Fifty Shades of Literature: Why Get All Up in Arms?

Fifty Shades of Literature: Why Get All Up in Arms?

Does the fact that the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L. James is written poorly decrease the novels’ entertainment value? This article explores why novels should not be demeaned simply because of the quality of writing, as well as the social impacts of this type of literature.

Books have been a subject near-and-dear to my heart ever since I was a child, and I always love getting transported into fictitious worlds and losing myself in the rich worlds and characters that writers have created. Literature is an escape from the present, and are in many ways cathartic. If you’re having a bad day, are drained of energy or angry at the world, all you have to do is sit down, pick up a good book, and begin reading. Books can also be a way to explore themes and actions that one may not necessarily even pursue in real life. That is just what E.L. James has done in her highly provocative and best-selling Fifty Shades Trilogy.

The Fifty Shades Trilogy deals with a protagonist, Ana, who is a recent college graduate, looking for her place in the world but who has never been in love or even in a sexual relationship. That is, until she meets multi-millionaire Christian Grey who is, unbeknownst to Ana at the time, a BDSM-loving sexual animal who enlists Ana as his submissive. But through the course of the novel Christian realizes that he wants more than just a domineering relationship with Ana, and at the same time Ana isn’t exactly enthralled with the relationship as is. To say the novel is one of romance is an understatement as it is highly explicit and graphic in its sex scenes. While it is highly entertaining and the characters are interesting, the writing is weak and not exactly as polished as that of Jane Austen or George Steinbeck. And this is where the larger debate begins that I’d like to explore: does a book have to be perfectly written to be enjoyable and regarded as a good novel?

People for the past few months have been constantly demeaning the series simply because they are “poorly written” and have been dubbed “mommy porn.” Most of these people are also ones who have never even read the book and are just relying on the opinions of others. Is there anything wrong with these “labels?” First, the term “mommy porn” makes the books feel dirty and limits them to only women. But the fact is that many men have read the books, and they have even remarked that seeing what women go through in terms of sex, but also relationships in general, has changed their thought process, and in turn they are more respectful and understanding of their female counterparts. And what’s wrong with people enjoying some carnal gratification every once in a while? James has presented an entertaining escape from reality for many people, and that is the point of books. An escape from reality is welcomed by most, and why should this particular scenario not be acceptable? Secondly, just because it’s “poorly written” doesn’t make it any less entertaining, right? While I myself don’t think they are of the highest literary quality, I still found them very enjoyable. I connected with the characters and felt the roller-coaster of emotions that each of the characters traveled on through the course of the novel. E.L. James did her job, whether or not the writing was sub-par. 

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