Archives for : ana steele

The Problem with 50 Shades of Grey

Pictured: 50 Shades of a piece of shit human being.

Pictured: 50 Shades of a piece of shit human being.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Another author jumping on the bandwagon to dump hatred on this book and upcoming movie? Really? What do you have to say about it that someone hasn’t already said?”

And that’s a fair statement. I’m not the only one who is discussing the upcoming 50 Shades movie. Plenty of authors have gotten into it already, whether for or against it. I won’t try to convince you to listen to me. Instead, I will just speak my piece and let you do whatever you want to do afterward.

The reason that I have a burning hatred for 50 Shades of Grey is not simply because it’s poorly written, because it’s popular, or because it’s erotica.

The reason I have a burning hatred for 50 Shades of Grey is because it is a book and movie about glorifying an incredibly abusive relationship and it is the first time in recent memory that the general populace just seems to be okay with it.

“But Kyoko,” you say. “Isn’t that why you disliked Twilight?”

Yes and no. The reason I hate Twilight is also because it’s poorly written and it glorifies an unhealthy relationship, but let me explain why Twilight pales in comparison to 50 Shades.

First of all, Bella Swan is a teenager. Teenagers are illogical, emotional beings. Their hormones make the calls. I was one not too long ago and the way you feel dictates every single thing you do, and you can’t really help yourself most of the time. I’m not making excuses for Bella because she is still a dull, stupid, wet blanket of a character and she shouldn’t have put her life in danger just for a booty call with someone who put his needs above hers constantly. However, that’s the very reason the books were popular. Teenagers don’t know any better. They read about some tall, dark, and handsome dangerous vampire obsessed with one below average girl and they think, “Oh, wow, wouldn’t it be so cool if I had a hot guy who wanted me this badly?” Edward Cullen is not and never should be a teen idol because he’s an overpowering, pretentious, selfish prick, but it’s not like we don’t have fictional characters who are popular in spite of being absolutely awful. (Read: Loki, Hannibal Lecter)

To me, Twilight is less offensive because it deals with an unhealthy psychological relationship. As far as I know, Edward never physically abuses Bella. He forces his opinions on her, sure, and let’s not even talk about his actions in Breaking Dawn, but he’s a douchebag and she’s too much of a sea cucumber to stand up for herself because she’s a teenager and she has never known better. She isn’t an adult. She doesn’t know how to respond to the way he treats her, and she doesn’t realize yet that she had better options.

At the end of the day, Twilight is a fad. It’s already faded by about 50% in the last couple years. Twenty years from now, it’ll be like N’sync and the Backstreet Boys. Some girls will look back on it and giggle like, “Wow, what was I thinking back then? Hormones are powerful things, huh?” Jump ahead another 50 years and we might not even remember it at all except for the box office records.

50 Shades, however, is just straight up glorifying one adult abusing another adult, and the reason this pisses me off so much is that it’s going to corrupt a lot of teens and women who just don’t know any better.

With Twilight, the odds that girls got into bad relationships because they were looking for some creepy stalker were high, but probably not attainable. Girls wanted to be Bella, but it’s not really possible without a lobotomy. I’m sure men preyed on those impressionable girls for a while, but most men were repulsed by the franchise and didn’t bother to try to imitate Edward Cullen because no one on earth can possibly be that bizarre mix of brutish disdain and boring lack of personality.

With 50 Shades, the reading world who made this the fastest selling book of all time is staunchly saying to these women, “This is what you should want. This is hot. This is what BDSM is like and you should want that kind of relationship. This made so much money because all these women want this kind of sex and this kind of boyfriend.”

And women have it hard enough.

Every day, women are subjected to advertisements and television shows and movies and video games and anime that enforce what the “ideal woman” is on us. She’s this height, this weight, she has these proportions, she has this hair color, she wears these clothes, she sounds like this, she goes to this place, and you’re never going to be loved if you’re not like her. The media lovingly whittles down our confidence with onslaughts of unfair and unrealistic stereotypes that make us feel worthless in comparison, and there are few of us who are strong enough to ignore it and take our beautiful asses elsewhere.

50 Shades of Grey is the ultimate inaccurate portrayal of something to aspire to. It is not real BDSM, it is something that E.L. James imagined while furiously masturbating. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Look up actual S & M culture, and they will straight up tell you that what Christian Grey is doing to Ana is NOT the proper protocol for BDSM. He is abusing her. He is performing unwanted sexual acts on her, and just because she gets off on it later doesn’t mean it’s not abuse. That is the single biggest reason why I detest this book and this film. It is blatant disregard for one woman’s personal and sexual desires and it sends the ugliest message out into the world that I’ve ever seen in my life.

Because for every decent, loving, mature man out there, there are fifty immature douchebags who are going to see this movie and have every backwards-ass thought in their head reaffirmed. These assholes are going to see 50 Shades make $100 million dollars and say, “Oh, so it’s okay to ignore what women want and force my views and my sexuality onto them. They obviously bought these books and saw this movie ten times, so it’s okay. I can be an asshole and still get laid.” And that is exactly what decent women have been fighting against their entire lives.

Think I’m exaggerating? Do you remember the #YesAllWomen event on Twitter last year? All women have at least one street harassment story. Most have several. We have to deal with unwanted male aggressions, micro or otherwise, all the time. It may not be frequent, but there are always men who think it’s okay to badger women out of some misplaced sense of entitlement.

And 50 Shades of Grey is unconsciously saying that these guys aren’t the minority.

I will have nothing to do with a book or a film that helps these pricks continue to treat my sisters like they are nothing less than meat. Never.

“But Kyoko,” you say. “You’re a fangirl. Aren’t fans notorious for glorifying unhealthy relationships?”

Yes and no. I’m a fangirl alright, but I’m actually pretty conservative in certain terms. Yes, I write about an abusive relationship between my protagonist Jordan and the villain Belial, but the difference is that I make it 100% clear that what Belial does to Jordan is wrong and should not be the way anyone treats another person. Belial himself fully admits he’s an evil piece of shit and he wants to bring Jordan down to his level. Jordan fully admits that being attracted to Belial is the worst part of her personality and she is ashamed of her carnal desires for him. Furthermore, while Belial treats her badly, he does actually have something to offer her: money, status, power, and sexual fulfillment.

Furthermore, yes, fans often glorify abusive or even illegal fictional relationships. It’s sad, but it happens constantly in certain circles. I’ve seen them try to justify rape, incest, bestiality, abuse, child molestation, and all kinds of foul things, and they do it with the same emphatic enthusiasm and denial as the women who claim that 50 Shades isn’t about abuse. And guess what? It’s not okay either. They will argue until they are blue in the face for me saying so, but no, I think certain things that fans promote are despicable and should not be done even if it’s just fictional.

However, the difference here is that this is fandom. What does the word “fan” stand for when used in this context? Fan is short for fanatic. That is actually a much smaller demographic than Tumblr would lead you to believe is the norm. These are a very specific subset of people who actively search for this kind of thing. They are not the average woman or girl who would just happen to stumble across these sorts of things.

50 Shades of Grey has been promoted and plastered on every available surface, whereas the unhealthy things that fans like are in a much smaller, more concentrated setting. Sure, some girls who don’t know better might see the things that the fandom insists is okay, but it’s far less likely. 50 Shades is widespread and it’s going to mess with so many impressionable women who don’t know that what they are seeing is an exaggeration and misrepresentation of BDSM and all the things that are associated with an interest in kinky sex or a relationship based mostly on the physical aspects. I am all for women taking charge of their sexuality and exploring what they desire, but I am not for a pigeonholed version that is mostly nonsense of some woman who managed to trick people into thinking her fantasies were anything near what actual BDSM and actual well-written erotica are like.

I condemn this book and movie not because it places sex on a pedestal, but because it makes it clear that Christian Grey’s wants and needs are more important than Ana’s, and that at the end of the day, the man is still the one who dictates the relationship, and the woman is his plaything. I condemn this book and movie because there are so many women with abuse stories that will feel a centimeter tall when people advocate such an obvious monster of a man taking advantage of an ignorant girl. I condemn this movie because it was written by a woman, and yet it enforces nearly every single unhealthy stereotype that lousy men embody.

You have every right to like what you want to like. No one will ever stop you. But I think it bears repeating that just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good, and doesn’t mean it’s something people should ever take to heart.

*climbs back down off of soapbox*

Things 50 Shades of Grey Taught Me About Writing

In light of Charlie Hunnam very, very, very smartly rescinding his agreement to be Christian Grey in the alleged 50 Shades of Grey movie, I feel I must share my thoughts on the infamous trilogy.

I know what you’re thinking. I mean, seriously, what the hell could one of the all time worst novels ever written have to teach a young author?

Actually quite a lot.

Unfortunately, nice guys really do finish last (in fiction). I hate to admit it (mostly because I am technically a nice guy even though I’m a girl with inner rage issues), but it’s the truth. Most of the time, when there’s a love triangle present, the girl chooses the bad boy. We’ve seen it dozens of times in fiction. Before Leia even knew Luke was her brother, she still went for Han Solo. There is just something about the classic jerk boyfriend character that us poor women cannot resist. There is no real explanation for it other than perhaps a hard study of human biology. Maybe it’s because we inherently obsess with people who seem to not like us. I know I do. It’s annoying, like a splinter in your finger, a tiny pebble in your shoe. It irks you. And, eventually, overwhelms you. My second crush in high school was a guy who got on my nerves constantly and we ended up verbally sparring through my third year and then I was walking down the hallway one day, fuming at something he’d teased me about earlier, and then it hit me like a Mack truck spinning out of control on an oil slick—I LIKED him. Ew. Boys, right? But despite the billions of things E.L. James got wrong, she knew that the foaming masses of women out there prefer the handsome, arrogant prick over someone much more understanding and level-headed to fantasize about. I think it has a lot to do with fantasies in general. We often indulge in them because we know that in real life, they’d be horrific experiences. If Christian and Ana were a real couple and people knew about what he did to her, he’d be on To Catch a Predator in a heartbeat. No amount of money would avoid that. However, that brings me to my next point.

Jerk boyfriends aren’t enough. We love jerks. We adore them. Indiana Jones, Tony Stark, John McClane, Richard B. Riddick,  the list goes on and on, and that’s just for movies. In fiction, there are thousands of arrogant pricks that we can’t help rooting for as we turn the pages. However, these fellas have something in common that Christian Grey does NOT: they have hidden depths. This is a trope known as Jerk with a Heart of Gold. It’s by far one of the most popular writing devices of all times. There is really nothing better than thinking a character is the scum of the earth and then finding out he has a kitten farm out in his garage. And this is the exact opposite of Mr. Grey, who is a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk. He’s intolerable, abusive, childish, selfish, and just a genuinely unpleasant man despite his dashing good looks. While this worked for all the lonely housewives still pining for Edward Cullen, it is the main reason that 50 Shades is one of the most hated novel series to date. His behavior is wholly disgusting. It’s reprehensible. It is not accurate in any sense to the real life equivalents of couples in the BDSM culture. It’s made up and creepy and wrong and honestly, it makes the human race as a whole look bad. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but still. 50 Shades is indisputable proof that bastard boyfriends cannot cut it in the fictional world. Sure, the book sold millions, but again, the demographic generally isn’t writers, it’s people who don’t read on a regular basis and so they don’t know the difference between a well-balanced story with troubled but great characters and the mindless wet dreams of a lonely woman who thinks she knows what S & M is all about.

Fanfiction really shouldn’t be renamed and published for profit. Sadly, not a lot of people know that Shades is actually an AU (alternate universe, for you non-nerds out there) fanfiction written about Twilight. Oh, yes, you read that right. It’s Twilight fanfiction. All she did was change the names, a few plot details, and then she published it and made a fortune. Did she have the legal right to do this? Yes. Was it morally right to do this? I disagree. I write fanfiction on a regular basis. It’s a great way to find other creative people and to share an interest in a particular movie, TV show, anime, or novel. However, there is one huge difference between that and original fiction—it’s free. That’s why fanfiction is such a booming part of nerd culture. If you hate something, who cares? At least you didn’t cough up any cash for it. You read it for free. That’s also why they are ten times more willing to review a fanfic than to review a novel on Amazon—it’s way less pressure and cost to do so. I believe it’s wrong to charge people to read something many of them could have read for free, especially when the quality is as eye-ball gougingly terrible as Shades. However, James is not the only one to abuse this literary loophole.

Cassandra Clare, author of the City of Bones novel series, also did the same thing, and she is an even worse offender. According to the research I’ve gathered, she used to plagiarize a lot of the Harry Potter fanfiction she used to write and then eventually took it down, changed the plot and the names, and published it. She also reportedly bullied anyone who tried to point out what she was doing, and if you Google the controversy right now, you’ll notice it’s kind of hard to find. I believe that her publishers might have found out about it and made a point to keep things on the down low, and that’s a frightening idea in itself.

However, for argument’s sake, let’s now focus on the writing aspect of this problem. You’re borrowing someone else’s characters. You’re piggybacking off of them. You’re adding and subtracting some things, but it’s still not original fiction. This is going to hurt your writing no matter how you try to dress it up. It’s still not your property and you will have to make all kinds of sacrifices in order to make it work without alerting someone to the fact that you’ve stolen their characters. You can see so many awful Bella Swan-isms in Ana Steele that it’s embarrassing—tripping over things, rejecting compliments and gifts, being sullen for no real reason, not noticing that the guy she loves is a total creep—and that’s just for starters. I hope that in the future publishing companies take a harder look at the authors who keep doing stuff like this and refuse to let it fly. It’s not fair to the millions of fanfic writers who don’t plagiarize and it’s not fair to the readers.

Conflict matters. Honestly, can you look me in the eye and tell me what Shades is about other than poorly written sex? I bet you a nickel that you can’t. Story cannot exist without conflict. Yet Shades does, somehow. The initial attempt at conflict is Ana’s reluctance to engage in Christian’s disturbing sex fantasies, but it’s null and void before we even hit the halfway point in the first book. The rest of it just drags along with a bare semblance of a plot. Putting aside the fourth grade reading level grammar mistakes, it’s just dull scenes loosely strung together. Plot matters. Conflict matters. Character actions matter. There shouldn’t be any point that I flip through a book and I can’t tell what the hell is happening and for what reason.

Editing is your friend. How many times does Christian “breathe” in Shades? How many times does Ana say “holy cow?” I think some lovely person went and counted them all, but you and I both know the exact number comes out to 84545695685067986879 because E.L. James didn’t have an editor. Or, if she did, the editor was too busy typing with one hand to actually do their job. The novel has so much unintentional repetition that it makes me want to spoon my eyes out of their sockets. No one “says” anything—it’s all attributions, which are a big debate in the writing world. I personally think that it should be 50/50 when it comes to dialogue tags, but most writers are strict and enforce the law that it should be “said” 90% of the time. Editing is not just a masochistic way for you to kill your darlings on the page. It’s good for your work. It helps you separate the crap from the gold. It helps you catch accidental mistakes and things you repeat without knowing it, especially if you’re a novelist. Editing should also be something that happens dozens of times before one even considers publishing. Not only do I look over my work, I pass it off to relatives and friends and then to a professional. Your eyes see what you wanted to write, and don’t always see what’s there. You have to edit until the very sight of your manuscript makes you want to puke. It’s despicable, but necessary.

Honestly, I could go on and on about how much I loathe these novels, but at the very least, they have given us some of the funniest dramatic readings of all time. Here’s to you, 50 Shades of Grey. You make us all look bad, but at least you suck in style.