Fifty Shades of Grey touches us in skillful ways. It goes very deep, deeper than people like to think about.
I had an awesome prof in grad school who made industrial life and literature come alive. (This industrial and technological life is the one all we live in, right now.)
Dr. Sullivan taught me to how to see cracks in industrialized life. I stepped up my watching when Fifty Shades outsold every known book and had record sales with immediate popularity. I don’t criticize Fifty Shades of Grey; I applaud the manufacturers for their cunning, alert marketing!
Writers like Lawrence said that men had been sexually weakened by industrialization. Women were neglected, but they were intact. Their roles still hovered, for the most part, around their homes. The menfolk, though, traded prosperity for the ‘natural’ world and their own power. Men became machine-like without the potent sexuality of earlier days. They’d become tools or puppets, and less than human; women were still seen as powerful, misunderstood animals.
Into the 20th century, women continued to be deified: natural beings, goddesses, earth mothers. But now dehumanizing, sexually numbing work is more equally shared. Both men and women drive buses, are nurses, doctors, orderlies, and technicians of all kinds. Everyone does customer service. Women of all ages are numbed and hopeless: college girls, adult educated women, care givers, traffic police or, whomever you choose. They all need, buy, read and watch Fifty Shades of Grey.
Why? Women, once seen as goddesses, are exhausted from days and years of soul-tearing, meaningless labor. A university teacher, my students won’t consider anything as flimsy as freelance writing. I wonder if a poet now must also have an M.BA. When I worked in Taiwan, the Chinese doctors did! and university teachers aren’t exempt. I won’t pretend that meaning exists where it doesn’t. My students have meth factories or are brainwashed… that’s my opinion most of the time, for what that’s worth.
Interesting times, now, and perhaps people have fewer choices than ever. People feel they must get hooked into the system with its money, power and life-saving benefits.
Why is Fifty Shades of Grey so popular? Translated into 51 languages and coming to your local theatre, too? Please see above, and consider the truth of the matter. It’s as simple as that.
Forgive my cold detachment, but I wonder what’s next?
Note: I’d recommend a month or a few years of reading Lawrence: everything he wrote, not what people wrote about him. I’d further suggest reading Edward Albee’s plays beyond Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf: Counting the Ways, and onward. Read ‘em all. Sylvia, or The Goat, even touches the 20th century and bestiality. It’s fun! Albee’s characters spoke more openly about 20th century sex than anyone, even hotted up contemporary creations.
Changes – like the ones we live with every day — aren’t so powerful when you share them with visionaries and their good books! Dr. Sullivan – and maybe your own friends and teachers do this for you –helped me widen my interests, become less snobbish about ‘contemporary literature only!’ Even Henry James and Edith Wharton and Goethe had plenty to say about what was ‘trending’, steamrolling over their world.
And now their world is ours.