Fifty Shades…

So I read a fairy tale the other day.  Actually, three fairy tales. A trilogy about a young girl who meets a handsome stranger with a dark secret. They fall in love (you knew that was coming, right?), overcome a variety of obstacles, banish inner demons, get married, and have babies.  Happily ever after and all that.

No. It’s not Twilight but rumor has it that this trilogy started as “fan fiction” inspired by the Twilight story.

I’m talking about the Fifty Shades trilogy and while these books may have started as Twilight-esque, they are not intended for the pre-teen audience. Or the teen audience. Or even the audience of twenty-somethings.

Because you know what? These books? They’re porn. Or maybe we should call it “erotica,” which is sort of porn dressed up in a love story and decorated with a little psychodrama about a man (the love interest) overcoming a childhood of abuse and abandonment.

Twitter has been all aflutter about these books.  Women (maybe men, too, but I didn’t see any visibly male names in the twitter feeds) feel as passionate about #fifty as they did about #twilight, and perhaps even more so.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Twilight, particularly the first book, because I think it exactly captured that high school feeling of being “in crush.”  After the first book, though, the series jumped the ol’sharkaroo pretty quickly–and the final book with its incisor-performed C-section, is enough to make anyone who hasn’t already had kids consider getting her tubes tied.  And that’s without the whole werewolf-falls-in-love-with-your-baby thing.  (Is the werewolf-baby subplot the twenty-first century version of “the dingo ate my baby,” do you think?)

Twilight books, as many people have observed, are about virginity, chastity, and not giving it up till you’re married.  The entire series is rife with implicit (and explicit) warnings about sexing it up before marriage, and even the wedding night scene, despite Bella’s pleasure in (finally) receiving Edward’s conjugal attentions, results in bruises, contusions, shredded pillows, and a splintered bedframe.  Sounds like fun, right?

The Fifty books, on the other hand, are for your more…experienced reader. Maybe for the reader whose relationship has faded into a please-pass-the-remote-honey routine, or the reader who is dazed by the sleeplessness of early parenthood, or the reader who is between companions and would like a little something-something to while away the time.

The Fifty series begins when our young heroine, Anastasia—dewy-skinned and sassy—meets Christian Gray, a mysterious, brilliant, gorgeous gazillionaire. He, of course, falls passionately in love with her and pitches woo in the shape of private jets, helicopters, expensive cars, and priceless gems.   There are a few glitches, of course, which I shan’t divulge here, but let’s just say that Christian’s idea of a “playroom” does not involve foosball, legos, pingpong, or any other sort of toy purchasable at Toys R Us.

It will come as no surprise to learn that Ana tames Christian’s more unorthodox desires, although as she tames him, she herself comes to enjoy some of his milder “games.”

The happy ending of this trilogy isn’t what makes this a fairy tale, though. Nor is the fact that Christian buys Ana a publishing company so that she can have a job (as the CEO, despite never having been more than the publisher’s assistant), or that after several hundred pages of being something of a geek,  Ana drives a sports car through crowded city streets with the panache of a Formula One veteran.

Nope, the real fairy tale has to do with appetite. Christian constantly urges Ana to eat; he plies her with all manner of fattening deliciousness.  It’s as if the author has married food porn to porn-porn, and therein is the real magic.  Ana never gains weight. She remains effortlessly skinny, despite never exercising and rarely moving faster than a gentle stroll.

I mean, who cares about the gorgeous rich husband or the kinky private “games” Ana and Christian play, when you can read about thighs that stay thin and tummies that stay flat, despite breakfasts of fresh brioche and homemade jam?

That’s a story that could get a gal all hot and bothered…but I’m not sure that’s what all the book groups are chatting about when they choose these books for their discussions. In fact, I’m not sure what they’re talking about but I’ll bet it’s a very animated discussion.


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I’m not addicted to the games that Ana and Christian play but I *am* addicted to yeahwrite…and you should be too. Some of the best short essays on the web. Link up, or read up, then come back and vote ’em up. No tie or paraphernalia required.

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31 Responses to Fifty Shades…

  1. Dick Horwich March 3, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    For me, the tie is the interesting thing. I can never get the knot perfectlike that.

  2. a guy March 4, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    So this book is *sold out* on Amazon–which I’ve not seen for a new product before–and used copies start at $30. I’m impressed.

  3. jenn @ so this is love April 3, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Wow! sounds interesting! thanks for the heads up on the new fad 😉

  4. Ado April 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    How…titillating! (I’ve been waiting to use that word in a comment…)
    You know what my friend calls Twilight, which I haven’t read because I’m afraid I’ll get addicted to it?: Vampire Porn.
    I doubt I’ll be checkign out the Fifty series, they sound even more addictive….(-:

    • Deborah Quinn April 4, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

      Vampire Porn…I got sucked in at a young age, with “Dark Shadows,” and then there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer…. the Fifty Series is just three books and let’s get REALLY clear about something: you don’t read for plot and you don’t read for style. It’s a much more…personal…way of reading. ; )

  5. Mayor Gia April 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Hahhahahahah I’ve been hearing a lot about it lately but I haven’t read it yet. I love that you pointed out the food thing -true in a lot of movies!

    • Deborah Quinn April 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

      the writing is atrocious in these books – it’s clearly not about the prose – but the as a result the attention paid to Ana’s flat tummy, tiny thighs, etc… made me want to kill her. Through all three books, so clearly the wanting-to-kill her bit wasn’t as strong as the seriously-they’re-going-to-do-that part….

  6. Kim@MamaMzungu April 4, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    food porn AND porn porn and for the “reader whose relationship has faded into a please-pass-the-remote-honey routine, or the reader who is dazed by the sleeplessness of early parenthood” Sign me up! Kindle purchase here I come…

    • Deborah Quinn April 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

      I’m just saying…they might not be for everyone but they will for sure wake up A LOT of folks…in a nice way, rather than an alarm-clock sort of way…

  7. stephanie April 4, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    For me the writing has to be equal to the content, and Fifty doesn’t do it for me, not that the content does either. I couldn’t get past the surprise me page on Amazon. I have my own imagination. But, to each his own with books. The author is reputed to be a little chubby, hence her fascination with eating whatever you want and not gaining weight. As an author you can indulge you fantasies, and we can read them, or not.

    • Deborah Quinn April 4, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

      The writing of Fifty Shades is astonishingly bad – worse even than the Twilight books. That’s part of what surprises me about their success…they make Stephanie Meyers, the Twilight lady, look good. But you know, for prose of the titillating variety, the classic Anais Nin will also work… and she doesn’t really care what bodies look like AT ALL.

    • Deborah Quinn April 5, 2012 at 8:21 am #

      Interesting – because in between all the standard porn bits, there is this constant emphasis on how thin Ana is…it’s a bit odd, once you start paying attention to it.

  8. Miranda April 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    I actually hadn’t heard of this book yet, but thanks for the review. Based on what you said, I’m definitely not experienced enough to read this book, which means that I can read it one day in the future when it’s long past its fad stage and only cost $3.00 on Amazon. 🙂

  9. Runnermom-jen April 4, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    I was thinking about reading these books, but I think after your review, I won’t. So, thank you!

  10. Susan April 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    thank you, thank you for sharing this, because i know now what to avoid!

  11. Michelle Longo April 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    I heard of this book before people were talking and it sounded interesting. Then I heard about the Twilight fan fiction and I was no longer interested. Now I just don’t know. And since I don’t really have enough time to read anything, I’m not even sure it matters!!

    • Deborah Quinn April 5, 2012 at 8:19 am #

      again, let me just say, this ain’t about reading, bzackly. keep it on your night table…it’s a bit like a nightcap. A bit.

  12. Alison@Mama Wants This April 5, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    Grr, fan fiction, Twilight – what is up with people’s reading tastes??

    • Deborah Quinn April 5, 2012 at 4:06 am #

      okay, let’s be honest: if anyone is reading Fifty Shades for style, she is going to be seriously disappointed. The writing in these books makes Stephanie Twilight look like a Nobel laureate.

  13. Jackie April 5, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Like Jen, I felt like I should jump on the bandwagon, but thankfully I read your piece and now I will most definitely stay away. I like my food porn in front of me in real life, you know the kind you can actually consume, not reading about it between lines re:someone’s tiny thighs and flat stomach. FICTION!

    • Deborah Quinn April 5, 2012 at 8:17 am #

      well…I have to say there were *some* redeeming aspects to Fifty Shades…but not one of those aspects has to do with its literary qualities… : )

  14. Jamie April 5, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    My husband keeps bringing these up. He read an article that said the author was embarrassed about the popularity (yeah right, all the way to the bank she’s embarrassed)

    • Deborah Quinn April 8, 2012 at 4:05 am #

      yeah, I’ll BET she’s embarrassed. Um…then why write three books? I’m not sure I’d want to share these books with hubby, frankly. but that’s a post for another time. (!)

  15. Just Jennifer April 5, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I had no idea Twilight was about virginity! That is some serious news to me. And the rest, about eating without gaining weight. Fairy tale, for sure!

    • Deborah Quinn April 8, 2012 at 4:04 am #

      When Twilight first came out there was all this discussion about Stephanie Meyer being a Mormon and how, when you get right down to it, all the books are about abstinence – but flipped, in that the boy wants to get married and the girl just wants to “do it,” so despite all the vampire lust in the books, they’re actually quite chaste. And the BIG marriage night scene is…well, it’s weird. That’s all there is to say. Bella, of course, always stays thin, too, just like the girl in the Fifty Shades books. Weird, weird, WEIRD. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. Susie Newday April 6, 2012 at 3:45 am #

    Amazingly enough have never heard of any of these books. And I read loads. Interesting to find new books to read though.

  17. Christy@Handmade Jewelry April 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Ok, so I bought this book because it was on the top bestsellers list for so long. I wanted to see what all the “buzz” was about.

    This is not your typical boy meets girl let’s date and fall in love romance. Christian wants to dominate Anastasia and he wants her submissive. He comes up with a contract that he wants her to sign. She’s torn between her love for him and her fear of him.

    • Deborah Quinn April 13, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

      nope, this is NOT your typical romance…

  18. Kim@MamaMzungu May 1, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Hi Deborah,

    This is actually a response to your comment on my post of the same subject, but I’m not sure if you’ll see it.

    “Yeah, I totally remember reading your blog and actually that was the first I heard of the series. You totally intrigued me with that post. And so many seriously smart writers (like yourself) seemed to be enjoying it so that’s what got me to hang in there until the juicy parts. Definitely knew it when I saw it!”

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