Monday, February 2, 2015

QftWo 2/2-2/11 - Imposters #80: 50 Shades of Grey

Words can scarcely express my contempt for 50 Shades of Grey. For one thing, every excerpt I've read makes it sound unsexy and written with the dumbest possible metaphors and similes for both body parts and sex acts alike. For another thing, I'm pretty sure I saw racier sex in movies I saw as a child - with my whole family, mind you - than are contained in this entire trilogy of books. I did naughtier and more creative things than are found in these books within one year of being sexually active. I'm not offended that the book is graphically-sexual - I took advanced sex classes in college, used to get asked over to dorm rooms to lockpick handcuffs that had broken, and I neither think that sex is meaningless nor do I think that it's a permanent bond that is a gift from the deity of my choice.

I was content to ignore the 50 Shades movie - it's not bad enough to be offensive, nor important enough to deserve my energy and attention... Then I stared seeing the subway ads (at least three), and I knew I had to write yet another Imposters entry.

This one isn't actually bad. I've been liking the effect of many split advertisements lately, and it works well here. From what wikipedia tells me, she's the more innocent person, and she doesn't have the dominant position in the relationship, so it's appropriate that she has a white background and is in bed - while he is standing, in front of a black background. The way that the man holds his tie is suitably rough-and-dirty and, although there's a certain... potentially-arousing force suggested by how he wraps that tie around his fist, it looks more like he's going to punch someone than bind someone with his necktie. Which isn't cool at all. I've tied someone up with a necktie, and trust me, "wrapped around the fist" isn't a good starting position from which to make your knots.

However, there is a nice visual balance and contrast in the color scheme, and I will say that I do appreciate that. I like the simple, intriguing tagline, "Curious?" and the relative positions of that word and the film's title in the other half of the poster. Only the opening date breaks from the motif on display, but that makes sense because you want the release date to stand out for potential viewers - and red is a very suitable color for Valentine's Day.

But the next poster is more of a flub, really. Unlike the earlier graphic, this one doesn't tell you anything about the story (sex, probably kinky sex, between a dude and a lady). What it does do is sell the "lifestyle-porn" element of the books. See, one of the many reason I found it so easy to scoff at 50SoG, even before I read some of the incompetently-worded passages, was that it delved into some of the lifestyle glamorization/fantasization that has been growing exponentially in American pop culture since the rise of reality shows (I don't have to claim reality shows are a cause, but they sure do reinforce it). So, according to the "story" the innocent woman not only gets taken on a sexual expedition by an older man, but he's hyper-wealthy - and, frankly, still so young that it's neither creepy nor is it likely that he would amass so much wealth.

So all the second ad tells us is that this dude is wealthy/powerful, and that his last name is Grey. The tagline just sort of sits there, I think. And as much as I like taking photos from tall skyscrapers, the shot of the city stretched out before him neither (a) implies sex, sexual dominance, etc - nor does it seem probable. The rest of those buildings are simply too low, so it seems like an impossible tableau for anyone who's actually, y'know, lived in a major city. How many locations can offer that view from that height? Maybe Hancock Tower in Boston? What the hell, it's probably the only one of these posters that might display dozens of shades of grey; maybe 50, even.

And the last poster isn't anything to write home about, either. The image does say "yup, sex goin on here," which is appropriate. It even suggests that the sex may be kinky, considering how he's holding her hands up. But "The worldwide phenomenon comes to life" doesn't say anything. The Banana Diet was a worldwide phenomenon. Smog is a worldwide phenomenon. That line only works for people who have already heard of the book. "Based on the international best-seller," or "#1 on the NYT list for X weeks" would each say more than that tagline does. In the end, the only thing that last poster really seems to do well is found in the coloring and font of the title. It's not enough... And hell, it only has 3, 4 shades of grey, tops. What a ripoff.

However, all three posters - taken together - do a nice job of describing and defining the sort of stuff that moviegoers will see when they check out this film. Not that they should, mind you - 9 & 1/2 Weeks was genuinely steamy and had much more to say about dominant/submissive sex than the book does, apparently, and I think I can recite a dozen heavily-erotic stories off the top of my head that are more entertaining and interesting than 50 Shades sounds, but...

But if you'll allow me to reintro-peat myself: my disrespect is based on bad writing and lame sex - two things that I think always merit derision and ire. And I just can't believe that a decent movie can be made from a terrible book. I mean, if I offered to write a novelization of The Godfather 3, wouldn't you wonder how I can turn excrement into something that doesn't stink? I would not begrudge your skepticism. I can come up with hotter fantasies while half asleep than this author can, and that bastard has a book deal. Go figure...


  1. From what I've read in the romance book community, they're not too happy with the 50 Shades trilogy either(especially folks into the more erotic side) for not just bad writing but misrepresenting the genre as well.

    I've not read those books(not out of prudishness; anyone wants to read something truly sexy, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon or Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey is a good start) but what bugs me is that the author originally wrote them as Twilight fan fiction but in order to publish them for money, just switched the names of the two leads.

    They did so well in e-book format than eventually a major publisher swooped in and gave her a deal. That bothers me because Twilight is not a public domain title, unlike say the works of Jane Austen, and in my opinion, part of the reason that 50 Shades did big business in it's new incarnation is due to the fan fiction base of customers there.

    I could be wrong yet that kind of irks me. No doubt some will say that Stephanie Meyer isn't out any money here but to piggyback on her work like that strikes the wrong tone with me. I do agree about the posters,btw,pretty standard stuff.

    1. It's funny that there's no end to the people who are bothered by this - save its actual fans. The romance community is annoyed that their genre is misrepresented. Even the bondage community is annoyed, & for the exact same reason - not only is a lot of the male lead's behavior considered uncool by s&m standards, but his proclivities are apparently conveyed as an aberration to be cured by the love of a good, pure woman.

      Now, I must admit that I, too, am annoyed that no copyright claim was made against the work. This sort of thing is a "derivative work" for purposes of copyright law, and I'm amazed that it wasn't shut down ages ago.

      But I don't want to let myself get distracted by the idea that someone wrote an unauthorized derivative work and now they have a book deal and fame from it, any more than I want to get distracted by its inaccurate attitudes about bondage/s&m.

      What offends me is that every excerpt I've read is written so badly that you'd think it was a first draft by a f--king high school student who only gets C's in English clash. What offends me is that the book is a cheap excuse to write a "sexytimes" story, but it's incompetent in both the writing and the sexiness.

      It's so aggravating that it reaches "nuisance overload" levels for me, at which point I just shut down and try to ignore the whole thing. I simply wish readers did, too.

  2. The quality levels are low indeed, but unfortunately with the movie about to arrive, the whole 50 Shades things is going to linger even longer and be as hard to remove as the odor of liver and onions in a cramped kitchen space:(


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