Okay, so everybody who hasn’t been living under a rock will have seen the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of the 50 Shades of Grey novel by E. L. James. Of course, with the book being such a hit, it’s hardly surprising that the release of the official trailer has generated so much attention on social media, with the YouTube video having already been viewed over 21 million times. However, as with anything so popular, the trailer has sparked mass speculation about what the 2015 film will be like, and it has attracted its fair share of criticism from literature and film buffs alike. In the past two days alone, I have read countless articles written by journalists who are quick to spout that they absolutely will not be watching the film when it is released in cinemas next February.
Now, having read all three books when they were first released, and as a literature graduate, I am, of course, aware that they are hardly up there with Jane Austen when it comes to their literary prowess. The characters are two-dimensional, the storyline is simplistic at best and the writing is sloppy. The same expressions are used over and over again, and the cringe-inducing ‘inner goddess’ (that we can only assume to be Ana’s sex drive) drove me insane before I’d even finished the first few chapters. What’s more, the finer points of the relationship that Ana enters into with the infamous Christian Grey are not exactly accurate in their depiction of consensual BDSM relationships, with many expressing concern that Christian’s behaviour is more stalker than sex god.
However, the point that literary snobs and strident feminists alike are missing is that 50 Shades of Grey was never supposed to be a work of literary genius. It was honest from the very beginning about its origins (Twilight fan fiction with an erotic twist) and has made no apology for its somewhat shallow plot and characters. Erotica can, and has been, extremely well written in the past. Authors such as Anais Nin have shown that, turning the most animal acts into flowing works of art. Erotica can also be written for the primary purpose of functioning as a masturbation aid. You only have to visit Literotica.com to see the hundreds of amateur writers turning their fantasies into prose for the consumption of millions of horny internet users.
50 Shades, with its ‘mummy porn’ reputation, is just that: porn. It acts as an introduction to BDSM for those who may have never even considered venturing out of the vanilla before, allowing readers of all ages and backgrounds to place themselves in Ana’s shoes (you didn’t think she was such a blank slate for no reason, did you?) and travel with her through her initiation of bondage and discipline. It faultlessly entwines the traditional romance novel with pornographic content in a way that has never been done to such a mass audience before, and for that, it should be praised.
If I visit Porn Hub, or Red Tube, or any other popular porn sites, I don’t expect to see films crafted with complex story lines, expert script writing and incredible acting. I expect to see fucking, and lots of it. I won’t waste my time writing pages and pages about where they are lacking, comparing them to award-winning Hollywood films and boycotting them in favour of an artsy French flick. If I want to watch a serious piece of cinema, I will hit IMDB before Porn Hub, and the same logic should be applied to 50 Shades of Grey.
No, it isn’t a poetic venture into the complexities of BDSM relationships, and yes, Ana would benefit from a bit of a personality transplant, but ultimately, the book fulfils its purpose. It has opened the door for countless couples to explore their sexualities, with Ann Summers sales going through the roof and other writers of erotica finally getting their voices heard and their pages read. It titillates, it aids masturbation and it has given housewives all over the world some bloody good orgasms, and for that, I applaud it.
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