A Note about “Trashy” Novels

Yeah, I know I said I was going to do another post about all the books that are meaningful to me, but that’s not going to happen.  Let’s face it, I’ve got a “Books I Recommend” page that includes all the books that I found most meaningful, and it would be too difficult to decide on only a few to talk about.

So, on to a topic that I’ve explored before.

50 Shades of Grey
I was talking with a fellow server at IHOP when she asked me if I watched the Vampire Diaries TV show.  I told her I did not since I am a big fan of the books (Or I was; I kind of grew bored of the series after a while) and the show basically did the same thing as the Ella Enchanted and Percy Jackson movies and True Blood – they kept the names the same and based the plot on the blurb on the back cover.  I mean…Vampire Diaries didn’t even keep all the names the same.  They changed Aunt Judith to Aunt Jenna and turned Elena’s four-year-old sister into a teenage brother with a drug problem.  So…yeah.
Anyway, when she found out I was a book person, my fellow server asked me if I had read 50 Shades of Grey.  I told her I’d tried to (and I blogged about my experience with it not once, but twice).  She then expressed genuine surprise at the fact that I was not captivated by the yarn that E. L. James spun.  I began to cite my reasons – namely the lack of pacing, the fact that it’s just fan fiction, the overuse of the “inner goddess” and “subconscious,” and, of course, the fact that she was using the concept of the “subconscious” incorrectly.  My colleague rebutted with “Yeah, but who cares?” and “No, haven’t you ever looked at a guy and thought, ‘Oh, he has a great ass,’ or something like that?”  I couldn’t make her understand that “subconscious” does not mean “things that are thought in private without being spoken out loud.”  And all this leads me to a few things that I’d like to point out.  Because that conversation made me angry.  Really angry.
Bex Smash
But I fear that some might misinterpret the direction of my righteous fury, so I wanted to set a few things straight.
1. I have no right (nor does anyone) to tell people what they can and can’t enjoy reading.  I myself enjoyed reading the first Twilight book, before I delved too deeply below the surface.  If people like Twilight and 50 Shades, I can’t stop them.  That’s not my place, and I couldn’t if I wanted to.  What I do hate, and I’ve said this before I think, is fanaticism.  When you throw yourself so wholly into something that you won’t even listen to an opposing opinion – or worse, opposing opinions make you angry – that’s when we have a problem.  For example, I have a lot of Taylor Swift’s music.  I think it’s catchy.  Yet I still loved the post my best friend wrote about her, and if Taylor Swift were on trial for murder, I would not volunteer to act as a witness in her defense.  I don’t know the girl.  I accept that I like her music without showing loyalty to her as a person.  If someone else doesn’t like her music, I don’t punch them.
2. I have no problem with people reading any novels that fall under the following categories: Romance, Beach Read, Chick Lit, Trashy, Girl Porn, etc.  I myself write books that Barnes & Noble would call “Teen Paranormal Romance.”  And I have read a dozen books by Romance author, Sherrilyn Kenyon, whose male protagonist in one of the books undresses himself twice before having sex.  A different male protagonist – a native Spanish speaker – in one of the other books in the series spoke incorrect Spanish.  “Lo qué son?” he asked, which means roughly “What are they it?”  (It should have been “¿Qué son?”)  The point I’m trying to make here is that you can read and enjoy whatever books you want, and they don’t all have to be Pullitzer-worthy.  What I really want is for people to be able to distinguish between these books and original works of literary genius.  Can there be a romance novel that is a well-written work with depth?  Absolutely!  Are all books created equal?  Nope.  Call me a book racist, but I believe many books are better than others, and I would like other people to acknowledge that, too.
3. Am I a hypocrite?  Earlier I talked about how I dislike fanaticism, blind adoration, and the like.  But I fanatically hate 50 Shades right?  I wrote a ridiculously subjective list of objective reasons why Twilight is bad.  So doesn’t that mean I’m a fanatic?  Maybe.  But let me tell you something:  If you came up to me and said “I enjoyed reading Twilight because…” and inserted a reason or two, I’d listen to you.  I might debate with you.  I like debating.  That doesn’t mean I’ll hate you for your reasons, or think your reasons are invalid.  And, yes, that only makes me slightly better than the fanatics I have decried here today, but it’s something.
4. Most importantly, if people want to read about BDSM then I want them to read it from a book that isn’t going to give them the wrong impression about it.  When I called Christian Grey abusive, my coworker said “NO!  He’s dominant and she’s submissive!  That’s how it works!”  And that’s when I nearly Hulked out.  Because no, that’s not how it works.  When people think of abusive relationships, I think they often miss the fact that abuse doesn’t have to be physical.  Let me run you through a little scenario to explain what I mean.  Keep in mind both Edward Cullen and Christian Grey here, okay?  They’re the same person anyway.
Say you have a daughter.  If you already have a daughter, you are a step ahead.  Congrats.  Say your daughter is sixteen and she comes home one day to tell you that she has a new boyfriend.  You learn quickly that your daughter’s boyfriend…
– Snuck into her room to watch her sleep for months before they started dating.
– Displayed a great deal of jealousy and anger toward all your daughter’s other male friends.
– Made decisions for your daughter, sometimes going as far as breaking her car in order to stop her from seeing a male friend AND/OR deciding he doesn’t like the car she’s driving, so buys her a new one and makes her drive that one instead.
– And finally, last but not least, he told your daughter that he is very, very tempted to kill her.
What would you say to your daughter at that point?  Would you tell her she should love him more for resisting that urge to kill her?  That his not murdering her so far is a point in his favor?  Or would you tell her she couldn’t see this boy anymore?
Okay.  That’s what’s wrong with the relationship in 50 Shades (and Twilight).  Setting aside the fact that Christian goes about initiating a Dom/Sub relationship completely and utterly wrong, he is also a manipulative, controlling, emotionally abusive man.
So, in conclusion, do books like Twilight and 50 Shades make me angry?  Absolutely.  Because I want people to expect more out of the books they read, and to hold authors up to a higher standard.  Do I hate people who enjoy the books?  No.  It just frustrates me and makes me kind of sad, but their lives are theirs.
That’s all.  If you’ve read this far, thank you.  I have an idea for a comic but I haven’t drawn it yet.  Next time!  I promise.
Word of the Day: Decry (v) – To speak disparagingly of; denounce as faulty or worthless; express censure of.
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5 Comments

Filed under books, Humor, writing

5 responses to “A Note about “Trashy” Novels

  1. I agree about the fanaticism. Often I find myself disliking something that is immensely popular, and part of it may actually BE the rabid fanaticism. And it does break my heart that Goodreads named 50 Shades of Poop one of their top books. It’s hard to reconcile myself to living in a world like that.

    I liked Twilight the first time I read it. I don’t think of Edward as being controlling because he was from a world of monsters that played by a different set of rules. If my husband thought I was about to go hang out with someone who was likely to rip my face off if he lost control of himself, I think it would be okay if he took my car keys. That’s how I see the whole Jacob/Edward thing, anyway.

    Of course Edward thought about killing Bella because that’s what vampires do. I think Meyers could have made the point about him denying his nature for love more subtly, but let’s face it. Subtlety isn’t exactly her strength. Which brings me back to me liking it the first time I read it. I loved Meyers’ IDEAS. They were interesting, but soooo poorly executed that if I were forced to read it again, my eyeballs might bleed.

    Discuss?

    • Your point about vampires and werewolves is valid, but the way I saw it, Edward did not let Bella make ANY decisions for herself. When she decided she wanted to be a vampire, he got angry and fought it with everything he had because HE didn’t think it was good for her. When she said she’d be fine with Jacob, he didn’t trust her to be an adult and make that call. There could have been a way to compromise with her rather than taking the drastic measure of breaking her car. When he notices Mike What’s-his-Face liking Bella, he expresses jealousy and anger that is supposed to be endearing (and in fact, I could not resist myself the first time I read it. It was all too easy to see myself in Bella’s place, the only girl who can capture the attention of an “Adonis), but it’s just creepy. Men who are secure about their love should not have cause to feel such anger and jealousy, especially since Bella told him and showed him that she had no interest in the other boys, but he didn’t do her the justice of just friggin believing her. I could go on.

      • I thought Mike amused him.

        I’m not sure about the car part. If I thought someone I loved was going to kill themselves, I would be pretty desperate. There are other parts I’m conflicted about, though.

        I think part of the issue for me is that I am never quite sure if a vampire is frozen in time both emotionally and physically. That wasn’t demonstrated clearly enough, and it’s a giant plot hole. Either he is a dirty old man, or their relationship is doomed to be frozen as a teen love affair. It’s lose-lose.

        And now I have analyzed Twilight twice in one day. I need some Tylenol. I will share if you like!

      • Thanks, but I prefer Advil 🙂

        I don’t know, he was amused at first by some of Bella’s many suitors, but I lose track of which is which from time to time. After all, very few of the characters were given any recognizable personalities or defining characteristics.

      • Ah, yes. Another reason to avoid a re-read.

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