Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another Shade of Grey

Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan
A while back, The Hunger Games suddenly started to appear in public. You’d be sitting on the subway and someone would be reading the book opposite you. They’d get up and it wasn’t unusual to find that someone else was reading the same edition of the book not very far away. That person could have been a man or a woman. There was a point at which the Harry Potter books were everywhere, but you didn’t see them on subways or buses since they were mostly read by children who don’t tend to read while they are strap hanging  in the way that adults do. Is penetrating the correct word to use for Fifty Shades of Grey? In any case, it’s everywhere—on planes, on buses on subways, but it’s only women who possess copies of the book. What Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Gray all have in common is that they are fantasy and so we can conclude the obvious: that in a world in which reading is increasingly being supplanted by visual forms of entertainment which don’t require much imaginative work, certain kinds of fantasy still capture the minds of an increasingly illiterate public. On the other hand, “the penetration” of Fifty Shades is also a psycho-sexual phenomenon. The book is notorious for its sadomasochistic sexuality which includes bondage and spanking and yet women of all shapes and sizes are not only reading it in public without the camouflage of say of the Kindle, which had initially been a popular place to indulge their interest in the kind of risqué romance fiction whose covers could be a source of embarrassment. They are flaunting it. Are readers of the book actually making a statement? Is the exhibitionism of reading the book in public part of the thrill? Are all these women saying “ravish me” to the potential Christian Greys sitting across from them on the uptown 4? Is Fifty Shades of Grey a revolutionary phenomenon like Occupy Wall Street? Have the masses of women reading it in public not only demonstrated their love of fantasy, but actually crossed some line in which they are now ready to act?

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