The very talented Tobsha Learner explains to Piatkus why in today's climate we're just gagging for someone to rescue us and how Christian Grey has become such an iconic and appealing hero (anti-hero?).
But perhaps we should clear away the fluff, wake up from the dream and leave the Room of Pain for something better . . .
The appeal of Christian Grey is fascinating in a really dark kind of way. I think you could probably break up his magneticism into several different factors, above and beyond his waxed chest, uber-groomed-Ralph-Lauren, marinated-in-Tom-Ford-fragrance-Extreme, personal-trainer-for-two-hours-a-day, egg-whites-only, copper-haired physique.
Firstly, the harshness of the current economic climate means most of us are desperately seeking an escape, either into romance, celebrity sites, reality TV, anything that gives us hope – hope of being rescued from a future that seems to contain nothing but ongoing recession, apocalyptic weather that might mean the end of the world as we know it, corrupt and inept governance, more rain and the very real possibility of being retrenched. Christian Grey is it: the ultimate white knight who promises not only to rescue you from a menial existence at the fringes of the office pecking order, but also to provide you with your clothing (designer – nothing under a grand; no more scrabbling around for last season at sale prices), your orgasms (even better he ties you up and services you!!!) – no more faking it or depending on the loneliness of long-distance buzzing Rabbit – your food (top notch and calorie aware, so . . . ooo metro-sexual) and, if you’re a talentless wannabe writer undergoing the chagrin of internship, your very own publishing house!! (Although, frankly there are quite a few media tycoons desperate to sell theirs at the moment). Mr Grey is also ‘hung’, practises safe sex and your mother will love him. What’s not to like? (OK, there’s the whip thing, but hey, it’s not like any of his exes have placed restraining orders on him and he does cut his toenails).
The other incredibly seductive aspect is every woman’s dream of being the first to change the bad boy. This is the stuff of all Jane Austen, Brontë and all the other early ‘romance’ writers (because, frankly, that’s what they are). What woman has not fallen for some dysfunctional good-looking schmuck with the idea that, unlike all the other women (read victim here) that had gone before her, she is going to be THE ONE who will transform the impossibly good-looking cad into a committed besotted creature who falls to his knees and screams marry me to remain happily-ever-after-monotonous . . . opps, I meant monogamous. Even better, E.L. James has given the pre-requisite traumatic back-story to Uber-cad – the kind of personal history we have all used in the past to excuse the most appallingly exploitative behaviour from such men. It is well known that people who suffer child abuse often grow up to be abusers. Women look for narratives to explain bad behaviour, but we also think by understanding the bad boy’s traumatised past we can fix him. In the real world we can’t, and the number of battered wives is testimony to that. Fifty Shades is a fairy tale. Fantasise on.
Tobsha Learner’s collections of erotic short stories, Quiver, Tremble and Yearn, are published by Entice, Little, Brown as ebooks, available from e-retailers for £2.99, and will published in paperback by Piatkus on the 4th of October.
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