I usually don’t like to drag out the soapbox for things, especially when it comes to sharing thoughts online, but this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Most of you know I’m working on a super sappy and tender, albeit tragic, romance for my July Camp NaNoWriMo project. While I am reveling in using every romantic cliche known to the genre, the one thing I am not is a misconception that plagues some popular titles nowadays. If you’re thinking my answer has to do with the subject title, you’d be right.
The 50 Shades trailer recently dropped (no, I will not link it here- Google is your friend in this regard), and already it’s gotten more views than anything else. People are just clamoring all over themselves to see their favorite couple fuck each other senseless on the big screen. Oh, and it’s set for February 14th, 2015. Let me rephrase: a movie, glorifying not a healthy or even correct representation of bondage, but one about abuse, is opening on Valentine’s Day. A day generally reserved to show appreciation for a loved on. A romantic holiday, if you will. The key word here is romantic. That shit that happens in 50 Shades? That’s not romance.
Oh, they want you to believe it is. They shove the series next to Harlequin titles. The characters are in lOOOooooove! She gave him her virginiteeeeeee He wants to make loooOOOoooove to her. All that stuff is part and parcel of romance!
Yeah, it is. I’ve read and written plenty of romances to know that’s the case. But it’s not for this particular title. And we need to stop trying to sell it as one.
I get it. The whole book is one, big sexually charged fantasy. I’m not talking about the sex in this book, or the kinky stuff. That’s a separate issue, one that I know has been addressed- repeatedly- by the insulted parties. I’m focusing on the false romance. Think about it: little old plain girl with low self-esteem suddenly finds herself whisked away by some drop dead gorgeous guy. What woman WOULDN’T want that? It’s the stuff romance novels are made of, right? Wrong.
Take Phantom of the Opera, for instance: Erik is obsessed with Christine, and he does all he can do make her love him. How? By lying to her. By taking advantage of her innocence. Most versions show Christine leaving with Raoul, but Susan Kay’s take showed that theirs was a true love that couldn’t be broken. Christine goes back to Erik and (spoilers) gets pregnant with his son that she passes off as Raoul’s. She perpetuates the lie. To make things worse, Raoul starts to see that Charles isn’t his, but he says nothing. You could argue he was weary from the situation, and accepting was the price he paid for peace. To me, that isn’t a healthy relationship. Raoul should have gotten out of that mess when he had the chance.
As a kid, I thought Erik was the better man for Christine. I mean, he so obviously loved her and would do anything for her. That’s good, right? That’s what people do in relationships. Now that I’m older, I see this so-called true love for what it is. I can excuse Susan Kay’s version because Erik demonstrates actual remorse for what he’s doing. That doesn’t excuse his behavior, mind you. But when compared to the “literary hero” (seriously, that’s how Christian Grey is described in the novels) in 50 Shades, Erik is a damn saint. Grey offers no remorse, no apologies. Just strict adherence to command. And woe if any of his tenants are broken. Ladies, this isn’t the man of your dreams. The man of your dreams loves you for who you are, warts and all. He won’t do anything to change you, or force you to be something you’re not. And he certainly will not try to control you. If you think that’s love, you need your head examined.