Fifty Shades of Grey: Society’s Current Bent on Unhealthy Relationships

I was asking what my friend, Rachel, was reading one day while I was with another friend, Alyssa, at Barnes&Noble and was introduced to Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James. I had seen the trilogy before, had watched its foray from top three free Kindle downloads to the top three paid Kindle downloads but I never had the urge to read it.

This is Amazon’s book description of the novel:

“When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.”

Ok, so it’s an erotica novel. Big deal; I shrugged it from my mind.

Rachel had another description ready for the novel:

“It’s quite disturbing… I don’t know what to think about it, but I can’t stop reading….” 

Intrigued, Alyssa and I hurried to the Romance section and picked up two copies of the novel. We both turned to a random page and skimmed it, but it quickly became clear that we would enjoy it much more by reading it aloud to each other, our hysteric laughter chasing surrounding customers away from our area.

It was erotica, as I first thought, but my reaction to it was completely unexpected. While reading out loud to Alyssa, I straddled a very fine, previously non-existant intersection between surprisingly delighted, mortified, and hysterically amused. Surprisingly delighted because I love finding a bestseller so terribly bad; mortified because it was so bad and uncomfortable; and hysterically amused because it was so bad. At times, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to gasp in horror.

The language was unnecessarily crude—I remember reading a particular sentence: “I don’t make love, I fuck” (emphasis mine). E L James’s prose could hardly be called such and the events of the book were repetitive; I don’t have enough hairs on my head to count the number of times the hero says “Don’t bite your lip.”

However, worst of all was the relationship depicted. The hero was so scarred/damaged that he was unable to allow the heroine to touch him, although he was free to do with her as he chose. Fifty Shades of Grey came close if not crossed to emotional abuse many times.

First, Twilight spot-lighted unhealthy relationships—Bella basically sacrificed everything for Edward. Now, it’s Fifty Shades of Grey. Does no one else find this disturbing? Sure, people will object that there’s a difference between fiction and reality; I’m not arguing with that statement. What I find disturbing is that, from its continuous spot on the Bestseller’s list, a majority of people have sought out books like these—and they seem to really enjoy it.

Fifty Shades of Grey embodies a more explicit form of the dormant ideas in Twilight. 

Instead of verbalizing these dormant ideas myself, here are a couple links that explain the phenomenon so much better than I would:

E L James takes all these ideas a step further. Instead of creeping around and exuding danger, Christian is actually dangerous, terrorizing Anastasia physically and emotionally. Much like Edward inherently controls Bella through love, Christian demands Anastasia’s obedience and punishes her physically when she regresses, reducing her to hysterical tears.

The worst thing is that when Christian realizes he has overstepped some bounds, he gives Anastasia some crap excuse about how he can’t help how he is due to childhood trauma and ends up having degrading sex with her. Last time I checked, sex isn’t an appropriate apology, no matter how well it’s done.

Like Screen Crave states, Bella is a shell of a person; Anastasia is forced to become something else to appease Christian—she is forced to become a shell, if she had any personality in the first place. Through punishments, Christian is able to control what aspects of Anastasia’s “character” is emphasized and what aspects should disappear. She is basically his wet dream.

Twilight objectifies Bella because she is constantly being protected by the men in her life. Fifty Shades of Grey objectifies Anastasia more extremely: she is basically Christian’s chattel. One of the more uncomfortable scenes includes him commanding her to kneel, naked, in a corner until he releases her.

Are women’s fantasies taking a turn towards the dark end? Or is it because of the constant reinforcement of these “bestsellers” and the normalization of such relationships that encourage women to take on these fantasies?

Side note: After reading it, I discovered that Fifty Shades of Grey began as Twilight fanfiction that won a contest and was so popular that it was published (much like Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, which insults Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by its claim as a sequel).

Book Review: Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score

image from Amazon

Anyone who has ever salivated over a sports pro or mooned after a movie star will relish this fanciful romance between brainy Seattle Times columnist Jane Alcott and hockey player Luc Martineau. Luc, nicknamed Lucky for his ability to score with women and keep his opponents from scoring on the ice, is less than thrilled to hear that Jane will be reporting on the team’s games and digging into his unsavory past. Still, he can’t help feeling attracted to the pint-sized writer, despite her drab clothes and unfortunate profession. For Jane, the assignment is the perfect opportunity to stop writing fluff and break into serious reporting. But following the progression of the puck turns out to be less challenging than getting the players to talk, particularly Luc, whose lusty looks make her want to ditch her black clothes and wear red. The two eventually wind up in bed together, but Luc’s fear of commitment and Jane’s fear of abandonment may keep them from taking the next step.”

– From Publisher’s Weekly

This was my first Rachel Gibson novel, and I was not disappointed! I’m at that point of my romance novel journey where each novel I read now seems too formulaic—however, that was not the case with See Jane Score.For those that enjoyed Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Chicago Stars series, this would be a book to read. And, judging from this one novel, this series would satisfy your contemporary sports romance cravings.

Jane, the female protagonist, is aptly named since she is made to be known as a plain Jane, which I am a sucker for. However, unlike many romance novels, this wasn’t her only defining quality—other than respectably writing for the Times, she also writes smut for a men’s magazine to supplement her income. She possesses a character depth that is unusual in this genre.

Luc, on the other hand, fell a little flatter in comparison to the heroine. He was a very typical hero in a plain Jane novel: at first, he didn’t really notice her—he even antagonized her a bit—but once she proves that she looks fine in something more appealing, he hones in with single-minded focus.

The plot was well developed. Sometimes, romance novels get so wrapped up in the romance as its sole plot that we forget the characters have lives outside of their relationships. This was not the case with Gibson and it was a nice change of pace. Usually, in romance novels, I enjoy the heart-twist effect that shows how involved I am in the novel; in See Jane Score, I totally got it. There were even some tears as the novel came to an end.

Overall, See Jane Score became one of my favorite contemporary novels and made me interested in reading more from the Chinooks Hockey Team series as well as her other works. From the first page, I was captivated by Gibson’s pleasant, humorous tone that propelled me into reading it in one sitting. It was evident from the beginning that this was a book that didn’t take itself too seriously and would offer a gradient of emotions that would stick with you for a while.

Indigo Blue: Catherine Anderson


genre: romance, historical, western

Torn between the white and Comanche worlds of her parents, Indigo Wolf has grown up estranged from the townspeople of Wolf’s Landing, Orgeon. Bo one understands her elusive spirit-until Jake Rand comes to town to act as foreman of her family’s ranch. But Jake’s real motives are as secret as his true identity, and as personal as his growing attraction to Indigo.

– from the Publisher

I picked this up on a whim while on vacation at the lobby of our resort. They had this cool book system going on. Anyways, Catherine Anderson was the only name I recognized and I picked it up, not knowing what was going to come of it. Surprisingly, I found it pretty damn good.

Indigo has a severe inferiority complex and probably has good reason for it considering her past! (ahh I’m trying to write this without giving any spoilers! damn hard) When Jake comes along to help out her father and their mining business, she knew that he was going to change her life forever. To make things short, they are forced into marriage under circumstances (this is not a spoiler because, duh, it’s a romance novel).

In marriage, you realize along with Jake how Indigo’s heritage really emphasizes her inferiority complex. Together, they struggle to overcome what has been branded into her soul for so long and both their prides are sacrificed for love.

If you, like me, always look for that one heart-twisting book, I found it in this one. It’s not so much to make it too dramatical (?), but enough to give you that satisfaction. I swear, I feel like I’m talking about drugs! There is that typical “misunderstanding” though, but it’s not as stupid as it usually is in other romances.

This is definitely a lighter read but I so thoroughly enjoyed this unexpected pleasure! I think I read it within a day or two. One thing I adored about this book is the hero. He is so thoughtful and patient…but know that he also has his flaws. For those of you looking for something other than romance in a romance, you can also find it in here. There is a small side story that barrages into the main story at the end and it has you at the edge of your seat!

But it is a romance! So you know what the ending will be ;)

I will laugh and cry so hard if ever I come across a typical romance that ends badly. It will be so ironic :D

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

Yes, that’s right. I finally caved and read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I was putting this off since it seemed like such a big commitment: 850 pages! Anyways, I figured since I will be on vacation in Hawaii with a 5-hour difference jetlag, why shouldn’t I be able to finish?

I was quite right and wrong in a way. At first I started out with A Million Little Pieces by James Frey because I always feel guilty when reading romance after romance (does that happen to you?). But I eventually turned to Outlander and it did not disappoint!

I don’t know if I would even call it a romance. It was so well-rounded with action/adventure, historical, and romantic elements!

And Jamie Fraser, the hero, was so… I don’t know what to call it… he had his faults (which definitely made him more realistic) but Diana put it in a way that emphasized his perfection as the ultimate hero. I usually don’t go for time-travel or even historical things because of the apparent sexism. Not that this book didn’t have any of that. But it wasn’t glaringly obvious to me…and maybe I was so engrossed in the book that I didn’t care!

The book at times was very painful to read–not because it was boring, but because I was so involved as a reader. I cringed at the scenes that made me want to cry my eyes out. I cried because I was so moved by Claire and Jamie’s dedication to each other. I hungered for more even after I zoomed past the last page, unable to believe that those 850 pages had passed by so quickly! Anyways, I’m definitely going to finish up the rest of the series. I heard there were 7 so far! Hopefully the 7th book is the end… I don’t know what I’d do with such a long time without the next in line!

All in all, Outlander was definitely worth the read! I believe this is a true keeper that will satisfy all the genre cravings you have. The book didn’t get repetitive as some people claim it did and it is a great escapism book. You know that feeling you get when you finish a book… and it’s left you empty and sad that you’ve finished it? That’s how I feel right now. And the only cure will be the next book in the series. I sincerely hope it can live up to this one.

People who have read Outlander before: how did you find another book outside the series to satisfy your booklust?