Via Ebook Friendly
I’ve had a go at understanding the appeal of Fifty Shades Of Grey before, and, for some reason, I’m back for more.
There seems to be a lot of debate over why these books have such a breakout appeal when other books don’t. A lot of it is just the bog-standard unpleasant, sniggery condemnation of women writers and women readers, which has been around since people were making nasty remarks about George Sand’s personal life and hasn’t really slowed down since. We can file that under ‘misogyny’ and move on.
A lot of the more thoughtful commentary has come from the romance-writing and reading community, which is struggling to make sense of why a book whose plotline is basically ‘will this intense sexual relationship lead to long-term commitment?’ has been so hugely successful when other books go unnoticed despite being less repetitive, having fewer plot holes and not driving their American readers to complain bitterly that the British author didn’t do her research.
I think some of the problem here is that, like every other genre, the romance genre has a lot of weird legacy nuggets that afficionados step round with the ease of frequent visitors avoiding their Aunt Irene’s overladen trinket table, but that newcomers tend to stumble over and be discombobulated by. Harlequin / Mills and Boons, in particular, tend to specialise in ‘isn’t it romantic that the heroine is pregnant with multiples after one encounter with the hero?’ and ‘isn’t it romantic that she’s been forced into marriage as part of a complicated business deal?’ and ‘isn’t it romantic that amnesia?’ which may, very reasonably, cause readers to balk.
I don’t think it’s the whole deal, because Mills and Boon’s weird obsession with innocent virgins and tycoon heroes, for example, is right there front and centre in Fifty Shades as well. But I would not be in any way surprised if part of Fifty Shades’ appeal is that it doesn’t come out of that particular set of assumptions, and that therefore it feels fresh.
My best guess is that it’s popular because BDSM is one of those things, like finding oneself on the run from enemy agents or solving ancient mysteries, that has a much broader base of ‘people who like to read about this, even if they wouldn’t like it to happen to them in real life’ than of people who are interested both in reading and in practice. I remember when Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty books went round my university circle like an outbreak of flu, is all I’m saying. I also kind of suspect that for anyone who feels overworked and unappreciated, the fantasy of the kind of sex where you just lie there and are ministered to is immensely appealing.
In other news, another one of Team Beta has got back to me with helpful comments on Firebrand, and Heavy Ice is still moving along. I have a reasonably clear idea of how it ends: the trick now is to get there.