Fifty Shades of “Girl. PLEASE.”

I just finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey.  …

At first, I was going to write this indignant manifesto about how author E.L. James has misrepresented the BDSM community. How she creates a character with even less self-esteem than her predecessor, Stephenie Meyer’s Bella Swan. How Christian Grey is not truly a fan of S & M but pure, straight-up sadism, and what kind of message does that send out. I even wanted to jump into the whole “Is this book in support of or against feminism?” debate raging on Jezebel,, and the sisterhood of websites and writers.

But to do so would legitimize the text that Ms. James has gotten published. And that is some bad writing, y’all. It makes Nicholas Sparks seem like Cormac McCarthy (whom Mr. Sparks ungraciously slammed a few years back). It makes Twilight seem like Austen. It makes erotica seem like Booker prize winners. I’m being serious, folks. I can only take so many internal exclamations of “Oh my,” “Holy f–k,” “Holy crap,” “Holy Moses,” “Holy s–t,” etc. I do not appreciate terrible similes and metaphors. I especially shudder at overuse of adjectives and descriptive phrases. Not to mention the creepiness of the “hero,” the cringe-inducing self-effacement of the “heroine” and the laughable sexual antics.

Let me treat you to some vomit-inducers:

“His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel…or something” (James 29).

“Anastasia, you were comatose. Necrophilia is not my thing. I like my women sentient and receptive” (64). HOT. That is exactly what I want in a man. He likes his women alive, but completely cold-fish in the sack.

“I want to brush my teeth. I eye Christian’s toothbrush. It would be like having him in my mouth….I feel so naughty. It’s such a thrill” (72). Yum. Nothing says love like shared toothbrushes.

“My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently” (79). Sidenote: there is so much of Anastasia’s “inner goddess” and “subconscious” in there, they might as well be their own characters.

Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Christian Grey. And I realize, in that moment, that yes, that’s exactly what I want to do. I want him to be damned delighted with me. It’s a revelation” (91). Yes, Anastasia. THIS is why you were put on this earth. To please Christian effing Grey.

My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five-year-old. Please, let’s do this…otherwise we’ll end up alone with lots of cats and your classic novels to keep you company” (150). Oh no, nothing can be worse than ending up alone with cats and classic novels. Especially not considering that there are TWO OTHER GUYS eager to bang this boring chick.

 Not to mention that medical, clinical terms for one’s genitalia have been replaced by such glorious euphemisms as “my sex.” I had no idea we were in an Edith Wharton novel, but thank you, E. L. James, for bringing us back to Victorian England.

“I gasp, and I’m Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he’s the serpent, and I cannot resist” (197). Oh, goody. Yet another reference to Eden and original sin in reference to sex. I can hardly wait.

After having sex, Anastasia tries to “stand with as much dignity as I can muster in my just-f—ked state. Quickly, I attempt to smooth my just-f—ked hair” (272). Girlfriend, we get it. You just had sex. Go sing it out with Andy Samberg and Akon.

Let’s also talk about the probability for Christian Grey’s entrance into the world of BDSM.


At the age of 15 he is “seduced” by one of his mom’s friends, a dominatrix, and he is her “submissive” for six years. During these formative and liberating years, he never once has “vanilla sex,” as he refers to it, and Anastasia is the only person with whom he has missionary sex. Do you believe it? Me neither. What is the probably that a 15-year-old boy is overpowered by a middle-aged woman, forced to repeatedly engage in kinky sex acts and ONLY kinky sex acts for six years? Doesn’t it seem more likely she seduced him the old-fashioned way and THEN led him to her den of iniquity (as they once referred to it on Sex and the City)? WHY AM I STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS BOOK?


In short, this was an enlightening and painful reading experience. Enlightening that so many women my age and up are reading this book for titillation, when it is really one of the most un-sexy things I’ve ever read (okay, so maybe Henry James is more asexual, but you get the idea). Painful in that it is so poorly-written and selling SO WELL.

Ergo, my conclusion: I should just quit graduate school and start on myTwilightfan-fiction right now and get it published. If this…book…can get published, I can too.


Work Cited:

James, E.L. Fifty Shades of Grey. New York: Vintage Books, 2012. E-Book.



Filed under Books

9 responses to “Fifty Shades of “Girl. PLEASE.”

  1. Gaby

    The “inner godess” and subconscious killed me the entire time.

  2. Michelle

    I agree with absolutely everything that you wrote. 🙂

    In the next book the story becomes a “mystery.” ***Spoiler alert*** There’s a lot of dialogue, a mediocre plot line, mediocre sex, and many of the same exclamatory remarks.

    The inner goddess goes into hibernation. 🙂

    The relationship develops rapidly, and the main character remains an insecure “dead fish.” 🙂

    But, it was a unique series to read…

  3. katyv

    Oh Bonnie! Thank you for suffering through 50 Shades of Ugh for us and documenting your response! Your blog inspired me to look up the “view this book” preview on Amazon so I could experience the first chapter or so. I only made it to the part where Bella (I mean Ana…) meets Christian and gushes about how attractive he is (and he’s basically Edward Cullen) and how young. The moment I realized I couldn’t read another word was when Ana says “If he was over thirty, then I was a monkey’s uncle.” Any book that unironically attempts to use the phrase “monkey’s uncle” is a book that I need to pass on.
    I would love to read a paper analyzing the weird fantasies that become best sellers. What is it exactly about Bella Swan and now Anastasia Steele that attracts female readers en masse? I’m honestly curious. There must be something that clicks with the reading public.
    Also, did you cringe when Ana says her favorite thing to do is to read an English novel at home in the afternoon? I feel like that is the go-to poseur hobby the women in books / movies profess to enjoy. If Fictional Fiona likes reading Jane Austen, then she must be deep and intelligent and delicate! But let’s be honest…how many of these authors actually read, understand, and love the classics that they say their characters “love?” Is Stephenie Meyer really a big fan of Shakespeare and Charlotte Bronte? Because I have to admit that Wuthering Heights seems to be completely unlike Bella & Edward’s “love story,” and that makes me suspicious that she just randomly picked a tragic, gothic love story that sounded intelligent.
    I guess my long-winded point is that I can really feel the Twilight roots in the brief passage I read of 50 Shades. And kudos to you for making it all the way through!

    • I think your comment about the English novel-reading as a “go-to poseur hobby” is spot-on. I mean, sure, these delicate, clumsy, bookish, intelligent females can like British novels, but what about legions of other male and female readers? And why do authors like S Meyer and her ilk feel like they “have” to bolster their characters’ intelligence through the use (or misuse) of Austen, the Brontes, etc.? I feel like if I need to know a character is intelligent, I should be SHOWN, not TOLD. But then again, my crappy vampire novels haven’t been published yet. 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    Wow, Sister, I *was* briefly considering reading this book at one point, but now I stand with Dan Savage who refuses to do so. Why, why, why do badly written things sell so well? Do people have no self-respect?
    Speaking of Dan Savage, he had a really interesting point to make about why 50 Shades of Grey is selling so well. Basically, portraying kinks as the products of a crazy and dysfunctional mind is the only way that an author can connect with a mainstream audience. Average people without kinks can only enjoy the titillating aspects of BDSM fantasies if they can overcome their discomfort long enough – and they can only do this if they are reassured that it’s only “damaged” people who could possibly be into S&M. Thus the only successful portrayals of BDSM in mainstream television/writing/movies show kinky people as somehow broken or emotionally stunted. Dan Savage concludes, “Fifty Shades didn’t take off despite getting kink wrong…it took off because it got kink wrong.”
    It appears from your review that 50 Shades took great pains to make Christian Grey really, terribly, horribly emotionally damaged. Which I think is one reason why this book sells so well. There are so many women who enjoy nothing better than the fantasy of saving a broken man. Which is kind of a shame.

    • You know what’s sad, Sister? 50 Shades wasn’t EVEN THAT KINKY. My friend F and I were talking about the series, and for all the talk centered around kinky sex, the kinkiest thing he ever does is tie her up to a bed, blindfold her, and spank her. I mean, that’s pretty tame, as far as BDSM goes (although I do hear from Amazon reviews that a butt plug gets thrown into the mix in the 2nd and 3rd books). But yeah. I think you and Dan Savage are also spot-on. Readers can be titillated by the kink, because Christian Grey is so deeply damaged. Plus, it fulfills that “rescue” fantasy women have about bad boys. Ugh.

  5. Pingback: How 50 Shades of Grey Turned Evangelicals into Casaubons | The Universe Disturbed

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s