The 50 Shades Of Grey movie based on the hot and steamy book trilogy hit the box offices Friday, February 13, to coincide with the Valentine's Day weekend. Although I haven't seen the movie, I did read the books, and they didn't feel very Valentines-y to me. More like Friday the 13th.
Before taking a trip, I posted on Facebook asking for recommendations for reading and received several shot-outs for the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James. Upon Googleing it, I decided that the books sounded like perfect light reading for long plane rides and waits in the airport. I like a titillating, erotic, romance novel as much as the next girl....or so I thought.
I bought the first book and cracked it open before even leaving for my trip. Upon seeing me with it, my son informed me "Mom, that's porn!" After relating his comment under my original post on Facebook, I was advised by more than one person that there was a great love story mixed in all the hype. At that point, I wasn't far into the book, and while the main male character was into BDSM, it wasn't what I would consider porn.
After finishing the first book on the initial leg of the flight across the country, I was mad that I had wasted my time reading such crap, but some part of me also kind of liked reading the crap. In the airport with a 3 hour layover and nothing to read; I bought the second book at the expensive airport shop. After finishing the second book, I wanted to write a scathing article about the series right then. but I figured that I should read the third book to be fair, to be informed, and to see where the story and characters went.
The books follow the romance of Christian Grey and Anastacia Steele. Christian is a dashing, twenty something gazillionaire, who's a tortured soul due to a harsh early childhood that left him orphaned and mentally and physically scarred. Luckily, he was adopted by an affluent, loving couple, but a bored, married, female friend of the couple decided to make Christian her sexual submissive while he was a handsome teenager doing yard work for her.
Anastacia Steele is a demure, clumsy, awkwardly dressed yet naturally stunning college senior with a perfect figure (I don't recall her working out one time.) who interviews Grey for an article in the college paper. Upon her stumbling into his office, he's so smitten with her irresistible ways that he asks his staff sleuth to get the details on her. He arranges to happen into the hardware store where she works to pick up a few of his bondage necessities. The books portray their tumultuous romance and subsequent marriage.
Christian originally sets out to make Anastacia his sexual submissive, and while she does initially entertain the idea, reads the rules, and tries to play the part, she finds that it's just not in her nature to do it well because obedience outside of the bedroom is also required. Early on, she risks a spanking any time she rolls her eyes, talks to another man, disobeys an instruction, or otherwise arbitrarily angers the controlling Christian.
Throughout the books Anastacia spends lots of time trying to predict and anticipate Christian's reactions, thoughts, and moods. She's happy and her "inner goddess does an arabesque" when Christian is happy with her and things are going well. Her inner goddess looks sternly over her half-moon glasses questioning Anastascia's decisions and actions when they may not be in her best interest. She does this a lot.
The relationship is based on ownership, control, assuming, and reacting. It's the typical "bad boy turns into a prince charming who rescues the maiden who turns out to be a beautiful princess" fairy tale.
Anastacia, who was a virgin when they met, is able to make Christian, a man who has been into "kinky fuckery" for years, explode in ecstasy with just a few minutes of her novice, vanilla skills. Just the sight of Anastacia biting her lip drives Christian wild with uncontrollable desire. Similarly, Anastacia always climaxes multiple times in a single sex session with very little effort. It would be wonderful if only it was that easy!
While I do recognize that the books are fiction and were never meant to stand up to the litmus test of reality, it makes me sad and mad that these are best sellers because it means that women still buy into, fantasize, and dream about these romantic myths.
To glorify the relationship depicted in these books, bordering on abusive and based on control, intimidation, and disrespect, perpetuates unhealthy ideas about what constitutes a loving relationship. Unfortunately, the distorted stereotypes of male and female that Christian and Anastacia represent are far too prevalent in the media, and we are inundated with them every day. These ideas seep into our brains, become part of our social norms, and become the standard by which people judge themselves unless they consciously decide differently.
In all fairness, the trilogy, does portray Christian healing his psychological wounds, becoming more trusting and less controlling, even letting go of the kinky stuff for the most part, because of his authentic love and caring for Anastacia. Eventually, Anastacia comes into her own a little and finds some self esteem and the ability to assert herself - and Christian accepts it. In real life, how often does that happen?
Begrudgingly, I have to admit that when Christian dropped to one knee in the boat house brimming with twinkly lights and flowers and asked Anastacia to marry him, I teared up. During many of the sex scenes, I got tingly which made me mad because I felt like my own body was betraying me! My guess is that, even though my head knows better, these archaic ideas of romance are deeply ingrained in me and are still present on some level.
All in all, the trilogy was entertaining, mindless reading, but I did find it to be a ridiculously insulting depiction of a modern, healthy female and relationship. I'm not condemning you if you read the books as a guilty pleasure or if you go see and enjoy the movie. (I'll wait until it comes to Netflix.)
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