Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Bag Lady reads - Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James

In between the first and second reading of Cloud Atlas I downloaded Fifty Shades of Grey to see what everyone was talking about. Okay I fess up I bought it for the sexy bits.  When I finished the book I gave my review on Amazon, the gist of which was that it was clich├ęd and poorly written with an ending that was too abrupt for the reader.  I believe it was a manipulative tactic to ensure the reader immediately downloaded books 2 and 3.  I don’t take kindly to these types of parlour tricks so I never bought them.  
              When the book went to print it became an instant best-seller and is reported to be making E.L James $1.3 million a week, although I suspect this figure is exaggerated.  What is clear is that it has been in the best-seller charts for sixteen weeks, everyone across the world is talking about it and it has unleashed a new genre: Mommy porn.  So picture this:
               The mother puts the children to bed, gives them a bedtime story and a kiss goodnight, packs the husband / partner (if she has one) off to the pub or wherever.  Then cocking the ear out for the sound of silence, she slips into the covers of the bed, picks up her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey and commences reading.  Just as Anastasia gets her hair yanked as Christian prepares to mount her, a voice calls out: ‘Mam, mam…I’m thirsty.  Mum, mum…I can’t sleep. Mommy, mommy…I don’t feel well. 
               Smile!  Welcome to the world of Mommy porn.  
               As a woman and a mother I am deeply uncomfortable with this term.  It is seedy and degrading towards women despite is liberalised intention.  It is bad enough that years ago the mother was deemed to be beyond sex where children appeared from cabbage stalks, the doctor’s bag or the ubiquitous stork but now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction.  Thanks to whoever coined the phrase ‘Mommy porn’, mothers now have their very own pornographic genre that sneers at everyday vanilla sex.  The marital bedroom has been transformed by this one term where the Hubbby is expected to perform to the leather clad Mommy figure.  Furthermore, we are now lumped in with those who obsessively consume porn be it on the internet, at peep shows or strip clubs or those sad creatures in trench coats who their flash their bits at strangers passing by.  There is something so utterly soulless and depressing about the term ‘Mommy porn’ because let’s face it Fifty Shades of Grey could not be classified as erotic literature.  
             It is a universal fact amongst reviewers and readers that Fifty Shades of Grey is poorly written, has two-dimensional characters and is an SM version of Mills and Boons but tries to cloak this with its red room, whips, chains and ropes.  It is a poorly constructed book that is a best-selling phenomenon and I like to think that E.L James never in her wildest dreams anticipated its success which may account for its lack of quality.  
            Yet it cannot be termed erotic either despite its sexual content because this is not a novel of a woman’s sexual self discovery.  No, it is the tired old ‘namby-pamby marmalady drawsery’ style that James Joyce used mockingly in the "Nausicaa" episode of Ulysses.  Fast forward almost a century later and Fifty Shades of Grey is resorting to the same old romantic formulae.  Now I am all for recycling old literary themes into new ways but the poor woman meets rich tragic man who saves him through the power of her love has been done to death and please why does the protagonist have to be a virgin and one who has never self pleasured yet agrees to S&M?  It just is not credible.  
            So here we are in 2012 women readers are still being pedalled the same old rhetoric under the guise of ‘Mommy porn’.  I would love to see this term disbanded but the opposite will happen.  The market will be saturated with thousands of replicas by writers who won’t bother developing even a half decent literary style.  Why should they when they can make millions throwing in a few sexual kinks + the romance formulae.  I cannot express how utterly depressing I find this.  I am so glad I went back and reread Cloud Atlas to overcome my trauma and reacquaint myself with some decent writing.  

Ps: Whilst the content of this review has been rattling around in my head for ages, I attended the launch of the 2012 blog awards on Monday 13 Aug where we had the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers.  Some of us volunteered to write a blog within seven days using two words picked out of a hat.  I picked out ‘Mam’ and ‘Smile’.  Thanks to Amanda Webb, Beatrice Whelan and Lorna Sixsmith for a great night, I look forward to catching up with everyone on the Blog awards night on 13 October.

© The Bag Lady August 2012

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