Like all healthy individuals, occasionally I like to engage in two simple activities – drinking wine and judging people. The best part about not seeing your friends for months is that when you get together you have so much to judge and so much to drink that a night is not even enough. Like all mature individuals, though, I like to be informed when I judge.
Fifty Shades of Grey by the British woman (I am not going to call her a writer because this offends the profession) along with its two sequels, has been around for a couple of years. The first time I heard about it was two years ago when a poor confused colleague of mine decided that the best way to pick a Christmas present for his mom was to initiate a poll in the team. The answers weren’t very original – most of them said Fifty Shades of Grey. A quick Google search showed me that apparently this is an extremely popular erotic novel, deemed “mommy porn” (now this sounds horrific). Subsequently, I read passages from the novel, I discussed with friends, and I came to the realization that this is the worst thing that has ever been written and published and that I would never inflict upon myself the pain of actually having to bear it.
However, I haven’t quite grasped the terrible literary hygiene of the majority of the population. Ever since its publication in 2011, Fifty Shades of Grey has sold over 90 million copies worldwide, has been translated into 52 languages, and has set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time. Now, I am not saying that all of us should read Fitzgerald for breakfast, Joyce for lunch and Nietzsche for dinner but the mere fact that women find this book enjoyable, romantic, and good makes me lose fate in humanity. As a popular meme says, I can’t live on this planet anymore. I will change it a bit – You, who like Fifty Shades of Grey, get out of this planet. I can’t share it with you anymore.
Given the world obsession with this collection of words (again, calling it a novel is offensive to every other novel ever published since the beginning of the Earth, whenever this might have happened) and my desire to judge informed, I decided I would be brave and actually read Fifty Shades of Grey.
I have no words in my vocabulary, neither in Bulgarian nor in English, to describe exactly how terrible this is. I am very much concerned I would actually forget all of the things I want to say, so I am going to break down this horror into little horrors.
There is no plot. Seriously, there isn’t. To the word plot I attach at least an introduction, a conflict, a climax, and a resolution. There is none of this in Fifty Shades of Grey. This collection of words was born as a fan fiction of Twilight. Yes, some 15-year old girls and boys gathered in a forum and invented stories about Bella and the vampire and E L James turned this into a book.
So, we have Ana, a 21-year old English major, who is the definition of naivety. She is a virgin, she has never had a drink in her life, she has never liked a boy, she doesn’t know what life is about and she certainly cannot distinguish between romance and abuse. After her roommate gets sick, she substitutes for her in interviewing Christian Grey – the wealthy, handsome and extremely arrogant CEO of a successful company. E L James doesn’t mention what the company is doing, but trying to look smart she uses investments, futures, and mergers & acquisitions several times. I can swear in my life she doesn’t know what these mean.
After probably one of the stupidest conversations in the world of conversation, Ana and Christian become extremely attracted to each other. Why, this is not obvious. Oh sorry, she thinks he is extremely HOT. Ok, fair enough, I can take that. Afterwards, though, the situation starts to get creepy. Christian basically stalks her, finds out her number and where she lives, kidnaps her with his private jet and introduces her to his room of torture. Yes, the 27-year-old successful CEO is into some kinky BDSM. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for sexual freedom and frankly I do not really care what other people do in their bedrooms, as long as it is not against the law and as long as it is done by mutual agreement. This is certainly not the case here. Christian Grey presents Ana with a contract, outlining their responsibilities as a Dom and a Sub, respectively. Now, maybe I have missed that life lesson, which stipulates that love must be a legal agreement signed by each party before anything begins.
Anyways, the rest of the novel is basically clumsily written sex scenes between Christian and Ana, in which he abuses, punishes and tortures her. Again, not exactly the definition of love and sex according to Oxford dictionary.
The plot itself would have been bearable if at least the characters were somewhat believable or original. Unfortunately, they are not. Ana and Christians are as cliché as it gets, shells of human beings with no distinct personality, no apparent motivation behind their actions, and no understanding of life.
Ana: As I already mentioned, Ana is a virgin and a teetotaler until she meets Christian Grey who amends the situation, so to speak. Let’s start with the virgin thing – E L James is trying to convince us that a healthy normal American girl is a virgin at 21. Really? In the USA? Where even Britney Spears’s sister gave birth at the age of 15-16. Ok, I am inclined to get past this. Ana is also extremely naive, something you wouldn’t expect from a girl graduating as an English major from an US university. She is painfully pathetic and utterly clueless about almost anything. Not to forget, she refers to her alter egos as my inner goddess and my subconscious. Honestly, if I ever see the words inner goddess ever written again, I am going to break something. Anyways, she meets Grey and falls in love with him. Let’s get something straight here – never ask the question why in an E L James collection of words – there is no explanation. Oh, sorry, there is. He is extremely hot and successful. Of course, this is a perfectly good reason to like someone. Throughout Fifty Shades of Grey Christian treats her like garbage – controlling her, stalking her and hurting her. Yet somehow, she fails to realize that this is not a healthy relationship. Also, she refers to her vagina as down there and to his penis as his length. Now, seriously, E. L. James? And this is supposed to be an erotic novel.
Christian Grey: Oh, the dream of any woman with a brain the size of a nut. He suffered some traumatic experience in his childhood (don’t ask what, no answer) and at the tender age of 15 he was seduced by a Mrs Robinson type of character, who introduced him to the glorious world of BDSM. This is supposed to explain why he has turned into an abusive, jealous and obsessive control freak. His idea of a relationship is to control the woman in every possible way. He wants to determine how Ana eats, how much she sleeps, what she wears and how she behaves. He is also to dominate her in the bedroom and if she ever displeases him, he is to punish her accordingly. I almost forget, he is this tortured soul who has been wronged in the past but actually hides a tender heart behind a rough appearance. He has eclectic tastes like piano, classical music, and yes, physical abuse. Not to mention he is so experienced in sex that he can’t wait for Ana to have her period so she can’t get pregnant having sex without a condom. Some sexual education wouldn’t be redundant here.
This is by far the worst part of it all. E L James possesses the vocabulary of a 13-year-old girl struggling through puberty. From times to times this woman uses the word medulla oblongata in a sad attempt to sound smart. Sorry, this is not biology class.
I will simply copy and paste from a review in goodreads a list of words James constantly repeats throughout Fifty Shades of Grey alongside with the number (after all imitation is the highest form of flattery) because it says it all:
“Oh My” – 79
“Crap” – 101
“Jeez” – 82
“Holy (shit/fuck/crap/hell/cow/moses)” – 172
“Whoa” – 13
“Gasp” – 34
“Gasps” – 11
“Sharp Intake of Breath” – 4
“Murmur” – 68
“Murmurs” – 139
“Whisper” – 96
“Whispers” – 103
“Mutter” – 28
“Mutters” – 23
“Fifty” – 16
“Lip” – 71
“Inner goddess” – 58
“Subconscious” – 82
I will just add one of my favourite quotes: He’s my very own Christian Grey flavor popsicle. I have no words.
Now I understand that erotic novels must exist (although I am not entirely sure why) so I am trying to come to peace with the fact that some people enjoy reading this type of books. However, Fifty Shades of Grey is not an erotic novel. It’s not a BDSM novel either. It is a collection of clumsily written sex scenes. If the point of an erotic novel is to make you feel aroused (I am guessing here as I have never actually read an erotic novel) then Fifty Shades of Grey utterly fails in that. Miss E L James hasn’t the vaguest idea of what is hot in sex and frankly my emotions while reading were ranging from laughter to pure disgust. And trust me, it is fairly difficult to disgust me. I would just say one thing without elaborating on it – the tampon scene. Whoever really wants to might google and read this; I refuse to comment.
Lessons for young women:
I would have forgiven Fifty Shades of Grey everything except the lesson it teaches young women. Abusive and controlling relationship is ok. Someone punishing you when you misbehave is ok. A crazy control freak telling you how to behave is ok. Everything of this is ok because you are there to change this guy. You are there to transform him and help him find his sensitive side. While I agree that you can change people – help them fight depression, find the right job, quit drugs, lose weight – I don’t believe you can change a person as fucked up as Christian. I can’t belive women worldwide find this collection of words romantic. I am not a feminist in any way, yet for me Fifty Shades of Grey is offensive to women. It wrongly shows that you can fall in love with a man who mistreats you, who doesn’t respect you, who doesn’t value your character, who controls you, and who shows you kindness once or twice in an entire relationship. Oh well, he is freaking hot, he has a huge penis (although I am not sure how Ana came upon that information given she is a virgin) and he buys you a lot of stuff. If this is what women these days perceive as love and romance, then the global warming, the war in the Middle East and the destruction of our environment are the least of our problems. I have tried for this review to be humorous but I am just horrified at what people read and like these days. As I said, I am alright with mainstream literature, but Fifty Shades of Grey is just a piece of garbage. As Salman Rushdie said (although I doubt any of the people who liked this have ever heard of him), I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made ‘Twilight’ look like War and Peace.