Culture Clash – Fifty Shades Of Grey



I knew very little of Fifty Shades of Grey when I picked it up as a quick holiday read. Only that it will supposedly be responsible for a baby boom in 9 months time. I generally believe there is good reason for popularity but this I found was an instant struggle due to the juvenile writing; I grappled with a strange sense of familiarity as I waited for the sexually liberating scenes and quickly sank into a distinct sense of disappointment.

EL James’s writing is ignorant and immature. Every writer has to knead out the kinks in early drafts; some mistakes are easy to make but they’re also easy to spot. Most writers give away too much because we fear inaccurately demonstrating our point. However, you have to give your readers some credit that they possess enough brains to work out simple character traits and plot twists. The problem is that EL James doesn’t give her readers any credit that they will understand what’s going on. This isn’t a first person narration, it is a running commentary. We are accompanied not only by Anastasia’s thoughts (‘Holy shit, I’ve just agreed to be his sub’) and actions, but the thoughts and actions of her personified subconscious and her ‘inner sex goddess’.
The strange sense of familiarity that plagued me was a striking similarity between Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight. I picked up on this stunning feat of plagiarism within the first chapter. I saw lines that could have been lifted straight from Stephenie Meyer’s novels and characters that seemed to have hopped from one novel to the other with only the slightest courtesy of a name change. It came to my attention that the novel arose from Twilight fanfiction, and that is where it should have stayed. Fanfiction is a hobby, a guilty pleasure of a pastime and perhaps a leg-up to developing your own characters and stories. Whether you loathe Twilight or are an absolute ‘Twi-hard’ is beside the point; Fifty Shades is utter unacceptable plagiarism.

My disappointment only grew as I waiting for Anastasia’s discovery of her sexuality. This book is not only smut, but the furthest thing from sexual liberation. What EL James has achieved in the character of Anastasia is a confused, self-loathing virgin with warring inner personalities who is swept into an abusive, sexual relationship that she is not ready for and does not understand. It is also an inaccurate portrayal of a typical Dominant/Submissive relationship. The sexual scenes are unrealistic, entirely pornographic and pure fantasy. I despair of teenage girls picking up this book and encountering a world where losing your virginity involves multiple orgasms due to expert foreplay and rough sex -they might actually believe it.

What is perhaps the worst offence is the notoriety with which this book is now received. Is it to be the Lady Chatterley’s Lover of our generation? D. H. Lawrence will be turning in his grave. In our day and age, Fifty Shades of Grey is unlikely to be banned due to its overt sexuality, although perhaps we can start a petition to ban it due to its atrocious writing.

By Beth Palfrey – Smith


This summer has been the wettest since records began and there may be a reason why. While it has been raining outdoors it has been Grey inside with women nationwide opting for nights in curled up with their nearest and dearest copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. The novel written by EL James has turned many women fifty shades of pink and many men a whiter shade of pale whilst being described as that ‘naughty blue book’ by grannies nationwide.

After hearing the novel had sold more than thirty million copies around the globe, I was instantly intrigued and like many women wanted to have a sneaky peek; just to see what all the fuss was about. This must be life – changing, earth quaking stuff, I mused – the fastest selling paperback of all time in the UK must offer some sort of revelation. The meaning of life? The secret to an instant triple orgasm? Come on, how to ensnare Ryan Gosling at the very least?

Wishful thinking my fellow females; after a couple of chapters I was left high and dry and disappointed. Whereas many readers view the book as a guilty pleasure for its raunchiness, it became mine for how poorly it is written. Technically it reads like a GCSE candidates work – the plot is basic, obvious and clichéd. In no way did I want to ‘Keep Calm and Obey Mr Grey,’ thank you very much – and yet, I couldn’t put it down.

Whilst my “inner goddess” was not “doing the meringue” I can truly appreciate why so many people’s was “cartwheeling”in succession. The language although simple, is accessible and user – friendly. The lack of complex jargon has led the content to be consumed quickly – causing readers to buy into the trilogy – a clever marketing technique from EL James.

Although Fifty Shades of Grey will never be present in the literary cannon – it doesn’t claim to want to. The book derived from self – confessed ‘fanfiction,’ has managed to provide readers with enough material to invest, not only in the trilogy, but in the author’s vision. We have been sold a lifestyle, a window into another world. In a sense it has done what good literature should do – evoke a reaction and simultaneously provide a suitable platform for escapism.

For an erotic phenomenon it is suitably titillating. The intensive kink sessions are confined to ‘the red room of pain’ which although ominous, compartmentalises the sadistic streak, allowing the reader to also connect with the desire, emotional weighting and kinetic tension between the two main protagonists. The story evolves until a stronger bond is formed between the pair – the sort which transcends the monotony of everyday life. That’s it, that’s the fantasy.

Whilst I may never understand how Ana never contracts cystitis or her preference to exert her lack of gag reflex over watching re – runs of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I can comprehend why 2012 will be forever hailed the summer of grey.

By Stephanie Bell

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