Fifty Shades of Grey – Some Thoughts

I recently read Fifty Shades of Gray. I wasn’t going to read the book at first, certainly not all three in the trilogy. But I have to admit that once I got started, I couldn’t put it down. That sounds like a cliché, so it probably is, but that does describe what happened.

I think many readers picked up the first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, out of curiosity because of the hyped erotica. At least, I did, at first and because I wanted to know what made this book stand out and beg to be read. Since I’m a writer, I want to know these things. What makes a reader pick a certain book? What makes it a best seller? What made readers go on and finish all three books?

If it was just erotica, I would have been bored and lost interest immediately. The erotic scenes would not have sustained my attention for three books. For one thing, there was no sex in the beginning. I became involved with the characters. Anastasia Steele is a memorable character.  In the beginning we meet her in her ordinary world, learn what her goals are, who her friends are, how she thinks of herself.  She’s likeable enough to go the journey with her to meet Christian Grey.

She stumbles literally into his life. He is everything she is not. She resists. He chases her, and she resists again. He is rich beyond her dreams, powerful, controlling, gorgeous and magnetic. She doesn’t understand why he is attracted to her. She doesn’t see her own possibilities or who she really is inside.

It is the ultimate love story.  The attraction, the ensuing resistance on both their parts, the inevitable clashing of two attractive, strong individuals. Their love affair is two powerful as they discover each other and, at the same time, themselves.

Their story is also part mystery, thriller and suspense. We learn about Christian Grey’s childhood, his crack whore mother, the pimp who abused him so terribly, the woman who took advantage of a disturbed and unhappy teenage boy. All these events, along with his loving adoptive parents, are what made Christian the man he became, the man Anastasia grows to love.

There is tension and conflict throughout. Christian is a dominate looking for a submissive. But Anastasia is no submissive. There are people in Grey’s past looking for revenge and would do anything to destroy their search for happiness. These are the ingredients that make us turn the pages, go to the next book and read to the finish to find out what happens to them.

The one thing that does disturb me about their relationship is Christian’s need for control,  his jealousy, his need to punish. Women who get attracted to such men most of the time end up getting abused or even killed. There is such a fine line between Christian and the way this book portrays him, and the mirror image of this model in real life.

In the books, Christian learns to accept and to give love, but he does not know he’s capable of feeling love in the beginning. This man could be dangerous to women in real life. In the beginning, he liked to beat women with a whip. We know the women were submissives and we are told they wanted this and they had to sign a contract first and could stop him by giving a safe word. But what if he didn’t stop? What if he got so jealous of his wife that he flew into a rage and  punished her and couldn’t stop?

The author was very careful about how she portrayed Christian Gray, making him a philanthropist, a decent and caring employer, reaching out to feed the world, caring for ex-submissives financially, and being a loving and caring son and brother to his adoptive family. These traits set him apart and made us believe that Grey could be rehabilitated to a loving husband.

But in real life, if a woman thought she saw Christian in her controlling and jealous boyfriend and he didn’t have the good traits that Christian had, she could be in real trouble. 

Another aspect of the book that has attracted so many women and men is the sexual S&M flavor that can be experimented by two consenting adults. The author teases and teaches many avenues of pleasure. I cannot or won’t comment on these personally, only to say that there are many different tricks to learn if one is open to them.

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Reaching A Certain Age

I read an article today in Parade about Neil Diamond still performing at age 70 and soon to be married for the third time after many years. Jane Fonda was on the Sunday Morning show. Also in her 70’s, she performs in a Broadway show or two and has produced several workout DVDs. I think about Betty White in her 90s, two TV shows and multiple appearances. As I hear them say, I feel like I’m in my forties or fifties. I have plenty of energy and my interests keep me alive and too busy to hear my bones creak and moan, so I imagine they don’t.  

Those entertainers make me feel better. I’m almost there with them. I write mysteries full time, one a work-in-progress, one finished except for continuing editing due to more insights and critiques. I’ve had two mysteries published by a small press. I’ve co-written, acted and directed a play that was produced on stage. I’ve recently become involved in the 48 Film Project as a screenwriter and have produced four scripts to be considered for this upcoming 48-hour weekend. Will work on whatever is chosen this Friday night, attend the shooting of the film on Saturday, and rest while the editors edit Sunday and turn in the project. I’ve written and optioned several screenplays in the past, but this is a new experience and I’m loving working with the team.

So many exciting endeavors since I’ve retired. What we seniors seem to have in common is the passion for our work and play and what we strive to do each day. The LOVE of the work we’re doing. Along with this life style comes certain necessary responsibilities we owe ourselves – eat right, exercise regularly, write everyday to keep our brain active and sharp.I attend two critiques groups a week. They keep my imagination and writing sharp. Without them, I would have to work even harder to make the ideas not only flow but to make sense.

I go to several writing conferences a year. This gets me out to meet people, new and old friends, mingle with contemporaries, network, go to cities and towns I’ve never been to before, get away from the keyboard for a few days and energize.

Keeping healthy is vital to living a long and productive life. I have good genes and I heal quickly. My family lives close and I love them. I try not to interfere with their personal lives. My two daughters are in relationships, have children. Four grandchildren are adults now, so they don’t act like it most of the time. All of them have their problems and would love for me to solve them for them. I didn’t go to my parents or grandparents to solve my problems. I learned by experience. They can, too. Otherwise, my time and energy would be drained away. They have their lives according to their choices, and I have mine. My son lives with me. He will be 40 this year. He works and is a good companion and roommate. He doesn’t have the issues the others have so our lives are harmonious.

I’m not married anymore. Six times did it for me. At my age, I will and sometimes do enjoy a lover, but I’m happy being single and able to do what I want, when I want. The husbands I chose were great characters, I loved each of them passionately, but when the passion left and reality set in, it was time to leave. I have no regrets about my past. My experiences made me a better writer because I am able to look back and reexamine situations, certain choices, dig into the psychological pit.

My advice to all is to be passionate about something and commit your life to living with the riches of your imagination.