Fifty Shades of Grey: A Commentary

About a year and a half ago, I learned of a novel called Fifty Shades of Grey. It was circling amongst friends, and amongst co-workers, much like Twilight did back in 2009. Very little thought, or interest, was placed behind my, “Oh, I hear it’s the newest thing to read” remarks. Somewhere along the way, I may have learned it was a trashy novel, but I had no desire to actually read the book. Mostly because I still have a couple Diana Gabaldon’s collecting dust on my shelf, along with the latest Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz.

One day, I peeked over anesthesia’s shoulder in the OR, and asked what reading material had peaked their interest. It was then that I heard, “Fifty Shades. I know it’s lame to read, but this is a real page turner.”

I snatched up the Kindle–without permission–and read two sentences.

Just two.

Let me break down what I can remember–with probably better grammar than what was originally written in the book, … and maybe less Valley Girl-ese.

OMG, OMG, am I really reading this? Is this really happening? I think as I stare at the contract.

‘Yes, Ana. This is happening.'”

“The Hell?” I responded, handing back the Kindle. Anesthesia was lucky I didn’t fling it into the Sharps container. “The leading girl just thought something in her head, and the leading man answered her. The author made a character answer a thought. Out loud. This is crap. Who edited this? Who allowed it to be published?”

My stance remained the same when the book took off. Friends–people I believe to be intelligent–became wrapped up in this trilogy. They gushed about its worth, the depth of its characters, and the phenomenal back story of a man with a battered past.

In return, I scoffed. How could anyone not see what I did, after reading just two sentences? Then again, as a writer, I expect other writers to learn their craft, and excel. This writer didn’t put in the time, or effort, that it takes to learn English, let alone the art that is writing. I railed about the nonsense within those two sentences to the point that some accused me of jealousy, while others told me I hadn’t given the book a proper chance.

The jealousy part amused me. I used to teach writing. My former students were ten year old children. The quality of their work, after weeks of mini lessons, was more coherent than E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of ShGrey. So, no. I won’t be jealous that I cannot, ever, be a lazy writer. I’m not sorry that I didn’t refuse to learn my craft.

This past week, however, I found a free version of this novel on-line (thank you for whomever made this possible, because I didn’t want to buy this book for research purposes). I sat down, and started on page one.

Then I threw my computer across the room. A shoe followed, bouncing off the broken screen. Glass scattered in all directions. As I stomped across the wreckage, slicing my foot open, I yelled, “How did this become a worldwide phenomenon? The Hell? Has the average IQ dropped to 70?”

Okay, okay. I didn’t throw my computer; it’s still intact. My shoes have been reserved for the Hallmark Channel, during Sappy Movie Week. My foot was never injured, but that pain would have ended the agony of reading this novel.

I mean, seriously? People believed there was depth to these characters? They explained it as an emotional page-turner? Where was this phenomenal back story I kept hearing so much about?

After sucking it up, and bogging through 39 pages of soul-sucking nonsense–most of which I had to decipher–I stopped my running commentary to FB, Twitter, my boyfriend, and my roomie, and took to the venue I love most: blogging. I don’t just need my people to feel my pain, I need the world to understand how, as a writer, I’ve been tortured more than Ana in The Red Room of Pain.

I should also mention, I never made it to that part. I never read about Ana screaming out something akin to, “Holy whips and chains, Batman!” I couldn’t. After I read yet another idiotic Title of Unimportance (Blonde Number One, Blonde Number Two, and Buzz Cut come to mind), I cleared my browser. And then I cleared the history.

And then I threw my computer down an incinerator.

Okay, okay. I lied again. Exaggeration suited my purpose, though.

There was no depth to the character of Ana. From what I read, she was a Senior, graduating college. So, I assumed she was an intelligent person. She hadn’t had sex, gotten drunk, or even kissed a boy upon meeting Grey. That alone made me–as a reader–assume she had some sort of moral integrity that the author was trying to portray. Nope. What I came to find out was that her character was poorly designed. She ends up looking like a desperate flake. I viewed her as schizophrenic, due to her psychotic “subconscious” and “inner goddess.”

Those characters were also inherently flawed, and crudely constructed.

The subconscious gave ridicule as a means of controlling Ana. It sneered, it snarled, it mentally berated. It was the abusive boyfriend she never had before meeting Grey. It was meant to, possibly, motivate her into figuring out where her backbone was located. It probably was supposed to create a reaction within Ana to push against the domineering people in her life. It failed. As a flat, odd, strange entity, it failed. The chance Ana had to tell Grey, “You’re disgusting,” was left entirely to thought, and dismissed.

Not to mention, what woman–in her right mind–would think a man to be a perverted sadist, and then allow him to control every aspect of her life?

And she let him, while her inner goddess torqued around in costumes. That character, the one of the inner goddess, was just plain weird. It did across the board latin moves–with no clear reason as to why. The goddess had never been involved in a single samba class, and neither had the author–which was highly apparent in the book. She was prone to wearing hula skirts, and lounging on tropical islands. She couldn’t decide what she wanted to be–all she knew was she loved the outfits involved in cultural dances.

Which brings me to who would have made a better, more fleshed out protagonist. I would have found the slutty, PJ wearing Kate to be a believable main character. That character–given the headstrong, cut-loose, driven, bossy, dominating side–would have served the leading lady role well. She would have been hated, but this book is so nonsensical, it could have made sense. But, even then, Kate read desperate, and clueless. Why would a woman, who had secured a writing job in Seattle, have a one night stand with the brother of the man she’d just half-assed in an interview?

On that note, Christian. The question Ana asked shouldn’t have been, “Are you gay, Mr. Grey?”

It should have been, “Mr. Grey, you’re a gay man.”

Not a question; a statement of fact. Didn’t clue in on that fact? No? Then I should explain. The character came a across as a man cowering in the closet, afraid to tell the world of his homosexuality. Christian Grey was supposed to be written as a powerful man. A man of wealth, of prestige. A man who looked at the world, and expected acquiescence. What the reader was served, instead, was a waif of a man who gasped every time an “awkward” college Senior stared at him. If she questioned him, he grew petulant. He responded with anger at random times. He pouted. A lot. And, frick. Did I mention that he gasped?

Dear Lord, make it stop.

Redundant writing was another point of contention I have with this book. Certain phrases leapt from the page, threw themselves into my eyeballs, and blinded me with their banality. … Oh my. … Oh my.

Oh my, could Ana have been any more of a five year old staring at an ice cream display?

“… Oh my. Breathe, Ana. Breathe.”

Not only did Ana tell herself to breathe when she looked at Christian, he began telling her to breathe. I hold pure hatred for authors who unwittingly create mind-reading characters. Omniscient Point of View isn’t extended to the characters themselves, unless the character has a superpower. From what I could tell, Christian’s only superpower was his fragile male ego, and his overwhelming desire to stay in the closet.

“Breathe, Ana, breathe.”

I once wrote a birthing sequence, so when I read a character being told to breathe, I expect them to be in pain, dying, giving birth, choking, or fainting. At no point, in real life–or in fiction life–would a man look at a woman who’s “peeking at him beneath her lashes” and respond, “Breathe, Ana, breathe.”

But, this became Christian’s favorite line. Have I mentioned I only read thirty-nine pages? I mean, I mentioned that, right? It holds relevancy–I did my due diligence, without killing myself. That, in itself, was a major feat.

When I sat back and thought on the pages I suffered through, I realized the title is wrong. Fifty Shades of ShGrey holds no relevance–with the exception of E.L. James tossing in random lines with the inclusion of “fifty shades.” From memory, fifty shades of shit was one of those lines.

It was the most apt line of the novel.

I couldn’t force my way through this novel, but for those who did, and liked it, I think it should be retitled. I’ve worked on a new title, and I think it holds credence. Instead of Fifty Shades of Grey, the new name should be The Oh My, Inner Goddess, Samba Dancing, Gasp … From The Red Room Of Pain.

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