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I Want to be the Next E. L. James

By Evie

February 19, 2021

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50 Shades of Grey: What a Failure

Fifty Shades of Grey

You've got to feel really sorry for E. L. James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Salman Rushdie said about the book: "I've never read anything so badly written that got published. It made Twilight look like War and Peace."

Maureen Dowd described the book in The New York Times as being written "like a Brontë devoid of talent," and said it was "dull and poorly written."

Jesse Kornbluth of The Huffington Post said: "As a reading experience, Fifty Shades ... is a sad joke, puny of plot".

Fifty Shades of Grey has attracted criticism due to its depictions of BDSM, with some BDSM participants stating that the book confuses the practice with abuse, and presents it as a pathology to be overcome, as well as showing incorrect and possibly dangerous BDSM techniques.

In fact, coinciding with the release of the book and its surprising popularity, injuries related to BDSM and sex toy use spiked dramatically. In the year after the novel's publishing in 2012, injuries requiring Emergency Room visits increased by over 50% from 2010 (the year before the book was published).

E. L. James, not content with publishing just one novel to appalling reviews, made it the first of a trilogy, the others being Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

All three books were slammed as poorly written "Mommy Porn" and a rip-off of the Twilight series.

Poor E. L. James. She must have been a glutton for punishment. She had to self publish and make her books available as print-on -demand before a real world publisher was forced to take her on because of the huge number of fans of clearly poor taste who were downloading her books. However, 125 million copies sold makes a convincing argument.

So much so that she produced two more books told from Christian Grey's point of view, imaginatively titled Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian and Fifty Shades Darker as Told by Christian.

By this time, E. L. James must have been totally embarrassed by all the negative reviews and amazed when she was offered a film deal.

The Movies

Fifty Shades Darker

The movies were, of course panned, with IMBd giving it 2 stars and one reviewer calling it 50 Shades of Terrible. Rotten Tomatoes was less kind with a 1 and a half star review and a typical review reading "With unintentionally hilarious dialogue, terrible writing, bad plot and just about everything being a disaster. Fifty Shades of Grey is nothing more than a porno with piss poor storytelling and dialogue. Though to be honest most pornos have better stories than this disaster of a flick. Best part, we're getting 2 more of these.... yay?....... please don't waste your time with this."

E. L. James has the privileged distinction of getting the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture 2016 and nominated again for 2018.

Here's an insightful review of Fifty Shades Darker: The Movie:

"The big tee-hee about the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon is that it’s brought ostensibly scandalous heterosexual sex — with its whips and restraints — out of the shadows and into the mainstream. The likes of Madonna and the photographer Helmut Newton had primed that pump long ago, turning dominance, submission and toys into an acceptable spectacle. But it apparently took a writer as terrible as E L James, the author of the “Fifty Shades” series, to really hit the commercial sweet spot. The result is a clutch of best sellers, a hit movie (based on the first book, “Fifty Shades of Grey”) and now a sequel, “Fifty Shades Darker,” that’s almost bad enough to recommend.

Well, not quite, though it’s always instructive to watch how many different ways one movie can go wrong and to guess what happened between a first feature and a second. For all its flaws, “Fifty Shades of Grey” had a competent director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, who mostly wrung a watchable movie out of the material, partly by letting lightness and laughter in. It also had a natural star in Dakota Johnson, one of those unforced charmers who can deliver bad lines so gracefully that, after a while, you don’t much care about their quality. With low-key charisma, she drew you toward her, so that your attention and hopes fell on her instead of the nonsense surrounding her. She was a stealth weapon.

I was still rooting for Ms. Johnson in “Fifty Shades Darker,” even if it proved tough going. Once again, the story involves the on-and-off, tie-her-up, tie-her-down romance between Anastasia Steele (Ms. Johnson) and her billionaire boyfriend, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a guy with sculptured muscles, expensive playthings and dreary issues. Stuff and kink happens: A gun is fired, a would-be rapist is punished and Anastasia is bound hand and foot. Mostly, she advances and retreats (repeat), mewls and moans, and registers surprise each time Christian tries to dominate her outside the bedroom, evincing the kind of stalkerlike behavior that usually leads to restraining orders.

So She Faded Into Obscurity, Right?

Well, not so much.

With sales of her books and film rights, Erika James is worth an estimated US$150 million.

So personally, I think she's completely justified in looking at all of the literary and film reviews, giving them the middle finger and a heartfelt "fuck you".

If Teachers Pet can do one tenth as well, I'll be a happy little Vegemite.

About the author

I was the Head of English at a prestigious private school in a capital city in Australia. I have been a teacher all my working life but took an early retirement at fifty. I have one son and two daughters. My son and one of my daughters are happily married and my younger daughter is in a stable relationship with her girlfriend following several temporary ones over the past few years. I have grandchildren. My children think I am boring. I think my students admired me, perhaps some of them even loved me. They thought I was unadventurous. My fellow teachers thought I was safe, dependable and conservative. Possibly sexless. I am none of these things. I have done so much that my children, my students and my co-workers could not possibly imagine me capable of. I look at my children and think what safe, boring lives you have had. I cannot tell them what their mother has done with her life, but I don’t want to die with no record of it, as if it had never happened. Sometimes I think I’m like that old lady in Titanic. You know, the one who turns out to have been Kate Winslett when she was young. This is my story.

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