Thursday, May 24, 2012
How Quickly We Forget
I'm having a downright good giggle over this whole Fifty Shades of Grey business. Basically, a naughty trilogy with roots in an actual Fan Fiction spin-off of the Twilight series, it is about as well-written as a grocery list—but running up the charts nonetheless. Because of its steamy sex scenes. From what I can tell from the excerpts I've read online, it's not for its prose or particularly in depth examination of male/female relationships, sexual or otherwise. Yeah, yeah, there's some noise being made about how women everywhere are awakening to their own desires because of this book, but I call shenanigans. There's nothing earth-shattering about any of this. It's porno for the Harlequin Romance crowd—sexual politics lite, with an eye towards riches and stardom for the author, who was lucky enough to have hitched herself to a good PR team.
I'm not sure I could read the entire series, actually. What with the impossibly insufferable heroine with the impossibly insufferable name of Anastasia Steele and the impossibly titled "mega-industrialist" Christian Grey doing all kinds of naughty things to each other while Anastasia examines the meaning of it all in a string of insufferable internal dialogues rendered in unbelievably badly written prose. It's like the ghost of Ayn Rand met the ghost of Judith Krantz, whipped together a pitcher of martinis, pulled out a pack of smokes, and decided to have a rollicking good laugh.
But what really gets me is, the public outcry, the banning of the trilogy from libraries and bookstores. Not because it's so badly written (which would be justifiable), but because it's so dirty. Geez, Louise, people! Doesn't anyone remember Xavier Hollander? Erica Jong? Jacqueline Susann? These women not only wrote dirty books, they wrote them rather well. Back in the 1970s. And they were on my parent's bookshelves, right out there in front of God and everybody, and no one went screaming for the hills or ended up in Sexaholics Anonymous because of it.
What a nation. On the one hand, overstimulated and hyper-sexualized, addicted to cartoonish levels of sexuality via the porn industry—on the other, continually waggling a finger of outrage in the direction of any little whiff of impropriety.
Then again, is it possible to deal with sex—in a book, on film, in photographs—in a way that isn't cartoonish or trite or downright eye-rolling? Isn't it all, at some level, nothing more than porn?