When I read the Fifty Shades trilogy, I came away with a slightly different opinion of it than he did - though that difference was mostly in the nuances and degrees.
As a work of fiction, I found it intrinsically without value. However, it has extrinsic value as a statement on our (American) popular culture. I don't believe that's a particularly kind statement, by the way. I can't speak for the trilogy's reception in other countries.
That said, I actually enjoyed the read. It's superficial, but enjoyable until you look at it in an analytic light - even if some of that enjoyment comes at the author's expense, or is rooted in a sardonic view of the culture which produced and consumes this drivel.
My primary concern by which I evaluate a work of fiction is in the character development. In these books, I found the characters to be charicaturized versions of the popular views of stereotypical women - and men - which too many suburban wives (to make use of another stereotype) idealize but can't possibly attain - they're just too human, and that gets in the way (thank goodness!). I do see the value in utilizing those popularized versions of people, though, especially in the romance genre. After all, the point of romance novels is not to imitate reality. I think the author actually knew her target audience quite well, and developed her characters in the best possible way for them to be palatable for that audience. So, while I personally didn't find the characters particularly well-developed in their own right, they were perfectly developed for the author's purpose, which was to sell books.
... This post started off as a short little introduction to Archer's review of the "Fifty Shades" trilogy, so I guess I better get back to that.
After reading the trilogy, I
begged asked Archer to read the books too, so that we could discuss my ideas about them and the social commentary which inevitably followed their popularity.
The following was his response. I laughed out loud, literally.
Fifty Tons of Utter Shit
I slog through this abomination of words, the fifty shades trilogy, and despair. Never have I met so doltish and annoying a protagonist as she. She trivializes all womanhood with every syllable of her non-existence.
Her boyfriend is elevated to genius by her moronic perception of his logical deductions as "magical". At one point Anastasia interprets Grey's moody, multi-tasking, and generally active intellect as possibly afflicted with "multiple personality disorder," and this in a vastly successful businessman. MPD is a devastating mental condition, crippling in fact, insupportable in any life requiring high function, memory, control, and structured task mastery. She is supposed to be an "educated" girl. This little idiot wanders around as a modern day Tartuffe, looking at all in the world as though for the very first time. The naïveté, portrayed to the point of ridiculousness. This Grey fellow, far from mysterious, merely appears to be a passably intelligent dude, horny, melodramatic, and somewhat kinky, in a pretty vanilla kind of way as millionaires go.
The sex scenes in this book are banal to the point of anti-tumescence, the plot is utterly predictable, the premise is profoundly unimportant, the attempted moral rationalization of its hero (all this charity bullshit throughout his busy plutocrats life) is entirely corrupt at its base. This is a book about banal decadence, about a stupid girl who gets a rich boyfriend, who wraps her arms around opulence, grousing and bitching the whole way, so no one will think her a whore for hitting the jackpot by yanking on the one armed bandit with her uninteresting little cunt.
These "works" are the opposite of literature; they do not ennoble, they debase us. They make all who read them more stupid by allowing such trashy sentences into their brains. They are an insult to womankind; they turn sex into a car commercial; they contort love into a horrible game of self-deluding sexist hypocrisy where women crave domination physically, all the while conspiring to crack the masterful spirit of their chosen man, to the point where the mystery and power that initially drew them is revealed, neutered and suborned by the mystical influence of their nasty little holes.
While this little trio of dime novels is quite a dollop of shit to be sure, the inevitable series of movies will drive all art to a new nadir. While love and sex have been well fucked into whoredom for centuries by commerce and the churches, we will now toss kink, and the works of poor Thomas Hardy into the chemical stink of pop culture.
I predict that those movies will be the rottenest things in human culture.
I predict that their rottenness will drive, by comparison, the Twilight series, up into realms of near-tolerability, feat once thought impossible by all scientists and film critics.
The only benefits of this plague will be the sharp screams and luridly publicized emergency room visits of kink inept suburbanites maiming themselves in hilarious attempts to slavishly ape this latest trend in "sexy". That, laid at the feet of its author, once society turns its fickle, hypocritical back on this dirty little fad, will be her god damned comeuppance. She will shrink, Shatner-like into a minor self parody, an impossibly wealthy pariah, devoid of talent, to be shoveled onto the reality show dung heap of ex-celebrity.
A bit later in the conversation, with more information gathered, Archer had this to add:
Not surprisingly, the Grey trio began its odious life as a fan-fiction afterbirth from the actual Twilight series itself. Ana and Chris actually began their papier-mâché lives as amateur copies of the ridiculous Twilight couple. Leonard cannot even be credited with originating this monstrosity, she just copied stupid and penned idiocy in the process. Trash begat garbage.
Did I mention that Archer can be quite scathing when provoked?