First, in the Business section, Julie Bosman wrote about the word-of-mouth buzz that caused a bidding war among publishing houses for the erotic novel’s re-release, which ended with highbrow Knopf shelling out seven figures for the soft-core and Universal snapping up the film rights.
On Sunday, we couldn’t get away from the Fifty Shades, which was touched on in columns by Frank Bruni and Maureen Dowd.
To Mr. Bruni, Fifty Shades bolstered his “Bleaker Sex” thesis that, for all women’s achievements in higher education and the workplace, there is a “growing chorus of laments over what’s happening on the sexual frontier,” exemplified by Lena Dunham’s Girls.
Just as Girls features humiliating, porn-influenced, “depersonalized” sex, Mr. Bruni wrote, Fifty Shades of Grey is about “a virginal college student presented with a contract to become the ‘Submissive’ to a dashing older man’s ‘Dominant.’”
A Zeitgeist twofer.
But according to Ms. Dowd, the book is only offensive for E L James’s overwrought prose. As her “Harvard-educated” dominatrix source tells her, “every good dominant knows that the submissive is really the partner in control.” Maybe women want to be bossed around in the bedroom because they’re so good at bossing around others in the boardroom.
“The book seems to have resonated with so many women because, after a long day of managing employees, making all the decisions and looking after children, a woman might be exhausted about being in charge and long to surrender control,” the dominatrix explained.
Against the odds, Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley found yet another angle, this one for the Arts desk today. She says the novel’s popularity stems not from the sex, but from Dominant’s wealth, which fulfills women’s regressive cravings for a “riches-and-rescue” Cinderella narrative that TV shows no longer provide them.
So, yes, there’s a Girls tie-ins:
“Heroines on network series like “The Good Wife” on CBS or “Body of Proof” on ABC are professionals who work hard and raise families without much money or emotional support from a man. That’s true on cable as well, be it the pot-selling widow on “Weeds” on Showtime or the single-mother detective on “The Killing” on AMC. It’s even sort of true of the coming “Girls,” on HBO, in which the 20-something lead character doesn’t have a career, children or a happy sex life, despite all kinds of degrading sex with a poor, uncaring would-be actor.”
Now that the entire Times masthead of the has justified reading the dirty book*, the rest of the world is ready for the parody. This week Da Capo bought Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, by Andrew Shaffer, industry satirist behind @evilwiley and @emperorfranzen. According to Publishers Weekly, “the parody brings to life all of the arguments for and against 50 Shades, including the feminist concerns, portrayal of BDSM, roots in Twilight fan-fiction, and EL James’s writing style.”
But will the unanimously beloved Girls get the same treatment?
*This might be a “thing” in and of itself. We recall the equally titillating House of Holes got a lot of airtime too.