By Cedar Goslin
Welcome to part one of an extensive analysis of one of the most horrendous books on the market– also a New York Times best seller, oddly enough. This novel is about an absurdly clumsy but, otherwise unremarkable in all matters of personality and appearance, young woman, a filthy rich man who is both an over controlling sociopath and wise beyond his years, and the unlikely love they share. If you’re thinking Twilight then you’re wrong, but good guess. Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James actually started out as a Twilight fanfiction, James later just changed the names and published it as original work. You’d think that would at least earn Twilight author, Stephanie Meyer, a spot of honor in the book’s acknowledgement section, but I guess not. Maybe James thought printing “Thanks, Steph, for inspiring me to make a crapload of dough by ripping off your story” at the front of her book would prevent people from taking her seriously as a writer. She needn’t have worried about that.
The first two chapters reveal several things about this book and it’s author. Not only does James set a negative example for women, as seems to be the trend in romance-centered fiction, but she’s also out set men on the same unhealthy path that women have been treading for years. I guess you could say that James is a pioneer in equal opportunity sexism. Let’s take a look at some of the disturbing issues that have come to light so far.
Disclaimer: Spoilers are inevitable
Christian Grey: poster boy for unhealthy masculinity.
What do you get if you cross an aggressive chimpanzee with an emotionless robot? The answer is Christian Grey, who James would have you believe is the epitome of male perfection. Really, the character is quite dull and lacking any depth; all we know about him are repetitive descriptions that James keeps hammering into us. He is devastatingly attractive with cold grey eyes (which you will quickly tire of hearing about). He’s described as an “Adonis.” James also describes Grey as rich, arrogant, and controlling– and you’ll just have to take her word on that, because the character himself doesn’t actually display any trace of a personality. He is prone, however, to lengthy bouts of dialog that seemingly have absolutely no purpose. That aside, let’s look at what James is using Grey to imply about the ideal male:
- A man’s worth is dependent on his appearance and wealth.
- An attractive and successful man is a man who is void of typical human emotions, save for those having to do with aggression and dominance.
- It’s not only okay to be controlling, but preferable– women secretly want that, even if they act like they don’t.
- Going on long, listless rants about your super cool ability to control everyone around you is sexy, and not creepy at all.
Dull, clumsy, unremarkable and lacking in any interests of her own, Ana truly is just Twilight’s Bella Swan with a name change. She even has Bella’s same flighty mother who needs a man to take care of her and keep her entertained. Because of that, at this time I’m not going to analyze Ana’s character–or lack thereof– because if I was going to do that, I might as well just analyze Bella. Instead, let’s look at how other characters react to Ana. Though Ana displays absolutely no personality through her narrative of the story, we can gather from her mother and room-mate, Kate, that she has never been especially receptive to the opposite sex. Both characters who mention this act like it’s a major flaw in Ana’s character, that she’s not easily impressed by men. Ana is instantly impressed by Grey, so we can only assume that as the story progresses, he’ll be credited with “fixing” her.
Much more interesting, however, is the fact that so far we have been introduced to three male characters, and every single one of them is
interested in possessing Ana in some way. There’s Jose, the friend that wants to be more. It’s implied that Ana has made it clear that she’s only interested in friendship, and yet Jose continues to pursue her. Next, we have Paul, the younger brother of Ana’s employer. It’s unclear whether he is romantically interested in Ana, but he definitely feels entitled when it comes to her. When Ana is helping a customer– who happens to be Grey– he doesn’t hesitate to interrupt and move directly into her personal space. Still in front of the customer, he “wraps a possessive arm around her.” Again, the nature of Ana’s relationship with Paul is so far unclear, but already it’s obvious that he doesn’t respect her personal space and feels entitled to her attention, whenever he wants it. Finally, Christian Grey. During his first meeting with Ana, it becomes obvious that he means to dominate her. When they part ways, he tells her to be careful; mind you, not in the way that a gentleman tells an acquaintance to drive safely in the rain, but rather in the manner that one might command their dog to heel. During the scene where Paul makes his appearance, Grey is instantly jealous. He takes his jealousy out on Ana by becoming surly and cold. At this point Ana and Christian are still strangers, yet already he has claimed ownership of her, even feels entitled to punish her with his moods. The behavior of all three men is normalized by the author, suggesting that this is the appropriate dynamic between men and women: men are the possessors and women are the possessed.
This book is very poorly written. When you can’t write a book without ripping off Stephanie Meyer, that’s the universe telling you that you just shouldn’t write a book. If only E L James had listened to the universe. She has no writing talent. Her characters are shallow, the dialog forced and unnatural, and the descriptions overly repetitive as well as just bad. So… why is this book a best seller? Perhaps our love affair with this story, that portrays both genders in such an unhealthy way, is a symptom of a sick society.Sick how, you ask? Maybe by the end of this book we’ll have an answer to that.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our little read along.
Click here to read part two,