Saturday, February 7, 2015

Fifty Shades of — oh boy!

It has been a busy, busy, buuuuusy couple of months for me, and I brilliantly decided I would add to my busy-ness by blogging about some of the things that have been making me busy. Because, you know, I can’t afford therapy and blogging is free.

Shut up.

Anyway. I have to blur the line between personal and professional here for a moment to explain one of the things making me busy, because it involves the day job. I don’t really try to hide the fact I’m a journalist by day and romance writer by night. I work for a small magazine, which means in addition to reporting, I also handle social media, shoot video, take pictures, do graphic design, and so on. Small publication staffs are full of jack-of-all-trades like that. One of the things I enjoy doing are movie reviews. Movie geek, right here (points at self). Generally, my movie reviews are geared toward families because that’s our magazine's market. It’s fun. I enjoy it.

To make a long story short, I recently got assigned to cover all things “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the movie. The person who assigned it to me was very enthusiastic about it. He was hinging it on that degrading "mommy porn" label these books got slapped with whenever. My review is supposed to be "for moms" because, you know, men couldn't possibly want to see this movie AT ALL. I was told to contact the studio for production notes, for trailers, to stalk the cast, whatever.

“Cover all the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' things. Cover them all!” — That’s the gist of it.

I did contact my "friends" at the studios, the ones who handle all the marketing and often let me see movies for free before the public gets to see them and who invite me to press junkets. Predictably, I never got a response. No doubt those folks have been inundated with requests from media for this movie since January rolled around and it started blowing up.

I was busy, so eh, I just let it slide. Moved onto other things, such as preparing for the Oscars. As you may recall, I am partially insane and attempt to see all of the Oscar nominations every year. Yep. All of them. I'll be live-tweeting the Oscars this year again from our sister newspaper's account, so I have gotta squeeze in those movies when I can. This has also contributed to my busy-ness, as has reading books for a contest I agreed to judge, and you know, other life stuff.

So back to Fifty Shades.

I won’t go into specifics, but it was also suggested that I write my review from the perspective of someone “who writes books like that.” Wouldn’t that just be fun and different?

Oh boy.

Let me preface this by saying I have nothing against the Fifty Shades of books. Yes, I read them. I don’t think my books remotely fall into the same genre. Maybe I’m wrong or self-delusional. I don't know. I do know I don't write erotica. I generally don't read it either, so I can't even judge the genre based on these books. I'm smart enough to know that.

For what it’s worth, I liked the "Fifty Shades of Grey" books more than I didn’t like them. I had a tough time with the first book. Not gonna lie. Too much of it seemed almost plagiarized from “Twilight” – too many descriptions and passages almost word-for-word — and I seriously wanted to take a red pen and do some tightening on the prose. And the sex! Come on, after a point I was bored with so much sex that I just flipped past it. But as a reader, the book overall reminded me of the Harlequins I used to read in college, with the alpha male and the strong-willed heroine who turns him into a better man in the end. Say what you will, but EL James has talent at building chemistry between her hero/heroine. My friend loved the books and so I kept on reading. I read all three books and liked the next two vastly more than I liked the first for whatever reason.

I’m fortunate that I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, so I wasn’t overly sensitive to those domestic and sexual violence triggers, although I certainly can't say they're not valid. Christian Grey can be a seriously controlling bastard. Then there's the "It's pornography! You're going to hell if you read/see this" argument. And the "You're not a feminist" if you support it arguments. And "how can you support books that started as fan fiction and still call yourself a writer" argument. What can I say?  I suppose all the arguments are valid to a degree. It’s all about perspective, and my perspective is obviously different from a lot of people who read these books and outright hated them for (fill in the blank with a reason). I just didn't take the books seriously enough to see those things, I guess. I looked at them as a mostly enjoyable way to kill several hours. I also realize I just put a target on my back for saying all of that. Let me go grab my imaginary bullet-proof vest real quick.

OK, I'm back, and now that I'm protected, I'll be even more honest. I’ve been getting excited to see this movie with every trailer I sneak a peak at. Maybe it’s the movie geek in me, but I love seeing movies that are adapted from books, although I have never seen one that was better than the book, except maybe "Gone Girl," because I loathed that book but actually liked the movie. So like "Gone Girl," I think “Fifty Shades of Grey” might be the exception to that rule for me because I think a movie, by nature, will force them to tighten the story and eliminate all the cringe-worthy parts. And that’s why I’m getting excited to see it, although it will be hella awkward seeing it with my co-worker/good friend on opening night in a packed theater and then writing about it afterward.

Truth is, while I’m getting excited to see the movie, I’m also getting cold feet about writing a review for it, although I’m pretty sure I’m nailed into that at this point.

The book — and the movie, as it turns out — are very polarizing. No matter how I write my review, it will get comments. I will get emails from very angry people in my community blasting me for supporting the opposite of their viewpoint. There will be letters to the editor blasting me for writing it, period. I’m no green reporter. I’m an experienced journalist. I’m used to these things, have developed a thick skin about it, but for some reason, this one makes me nervous, guys. Because I am a romance writer AND a journalist, and ultimately, this review could affect my role as both.

So yeah, I’m nervous, but you know what? I’m not judging this movie until I see it. That’s kind of my cardinal rule about all the things. And when I sit down and write my review, you can trust it will be my honest opinion, good or bad, and it will be about the movie — not the book. It also won't be from the perspective of a romance novelist because, one, I wasn't comfortable with that and, two, neither was "the big boss" apparently. Whew!

And also, with people being beheaded, children starving on other continents, people suffering from diseases we haven't yet cured, and real violence happening every second against men, women and children somewhere, I'm not going to get too worked up over these books or this movie.

Know what I mean?

What about you? Are you planning to see the movie? Absolutely not? Tell me. I want to know! Are you a "Fifty Shades" hater or lover or eh, who cares?

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