Tuesday, April 03, 2012

50 Shades of Love

Does Love Have Rules?

Most people would immediately say no to that question, but for others it’s a logical query to which the response is “of course” with no hesitation at all in the response. Is it chosen lifestyle or outlook that makes it cut and dried for people? I tend to think we ALL have certain rules of life that do in fact pertain to the way we perceive love. For some fidelity is a deal-breaker, others it’s material comfort, the list is as myriad as people themselves.

Where is all this coming from, you wonder? Well, recently a friend suggested I read a trilogy of books called Fifty Shades of Grey and I decided I’d take his advice and check them out, his last recommendation to me was Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series and I’ve fallen totally in love with them! I did some research before I bought the Fifty Shades books, and even then, I wasn’t entirely sure I was wading in with any real enthusiasm.

What I discovered when I began to read reviews and observations about the three novels that comprise this set is that people have a vehement love or hate response to the books. There is virtually no middle ground in the reviews, and I read quite a few! Curiosity won out in the end and I bought them, and started the first novel that night. Chapter One, Book One–and I can’t say I was impressed in the least, honestly. It wasn’t the story that put me off, it was the writing style, which is very unpolished and in need of editing. However, and yes that word is crucial at this stage, the mercenary in me had just put out $35 for these books, so I wasn’t prepared to give up so easily. Plus, I was still curious about all those five-star reviews, wasn’t I?

By the time I got to chapter three, the writing style was less intrusive to the flow of the story, and the characters had come to life, and they ARE very intriguing. Salvation. I’ve finished the first book in record time for me, and now it’s time to consider all those reviews, as well as the material that prompted them.

The novels are labelled as BDSM, erotica, romance, and probably a few less “genre” standard names, so those brands are part of the review complaints in some cases. BDSM, it’s noted many times, is not how it is portrayed in these books–the author doesn’t know or understand the lifestyle, she doesn’t respect the lifestyle, etc. From where I’m sitting–and I state categorically that this is just MY opinion–this story has little to nothing to do with a lifestyle, and everything to do with the falling in love process for two very, very different people. One is an innocent who has never been in love, or in a sexual relationship before–and she falls for a guy who’s been used as a Submissive by an older woman, and is now convinced he’s a Dominant, so behaves accordingly.

The “flaw” as it were in this love story is that both are lying to themselves and each other much of the time. Christian Grey has a contract full of “rules of engagement” for his chosen partners, and mostly he’s abided by them without question. Anastasia Steele is young, inexperienced, and a classic romantic. She wants the hearts and flowers, and the passion, but is playing well out of her league with Christian. She is at that stage where she will do “anything for love” and enters into the contract after much fear and negotiation with her new Master. Before they’ve even signed their agreement, Christian is breaking his own rules, over and over. Ana is never going to be a proper Submissive, she’s strong-willed and defies him constantly. Her fears and her passion are at war from the moment they meet.

So, from what I have seen in book one, this is a complex love affair with two messed up people who talk about trust, but rarely embrace the true depth of what it is to trust totally in someone you love. She tries hard to be what he wants, but she is also trapped in what she wishes he was, her version of a “normal” lover. It’s easier to understand and like Christian than it is Anastasia, he’s the dominant character in the story–no pun intended. But, the reviews and the impassioned hate some people have levelled at the books is also a point of interest, at least to me.

For a book to engender so much outrage and disgust in some, while others sigh with contentment is fascinating. Art is always subjective, and for better or for worse, written word is an art. If you really react so violently to something that you spew pages of hate at it, it’s clearly struck a nerve in your psyche, and not a good one. I have to wonder how much individual fear is guiding the pens with many of these reviewers? And if you are that afraid of yourself and your desires, is it the author’s fault for pointing them out to you? Open-mindedness is the greatest gift we are given as creatures of thought and intelligence, as is our free will. No one can truly force you to do a thing voluntarily that you are not on some level wanting to do. Personal hang-ups have coloured a lot of reviews for many, many literary works–throughout time. Step back, and look closely at your motivations when you want to trash someone’s work, you may learn more about yourself than you ever expected or wanted, but you have to be honest from the start.

Personally, going back to the original question, I think love does have rules. They are as unique and individual as the people in the relationship. What we are willing to accept from one lover we may never accept from another, so there is no right or wrong, only the personal choices that exist between two people who are intimately involved. And, with regard to E.L. James and her “Fifty Shades of Grey” I am very happy I swallowed my initial reaction and stayed with the story. I can’t wait to get buried in book two this evening when I’m done with my work.

So, friends and readers, what are YOUR thoughts on this subject?

1 comment:

  1. Grumpily realizing I might have to plow ahead and try to overcome my outrage at the poor writing and abysmal editing (oh wait, she didn't edit, my bad). The problem is: does she even understand the nature of complexity and the consequences when a serious disconnect exists in a relationship? Nuts, you will make me read this dreck, won't you?

    Well, on to the real question: are there rules in love? Absolutely and unequivocally. Just remove that 'hard and fast' designation and you are good-to-go. Every romance novel speaks to the simple fact that the 'rules of engagement' are flexible, in constant flux, and more often than not being re-imagined, re-interpreted or downright just thrown out the window. Which is why we keep going back again and again to explore with the author all the new ways to break or mend a heart. To describe love requires exhausting an entire Thesaurus in order to touch on the experience in even its most basic outlines. Add dysfunction and you'll be adding a library's worth of psychobabble to the mix.

    Unfortunately, to continue the dialogue requires me to turn off the inner editor. I can do that little thing.


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