PGTW: Fifty shades of meh

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 19 February 2015, Thursday

Fifty shades of meh

No, I haven’t seen the film “Fifty Shades of Gray.”

No, I haven’t read any of E. L. James’s books, after I was given a copy of the first one a couple of years back and cracked it open to a portion where the protagonist Anastasia exclaims, “Holy cow!”

No, I have no intention of aggravating myself with what I believe is bad prose and a dull, unexciting narrative born from a fan-fiction of Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight, of which I hold an equally low view, more for the quality of the writing than the erotic content.

What I find interesting in relation to this is the discourse that has erupted about erotica, specifically the kind geared toward a female audience.

Erotica refers to artistic works that sexually arouse or stimulate, whether literature, visual art, film, music, or other art form.

It is differentiated from pornography, with the latter portraying explicit sex acts and having a negative connotation of being degrading and exploitative.

FSOG’s merits or demerits as either have been hotly debated. Its unexpected popularity among a certain demographic – women over 30 – has led to its being called “mommy porn.” Certainly the only people I know who’ve read it are female officemates in their 30s to 60.

When the books came out a couple years back, there was much giggling and lending back and forth of the volumes. One male lawyer I know, seeing the demand, gave copies at Christmas to the ladies of his acquaintance.

While the feedback from my friends who’ve seen the film is mostly negative (“It sucks, and I don’t mean that in a good way”) there are positive reviews, mainly from a shallow perspective, but then, who said FSOG was deep?

An officemate said his wife watched with her girlfriends and they enjoyed the film. In his opinion, “Women like it because finally there’s a movie for them about their sexual fantasies, although regular guys are like, whatever.”

What women might be fantasizing about might not necessarily be the acts themselves – the pornographic bits – but the attention that millionaire Christian lavishes on Anastasia. Who wouldn’t want to be whisked away in a helicopter and regaled with gifts?

The downside is that the kind of men who do that are creepy, possessive, and abusive – like Christian. But just as we used to do with the Danielle Steel novels we read in high school, we can skip to the juicy parts, which I suspect is what many women who read FSOG did.

What’s worth reading are the parodies that have sprung up around FSOG, especially the genuinely hilarious ones on Twitter. At a maximum of 140 characters, there’s no room for sloppy writing or a bad joke.

My favorites are Fifty Shades of Gran (from the point-of-view of senior women) and the older Fifty Sheds of Grey (men with tools).

From @50ShadesGran: “She fixed me with a gaze filled with sensuality, eroticism, and deep, passionate desire. Either that or her glaucoma was playing up again.”

“I need it now!” she panted desperately, getting down on all fours at my feet. It was always the same when she lost a jigsaw piece.”

From @50ShedsofGrey: “I’m a bad girl,” she moaned as she bent over my workbench. “I deserve to be punished.” “Very well,” I said, and cancelled her credit card.”

“She leant over the kitchen table. “Smack that bottom,” she squealed. “Smack it hard!” “I am,” I said, “But the ketchup just won’t come out.”

Last Valentine’s Day, the hashtag #MNL50ShadesOfGray debuted: @iamloves: “He hold my hand. I’m nervous. With his husky voice, he whispered in my ears: “Open-minded ka ba sa networking?”

@1nutty_hazel: “He smiled at me as if he knew a naughty secret. He leans over and whispers…”Miss, bukas zipper mo.”

Comedy is as sensual as erotica in its appeal of and titillation of the senses, and a funny partner, one who makes you laugh, is also often romantic and sexy and will bring you pleasure on many levels, not necessarily the physical.

And in the end, isn’t that what we really fantasize about having – a relationship that

transcends the ordinary? ***

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