My bad case of the Mondays must have drifted into Tuesday because I’m in the mood for a culture rant. I’ll be honest, I simply don’t understand the current nationwide obsession with the novel 50 Shades of Gray. I only made it about halfway through the first novel before I removed it from my Kindle entirely and read the remainder of the plot on Wikipedia. Seriously ladies, the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy is pornography, not literature. The books, which currently hover at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, detail the relationship between reclusive billionaire Christian Gray and Bella Swan-esque young woman, Anastasia Steele. For those of you who have been living under a rock, 50 Shades of Gray is an erotic “romance” which highlights sexual practices of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism). Seriously, don’t Google it.
I tried to enjoy this book, I really did. However, like I experienced with the Twilight series during High School, I just couldn’t get into it. I’m somewhat of a literary snob, so I do enjoy well written novels from which you can actually pull out a (positive) lesson or two. Besides coming to terms with the fact that I truly am 21 going on 35, I wasn’t able to extract any sort of positive lesson from the book. Or any sort of morality for that matter. However, this novel still is holding steady at the top of the charts. A movie version of 50 Shades of Gray is even in the works. Thanks but no thanks. I think I skip it and spend my money on The Dark Knight Rises instead.
What does the obsession with this novel tell us about ourselves? Sure, I know the current explanation is that 50 Shades of Gray is merely a form of escapism for lonely housewives. Perhaps I’m just not old enough to understand. However, while I agree that literary escapism can be a form of positive relief, I’m pretty sure there’s a better way to go about it. What happened to the Rhett Butlers and Mr. Darcys of the world? Do young women really have to spend their time idolizing the sexually perverted Christian Grays and clingy Edward Cullens? I know it’s literature and I know it’s fantasy, but culture defines our worldview. I really don’t enjoy being part of a culture where women fawn over men like Christian Gray who, to be honest, have little respect for women at all. Whips and chains may excite Rhianna, but I don’t find them to be indicative of a healthy relationship.
Not only does this novel degrade women, romance, and marriage, but it sends a negative message to men about how to treat women and conduct themselves in relationships. Ladies, do we really want men thinking that women are merely sexually crazed schoolgirls who need a heavy dose of pain to form a lasting relationship? Excuse me, but no. 50 Shades of Gray aside, here’s what women really want romantically. Women, like men, want to be treated with respect in a relationship. Respect entails a mutual partnership that rises above the sexual component of the relationship. A real romance should highlight the love (not lust), companionship, and interdependence of two people. Hey, what you do in your bedroom is none of my business. However, when rough sex is the starting point of a relationship, perhaps you should be rethinking the strength of your bond. Sorry to break it to you men, but a relationship is about more than just sex, no matter how tame or extreme it may be.
All right, that’s my two cents. Read 50 Shades of Gray if it strikes your fancy; I don’t care. I’m not going to pull a Bloomberg and suggest that the novel should be banned. However, I encourage women (and men) to have more respect for themselves. Look for novels of value. And by value, I don’t mean “shock value.” Trust me, you will get more out of Pride and Prejudice than you will out of 50 Shades of Gray. And don’t think you have to stick to the classics. There are contemporary books around which offer just as much literary value. Think Hunger Games or The Help. Good books should nourish your mind rather than feeding other desires. Sure, it’s just a novel, but what the phenomenon sparked by this book tells me is a bit darker. I’m not exactly comfortable with a culture obsessed with 50 Shades of Gray. We’re better than this, ladies. While you’re “tied up” (pun intended) with the sexual fetishes of Christian Gray, I will be busy enjoying the battles of Middle Earth and romances of Victorian England.
Rating: 2/10 Cupcakes