The Fifty Shades Trilogy: My Opinion
My attention was first drawn to the fifty shades trilogy after seeing one of those irritating, over-popularised memes with the tag line ‘the awkward moment when you realise Christian Grey doesn’t exist’ – not recognising the name and with nothing better to do I googled it, initially disappointed to discover that Mr Grey was merely a fictional character in a kinky novel aimed at middle-aged women. Reading on further however, I was fascinated and pretty amused to learn that this ‘mummy porn’ as it has so aptly been labelled, has recently claimed its title as the fast-selling novel of all time, over-taking the likes of Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code. Letting curiosity get the better of me, I am ashamed to admit that the lure of the ‘best-selling’ and ‘mummy porn’ in the same sentence was just too intriguing and so I bought myself a copy to see what all the hype is about. After wasting a week of my life reading fifty shades of garbage, to put it bluntly I have absolutely no idea how or why this seriously terrible trilogy has made it to the top spot, here’s my opinion on the three bestsellers…
Book One: Fifty Shades of Grey
I guess most reviews start with a basic synopsis of the novel, however that isn’t necessary here because it’s quite easy to summarise the whole novel in full in only a few short sentences. Yes, the storyline is that simple. Ana is our protagonist, a dull uninspiring virgin who studies literature at university. She meets Christian – a flawless, perfectly formed philanthropist and billionaire businessman and almost immediately falls in love with him, yet later discovers he is incapable of having a proper relationship and instead wants her to engage in a dominant/submissive arrangement. Unable to ignore her feelings for Christian, she reluctantly enters into the agreement in the hope that he will eventually give her more. The novel then plunges headfirst into an endless stream of repetitive BDSM sex scenes finally emerging only to leave us none the wiser as to whether Christian can ever give Ana the loving relationship she desires. The end, literally.
Aside from the storyline left seriously wanting, the first thing that really began to annoy me about the book was how wholly unrealistic it is. Christian, the male lead, is apparently a wholly self-made billionaire at the ripe old age of 26. I mean millionaire may have even been a tad unrealistic but billionaire, seriously? Not only that, he’s also practically a concert pianist, a fully-trained pilot and the most handsome man on the planet all despite the fact he was born to a crack whore and orphaned at the age of 5. How anyone could possibly have had an awkward moment realising men like this don’t exist is beyond me!
In spite of the fact that surely any man like Christian Grey would have endless reams of women queuing, if not sleeping on his doorstep, the one he falls for is Ana, our heroine – a plain, underweight brunette who can’t apply make-up, has never used e-mail despite being 21 and it being 2011 (hmm!) and who studies literature (favourite novels being Jane Eyre, Tess & Pride and Prejudice – how original(!) Now I understand that the beauty of fiction and escapism is that we can all dream that our very own Mr Grey-style character is out there somewhere, for us to believe that this dull, unimaginative college student can sway a man with serious emotional and commitment issues to fall in love verges on comical.
The second thing that really got under my skin about the novel is the serious underdevelopment of any of the other characters/sub-plots. It’s almost as though E.L. James realises she’s been enjoying herself too much writing the BDSM scenes and suddenly thinks ‘oh crap’ (incidentally Ana’s most commonly used phrase) I’ve been writing too much of the kinky stuff – better develop the storyline a bit. The only real other characters we are introduced are Ana’s flaky but well-meaning mother and stoic, well-grounded stepfather (Twilight anybody?!) and a couple of her college friends but they are never properly developed, nor do they serve to add anything to the novel. Rushed, sweeping statements along the lines of ‘I’m filled with joy as I realise how much I love my mother’ serve to add nothing and feel like they are only in there because E.L. James realised that there has to be more to a novel than just sex scenes.
Returning to the Twilight point I made earlier, I understand that the novel is fan fiction based on the Twilight series, which only serves to make the novel more frustrating. Whilst I am in no position to criticise and admire anyone who manages to get a novel published, I feel like Fifty Shades is simply a badly written, sexed-up version of Twilight without the vampires and without any of the empathy. Whilst I often found myself frustrated at Bella’s miserable, selfish attitude towards the oh-so-terrible dilemma of having to choose between two guys, I am ultimately a lot more frustrated towards Ana, who appears to have a serious lack of self-respect and dignity. One minute she’s understandably angry at her lover for wanting to control her every move, including her diet, wardrobe, sleeping patterns, social life, then all of a sudden at the loosening of his jeans or the undoing of one shirt button she’s back in his arms complying wholeheartedly with his demands. Call me a feminist, but I found myself wanting to shout at her to have some self-respect!
Finally, the sex scenes. Whilst initially quite fascinating, after a while I found them repetitive, unrealistic, almost boring, which is quite ironic considering the activities involved. Whilst it’s refreshing to read a novel that pushes the boundaries and isn’t afraid to explore a taboo subject and portray it in a different light, it skirts on the edge of being wholly unbelievable. Without getting too graphic, to believe that Ana can go from being a virgin one minute to having approximately 6 orgasms an hour to me isn’t going to spice up middle-aged women’s sex lives, it’s just going to leave them disappointed! I’d therefore recommend anyone to give this dull badly written erotica a miss!