Sunday, August 19, 2012

Monochrome Monday (50 Shades of Grey)

An older friend gave me the following advice when I first started work at age 15, "Don't talk about religion, politics or sex". This post will be breaking all three rules, so read no further if you wish. At least enjoy the pictures. For anybody else still reading, this post is dedicated to the wonderful women who have shared their very private thoughts on a contentious subject. More power to yer all!

It's 8:10am on a Sunday morning after a big night out. It's freezing cold, though sunny. There's a woman asleep in the bed beside me. I'm a male surfer. My options include:
  1. stay in bed
  2. do the post-dawn patrol surf check, surf, return in three or four hours
  3. do "the walk of shame" and get outta there before she wakes up
  4. eat (I had no dinner last night - long story)
  5. meditate (It's one of the few things keeping me vaguely focused)
  6. go out and talk to the God of my choice (This neighbourhood is blessed with all manner of churches, temples, mosques for Catholics, Protestants and Muslims alike)
  7. grab my smart phone and edit shots from last night, while texting friends
  8. start crafting a Blog entry for Monochrome Monday about the phenomenon that is the adult romance trilogy started by "Fifty Shades of Grey"
I do the phone thing and get distracted for quite a while by last night's photos, the wonders of Instagram, texting friends near and far and checking my emails on the tiny phone screen, even though there's a 17" monitor in the other room. Luckily the battery goes flat and my bladder demands attention - it's been more than 8 hours and enough is enough.
As I'm making a coffee, I notice the following note from the sleeping woman, suggesting another option (though not "adult romance"):
"Neila, can you please 
scrub kitchen bin and lid out 
downstairs in washing tub, 
if you have some time 
this morning. 
Thanks for this."
I notice the ink colour on the note matches the purple disinfectant in the generic brand plastic bottle as my stomach points me in the direction of the pantry and breakfast and commit to doing a first draft for Monochrome Monday. The chores can wait until I get writer's block. (Ohh sorry, I cheated there a little - there's no surf today and it will be flat for another five and the woman and I have lived in this house for 18 years.)
I ponder what peculiar surf-starved insanity has driven me to write a post on a Sunday morning about 50 Shades when the list above indicates I have far more interesting options (except the bin cleaning thang). Maybe I have bitten off more than I can chew, especially as:
  1. they are books marketed as being "by a woman, for women"
  2. this is a surf blog (of sorts)
  3. i've been told the content is "adult oriented" and this is not an adults only site
  4. there's no pictures in the books (well I am a bit of a photographer)
  5. there's no surf, drugs or rock n roll either
  6. I haven't read any of the three books in the series

"Ahhh, but remember that the city is a funny place 
Something like a circus or a sewer 
And just remember different people have peculiar tastes"
from the song Coney Island Baby by Lou Reed

It seems all my female friends are talking about, reading or reading and talking about these three books by UK author EL James.  But first, some background courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia:

"Fifty Shades of Grey has topped best-seller lists around the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States...The series has sold 40 million copies worldwide, with book rights having been sold in 37 countries, and set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time, surpassing the Harry Potter series. Critical reception of the novel has been mixed."

Note that last sentence, because it is a key part my outsider's intrigue. Why is it selling so well despite getting such diverse opinions?  It's not like this territory or "adult romance"as an artistic or literary genre is new. Extreme romantic excess goes back a long way. I recall a story about the destruction of the sin cities Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible. Then there were Romans like Caligula who probably set the pace for later artists and writers from the Marquis de Sade to Anne Rice (under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure) . So why is 50 Shades of Grey so popular with at least 40 million women around the world and is it that different to the cultural tradition in which it sits? 

I ask the same questions to a number of female friends. Here's some vastly differing views:

" The writing is pedestrian and the plot borrowed from Twilght. This type of writing doesn't tell us anything about 'what women really want'. it tells us that many women still look to forceful males stereotypes for validation of their desirability and to set the sexual agenda in relationship."

"women should be empowered to read (and write) whatever they want"

What I do like about these books that I haven't read, is that they have gotten people talking about topics that they were previously awkward talking about or even taboo, depending on your cultural/religious background. And in any society where repression of thought and expression persists, there always seems to be an agenda of power and exploitation prevailing.

So the impressions I get from my female friends are:
1     50 Shades transcends class and intellectual boundaries. It's an "easy read" and appeals to women (and maybe men) from all walks of life. I don't want to be a literary snob, I'm just saying what women are telling me. It's not a demanding book. You can read it on the train on the way to work. What happens in the book is not new to planet earth, but the author presents her fable in an easily digestible manner, whereas many of her predecessors were considered high brow or unknown to the masses of readers. I mean how many people today have read Russian author Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita or Italian Giovanni Boccaccio's  Decameron or Erica Jong's Seducing the Demon? Are they even available online?

2     These are hard times and both couples and single people want a captivating escapist fantasy to counterbalance the pressure on libido, longing and desire created by the long, anxious, stressful hours spent in the diurnal drudgery of commuting - working - commuting - cooking - washing - cleaning - commuting.

3     We're basically curious buggers but not real comfortable talking taboo topics and prying into the private kinks of our fiends in order to learn about life "out there" and/or our own private desires.

4     The story is instructional depending on one's educational, religious or cultural background.

5     It's an overhyped fad wagon that everybody's riding, so to speak.

6     It either exploits or was enabled by a "word of mouth revolution" where women support women, backed up by the power of the internet defeating both bad reviews and cultural tastemakers and censorship. Traditionally the social mores that are deduced and repackaged by the media, Hollywood and by our religious, political and royal overlords have served to maintain a status quo and their power base by containing or outlawing "alternative practices".

I better go scrub the bins before the lady of the manor arises...then I'm off to find a copy of said book to see for myself what all the fuss is about.
Pray for surf and an end to political, moral and emotional repression.

No comments:

Post a Comment