Monday, 16 July 2012

Why I hate Fifty Shades of Grey

Our guest blogger is CAROLINE MARCUS, a reporter for the Sunday Telegraph


I have a dirty little secret: I can't stand book-of-the-moment Fifty Shades of Grey.

Before I'm accused of being a prude, remember I'm a tabloid hack.  Which means on a far too regular basis, I hear stories that would make even depraved protagonist Christian Grey blush.

My issue has, surprisingly, nothing to do with the graphic sadomasochistic sex that has helped make this "mummy porn" the fastest selling paperback of all time.

No. My problem is it's so appallingly written, I'm in my own red room of pain reading it.

I downloaded the book a few months ago when it first started creating a buzz in underground literary circles (okay, Twitter). Purely for research, of course.

I wanted to like it. Honestly, I did. Hating it feels like I'm an outcast of some exclusive girl's club. The same club that developed an unhealthy obsession with Twilight and collectively swooned over the anaemic-looking Robert Pattinson.

But I can't help detesting it, and here's why:

1. Despite its erotic content, the writing appears to be aimed at 12-year-olds. Seriously, this book would not be out of place in the 1990s tween series Sweet Valley High. Except I don't think twins Elizabeth and Jessica ever found themselves naked and suspended from ceiling hooks.

We all know the plot revolves around sexual fantasy, but real fantasy is author EL James' interpretation of dialogue. No actual person uses another person's name - let alone full name complete with honorific - that many times in conversation. Ironic from an author who goes by an abbreviated pen name.

Far from a turn-on, every time our hero seductively utters a sentence beginning with some variation of "Miss Anastasia Steele", I want to stab myself in the eye. And not in an S&M way.

2. Anastasia's sexual awakening is completely unrelatable. To begin with, despite apparently being irresistible to every male character in the book, the beautiful heroine has managed to remain barely kissed right until college graduation.

Then suddenly, she's orgasming left, right and centre at the mildest provocation. At one point, she even climaxes during a dream. I'm sorry, is she a pubescent boy?

All this only serves to inspire entirely unrealistic expectations for women. And the now inadequate-feeling men who are covertly reading their partners' copies.

3. Finally, but most importantly, I despise the subversive message in the book. I'm not surprised Fifty Shades began as Twilight fan fiction. The stories share the same, tired Weak Damsel Needs Strong Man to Rescue Her theme.

In both books, the young women know their love interests - bloodsucking vampire/sadistic billionaire - are bad news. But they sacrifice their own independence and better sense, not to mention risk their lives, at the first sign their crush wants to get in their pants. Needy, much?

The story of Mr Christian Grey and Miss Anastasia Steele is, essentially, your classic patriarchal fairytale injected with a heavy dose of Viagra. Prince Charming rides in on his white horse (in this case, an Audi R8 Spyder) and sweeps the grateful common girl off her feet.

Only this time, the prince bears a legally binding contract painstakingly setting out the terms of a dominant/submissive relationship complete with non-disclosure agreement and detailed appendices. Nice Jewish boy he certainly is not.

Our narrator appears to be so desperate for love and good sex, she is willing to become the whipping girl - figuratively and literally - of a very twisted man.

At the end of the day, if I wanted hardcore porn with terrible writing, an utterly implausible plot and an unflattering portrayal of women, I could find plenty of it for free on the net.

In the meantime, I'd rather watch fifty layers of paint dry.

Follow Caroline on Twitter @carolinemarcus


  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful book! I finished it a few days ago and cannot get it out of my head. It is pure magic. It was everything I hoped it would be and much more. Thank you so much. You are a great writer...
    EL James

  2. I am awaiting for the releasing of Anastasia Steele.
    Anastasia Steele