Happy Valentines day everyone! And this Valentines day will be like no other, for this is the Grey Day. The Fifty Shades of Grey Day. Hooray.
Not sure I feel hooray though.
I am very torn about ye olde fyfte shaydes. I mean, whenever I say anything against it (and believe me, there is plenty to say) I am met with the old refrain, “but it is written by women, for women! You’re being a snob.” The thing is, though, I don’t think I am. (That’s what a snob would say, I hear you cry! Shush you.)
Objectively speaking, it’s poorly written, bizarre, and painfully heteronormative. But it is what it is; it’s fan fiction. Isn’t it unfair to consider it by the standards of “normal” novels and films? To an extent, I agree. I do. I think that Fifty Shades is a prime example of the same modern phenomenon that gave us the meteoric cult success of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, the worst film ever made. We prefer the freakish to the sincere. Fifty Shades is the perfect hate-read, just like The Room is the perfect hate-watch (and just FYI one of my favourite films. I went to a showing just last weekend with Tommy Wiseau. It was perfect except that my date kept yelling YOU’RE TEARING ME APART, GUINEVERE, because he was drunk, and now all I can think of is how they are essentially the exact same story).
Fifty Shades and The Room have an alarming amount in common. They are both deeply, reactively misogynistic; Lisa is a manipulative bitch (God, Guinevere, you’re so manipulative) who only wants men for sex or money and Ana is a virginal innocent who only wants to be good. And we’re back in a medievalesque Madonna/Whore world. In both of these, the ideal man is a besuited breadwinner who is a “good provider”. While Johnny is a victim of Lisa’s “whore” type manipulation, Ana the “Madonna” is the perfect submissive. Mmm lovely. Many empower. Such feminism. Wow.
Because the thing is on the surface Fifty Shades is dull, normative, tediously “vanilla” and completely oppressive. But so is The Room (despite the most awkward sex scene in the world that is at least more edgy that Fifty Shades as it appears to show sex in the belly button – edgy!). Both are hilarious.
I’m sure I won’t be the only person disappointed that the film is a slickly made romcom rather than the hilarious train-wreck that the book was. I’m on board with the unapologetically awful. I want to have some fun. There’s a reason Fifty Shades the book was a cult classic and that the film is too “safe” to be exciting; the perfect satire is indistinguishable for the real thing. And fanfic, beautiful strange thing that it is, is the perfect example of this.