Let’s Talk Pop Culture: Fifty Shades of Girls

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Let’s Talk Pop Culture: Fifty Shades of Girls


You know what one of the most self-indulgent things about having a blog is?  (And trust me, there are many, and I have indulged in most of them.)  When you’ve had a conversation in your head for a while, and you have no idea who’d want to have that conversation with you in real life, you soon realize that you could just throw that conversation out on your blog.  And then maybe you could strike up a chat with your Internet Friends.  And then maybe you’d put an end to the endless stream of auto-conversation going on in your head.

Of course, one of the alternatives is that the readers on your blog could just ignore you, and then you’d be stuck having conversations with yourself on your own blog, in the public eye.  But I digress.  As I often do.

I realize that I’m about a year too late to the party on these Moments in Pop Culture, but here are couple of the pop culture conversations that have been going on in my head for the past few months:



I love the HBO series “Girls.”  Love it.  Love its terribly awkward and flawed characters, loves its downright genius storytelling (and no, I don’t use the word ‘genius’ lightly), and love how Lena Dunham tackles uncomfortable issues with unparalleled ferocity, seemingly not worried about exposing her characters’ moral repugnance in the process.

There are lots of great analyses of the show out there (and this one from Elaine Blair is one of my favorites).  But one of the things I love most about “Girls” is that it portrays whiny, privileged, annoying white kids as whiny, privileged, and annoying instead of: quirky, unfathomably (but cutely) wealthy, and adorkable.

Sometimes I don’t think that viewers pick up on this fact, and this might be why so many people love to hate the show.  Because we’re so used to seeing our whiny, privileged, annoying white kids…well, white-washed, you know?

What do you think?  Do you love the show?  Hate it?  Love to hate it?  Not able to care less about it?

Fifty Shades of Grey 

So I finally got around to reading this after my mom (mmm hmm), my brother (MMM HMM), and my father (HOLY MMM SHIT HMM) all urged me to read it.  Because it was such a great “story.”  And because I’d “love” Christian Grey.

Mmm hmm.

Here’s the thing.  It’s an okay story.  A story that has me ensnared, for sure.  But it’s really just okay.  And the sex stuff is fun, though it probably deeply mis-characterizes a lot of BDSM practice (or so I’ve heard).  I mean, it’s gotten me interested in purchasing a fur glove (what the WHAT), so there’s that.  I suppose.

The things is, as much as I think that the Christian Grey character has sweet and lovely moments, I mostly think that he’s a stalker.  And not in the cutesy way that Anastasia describes him as her “stalker.”  (Um, ladies?  If your pet name for your boyfriend is “Stalker,” that’s what we call a red flag.)  He’s creepy.  He’s controlling.  He’s jealous.  He’s scary.  And his terrible past does not make him “broken” in this cute and endearing and “oh, you’re a poor little puppy who I’m going to nourish back to health” way.

What’s more, I don’t think that people In Real Life who have serious stalker tendencies like him also have the genuinely sweet sides that he has.  Christian Grey does not exist in real life.  There are people who are troubled and genuinely sweet in real life.  There are people who might get jealous but are still able to really love in real life.  And there are people who come from terrible pasts and yet learn to love others in real life.

But creepy, jealous, controlling stalkers who are Prince Charmings with hearts of gold do not exist in real life.

And yet, here I am, ordering the next two books in the trilogy from Amazon.  (And good lord, I just noticed that I ordered them with a set of sateen bed sheets, but THIS IS ONLY BECAUSE WE NEED AN EXTRA SET OF SHEETS AND I HAD A GIFT CARD TO BURN, I SWEAR.)

What did you think of “Fifty Shades of Grey”?  Do you think Christian Greys exist in real life?  Or did he creep you the hell out too?

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  1. Hillary

    Okay, phew! I thought I couldn’t comment, but I need to since, like you, I am *way* late to the pop culture game and just finished reading the trilogy *and* am obsessed with Girls.

    Just watched the most recent episode last night and throughout the entire thing I just couldn’t get over the genius of it. It’s so awkwardly awesome and spot on.

    50 Shades….You’ve been ordering silk sheets and I’ve been Googling Ben Wah Balls, which turns out are just cheap tiny marbles, which I can’t imagine being as fun as the book makes them out to be.

    It’s totally over the top and poorly written, but it’s totally put a little zip in my ahem…step. ;) It’s so fictional to me that I didn’t spend much time on him being real or not. I’m more fascinated at the cultural ramifications. There are books being written by religious folks because they are so outraged that Christian ppl are reading it. I saw an adult toy shop say that the toys featured in the book had a 30% sales increase since the book was released. I just find it all so fascinating.

    I agree with Jezebel on this one: “but if it’s making more women feel comfortable discussing their sexuality, we’re all for it.”
    Hillary´s last blog post ..Why I Chose Midwives (Video)

  2. Laura Sullivan-Green
    Laura Sullivan-Green02-12-2013

    I can't comment on the TV show because, sadly, I don't have HBO. But I do have a few thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey. I, too, am in love with the trilogy, though I must say that number 2 is my favorite of three (and not for the kinky (ahem) "sex". I tend to prefer things that I read be literal, i.e. you don't have to 'read between the lines' to get it. But I found a lot of interesting things between the lines of 'Fifty Shades'.

    First, I know people who were grossed out by the BDSM stuff in the book. That its the story of a rapist who took advantage of an innocent girl. I know that BDSM isn't mainstream and all, but they were two consenting adults. If you look past the sex stuff that is beyond your sense of what is "normal", I think there is a really neat tale of developing trust in your partner (Book 1 mostly), learning to compromise with your partner (Book 2 mostly) and forgiving your partner when they do something really stupid and hurtful (throughout the series).

    I certainly don't believe that Christian Grey exists in real life and you are right about the stalker thing. Any girl who has radar would be throwing up the red flags almost immediately upon meeting him. I think that Ana also wouldn't exist either. The odds of someone protecting their virginity for that long then immediately giving it up to some stalker she just met is pretty unlikely, considering they spend a lot of time describing Ana as a good, wholesome, innocent girl who has barely been kissed. The book definitely puts two very extreme characters together in that respect, but then again, that is what makes it so interesting to us, the reader, and makes the contrast so dynamic.

    As with most books/movies/songs that rise to this level of attention, they have elements of truth for many of us, but not all the elements of truth are applicable to everyone. That is part of what makes them best sellers: a commonality to many.

    So, in a nutshell, embrace your inner Dom/Sub personalities (because we all have some of both in us) and have a little fun with a fur glove, ben wah balls or anything else you are willing to give a try! ;)

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      Oh, I’m not grossed out by the BDSM stuff. That’s all I’ll say about that. :) I’ve just heard through the grapevine that some people who regularly practice BDSM weren’t too happy about the portrayal in the book.

      I think the thing about Christian Grey’s character is that although you and I are able to separate fact from fiction here (and I can say that because I know you :-) ), I’d hate for somebody without the same…self-confidence, maybe?–to think that he is somehow an ideal to seek out in a man. Kind of the whole, “he’s so jealous and creepy BECAUSE HE LOVES ME” mentality, you know?

      By the way, I cannot tell you how much I love seeing you tell me to embrace my inner Dom/Sub personality. ;)

  3. Misty Pratt
    Misty Pratt02-12-2013

    Just downloaded the show, so we’ll see what I think (I’m always looking for recommendations for good TV!) As for the books, I’m somewhat of a literary snob, so I really have NO interest in reading something so poorly written (or so I’ve heard). But some day I’d better just jump on the bandwagon and take a peek, ’cause really, who HASN’T read them?? I don’t want to be left out or anything ;)

    • Kate

      I haven’t read them either :) I forced my way through the twilight books because my teenage nieces were reading them and I wanted to actually know what I was talking about when I told them how horrible they were (rather than just basing it on all the feminist analyses I’d read). Having put myself through the torture of those I don’t feel the need to read the bad fan fic.

      • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

        HA! Yeah, I thought Twilight was horrible AND YET I couldn’t stop myself from reading (nay, devouring) all four in the series. I don’t know what this means. (I’ve compared it how I know that the nachos at the movie theatre are horrible for my body AND YET I can’t say no to them.)

  4. Kate

    I tried to watch the first episode of “Girls” the other day and I could only make it about halfway through. I didn’t think it was bad I just apparently have a low tolerance for whiny these days :P

  5. Ren

    I think that pairing these two pieces of pop culture is interesting.

    I haven’t seen Girls yet, though I want to! And I have found the controversy surrounding the latest episode *fascinating*. I loved the article you tweeted earlier. In the Girls episode that has caused so much fuss this week, a young woman lives out the fantasy of having good sex with a hot guy and it is framed in such a way as to emphasize her independence (at least that is my sense of what happened, haha).

    As for 50 Shades . . . well, I have my concerns, but I haven’t read the books. I hear what people are saying about how it is great if these books are getting women to get in touch with their sexuality and all that jazz. But I have seen evidence that there are a lot of people reading those books who are just running with the idea that Christian Grey is a romantic hero or ideal, and I find it alarming to see women (especially young women) taking that position. In 50 Shades, it seems like the fantasy of having good sex with a hot guy is framed in such a way as to romanticize male control over women’s behavior and sexuality.

    Some of the responses I have seen from male critics about this Girls episode make it pretty clear that they think women should only be allowed to have sex under a certain set of circumstances, that it is somehow wrong or disturbing – or just flat out impossible – for a regular woman to have a fulfilling sexual encounter with an attractive man on her own terms and without being controlled by him (not sexually, but in other ways). And I think they are reflecting a wider opinion, unfortunately. I wish there would be a series as successful as 50 Shades or Twilight that would offer women romantic ideals and sexual fantasies that involved the female protagonist having more experience, wisdom, intelligence, and strength.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      HA! Yeah, it is a pretty “interesting” pair, isn’t it? And I think your sense of the latest episode is spot on. I can’t tell you how many times I had to pause the show on Sunday so that Tim and I could gush about how brilliant the whole thing was. I can’t wait until you (and Gretchen, if she’s interested in it) are able to watch it.

      And yes, I also think your sense of the problems with 50 Shades are spot on as well. Equally problematic with the Christian Grey ideal is the Anastasia ideal (aka the virginal woman seeking to rescue poor little puppy dog men and submit to her lover in these strangely pouty and superficially powerful ways).

      Oddly enough, the chaste Twilight series sparked my sex life up more than 50 Shades has. Could be that I was a little less sleep-deprived when I read that series, though. :)

  6. Your Kiss is on my List
    Your Kiss is on my List02-23-2013

    […] how I said I was reading Fifty Shades of Grey and that, while I didn’t think that it was on the road to winning any major prizes in […]

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