Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey: A Winning Formula?

By Meg Curtis, PhD

E L James conquered the bestseller list with Fifty shades of Grey.  As the Daily Mail informed us on 18 June 2012, " Fifty Shades of Grey outstrips Happy Potter to become fastest selling paperback of all time." How did she do it? Clues trail though the text like coding left by the Stuxnet cyber-attack on Iran.

Well, this book is about domination. What did you expect? It turns the war between the sexes—a traditional theme—into a study in colonialism. Here, characters occupy each other, preoccupy each other, and battle for control over ego, body, soul. Sounds like a political campaign, doesn’t it—or even the wars the US has engaged in for the last eleven years?

As you might expect again, E L James proves no stranger to the media. Wikipedia informs us that she is a former television executive. Look no farther than Two and a Half Men for the secrets to her success. What do the characters of that famous comedy harbor on their minds night and day? Sex, sex, sex. It’s a winning formula. Nobody knows that better than a TV exec.

And, as Charlie Sheen knows very well, too, keep the blondes rolling across the screen, and your audience can’t get enough of you. E L James does Charlie one better, though: She creates a male lead who’s as copper-haired as they come, but calls him GREY!  She could have called him Red, Blue, or Green, but she called him a neutral shade. Why?

Because, if you remember your cinematic history, black and white cinematography, just like black and white photography, still tantalizes us with the most intense scenes ever shot by Hitchcock, especially the shower scene. So, shower scenes you will find here a plenty. Black and white TV still holds the memory card, too, for immediacy and improvisation--and at least half of every black and white scene consists of shades.

And that is exactly what you get in Fifty Shades of Grey:  bodies up, bodies down, as if you were in  Charlie’s bedroom: a charismatic and wounded male pitted against the determination of female innocence;  and plentiful variations on a formula which works every time—unless you call execs disgusting names and go on a tour to prove what a genius you are. 

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