Thursday, April 19, 2012

Didn't want to do it... but have to do it... 50 Shades of Something

This blog talks about fairly sexually explicit material (not so so much) but fair warning.

But I’ve got to bring up the topic… 50 Shades of Grey…I know, I know it’s been beat to death. And I don’t even want to discuss the ramifications of its originations as FanFic. Dear Author did that better than I ever could.

I will say in full disclosure - I didn’t care for the book. Which of course I would never do publicly except in the rare cases when the book becomes so big (and let’s face it the author doesn’t care about my opinion at this point) that it becomes a discussible topic.

As far as I’m concerned books like the DaVinci Code, Harry Potter and yes, Twilight are open for discussion both pro and con because of the tremendous impact they made when released.

Before the kerfuffle on this book started I had a friend (a non romance reading friend) who suggested this book. Her quote… “All the moms are talking about it.” Then she goes on to say it’s a little kinky… to which I said – sign me up. I’m always up for good kink.

This however was not it. Neither good nor particularly kinky in my opinion. What’s funny is as I was reading it I was like… here we go again. What is it with these books and the Mary Sue that seem to resonate. I felt about this book exactly as I felt about Twilight which when I found out it was previously or allegedly or whatever – Twilight FanFic I thought to myself – well done whoever you are. You hit the exact same vibe.

And like Twilight – I get to a certain extent the appeal. Two million books sold. Five million for the movie rights alone! This book is about BSDM or BDSM or some combination of those letters. It’s about dominants and submissives. Alpha’s males to the extreme max. There is something titillating about it. Especially for people who haven’t read anything like this before.

But my point is if there is an audience so big out there for this book – why aren’t these women reading romance novels which deal with sexuality and sexual issues in a much more interesting and way more titillating way!

I mean comparing the sex in this book to authors like Kresely Cole or Maya Banks or Sylvia Day is like comparing a spring rain to a hurricane. So if it’s the kink you want, than you’re looking in a very tame place. And you can’t tell me it’s not, because I’m sorry the story just doesn’t hold up without it.

The worst, however, is the attitude of the heroine. The “I don’t like it. I like it.” “No please don’t. Do it some more.” drove me nearly insane. Is that what’s making this book so popular? Is it that “no, no this is wrong… please do it harder” concept that makes it acceptable for women who would never read erotica or highly explicit romance to suddenly read this book?

To my way of thinking if you like to get spanked own it. And heroines in romance novels today definitely reflect that. Maybe there are some still out there but I think mostly as women we’ve stopped writing the “No means Yes” kind of stories. The Flame and Flower just doesn’t hold up anymore. And while those types of books lead women into the romance genre, I would wager very few readers who read those books 20 years ago would put up with today what Kathleen Woodiwiss’s heroines put up with back then.

No means no. Yes means yes. If you like a belt on the butt then say so. If it’s not your thing don’t get involved with a guy who is into that. I mean really. I wanted to spank this girl for being such a dumbass! Certainly characters will think about why it is they like this particular fetish, or what it says about his or her past and/or internal psychology, but this story barely touches that. And really only with him.

If there are women out there, who don’t read romance, who are reading this book and enjoying it for what it is, just like I enjoyed the The Flame and the Flower 20 years ago, then we as romance writers need to find these women and bring them up to speed with how it’s really done in romance.

11 comments:

Sinead M said...

Sing it, sister.... Stephanie, it has been too long since we had a drink together...

I'm in the middle of reading it, and yes, the heroine is this blank, virginal, (yep, virginal) and has no clue what she wants, and the characterization is so weak, but tons of women are reading it. Not sure why this particular book hit, but lightening happens and if it brings more women to romance, then fantastic.

I heard they sold the movie rights for an ungodly sum. How the hell are they going to make a non-X-rated movie out of this book?

Stephanie Doyle said...

Sinead - then come to California with us!!! I can assure you there will be drinking :)

And blank is an amazing word. He's marginally interesting because of his past but all I could think of is what in hell do you see in this vacuous nothing there girl. And she becomes more irritating as the book goes and she just can't seem to make up her mind.

Slave? No slave? Slave? No slave!

Eileen said...

I haven't read it and wasn't planning to. It's FanFic origins were enough to give me the warning I wouldn't like it.

So what is it that's making this book so popular? Anyone out there read it and loved it? Enlighten me.

Stephanie Doyle said...

And it's funny Eileen I've seen a lot of reviews crushing this book, but does it matter?

2 million sales! People are talking about this book, recommending this book, and telling other readers... hey read this book.

There is a reason why and I would also love to know what element is it.

Is it the story? Is it the hero? Is it the sex? Is it the contract which is pages and pages long?

Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Steph.

I was talking about this book with a few authors who write erotic romance and I could tell they weren't sure how to feel about the success of this book. On the one hand, from everything I've heard, it's a bad representation of both the romance genre and erotica, and on the other hand, maybe some of the people who read it will look for more books in the genre. High tide floats all boats.

But I kind of feel like it will get used as an example of how badly romance novels are written (so people think). i.e. "Romance novels are badly written -- just read this if you don't believe me."

Why can't a really great, well written romance or erotica break out like this???

I bought it on my kindle... but have only read the first few pages. Enough to know that if I were judging it in an unpublished contest I would not be giving it a high score. The opening reads like a newbie author's first attempt at a Harlequin Presents. Twenty years ago. Badly written and cliche.

I think the lesson, if there is one, is more about how freaking random this business can be.

Or maybe that we should all start writing fan fiction to build a platform???

Stephanie Doyle said...

Maureen - I definitely think it equates to erotica more than straight romance but I hear you. Some books may take a negative hit.

I've already had one person use the "p" word in regards to this.

And I agree. We all love breaks outs. We all love the idea that the tide can raise everyone...It's like Hunger Games. Watching it take off is fun and amazing because we know the quality of the work.

But this book is from a writer perspective amateurish.

Just like Twilight...was an amateur effort.

I'm all for debut authors and break out authors... it's amateur breakout authors that makes me slap my head.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yeah. It sucks that a sucky erotica is being talked about like it's an example of romance. I've heard it called that a few places.

Fred Green said...

I've been lurking this blog for some number of months now, but I've never felt strongly enough about a post to actual comment.

To clarify, I've actually never heard of this book before reading this post. Thanks to my college workload, buying books has gone on the back burner. However, I've read enough romances, both good and bad, to know exactly what this type of book this "50 Shades of Grey" is.

I think part of the appeal of amateur stories lie in people who aren't familiar with romance novels, let alone kinky ones, taking solace in that they've found something they themselves could sit down and write. Therefore, it's something they can easily connect to.

My apologies for any spelling or grammar errors, I'm dead tired.

Eileen said...

Hey, Fred, welcome! Interesting point. Maybe that makes the book more relatable?

On an interesting note, I was at the dentist today and while we were waiting for the novacaine to take effect, she wanted to know if I'd heard about 50 Shades of Grey and if I thought she should read it. I laughed until I drooled.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I was talking about it with my friend last night. She saw the author and one of the morning shows and wanted to know if I read it.

And in thinking about it I do think Fred is right. It's like the heroine is this blank canvas. And anyone can insert themselves into her. I believed that's what made Bella so relatable. She could be ANY girl because she was no particular girl.

As for the D/S thing - my friend pointed out that maybe it's just the times. With things in the economy more difficult, people are shouldering more burden. And who wouldn't want to indulge in a fantasy where you can turn that burden over to someone else completely.

And have an orgasm.

Molly O'Keefe said...

All these years I've been waiting for someone to write on this blog "belt on your butt"

It would be nice to think that there will be some trickle down and some new readers will find romance thanks to this book and the newly discovered privacy of the ereader. It could be the right book at the right time for this genre and all those women out there with new e-readers and nothing on them, because they want people to see them reading the book club books...

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