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"Fifty Shades of Confused: Why do people like this book?"

on Saturday, 16 June 2012. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

CNN

A few weeks ago, I heard the sort of whispered murmurs in my local bookstore that are reserved solely for people who want to buy books that they don't want other people to know they are buying. Furtive glances and giggles echoed back as happy customers walked out the door, peering into the brown paper bags containing such worthwhile literature.

Interest piqued, I asked the clerk what book the women had purchased.

"Oh, 'Fifty Shades of Grey,'" she replied. "You don't know about that?"

I was a bit late to the party, admittedly. The novel came out last year and has since drummed up a tremendous amount of attention. A British author named E.L. James penned it as "Twilight" fanfiction at first, then rewrote it with original characters. It tells the story of  a young, inexperienced woman and an older man with a taste for whips and chains. It's like the "Twilight" craze all over again, but with less supernatural creatures and more bondage gear.

I thought I got why everyone wanted to slink out of the store with this book. I spend plenty of time appreciating Japanese and Korean male idols, and I love their sexy photo shoots. "Fifty Shades of Grey" has lots of titillating themes: hot people having hot sex, wish fulfillment, virgin and master. What's not to like?

But I read it. And I just don't get it.

Christian Grey, the novel's central male character, is already a popular heartthrob, despite the fact that fans haven't seen his face outside of their imaginations. And when some hopelessly sexy actor plays him in the film adaption, Grey will skyrocket off the charts as the hottest fictional dude since Edward Cullen.

So why is this guy in so many women's fantasies? And what's the big deal about "Twilight with sex," as "Fifty Shades of Grey" has commonly been called?

Part of the answer lies in fanfiction itself, and the fans that create and consume it. ...

 

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