Saturday, February 7, 2015

Pamela, Shades of Grey, and Voting With My Dollar

I'm hoping this post is coherent because I've had an excessively good day and am a little bit drunk on life. I mean "a little bit" in the same way a car that has been through the Mythbusters treatment is a little bit scratched up.

It was a good day.

Anyway, to the topic of the day. There is this movie coming out over Valentine's weekend that's getting a lot of hype. You know the one. I debated about specifying, because I believe that the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference, and I think the best thing I can do to hurt things I dislike is to ignore them completely. However, I decided to name it with hopes that people searching the movie will find this post and change their minds, so here it is (sigh): 50 Shades of Grey.

I have not been shy about voicing my opinions of this book on my blog. I think it's garbage. Have I read it? In fairness, no. Normally I look down on having an opinion on a book I haven't read, but not this time. Why? This is why. My money is valuable to me. My time is more so. The thoughts that I allow in my head are the most valuable of all. I am not about to waste all three on a story about a psychopath (because that is what he is) subjecting a young woman to horrifying sexual sado-masochism.

There a number of blog posts about why this book and now movie is morally the stuff you scrape from the bottom of the vegetable crisper, so I'm not going to elaborate. Go look those up. I'm speaking as a storyteller who believes that it's our responsibility as artists to create and choose works that enlighten the mind and advance readers to a higher place.

That doesn't mean squeaky-clean writing; it means using sex and violence wisely and for a higher purpose. Anything that is created to titillate is, in my mind, pornography. I admit there is often a fine line. What is in 50 Shades of Grey is not fine writing, it is not deep character drama, and it is not EVER going to be the Great American Novel for any kind of literary value. It's popular because it turns people on. That's all. And that's a tragedy.

Believe it or not, this is not the first time a book like this has become popular. Meet Pamela.

I have read this one. This book was published in 1740 and was the Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey of its time. Get this: the story follows a young woman named Pamela who is hired to work as a maidservant for Mr. B, a rich man. While she's working for him, Mr. B. tries over and over to seduce and even rape her. He hides in her closet to surprise her and gets in bed with her disguised as a maid. (Remember, this was published in 1740.) She stays with him and with time he sincerely proposes and they marry.

Where have I heard this story before? Oh, right.

Pamela was a divisive book. Some people thought it was too licentious, while others saw it as a great conduct book. I shudder to think of 50 Shades of Grey coming to be seen as a conduct book. However, Pamela was very popular during its time. Merchandise, like tea sets with the characters' faces on them, were popular.

This post is getting long, so I will wrap up. I think Pamela is a stupid book. I think any book or film that glorifies violence against women and glorifies women who put up with it is every much not worth my time. I can think of many other books I'd rather read, and movies I'd rather see. So I'll see them. I will not spend a single dollar on that movie coming out this Valentine's, or on its book. With that, I will vote with the only ballot that seems to matter in our culture: my dollar.

My readers, please do the same. If you are on the fence or thinking of seeing it because everyone else will, save your money. Tell Hollywood we don't want this garbage. If they think this is what people want, this is what they'll make. We have the power to ask storytellers for what we want by what we buy. Let's use it.

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