50 Shades of Grey or Red?
My husband Josh and I were talking one evening after he returned from a business trip, when someone on TV mentioned the book, 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James.
Josh said, “What the heck is that book even about? Because of the nice looking business tie on the cover, I picked up a copy to buy at the airport, thinking it was a leadership development book.”
I then turned 50 shades of red trying to explain to him the concept of this pop-culture book
Mommy-Porn. It’s Culturally Popular!
The book has experienced soaring popularity, recently appearing on both the Dr. Oz and Ellen Show. It’s spent 8 weeks on the New York Times best seller list and is the number one downloaded book on Amazon.com.
Some questions I started to ponder:
- How has this book gained such a rapid following with women (and yes-Christian women) from all walks of life, married, single, liberal, and conservative?
- Are we just re-discovering “The Joy of Sex” or are we just more comfortable talking about it?
- As Christians, is it okay to read the book IF it helps our sex life with our spouse?
- Are we over-thinking the whole moral issue with it?
- And what’s the deal with the description: Mommy-Porn? Is this perhaps the biggest oxymoron of labels? I dare any of you to picture your mom and porn together. Ew!
A Sex Book with a Magical Formula
First, I believe the popularity of the book can be boiled down to a magic formula that many authors use and one which requires great skill to master as a writer. In this magic formula, the plot is often complex and thought provoking, relying on back stories and divergent sub-plots that engage the reader’s mind and offer concepts that they’ve never thought of before. Well, not really.
The magic formula is actually incredibly simple and unfortunately exploits the shallowest parts of us all, and here it is.
I am exactly like this character, except:
- “I wish I could DO that!”
- “I wish I could BE that!”
- “I wish I could HAVE that!”
The magic formula is a relatable character with an un-relatable life.
People read fantasy books for the thrill of seeing a world through someone else’s eyes. How tempting it is to leave the mundane or harsh realities of the real world behind and become:
- Anastasia Steele, meek and mild mannered virgin, encountering…
- Christian Grey, high-powered enigmatic business tycoon.
A chance meeting between the two where hearts quicken, sparks fly, and the two secretly spend a 2-year courtship contemplating career decisions and financial obligations. They get to know one another and meet each other’s family until finally they tie the knot in a beautiful ceremony all neatly wrapped up by the end of the book. Yes? Of course not! Who would pay to read that? Relatable characters can only go so far before they’re too relatable.
Instead, between the steamy lines of this novel develops a story of a much darker discourse. Christian Grey has a jaded past that inclines him to bad-boy, S & M, dominating sexual tendencies. The kind of guy any sweet virgin girl loves for her first experience (insert sarcastic tone here).
Escape from the Mundane?
The book tries to connect with women on the somewhat relatable topic that many of us have: a shy inner insecurity particularly when it comes to sex. But this isn’t the problem really. Because let’s be honest, the book isn’t trying to help you resolve inadequacies in your marriage. The book is trying to capture the attention of women who are experiencing a real life crisis: that time in a marriage when it’s less about oooey, gooey feelings and more about how committed we are to each other. In other words, the boring part; life in the mundane.
Doesn’t this book sound a lot like pornography?
OK, so should we read it? Read the next part of this series at https://changingthefaceofchristianity.com/popculturechristianity/50-shades-of-grey-should-we-read-it-part-1-of-2-2/