Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight, a craze that makes little sense.
Once again we have to deal with the hype of Fifty Shades of Grey, except this time it is the movie, instead of the books. The reviews are in and many of the critics agree, as well as many movie goers: the movie is boring. I cannot say that I am surprised, considering the source material. I have not gone to the movie and have no intention of wasting two hours watching something that exemplifies abuse and sexual self-gratification while manipulating and torturing another individual.
I am inclined to agree with those who have said that the movie is boring. I read the books and they were laborious to read. I found myself skipping pages and whole sections to move on with the story as I tired of Ana’s constant arguments with herself and her continual references to her inner goddess (which always seemed to be doing gymnastics) and her subconscious (that proved to be useless as if it’s only function seemed to be to degrade her).
The movie seems to stay close to the book, from the reviews I’ve read, as close as it can be, considering the book is 514 pages, but it displays just how bad the nonexistent story is. Just like Twilight. I did watch the Twilight movies and read the books; the movies are long, drawn out, and a bore to watch, just like the books. Why? Because the series has no storyline either.
It is no surprise that Fifty Shades is just as mind-numbing as Twilight. The author said that she wrote it as fanfiction for Stephanie Meyer’s series. I am not a huge fan of fanfiction, but some of what I’ve read was better written than the tripe that E.L. James produced. But I would argue that Fifty Shades is more of a complete rip-off of Twilight masquerading as fanfiction, and then later donning the disguise of an original story by a woman who cannot write above the level of a 7th grader.
My hope is that the movie will show people just how idiotic the books are, but I doubt it. The Twilight movies were just as bad, but people still flocked to them. I do not know why people love these books so much, nor will I ever understand it. My guess is that Stephanie Meyer’s wrote Twilight to cater to teenage girls, since any 14-year-old would fall for the physically perfect and god-like Edward. Then, in an effort to understand why these kids loved Twilight, many adult women read it as well, and perhaps they loved the non-thinking writing style as it provided a nice break from reality.
Fifty Shades was written to capitalize on the multitude of fans that Stephanie Meyers had already acquired. All E.L. James did was write the exact same story, change the names of the characters, add tons of sex, and then handed it to Twilight fans. She did no work herself. It takes little effort to copy what another wrote and change the names and places. And the sex scenes do not vary. They seemed to have been copied and pasted. Fifty Shades became a success because it was Twilight with sex, released while everyone was in Twilight-mania. E.L. James did what no respectable writer would: she allowed another author to do all the work, while she reaped the benefits by just copying it, dressing it differently, and marketing it to the same fans who were desperate for more Edward, and willing to settle for the Adonis-like Christian Grey.
You may be wondering why I do not like these books by either author. Here are my reasons.
1. There is no storyline-as the movies demonstrated. Supposedly, both books are about a romance between a girl with no self-respect and a god-like man who is perfect in every way, well physically perfect. He is also older than her and so much more mature, even though their actions are petty and mirror those of a child. They feel this pull toward one another and know that they cannot live without the other. That’s it.
And a disturbing part of Bella’s love for Edward is that Edward is about 90 years older than her. He’s old enough to be her great-grandfather, but because he looks and acts like a 17-year-old it’s okay that he dates her.
As the books progress, another man is thrown in to set up a meaningless love triangle that is supposed to cause some sort of emotional angst. I say meaningless because the main character tells the challenging suitor that it will never be them she chooses Every scene between them ends with them doing this dance. Bella constantly reminds Jacob that she wants Edward, not him, but Jacob continues to hang around her like the lost puppy that he is. Ana also tells Jose that he is nothing more than a friend to her and would never compare to the Adonis-like Christian Grey. The entire story is just the main character obsessing over a man that treats them like dirt, while the challenging suitor, who treats them better, hangs around like an unwanted third party. That is the story.
2. Forced conflict that adds nothing.
In Twilight we have the Vitroli, a group of vampires that set the rules for how vampires should live. Supposedly, they do not like the relationship between Edward and Bella, but they never do anything, except stand around, talk, and make threats that they never fulfill. There is also a bit about Victoria, a vampire who hates Bella for some reason, but she shows up only in the very end of Eclipse and nothing much happens. In Twilight itself, a vampire tries to harm Bella and Edward saves her, and it’s a short-lived scene.
In Fifty Shades book 2 someone is trying to kill Christian Grey, but not a whole lot happens. It felt like that was thrown in to create some sort of angst between the characters of Ana and Christian, but its resolved quickly, and treated as though nothing happened. The third book’s only conflict was should Ana marry him or not and more of her complaining about how he’s trying to control her, but nothing happens. It reads more like a manual for how to possess a person and have loads of kinky sex that no one could physically do, much less survive.
3. One dimensional characters that I don’t give a damn about.
Both stories are told through the point of view of the main character, Ana (Fifty Shades of Grey) and Bella (Twilight). They are female; one is college age, the other is high school. Both fall madly in love with a man that they describe as “Adonis-like” (and yes, E.L. James used the same phrase to describe Christian Grey as many times as Bella used it when talking about Edward.) to the point of complete obsession. Every waking moment of their life is consumed with thoughts of their love interest.
Both characters are treated like crap by the person they are in love with. Oh, sure, there are moments when they are treated like princesses and experience the passionate, romantic moments that most women dream about, but those end quickly and are replaced with Christian or Edward being moody and angry. Neither Bella, nor Ana, evolve from being love-sick to the point where they cannot live without their man.
Both are shallow, codependent, damsels in distress who are unable of doing anything themselves. Ana and Bella tell you that they love their independence and are happy to do things on their own, but that is soon flung aside in favor of a man that constantly saves them from danger, and whom they can’t live without. When Edward dumps Bella in New Moon, she spends months moping over his actions and embarks on self-destructive behavior that is borderline suicidal.
When Ana leaves Christian because she can’t take his abusive behavior anymore, she spends three days crying and regretting her decision. Then he shows up at her apartment and she forgets all that he has done to her and is in his arms.
This is the sum of their character. Unable to live without the man that treats them like property.
Edward and Christian Grey are equally uninteresting. Both are moody, manipulative, stalkers, possessive, and controlling. They claim to love the main character, but then do something that hurts them or breaks their hearts. They play with the emotional strings of Ana and Bella the way a puppet master plays with the strings of his puppets. Edward and Christian remain this way throughout the entire series.
And let’s not forget Jake and Jose, two people, that for some unexplained reason, are in love with Bella or Ana to the point where they will sacrifice anything to be with them, but are rebuffed at every turn, yet continue to pine for them.
And their friends serve no purpose other than to deliver bad advice, or in Ana’s case, her best friend warns her repeatedly of Christian Grey’s dark side. But both Bella and Ana ignore their friends because true love must win, if you can call what they have love.
All of the characters are shallow who remain as they were when you are first introduced to them. There is no character development.
4. Promotes destructive behavior.
Both Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey promote obsessing over someone who cares only for his self-gratification. Edward doesn’t seem to love Bella. He just feels this pull towards her, like he needs to protect her, but he also wants to be the only man in her life. God forbid she have male friends.
Christian Grey feels this strange pull towards Ana, but it is more of an obsessive desire to have sex with her and control her life. Every time Ana talks about Jose, Christian goes into a rage of jealousy. If Ana decides she wants some distance from him, he gets angry and soon she is worried about his moodiness and wonders what she did to make him mad, and tries everything to placate him so that she doesn’t lose him. That is the mark of an unhealthy relationship.
In both stories the characters care more about their needs and desires and not the consequences of fulfilling them.
Bella goes through a period of hanging out with bikers, becoming a thrill junkie, and even riding her bike off a cliff just so she can see images of Edward in her mind. And none of her friends bother to force her to seek professional help.
Ana allows herself to be used as Christian Grey’s sex toy just so she can be with him and feel him inside her. When she loses her virginity to him, she becomes obsessed with sex, to the point where all she can think about is having sex with Christian Grey. It like she’s a walking hormone. She also allows herself to be beaten and abused so she can feel some sort of sick pleasure from it, all in an effort of understanding a man that has shown he is incapable of love, and has even warned her to go away or suffer a broken heart. Fans of the book argue that she is expanding her sexual horizons. That’s all fine and dandy, but why do it with a man that views you as his property.
There is a scene where Christian and Ana are at his parents’ house for dinner. Her tries to finger her, because he took her panties away from her before they arrived, but she slaps his hand away. Afterward, he excuses them and drags Ana to the boathouse where he rapes her, but all Ana can think about is how much she loves the feel of him inside her. Forget the fact that moments before she didn’t even want to have sex and that he told her he was “going to fuck her for his pleasure, not hers.” That’s rape. Once he’s done having his way with her, she insists on getting her panties back, and when he hands them to her, Ana is thrilled about her victory over Christian Grey. Does anyone else see how disturbing and screwed up this scene is? Ana isn’t concerned about being raped, she just pissed that Christian took her underwear.
Both promote addiction. Ana is addicted to being with Christian and having him screw her in ways that no person with a working brain would allow. Bella seeks Edward out the way a heroin addict seeks more of the drug. Both go through withdrawal symptoms when they are not with the man they love. Even a few minutes apart seems to be agony for them. Ana and Bella are basically drug addicts, with Christian the drug of choice for Ana and Edward for Bella.
Twilight gives us cannibalism and pedophilia. After Edward and Bella are married, and she has him screw her three times in one night, despite the fact that each time she is rendered unconscious, she gets pregnant with a half-vampire, half-human baby. that grows at an exponential rate almost killing her. After having a huge discussion about how abortion is wrong (a theme that didn’t bother me), Bella goes into labor, but is unable to deliver the natural way. So, Edward performs a cesarean. Not the way a doctor would do it, which is ironic because he lives with a doctor and it’s unclear as to why he couldn’t just get his doctor friend, but with his teeth. He literally chews the baby out of Bella’s uterus by ripping into her in a carnal and animalistic manner. So, abortion is bad, but tearing someone’s stomach open that way that is done in the movie Alien is okay.
After having her stomach ripped open, Bella is bleeding to death with her insides hanging out, leaving Edward a choice: let her die, or turn her into a vampire. Do you really need to guess what he did? Of course he turns her. Another flaw in the story. We spend much of the series with Bella begging to be turned and Edward refusing her because he doesn’t want to damn her to his fate of living forever as a 17-year-old. But he’s okay with ripping his baby out of Bella’s stomach, a woman he supposed to love, with his damn teeth!
Then Jacob shows up soon after the baby girl is born and imprints on her. Imprinting is when a werewolf finds his soulmate. You know how it is. Jacob can’t have Bella, so he settles for her daughter, whose young enough to be his kid. I guess this was Stephanie Meyer’s pathetic attempt to explain why it’s okay that an 17 or 18-year-old marries someone that hasn’t even reached her toddler years. In Meyer’s world pedophilia is A-okay. Oh, but she also tries to explain how we shouldn’t be disgusted by this because Bella’s baby grows fast. In the space of four months she went from being a newborn to the size of an 8-year-old. That means that within a year, the girl will look like she is in her late teens, but won’t she still have the mentality of an infant? The fact that she is a natural born half –vampire does not explain all of this away. Also, if she is aging this fast, won’t she be dead in three years? Sorry, Jacob, but you just aren’t allowed to find love.
5. The writing is nothing to rave about.
I have read a lot of books and the writing is okay, average, nothing I would get excited about, but that doesn’t stop me from reading them because they have a story that I am unable to tear myself away from. Not so in these books! Since there is no real storyline, other than two people wanting each other, breaking up, then obsessing over one another again, the amateur writing is impossible to ignore.
In reading both these series, I found myself transported to the days of my 8th grade English class assignments, and how atrocious they were in their quality of writing. As an author myself, I strive to improve my writing. My earlier works are less than stellar, but I my later ones are an improvement. Writing is a craft that must be honed and worked on each day. Something that bother Meyers and James failed to realize and were never forced to do. Both authors throw in a few em dashes and, in E.L. James’ case, she uses long and strange phrases to make her sound competent. Fifty Shades of Grey if full of the “my medulla oblongata”, “my inner goddess”, and “my subconscious”. Ana should just tell her inner goddess and subconscious to take a flying leap off a cliff for all the good they serve. Her inner goddess sounds more like a drug dealer that wants a drug addict to keep using, since it keeps urging Ana to go back to a man that treats her like his personal property.
Both books suffer from page long descriptions of what the main character is doing. In the first chapter of Twilight, we get to read two paragraphs of Bella talking about how she gets in her truck and goes to school. Once she arrives at school, pages are spent describing how she drives around the parking lot looking for a parking space before going to the administration office and getting her class schedule. Every time Ana gets dressed for a date with Christian, the reader gets to suffer through pages of her talking about how she showered, shaved, put on makeup, and chose her clothes. This is why the books are so long and tedious. At least half of the narrative could be cut out and you wouldn’t miss it.
In my writing classes, I was discouraged from doing these kinds of descriptions. It’s not descriptive writing, but a laundry list of actions, or as someone I knew once called it a “to do list”.
The prose of both suffer from repetitive words, phrases, words never used in casual conversation, but were thrown in to make the author seem smart, and an overabundance of adverbs to force the reader to feel what the character feels. (for those of you who don’t know me, I have acquired an abhorrence of adverbs in recent months. They have their place, but should be kept to a minimum.) In Fifty Shades, the word petulantly is used on almost every page, along with nonchalantly.
This sums up most of why I can’t stand these books. I will never understand why they have the fandom they do. I understood the Hunger Games craze. Though Katniss is cold and dispassionate, you understand why. The Hunger Games trilogy has a compelling story and Katniss evolves, going from cold and stand-offish to someone who cares about what happens to others and realizes the consequences of her actions. None of that happens in Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey. Both of the main characters obsesses over a man that manipulates and controls them, and consider being stalked as the height of romance.
I don’t like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey and never will. I just hope the craze soon passes.
Janet McNulty has been writing and publishing her own books since 2011. She is the author of the popular Mellow Summers and Dystopia series. She is busy working on the second book in her Solaris Saga, the first of which is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.