50 Shades (No Grey) – Updated

I once planted every seed from a cantaloupe in a giant planter in front of my house. It was a science experiment for my daughters. The problem was, we planted in mid fall. The seeds exploded in the dirt, and a vine came up, but it was far too cold to truly thrive, much less produce fruit.

The next summer, we went on a month long-vacation back to my hometown. When we got back, we were surprised by a giant vine growing from the planter and a small cantaloupe melon lying on the ground beneath. (This will be important later.)

I had no intention of writing this post, – there have been so many posts about this book, 50 Shades of Grey and the film about to be released that my thoughts seemed unnecessary – but something happened today that got me thinking. I’m not going to go into the book’s “creation” process. It really doesn’t matter that E.L. James created the entire series initially as a series of “Twilight”-based fan fiction. For the purposes of this article, I won’t talk about how both the book and film industry as well as the buying public ignore that fact and treat the books like they are some kind of groundbreaking fiction.

I’ll totally ignore the fact that E.L. James did none of the hard work of an author – creating fresh and compelling characters with their own unique personalities, flaws and compulsions, or creating a unique world in which those characters live.

I won’t talk about how the plot of the books – down to the trilogy format and arc – is stolen lifted almost whole cloth from Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty series.

I won’t even talk about how the book’s success is both a slap in the face to writer’s who work their entire lives to come up with something that is “original”*.

I won’t even talk about how these books and film(s???) are a blaring example of how Rule 34 can be exploited to the unwitting masses.

I won’t even talk about the fact that if you changed Christian Grey’s name BACK to Edward Cullen, and Anastasia Steele’s name BACK to Bella Swan, nobody would know that the trilogy wasn’t simply books 5-7 of the Twilight series.

I won’t point out the glaring sophomoric quality of the writing, except to say that if your medulla oblongata ever has to “recall[s] its purpose” (yeah, that’s an actual quote from the book) you probably need a doctor and not a bondage session with a pervy bossman figure.

I won’t go into the morality of it all. Outside of the fact that what goes on in a married couple’s bedroom is their business, the morality of the content of these books has been covered in many, many, many, many places. That’s been done, and done very well.

I won’t even talk about how it feels to watch women I love and respect reading these books and giggling while they call it “mommy porn.”

No, what prompted this is a realization I made when I came across a Facebook friend’s request to borrow the book. I thought I would take a second and spare them the trouble of reading this tripe. That’s time you’ll never get back. (I know. I watched Napoleon Dynamite TWICE trying to figure out why my beloved friends thought it was so great. That’s three hours of my life GONE. Anyway…) I summed up the book(s) for them like this:

I’ll save you the trouble of reading. It’s Twilight. Except Bella doesn’t turn into a vampire after High School. Instead they go to college. Also, Edward’s a perv. The End.

Initially it was supposed to be a joke. But then I got to thinking. That set of sentences (almost fragments) really does sum up the entire trilogy. Then I got to thinking: “Can I do that with other great works of literature?” I’m not talking about the obligatory one sentence summary that conveys a books essence. I’m talking about a book so bereft of real meat (as is so often the problem with fan-fiction) that its entire content can be conveyed with a few short sentences leaving the reader not missing that much.

This isn’t a post about the value of time, but the point should probably be stated here. Time is the only non-renewable commodity. Do you really want to spend it on a book like this?

Ultimately, read the book, or don’t read the book… See the movie, or don’t see the movie… that choice is yours. But, at least go into the reading or viewing of it informed. It’s pervy. And just like there are things that, once you see them, you can never unsee them, there are things that, once in your head, will be there forever. And, ultimately, whatever is in your head will, somehow, work its way out into your daily life.

After all, even an untended, unwatered, forgotten about seed can produce unexpected fruit. The question is, “what kind of fruit do you want to produce?” (I told you the cantaloupe story would be important.)

Question: So, are you planning to see the movie this weekend? Have you read the book? What are your thoughts? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


*”Original” being an admittedly somewhat subjective term.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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