another writer undeservedly is laughing all the way to the bank while thousands of books every year that are better written languish between purgatory and oblivion. However, I did find something redeeming about the book. Or rather, the effects of the book(s). It helped bring into popular discourse women’s sexuality, their right to demand sexual satisfaction from their partners, and turning what used to be considered as alternative lifestyles such as BDSM into the mainstream. It brought some taboo topics into the light so that we can talk about them without hiding between a couple glasses of wine. For this, I suppose we should thank EL James, even though she wasn’t the first writer to write “romance” novels in this genre.
In addition to these new outlets for discussion, FSOG, much like its predecessor Twilight, increased readership among its demographics. In the age of instant gratification where the slow pleasurable simmer of reading a book is considered archaic, people started reading again. And it also opened the proverbial doors to many writers who before didn’t enjoy mainstream success because of the unspoken topic of women and sex. I cannot begrudge FSOG for that. So I congratulate it.
Do I still want to push a spoon against my eyeballs when I read passages such as “I flush. My inner goddess is down on bended knee with her hands clasped in supplication begging me?” Yes. Yes. A million times yes. Or sometimes, in my more lucid moments when I awake from the apoplectic attack on how terrible these lines are, I’d much rather wish I could stab Ana’s inner goddess with said spoon. Not only to quiet the absurdity of such internal monologue but also to allow Ana, like many women who’ve read her story, to own her desires and her wants without using the “buffer” of an inner goddess (even writing that makes me cringe) but rather fully embrace and revel at her own sexuality, and not hide behind the useless inner goddess.