Monday, April 2, 2012

Books in Pop Culture

The past few weeks (past month? I don't know. I've lost all track of time) have seen a couple big pop culturey book things happen. And I am finally getting around to writing about them!

First, 50 Shades of Grey. It is an erotica novel that went main stream. And everyone has an opinion about it! And so do I! The whole Grey conversation seems to be centered around two main issues: Erotica vs. Porn and being embarrassed by what you are reading.

Let's first handle the whole porn issue. I keep seeing the phrase "mommy porn" being used to describe Grey. What the fuck is mommy porn? Actually, that is besides the point as I do not really care what sort of porn anyone is into. However, the use of the word porn in this situation seems problematic. I think we need some definitions before we start discussing this further.

Romance Novels: Romance focuses on the story and the seduction of two people. Not all romance novels have sex scenes. Or if they do, if you take the sex out, the story still works as a tale of two people and how they fall in love.
Erotica: It is all about the sex. But not necessarily the act of "having sex", but the emotion behind it. The feelings involved.
Porn: All about the act of sex. Meant for no other reason than to turn you on.

Now that we are on the same page, 50 Shades of Grey is erotica. I haven't read it, but from what I've seen about it, it is a BDSM story that started as Twilight fan fiction. There is apparently a lot about the ideas of submission and pain and why the woman likes it. Or something. Again, haven't read it. However, it isn't porn. There is something behind the sex. There is discussion of why something turns someone on. And how this relationship functions. If it were porn, it would just be sex with no thought as to the why or the fallout after. So, can we stop calling this mommy porn? Or porn of any kind. It is erotica and a book and really not that big of a deal.

This now brings me to my favorite part of the discussion...there has been lots of discussion about people reading this on eReaders because that way they are not embarrassed by people knowing they are reading erotica. Now, I realize that not everyone is like me and doesn't give a crap what other people think. However, people, stop caring what other people think! I mean, seriously. Why is it a bad thing to enjoy a sexy book? Let's go with some gender stereotyping for a moment: a guy watches porn and no one really has a problem with it; a woman reads erotica and it is a shameful secret that should be hidden. Is this a gender thing? Why can't a woman shamelessly read a book that turns her on? As I've said, I haven't read Grey, nor do I ever plan on reading it. I think it is really funny that it started as Twilight fanfic and I think that adding BDSM to Bella/Edward actually makes their love story less creepy (gives Bella some power). However, that really isn't my thing and the story sounds a bit blah for my tastes. However, if I did read it, I would read it proudly. If I were on a plane, I would read a paperback version, just like I read any other book.

So to recap...Erotica does not equal Porn. And don't be embarrassed to read Erotica.

Making a giant 180, let's talk about YA books! Namely, adults reading YA.

I'm not sure if you heard, but The Hunger Games movie just game out. It is a small movie based on an unknown YA book series. Not sure if you've heard of it, but everyone has read the books. And seen the movie. Probably twice. This has sparked the discussion that is had about every other month or so...Adults reading YA books. Joel Stein, a columnist for Time, wrote a little opinion piece entitled "Adults Should Read Adult Books". To which I say, I agree, there is nothing wrong with reading Erotica. Oh? He was using adult as the age range and not as "Adult Entertainment". My mistake. I must have sex on the brain after hearing so much about 50 Shades of Grey. Anyway. Stein seems to think it is super embarrassing for adults to read books aimed at a younger market. He admits to never having read any YA, so he is talking out of his ass. It was pointed out that the whole article is a classic Troll, but let's take him seriously, shall we.

If you are an adult (let's assume you are whether you act like it or not) and you do not want to read a YA book, don't read YA books. There is no reason to read something you aren't interested in when there are so many books out there that might interest you. Not reading YA = totally fine. If you don't want to read a YA book, you should not, however, call everyone who does choose to read YA an idiot. It is just bad manners. I don't personally read a lot of YA books. Sure, I've read Hunger Games and all the Meg Cabot books and Harry Potter and Twilight and a few others, but I like my books to contain bad language and sex and a lot of adults frown on that in books for teens (though there are a few exceptions like Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist...lots of swearing and heavy petting. Yay!). However, that doesn't mean that other people shouldn't read YA or that YA is bad. I've actually found that YA books can be just as profound and well written as adult books. Sure, there is some tripe (Twilight), but there is badly written adult fiction, too.

Stein also sights that YA isn't good because it doesn't give you the opportunity to learn. Two arguments. One: pretty sure YA can teach just as much as any adult book can. Perhaps a different lesson, but learning is learning. Two: why the fuck do I have to learn something when I am reading? I read to relax and escape and enjoy myself. Hence the reading of romance novels and mysteries. Sure, I've learned things. Historical romances are particularly good at teaching you new words, like tupping, and helps you answer Jeopardy questions about laudanum. But why do we have to learn something when reading? Why can't I just read for fun? Oh wait, I can. Screw you!

Recap...You don't have to read YA if you don't want to, but there is nothing wrong with reading it even if you aren't in the market group. Also, don't tell other people not to read something just because you don't read it.

Are there any book issues that I have neglected? I think those were the main two. If you have opinions about either, I'd love to hear them in the comments. Or if I missed any, let me know. Or if you have other things you want to hear my opinion on, write that in the comments. I enjoy extolling my opinion!

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