Saturday, February 14, 2015

It's never "just" a book

Honestly, I am so, so over this 50 Shades of Grey book and movie. I do not like either. The writing is horrible. The main female character, Ana, is unbelievable. The main male character, Christian Grey, is an abusive jerk. Oh, and did I mention the writing is HORRIBLE and it is about an abusive relationship? No, no it's not the BDSM that makes it abusive. BDSM in a normal, healthy relationship done properly between consenting adults is fine. Their relationship is not normal, healthy, the BDSM is not done right (from what I understand), nor do I think Ana is mature enough to fully consent to the BDSM. 

People say, "it's just a book." No, it's not. There is no such thing as "just" a book. "Just" implies that books do not have the power to influence people. That's never the case. All books have the power to influence the reader. Isn't that was every writer wants- to arise emotion in their reader, for good or ill? Romance novels want to draw the reader into the characters' world and turn the reader on. Fantasy takes you to another world. Self-help books give you ideas and tips on improving areas of your life. Certain novels, like The Hunger Games, 1984, Brave New World, point out flaws in our current society within the releam of a dystopia or uptopian universe. 

The written word always has the power to influence people. If it had none, why do people try to ban books? Why did certain societies burn books that they considered dangerous? (Think of the book burning scene in The Book Thief. Heck, think of the whole novel! If books weren't considered a dangerous influence on society, why did she have to steal them?) Books can change society, insight riots and be powerful forces of propganda. Don't believe me? Consider some of these books:

The Bible (the very word comes from the word for book, biblo)
The Koran
The Torah
Uncle Tom's Cabin (Remember learning about this book in history class when you studied the American Civil War?)
The Diary of Anne Frank (How many of you identified with her and were awakened to the horrors of Nazi Germany?)
Night by Ellie Weisel
Walden and "On Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau (The latter is an essay but both inspired Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr)
The Harry Potter series
The Hunger Games (protesters in India have adopted Katniss' three fingered salute that became a symbol of protest and defiance in the novels.)
Mien Kampf by Adolph Hilter. (Yep, THAT Hilter)

Now, I know what you're thinking- most of these are classic works of literature that you have read and analyze in English classes. Most people don't willing read them and "fluff" novels outsell classic literature. And you know what? You're right! 

Who wasn't moved by The Fault in Our Stars? You'd have to have the heart of a Weeping Angel to  not be moved by that book. When I say "Kansas" do you think about Dorothy and Toto? The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a book long before it was a movie. Shannon Stacy writes romance novels- not "Mommy P0rn" but romantic books with well developed characters and hilarious dialogue. You'll fall in love with the Kowalski family and isn't that the point of reading novels- to fall in love (or hate) the characters? To be invested in their outcome? (Come on... you know you wanted to throw the third Divigrent book across the room when.... well, read it.)

To say something is "just ____" implies that it is the least of something. It has no power. If books are "just" and thus have no power over readers, why do we fight so hard to make sure every child has an education? Why do people get riled up when certain classes (girls, minorities, etc) are denied an education? If words don't mean anything and books are a "just," then it shouldn't matter if everyone can read and write, huh?

No sane person will say that literacy is a "just" or that it is not important for everyone. Thus, words and books have power, the power to change the world and influence society. Yes, even poorly written fluff novels like 50 Shades.

50 Shades is marketed directly at women. As my sister said on Facebook, it's too believable. It's too close to home. Although some of it is stupid (like Ana having never read or used e-mail- come on!), it's "fantasy" doesn't have to do with things that don't exist, like vampires and werewolves. Billionaires are real. Rape is real. Child abuse is real. To say that everyone who reads this should know better is victim blaming. Not everyone has had the role models in life to know that the relationship in this book isn't healthy and that Christian Grey isn't a desirable man.

Should these books be banned? No. (I do wonder how the hell they were published in the first place since the writing is so bad!) I don't believe in banning books. However, the fact that they are marketed as showing a great relationship, or new ideas to spice up the bedroom (for the love of... read up on how to that properly!) and that Grey is something more than a mentally effed up rapist. I do think these books could influence a generation of young woman to think that a man who controls you, tracks your phone, stalks you, acts angry/jealous when you speak to other men, etc is "showing how much he loves you." Is this actually possible? Considering how heavily this book has been marketed, the audience that reads it, the power of literature and the level of denial that people exhibit when it comes to this boo and movie... it's not out of the realm of possibility. At all. 

For more on the topic of why 50 Shades is abusive:
Rosie Reviews
50 Abusive Moments in 50 Shades

And a big thanks to Katnissdoesnotfollowback for the inspiration!