Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"50 Shades of Blah" - Why I couldn't finish the popular erotic trilogy

I, like many other women I know, read "50 Shades of Grey." I couldn't help myself - I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

"50 Shades of Grey" was OK. (My review is here.) Sort of interesting, enhanced by the fact that it was based on some "Twilight" fanfiction, but not terribly well-written. I decided that I would probably eventually read "50 Shades Darker" and "50 Shades Freed," because I was sort of interested in what happened and it bothers me if I don't complete series. 

So, finally, a few weeks ago, I checked out the e-book version of "50 Shades Darker" from the library (no way was I going to actually spend money on that crap) and started reading.

I got 28% of the way through before I couldn't do it anymore. 

**Minor spoiler section**
At the end of "50 Shades of Grey," the main characters, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, break up, and for good reason - she doesn't like that he's into BDSM and decides they're incompatible. Obviously, they're going to get back together for the next two books and, hey, I'm OK with that. She might decide that she liked the BDSM more than she used to, or he will decide that he's in love with her. But Ana can barely function without Christian, and when "50 Shades Darker" opens, it's less than a week later and she just can't live without him.

That was strike one, right off the bat. I am perfectly OK with women going back to their exes (although I would steer clear of Christian Grey for quite a few reasons, mostly because he's an overbearing, demanding, possessive asshole), but not that fast. Have some self-respect! Live with yourself. Get your equilibrium back. That's important in any relationship, but especially one with an overbearing billionaire who just beat you with a belt last week.
**End minor spoiler section**

The real problem I had with reading "50 Shades Darker," though, was the other books I've been reading lately. Just before and while I was attempting to read "50 Shades Darker," I was also reading "Size 12 and Ready to Rock," by Meg Cabot and "Two for the Dough" by Janet Evanovich, and I was getting geared up to read the new Sookie Stackhouse book, "Dead Ever After" by Charlaine Harris. (There will be a review of that book just as soon as I finish it, which will be soon because I can't put it down!)

I came to the conclusion that I like Heather Wells, Stephanie Plum and Sookie Stackhouse much more than I like stupid Anastasia Steele.

It's not that Heather, Stephanie and Sookie are perfect women. They all make stunningly terrible decisions throughout their books. Stephanie and her various flirtations with Joe Morelli, while fun and totally understandable, are especially ill-advised - not to mention that she herself says that marrying her first husband, Dickie Orr, was a really bad decision. (I'm only through the third book - I'm sure she does a lot of other stupid things in the next 16 books.) And if I were Sookie, I would have broken up with Eric Northman quite a bit sooner. But, at the very least, at least they are honest about it to themselves. Ana never seemed to see why running back to Christian was a bad idea, especially when it's almost immediately after they broke up!

Ana also does this painfully annoying thing that her "forebear," Bella Swan, does too - she defines herself by her men. Heather, Stephanie and Sookie steadfastly refuse to do that, no matter what other people try to do. The fact that Sookie can date a couple of different vampires and a were-tiger and come out the other side her own woman is nothing short of miraculous. That's something important for all women - all people, really - to remember. It's not a bad thing to have a solid relationship, or to have your significant other be an important part of your life, but in the end, you have to be your authentic self and define yourself by your own interests and talents, not by the person you're in a relationship with.

On more of a literary level, the problem with Ana is that she's a blank person. She doesn't do anything except think about Christian. She has very few interests, a distant family and friends and virtually no hobbies. She's a boring person, which makes her story boring to read. She needs something to give her a little personality. It doesn't have to be something great, like being a telepath or a bounty hunter in New Jersey or a former teen idol. Some of the best things about Stephanie, Sookie and Heather are the silly details about them, like the fact that Heather loves terrible reality TV and has a huge collection of dolls from the countries she visited on her tours, or Sookie records episodes of Jeopardy! and loves to read, or that Stephanie likes to eat junk food and talk to her hampster, Rex. Ana has nothing - except Christian Grey.

I know that the Heather Wells, Sookie Stackhouse and Stephanie Plum series aren't great literature - they're fun candy for the brain - but at least they feature strong, interesting, likeable women. That's what the "50 Shades" trilogy is missing, and why I just couldn't read any more of it. 

(On a side note, is it just me, or would it be amazing if Heather, Sookie and Stephanie hung out sometime? I can just imagine them eating, drinking, talking about guys and watching bad TV together, and having a great time doing it. Oh my gosh, this is how fanfic gets started, isn't it?)

1 comment:

  1. Heather, Sookie, and Stephanie would be great friends! They could discuss their love of trash tv and their crappy ex-boyfriends/husbands. OMG! I love this idea!