Why I Recap 50 Shades

NOTE:  The next of the visitors on my list is my fellow Alice, from that wonder of wonders, Wonderland! Want to know what’s with her reading and recapping 50 Shades of Horrible?!, I mean Grey, then you picked some timing, as today, you shall find out!

Want to jump in on the visits? Then let me know, send an email or leave a comment and I’ll get you set up for here, or my blog of randomness. 

Anyone who has ever taken a look at my blog can come to two conclusions right off the bat.  First, the gal likes Alice in Wonderland.  Second, the gal has a rather unhealthy obsession with the 50 Shades series by E.L. James.  In fact, a large portion of her blog is actually (we’re not even going to count the posts) dedicated to bitching about these books.  So you might be wondering – why?

Oh, what a rabbit hole you have jumped down, my friend.  It all started with the recaps.  Somewhere I learned that there was a new series out that ripped off Twilight really, really badly.  And I found a couple of blogs criticizing the books.  Speaker 7 reenacted scenes from the books with a stuffed rabbit and a creepy puppet man (who turned out to be perfect representatives of the characters).  Jennifer Armintrout, noted author herself, ruthlessly deconstructed the books in great detail, including excerpts from the book as she did.  It fascinated me, both for the absolutely horrible 5th-grade level writing and the equally horrible messages it put forth.

The main message (besides the publishing industry is totally insane) was that you could “fix” a psychotic, abusive man with the power of your vagina love.  This wasn’t something critics ripped out of nowhere either, like the idea that Moby Dick somehow represents God.  No, this was bludgeoned into the reader at every opportunity.  I was horrifed by what I read just from the blog recaps.  So I made a Facebook post about it.

This is one of those reasons you should never post on Facebook.  I got people who agreed with me, but I also got a lot of dissent from very intelligent women.  They informed me of several things.  One: I could not review a book I had not read in its entirety.  It didn’t matter how many frightening excerpts I’d read.  No, I had to read the entire book.  I liken this to eating a bite of pig poop, saying you do not like pig poop, and being told that you had to finish the entire bucket to know for sure.  How long does it take to recognize shit, people?

The second thing was that I was insulting the intelligence of women by suggesting that a book would make them immediately want to go get in an abusive relationship.  I tried to point out that this was not at all what I was suggesting, but that having the hero abuse the heroine (both emotionally and physically), disguising this abuse as S & M between consenting adults (it was not), and then having the heroine attempt to “reform” the misguided man was a dangerous idea.  It wasn’t that this one book alone was going to convince a woman that a man like Christian Grey was okay.  It was that this very popular book added to a culture that said it was okay to rape women and then force them to have the rapist’s baby, because you know, they really wanted it.  They just didn’t know it.

Of course many people could look at the book and say “Hey, this is not a good idea of a romantic relationship”.  That’s true.  On the other hand, I have known, personally, intelligent women with excellent educations fall for men like this.  These men don’t start out showing their true colors.  Everyone knows Satan appears in a pleasing form, just like Christian Grey does.  Handsome, rich, powerful and oh wow, he likes you?  Just plain ordinary you?  And soon you’re sucked into this web with a man who one second tells you you’re the sun and the moon and the next berates you because a man looked at you too long.  But it’s not his fault.  He has a sob story.  His mother abused him.  And anyway, that dress you wore was kind of suggestive.  Maybe he’s right.  And that maybe is all it takes to stay.

You could dismiss these women as stupid, but it’s not true.  No one goes out with someone, gets the crap beaten out of them the very first fifteen minutes, and thinks they have a dream boat.  It takes time and subtle manipulations.  You’ll find these manipulations in the 50 Shade series, over and over again.  I know because I have read these books.  I read these stupid, awful, horrific books because that was the only way I could hope to have someone take me seriously.  These books didn’t just have bits and pieces that were iffy.  These books, in their entirety were written like an abusive man’s handbook.  In case you think I exaggerate, I will link you to a couple of places.  One shows Christian sized up against your average abuser’s profile.  The other, from my own blog, shows you Christian sized up against your average sociopath.  It’s not pretty.

I make my recaps funny, because that’s another bizarre thing about these books.  They are written so badly that it’s hard to believe anyone could like these books.  Research is a joke.  Characterization and continuity have no meaning.  The sex scenes are either laughable (I love when he introduces his penis to her) or frightening (the scene where he spanks her as punishment and has her call out the slaps).  The writing is – well, frankly, it’s insulting to say 5th grade level, because I honestly know 5th graders that do write better.  So this is why I think it’s quite possible that James did not intend to have her books read like a handbook for how to abuse your partner.  That doesn’t make them any less dangerous.  In fact, if you read my recaps, you’ll see humor mixed with horror.  There are times I break into “AliceRage” because the books make me so angry I can’t find a way to poke fun of them.

The final criticism I got from people on that Facebook post was that I wanted the book banned.  Hell, no.  I do not believe in banning books, ever.  The written word is how we learn, for better or for worse.  I do advise people to think while they read (difficult with these books but try).  Christian Grey is presented as the ultimate romantic hero, not as someone to avoid.  But he is, ladies, he really is.  No amount of money, no pretty face, is worth doubting yourself, walking on eggshells, apologizing for imaginary insults, or accepting punishment of any kind from your partner.  You are much, much better off alone.

But society doesn’t want that, does it?  It wants everyone matched up.  And most of us want someone in our lives.  Some of us want it so badly we’ll stay with what we have, out of fear of the unknown.  When the known is abuse, try the unknown.  Don’t fall back on what society says.  Challenge it.  There are many brave women out there who have blogs detailing their fight against domestic violence.  They have endured so much, yet are willing to get on their blogs and tell people about it, to warn them to watch for the signs you can so easily miss.  I won’t pretend to be half as strong as these women, but I do my part.  My part is showing these books for what they are – not a romance, but a farce.


28 thoughts on “Why I Recap 50 Shades

  1. Reblogged this on aliceatwonderland and commented:
    Hullo, all. I am guest posting on the blog of another Alice. Since she’s an Alice, she is obviously fab. She’s had lots of great guest stars already, like a storm trooper and . . . I think Oprah was there once. Anyway, I am writing about why I write about 50 Shades. Check it out, and check out Alice X 2!

  2. Well said. And I appreciate folks like you who are willing to down the bucket of pig poop so that I don’t have to. I am so sad that we live in a culture where people want to buy this kind of book.

    • I like it when you are commanding! It is true, though – there is some seriousness behind the snark. Sometimes I read this stuff and put it down and go arghhhhh seriously?

  3. Ah and finally I understand what the hell started all this! I can’t even read some of your posts about it because they are just so horrific to my mind even with the humour. Shame I bought one of the series (number two for some reason) before I had read your reviews! I truly hope she’ll stop writing them so you can review something more fun soon and stop torturing yourself 😉 xx

    • Yeah, I thought some people might be wondering about my strange addiction to an awful book (maybe I will be featured on TLC?) I don’t blame you on the posts – I should probably put a trigger warning on some of them. Trigger warning should be on the stupid book.

  4. Great post, Alice. I have not and will not read the books because of the recaps you and Speaker7 have done. I read the excerpts and the writing is absolutely terrible. That alone should keep people from reading the books.

    I knew there was a lot of S&M in the books, but I didn’t realize that the ultimately plot was an abused woman rehabilitating an abuser. I can’t imagine anyone having the strength to not only stand up to their abuser, but then also rehabilitating them. That seems like a tall order and normally abusers cannot be changed.

    • Oh, yes, if nothing else the writing is just so terrible. Even before you get to the awful abusive stuff, it’s just – awful. And you’re right, abusers normally can’t be changed, and certainly not by their significant others. And her efforts don’t work anyway. He stays exactly the same, she just thinks of it as one of his silly quirks. Haha, you know how some guys don’t put down the toilet seat, well hers likes to chain her up and leave welt marks on her and not let her ever go out with her friends, etc.

  5. I can’t figure out what to say. I’ve deleted like five comment attempts. I’ll keep it simple. Thanks for reviewing this series for the truth of the matter (and the bad writing).

  6. So…I haven’t read the books and I have only read a few of your recap posts (time constraints usually, not at all because I don’t absolutely enjoy your writing style!). The interesting thing here is that my two closest girlfriends in the entire world LOVE these books and both swear up and down that reading them has done wonders for their sex lives with their husbands! They both readily admit the writing level is inferior, but that the books “open” their minds, put them in the mood, and frankly, help them want to get busy with their men more often. I’m almost tempted to read the damn books just because of the wildly different opinions I have heard!

  7. You are really down in the trenches with these, ahem, books, Alice. I infinitely admire the service you are providing for those of us who need frequent reasons not to read them. Plus, your recaps are so much funnier than anything that could be in them.

  8. (I pressed Like hours ago, and the internet stops working before I can comment. *facepalm*)
    “When the known is abuse, try the unknown. Don’t fall back on what society says. Challenge it.” I am so with you on this, Alice.
    Great post. If only more people would see it like that (then we could all enjoy James bashing together!

    • That happens all the time! I figured out that IE does not like me to like anybody, so I use firefox, and then it does goofy things. Like it didn’t let me reply to comments on the post where I said people should reply to comments.

      I agree with the James bashing – more, more, more!

  9. I picked up a copy of 50 Shades at my local bookstore the other day and opened up to the first page. I could not read the first paragraph without almost throwing that damn piece of terribly written CRAP back onto the shelf. Gosh, the writing is hilariously vile and I honestly don’t know how anyone has managed to read past that first paragraph. Kudos to you though!

    • When you literally begin the book with one of the oldest cliches ever (I was looking in the mirror at my long brown hair blahhhh) you know you’re in for a real ride. Was there no editor? At all? I would throw my copy too, but it’s on my Nook, so I don’t. I just glare at it really hard, and sometimes whap my forehead with it.

    • Why, thank you, Hook. I think. Hey, I’ve seen you around a lot! You really get around the blogosphere, eh? If you know what I mean. Wink, wink. Sorry, too much 50 Shades.

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