02/20/2015

Throwing shade at ‘Grey’

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kara50shadesDear Fifty Shades of Grey,

I thought you were an immense bore. I couldn’t even leaf through the first few pages of your novel and stopped just when the kinky stuff was getting started. Still, I’ll admit that I was there on the first-day screening of your movie adaptation to see exactly what I would’ve missed out on (which apparently, was not much.)

To be frank about it, your lead heroine, Anastasia Steele, has the personality of cardboard. Bland and unexciting. Anastasia is an English literature major, and a virgin… and the allure of her character kind of ends there. Everything else revealed about her thereafter becomes even more trivial: that she likes vintage cars, that she has a lip-biting habit, and that she reads Jane Austen — even if she is the exact opposite of a Jane Austen heroine.

You have written your female lead off as a pallid character, and yet you have managed to become a hot topic to about a hundred million women in the world. Your success with women readers seems to say that this is what women actually want.

In which your “reveal” is:

  1. a) a secret lust for kinky sex if and only if
  2. b) the man who indulges in it is ridiculously good-looking, rich, and obsessive.

Sure, I personally wouldn’t mind getting the grade-A treatment that Anastasia does. I wouldn’t mind getting loads of free sh*t (a car, a new laptop, some first-edition books). I wouldn’t mind a ride in Mr. Grey’s helicopter. I wouldn’t even mind if there were an owner of a company who thinks of me above all other career matters. To be honest, any woman wouldn’t mind any of these things, but the terms upon which you base the relationship of your lead characters is just as problematic as the characterizations you have made of them. Because, on the other hand, I would kind of mind if he didn’t give me space to enjoy my girl time, and was obsessively jealous of every man I talk to. I would mind that he thinks he can ask his chauffeur to buy clothes for me, because I’d like to go shopping for myself, thank you very much. And I would definitely mind if he had given me a contract on my first date, asking me to agree not just to certain terms, but to terms of sexual activity that border on abuse.

How could your lead character Anastasia, who brags about her 4.0 GPA at the beginning of the story, overlook these basic red flags? Easy. It’s because Mr. Grey is a very basic, stereotypical, cream-of-the-crop dream boy. He has money. He has a chauffeur. He has a helicopter. The tabloids love him. There’s a company named after him. He plays the piano. Okay. So never mind that he has some serious issues?

What if Christian Grey had less money, was a foot shorter, and had a muffin top — would the idea of BDSM still be as sexy?

According to you, Christian Grey convinced 15 other women before Anastasia, via legal contract, to consensually become “his.” Like women were things to be owned as long as they were spoiled and “pleasured.” Even Holly Golightly in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s would be very disappointed. She said tearfully in response to the man who said, “I love you”: “No. People don’t belong to people. I’ll never let anybody put me in a cage.” This is from a character coming of age when women weren’t nearly as liberated, so why does Anastasia seem more backwards than the Sixties?

Christian Grey doesn’t need a woman to save him from his issues. He needs to see a therapist. Anastasia Steele doesn’t need to go through things she doesn’t wanna do just to prove her love for Christian Grey. We’re strong, independent women, after all. Maybe she needs to be reminded of that. And so should every other woman who thinks butt plugs are a symbol of true love.

 

Sincerely,

Kara

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