The Image of Perfection?
Following on from my last post I’m ashamed to say, perhaps unsurprisingly, I couldn’t persevere with the terrible trilogy any longer and despite purchasing all three books I found it a chore to keep going beyond the second instalment. Unfortunately (or perhaps uncaringly) therefore, I didn’t find out what happened between the enigmatic Mr Grey and the nationwide herione Ana, but given the predictability and ludicrousness of the first two books, I assume it’s a no expenses spared Disney-style happy-ever-after ending (please correct me if I’m wrong). Despite this, I did find myself rather fascinated as to what exactly it is about Fifty Shades that has made it such a worldwide sensation. Discussing this with a friend he pointed me in the direction of this interesting article, the author of which hits the nail on the head when she says ‘Fifty Shades is just Mills & Boon for the generation that would once have been embarrassed to be seen reading Mills & Boon’:
Apart from pointing out, quite rightly, that the beauty of kindles, ipads and even smartphones these days is that we can hide behind technology and no-one has a clue what we’re reading; the author of this article also suggests that one of the reasons the books are so popular is that we live in a society where sex and sexual images are so common that authors/film-makers have to continually push the boundaries in order to capture and hold our attention, and I think she’s right.
I don’t think anyone can argue that the more controversial, boundary-pushing or taboo something is, the more likely we are, as a nation, to be interested in it. In the era of the internet it’s rare for the youth of today to be shocked by something but the more shocking something is, the more tempting it is to look. To use a very bad example, a few years ago a friend told me about a video ‘two girls one cup’ – “trust me”, she said, “you won’t want to watch it”, yet contrary to my better judgement I couldn’t resist checking out this video I ‘definitely wouldn’t want to watch’ – morbid curiosity had got the better of me! (In all seriousness though, you do NOT want to watch this video). I think the reason for the popularity of Fifty Shades is linked to this inherent interest we have in exploring topics outside our comfort zones and/or experiences whether it be through films, books or the internet. Mainstream erotica is something that hasn’t really been done before and therefore regardless of the quality or content of the novel, it was always inevitable that it was going to springboard to success.
I think its popularity may also be linked to the idea of female empowerment. Whilst many of us would consider gender equality an issue of the past it nonetheless still exists, albeit to a lesser extent and perhaps the fact that it’s acceptable for us as women to sit on the train and openly read a novel which, unless you haven’t left the house for the last couple of months, everyone quite clearly knows is highly sexually explicit, is a sub-conscious way of us expressing our sexuality and declaring to the world that in modern society it is OK for us, as women, to read and be interested in novels about sex. Ironically, however, I personally feel that the novel is quite the opposite – as my friend quite rightly pointed out, ‘how on earth is it empowering when the premise of the story is a girl falling for a rich man who dominates everything she does’ but that’s another topic for discussion!
On a much simpler level, I also think one of the fundamental reasons for the book’s success is the force of the lead male character of Christian Grey. Every single woman who has read or even just started to read Fifty Shades will undoubtedly have some picture in her mind as to what this fine figure of a man should or would look like. He is undeniably perfect, yet perfection is highly subjective which is why I think it’s going to be incredibly difficult to cast him when work gets underway on the film version of the trilogy. In March of this year it was announced that Fifty Shades would definitely be adapted into a film with the rights being secured by Universal Pictures (or so the reliable informant Wikipedia tells me) with a few leaked names as to who might be in the pipeline to play Christian Grey. Finding this fascinating, I googled a couple of the potential actors and whilst I’m still musing over my personal preference as to who should play Christian Grey, here are images of the current favourites to play the two lead roles: Ian Somerholder and Ashley Benson:
The gravity of the hype surrounding the novels is also demonstrated by the fact that scientists have actually spent time and money coming up with a reader’s ideal image of Mr Grey (cover image). This is apparently being done using software used to catch criminals – makes you wonder doesn’t it! The image, however, does provide interesting viewing and below I’ve added photos of some of the famous faces used to create this image of Mr Perfect. On that note, I’ll leave you to decide what you think this fictional sensation should look like and who you think should play him.