Fine, Let’s Do This: Recapping EL James’s “The Mister”

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.

3 thoughts on “Fine, Let’s Do This: Recapping EL James’s “The Mister”

  1. Pingback: Webster’s Dictionary Defines Heavy-Handed As…: “Prologue” of The Mister | Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

  2. Hey, welcome back! 😀

    I also think the Twilight hate train was excessive. The series definitely has its flaws, but there are a ton of equally bad or worse SF that didn’t attract such a massive hatedom.

    Nowadays Twilight probably wouldn’t attract a hatedom because now it’s just one example of a massive genre it popularised, if not created. 🙂 And honestly, as a book it’s okay. I will complain every chance I get about Meyer rendering her viewpoint character unconscious for the climactic scene of the novel, but overall it’s fine.

    Fifty Shades, on the other hand, found a way to be irritating to pretty much every possible group. It’s terribly written which annoys people who like well-written books. It glamourises an abusive relationship which irritates feminists, progressives and everyone who cares about that. It paints that abusive relationship as being a BDSM relationship, which irritates those familiar with BDSM who know that consent and respect are basic tenets of BDSM. It annoyed fans of erotica because it’s just not very good erotica. And so on.

    I won’t deny that it obviously has a huge fanbase, even if I don’t understand why. And if they want to enjoy it, cool. But there are *lots* of reasons to think poorly of Fifty Shades. Characterising dislike of it as just – or even mostly – backlash against middle-aged women enjoying a racy book is just inaccurate.

    It will be interesting to see how E L James fares stepping completely outside her existing franchise. Even J K Rowling struggled with that.

    • Hello! Good to hear from you.

      I think I agree with 50 Shades in general, but part of me still wants to go into The Mister with some level of objectivity — and an ability to say, “Was I too harsh? Did I rush to criticize it because everyone else was?”

      Not to give anything away, but so far… the answer is no.

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