If you haven’t heard about the publishing phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey I have one question for you — what rock have you been living under?
E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, has surpassed all sales records for publishing and is on its way to becoming a blockbuster R rated film. Fans of the books are eager to see who’s cast in the coveted roles and there are dozens of fan-made film trailers in which fans express their own choices for Christian and Ana.
So what the heck is going on with that? Why have women around the world, women of all ages, education levels and social classes, responded to this trilogy with such a passion?
1. Christian Grey
2. Christian Grey
3. Christian Grey
Christian Grey, incredibly handsome dominant hugely successful control-freak billionaire with a broken inner child and dark sadistic desires who willingly changes for his lady-love, becoming the perfect husband and father and sexual partner, ticks every one of our feminine fantasy boxes.
Critics might argue that Fifty Shades of Grey sets feminism back decades due to the willingness of Ana to submit to Christian, the epitome of patriarchy’s masculine male.
If anything, the fact women have chosen Christian Grey speaks to the success of feminism, at least in terms of liberating women’s sexual desire and giving them an expectation of equality with men in a relationship.
Wait a minute — I’m saying that women’s love of Christian Grey, the sadistic Dominant who makes his submissives sign contracts so he can whip them, is an expression of the success of feminism?
How can that be? Isn’t it the opposite — the triumph of patriarchy? Doesn’t Christian Grey sound more like every feminist‘s worst nightmare?
Women have spoken. They have considered. They have decided.
There are two hundred thousand books published each year. Of all those books, women chose these three with this protagonist.
Women still may not be equals in modern society, but they have reached a state wherein they have considered what has been offered to them and have spoken. The words they have spoken are “Christian Grey”.
Women have clearly voted with their pocketbooks and have bought the erotic romance by the tens of millions. Their willingness to buy these books expresses their honest desire and those of us who like to think about why, who want to understand the trilogy’s power, should think very carefully and very seriously about why they have chosen Fifty Shades of Grey.
What are women saying about sex and love and desire when they pick Christian Grey?
They want it all.
They have chosen Christian Grey, the archetypical masculine male who embodies everything patriarchy has to offer but also key advances feminism has wanted for women. To be desiring subjects and to be equal to men outside the bedroom.
Anastasia has desire. She desires Christian — not his money or power but him, physically. Sexually.
Yes, the whole ‘virgin at 22’ trope and ‘never having masturbated’ trope are a bit hard to take for me personally, but both express a desire on women’s part for a quality first sexual experience, in contrast to the largely unsatisfactory first sexual experience most of us do get.
I’m not saying the books themselves are without flaw. They are flawed as every work of art is flawed. What is interesting to me is how and why women have responded to Fifty Shades of Grey.
Christian Grey is the product of evolutionary biology‘s quest for superior reproductive fitness. Physically and intellectually, he’s superior. You just know he’s got great sperm. He’s also the product of several waves of feminism for he’s attracted to Anastasia not merely for her physical beauty but for her character — especially her character — for it is that which separates her from all the other beautiful women he could pick as sexual/romantic partners.
Anastasia may be sexually inexperienced but she doesn’t let Christian get away with anything. She challenges him. She questions him. She’s intellectually his equal — not some airhead barbie doll or cowering submissive. He would have moved on to the next one if she had been just another submissive woman.
She isn’t. She has her degree and her desire to pursue a career and follow her passion for books.
In the end, if Christian did not treat Ana as an equal in the relationship, and given her the power to define their relationship, I don’t think women would have flocked to the books in the numbers that they have. The trilogy would have been relegated to the erotica shelves and been just another book with titillating content.
It is precisely because Christian and Ana are equals that Fifty Shades of Grey escapes the erotica ghetto.
It’s not just the sex and beauty and wealthy lifestyle that have drawn women to Fifty Shades of Grey — although those do play a role in the trilogy’s appeal. At base, it’s the love story between the two characters, and how each transforms the other’s life, making it more fulfilled and fulfilling, that women respond to. Christian finally learns to love himself through his love of Anastasia and she becomes a fully desiring and strong woman through her love for Christian.
Christian may be rich and powerful and dominant, but he’s an emotionally empty shell without real love in his life. He has everything money can buy except true love.
Anastasia gives him true love — not in exchange for money, but for itself. She introduces him to romantic love and how sex can become even more fulfilling when combined with love. Ana sees Christian’s broken inner child and falls in love with him, accepting him, challenging him. Making him grow into a fully-functional human being — no longer fifty shades of fucked up.
Christian does turn the power over to Anastasia. He shows her who he is, and he’s both desirable and dangerous. She doesn’t run away. She’s strong enough to consider him, flaws and all. He’s willing to change, to give up the life he thought he wanted, that he needed, in order to be with her.
Christian is evolutionary biology’s choice for a sperm donor, the best producer and protector of our offspring and provider of our security and sustenance. He also desires Ana as an intellectual equal and supports her desire to have a meaningful career. He even gives up his own dark desires to ensure he can be with her, giving her the power in the relationship. She sets the tone of their encounters. She defines the limits. She chooses him. They may play Dominant and submissive in the bedroom or red room of pain, but outside of it they are equal.
He’s everything rolled up into one desirable package — reproductive fitness, economic superiority, social status superiority and willing to see and treat Anastasia as his equal.
Women want equality, but they don’t want a wet towel. They want a masculine man who is their equal outside the bedroom and to experience the heights of erotic pleasure within it.
Fifty Shades of Grey would not have reached the status is has, nor would millions of women of all backgrounds have embraced it at any other time in history. Only because of feminism and the freedoms women experience today would they pick these books and these characters.
Yes, it’s fantasy. But what are humans if not creatures who imagine a different reality? Understanding what that different reality says about us is what makes literature so interesting to analyze. This is the imaginary world women desire — one that combines both our biological drives and inheritance but also our social aspirations and progress.
Fifty Shades of Grey is not revolutionary. It doesn’t push many boundaries, but it is an expression of women’s desire and that desire embodies the feminist desire for equality, both in terms of having equal sexual desire and equal value in a relationship.
So, I’m a bit pissed about the brouhaha that’s been happening lately in the Twitter Sphere and Intertubes about Ian Somerhalder’s interest in playing Christian Grey in the adaptation of run-away hit Fifty Shades of Grey.
Here’s what Damon thinks of the whole business:
Here’s some background:
Ian tweeted his interest in the role and spoke about it on a couple of shows. He exchanged tweets with Bret Easton Ellis about it. Period.
We, his fans, have been involved in various campaigns on Twitter or on websites to support him getting the role. There have been other actors who have expressed an interest, such as Alexander Skarsgard and many fans of other actors have launched fan campaigns to support their own choices.
Some celebrity gossip sites took this grassroots fan interest and blew it up into sensationalized headlines claiming that Ian was “begging” for the role and now has created a “monster” that he’s had to kill.
Keep this in mind. These websites rely on clicks/page views/visits for their advertising dollars. The more clicks they get on their websites, the more they can charge for advertising. That’s the business model for many websites.
What this means is that like in war, truth is the first casualty. These websites want you to click on them and so they lure the unsuspecting fan into visiting with lurid headlines like “Ian Somerhalder Begging for S&M Role” and other trashtalk. Ian’s real fans know that it wasn’t begging. He expressed an interest. Any hot young actor would be nuts not to be interested in such an epic role in what will surely be a hit film if and when it is made. There are millions of women out there who are DYING to see it on the big screen and millions of Ian’s fans want to see him in the role.
But it is up to E. L. James and the folks involved in producing, casting and directing the film to choose the right actor for the role. We fans can mount a campaign to push Ian for the role but we may not be listened to.
What shouldn’t happen is for fans to start getting all upset about it. That will do nothing except provide these vultures with fodder for their trashtalk and obviously upset Ian for seeing things get “out of control” as he said in his tweets.
I feel bad if I’ve contributed to that silliness. I have tweeted very often about it and have advocated for Ian to get the role, but I’ve never done so in a hateful way. I will be disappointed if he doesn’t get the role, but I have no idea how Hollywood works or how films are cast so what do I know? It may be very unlikely that he’d get the role despite the buzz his fans are generating. It may help him get the role for those involved to know how much support he has.
I guess in the end, we have to be aware of how our actions affect others. Our exuberance about Ian getting the role is latched onto by the celebrity buzz machine and used to get eyes on websites and ultimately advertising dollars. It’s led to misleading headlines about Ian “begging” for the role, which he isn’t doing. Today I read a headline that claimed this:
Ian Somerhalder has whipped his own fan base into a frenzy by lobbying for the role of Christian in Fifty Shades of Grey. Having created a monster, he’s now …
I refused to click on the link even for this article, because I don’t want to be part of that lying buzz machine.
Ian hasn’t whipped his fan base into a frenzy. We’ve whipped ourselves into a frenzy because of our love for Ian and our desire to see him in the role. He didn’t create a monster. We tweeted and blogged and otherwise expressed our desire for him to play the part after he expressed an interest.
It was the celebrity gossip machine that portrayed this deceitfully in order to lure readers to their websites.
Anyhoo, at least Ian is on the radar for the role and at least E. L. James and others involved in the film know he has a huge fan base of support. I hope our enthusiasm helps him, not hurts him. Almost every poll I’ve seen on this shows him way out front in terms of support.
Just keep this in mind when you read headlines on these internet celebrity gossip sites. Don’t click on the headlines! Don’t give them the revenue.
If you’re a fan of Ian, save your efforts for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and something worthwhile – like saving the environment, animals and green energy.
Dominion is up at Amazon.com as of June 15, 2012:
Read Dominion – my novel of Paranormal Romantic Suspense available at Amazon.com. Description: 21-year old college student Eve searches for her mother’s killer and gets caught in an erotic love triangle between two beautiful identical twin vampire-killing vampires, Michel and Julien de Cernay.
Time for an update on the campaign to make sure Ian Somerhalder gets the role as Christian Grey.
Although I am a big fan because of his work as Damon in The Vampire Diaries, and of course, think he’s just all around the most smoking hot man I’ve ever seen, it’s the combination of his looks and his versatility as an actor and his experience as a model that gives me every confidence that he would become Christian Grey. He knows sexy, he knows dominance, he knows seduction, he knows conflicted, and he just drips sex appeal on screen. This is not just me. This is millions of fans like me who melt for Mr. Smolderholder.
I read a tweet yesterday from an actor who was interested in the role but who said his agent indicated that there are four main actors in the running for the lead role in Fifty Shades of Grey, starting with Brad Pitt and ending with Ian Somerhalder.
Sorry, agents — that should be the other way around — STARTING with Ian Somerhalder and ENDING with Ian Somerhalder.
OK, I admit I’m biased as hell. For me, Ian is THE Christian Grey. When I read the novels, I could only see Ian in the role. It screamed Ian to me, primarily because of the character’s grey eyes and balls. Damon has both beautiful light blue eyes and balls aplenty. He has ego as does Christian. He is mercurial like Christian. He plays a dominant man like Christian. He’s sexy as hell and has the perfect eyes and a delicious bod.
What I like is that recent non-scientific polls of fans have echoed my sentiments.
Over at Ann Marie Walker’s blog, Ian Somerhalder came out on top (how appropriate!) of her poll of fans with 32% of the votes cast.
For me, this photo is Christian Grey — just look at those blue eyes and how good he looks in a suit. You can see him being the young head of a multinational kazillion-dollar corporation with 40,000 employees and a red room of pain.
From what I can tell, casting for the film hasn’t been started, according to reports I’ve seen, but I’m sure casting agents will be busy scoping out possible candidates for the roles in the film and I’m doing my level best to ensure Ian gets a lot of coverage, at least on twitter.
There are several actors being mentioned:
Ian Somerhalder – my choice.
Alexander Skarsgard – love Alexander but sorry, I don’t see him as the character.
Brad Pitt (???) – Love Brad but he’s too old. Christian is late twenties/ early thirties at most.
Eh, they’re all handsome and have the right color of eyes, but it takes more than just looks to fill this meaty role.
Anyway, there’s lots of buzz around Ian and millions of fans who would probably die to see their favourite vampire become their favourite sadist-in-love.
Let’s do everything we can to help Ian get the role!
So, this blog is primarily my fandom blog where I write about my current fandom and obsession, The Vampire Diaries, Damon, Delena, Fifty Shades of Grey and Ian Somehalder for Christian Grey. It’s my silly side, my girl side, my romantic erotica writing writer side. It’s my not-a-professional, not-a-mother, not-a-wife side. It’s my blowing off steam side.
I have a few other sides, as we all do. Today, I want to post this one non-fandom post because I really feel that I have to say something about this. I promise I won’t write about it again.
I am part of a group of about forty+ climate scientists / climate science journalists and bloggers who communicate via a private group about climate science. In my real life I am a researcher / policy type of person and I have a science blog about climate science in which I examine the science and politics of climate change. I try to keep my two lives separate because of the sensitivity of my job (in project management for government and so I could lose my job if I were seen to be too political). But through my climate science blog, I’ve been blessed with getting to know many of the prominent climate scientists and climate science journalists out there writing for big media and have readers from NASA, NOAA, several prominent university research orgs, and activists around the world. This is not to brag, but to say that the information I am getting is not from some anonymous bloggers who don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground but actual scientists doing the research and writers doing the writing you read in the mainstream media outlets.
Some of them are just about ready to call the game. They’re afraid to, because they don’t want to discourage people or be seen as alarmists. But they are very concerned.
When they’re concerned, I get concerned.
Their pessimism scares me. They are just about ready, some of them, to say that we are in for serious trouble far sooner than people realize. We tend to have this view that we have 50 – 100 years to act on climate change, clean energy, and a low-carbon economy but they are not so optimistic. Many of the ones I respect the most feel that we have a decade and no more. Some even think we are already past the point of no return while others think that if we don’t act now, as in this decade, it will be really bad for us and our children — and all the other life forms on the planet.
That’s what concerns me. I’m a conservationist and environmentalist, an animal rights supporter, but all of these things ultimately rest on the persistence of our temperate climate and the ecosystems that have been in place for the past 10,000 years since the last ice age and beyond. We are changing those ecosystems, we are changing microclimates that animals are exquisitely adapted to. We are sending animals off to extinction that have been around for millions and tens of millions of years through our burning of fossil fuels and land use practices. As our climate changes to a hotter one, we will face droughts where it is already dry, floods where it is already too wet, and our food system will be increasingly out of whack, putting the most vulnerable among us into even more danger of starvation and famine.
I’ve become increasingly concerned that no one is doing what is necessary to address this and I count the big players — the US, China, India and the EU as the big players who must lead the way, with the US as perhaps the most important leader. We can’t get by on feel-good posing and posturing. We need people to man the picket lines, put up tent cities, and get pepper sprayed, arrested and speak truth to power. We need people with influence to use it to save the freaking planet.
I’m just a small potato among real scientists but have been privileged to have been invited in to their circle and have been privileged to be able to listen in to their discussions and hear their words, see their concerns, their worries, and their research and the things they say in private scare me.
I don’t know what the answers are, but I know that we have to work together to find them and soon.
So, if you read this, please look around you and try to think what you can do to speak up about this. I do know that until politicians feel pressure from the electorate, they won’t act. They are too tied into the funding from big corporations that have too much money to make through the sale of fossil fuels and development of oil sands, tar sands, and other sources of fossil fuel energy. Only you, as a voter, and you as a consumer, can convince those with power to act.
So look around at your local politicians to see what their position is on climate change and tell them that if they don’t accept the climate science consensus you will not vote for them. Look at your regional and federal politicians and do the same. Look at the organizations you are a part of and see whether they support action on climate change and a low-carbon economy, development of alternative energy, and other actions to mitigate global warming.
They will only act when they become afraid that you’ll kick them out of their jobs so make them afraid.
Anyway, thanks for letting me vent. This conversation I was part of today really upset me. Usually, we’re focused on strategy and tactics, responses to this or that topical issue and we don’t really talk about what’s coming and how soon, so this conversation really upset me.