I’ve been watching the whole thing about #AskELJames with interest. I haven’t read 50 Shades. I read the first chapter and decided it wasn’t for me. So I can’t comment on the books. What interests me is the discussion about abusive relationships that it’s raised (again).
As I mentioned, I haven’t read 50 shades. But I have read Twilight, and I find the relationship between Bella and Edward very disturbing indeed. Firstly, Bella talks the talk about wanting to be independent and not get married etc, but really, all she wants is to be Edward’s – mind, body and soul. Even when he points out the bit about losing her soul, she doesn’t care. She wants to be his. So much so that, when he leaves her to re enact the plot from Romeo and Juliet, she crumbles and may as well be dead. So the message is – girl, without your man, you are nothing. Nothing, I tell you. Best throw yourself off a cliff just to get a glimpse of him in case your neurones fire images of him at you while they die.
Then there’s the controlling behaviour. It is not okay to separate her from her friends, to tell her where she can go, what she can do. It’s not protective, it’s overbearing. And that thing about him breaking into her room to watch her sleep? Ewwww. NOT okay. I don’t care if he sparkles in daylight.
Fifty Shades is clearly an erotic fantasy aimed at the adult reader. Twilight is aimed at young girls. There’s no sex in it (not until they get married and nothing graphic even then), but that doesn’t mean it’s suitable reading. As a love story, it’s good fun. I’m adult enough to realise that Bella isn’t a role model and Edward is a made up character. It didn’t rock my world, but I can see how it could appeal to women my age because it reminds us of something we longed for when we were in our teens. But I’ve spoken to very young teenagers who are so totally into it that they see it as a reflection of something real. They want to be Bella and have their Edward, even if he does try to command every aspect of her life. They don’t see that ‘it’s only because he loves me’ is a dangerous excuse.
One of the things I tried to understand when I wrote Doctor January is why an otherwise normal, well-adjusted young woman would allow herself to be bullied by a man who is supposed to love her and why, when she’d escaped from him once, she would keep going back to him, again and again. Writing Beth was hard because I mostly wanted to shake her and shout ‘get out, get out’. It was difficult to show that she wasn’t someone who went around with ‘victim’ stamped on her forehead. Luckily for me, Hibs was already in love with her and saw her strengths. Thank goodness for Hibs, in so many ways. (He’s also very cute and I might fancy him just a little bit – and yes, I DO know he’s fictional, which just makes it better because he won’t leave his dirty socks lying around or anything unsavoury like that).
Can we, as readers, separate fiction from real life? Do teenagers use people from books as role models? What do you think?