I first read Fifty Shades of Grey for the sake of the blog. No, truly. I figured that a trilogy that had been so openly pilloried by the literati and adored by horny housewives everywhere was worth a read, just to see what all the fuss was about.
I didn't have too many problems with the books originally. I don't usually read erotica, but I can see the appeal. Hey, however people wish to get their rocks off is completely valid, as long as it hurts no one else.
But the more I thought about it, the more I began to genuinely dislike the series. Yes, I know that crucifying Fifty Shades is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. The language is atrocious, but no worse than something written by Dan Brown or John Grisham, both writers who I think are really pretty terrific at plotting - and anyway, no one reads E.L James expecting Anais Nin (pictured). Fifty Shades ain't no Delta of Venus.
After some pondering, I've decided that my mounting animosity toward Fifty Shades is because of the main character, Anastasia Steele. Where do I begin with the many, many things wrong with Ana? It's not even because her name reminds me of that Silverchair song, Ana's Song (Open Fire), in which Daniel Johns writes about his battle with an eating disorder.
She is, quite simply, a detestable character. There is no depth or complexity to her personality, nothing interesting or worthwhile about her. Ana claims to love literature, but aside from when Christian, the lover who took her virginity, gives her a first edition of some book or other (I am rapidly forgetting large chunks of the plot, thank god), she shows little evidence of actually having a brain.
Ana spends most of the series angsting about her own sexuality, and Christian. She professes to be a feminist, but seems to have odd ideas about what this means. Supposedly this involves turning down money and other expensive gifts from her rich boyfriend so she can assert some kind of "I am woman, hear me roar" independence, but this makes a mockery of real feminism.
Honey, if you really want to make it on your own, then don't date one of the world's wealthiest and most eligible bachelors, who also happens to be a real control freak.
Then there's that weird thing Ana has about "forgetting" to take her birth control pills. I know that this is some kind of plot device used by the author so she can insert an unplanned pregnancy in there, but again, it doesn't say much about the character. In fact, it kind of makes her unethical, immoral and really rather selfish and manipulative. She doesn't think about the fact that her partner is not ready for a baby, to the point that he hired a doctor to come to his super-awesome apartment to teach her about birth control.
Also, going back to the Silverchair song - Ana appears to have some kind of eating disorder. The girl just does not eat. She doesn't even seem to enjoy food, despite Christian parading all kinds of yummy delicacies before her. Seriously, I seem to recall that she actually goes for days without food, and that's after marathon sex sessions lasting hours.
But the biggest sin that Ana committed, IMHO, is that she is quite plainly stupid. There is nothing upstairs. I imagine her head as a gigantic empty skull where the wind can quite happily whistle through her ears. Whenever she says something, it's like that classic scene in movies of tumbleweed rolling through the centre of a deserted cowboy town.
How she managed to snare herself a mega-billionaire who, you would presume, is actually a damn smart cookie and a shrewd businessman is beyond me. She's described to be pretty, in what I assume to be a girl-next-door kind of way, but hell, there must be thousands of cute, smart English grads pouring out of the hallowed halls of universities everywhere.
It's just not believable that a girl with the personality of a wet blanket, who doesn't dress well and spends most of her time communing with her inner goddess (a deity whom I'd like to punch in the nose), is in any way appealing to anyone but a naive or desperate teenage boy.
I'm going to leave you with this Anais Nin quote. Call it an antidote to the poison that is Fifty Shades. For people everywhere, this is how a real relationship should be:
"I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a real woman."
What do you think of Ana Steele as a character?