I have just finished reading the latest publishing sensation Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James and I am trying to find the right words to describe how I feel about the book. For those who don’t know it follows the relationship of young, naive Ana and handsome billionaire Christian Grey. Their relationship is tested by Christian’s preference for BDSM.
There are some things I enjoyed about it. It is easy reading, and I quite like the fact that what started as just fan fiction has become this massive phenomenon (I’m going to let it slide that it was Twilight fan fiction). I thought Ana’s friend Kate Kavanagh was the best and most likeable character in it and the book is good as escapist fantasy. However there were things that made me feel uncomfortable while I was reading it and for a while I couldn’t put my finger on it. I’m not strongly opposed to the S & M scenes (I was more offended by his constant use of the word ‘baby’-shudder); it’s not my kind of thing but its consenting adults so each to their own.
It wasn’t until half way through the book that I realised what it was that was bothering me. Although Ana did enjoy some of the sexual situations she was finding herself involved in, it’s not actually something she really wants to do. Her main reason for doing it is because she wants Christian to be her boyfriend and is afraid of losing him. The scene where she breaks down after a mammoth spanking session from Christian made me feel uncomfortable. I also found it off putting that he was such a stalker! I know Ana is not happy about it either but yet she still continues to date him. If it was me I’d be running for the hills.
I have not read the other books in the series so maybe this all gets addressed but I’ve had so many women drooling over how amazing Christian is that I find it a bit worrying. Many people like this Heathcliff type character who they see as a romantic (anti)hero who act so selfishly and brutish. I personally find it hard to swoon over characters like this. I think it’s also the fact that like Ana-many women like the thought of changing a man. Although this is nice in theory, people don’t change because we make them. A girl can’t change a man; people have to want to change themselves. And quite often they don’t want to.
I’m probably taking it all a bit more seriously then I’m meant to. After all at the end of the day its fiction and I’ll probably still read the other two books (I have been told these are better than the first one). Perhaps Christian can win me over yet. Besides the books aren’t going anywhere yet not with the film still to be made, although I hope they cut out all the ‘baby’ references-it’s just not sexy.
If anyone did enjoy the books then I would recommend watching Secretary a 2002 film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lee Holloway and James Spader as E. Edward Grey (Oh my god I can’t believe he’s called Grey too-I hadn’t realised that before-spooky!). Lee is a shy, severely insecure girl who’s just come out of a mental hospital for self-harming and gets a job as Grey’s secretary. The two are quite lonely figures who don’t really fit it in anywhere else. When Lee starts making mistakes in her work Grey gives out some unusual punishments to help correct her mistakes.
Surprisingly given the subject matter the film isn’t seedy; instead it’s a surprisingly sweet romance between Spader and Gyllenhaal’s characters. I think what I enjoyed about this film was that Lee doesn’t feel like a victim, rather she is more delighted by the relationship and strangely it gives her the confidence and strength she has been longing for. She is not upset in any of their encounters; in fact she rather enjoys it. Their relationship enables her to find her voice and expresses what she wants in her life even if it may not be right for others. Also Spader doesn’t come across as creepy or as if he’s taking advantage of Lee, rather it’s two people who have a lot of issues coming together and finding what works for them.
Somehow I doubt the forthcoming Fifty Shades film will live up to Secretary in my mind. However if the rumours are true and Matthew Bomer (Magic Mike, White Collar, Glee) is cast as Christian in the film then I may have to reconsider my standpoint. Shallow moi?