Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sites of Grayness

Clearly, the readers of 50 Shades of Gray do not realize that they should be terrified, cowed or ashamed by the book. They are having a great time! They just aren't getting it! Image source is

In my previous post I made a lot allegations about the 50 Shades of Gray phenomenon. But I didn't back it up with any cites, basically because it would be a TON of work to assemble enough cites to prove my point, more suited to a research institute than a single blogger. But still, so much is happening, I thought it would be good to leave you with a few of the more interesting articles and posts I've found.

Let's start with a biggie. A discussion of 50 Shades of Gray on The View had Barbara Walters (82 years young, as the old folks say) saying that women liked to go home to husbands who were the boss in the bedroom and who did kinky things to them. And asking a co-host if she liked rough sex. A good example of the "hot and sexy" response without the EEEEEWWW brackets in a major mainstream venue.

Newsweek did a cover story about 50 Shades that was one of the most effective pieces of trolling ever. The article is badly written, out of focus (for example, it tries to link 50 Shades with a cable series called Girls that has absolutely nothing to do with the book). The article managed to outrage feminists who hate 50 Shades (here's a great example of a doctrinaire feminist attacking the Newsweek article, note that she's so out of control, foaming at the mouth mad that she even has to attack the book's sales as not groundbreaking, something everybody else seems to agree on) feminists who love 50 Shades (here's a good example from The Frisky, note that its criticism of the article is about the difference between real world BDSM and how badly Roiphe missed the point about the book). It probably offended apolitical women who love and hate 50 Shades, but I suspect they did not write much about the article.

The bulk of the attention in the articles cited above is "What does this all mean about women in this day and age?" but there are other aspects of 50 Shades that have been covered as well. For examples, the rise of ebook erotica may well be the most important story here. There have been several articles on this topic, the best I have read is this one, which covers the ways traditional publishing has failed and the way readers on the Internet have succeeded in mentoring the authors and stories they like. The author claims that the success of 50 Shades heralds the end of publishing as we know it, and I think he has a point. EL James benefited from that mentoring when she wrote her initial Twilight fanfic, when it was cast off the Twilight fanfic website for being too erotic she had a huge base of fans, and when she went pro, they drove the book to huge sales. No marketer or marketing department had come near the book, it made bestseller all it's own, as an ebook.

But if you want to get a real viewpoint on what's happening with 50 Shades, don't read the traditional media pieces like Katie Roiphe's, or the somewhat predictable responses of doctrinaire types, read the reviews by women who have actually read the book. (A surprisingly large number of doctrinaire types preface their analyses of the effect of 50 Shades by confessing that they never read the book, in short, that they are lazy, ignorant blowhards who don't do their homework.)

And on the news front, the Victim Channels ... er, the Lifetime Channel, will be premiering a new daytime talk show hosted by Amanda de Cadanet, a British photographer and mother of three whose major claim to fame seems to be that she's best friends forever with Demi Moore, whose company, not coincidentally, will be producing the show. And the hook they have chosen to make the show different is that it will be a "50 Shades of Gray" kind of show, which from what I can tell means only that they will talk about sex a lot. Duh. The news is not the show, but that it's using the book as its hook. 50 Shades has got that kind of hooks into the culture already. Change is in the air.


Anonymous said...

Sorry Pat. I will slash my own wrists before I will watch a view video. send the monkeys back out

Pat Powers said...

No need to slash your wrists, but really, when you got the ladies on the View discussing the topic of sexual bondage like it's a new fun thing to do in the bedroom instead of screaming in horror, you made some progress!