Fifty Shades of Grey: My Rant on Crappy Books and the People Who Buy Them

Nothing gets my blood boiling more than animal abuse, religious fundamentalism, and crappy books. As someone who hopes to write novels one day, I get pissed off when mediocre writing gets an abnormal amount of hype, followed by movie rights and millions of dollars before I can even say “For the love of the Oxford comma!”

Right now, that hype is surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey (FSG), an erotic fiction trilogy by E.L. James. While I could discuss my annoyance over the excessive use of initials among authors–usually to disguise the writer’s gender in order to appeal  to a larger audience (sexist much, publishing industry?)–I have WAY too many other things to rant about. Here’s an abridged list:

These crappy books are crappy Twilight fan-fiction. Why are people acting like this is an original story? FSG used to be known as Master of the Universe. James, or “Snowqueens Icedragon” as she’s called online, wrote a BDSM tale about Edward and Bella, but then decided to rewrite it with her own characters. Instead of a story about a billionaire vampire and a high school virgin, it has become a story about a billionaire mortal named Christian Grey and a recent college grad/virgin Anastasia Steele. I’m not accusing James of copyright infringement because FSG now contains no connections to Meyer’s equally crappily-written trilogy, but I’m tired of media outlets ignoring the fact that James is essentially a crappy book copycat.

These crappy books make real erotica look bad. I read the previews of FSG on Amazon, so I believe that I have enough knowledge to judge their literary merit. (Trust me, you don’t want to read more than that!) I have also read my fair share of erotic novels, and even erotic fan-fiction, and I am embarrassed for the writers out there who are actually good at what they do. Here’s an excerpt from the Tumblr “50 Shades of Suck:” “Oh my, the look he gives me could be solely responsible for global warming” (Freed, Ch. 2). And another one: “‘Hold tight, baby,’ he murmurs, and magically produces a foil packet that he holds in front of my mouth. I take it between my teeth, and he tugs, so that between us, we rip it open” (Darker, p. 194).

If you didn’t cringe and groan while you read those sentences, then you might want to re-evaluate your literary standards. But there are many more examples where those came from, so feel free to check out that Tumblr. If anything, the outrageous number of times that these characters say each other’s names is enough to turn me off, not turn me on.

These crappy books have created a sexist conversation. Look, I have nothing against BDSM. I believe that women can be submissive in sexual relationships without being submissive in other aspects of their lives. As long as people enter into consensual agreements, what they do behind closed doors is none of my business. However, I can’t stand how media are calling this trilogy “mommy porn.” I find this term offensive, because it implies that (1) the only readers of erotica are housewives and (2) women don’t watch actual porn.

Both of these generalizations are completely false. Women are sexual beings just like men, whether they have children or not, and to trivialize their desires is sexist. What women can do to fight this verbal misogyny is to discuss their sexuality in an honest way and battle stereotypes about sexual fantasies. Stop this romance novel versus hardcore video, gender war nonsense! You should be able to like, or not like, various expressions of sex without “The Today Show” cracking jokes about your preferences.

These crappy books have undeservedly made way too much money. Speaking of “The Today Show,” E.L. James was recently interviewed on the NBC program. The author even admits, “I’m not a great writer.” (As if we hadn’t noticed!) Jezebel discusses how James is just as shocked as I am about her books’ popularity. And yet, they are topping the NYT bestseller list, and people are already hoping to cast Chris Hemsworth and Dakota Fanning as the film’s stars.

It simply boggles my mind what books make money nowadays, while well-deserved stories go unnoticed. James is now a millionaire, while the rest of us aspiring novelists are considering lowering our standards to get published, or at the very least, adopting pseudonyms just so we can earn enough to pay our bills without sacrificing our literary integrity.

Granted, I realize that this blog post is only fueling James’ success with publicity, but I hope that my intelligent subscribers will recognize crappy books when they read them–just don’t pay for them if you do!

What are your thoughts? Do you love or love-to-hate Fifty Shades of Grey? Or maybe you have never heard of it? What other crappy novels get your blood boiling?

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