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Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Fifty Shades of Grey Theory: The Top Five Reasons So Many Modern, Intelligent Women Long to be Dominated by a Hot Billionaire

Okay, full disclosure: I only read the first fifty pages of the runaway bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey. Obviously I can hardly pretend to be an expert on the topic. The English teacher in me just couldn't deal with the repetitive phrasing and amateurish characterizations. But that's just me being picky, I guess, because most of America's totally smitten.

I do have some theories about why this trilogy has become such a massive success practically overnight. Sure, it's horribly presumptuous to posit a five-part hypothesis about books one hasn't even read, but I'm feeling cocky, so I'm going for it.

1) Women Today Are Sick of Being the Bossy Pants: Whether we're calling the shots at work or ordering our toddler to stop biting the dog, today's average thirty and forty-something female (Fifty Shades' prime demographic) has tons of responsibility. Most are mothers and employed, leaving precious little time when they're not tending to some sort of duty or crisis. For the mommy who's tired of keeping up with the sippy cups and the CEO sick of sending bossy memos, Anastasia Steele's total surrender to hottie-who-tells-her-exactly-what-to-do provides the ultimate escapist fantasy.

2) We Want to be Worshipped: If there's one common denominator in every romance I've ever read from Twilight to Danielle Steel, it's this: the heroine gets worshipped. It's not enough to be just loved or respected; we long to be the consuming obsession at the center of someone's life. Anastasia gets her share of worship, even if it is of the handcuffed variety.

3) Hot Boy Billionaires Are So Hard to Find: With the economy in its ongoing state of brokenness, beautiful twenty-seven-year-old billionaires are incredibly scarce. Lots of real world women have to deal with partners who can't find work or whose income has been slashed to ribbons. That makes Christian Grey one seriously yummy serving of fantasy man.

4) Make That a Hyper-Masculine Hot Boy in Emasculating Times: Keep in mind that Grey isn't just a billionaire, he's a self-made man. At the tender age of twenty-seven he's managed not only to dominate the business world, but to do so without the help of any pesky inheritance or trust fund that might tarnish his virility in any way. Just as Superman spoke to a Depression-ravaged America with the fantasy of righteous power, Christian Grey distracts women from recession-era worries. Real world husbands plagued with unemployment, debt and paunchiness can be quickly forgotten as readers devour Grey's power in the bedroom and in the boardroom.

5) Twilight Was the Foreplay, Fifty Shades is the Climax: As you probably already know, the Fifty Shades trilogy started as Twilight fan fiction. Stephenie Meyer took unrequited sexual tension to an almost unbearable level, stringing readers along from book to book as we begged Edward to bite her already! Though of course Bella and Edward did finally consummate their relationship (sorry if that's a spoiler!) for many fans the lovers' wedding night paled in comparison to the steamy tension Meyer set up for hundreds and hundreds of pages. The Fifty Shades trilogy gives readers a chance to live out similar relationship dynamics but in a much more explicit, overtly erotic way, providing a release from all that pent up angst at last.

Before I wrap up here, I just want to add that I don't judge readers who love this series; I had my own reasons for putting it down, but I'm all for an excellent escapist fantasy in any form; this one just wasn't for me.

I want to hear from you! Did you get into this series? Does my hypothesis ring true in any way, or am I way off base? Fifty Shades fans and detractors, please, leave your comments below!


Jody Gehrman said...

Getting complaints about comments that disappear...trying my own test

Laura said...

I am completely with you on this. I've thought for a long time about what it is that makes these books so popular and came up with basically the same conclusions you did. I think women now have grown up believing we don't need men, we're strong and independent, etc... and while that makes for healthy, successful women, I think secretly a lot of us just want to be someone's world have have that person take care of us 100%. And maybe in real life that would get old very fast, but for the time it takes to read a few hundred pages, it's wonderful. I was able to get through all of the books and loved the story, but I had major issues with the mistakes and whole sections that needed editing. I think Bared to You or Beautiful Disaster give that same vibe without as many cringe-worthy errors and poor writing. Thanks for so eloquently putting into words what I've been thinking!

Jody Gehrman said...

Thanks for chiming in, Laura! Yeah, I read Beautiful Disaster and totally got sucked into that one. I think you're right about it being a similar sort of fantasy, but a little more smoothly put together.

Busy Bookblogger said...

To have only read 50 pages you hit Fifty dead on!

I read the first one only to see what the fuss was about and had the same issues - repetitive phrases, generic characters, and at times the MC had a childish mindset even though she's supposed to be 22 or so. It wasn't the absolute worst thing I ever read but I found myself skimming through most of the scenes that were supposed to be so great. This is not a genre I prefer anyways but the general consensus seems to be that there are better ones out there and much of what was published should have been edited out.

Great post Jody!


Great theories, Jody. It's still on my DO NOT READ list, so I'm not planning to read the book. I just have too many books I WANT to read but don't have time to. The reason why certain books (despite lack of writing merit) become so popular and why some well-written books don't sell well is still a GREAT mystery to me so I enjoy hearing/reading different perceptions of why this is the case.

Jody Gehrman said...

Hey Natasha! Thanks for your comment. Somehow I missed this one. Sorry it took me so long to respond. Hope your blog tour is going well! I'll be sure to send interview Qs when I get home.