Sunday, May 27, 2012

Why 50 Shades shouldn't be dismissed as mere Twilight fan fic

I have spoken to several friends who are curious about the 50 Shades craze, and one friend who read it back when it was really just fan fic who thinks I'm an idiot for enjoying the series so much.  While 50 Shades certainly isn't for everyone, and I don't think it's a MUST READ, the attitude of it being inferior to other romance stories or that I have no taste for enjoying it really irks me.  I think the general attitude is that if you think Twilight sucks, then this book that is BASED OFF Twilight must be even lamer.  Here's why I think 50 Shades shouldn't be discounted because of its origins:

1. Christian's control issues are viewed as an illness and treated as such.  In Twilight, Edward's crazy protection/control mentality is seen as for Bella's own good.  In 50 Shades, Christian is seeing a therapist, and he and Ana eventually work out that control in the bedroom is good for them (though they switch it up), but Christian trying to control Ana's life is unacceptable.  She gets angry at him and stands up for herself.  I love that at several points she refuses to back down.  She doesn't get flustered and start doubting her stance- instead she fights for her freedom and refuses to give in to Christian.  He has to come to terms by adjusting his behavior, and although it is sometimes painful, he does.

2. There are no vampires, werewolves, or other paranormal elements.  My fiance was still laboring under the assumption that Christian was a vampire. No.  All paranormal elements have been removed, which also removes the strange desire Edward feels to eat Bella because of his "nature."  Although Christian at some point admits to wanting to hurt women, there are psychological reasons for this and it is addressed as part of his mental illness, not a sexy thing.  Edward wanting to suck the life out of Bella but trying to control himself is portrayed as hot; Christian wanting to beat a woman is portrayed as unhealthy and unacceptable.

3. Ana is not a dishrag.  While Ana reminds me of Bella during the first couple of chapters where she is clumsy and has bad fashion sense, Ana quickly develops into a strong-willed, smart, and passionate woman.  She is able to defend herself and does at a couple points, she is not afraid to be alone (no laying the woods for hours), and she knows what she wants from life.  While Ana does bite her lip to the point of obnoxiousness, she isn't mousy.  She actually IS very beautiful and interesting.

4. There is no morality message from 50 Shades.  Twilight's pro-abstinence, pro-life, and sometimes religious undertones are not evident in 50 Shades.  This is just a fun series for grown-ups without the author trying to make something that is not spiritual into a message- no hidden PSAs here.

To wrap up, I'd like to point out that while I would be embarrassed to be seen reading either series on the train (I love my Kindle!), aside from a basic outline the actual perspectives and tones of the novels are very different.  Not to say they don't have things in common, because they clearly do, but 50 Shades isn't "Twilight for grown-ups."  It isn't even really "What if Edward and Bella were into BDSM?"  (The BDSM sub-plot takes a backseat to other story-lines.) It's an erotic romance series about unconditional love and overcoming mental illness.

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