Unless you've been living underneath a rock for the best part of this year, you will know that the latest literary sensation is the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Written by E L James, the "mummy porn" series follows a young, bright eyed Anastasia Steel as she is mercilessly seduced by the billionaire Christian Grey. It appears to be the book every woman has nestled underneath her pillow: you see it on buses, trains, tubes, and now, apparently, there is a film version on it's way.
Desperate to understand the hype behind the series, I downloaded the entire trilogy last week and embarked upon the 'Fifty Shades Journey.' Now, I'm not a mummy, nor am I desperate for a kinky, erotic fix in my life, but I thought I'd dive head first into the first novel to see if I would have anything to contribute to the numerous conversations my female friends are having about the 'thrilling trilogy.'
I settled down on Monday with a cup of tea and the first book, ready to be taken on a wild, exhilarating journey through the young Ana's eyes. I made it to the end of chapter one and was ready to gauge my eyes out. I forced myself to the end of the book and can honestly say it is, without a doubt, the worst book I have ever read. The 'kinky, boundary pushing' sex scenes were boring, and the love story between the two leads was tedious. I finished Fifty Shades of Grey this morning, and I can safely say I won't be opening the next two in the series.
Having shamefully read the entire Twilight series, it became painfully obvious very early on that E L James started her Fifty Shades of Grey journey as a writer of Twilight fan fiction. The parallels were too blatant to dismiss: the young, shy girl, stuck in the mindframe that she isn't pretty enough or cool enough to ever stand out from the crowd, whisked off of her feet by an incredibly beautiful man who manages to see her beauty and charm despite no one else being appealed by it. And herein lies the problem.
Twilight, in my mind, is an incredibly sexist story. Throughout the series, we are told that Bella Swann cannot survive without Edward Cullen. She consistently needs him to reassure her of her strengths, and hide her weaknesses. There is a desperately annoying scene in the New Moon episode which sees Bella attempting suicide because Edward has left her. It was the reason Twilight ruined any minuscule credibility it had in my mind, and it is the reason I despair at my grown friends holding it up as an incredibly romantic tale. Likewise, I consider Fifty Shades of Grey an abhorrent tale that is basically just Twilight without the Mormon influence.
I am not under any illusions that women will realise just how badly these two series' are patronising them, but I am incredibly worried that the next generation of bright, young women (including my young cousins, sisters, and my boyfriend's nieces) are being raised to believe that these stories are hopelessly romantic. They are not, not under any circumstances. Someone hand these women a copy of Wuthering Heights, before all hope is lost.