Friday, March 16, 2012

Mommy Porn—Really?

I need to go on a little rant here. There has been much ado about a new book called Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James and I just need to speak out. According to the Los Angeles Times the following is the much-discussed back-story to this bestselling ebook turned insta-print hit:

“British author E L James, a former television executive, first published the book on fan fiction site as a super lengthy tome ... that "reimagined the Bella and Edward love affair set in contemporary Seattle, Washington with Bella as the young college graduate virgin and Edward as the masterful billionaire with secret sexual predilections."  (

So obviously James changed the names of her characters to protect herself from the wrath of Stephenie Meyer, and this now three volume saga has been picked up by Random House to be sold world-wide in print form. It’s hard to go somewhere in the book world without hearing this title or author’s name. James has officially surpassed former self-published wunderkind Amanda Hocking and infiltrated the masses that read, well maybe not READ, but at least consume what is popular. After hearing about this book for a few weeks, I finally got my hands on one yesterday and had myself a little go and let me say—what complete and utter garbage!

The book is painful to read. I’m quite certain that those of us who perused it together yesterday are all worse off intellectually than we were the day before. The writing is ghastly, something from “how not to write”, the prose similar to what one might see mocked in a movie where teenage girls read awful romance novels to each other and giggle in hysteria at how utterly painful it is. For example:

“I have rules, and I want you to comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn,” he whispers. I glance at the rack of canes as he says this.” (Fifty Shades of Grey, pg. 73)

Honestly, I think I saw something like this at the Hustler store when I went in for gag gifts—and trust me that stuff was never going to find its way to the bestseller list. I don’t know whether to be more appalled that this book is helping the cause of the self-published “bad writer” (I’m sorry, most people, but not all, can’t find a brick and mortar publisher for good reason), or that women everywhere are being sucked into this vortex of bad prose wrapped in porn. If I were a mother I would be offended that this tripe has been tagged as “Mommy Porn”, because no self-respecting mommy that I know would pummel their brains to horny mush with such unmitigated slop. I’m offended on the part of intelligent women everywhere. Seriously, having come off a year where women have taken a step up cinematically, proving that female ensembles can be smart, funny, even gross, and yet oddly sophisticated (Bridesmaids and The Help), why in literature are our standards so low? Fifty Shades of Grey is the cinematic equivalent of 2011’s What’s Your Number, ridiculous, brain numbing, not worth the time, and a general insult to my intelligence.

Look, I get that there are women who enjoy erotica. I’ve read a few, and I can see where the, I hate to say pleasure, but the thrill of it lies. My issue is taking a piece of poorly written fan fiction and turning it into a mega-hit that women are pursuing as though it were lottery winnings instead of fancily disguised pornography. This book isn’t art. It’s not even good. So, go ahead read it, but stop trying to make it something it’s not, which is good.

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