Fifty Shades of Deceit – what I find so repugnant about the promotion of Fifty Shades of Grey

So, before I begin, I haven’t yet seen the movie. I probably will be in the next couple of weeks though, watching it after a meal on a night out with some girlfriends – and I am most looking forward to the meal and the company of said friends. But watching Fifty Shades of Grey. Yeah. Well, I’m not really looking forward to that at all.

And let’s be up front – most people would be all “Why are you going to shell out close on $20 on something that you don’t want to see”.

Which is a really good point actually.

Because I have read the Fifty Shades of Grey books. Well the first and the last one anyway – I didn’t bother with the second as I had borrowed the books, and Fifty Shades Darker was on loan when I was due to read it, so I thought I’d skip ahead.

And it says something for just how shit a series of books is if you can skip one entirely, yet really not miss anything (well, anything that can’t be recapped in an exceptionally witty email by Rhian, your Welsh penfriend…).

These books are literary garbage. If at any time the theory of 1000 monkeys with 1000 typewriters could be pulled into play, it’s with this series of books.

I do have to give some credit to the shrewd EL James, who has managed to make a ridiculous amount of money from the ballooning of her titillating Twilight fan-fiction, into a set of novels that has so captured the imagination of the minds of so many women around the world.

More power to her in that respect, but let’s be clear. She got lucky in managing to find traction at a point when obviously the world was crying out for mainstream erotica with a slick cover and marketing campaign that people who “don’t normally read books” could latch on to. Savvy timing can be a wonder. But bear with me on this, because her books ARE absolute rubbish – spack filled with ridiculous descriptions of every.single.flipping.thing, and then topped up with vapid catch-phrases, enough clichés to fill a warehouse, and knotted up in a grey tied world of (apparently) badly played out BDSM.

The fact that EL James’ scrappily written tomes were the ones that found purchase in a genre chock full to the brim of bodice ripping Harlequin or Mills & Boon novels, is one of the things that make me completely infuriated about her success, given that there are so many other authors in the erotic genre who write a much better sexy read, who unfortunately missed out on the eruptions of gush that Fifty Shades of Grey has unleashed. My fave recommendations that can deal out a much more well rounded bit of fluffy rauch – yeah, that’s my goodreads category – include Alice Clayton, Jenny Trout (aka Abagail Barnette) and the duo that form the pen name Christina Lauren – please do look them up.

What it seems that many (MANY) people do not realise this series started out as some dredgy Twilight fan-fiction, published online under the title Masters of the Universe (something that grates given the awesomeness of the rad 80’s cartoon – all hail She-Ra Princess of Power!).

I digress.

If you have read both Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, you will immediately be able to pick up on the correlations in the story-line. As another pen pal Stacey so aptly put it on a Facebook comment she left for me today, where she described FSOG as “Twilight with a sadist instead of a vampire.” Which is a billion percent accurate description.

So it really infuriates me that a series that is basically plagiarised from another authors successful franchise has become so blisteringly popular. It’s like rewarding a 8 year old for copying their older siblings writing theme of “what I did on the weekend” in their story book in primary school. (But with, like, you know, sex and money and cars and things as the theme instead).

BUT I know many people actually do not give a flying rats either that it is fan-fic. Which I can understand. “It enlivened my bedroom” or “it’s just sexy fantasy” and many other such statements are the catch-cries commonly typed on comment threads everywhere.

Which brings me to the crux of why I really, REALLY absolutely HATE this series of books.

It’s the false marketing of abuse as romantic.

Because if I read the premise of a book or movie series as follows – “A creepy, controlling, manipulative stalker preys on a young virginal college student, using his money and good looks to lure her into a steamy relationship whilst isolating her from her friends and family.”, with the obligatory “Read/Watch the twisted erotic thriller of 2015” as the tag-line, then I would be all “ooohhh, wonder if it’s like Gone Girl or American Psycho”. And then I would be mentally prepared to read/watch a book/movie about a cringe-inducing handsome rich guy who ends up dragging a naive innocent girl into an abusive relationship. Because even if books or movies have very confronting content, if they are well written and rounded out to convey exactly what the story is, I will probably read/watch it.

And no – this has nothing to do with me being a “prude” or “vanilla” in the bedroom. I say more power to people who are in healthy relationships who can indulge in antics that steam up the place. GO CRAZY on it.

But Christian and Ana’s relationship…. It’s. Just.not.healthy.

Fifty Shades of Grey has Christian Grey as that creepy, controlling, manipulative stalker who due to his traumatic upbringing, preys on women who resemble his “crack whore” mother, and the young Anastasia Steele fits the bill so perfectly, that he wings his way into her life (or is that ‘blades’ – after all, Charlie Tango is a helicopter…), and seduces her with shiny shiny things like being RICH and driving AUDI’s and being OHSODASHINGLYHANDSOMEANDHOT. Ana is cajoled into thinking she can ‘fix’ and ‘heal’ Christian, and puts up with some really REALLY shady shit because he makes her believe that she is the answer to all his troubles, so she simply MUST do everything in her power (no matter how much her conscience – aka INNER GODDESS comes across against it) to make poor widdle Christian fweelings better.


What absolutely grates me about the books (and the movie promotion) is that it is marketing of what is by all accounts an abusive relationship (emotionally, physically and mentally), and bundling it up as “ROMANTIC” and “DESIRABLE”. And that people are eating that shit up like lollies at a party.

This series is NOT a “sexy romantic love story” as the display of the books and movie make out. It is in fact a “twisted psychological erotic thriller”.

And that is where many, MANY people are finding themselves almost smacking their heads up against desks all over the world in frustration at the “Fifty Phenomenon”.

Abusive relationships are not ok. It’s not ok to wrap them up in a tidy “Grey” bundle as being something every girl should want.

I mean, who watches American Psycho and wishes they could have their own Patrick Bateman – and he was rich & handsome (with a kinky fetish side) just like Christian.

It is fine to have fictional books or movies about really screwed up people in messed up relationships. But there needs to be honest portrayal of that aspect.

EL James has deluded herself into thinking her novels are the “marriage savers” the world needed. But they are not. They are a series of books that portray an exceptionally twisted relationship as romantic.

And that is just.not.ok.

I applaud Lisa Wilkinson and her candid review of what she thought of the movies, especially after not having read the books. It was brilliant. And I gave my own round of cheering ovation to her eloquent words and gutsy delivery.

So, back to why I will watch this movie? Well because. Because I have read the books. And hated them. But reading and hating them has allowed me to open dialogue with people about just what the books really convey, (once you take the sex out that has understandably captured the minds of so many). And because I have been so angry and vocal about the book series, I feel almost obligated to go watch to see just how it is conveyed on the big screen. Although, given some of the reactions of preview audiences I have read, I reckon I’ll be one of those getting shushed by fans for laughing inappropriately throughout at the cheesy dialogue – just like I did in the Twilight movies actually. Either that or I will be wanting to chuck Maltesers at the screen in shouting sheer frustration and anger about how horrible it is. One or the other.

Yep, I will most likely go watch it. On a night out with my friends while enjoying their company after a yummy meal somewhere. Knowing full well that it is a “creepy twisted erotic thriller” movie about an abusive relationship that I will be seeing, and not that smushy valentine romantic crap that it is being marketed as. And I’ll donate the equivalent cost of my ticket (actually, probably more than that) to White Ribbon Australia, so that they might be able to help someone who suffers an abusive partner, and who may need the help of a group like White Ribbon to leave that relationship.

**This is a Lee post**

Rhi’s intro

There are many reasons I jumped at the chance to write this blog with Lee.
1) She is the best Australian I know and have never met.
2) She has become a good friend over the years and is always the person I turn to to snark about the latest YA novel.
3) Because this trilogy really holds far too many opportunities for snark to pass up.

But most importantly, because I believe as much as this series is good for a laugh, it is simultaneously terrifying. The popularity these ‘novels’ (and when we use that word on this blog we use it very loosely) have garnered have terrifying implications for the role of women within our society. They say things about relationships, expectations, rape culture, and misogyny that need to be looked at in closer detail.

As an English Literature Major (and currently a high school English teacher) part of this blog will be a great laugh. It will be written with the incredulity to the power of a thousand that this book was written, and got published, and is being touted as good work, let alone good erotica. I plan to recap the novels for those of you who can’t face reading them, and Lee has some outrageously witty notes on some of the most important chapters.

But most importantly as a Gender Studies minor, and proud feminist, the other part of this blog is really going to look at how this novel represents the insidious and scary realities of living in an unequal and frequently problematic society.

So strap in and come for the ride. It will most like end up being you and me reading this stuff, Lee! But boy, is going to be great.

You can read more from Rhian here.