The Fifty Shades Dilemma: It Is All Our Fault

Posted on July 18, 2012 by

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So something pretty terrible has started happening to me recently, and when I was asked if I wanted to do another guest post for Bad Books Good Times (cheers guys!) I decided that this would be a pretty good chance to get all these confusing emotions out.

By now, I’m pretty sure everyone is sick to death of Fifty Shades of Grey. Matt and Ariel certainly are. I am, and I’m not even reading the stupid things, I’m just reading a blog about reading the stupid things.

But I have, nobly, been keeping up the good fight anyway. I am a student of literature! There are so many great books in the world! It is basically our responsibility to warn people away from being sucked in by this nightmare. Besides, everyone is acting like erotica has only just been invented. But Mills & Boon has been around for decades, Lady Chatterly’s Lover was first published in 1928, the ancient Greeks weren’t shy about it at all, and there are Paleolithic cave paintings which are positively filthy. So pointing out to everyone you know that EL James doesn’t even write good erotica seems like a pretty decent way to pass the time.

Also, doing dramatic readings for your friends in the middle of a bookshop and watching their horrified reactions is kind of hilarious too.

But I’ve started noticing disastrous consequences. Despite reading a passage aloud in Waterstones during which Ana referred to Christian as “Mr Orgasmic” and my friends promptly vomited everywhere, a few days later I received a Facebook message from one of them, excitedly announcing that she had bought the books (and continued to want to vomit everywhere). It happened again with an entirely different set of friends. One day we were laughing about how Jose totally isn’t Jacob. The next it was “But it only cost me £9 to download all three onto my Kindle! And I kind of got really into them!”

I was appalled.

Instead of dissuading all my friends from falling into the trap, I seemed to be actively pushing them towards it.

Not even Admiral Ackbar could warn them now.

There are many articles all over the internet trying to explain why Fifty Shades has become so popular so quickly. Some theories include:

  1. The ebook form which meant it could be bought and read without anyone ever knowing (this may have been true at first, but now the paperbacks are everywhere and no on seems bothered about reading it in public AT ALL).
  2. It is a slower build up than most pornography, so women respond to it better (thank you, internet, for telling women what we want).
  3. It helps to articulate previously unexpressed female fantasies (okay. I am all for women being able to explore their sexuality freely and openly. Obviously, that is not a bad thing. But see above, re: not the invention of erotica. Maybe studying an arts subject at a liberal university makes me totally biased, but come on, this is not the first time female sexuality has ever been discussed. I mean, did no one listen to Rihanna’s S&M? It’s right there in the name, you guys!)
  4. The recession means that cheap, escapist novels are more popular than ever (after all, reading about wealthy businessmen who casually own helicopters certainly makes me feel better about my life!)
  5. The most obvious, and probably the most true: no one will shut up about it.

And it’s this last one that got me thinking. I am absolutely complicit in that reason. I am writing a blog post about it. Right now. That is what I am doing. I am adding to the 88,800,000 results which turn up when you google “why is Fifty Shades of Grey so popular?” Of course my friends went out and bought it! They want to be part of the discussion too! Not being able to talk about Fifty Shades of Grey is probably now an official handicap during conversations at parties. Or at work. Or on the bus.

Plus, as this blog and my bookshop readings prove, making fun of things is hugely entertaining. It’s an easy way to get a laugh, and it indulges that part of you that likes to feel smarter than everybody else (although it just occurred to me that “indulging the dark secret parts of your psyche” is another alleged reason the series is so popular, so if our making fun of it does just that, we are actually proving it’s own intentions true, just not in the way it expected. Balls.)

In conclusion, based on pretty much no evidence at all, the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey is all my fault. It is all of our faults for talking about it in the first place. The more we talk about it, the more the entire phenomenon spreads. The more we retweet jokes by 50 Sheds of Grey, the more people wonder what all the fuss is about. And the more people wonder that, the more it outsells Harry Potter.

I’m not saying we should stop doing those things. Making fun of Fifty Shades of Grey is basically an entire sub-genre of comedy now, one that I don’t really want to give up. There are just so many good jokes to make.

I just hope we can all live with the consequences.

Yes. This is a Fifty Shades cufflink. Whatever point I was trying to make, it has now been made.

 

 

 

 

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