To Read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or Not ~ A Testimony

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on November 7, 2012 0 Comments

I have an unapologetic love for pop culture and a passion for reading however I don’t know if I can commit myself to the current pop culture phenomena Fifty Shades of Greyby E. L. James.  I have two friends who devoured these novels.  They tend to borrow books more than buy them and they both bought the Grey trilogy without blinking.  Both have offered to lend their copies to me, but there is just something barring my acceptance.

             This is usually the part of an article where I fess up that I started to read the Twilight series after going through several months of chemo (Fifty Shades has a direct tie in with the Twilight books which will be explained in a few moments).  I might even throw in a few lines about how chemo made my eyesight wonky thus severely limiting the enjoyment I got out of reading and when I did start reading again I wanted to read things that were fun and easy which is all true.  I now reveal a deeper truth; I used chemo as a shield.

            I probably would have read Twilight out of curiosity but I wouldn’t have been so bold to proclaim I actually liked the books if I had not been sick because frankly I was not the intended age demographic for the novel.  As things stood a mere few years ago, the books were fodder for comedians to make fun of teen girls so women who enjoyed the novels tended to stuff their opinions deep inside their literary closets (where shoes and books share shelf space).  I was one of the lucky ones, I had just been through chemo so I could use my bald head and eyebrowless eyes to stare down any potential hater and say, “Twilight isn’t that bad, Stephenie Meyers has a way with dialogue and I’m recovering from chemo so don’t judge my reading choices!”


        With the passage of time I feel that Twilight solidified a trend, one that had in recent memory began with the Harry Potter novels, of books aimed at the youth cohort but read by multiple generations as well.  Whereas the Potter series had fans of all ages and genders, Twilight was primarily for the XX gene set and its popularity was duly noted by Hollywood and publishing houses.  Nothing is a better paradigm of how the Twilight novels have been enjoyed by older women than the Fifty Shades trilogy.  Grey began as a fan fiction re-imagining of Bella and Edward in a universe where he wasn’t a glittery vampire and both weren’t governed by chaste values reminiscent of a bygone era.

          E. L. James grew her novel from being a mere homage to Twilight to being a phenomena in its own right.  All she did was change character names, switched up personality traits, and vanquish everything sparkly.  She removed her writing from a Twilight site because of the sexual content then put it on a site she owned and renaming the story from its moniker Master of the Universe to its present title (she took down her web prose once it became a sellable commodity).  In May of 2011 the tale was extended and split into three sections for downloading as an e-book.  From there the good readers at took up its cause and by January 2012 the novels had been dubbed “Mommy Porn” and an exemplary example of viral marketing.  By April the books had been picked up by a major publisher and were in the news.  In May Saturday Night Live had a Mother’s Day skit where Fifty Shades of Greyplayed a prominent role.  In July the trilogy had a whole table display at the downtown Kansas City Costco.  It almost sounds redundant to add that the books have been optioned for film.


             The trilogy’s success is a Cinderella story.  It makes anything that has recently happened to Amanda Hocking sound trivial.  As a writer I want to applaud, but as a reader I’m very much of the same mindset as the woman who started all of the fuss.  Meyers said of the books, “that’s really not my genre, not my thing…  Good for her – she’s doing well.  That’s great!”

         Maybe I’m a prude.  I don’t like the idea of a BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) relationship.  I especially don’t want to think about how this book’s popularity reflects on the sexual tastes of women across the planet…let alone my two friends.

             Perhaps my reluctance is because I’m afraid I might like it.


           I have been a very naughty girl as of late.

           I may need to be spanked…



          I remain undecided about delving into the novels.  I know I will not buy them.  I probably own a hundred books already that I have not read.  Yet there is this niggling desire to be in the know and have an informed opinion about the series – for heaven sakes, I am a book reviewer after all!  Maybe if I read Fifty Shades of Grey I’ll have an out of story experience where my eyes follow a page describing the couple having sex on a desk but my mind will wonder about who is going to clean up the sticky aftermath.  Wealthy businessman Christopher Grey?  His object of desire Anastasia Steele?  Most likely some after-hours cleaning woman who has to work two jobs in order to support her family.  She will lift a forgotten soiled tie (gray of course) and grimace before tossing it in the trash not knowing the significance it plays on the book cover.  The chapter ends with her closing the office door while mumbling about how disgusting the one percent are.


         Perhaps it will be more amusing just to imagine what lies between the pages.


        Happy reading!

Westerfield © 2012

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