Fifty Shades of Why: A Student’s Absurd Journey Into The World of Fifty Shades of Grey (Part 1)

Not going to lie, when this book series first came out I was both too young and too disinterested in anything that wasn’t a murder mystery, for it to even register as a blip on my radar. Then, when I was finally old enough to acknowledge its existence, I just didn’t care.

Part of me still doesn’t.

But when a few weeks ago, my screen studies lecturer showed a clip from “Fifty Shades of Grey” on our way out, for the sole purpose of seeing if anyone had the balls to write an analytical essay about it.  I took it as a challenge. One little problem though. I’ve never seen “Fifty Shades of Grey”, in fact, I spent all of my time from when the film first came out straight up denying it even existed. But, of course, writing an essay where you have to apply film theory through your chosen film’s reception and context of production (fun title right?) without actually having seen said film is impossible.

Then one of my friends casually mentioned that, for context purposes, I would probably have to take a look at the source material too.

So, I now find myself having to both read and watch, Fifty Shades of Grey for the first time in my newly adult life. At this thought I did find myself questioning how far I was actually willing to go, for something that amounts to nothing more than shits and giggles.

But as thoughts of surrender crept into my mind, I became spurred on by the rather amusing image of my lecturer A) Having to read an analytical essay about fifty shades of grey and B) Having to mark it seriously. Why the very fabric of time and space may tear itself in half. As might my lecturer, and that would be a sight!

So, my determination to write this fucking essay set in stone, I set about trying to track down my source material.

Which takes us to Saturday last, where in lieu of being able to acquire the book or DVD for free. I found myself in the cold and rain with my boyfriend, trawling my towns many, many charity shops looking for these damned things. Because I decided to myself, if I did have to pay for them, I didn’t want to pay much. We checked every single one and there was nothing. Not even a whiff of either item anywhere!

Slightly dejected, it took me a couple hours of drowning my sorrows in Pringles and chocolate, before I came up with the brilliant idea of stealing (see: temporarily borrowing) my mum’s audible account. That way I could just listen to the book when I’m walking to class, or anywhere really, as journeying to and from places from my house consists of a lot of walking.

While my plan didn’t quite work out the way I intended, a cheeky 30-day audio book trial was my saviour, until I tried to download the book and saw a rather disturbing 19 hours 45 minutes at the top… ‘Shitting hell’ I thought to myself as I came to realise that by the time I’d finish listening to this behemoth, I will have wasted more than a whole day of my waking life on this thing.

But like the determined little shit I am, I soldiered on and determinedly pressed play on the first chapter and wow! It was certainly something.

Incidentally the first chapter was about all I managed. Anything more than that and tiny little bits of brain may have started dribbling out of my ears. The pacing was odd, which when reading it can be looked over, but when it’s being read to you it is so glaring and so distracting it’s hard to listen to more than a single chapter a day. Locations and characters were described in overly specific detail. For instance Anastasia’s friend Kate didn’t just lend her a sleek Mercedes, which as the audience is all we need to know, Mercedes = fancy, we get it. No! we had to also be told the specific make and model which, unless you are a car enthusiast, means jack all to the everyday reader.

Other things that bugged me were the buildings, particularly Christian Grey’s office building, although the hardware store and Anastasia’s apartment are also contenders. I mean once you’ve described that the building is made of glass, metal, and white sandstone you do not have to repeat that exact same description on every single floor and every single room we enter afterwards. And if it is truly as cold, straight-edged and uniformed, as we are told can it really be described as “an architect’s wet dream”?

Other things I found jarring was the odd metaphors (for anyone who has read the book a reference to the communist manifesto comes to mind), as well as strange observations, made by the main character. My personal favourite being, that at a glance she was able to tell there were precisely 36 mosaics on Christians office wall.

Then, of course, there was the use of vocabulary way too sophisticated for the story that was being told, which if consistent I could forgive, but instead it just crops up randomly in Anastasia’s internal monologue with absolutely no rhyme or reason. I guess you could argue that Anastasia being an English lit major on the verge of graduating would justify her use of the words equilibrium, besieged and utilitarian (along with many others). But as her common lexicon is established early on, which is perfectly acceptable when writing popular fiction, it just feels out of place.

I am sad to report that after seven whole days I have only made it to chapter four. So we’ll see if it picks up in any area.

As for the film… well! Having had no luck with finding the DVD either, I resorted to ordering it on Amazon for the super high price of 1p. I got the email today happily declaring that it has been dispatched and is due to arrive any day now. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts once I’ve watched it, but even with my first few tentative steps into this universe, it’s shaping up to be a very questionable experience.


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