Jen’ s Guy vs. Fifty Shades of Grey

In Man-day by Jensguy31 Comments

OK, I know I am several years behind, but let’s discuss pop literature.

I am an English Lit Major, and when I was in college, I went to class with this person:

To be honest, I never would have pegged her for somebody who would bend American Pop Culture to her will.

But there it is, and as a man, I admit that I will never REALLY understand it.

I read the first half of the original Twilight, because my wife prodded me and I thought I’d give my classmate a chance. Couldn’t make it further than that first half. I did watch the movies with Jennifer because it earns me the ability to see movies like Moneyball and Draft Night, not to mention all of the Avengers super hero movies.

 Romance in Literature

So, being into books more than most, I must admit to being at a loss to explain why there exits such a huge market for the “bodice- ripper” genre:

In comparison to these works of “literature,” Stephanie Meyer is Emily Bronte. But what was it about Twilight that made it into such a sensation? I don’t think it was the vampires, plenty of other books have them, and actually do them better.  The original Dracula, is terrific, for one. I have read a dozen articles from people asking the same question, and the theories range from “it presents middle aged women with the fantasy of remaining young forever,” to “It continues a literary tradition of escapist frivolity,” to “Woman are attracted to a relationship and circumstance that they can never experience in real life.”

 The biggest takeaway from my research is that literary critics are an insufferable lot, and I don’t miss them since I moved into technology. Let’s be honest, Ernest Hemingway’s prose is just horrible, he is popular because his characters pop, and he has a reputation for being famous. In the same manner, Meyer has created characters that people, or rather women, care about. I would daresay that the least adored character in the novel is probably the protagonist, Bella. She is flat, and kind of odd. It makes it easy to remove her and place yourself in the story and compare and contrast your decisions and interactions. To take it a step further, Twilight is unique in that the male love interests are chaste and virtuous, which is an almost unexplored niche in “modern” literature since Jane Austin ( I have read several Austin novels.) This opened up the novel in a way the less popular “bodice rippers” couldn’t approach.

And that brings us to the second part of the equation. The ability to talk about the plot and characters of the novel, without having to be self conscious about revealing that you were actually reading said novel, brought Twilight into the stratosphere. People that had avoided “romances” based on the trashiness factor, were free to experience, share, and discuss the novel with their friends as well as recommend the book.  I mean there are people who refuse to admit NOW that they were into the book, but there were 2 billion dollars worth of sales, so a lot of people besides 13 year-old-girls were reading it.

And there I was, pretty proud of myself for coming up with a viable theory.  Then THIS happened:

The story being that E. L. James was a rabid fan of Twilight.  She spent her time writing content for Twilight fan fiction sites that generally added the explicit sex to the Twilight saga that many felt the series was missing.  She gained a tremendous following.  From there, she wrote books available on digital readers until her sales got to the point where she received a contract from a standard publisher. She then went and penned a blockbuster, which is generally considered difficult to do.  The book is a character piece generally comprised  of an older man initiating a college student into strange sexual practices, where he remains in full control.  Probably the exact opposite side of the coin from Twilight.  It trails only Harry Potter in mass commercial appeal.

The only real innovation I can see in Fifty Shades of Grey is taking this

and replacing the cover with something less obvious and embarrassing, and turning that modification into million of dollars in sales.  Brilliant!  I guess. . .

Thus ends any of my further attempts to delve further into popular women’s literature. . .

Now, excuse me while I go and drop another hour or two on my Xbox playing Skyrim:

Now THAT is real entertainment!


Post note from Jen: She has never read Fifty Shades of Grey and has no plans to ever do so. Now concerning Twilight, she is team Edward.


  1. I wasn’t able to get into the twilight series and never gave 50shades a chance…though I’m proud these writers were able to make the big bucks with their craft

    1. Yep, good on Stephanie. I also went to class with Brandon Sanderson who is also a New York times Best Seller author. It appears that I am the only one not making millions. . .I’ll have to get right on that post-apocalyptic comedy/thriller.

    1. Then you simply MUST enter next week’s giveaway for The Rose of Ravenscrag and The Slightest Provocation. All you have to do is get with your husband to pose for your best romance book cover. . . Mommy Unreality #1.

  2. I didn’t read Twilight saga but I saw the first two movies and decided that sparkly vampires aren’t my thing. I found Bram Stoker’s Dracula far more entertaining and believable. I did enjoy Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire and both husband and I are now reading The Vampire Diaries with … mixed feelings. Not even remotely interested in 50 Shades of Grey but I did express desire to play Skyrim!
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    1. And there are vampires in Skyrim!!! Actually two good non-traditional vampire books are “The Historian” which is pretty darn suspenseful, and “The Passage” which is pretty scary, but contains almost no romance. Jennifer liked both books as well.

  3. Ha! Your movie watching arrangements sound a lot like ours. Watch one of my picks, watch one of his. It works!

    I read the whole Twilight series (Jen – I’m team Edward too… is anyone really team Jacob? I mean, come on). Anyway, I read all the books BUT I can’t explain why because I really didn’t care about any of the characters. Plus I really disliked Bella. Bizarre how I got into it.

    I will never read 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve never been into romance novels of that nature and I like to guard my heart, mind, and soul when it comes to passion. That’s reserved for my relationship with my husband.

    Great post Jensguy!
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  4. Yeah guys get Jacob a lot more than Edward who is is over 100 years old and still trolling high school chicks. . . I do have to admit that in the movies, I liked Alice. She should get her own spinoff and I would probably tune in to watch. I would be very surprised if you found ANYONE who really liked Bella. It was a mistake for Kristen Stewart to play that role because I think it came with built-in animosity toward her that seems to have carried forward into her career.

    1. I would have to say I preferred the Bella in the books than the Bella in the movies. However, even in the books she was “weak”. Somewhat related to the whole movie/book thing… this past weekend I saw Maze Runner and loved it. I never read the books but now I want to. I think I prefer to watch movie then read the books. My friends who read all the books enjoyed the movie a lot too.
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      1. Heh, the Author of THAT book James Dashner was also at BYU when I was, but was in the Accounting Department so I didn’t know him at all. I have the Maze Runner on the library hold list, but it is popular, so I will get it sometime in 2017. Will probably see the movie before that.

  5. I read the Twilight series and I did enjoy them. I didn’t think I would though! The books are much better than the movies. I’ve never read 50 Shades of Grey and don’t want to. Interesting that you went to school with Stephanie Meyer!
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    1. Yep, the book is ALWAYS better than the movie, because the book offers you so much more. It is interesting that the 50 Shades of Grey movie is already getting hated on, and all they did was release a trailer. I’ll bet that movie bombs. . .

  6. I loved Twilght. Even though I knew as I read it that the books weren’t some kind of literary masterpiece I didn’t care. I loved it for the reasons you said. It was fun, it was romantic, it was CLEAN. Then the movies came out and Kristen Stewart RUINED the entire series for me. Yup. She is horrible. So then I turned my vampire attention to the show Vampire Diaires. A little bit more dicey but nothing along the lines of Fifty Shades. Which I have not read. I’ll stick to my young adult and childrens literature so I can imagine fun adventures with wizards, werewolves, and vampires rather than well. . ,. the kind of man that’s in 50 shades.
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    1. That is why I find it so humorous that the 50 Shades of Grey lady got her start writing about Twilight. The fact that there are so many people that wanted Twilight to be more like 50 Shades of Grey to the point that they had to rewrite the thing to accommodate that viewpoint. I wonder if there are people writing 50 Shades of Grey to be more like Twilight. Oh, the wonder of the internet. As I mentioned before, I just don’t think anybody likes Bella to begin with. Pair that with the wooden acting of Stewart, plus her tabloid dissing of Robert Pattenson, there was bound to be trouble.

    1. Jennifer attended all of the movies on opening day (not at midnight, however, Jennifer doesn’t do midnight showings.) She says half of the fun is people watching and these movies didn’t disappoint.

      I’m thinking that “Ew.” was kind on the point of the book, or at least I am HOPING that.

  7. Wow, am I the only gal here who read 50 Shades?

    I’m a voracious reader and I challenge myself with reading popular books just to try and understand the ‘hype.’ I read Twilight, Harry Potter, 50 Shades, Divergent (and other YA stuff) just to understand why they were so popular. And I was team, “Edward’s meaty hot brother.” Whatever his name was…

    I’ve read everything on your list except the hard core “romance” novels you noted. Although 50 Shades was pretty sexually driven (understatement?), call me whatever the hell is opposite of prude, but I couldn’t put it down. I think the best part of that book isn’t the “romance” but the way the choice was constantly being put to the reader by the author. It was like the most X-rated version of a “What would you do?” 20/20 investigation. :)

    I will honestly tell you I’ll most likely never pick up one of those “romance” books because they don’t interest me but sign me up for The Historian (or Skyrim) any day.

    PS – You may not know it, but your wife wrote a book – maybe she can help you get your bestseller started? :) As always, thanks for the insight into the other half.
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    1. Fist of all, “The Historian” is top notch freakiness. It took the author like 15 years to write it, so I am not expecting another book like that.

      And as far as writing a book, I cannot picture for a second being able to write a romance with “love scenes” (that’s how we “prudes” refer to them. :) ) Has there ever been anyone since the beginning of time that was good at doing this? Anytime any book I’m reading heads that direction, it usually fails miserably. Maybe, I’m just reading the wrong books. Will look for the recommendations from “Ruffles and Rainboots.”

      And yes, I am actually IN Jennifer’s book. However, I am illustrated dark and swarthy (whatever swarthy means, I just know it follows dark when “handsome” can’t make it. It really is a good book.

  8. I’m with Jen all the way!…Although I have never read the Twilight books. I only got round to watching the films and thoroughly enjoyed them; which totally surprised me as I wasn’t really expecting to. It was the subtlety of the film that got me hooked…Oh and the rather novel idea that they only sucked the blood of animals and could resist the temptation of nibbling on a human neck.

    As for Fifty Shades Of Grey. I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. I actually had a woman trying to convince me that the book had a great storyline…It may well have, but not one that interested me….I have a couple of friends who did start to read the book, but never finished…Need I say more?
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    1. Evidently there are a lot of people who start to read it and never finish. The book has over 26,000 reviews on Amazon (Twilight has about 6.000) at a 3.4 rating which suggest a tremendous amount of interest, but a mediocre amount of love. Seriously, that 26.000 number is mind blowing. . .

      It will be interesting to see what the effect on literature is as that success is almost impossible to ignore. Does the genre get 15 minutes of fames before fading back to the Harlequin brand, or will there be “copycats” like Twilight spawned?

    1. Interestingly, the blog’s traffic has spiked considerably with this article, which is unfortunate because I’m about as far onto the edge of this branch as I am going to travel. . .

  9. Dude I saw the Fifty pic and I knew this was a must read. :D Yeah I think you are right on all counts – Bella is easily removed so you can see yourself in her role (well myself). To be honest, I didn’t read Twilight until my cousins had first and confirmed that it was not trashy…then I read those suckers in about two weeks. I almost went for Fifty until I looked into it and found out that it was a trashy novel series with a decent looking cover. LOL I think you are right about the trash factor as well.

    Spot on my man, spot on!
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  10. Yes, Jennifer made the poor decision to read the novels before the last one was finished. All of her friends preordered it through Amazon and it was delayed a couple of days. Being the good husband I am , I dropped in at Walmart and a lady there mistakenly sold me a copy early so Jennifer got to read it a couple days BEFORE any of her friends and family did. It was maddening for her to have no one to talk to about the book until everyone else got their copies and caught up to her.

  11. In my former job, ALL of the women were reading 50 Shades, so I hopped on that train and read the first two so we could discuss the controversial nature. Their was zero character development so just kind of wound up flat for me. Eventually it got to the point where I was skipping all the sex scenes just to see if the plot would get interesting. I couldn’t figure out the hype and I couldn’t understand what was so shocking about any of it, either. Maybe I’m just a huge pervert or something because it was all so boring to me.

    From my understanding, the 50 Shades series actually did start as Twilight Fan Fiction, too. There are rough copies of it still up on the net floating around.
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    1. Yeah, I don’t get it. Dude is part of the villainous “1%,” clearly has control issues, seems a bit misogynous, and yet women love him? Especially with the Slate crowd who would seem to know better. I guess you could say that she grows past him in the end, but if woman were really repelled by the guy, the book wouldn’t sell so well. Imagine if Christian Grey were a truck driver. . . As a guy, it is truly something you have to stamp with “What the Hell?” and move on, because ain’t no way you are understanding it.

  12. So interesting. I have never read any of them. Pop culture left me in the dust. Also–the last bit about the Xbox–Does that mean my boys may actually play video games their whole lives? I’d never really considered that.
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