In the years since I wrote my Grey recaps, I had a slight change of heart where EL James was concerned.
Not because I suddenly felt that hers’ was a work of staggering genius, but rather that it is curious that the two most hated works of fiction in the last 10-ish years were Twilight and its imitator, 50 Shades.
It’s interesting to reflect that we probably wouldn’t jump on this weird, seething hate bandwagon of Twilight now. I’d like to think that today, we’re somewhat more aware that Twilight hate was ultimately an attack on the desires of teenage girls and middle-aged women.
Especially when we largely leave alone the endless fantasy paperbacks aimed at boys where a generic white man is the “chosen one” in a land filled with mythical creatures and wizards and guys who feel compelled to name their swords.
But sexy vampires preying on generic white girls? Ridiculous. We must put a stop to it.
The only thing more pathetic than a 13 year old girl loving Twilight, as the narrative went, was her 45 year old mom enjoying it as well.
Then came 50 Shades, which served as a way of giving the Twi-Moms a story to call their own. And yes, there were many amazing, nuanced critiques of 50 Shades that called into question its treatment of women, its treatment of BDSM, and its treatment of the glorification of wealth and consumerism. And they were valid criticisms.
But we can’t pretend that the vast majority of people weren’t relishing in making fun of women over the age of 40 enjoying something a bit “naughty”.
If a 50 year old man with a paunch wants to imagine that he’s James Bond, we shrug and let him. If a 50 year old woman with a paunch wants to sit back and imagine she’s sleeping with a rich billionaire who owns a bunch of paddles, we laugh at her.
But what if we could just agree that both fantasies are kind of stupid, and just let people enjoy them?
So, all of this is to say — yes, I’m going to recap The Mister. But I’m going to try to do so through a somewhat more modern cultural lens where I at least ask myself to consider what it is about me, and society in general, that delights in picking apart these narratives as demonizing female sexuality. Because in many ways, the more we rail against 50 Shades, the more we prevent better romance novels from emerging to replace it.
At least, that’s my theory. And my plan.
But I’ll still probably have some cool gifs, so don’t worry too much.