Simply put: Because I am not a literary snob
Ok ladies – before you all get out your individual soap boxes and start screaming and ranting at me, give me a little breathing room to explain the weird and wonderful reasons why I think that the 50 Shades of Grey movie – and indeed the books – have been unfairly treated in the press.
I am a writer. I have been a writer for many years, in many different disciplines and I am proud of at least 80% of the work I have had published. I say this, because it justified why I am as equally qualified to write this article as many of those who have written reviews in countless newspapers lately.
I loved 50 Shades of Grey. There, I said it. Sue me. I don’t give a f**k.
I am an educated woman, I have worked hard to build a reputation as a respected writer and hope one day to be just as highly respected as an author, so I realise that this article could at some point come back to bite me on the bum. But as I have already said, I simply don’t care.
If you take a peek inside my library you will find that the writers who have graced my shelves over the years have ranged from JK Rowling to JR Tolkien, and from Shakespeare to Stephen Fry. I read crime, romance, thrillers and I enjoy nothing more than disappearing in to the worlds created in classic literature. I read poetry, prose and sonnets. I also write poetry, lyrics, novels, blogs and the odd short story. I do not discriminate.
I am NOT a literary snob. How do I know this? Because my 50 Shades of Grey trilogy sits proudly on my shelf next to some of the most influential writers of our time.
Now, I suppose I better put the obligatory disclaimer in here. I am more than aware that the books were, in parts, terribly written. The grammar is questionable, even by my standards, and the repetition can be a little tiring. E.L James’ descriptions of Anastasia’s ‘sex’ becomes at times utterly cringeworthy. BUT – and I say that boldly and loudly because I want you to all understand the necessity of the word – it is a GOOD book and an even better chick flick.
Anastasia Steel is a believable character. I can’t deny I even drew a few early comparisons to myself along the way. Christian Grey is just as credible. Don’t believe me? Then simply take a look at how many blogs and forums went crazy during the casting of the actors for the movie. If readers didn’t believe the character was ‘real’, if they hadn’t connected with the character, would there have been so much uproar and controversy over who James picked for her main protagonist?
The plot is good. The story line is plausible. The world EL James creates is tangible and you can all but taste the sweat on Anastasia’s brow as you read the pages and descriptions in the Red Room of Pain. Is that not what a novel should do?
Does it not transport you to another world? Allow you to feel for a moment as if you are a voyeur, watching and experiencing someone else’s life for a brief moment?
Answer me this: How many of us women can say that their guilty pleasure film at Christmas time is Love Actually? Notting Hill? About a Boy? Pretty Woman or Top Gun even? Are these films not utterly predictable? Are most romantic novels not exactly the same? EL James’ book follows the same format as most successful female novels or romantic films that grace the market both now and in the past.
If this is the case, then prey tell me why we are giving her so much more of a hard time than we gave Nick Hornby or Richard Curtis?
I will not get into the controversial subject that most have touched upon surrounding the possibility of domestic abuse within the film. Simply because I believe it is utterly ludicrous to put such a statement on this trilogy. Anastasia, as a character, willingly subjects herself to the situations she finds herself in. She is a participant and is at no point forced unwillingly into any violent situations. Domestic abuse is an entirely different subject all together.
Instead I will focus on the points of the book (and indeed the film) that made me believe that EL James had created a great work of fiction.
Despite the feminist argument, I can all but guarantee that deep down each and every woman wants to find a man that will bring out the best in her. Someone who will guide her and help her discover new things in this world. We want action, excitement, romance, suspense… All of which Christian offers Ana. He takes a shy retiring virgin and offers her the chance to experience the world in a safe controlled manner with someone who can really open her eyes. Honestly, I kind of wish my first experience had been with someone as willing to ‘explore’ with me, rather than getting it over and done with as quickly as possible on a couch in his parents’ living room!
Let’s compare the much-loved film Pretty Woman with Fifty Shades of Grey… Which of these two films should we, as feminist women, be more enraged with? The one that tells us it is okay to give up our values and morals and social standing as long as it is in return for money? Or the one which allows us to believe that it is no longer taboo to explore our sexuality in a safe and controlled manner, but still walk away when our boundary has been hit?
Now I have to be careful not to say too much here, as I am aware that there may be some out there who have not read all three books. So taking into account that I do not want to write spoilers into this piece, suffice to say that come the end of the trilogy Ana has taught Christian just as much as he has taught her. In fact, in most cases, Ana has done all the teaching. She is in control just as much as Christian, in a much more emotional rather than physical way, and in my mind emotional control can be just as important, if not more so, than physical control.
The character development in the books is credible. The storyline is engaging and page turning and it is concluded in a positive and satisfying way. So what exactly is bad about the books? The grammar? Really? Well, Einstein apparently didn’t do that well at school and look where he got. Richard Branson is dyslexic but still commands a stage and manages a business more respected than most in the world. So tell me, why should we lambaste EL James simply for a little poor grammar?
She managed to do what most of us writers can only DREAM of. She published her books. Not just one, but three! She got a major movie deal for all THREE of her books, made a fortune and walked the red carpet – and she did this despite having bad grammar and no one to edit her books before publishing. I would say that’s a pretty bloody good achievement for most.
So why are people slating her? There are two major camps: 1. Those who are simply Literary Snobs and refuse to like the book simply because she self-published and has bad grammar, so therefore she simply ‘cannot be respected in the literary world’. 2. The second camp consists of those who simply follow suit and say they don’t like the books, despite having read all three and secretly deep down wishing they had thought of the idea first.
There are, of course, lessons to be learnt from her story.
Get your work edited. Get it checked and double checked before entering the shark-infested waters of publishing. And finally – don’t give a f**k what other people say because it’s not necessarily what everyone thinks behind closed doors. If you have finished your novel, you are already ahead of the crowd. If you have published your work, you are already a superhero… and if you have published three books, signed deals to make all three into movies and walked a red carpet, then darling, the grammar didn’t matter in the first place!
Well done EL James – good on you for bucking the trend and standing your ground. Despite the odd hiccup and cringe-worthy word here and there, you did what we could not. You hit the bestseller list, took all the shit thrown at you with grace and smiled brightly at the film’s premier next to a million celebrities who all now know your name.
Well Bloody Done. In my eyes, you are a true Glass House Girl!
Haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey yet? Buy it here…
And for those who just cant get enough… Why not read Fifty Shades of Grey from Christians point of view!