The other day, I mentioned to someone at work that I’d read Fifty Shades of Grey and was kind of/sort of embarrassed. She asked me why, and I told her that the writing was kind of crap and I thought that the BDSM element didn’t need to be toned down in favor of romance. Also, I told her that I found out it began as Twilight fan fiction after I read it, and that had I known that in the beginning, I never would have attempted to approach it as erotica. I would never have attempted to approach it with anything other than a blowtorch, actually, which would be a shame because I really love my Kindle.
“At least there was sex,” I told her, “although not enough of it to be erotica.”
“There’s more sex in the second book,” she said.
Fifty Shades of Grey was the first in a trilogy, something I was a little excited about when I started reading (remember, I thought it was erotica) but became savagely opposed to once I finished (because it is not actually erotica at all). I hadn’t even considered reading the second book, but this woman said she’d lend it to me. While I won’t pay for things I expect to be terrible, I will absolutely accept them for free.
In retrospect, I could see how Fifty Shades of Grey began as a Twilight fanfic. The protagonist is a thin, klutzy brunette whom everyone likes for no apparent reason. She meets a limitlessly wealthy man who experiences sometimes violent mood swings and once, she refers to him as a “Greek god.” I know this happened in Twilight because I got the third book from Stephanie when she moved. Like I said, I will gladly accept terrible things for free, and also she said “You have to read this because this shit is crazy.” I made it about halfway through Breaking Dawn before literally throwing it across the room in a fit of this-bitch-cannot-fucking-write-but-she-still-got-published-and-is-motherfucking-rich rage. Apparently, the woman who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey began posting her fic on some Twilight fansites, then moved it to her own site and changed the names so she wouldn’t get sued. Then she got published. And now she’s motherfucking rich, too.
If Fifty Shades of Grey is kind of Twilight, then the second book, Fifty Shades Darker, is its unholy, deserving-of-litigation spawn. The BDSM element is entirely gone save for two scenes, both of which are embarrassingly tame, to the point that one ends in Roberta Flack singing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” I guess there’s more sex in this one but it’s dull, sometimes includes the word “vagina” (which might as well just douse the reader in clinical solvent), and once causes the protagonist to exclaim “Aargh!” when experiencing orgasm. Despite the very un-BDSM weirdness of the sex in Fifty Shades Darker, it still happens like three times a day, and I am really fucking sick of people pretending like this is normal. Once a day could be normal if you have that kind of time on your hands and don’t understand things like food and sleep. That’s up to you, I don’t purport to know your life. But having sex three times a day is not normal. It is exhausting. It is time-consuming. It is just asking for a yeast infection or, depending on what kind of sex you’re into having, an impacted bowel.
It’s bad. It’s really bad. More sex doesn’t mean better sex, especially when the romance part is such a festering turd of a theme.
The rest of Fifty Shades Darker is Twilight-esque emotional porn, and it’s important to remember that porn is not supposed to be emotional. Emotional porn is a lot of talking written for highly insecure women who have never actually had sex but would really like to try it sometime with a wildly inappropriate partner. Dominant aspect aside (the author just tossed it away so why can’t I), Christian Grey is not in love. He is a psychopath obsessed with control who will eventually murder his girlfriend/apparently soon-to-be-wife (since everything in these kinds of books ends in a wedding, right?), who, to her dumbass credit, blithely accepts this fate. It blows my mind that any women find this appealing, because I find it to be a combination of scary and nauseating. Maybe I just read better books, watched better movies, and had higher standards for myself from an early age, but none of the insanity in Fifty Shades Darker was even remotely acceptable to me.
Abbi commented on my original Fifty Shades of Grey entry, and her comment came just after I learned about the whole Twilight fanfic thing. I messaged her to be like “yeah, dude, sorry,” because Abbi reads. I wouldn’t have recommended the book to her or anyone who is remotely interested in literature, and at the time of her comment, I was halfway through Fifty Shades Darker and full of rageful feelings. While I bear no ill feelings towards fanfic as a whole (I completely support fanfic unless it involves slash between two brothers on a television show, which is creepy), I was bothered by a bad fanfic still being so much better than the work that inspired it. She made a very good point when she said:
“I simultaneously totally get and completely eschew the whole Twilight phenomenon, and the rash of fanfic that follows. When you write characters that are that hollow, of course people are going to write fanfic, because they can make the characters do anything and it won’t seem out of character.”
While it would be something to propose fanfic standards without suppressing the genre, I suppose this would also require standards of appreciation in readers. Stephenie Meyer is currently sitting on a great big pile of ill-gotten money, so I don’t see this happening anytime soon.