Tag Archives: Twilight

50 Shades of Grey Trilogy *SPOILERS* Why I can’t recommend it.

Standard

*PLEASE NOTE: SPOILERS WITHIN FOR THE ENTIRE TRILOGY! IF YOU DON’T WANT ANY SPOILERS FOR ANY OF THE BOOKS, DO NOT READ! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*

 

I have noticed a lot of traffic on this site related to searches for information about EL Jame’s runaway bestseller and so-called “mommy porn” Fifty Shades of Grey,which is turn has led to many views of the two posts I have already devoted to the subject. This is an expanded version of an email response to a fellow blogger who had questions for me concerning the controversial trilogy.  It does contain spoilers for the plot, so be forewarned. And considering the subject matter of the books–a BDSM relationship–it naturally contains mature content.

Fifty Shades of Grey at SeaTac newsstand

Fifty Shades of Grey at SeaTac newsstand (Photo credit: rachelkramerbussel.com)

OK, 50 Shades . . . I seriously wondered if I wanted to read the third book after reading the first two and not exactly being enthralled—frustrated and at times, very troubled, is more like it—but I felt I needed to complete what I started.

I decided to consider what I invested in time and money to read them “taking one for the team” in hopes of helping others know whether or not they would be interested. And as a writer as well as a reader, I needed to see what James did with these characters.

She has clearly intended for this to be the first three in a series of books on these characters. She includes a chapter at the end telling of their meeting from Christian’s POV, which frankly creeped me out with its predatory qualities.

I know that BDSM is not considered sexual deviancy by psychiatry today.  I have no problem with a bit of consensual light bondage, light-hearted spanking and that sort of thing between two well-adjusted adults. I’ve included it in my own erotic romances. It adds a nice bit of spice to the sex.  Writing and reading about sex is fun, indeed. Nothing wrong with some steamy escapist fantasies.  And there is no doubt some of the sex scenes in 50 Shades are hot.

However, I believe someone who has an overwhelming urge to beat a series of young dark-haired women black and blue because they resemble his dead crack whore mother who neglected him and allowed her various boyfriends to abuse her little boy, who ended up living with his mother’s corpse for several days . . . is someone carrying a lot of emotional baggage.

He was also seduced by an older woman who made him her submissive for seven years beginning when he was 15. Before that twisted relationship, he was acting out and getting into fights at school, so supposedly she “saved” him by teaching him to be her sub. But I can’t approve of an older woman manipulating a child in such a manner. Little wonder he was so f***ed up.

He thinks Ana will be the perfect submissive, and of course, she isn’t. She keeps resisting his rules. Perhaps that is part of her appeal for him—the challenge. He thinks he can tame her . . . I find myself asking what intelligent and well-grounded young woman (as she is presented to us) would even consider getting involved with a man like Christian once he had presented her with her “contract” and all its clauses. It is clearly evident at that point he is a major league control freak and a kinky one.

No matter how handsome and sexy and rich he was—I would ask myself, would it be worth denigrating myself and potentially putting myself in real harm’s way? I guess part of my problem is I have never desired to be tied up and gagged or shackled wrists to ankles, spanked or beaten with a belt. I enjoy fantasizing as much as the next girl, but those acts haven’t been part of my imaginings.

Their relationship is based on a strong sexual attraction. She is “different” from the others because, number 1, she is a virgin and so he performs “vanilla” sex with her to get that pesky virginity stuff out of the way; number 2, he ends up actually sleeping with her (as opposed to having sex and then returning to his own bedroom). He becomes obsessed with her very quickly and she with him. Before you know it, they get married and then in a rather ludicrous plot twist, she ends up pregnant.

An epilogue at the end shows them having an idyllic picnic with their little boy, with Ana pregnant with a second child. And Christian is now the loving and doting daddy. Happy families with a mum and dad who still enjoy kinky f**kery on a regular basis in the playroom.

As Servetus says, I think we are supposed to see it as that romantic all-consuming love–not unlike Bella’s and Edward’s relationship in Twilight and remember, this started off as a Twilight fanfic– but it doesn’t work for me on an intellectual or emotional level.

These two fight squabble, bicker and scream at each other at every turn throughout the trilogy. The only way in which they seem to be able to communicate and really find common ground is through sex. They don’t talk to each other; they yell at each other. And I find myself wanting to yell at them to grow up. I don’t think it’s a healthy relationship.

There are constant misunderstandings and false assumptions made on each side. This is her first sexual relationship and it’s his first normal (or semi-normal?) one and you feel as if these two are rushing headlong into something they aren’t ready for. There’s a level of immaturity here that makes it difficult for me to see them being able to so quickly establish a successful marriage and family life. I mean, I can’t buy it that this volatile and mercurial and emotionally immature man who gets upset over the smallest things could have become a captain of industry by 27.  He’s all over the place with his emotions, and so is Ana, albeit to a lesser degree.

Are they equals? Well—at one point when he thinks she is going to leave him he falls in his knees in a submissive pose and acts the role . . . as if he is reliving being Elena’s sub. She agrees to continue to do these kinky things with him, after discovering she has more intense orgasms through it.

But I just don’t buy it all. James describes this story as a fantasy, but she seems to be trying to couch it in reality and it doesn’t gel in a satisfactory or acceptable manner for me.

And I think it sends out a message young girls—who will inevitably get their hands on the “forbidden fruit” and read it—don’t need reinforced: that the love of a good woman conquers all.  How many young women have fallen under the spell of a man who proved to be obsessive and abusive, a stalker, jealous of anyone and anything that takes their attention from the guy?

We hear with heartbreaking frequency about cases of women who have been terrorized, assaulted and murdered by men who supposedly loved them.  Men with anger issues and violent streaks who took it out on the women.

The eternal appeal of the bad boy.  Only, in real life—it doesn’t generally end up happily ever after. That’s why I think there’s a potentially dangerous message here. I don’t believe in censorship and Lord knows, my readers will tell you I am not a prude.  But mommies, your daughters don’t need to be reading this stuff.

Actually, I would like to hear what a trained psychiatric pro who has read them thinks of these books and the behavior of Christian’s therapist, which, if not unethical, is certainly questionable at times.

As far as the quality of writing goes, yes, there is definitely better crafted stuff in the arena of fan fiction you can find online and for free that offers plenty of steam without making one squirm uncomfortably as you read about an innocent young woman being savagely beaten with a belt to give a man “pleasure” (that scene still makes me cringe)  . . .    this is still fanfiction with a questionable message masquerading as a mainstream novel.            I love both; but they are two separate entities.  And one more reason I cannot in good conscience recommend these books.

My two cents on 50 Shades of Grey *Please note mature content in post*

Standard
Cover of "Twilight (Two-Disc Special Edit...

Cover of Twilight (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Once upon a time there was an Englishwoman who fell in love with all things Twilight and decided to try her hand at fan fiction.

Her Twilight story, Masters of the Universe, was also an erotic romance. The writer had read 800 to 900 of such books on her commutes to work and wanted to try her hand at something similar with her favorite fictional characters.  And so her fan fiction, about a young whiz kid Super  Executive and his innocent and naïve love interest was a steamy, sexy tale that included B*D*S*M. Yup, kinky sexy as in handcuffing ankles and wrists together and using riding crops and canes and . . . you get the idea. It went places a lot of us have never gone.

This spreader bar is the type of device Christian keeps and uses on Ana in his playroom, which Ana calls "The Red Room of Pain."

Word-of-mouth made the fan fiction very popular online, and EL James—the pseudonym taken by the fanfic writer—eventually changed the names and other aspects of the story, renamed it 50 Shades of Grey, and published it as a trilogy for profit in England.

EL James reading a passage from her 50 Shades trilogy.

Vintage Books, an American publisher, heard the enormous buzz and inked a seven-figure deal with James, who went on to sell the film rights for $5 million and to secure casting and script approval. Not bad for a debut author.

50 Shades have been featured on the front page of Entertainment Weekly, written up in numerous print and online media and creating all sorts of buzz over who will play the roles of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in the upcoming film.

But—is it any good? Is it worth your while (and your $30 for the three Kindle editions or paperbacks) to read?  What are the strengths of Fifty Shades and what are its weaknesses?

Having read the entire trilogy now and discussed it a bit with dearest Dr. Servetus from Me+Richard Armitage, I am ready to share more of my thoughts and impressions. I won’t do it nearly so eruditely as she, but one can only try.

Popularity, of course, in books, films, television, art and music, does not necessarily equal worthiness or quality. We all know that. How else do you explain the cult of the Kardashians?

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

Keeping Up with the Kardashians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mediocre writers end up on bestsellers lists. Artists who can’t hit a note without Autotune have gold records. Go figure.

First of all, let’s get the sex out of the way. There is a lot of it, and it is frequently very, very hot, and I enjoyed that. I like to read and write erotic romance and I’ve been told I am pretty good at penning it.

However, I should also point out I am not into Pain + Sex = Pleasure.  What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom is their business. I can get into naughty and playful.  A little light bondage, blindfolding and fun with sex toys is one thing; achieving sexual gratification from beating someone else is quite another and I can’t quite get my head around that. There’s consensual rough sex and then there’s–abuse? What do you call it if it’s consensual but obviously harmful?

Those darker, more twisted aspects of Fifty Shades I did find very disturbing.  On a more light-hearted but nonetheless irritating note I quickly tired of the constant referrals to my “inner goddess” and all that she was getting up to anticipation of sexy time. You could build a drinking game around all the appearances of the IG. There is also a tremendous amount of eye rolling taking place by various characters. I keep expecting them to say, “WhatEVER.”

Some who have harshly criticized the trilogy seemed to have been most troubled by the graphic sex. However, from my POV, that sex scenes were actually one of the better-written aspects of the story (minus IG) and the best reason to read it.

Certainly neither the plot nor character development are particularly strong. If you are looking for consistency, logic and psychological insight, hmmmmm—there could be a problem.

Let me introduce you to the hero and heroine of our tale. Christian Grey is a copper-haired, grey-eyed 27-year-old  filthy rich business mogul in Seattle and the middle of three children adopted by the Greys.

He’s handsome, he’s fit, he’s smart, he’s sexy and every female who isn’t a lesbian will start blushing and stammering the moment they are in his presence.  His family thinks he’s gay because he’s never seen in public with a woman or had a girlfriend as far as they know.

James' inspiration for Christian Grey. Finally, a photo of Robert Pattinson in which I actually consider him to be attractive.

In fact, he always has a woman at his beck and call—literally. Christian is a dominant and he makes plain the fact he doesn’t do hearts and flowers,  vanilla sex or “make love”. He “f**ks hard” and he gets off on “beating the s**t out of pretty little brown-haired girls.”

Anastasia Steele is the pretty  little brown-haired girl  with the bright blue eyes whom Christian meets cute at an interview where a nervous, blushing Ana is filling in for her ailing roommate, a journalism major on the staff of the college newspaper.

Ana, a bookish and self-described “scruffy” literature major, has hopes of pursuing a career as an editor with a publishing house.

Christian, on the other hand, has hopes of grooming Ana as his next submissive.  His controlling, sadistic ways are attributed to some early trauma that happened before he was adopted and which he doesn’t want to talk about.   There is  also his “f**ked up” relationship with his mother’s friend that started when he was 15 and “Mrs. Robinson” not only seduced him, she started beating him. Talk about carrying around some emotional baggage.

He’s an angry guy with violent tendencies, a hair-trigger temper of volcanic proportions and a control freak without parallel. And yet he is able to be the calm, cool and collected self-made multi-millionaire who has thousands of employees and can buy corporations at the drop of a hat—all this at an age when some men are still living with their moms.

How does he manage it? The problem is, James never really satisfactorily explains that.  I find it hard to believe this stuck-in-adolescence fellow who sometimes suffers from debilitating panic attacks, who is completely self-loathing and flies into rages over pretty insignificant matters is also able to be such a competent and successful businessman. It just doesn’t compute.

And then we have virginal Anastasia who adores Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre and who is a complete innocent when it comes to sex.

Kristen Stewart, the virginal heroine Bella in Twilight and inspiration for Anastasia in 50 Shades.

Apparently she has only kissed a guy once or twice in her entire life and never experienced “tingles.”. She hasn’t even attempted to self-pleasure.  She’s got more than one good-looking young man who is interested in her romantically, but it is as if her libido is completely in hibernation.

Only super sexy (and kinky) Christian can unleash her passions, it seems.

This isn’t the Victorian era and Anastasia isn’t Margaret Hale. It’s hard to believe she is as naïve as she is written here.

Margaret Hale

Margaret Hale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nor am I convinced someone so innocent would agree to even consider becoming Christian’s submissive and signing a contract stating in great detail all his expectations of her, right down to how often she eats, how much sleep she gets, personal grooming habits, workout schedules and so forth.  Granted, she never does actually sign it and she makes clear she has some limits—but I think I would have taken one look at all that frankly creepy fine print and headed for the door.

(She also doesn’t own a computer of any kind. I know she isn’t from a privileged background like her stereotypical gorgeous-and- popular roommate-who-makes-her-feel-scruffy, but nearly all college kids have a least a cheap laptop or desktop nowadays, don’t they?)

Sometimes Ana comes across as level-headed and prudent and other times she behaves in a very rash, immature manner. Her anger flares quite often. In fact, the couple seems to be arguing, screaming, sulking, brooding or fuming over something constantly. They use emails to converse and they both flirt and fume there, too.

It’s like kids in middle school who bicker and break up, and then make up, and then bicker . . . it’s exhausting to read it all.  I found myself growing impatient and wanting to say, “Oh, grow up already. Snap out of it!!”

We seem to have two adolescents here with raging hormones and tremendous mood swings. And access to handcuffs and weapons. It’s not really the healthiest of relationships.

They both can be quite charming and tender and flirtatious and they have a lot of hot and mutually satisfying sex, but what they can’t seem to do is to sit down and have a reasonable, rational conversation with one another.

There is plenty of physical intimacy, but very little communication and constant misunderstandings arise . . .  but after some more implausible plot twists (think heavy-duty soap opera), they get their happily (and kinkily) ever after.  Apparently the love of a good woman (who likes it rough) turns Christian’s life around.

There are several unsavory and/or just plain sad supporting characters in the story. And there’s Christian’s shrink whom I am not altogether sure is providing the proper treatment for his very troubled patient.

Christian has some serious issues and maintains some toxic relationships over the course of the three books. For a long while, he claims the woman who manipulated and sexually abused him “saved” him.

I don’t understand Christian. I am not sure the author understands him and therein lies a big problem.

She just keeps throwing new personality traits into the mix along with his ability to fly helicopters and play classical music. Will he be sweet, loving and tender, overly possessive and  demonically controlling or just plain mean and scary? Wait five minutes or a couple of pages and who knows which Christian you will get.

But hey, he sure looks great with his “just-f**ked” hair, those luminous grey eyes darkening with lust, those acid-washed jeans with the top button undone and the way they hang on his hips in such a tantalizing manner . . . I told you the sexy parts were the best thing about the books.

It isn’t great literature but it never aspired to be.

James has said she didn’t have high expectations when she wrote the fan fic or published the novel and “it is what it is.”

And I respect her for being candid about it. One thing she doesn’t appear to be is pretentious.

But I have to agree with Servetus: 50 Shades’ fanfic roots are definitely showing. As the mistress of my fanfic universe I can do anything I want to with the characters and it doesn’t have to be plausible or logical.

But when you move into the realm of mainstream fiction, little things like plausibility and logic and consistency of characterization and a strong story arc are important, at least they are to me.  You also need to be engaged with the characters and care about what happens to them. That didn’t really happen for me. I read all three books in hopes of getting more involved with the characters but to no avail.

I would have liked to have seen a good copy editor tighten up those indulgent references to “inner goddesses” and the much-repeated use of “holy crap” and “holy sh*t” throughout by Ana, who tells the story in the first person.

Not to mention removing all the Britishisms that don’t fit properly in a book about Americans living in an American city ( I haven’t seen the Vintage paperback versions of 50 Shades but I understand it has been tweaked since the Kindle edition).

One thing that I am wondering about is how many 50 Shades wanna-bes are going to be written in hopes of winning the jackpot? And how are they going to adapt  50 Shades for the big screen without it being borderline porn and possibly unintentionally hilarious?  In order to draw in a lot of the Twihards, won’t they need to tone down the sex in order to get a less restrictive rating?

There’s a lot more I could go into, but I am already at over 1,700 words and will save further discussion on the matter for another post.

Here’s my advice: if you were thinking of purchasing it, save your money. I think it would be worth purchasing for, say, $3.99 an installment but not for $9.99.  There are better reads you can get for $30.

As a matter of fact, there are better reads you can get right here in the RA community that include hot and steamy erotic romance  coupled with a good story and engaging characters and not pay a dime.

If you’ve got it and you haven’t read it yet, by all means, do. It’s not terrible. I just want you to go in forewarned. It is what it is.

But that’s just my two cents.  I would love to hear from anyone else who has read it and may have a very different spin on things.

FanstRAvaganza 3 Fanfiction: Goin’ Mainstream

Standard
English: George R.R. Martin signing books in a...

George R.R. Martin, author of "A Song of Fire and Ice" series, is not a fanfc fan. However, "Game of Thrones," HBO's adaptation of his books, is inspiring lots of it. Image via Wikipedia

The cover of fellow blogger Jasrangoon’s latest fanfic, an updated variation on “North and South.”

Writers at work on Fan Fiction
Fanfic writers come in all ages, shapes and sizes.

Hello, I’m fedoralady and I write fanfiction. And, contrary to popular belief, I am not a geeky sci-fi guy who lives in the basement of my parents’ trailer. (Not that there’s a thing wrong with geeky sci-fi guys; I married a perfectly lovely one.)

There are plenty more fanfiction writers—and readers—out there, and not just in Armitage World. After years of being considered something of a “red-headed stepchild” of the literary world, fanfic is increasingly moving into the mainstream.

My husband can tell you fanfiction as we know it today was born in the 1960s when a series called Star Trek appeared, spawning a fanzine, Spockanalia.

The cover for tne fanzine "Spockanalia," which shared fanfic with Star Trek fans back in the day. (tobetoocool@wordpress.com)

Today there is fanfiction based not only on books, films and TV shows, but plays, musicals, video games, board games, rock bands, the Bible—even pro football player Peyton Manning has fanfic written about him. Fanfic is boldly going where no fiction has ever gone before.

How big is fanfic? Estimates show fanfiction now makes up at least one-third of all content about books on the Web. FanFiction.net alone has over 2 million fanfictions archived on its site, and that’s not counting Live Journal, Wattpad and other sites.

Fanfic’s rising profile has been documented and explored in major publications, including Time magazine (“How Harry Potter Became the Boy Who Lived Forever,” Lev Grossman, July 7, 2011) and Entertainment Weekly (“Just Do It!” focusing on fanfiction, shippers and slash writers, February 17, 2012– print edition only).

Some writers, including Anne Rice and George R.R. Martin, have aggressively worked to stop fanfiction based on their characters, saying it promotes bad writing and treads on copyright infringement.

However, there are other authors who welcome it, including J.K. Rowlings and Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, who even provides links to fanfic on her own website.

And now, showrunners are sitting up and taking notice of fanfic. Television show executive producers are actually monitoring social media for feedback on characters’ story arcs, particularly romantic storylines. Writers of the TV show Fringe were warned fanfic writers and vidders might rebel if they kept two characters apart. It seems our voices are finally being heard.

Rather than keeping it their dirty little secret, more and more published authors are now freely admitting they also write fanfic.

Naomi Novik is the bestselling author of the series Temeraire which has been optioned by none other than Sir Peter Jackson, Richard’s director for The Hobbit films. Novik is also a fanfic writer who was interviewed for the Time article.

Bestselling author and fanfic writer, Naomi Novik. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

“Fanfic writing isn’t work, it’s joyful play,” she said. “The problem is that for most people, any kind of writing looks like work to them so they get confused why anyone would want to write fanfic, instead of original professional material, even though they don’t have any problem understanding why someone would want to mess around on a guitar playing Simon and Garfunkel.”

In the Time article, Grossman points out that fanfiction is part of the “cutting, pasting, sampling, remixing and mashing up” that have become “mainstream modes of cultural expression.” Fanfiction “challenges just about everything we thought we knew about art and creativity.”

So, who is writing this “challenging” stuff? From anecdotal evidence, it appears the majority of fanfic writers are female. And it’s a diverse lot, of every race, color, creed, religion, age, nationality, socio-economic level and sexual orientation.
Fanfic comes with a built-in audience for our work. Ever eager for more adventures with Harry and Ron, Bella and Edward and—in our case—Guy, Lucas, Thornton, Porter et al. we flock to new stories, new pairings, new alternate universes.

Not only do we write and read fanfic online, we see friendships and partnerships develop as we become part of a community. Writers get more immediate feedback from their readers, and there are younger writers who say fanfic is a great learning tool for improving their writing skills.

Some fanfic writers go on to write original stories with their own characters. And some of those writers become successful novelists in their own right (my particular dream).

As with Richard Armitage, the term “fanfic” certainly isn’t  known in every household. But that’s definitely changing.

Who knows, in a few months newly minted fans of the brave and charismatic warrior dwarf Thorin may be inspired to sit down at their keyboards and start writing fanfic.

After all, it’s joyful play–and the wave of the future.

Visit my fellow tagteamers http://www.mrjthornton.blogspot.com and http://www.cerridewnspeaks.blogspot.com and thanks for supporting FanstRAv 3D!

American Cancer Society

Image via Wikipedia

Richard always encourages us to be generous and to support worthy charities, and in that vein I am going to mention some of the causes during F3 which have been dear to me. The American Cancer Society has made tremendous strides in the fight against cancer through their support of research, as well as through the education and moral support given to cancer patients and families. Each year the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life raises monies and brings communities large and small together to “celebrate, remember and fight back.”