Monday, March 19, 2012

Unwrapping: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by E. L. James

A few weeks ago, I saw and read more than one interview/article talking about E.L. James and her book FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. My interest, sparked by all of the controversy, led me to download a preview of the book to my Kobo. After reading the preview, I admit I was hooked. I wasn't hooked by the fact that the story centered around a relationship between a so-called older wealthier man and a so-called younger virginal girl or even that the story concerned BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism), I was hooked because for some reason I just had to know what happened. It was like watching a train wreck - I knew it was going to happen, I knew someone was going to get hurt yet I couldn't look away.

This is NOT an actual review but more of a RANT about all of the hoopla surrounding this book so I hope you'll stick with me on this. I can't give you a review as I will not have read the whole story unless I read all three books.

I'm still confused about what exactly IS the controversy regarding this book. I heard some experts say that it was damaging to women. That a story such as this where an older wealthier man of power taking advantage of a younger innocent girl gives women of all ages a warped sense of romance. That a woman fantasizing about such relationships is dangerous to her sense of self-worth.

EXCUSE ME - did they read the book? Because I did and that's NOT what I read.

First of all, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is NOT a romance novel - not in the true sense anyway. It's been said that this trilogy is a spin-off of sorts of the Twilight series. Although, this author makes it a contemporary minus the paranormal aspects, it's said she drew her original inspiration from the romance that existed between a hundred year old vampire and an innocent young teenager. Of course, I've also heard comparisons to the movie PRETTY WOMAN which I actually see more readily than any comparison to Twilight.
Quite often when I read Ana Steele begging for more from the relationship (she means emotional connection not beatings), I was actually reminded of Vivian, the prostitute, telling her millionaire client, Edward that she wanted more - she wanted the fairy tale.

Whereas with both the Twilight series and PRETTY WOMAN, I felt the emotional attraction as well as the physical and felt the romance surrounding the characters but in FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, you experience only angst, humiliation, anger, resentment and intimidation. There is no happy ending here. In fact, it ended with angry tears and a line that read END OF PART ONE. Imagine my disgust when after reading the entire book on my Kobo, I reached the last page and saw that. If I want to see if Christian ever gets his head out of his ass or if Ana ever grows a pair and tells him where to shove his so that they can possibly fall in love, I have to read two more books. SO EXPERTS - don't compare this book to Romance Novels. It is NOT one and never will be.

Secondly, everything I've read or seen in regards to this book talked about this OLDER wealthier man taking advantage of a YOUNGER VIRGINAL GIRL. 

Okay, Christian Grey is wealthy, very wealthy but OLDER? Read the book. He's supposed to be some kind of business genius who has made his millions and yet is only around 30 years old. Oh my, that's ancient, isn't it?

As for Ana Steele ... oh my, well, she is younger - a whole 8 years maybe, she IS innocent and a virgin, mainly because she's never ever been on a real date. She's a graduating senior from university and she's never really been kissed or much of anything else. That doesn't really make her innocent, it just makes her strange by today's social standards. She has extremely low self esteem and envies her roommate and best friend who has no problems getting action whenever and with whomever she pleases. You'd think after living together for four years, that some of Kate would have rubbed off on Ana, but it didn't.

Christian Grey is a controlling, self-absorbed, emotionally unavailable man who knows immediately that Anastasia Steele is a shy young woman with absolutely no self-confidence who is completely enamoured of him. Whether he is truly attracted to her or to her flaws which make her a perfect target for his dominating ways, I'm still not sure. Whether Ana is truly in love with Christian which is the only reason she submits to his rules and perversions, I'm still not sure. Frankly, I see a young woman with intelligence but lacking in social skills who finds herself intimidated yet completely infatuated with this handsome, intelligent, well versed and very wealthy man who shows her the first real sexually desirable attention that she's ever known. Is she in love with him? I don't think so. I don't feel it. I feel her lust, her need to win him, her need to convince herself that she is truly able to attract such a man. I feel Ana's need to be with Christian as a purely sexual one much the same way that Christian's only need to be with Ana is to satisfy his need to be totally in control of another human being.

Strangely enough, I found Christian Grey attractive except when he was knee-deep into his strange proclivities then my stomach turned as I read the passages. I found some of the BDSM scenes surprisingly sensuous but most of them made me tense and highly disturbed. In particular, the scene when Christian arrives at Ana's apartment after she sends him a sarcastic email. The author can call it what she wants but I read a rape scene that left Ana feeling used, humiliated, and emotionally crushed. Just because a woman is sexually aroused by a man, any man, doesn't mean that she wants the sex. Christian Grey doesn't make love, he doesn't even f--k as he refers to it - he TAKES!! He takes it when ever and where ever he wants. He may say that he is all about giving his Submissive pleasure through which he gains his own but I think he's full of bull and so is the author of this book. This is no romance but rather a study in emotional avoidance and sadistic control.

The author has set up Christian as a tormented, emotionally devoid man even incapable of accepting a gentle touch or any sign of affection. He hates to be touched. He's a man who claims he doesn't date or sleep in the same bed with a woman because he has no need to do so. We see Christian go against these rules with Ana which leads us to believe he might actually be developing human emotions in regard to her but at the same time, he treats her as an object. He approaches her with his offer to let her into his life, into his secrets yet when she informs him that she is a virgin, he's annoyed by this news. Instead of turning her away, he merely shrugs it off and proceeds to remedy the situation. Ana's first experience with sex is one where she is told she cannot touch him, she cannot do anything but lie there, her hands tied with his necktie, and allow him to do his thing. He keeps telling her that everything he does is for HER pleasure which, of course, she believes because she knows nothing else. She has nothing to compare his lovemaking to and so accepts it.

Christian wants desperately for Ana to enter into an agreement whereas whenever they are together or in his red room of pain, as she calls it, Ana is to submit to him in every way but only according to her own stipulations in the agreement. The only problem is that she never actually signs this agreement yet Christian begins to treat her not just as his Submissive when they are together but all of the time. I've researched BDSM enough over the years and seen enough programs referencing it to know this is not the norm. What Christian really wants from Ana is TPE - Total Power Exchange. This is a relationship where he is the Dominant and she the Submissive all of the time, 24/7 and it's not just a temporary, in the bedroom thing, it's all of the time. Christian monitors her every move, who she sees, where she goes, what she drives, what she eats and even what she wears. If she does anything at all that he doesn't like, he threatens her with punishment. Rarely, does he reward her when she does what he wants without his asking. Geez, Ana even mentally refers to him as a stalker. HELLO!

The most romantic, tender, caring thing he ever does is to take her for a ride in a glider which she later refers to as the most special moment of their time together. That certainly doesn't say a whole lot about the time they've spent together, does it? I kept hoping that Ana's enthusiasm for a normal relationship, her influence on him that made him actually want to sleep at her side and to date her, and to actually take her home to meet his family would result in Christian's defenses breaking down. I kept hoping he would curl up in Ana's arms and weep like the unloved child he feels he was. Christian is tormented. Tormented by the meager memories of the first four years of life which I can only assume held a lot of abuse which has left him incapable of showing affection or accepting affection. He sees a psychiatrist but frankly, I think he needs a better one. As for Ana, I think she needs to spend the night in the arms of another man, any man, who will treat her like a woman and not a whipping post.

You're probably thinking, 'geez, she really hated this book' - well, the truth of it is, that I honestly don't know yet. You see, I will admit that once I started reading it, it was seriously difficult to put down. It's been touted as highly erotic and explicit but frankly, I've read much more explicit sex scenes in some of our Happily Ever After Romance Novels than I read in this one. The BDSM scenes were not horrific just unlikable because of the way that Christian was presented in them. He gets aroused by stifling others, controlling others, and giving pain to others. He's not about truly giving pleasure to anyone, not even his family. I can't say if I like or dislike this story because I haven't finished reading it. I have to read two more books to know what actually happens and whether or not I will be satisfied with the end result. Will I read the other two books? I don't honestly know that either. I have not purchased them but I have read the preview for the second one, FIFTY SHADES DARKER and I have the preview for the third, FIFTY SHADES FREED available on my Kobo. At ten dollars a pop, I'll have to wait and decide at a later date if I'll read them - perhaps when I honestly have nothing else to read. But I will say this, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY did nothing for my thoughts of fantasizing and it certainly didn't lower my sense of self-worth. So experts, look for damage elsewhere because you WON'T find it here.

So what do you think of all the hoopla over this book? Will you read it? Have you read it? If you have, I'd love to hear what you thought of it. Please tell me if I'm way off base.

Happy Reading Everyone!!

I'd also like to welcome all my new followers to UNWRAPPING ROMANCE! I love meeting new folks and getting you into our conversations. Feel free to express yourself, we're all friends here.  : )


Grace L said...

Yes! Thank you for writing this rant.

I have no idea what the controversy is with Fifty Shades. Quite frankly, I've read much worse. This series is actually quite tame in terms of erotica. And damaging to women...really? If a older wealthy man falling in love with a innocent woman is damaging to women so is most of the romance novels ever written and more films than I could name.

If the controversy is caused by the fanfic element, E.L. James is not the first and she won't be the last fan fiction author to pull and publish. I've seen a couple of YA authors that have fairly big audiences who were Big Name Fans who wrote fanfic and pulled when they were published. It's not that big of a deal and people need to get over it.

P.S. Awesome blog. I'm a new follower :)

Amy Valentini said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Grace, and you're so right. I read this book in about 24 hrs because I couldn't put it down and this rant has been swirling in my head ever since. I would've done it sooner but had other posts that needed attention first. I will have to give Ms. James credit for gaining such great promotion on a self-published book and subsequently gaining a publishing deal from it. It gives us hope that if we self-publish we can succeed. Just still don't understand the hoopla!
Thanks for following, glad to have you here. GO AVON ADDICTS!!

Shauni said...

I haven't read the book yet but from many of the articles I have read.. I hear the same thing!!

It's a compelling book, one that is hard to put down but it's NOT a Romance Novel.. Just because a book has sex in it, doesn't make it a romance novel. Just like just because someone dies doesn't make a book a murder mystery.

*sigh* I am so tired of the dumping all the books written by women into one catagory and calling it Romance

Beebs said...

Thank you, Amy.

I was hoping someone would explain the whole thing. This/these books seem to be everywhere so it got to the point that I was totally ignoring anything to do with them (I was the same with Twilight but I had to buy that series for my son. Still didn't read it though.)

I haven't read these but older man/younger woman, I read historical romance, that's the norm. To be honest I don't think I will be reading this, it just doesn't sound like my 'cup of tea'. I agree with Shauni, it's very annoying that everything written by women gets dumped into the Romance category.

Congrats to all the winners of Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea.

Dalila G. said...

Hi Amy,

First off, THANK YOU for my book! Yay me, daviagrant and The Book Queen! Happy reading ladies!

I, for one, LOVE to hear your honest thoughts, rants, raves, screams, laughs, snarkiness and anything else you have to say.

You are just being your true self, that's why I keep coming back to your blog. There's always some fun or wild or weird or anything goes post from you.
You, Amy, are one heck of a lady!

As far as all of the hoopla surrounding this book, I could care less. I do not plan on reading it or any of the other connecting books.
Basically, what you mentioned is why I'm not going to get it.

I happen to agree with the above comments posted by the ladies.

Also, I haven't seen or plan to see any of the Twilight movies or read any of the books, it was just too much, maybe over-kill for me?
Maybe it's just me! LOL!!

Have a wonderful evening!

Amy Valentini said...

Ladies, thank you for reading my rant. I tried very desperately to minimize but I just had too much to say about the issue. I almost went into an entirely new direction when I read another expert's absurd notion that romance is PORN for women! EXCUSE ME?! Are we not allowed our escape into anything that a man can't understand?
Yikes, don't get me started. Perhaps I'll save this for another day. Thanks again for expressing your thoughts and since this book is NOT a true romance, I'm saying, if you read, okay, if not - so what! LOL!

Dalila, You are so very welcome for your book and thank you, thank you for your wonderfully kind words.

I love all my blog followers! You are the reason I write what I do and my hope is always that someway, somehow, I can bring a smile to your face. xoxo

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this blog and can understand many of the points you've made about the first book. That said, I'll be honest...I think you are doing yourself a disservice by not reading the 2nd and 3rd books. Like you, I wondered what all the hoopla was about, and began reading the first. I also couldn't put it down. After book one, I had to know what happened, and there is resolution fairly quickly in the second book, followed by the true romance beginning. By the third book, the reader is sold on the romantic notion that Christian has embraced the acceptance of this "vanilla" type of relationship, of his changing heart and mind, and in the third book it's clear that he prefers it to his former romantic choices. There is character growth and expansion into the light, into the kind of romantic territory we all wish for ourselves. I personally found it a satisfying journey.

There is a scene in the second book that made me weep and warmed my heart, and it involves a tube of lipstick and Anna mapping out the "no touch" areas on Christian's body. He truly opens up to her and learns how to love in a way that she's inspired him to. It's been a while since I've actually read a romance this gripping. I encourage you to try the second book, because it will be just like the won't be able to stop. :-)

My best wishes to you. Thank you for this interesting post.

Amy Valentini said...

Thank you, Anonymous! I haven't talked with anyone who had read books 2 & 3 so to hear this pleases me greatly. I have a very deep sense that I will most likely read the other two as I'm still hooked on Christian and Ana's story. My disappointment wasn't necessarily with the book itself but with the hoopla that had been generated over it. I appreciate you giving me a sneak peek into the happenings in the 2nd and 3rd books. Looks like I'll be reading them come vacation time. : )
Thanks again and please visit again.

Isis M. Nocturne said...

The biggest controversy, IMHO, is that this literally was published FOR FREE as fanfiction first! As many writers will tell you, fanfiction is for fun and a great way to practice and enhance your writing skills. However, it is a fundamental no-no to publish fanfiction, especially when there is copyright on the original content. THAT is the issue.

Amy Valentini said...

Hi Isis,
Thank you for visiting and I'm always open to opinions. I had no idea that this series was originally free. I'm not really up on fanfiction so I don't know the ins and outs particularly. If this was originally fanfiction and there is a copyright as such but it belongs to the author then how is it fundamentally wrong for her to publish it and make money from it? Just curious. Thanks for coming by. : )

Amy said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and have to browse later.

I just picked up the series of these books. I agree that it is not a romance novel or at least the first one isn't, but it develops into it.

I think the hoopla is this....there probably are a lot of women out there who read erotica (because that is what I would classify this book as), but don't admit it. This book has hit the main stream and you can find it being read in plain sight. No longer do you have to read your erotic novel at home, under the sheets with a flashlight so no one knows the naughty things you like.

Half jokingly, I commented that how was it I missed the memo that there was socially acceptable smut out there to read. But to an extent, this is true. Perhaps it is also a story line that women have fantasied about, but wouldn't dare discuss and this book lets you do that! You can now sit around a table with your girlfriends and discuss such "taboo" things.

Amy Valentini said...

Hi Amy,
I totally agree with you and love your description about reading them under the covers. LOL! I've always read my romance novels, even the erotic ones, in the open proudly. It's one of the reasons I started this blog. My hope is to bring more romance readers into the open and be proud of reading them. I'm also hoping to be one of the writers someday, too.
Thanks for coming by and I hope you'll visit again. You can also following me on Twitter at @unwrappinromance and on FB at Unwrapping Romance to keep up on what's happening and the giveaways. Thanks again for visiting. : )

Megan said...

That is a perfect review of the first novel! I haven't yet read (nor am I sure that I will) the remaining two novels. I completely agree with you 100%. I was very put-off by a few scenes in the book. I kept thinking that the story line would pick up but then it would be back to another 'scene' which got a bit redundant for me. I felt like there wasn't enough story to follow. I guess that's how you drag it out into 3 novels. Thanks for the great review that were my thoughts exactly!

Amy Valentini said...

Thank you, Megan. I'm still wondering if those who were criticizing and exploiting the book even read it. The book I'm reviewing today (May 18)is way more seductive and the subject matter much more torturous but you won't see the same kind of hoopla rise over ... at least I doubt you will because it won't be brought to men's attention. Men don't like us reading romance especially romance that is more erotic than what they can supply us in the bedroom. LOL!
I'm glad you enjoyed my review/rant. Some day, when I have time, I'll read the other 2 and give my final thoughts on the series. Happy Reading and thanks for visiting. : )

Anonymous said...

throughout the entire book, all I wanted was for Ana to slap Christian, spit in his face & walk away forever. He is suffocating, controlling, patronizing creep, & I spent the entire book disliking him intensely.

However, strangely enough, I couldn't put the book down. It's consistently interesting, fascinating, fast-paced

Amy Valentini said...

So true. I felt the same way. I wanted to shake Ana till she used her brain instead of her body to guide her. Then I wanted her to turn the tables on him and make him feel used and abused. Yet, I was glued to the book. Haven't read the other two yet but I know I will eventually. Thanks for weighing in and for visiting! : )