Fifty Shades of FAIL!


Do read my earlier post on Fifty Shades, if you haven’t already.

I finished reading the second Fifty Shades book – Fifty Shades Darker. I retract everything I thought while reading the first. This is not a good book. This is not a good story. These aren’t strongly etched characters. Fifty Shades of Bad Writing.

My biggest grouse with the books is that they’ve been grossly miscategorized, in an obvious attempt to reach a larger audience. It stands to reason that not even a fraction of the readers they’ve had now would have even stopped by an aisle (or online category) titled ‘Erotica’ or ‘Pornography’. But this push for more sales has I think, hurt the story. Genres, cover art and blurbs go a long way in setting reader expectations even before the first page is read. Fifty Shades is about as misleading on all of these as any book can possibly get. Fifty Shades of Dirty, Rotten Lies.

It’s bad enough business to fool the customer; it only results in resentment. But here’s why I’m most pissed off. Genres like Romance & Chicklit convey a certain impression that the stories they tell are what life is like or is supposed to be like. Never mind how unrealistic they may seem or even regressive; within the social setup that we all live in, they make us, their target readers feel good. Romance is out and out candy for the soul laced with a little sex talk couched in a ‘safe’ manner that doesn’t threaten most women. And if you’re wondering about the ‘safe’ business, most women learn an emotion that most men never do, in bed – fear. Fifty Shades of love is supposed to be fun, not scary.

It’s debatable whether ChickLit is really empowering to women but at least superficially, it places a woman at the center of the story, much time is spent examining her moods & motives, which hitherto don’t find adequate expression in real life or in popular media. Having someone talk about things that you’ve been told are stupid or irrelevant, all your life gives you a burst of energy in a way that only people who’ve been marginalized in some way, would understand.

In contrast, Fifty Shades is dark, forbidding and hopeless – I can’t imagine anybody actually feeling good about it. The female protagonist Anastasia Steele appears to be little but a hapless victim of an abusive, hostage-situation relationship and subjected to any manner of mind games and deviant sex. If I’d found this categorized as BDSM or the larger genre of Erotica, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Different strokes for different folks (pun entirely intended) and so long as it doesn’t involve children, animals or murder, I don’t judge. I believe that we have different tastes but I also think that anything that doesn’t fall under ‘plain vanilla sex’ (as the book calls it) caters to niche audiences. I have a problem when someone tries to pull a con by mainlining a niche offering.

Books are powerful medium of expression after all and a more intimate one than the other mainstream media. A good writer can effectively get into your head and possibly even change your outlook on life. Imagine giving the kind of power to someone who believes that pain is fun, control games are a birthright and sexual abuse is the cure to physical abuse. That’s what these books have done. Fifty Shades of This is Madness.

The first book at least piqued my curiosity, having brought up things that you don’t normally hear about in mainstream reading. It also ended with Anastasia Steele taking a strong stance against the madness. The second book lost it all with Anastasia’s supposed stance crumbling in a mere 4 days and her running back to the abusive madness of Christian Grey. And as if to justify a third book, the ending pulls a flimsy deus ex machina in the form of a barely disguised villian with murderous intentions. Twilight couldn’t have disappointed me better. Fifty Shades of I’m so disgusted I won’t waste my time reading the third.

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Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book is in first person narrative & present tense, 2 things that instantly put me off fiction.The main characters are strongly etched out, the negative one a bit better. But that may just be the first book. 50Shades is a romance but not in the sweet, comforting sense of ChickLit. This is romance gone horribly wrong, angst turned to depravity.The 1st book has so much sex that the first 100 pages seem more like erotica. However as the story builds up, one realises that sex is being used to illustrate some dark corners of the human psyche. The first book ends there and it’s up to the other books to illuminate this further,resolve the situation & bring characters to full maturity. The book was gripping enough for me to complete it in 24 hours and move on to the second immediately.

Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades, #2)Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey disappoints right from the beginning. The first book was disturbing, deviant even. But it addressed a somewhat obscure topic – deviant sexuality in relationships. It was also borne on the shoulders of what promised to be a strong female character, outlined by her choice to walk away out of self-preservation, at the end.

Fifty Shades Darker begins by consigning her to the role of a weakling whose resolve doesn’t last more than 4 days. Thus Anastasia Steele goes back, this time with a full awareness of what she’s getting into – an abusive relationship with a man who insists on controlling her every move and subjecting her to his depraved, deviant sexual tendencies. Quite unlike in the first book, where she’s still a virgin and a shyer innocent at that, Anastasia metamorphoses into a typical abused wife, condoning and making excuses for all of Christian’s actions.

Worst of all, all of this is couched in a macabre “He loves me so much. We are such soulmates” message that is echoed by all the supporting characters. By this time in the plot, most readers are probably chafing from the excessive sex that is plugged in at frequent intervals to fill the pages of a story that could probably have been a 3-pager. So the end of Book 2 brings in a flimsy twist – a new villian with murderous intentions. I really have to ask – Who needs a murderer when you’ve got Christian Grey for a hero?

View all my reviews

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*Also posted on XX Factor.

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7 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of FAIL!

  1. Gautam August 17, 2012 at 17:28 Reply

    You do know it originated as fan-fiction to the Twilight series, don’t you?

    The uber rich gorgeous hero and the frail virginal heroine – so much like Edward and Bella 🙂

    Like

    • IdeaSmith August 19, 2012 at 14:43 Reply

      @Gautam: *Horrors* No, I didn’t. My ‘friends’ sat back and let me plow through this monstrosity instead of telling me. x-(

      Like

  2. poppiejunkie August 17, 2012 at 18:30 Reply

    I’m an English Literature student so I had to see what the hype was all about lol. I barely made it through book 1. Can’t imagine how bad the other two must be. I was told though that I was being too harsh on it so in response I wrote this post: http://poppiejunkie.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/in-defense-of-fifty-shades-of-grey/

    Like

    • IdeaSmith August 19, 2012 at 14:41 Reply

      @poppiejunkie: 🙂 The plight of the terminally curious! I’ve visited your blog & responded, btw.

      Like

  3. […] Fifty Shades of FAIL! (ideasmithy.wordpress.com) […]

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  4. […] first heard about S.E.C.R.E.T. in online forums discussing (and bashing) 50 Shades of Grey. 50 Shades, of course, had achieved cult status, a sort of adult Twilight for our times. Its […]

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  5. Fifty Shades of FAIL! | XX Factor June 28, 2014 at 00:30 Reply

    […] *Also posted on The Idea-smithy. […]

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