A year or so ago, I took a one-night writing class at StoryStudio, where the teacher distributed excerpts from the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, in order to show us how not to write. After reading the scene, I agreed with the teacher: the writing was clichéd and terrible.
I'm not really into erotica (though I have read a couple erotic novels, and I was all, "Seriously, ANOTHER sex scene?"), but I'm still curious to find out what all the fuss regarding Fifty Shades of Grey is about. So I still plan to buy the book. As I stated on Twitter, though, I have enough Catholic guilt drilled into me that I may have to go to Confession afterwards, in order to confess the sin of reading someone else's impure thoughts.
Last week I went to a movie for the first time since last June. I had a coupon for a free movie ticket. I decided to watch Fifty Shades of Grey, because as with the novel, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about.
Now that I've seen it, all I can say is this: meh.
Everyone kept fussing over the sex scenes, but they didn't really faze me. My favorite neighborhood in Chicago is Boystown, where a lot of the "adult" stores are located. Some of those stores have S&M window displays that are more shocking than the sex scenes I saw in 50 Shades of Grey. I've always been curious about those stores but have never had the courage to go in, partly because I'm afraid that one of my former students will be in there and they'll say, "Professor! What are you doing here?" And I'll just say, "Umm...you mean this isn't Garrett Popcorn?"
Also, if people played a drinking game and took a shot for every time Jamie Dornan took off his shirt in slow motion or every time Dakota Johnson bit her lip, they'd end up drunk and/or passed out before the movie was half over.
I was impressed by the acting of Dakota and Jamie, though their talent was wasted in a movie with a cliched storyline and even worse dialogue. There were also several other great actors in that film, like Jennifer Ehle (whom I loved as Elizabeth in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice) and Marcia Gay Harden (who's brilliant and transforms into a different person with every character she plays, rather than play the same character again and again), and they were totally underused in the film.
But all around me in the theater were other grown women, who kept sighing over the relationship between Anastasia and Christian, or maybe they were sighing over the times where Jamie Dornan took off his shirt in slow motion. I kept rolling my eyes and thinking, Seriously? THIS is what turns a former Twilight fan fiction writer into a best-selling novelist? I could write a better love story than THIS, especially because this story doesn't even seem to be about love at all! It seems more like it's a stalker-with-benefits relationship!
It also made me think that 50 Shades of Grey was a rip-off of the 1740 novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, which was written by Samuel Richardson. The "love interest," Mr. B., pressures (and at one point tries to rape) the virtuous Pamela into becoming his mistress, and he even tries to "educate" her on the terms of their relationship by giving her reading material about what he wants. Mr. B. is also a very wealthy man, especially compared to Pamela, who is a servant. (Sound familiar?)
I hated that novel, because Pamela spends a significant portion of that story terrified of the "intimidating" Mr. B., and then when he finally lets her leave (after holding her captive for a significant period of time), she realizes that she loves him and marries him. Despite her earlier efforts to escape him, as his wife she submits to his control (hello, Stockholm Syndrome!). Mr. B. isn't into S&M, but the relation between him and Pamela was definitely about dominance and submission.
I might never get published, and I definitely don't think I'll ever achieve the kind of mainstream success that E.L. James has achieved. Even she admitted that she didn't think her book would turn into the success that it did, and that's a good attitude to have, because there are far too many aspiring writers who only want to write so they can become rich and famous, which makes it clear that they will not only not last long as writers but also that they know nothing about the writing life.
Once I finally finish my dissertation (and once I get it approved, fingers crossed), I'll revise the novels I've written. I'll keep writing and sending out my stories to literary magazines. I'll still keep trying to improve my writing, so that if and when I do get published someday, a writing teacher won't pass out excerpts of my story and tell the students, "This is how you shouldn't write."
What about you? Have you seen/read Fifty Shades of Grey? If you have, what'd you think of it? How do you feel when you read bad writing or watch it play out on movie/TV screens?
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