Deconstructing the 50 Shades of Grey

My head literally aches from all the sex I’ve read in the past 24 hours. Yesterday, I decided to give 50 Shades of Grey another go. See? I’m not a book snob. I’ve tried to read Twilight twice before, but I almost died from disgust, so I’ve officially given up on that book.

The first time I tried to read 50 Shades of Grey, I couldn’t get past the first two chapters. The narrative is just unbearable, with the sentences often disjointed from one another. And it was only a few weeks after I’ve read Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl for the second time, so I had my expectations set way up high. But last night, I thought, “Meh, what the hell?” I can’t exactly stand my ground about hating it if I’ve never read it, can I? So I did. And here’s why I’m having a headache right now.

Dear God, the dialogue is ridiculous. I’ve never encountered a character that’s supposedly well-read in classic literature but whose expressions seem to be limited to, “Holy Moses”, “Holy crap” and “Oh my.” I figured Anastasia Steele would at least be coherent during normal conversation, if not entirely eloquent and quick-witted. I hate her character. “Not a submissive bone in my body,” my ass, Anastasia. Sure, except when it comes to sex with Christian Grey, right? Seriously, how dare she declare that Elizabeth Bennett is one of her literary heroines? I cringe.

Also, I’ve read “flush”, “gasps”, “groans”, “I stare down at my hands”, “stop biting your lip”, “sardonically”, “his mouth/my mouth presses into a hard line,” more times in one chapter than I could endure. Sometimes, I’ve read all multiple times in a span of ten pages.

However, if I had a gun to my head and I’m asked to pick a character I liked, it would be Christian Grey. Christian fucking Grey. Fine, he’s beautiful. I imagine he looks like Matt Bomer, and I happen to think Matt Bomer is perfect. And sure, Grey’s dialogue isn’t entirely lame. I liked him best during his e-mail exchanges with Anastasia. He’s actually a bit of a grammar police, the irony. But that’s just about it.

Christian Grey’s character lacks depth, even if he’s portrayed as mysterious and complicated. He talks about sex all. the. time. I’m not exaggerating. Sure it may seem sexy at first, but every fucking time he talks to Anastasia? In e-mails, during phone calls, in the middle of dinner with his entire family, for fuck’s sake. The normal person would find that off-putting, regardless of how ungodly attractive he is. It kind of cancels out the sexy factor, like when someone is smart but talks incessantly about how amazing he finds the evolution of the universe is, and lets you listen to sound clips of how the Big Bang sounded when it happened a gazillion years ago instead of music he likes. According to him, he’s “fifty shades of fucked up.” I could say the same thing about the entire book.

The overall plot has no depth, either. It’s a little difficult to make sense of where the story is heading when most of the chapters are extensive accounts of Anastasia Steele’s yet another sexual intercourse with Christian Grey.

Please. I’m not even going to talk about all the sex and S&M. Let’s just say the “scenes” barely leave anything for the imagination. E.L. James paints a very vivid picture, and I shudder at the thought that a lot of teenagers have read the 50 Shades trilogy even before they have read, say, The Little Prince. Oh, the horror.

But you know what the worst part is? In the beginning there is a bit of information about the author (which I suspect is written by the author herself) that says, “Since early childhood, she dreamed of writing stories that readers would fall in love with…” Right. And she comes out with a novel about S&M. I don’t want to know what kind of early childhood she had.

But is there an upside to reading 50 Shades of Grey? Well, when I couldn’t take it anymore (I’ve finished only 76% of the book, according to my Kindle), I went back to reading The Fault in Our Stars, which I thoroughly enjoyed—more so this time—and finished the book in three hours. It was like indulging in gourmet food after tolerating bland hospital food since yesterday. God, that book is good.

Also, I realized something. How could Anastasia Steele think that she’s in love with Christian Grey? They mostly had sex and barely talked. I know that physical connection is important in a relationship, but when you’re with someone and all you can think about is, “God, I want to fuck you right now,” I hardly think that’s love. Am I wrong?

I hope the people who loved the 50 Shades trilogy would snap the fuck out of it. Sure, the book’s “entertaining”, but apart from that, what else? What else does it offer? How are you a better person after reading it? What insights about the world have you gained after reading about Anastasia and Christian having sex over and over and over again?

I believe that good literature aims more than just to tease and please. But maybe bad literature exists to help us steer into reading good books. I just hope that others will be able to discern the difference.