Brought to you by OBS reviewer Andrea
50 SHADES OF SUBMISSION
Upon the recommendation of a co-worker I read E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey, I admit it. In fact, I read the whole series and enjoyed it…sort of. Incidentally, reading it did not make me want to have sex all the time as promised. I could overlook somewhat the myriad of cultural references that made it glaringly obvious that the author was not American and really seemed to lack even a rudimentary understanding of commonly used North American colloquialisms and the downright irritating protagonist Anastasia Steele. Regardless I do not hold E.L. James entirely responsible for the infuriating character of Ms. Steele as the work did originate as fan fiction based rather surprisingly on the stratospherically successful Twilight novels and it would not be an overstatement to say that Stephenie Myers heroine Isabella Swan is one the most aggravating characters existing in print today but that is beside the point. Yet I was interested in the character of Christian Grey, intrigued enough to carry on to the bitter end despite gritting my teeth each of the innumerable times the heroine blushed, stumbled, professed her love of Twinnings Breakfast tea or promised to ring someone.
Just over two years later all one needs to do is walk through the book section in the their local retailer to see the impact of this series. The popularity of the 50 Shades series identified a formerly untapped niche not even a year later there was Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series and a number of other copycats with more appearing each week. The writing in Ms. Day’s work is vastly superior to that of 50 Shades yet the theme of the Crossfire series and a number of others available are almost identical. The incredibly rich, damaged billionaire, who just happens to secretly practice BDSM.
Though the erotic practices of “bondage and discipline” coupled with “sadism and masochism” encompass a wide range of sexual customs, on the bestseller lists it appears that the hero is almost exclusively a “dominant” and the heroine is secretly sometimes even to herself a “submissive”.
Personally I find this trend unsettling, as a life long romance novel fan the concept of the “alpha male” is far from unfamiliar but I find the increasing prevalence of the hero who has to force the heroine to submit to him increasingly disturbing. It revisits the age old question is art imitating life? By entertaining ourselves with fables of epic romances featuring damaged heroes just waiting for the right woman to come along to bring home to the “red room of pain”. Are we reversing the forward momentum of the women’s movement? Or am I just bitter that Christian Grey was never on the receiving end of the riding crop?