Sunday 15 February 2015
In the new releases at the cinema, there’s a movie version of a particular book that ‘took the world by storm’. I don’t really want to refer to the title of the book/movie because it’s had its fair share of publicity. And if I do, I might call it something like ‘Fifty Shades Of Bleurgh’, or ‘Fifty Shades Of Sh!t’, or ‘Fifty Shades Of Not BDSM, Just Ask The BDSM Community What They Have To Say About It’, maybe even ‘Fifty Shades Of Abusive Relationship, Stalker, Rapey, Not Really Consensual Sex Attempting To Be Wrapped Up As Erotica But Leans Towards Soft Porn And Not Even Well Written At That’. So I won’t mention the actual name. 😉
Now, to be fair, honest, and transparent in this post, I will admit upfront that I have not read the book, or its sequels, and nor do I intend on ever reading them. Briefly, the main reason I won’t read them is because I have read a number of extracts from the books, and the writing itself in those extracts is unmitigated cr@p to me. They are not well written at all. Read Dickens, Brontë, Shakespeare, early Stephen King (‘cause I think his new stuff lacks the power of his older works), Koontz, Deaver (by God, yes, read Deaver), Kathryn Fox, Kate Mosse, Gabrielle Lord, Lovecraft, Christie, Conan Doyle, McDermid, Chesterton, Austen, Wells, Leroux, Dumas, Verne – these people knew, and know how to write well. Stilted sentences, unnecessary repetition because your vocabulary appears to be limited, and generally sh!tty ideas are not what intelligent, thinking, creative, sentient beings want to read. And please, people, that trilogy does not fall under the category of classic literature. Nuh, no way, nuh ah, nope, who are you kidding, puhlease, don’t make me b!tch slap you because you refer to them as classic literature again.
My second reason for avoiding them at all costs has to do with the depiction of the BDSM community. I’ve read many articles written by participants in the world of BDSM, and they are definitely not happy about the portrayal of their world in these books. Before you tell me how fantastic these books are, do a lil research on BDSM. There are a lot of things to be considered when entering the world of BDSM. There are contracts to be negotiated by both parties. It’s not just up to Mr. Billionaire-playboy-who-apparently-likes-to-control-everything-and-everyone. It’s based upon respect between the dominant and submissive. There are safe words, limits and parameters, constant talking and discussion regarding comfort levels and how far a submissive is willing to go. And importantly, stop means stop, no means no, I’m uncomfortable means this is a time to talk about whether or not you want to continue. It is not simply a world where the dominant gets what s/he wants at the expense of the submissive. It’s reciprocal, respectful, co-operative . . . and before anyone asks the question, no, I am not a part of the BDSM community. I have, however, read enough cr@ppy extracts from those books to understand that the author has failed to do any research into what she’s writing about, and I’d even posit that she’s not read as many articles as I have about BDSM. And that’s just recreational reading. Ask any well respected, best-selling writer what part of their writing routine incorporates and they’ll tell you that research is a huge part of it.
My final reason for not touching these books or the movie (or the subsequent movies which will undoubtedly follow) is one that has been reinforced by a number of experts and people who deal with, and work in the field of abusive relationships. At one point, I had thought about giving the books a go. One hundred million copies sold (and still counting, presumably) means that not every one of those readers could be wrong. And then I read an article discussing, in detail, sections of the first book. The author whose name escapes me at this point, analysed extracts of the book, not looking at what the author of the book might mean, but what the writing was saying about the burgeoning relationship between the two characters. In short, because I can rant and rave for eternity about what this all means, the relationship between to two characters offered indications that the young female protagonist was in an abusive partnership. I have read many accounts written by people who work and have worked assisting those subjected to domestic violence, and all agree that the relationship in these books is unhealthy.
I harp back to a point I was trying to make on Facebook recently. If you had a female friend or daughter who was in the same position as the female protagonist in these books, where an older man (or any aged man for that matter) gave her a phone and computer to which he had access and could monitor her every move, found out where she lived despite her not mentioning her address, told her when and what to eat, what to wear, with whom she could be friends or hang out with, and if she told you that at some point during or prior to sex she had told him that she was uncomfortable with how things were progressing and his response was effectively ‘if you continue to talk, I’ll have to tie your feet’, you’d tell her to get the hell out of that relationship as fast as she possibly could. Wouldn’t you? You’d help her get away from that guy, wouldn’t you? If she were your daughter, you’d hunt the guy down and give him what for, wouldn’t you? I know that there have been occasions when I’ve been asked for advice and I’ve strongly recommended to friends that what they’re telling me about their relationships with the significant other is far from being healthy, and they should get the hell out. And when they’ve said, ‘But I love him, and he loves me’ or any other thing that excuses the behaviour of the significant other, at the very least I’ve told them to call me if they need help.
My concern with those books is this: what are you teaching the women in your life about how to be treated if you think this is acceptable behaviour by anyone, not just a man, but anyone? Yes, I have heard the response ‘But it’s only fiction’ many times. I’ve heard, ‘The sh!t you read is far more dangerous to the psyche than this’. I’ve heard every excuse and reason under the sun for why people think they are great books, and fair enough, each to their own. I like crime fiction, and horror, and other twisted stuff. In these books, for the most part, the ‘bad guy/girl’ gets what s/he deserves at the end. And believe me, I’ve seen movies a hell of a lot worse in terms of being stalker, rapey fiction (the really quite good and innovative movie Irreversible being the major one that comes to mind), but those movies or books aren’t dressed up to be mummy porn or erotica or soft core porn. They’re shown to be exactly what they are – stalker, rapey, crime fiction, or horror/slasher fiction.
It was commented on a Facebook update that I posted recently, where I said that the Hellraiser movies, despite the fact that they got trashier and trashier as the franchise went on, were still better than the trailers of the movie I shall not name, that the creators of the book and the makers of the movie were laughing all the way to the bank. That may be so, but there’s also no accounting for taste. Personally, I would rather stand tall because my integrity was intact than write or produce cr@p like that book and movie and make billions of dollars. And I’m sure someone will make a comment revolving around some premise like ‘you can’t say that because you’ve never been in that position, where you have an opportunity to make big money based on your creativity’. The truth is, it’s more likely than not that I’ll never be in that position of making big money because of my creativity. However, I’ll also never be in the position that I produce some poorly written rubbish that sells hundreds of millions of copies. That’s not me, and believe me when I tell you that I love money, and hell yes, I want to be ridiculously rich, but it’s simply not going to happen.
Do I feel jealous of that writer cashing in with those books? Nuh. I feel sorry for her because so many people, including me, bag her out because of her poor writing, sh!tty descriptions, and little girl-esque writing techniques. Really, I do. Embarrassment on that scale terrifies me, and I feel really bad for her, despite the fact that she has made a bazillion times more money than me out of writing. I wouldn’t want to trade places with her in a million years. Imagine having to write cr@p like that for the remainder of your writing career. Not to mention the fact that it’s highly likely that nothing else that she writes will ever garner such sales. Just look at J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter made her, A Casual Vacancy was kinda meh even though it is being (or has been) made into a TV show/special/movie thingy.
At the heart of it, those books were written as fan fiction, a response to the Twilight series. Yep, ‘cause there’s a sh!tload of faux BDSM in those books ← sarcasm (because someone will try to start an argument with me over that comment) . . . *insert the sound of crickets chirping* Incidentally, I didn’t go for the Twilight rubbish either. I did endeavour to sit through the first movie, and I did get all the way through it, but for me nothing was actually action packed until about the last twenty minutes of that film. And then it wasn’t the sort of action that makes me go ‘Holy shizzballs, that was amazing. I simply must watch every other one of these movies’. It was more like ‘Oh, something is actually happening. The really droll and boring stuff is finally over, and now we’re at the just plain boring stuff’. Call me old fashioned but I like my vampires traditional bloodsuckers with just a hint of attempted seduction of the main female character. Y’know, more gothic and broody and hungry for blood vampires than sparkly, flat-faced, expressionless, bad-haired dudes. As I wrote previously: each to their own, and Bram Stoker is for me.
Look, some of my closest friends really like those books and the movie, so I don’t want to bag it out too much . . . okay, I have absolutely no concerns bagging out how cr@p I think the books and movie are. Lord knows, I’ve copped a lot for the books, movies, and music that I like, and like the people who enjoyed the books and move that shall not be named, I staunchly defended what I enjoy. Everyone has the right to do that, just as everyone has the right to dismiss those books as shite. Again, each to their own. But please don’t pretend that the books fall in to the category of classic literature. Classic literature has stood the test of time, and it’s not some schlocky mass consumed trashy fan fiction cr@p.
Like I wrote, I’ve no intention of ever reading any of those books or watching the movies. I think they’re cr@p, in much the same way that I think many, many other texts are rubbish, and many of those texts are by writers considered to be the greats of literature. It’s just not my thing. However, I do think books that when a writer is dealing with some topics, such as BDSM, there is a definite need for them to engage in masses of research. They owe it to their readers, to the audience, to be well informed about the topic, and not simply present a ‘what I think happens’ version of events. That doesn’t mean that writers have to go out and experience what they’re writing about – not everyone has the gumption to pull off the sort of research that Tara Moss does, for example – but some basic reading or discussion with people involved might be the baseline of knowledge.
I know that there are many people who think that what I write, whether it’s a story piece or a ranty opinion piece like this post, is unmitigated cr@p, and that’s up to them. I’m not of the mind to try to convince those people that what I write is worthwhile. Like the old adage goes, what you say about me is none of my business. I also know that publishers and publishing houses are out for one thing only – the big dollars. That’s what they do, that’s their purpose in the publishing industry: to make money. Same with filmmakers. I also love my friends and family dearly, and I try desperately not to hold it against them if they like those books and movie that shall not be named. 😉
Still, at the end of the day, there’s absolutely no accounting for taste!