Sunday, July 15, 2012

Don't Hate 50 Shades of Grey

Perhaps you've heard the hype surrounding the recent phenomenon.  Maybe you can't understand why it's so popular.
  • Some say the quality is poor.
  • Others point to its awkwardness.
  • And is it really so original?
I'm talking about the Square-1 of course.

The Square-1 is a twisty puzzle.  I like twisty puzzles.

When solved, The Square-1 ends up as a six-sided colored cube.  Yep, I'm a cuber, keep going.

The Square-1 offers a unique challenge and it changes shapes when it's scrambled.  Again, sounds like something right up my alley.

Yet, I don't particularly like this puzzle.  But I don't hate it either.

The Square-1 is sliced through the middle on a diagonal axis that makes it rather different to solve than other puzzles like the Rubik's Cube.
I could appreciate what the Square-1 set out to do as a puzzle.  You turn faces.  You attempt to move pieces around the puzzle.  And you try to match all of the colors on each side.  

For me, it was a bit more painful to solve, but it had me intrigued.  I was hooked.  The Square-1 had that something to keep me at it until I was done with it.

And that was why I didn't set my Square-1 ablaze after I discovered it's not so much like the Rubik's Cube after all.

Let's move on to the recent phenomenon, 50 Shades of Grey, and see if there's something to appreciate in it, too.

Love it or hate it, this novel by E.L. James has become wildly popular.

I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and write a scathing (or praising) review of the book.  I really just want to point out there may be a lesson we can all glean from its popularity.

Sure the grammar may be awkward and the dialogue trying.  And there are already scores of blogs and websites dedicated to bashing the book.  But none of that academic stuff really matters.  It's not the writing style.  It's not the subject matter.

There must be something else between the covers that connects with so many people.


One of the biggest reasons for the popularity of this novel is character identification.

When you identify with characters in a story it's easier to suspend disbelief.  It's easier to ignore minor author annoyances.  You really just want to find out what happens to the characters.  Am I saying everybody who loved the book is into Sadomasochism?  No.  To identify with a character is not the same as imitating the character.

But what woman hasn't felt undesirable at some point and think she's not beautiful?  It can create a longing to feel desired and told you're beautiful.

Could this craving in Anastasia, the main character, be one of the things readers connect so deeply with?
And of course Christian Grey is a layered character in the novel -- it's called 50 Shades of Grey after all.  He's controlling, but he wants to be accepted too.  People can identify with these basic character struggles even if they do not share all of their specific traits or feelings.

I really think the lesson here is the character identification in 50 Shades of Grey is what strikes a chord that resonates so deeply with a lot of people.

Why do you think it's so popular?


  1. You've intrigued me. I want to read 50 Shades of Grey now, and to think, no one else was able to convince me before ;)

    1. Okay, but don't blame me please. This was not really meant to be an endorsement :-) Just remember you cannot un-read something. But if you do learn something from it, then it will be worth it. Who knows? You may be one of the people who ends up loving it.

  2. You read it??? And, blogged about it. Nice.... Sorry, I am so late in reading this.

    1. I must confess I have not read it, nor do I intend to. I'm pretty sure I'm not the target audience ;-)

      My intent was to blog about the phenomenon rather than the book itself. But I'd rather be guilty of finding praise in something I haven't read versus criticizing something I haven't read.