Ok, so I’m sure that almost everybody has an idea of what this series is about, even if you haven’t read it yet: Recent college grad Anastasia Steele meets young, sexy entrepreneur/gajillionaire Christian Grey and, despite his not-so-subtle warnings to stay away from him, gets lured into his world of über kinky sex.
The book blossomed from some Twilight fanfiction by the author, E. L. James – and Twilight’s influence on the characters and their relationship is pretty clear. Like Bella, Ana is a slightly awkward, clumsy brunette who seems to have zero self-esteem and is the only person that doesn’t realize how lovely/alluring she is. Christian is Edward minus the being-a-vampire thing: Ridunkulously handsome, charming, wealthy and disturbingly controlling. His need to control everything and everyone also infiltrates the bedroom (or, in his case, what Ana calls his “Red Room of Pain”): Christian gets off on dominating women during sex. And I don’t mean a little role-playing here and there; until Ana comes into his life, it’s the only way he knows how to have sex. Even though Ana isn’t entirely comfortable with all of Christian’s kinky tastes, she can’t stay away from him, and he is also completely and maybe a little inexplicably drawn to her. (I don’t mean inexplicably because Ana doesn’t deserve a hot, rich boyfriend; I’ll get to that in a bit. I mean because she’s rather innocent and may not be able to fulfill all of his darkest desires.)
My feminist sensibilities want me to not like this book – not because of the kinky sex, but because Christian is such a control-freak in all aspects of Ana’s life, at times reaching stalker levels. This is the same way I felt about Edward in the Twilight books (Team Jacob, all the way). So why do women like reading books about controlling men? I think it’s because it speaks to our fantasy of being able to change a man, even leading him out of his darkest days. As long as any woman who reads 50 Shades keeps in the back of her mind that this type of situation does not translate into a desirable, real-life relationship, it is an entertaining book, even if Ana is a really annoying character.
So, about Ana: What is with some female authors writing such weak female main characters? It’s fine if Ana is supposed to be a “normal” young woman who falls for an extraordinary-sounding guy, but why does she have to be so self-deprecating? “Oh, I don’t deserve him, but he’s so hot and rich and I’m crap” – what is that? Get some self-esteem. This is not a good mindset to have in any relationship or interaction, not just a sexual one.
That rant probably makes it sound like I didn’t like the book – honestly, I did, and I’m going to finish the series. Christian has a dark past and lots of secrets that I can’t wait to unravel. It just concerns me that anyone even a little bit impressionable that reads a book like this or Twilight will get the wrong idea about relationships and sex. As I said, what makes a juicy book does not necessarily make good reality.
Now, on to something a little more fun. Since I believe they are making at least the first book into a movie, I thought about who visually reminded me of these characters. For Christian Grey, Simon Baker from “The Mentalist” came to my mind. I don’t even watch that show religiously, although it is good when I do get around to watching it. This is just who popped into my mind when I read her description of Christian Grey (although he’s supposed to be a little younger than Simon Baker probably is).
For Ana, because of the “big eyes” description, the first actress that came to me was Amanda Seyfried, if she dyes her hair brown. Later, I thought of Emmy Rossum, who gave off a similar innocent appeal in the most recent Phantom of the Opera movie.