Definitely not Mr Darcy

And then flog you, per the signed contract.

And then flog you, per the contract.

So last night I saw my very first 50 Shades of Grey commercial. Yes, the book everyone referred to as “Mommy Porn” is now a movie, just in time for the Valentine’s Day dinner date.

And who are the movie producers kidding? That thing is first cousin to a Hallmark Channel commercial! The R rating is laughable, given the nature of the book. I guess NC-17 (or XXX) lacks appeal as a date movie. So we’ll have a heavily-edited version in the theaters now, with a no-holds-barred DVD for sale later.

I have not read the books, but a person would have to live under a rock not to know about them. I’ve listened to a lot of talk and have read plenty. The review by Dave Barry is my favorite, which you can read here. (Be aware that Time has attached a trailer for the movie that you cannot turn off. What was on TV was a heavily edited version.)

And I have to wonder why this scenario is so appealing to women. Is the handsome, powerful, wealthy man so attractive that he can do anything? Does a legal contract between adults mean that one can take advantage of a young and insecure partner? Not in my book.

Christian Grey is no Mr Darcy. Nor is Elizabeth Bennet a gullible Anastasia.

Christian Grey is no Mr Darcy. Nor is Jane Austen’s intelligent Elizabeth Bennet the insecure, gullible Anastasia.

I had the same problem with Pretty Women. “It’s a Cinderella story,” one friend gushed. So is 50 Shades also considered a fairy tale? Rather tarnished, these modern fairy tales of ours. See, I thought the prince loved Cinderella for her beauty and her goodness. There was no need to first check out her good-in-bed-ness.

I teach teens, some from very well-to-do families. And the last message I want to send to any young man is that his wealth and good looks give him the right to have his way with a woman.

Okay, I’ll climb off the soapbox and get back to my original question: why the R rating? I suspect that decision was based on making the most money, don’t you?

Robin Helm’s Honorable Men is an excellent companion to this article.

24 thoughts on “Definitely not Mr Darcy

  1. Robin Helm

    I haven’t read the books either, but hearing people comment on the movie should be interesting. I guess there’s nothing like a pair of pink, furry handcuffs to spice up Valentine’s Day.

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  2. Laura Hile Post author

    I’ve been around money growing up, and one thing I know is that when you have it, it disappears. Like, it almost becomes unimportant. Oh, you expect to have the funds to do what you’d like to do (within reason), but luxuries retreat into the background, just as having hot and cold running water in the home do. A relationship that includes bondage and per-contract sex would, in real life, eclipse the benefits and glamour that money can provide. Ask any woman who has been married to a wealthy but controlling man.

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  3. Robin Helm

    The Dave Barry bit you referenced is the funniest thing, hands down, that I’ve ever read. That man could make an almanac funny.

    I still want to write a “Pretty Woman” ripoff called “Cute Guy.”

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Dave Barry said out loud what many people were thinking while they read, but were afraid to say because the book was so popular.

      You remember when the Star Wars prequels came out. Everybody was praising them to the skies at the time because they were, you know, George Lucas and … Star Wars. (And everybody in the industry wanted to work more than they wanted to be honest.) Years later, the truth came out about how poor the writing and acting was. Kudos to Dave Barry!

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  4. Debbie Simorte

    I can’t imagine this movie having an R rating. I read the book and thought of my daughter and controlling men, not things I’d like to be flogged with. I won’t be seeing the film. Thanks for sharing the Dave Barry piece. Hilarious.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      See, that’s my struggle with fiction like this. I think too much, and what I think about is how young women are led to believe that this behavior is romantic instead of what it really is: exploitative.

      I shudder at the casual attitude toward “friends with benefits,” too. In my role as Mother Confessor–why do people confide in me? I don’t know, they just do–I get to hear how it really is. One person has his or her needs met, while the other, hopelessly in love, consents to the arrangement out of desperation. The idea that “no one gets hurt” is a lie. One of the two is heading for a boatload of heartbreak. I’ve been the one on whose shoulder that person cries.

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  5. Christina Boyd

    I have read them. And it’s not hard corps BDSM, thankfully. Ana is not weak nor is she insecure. She is an innocent. And very curious. And extremely captivated by Christian. And… She doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to do. She enjoys much of it. And when she doesn’t– well she tells him he’s a “sick mother*” and they break up. So ends book 1. The beauty of the story (the writing is ok) is that this handsome, powerful man with a very twisted young childhood and damaging adolescence falls for this sweet college co-Ed, so much that he finds what real love is, and changes his wicked ways and lusts– all for the love of this woman. Believe me, she is no submissive– and they soon determine that– and learn to be equal partners, build trust –and what consensual sex goes on in other peoples’ bedrooms, is fine with me. If you never read it, that’s your choice but I for one, was entertained. Many snarky comments from her subconscious are hysterical.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      I did read the Kindle sample, though, and I can see why readers are pulled in. The lure of the powerful man is strong, almost hypnotic, and Anastasia is someone women can identify with. You are right, even in the sample her self-talk is engaging.

      But I bring too much to the table–besides an aversion to erotic romance as a genre–to be able to lose myself in this story. My lovely cousin fell in love with a man very much like Christian Grey–keenly intelligent, handsome, successful, and alluringly remote. He too was adopted as a child and for some reason had difficulty bonding emotionally with anyone, even with my cousin, a trusting and outgoing young woman. After several years of marriage she found that he continued to be cold and uncaring. No fairy tale ending for her, only divorce.

      Thank you, Christina, for stopping by and giving us your opinion.

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      1. Christina Boyd

        I can see where this fiction would not be your cuppa!

        For me, I’m an easy reader. I usually expect there’s a lot I have to “accept” as a reader of fiction. Whether it’s people’s mistaken identities, the most beautiful people feeling invisible, the most incredible man falling for a nobody, etc etc– but I think that’s part of reading. Taking a great leap of faith with the author that they know where the story is going and I so, I am in til the last page. I like to escape to all worlds that are different from my own.

        But for sure, I’ll get back to you on that rating😉😉

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  6. Christina Boyd

    They would have made more money had it been PG-13. But I’ll let you know after I see it. I’m sure there will be a lot of naked butts and breasts. And strange angled shots that make one wonder what exactly is happening. I would imagine on par with The Tudors and Outlander series.

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  7. Laura Hile Post author

    I would like to hear what you think of the movie. More money with PG-13, certainly, but there would be a world of trouble when the “uncut” DVD is released later on.

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  8. Diana O

    I think it’s pretty hilarious to compare Christian Grey (no, I didn’t read the books, but I have read much about them) to Mr. Darcy. Ironic too, because there is actually a literary genealogy there. Stephanie Meyer herself said that the first book of the Twilight series was inspired by Pride and Prejudice. So, Edward Cullen was in fact based on Mr. Darcy. It’s common knowledge that 50 Shades of Grey started out as a fanfiction of Twilight, and so Christian Grey was based on Edward Cullen. So Christian Grey is the book-world grandson of Darcy. You can certainly see flickers of the one in the other, but as your title says, he is definitely NOT Mr. Darcy!

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Stop, Diana! Edward Cullen was based on Darcy? My, oh, my, the things I learn.

      You bring up a point that I wanted to put into the article but didn’t–less is usually more for busy readers, right? Anyway, as you say, 50 Shades was fan fiction, the genre in which many writers nowadays find their voice. But I have this thing about borrowing characters: use them respectfully and in line with how their creator wrote them. Sexing up Edward and Bella wasn’t fair to Stephanie Meyer. Just as sexing up Darcy and Elizabeth isn’t fair to Jane Austen.

      I’ll be working on an all-my-own fairy tale novel after the Darcy one is released, featuring Captain O’Manly, the swashbuckling pirate. Tell you what, I would not be happy to see someone write a Master-of-the-Universe-style fan fiction using him.

      Then again, I’d have to be amazingly famous for that to happen!

      Thanks for stopping by, Diana, and enlightening me about Darcy’s “literary grandson,” ha. Or would that be Christian Grey’s “literary grandpa”?

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  9. Diana O

    Unlike authors like Anne Rice and Nora Roberts, Stephanie Meyer has been quite gracious in tolerating fan fictions based on her books but has very emphatically distanced herself from 50 Shades. I certainly don’t blame her for that.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Would I have been so gracious? I fear not. Then again, she would have spent a wad of money on lawyers. Perhaps she decided that the negative publicity would not be worth it.

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      1. Laura Hile Post author

        You know what, Diana, after thinking about this, I would sue. Never mind the money involved or the bad publicity, my decision would be based on principle. James deliberately stole Meyers’ copyrighted characters and what was worse, she centered her plot around sex. To the writer of “sweet” romance (in my case, it’s more “snark” than “sweet”), this is highly irritating. Because it takes a lot more work to keep the romantic tension taut without taking the couple into the bedroom.

        You’re one of my pre-release readers for Darcy By Any Other Name, so you know how easily I could have slipped in a seduction scene or two. Instead I must make the reader fall in love with Darcy, right along with Elizabeth, through banter. As for his hot-hot body, well, that’s a dud, right?

        Twilight is a romance story that anyone can read, even grandpas. Kudos to Meyers for her gracious response to James. I would be fuming furious.

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        1. Christina Boyd

          Ok. I knew about the Twilight connection but the whole time reading Fifty, I looked for similarities. I couldn’t really connect the dots. It’s a stretch. Maybe she was inspired but I think the story morphed beyond her Twi inspiration into something else. Believe me, I know my Twilight. Admittedly, I was obsessed with that for a good two years, too. And then 50SoG for a bit. (Don’t judge.) But MrDarcy has been my TrueNorth…

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          1. Laura Hile Post author

            [I bet you know this stuff already, Christine, but I’ll talk about it here in case anyone reading this thread has interest.🙂 ]

            Fan fiction seldom involves plagiarism (as Christine has observed), just the use of characters and situations that are already popular–and this explains why lack of character development is sometimes a weakness. For books that are already in the public domain, it’s a win-win. The newbie writer gains an instant fan base, and readers get to have more-more-more about the people they already love.

            James patched in new names for the published version and voila! Not fan fiction anymore—or so it would seem. This article gives a side-by-side comparison of text and demonstrates that much of what appeared online was what came out in the books. As a writer of fan fiction, I followed the 50 Shades / Twilight debate with interest.

            And we forget how fan fiction used to carry a stigma. When Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman books came out under Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone imprint (2006), it was a big deal. Fan fiction? Is that even real writing? By 2009, Sourcebooks Landmark began bringing out a wave of fan fiction stories, and the stigma disappeared. Austen fiction is now its own genre.

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            1. Susan Kaye

              E. L. James published Master of the Universe with the names of Bella and Edward in Australia I believe. That is out-and-out plagiarism. No work of FF remains completely faithful to the source material. It can’t. Change and conflict are the life’s blood of fiction so the characters must change. But when a FF writer is wholesale stealing copyrighted characters and doing nothing to hide the fact, they deserve to be hauled into the dock.

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            2. Laura Hile Post author

              Sometimes I am too subtle. The “Voila, not fan fiction anymore!” in my comment above was meant to be sarcastic. :;) I’ll be tweaking that.

              I’m with you about the lawsuit, especially if James published it using Edward and Bella. I was not aware of that.

              And it’s a reminder to me, since Hile is my grandmother’s maiden name, that the nom de plume is no protection, no disguise. There are no secrets on the Internet; who we are will be found out. It seemed to me that when 50 Shades made the nightly news, James was looking rather sheepish. The newscasters did not conceal the joy of portraying a writer of erotic romance as middle-aged and ordinary. Her body language said a lot.

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  10. barbsilkstone

    Thank you! I so appreciate the link to Dave Barry’s post. I have sprayed coffee all over my keyboard from laughing. I read the first few chapters of Fifty Shades. It was so boring and repetitive, I wanted to smack the girl (and I am not a smacker). But there is a common thread…not saying it’s Darcy…but women love a challenge. Give them a man who is hurting and we will try to heal his pain, or at least be intrigued enough to take one step closer.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Women do love a challenge, often to our detriment. What is it about the hurting, lonely man (who is also hot), or the bad boy?

      And that review of Dave Barry’s is one of the funniest things I have ever read. Just goes to show that humor can pack a walloping punch. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Barbara.

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  11. Susan Kaye

    Let’s be real, if Christian Grey weren’t a gazillionaire, there would be none of this conversation. Tell me, what woman is going to help a man work out his boatload of issues by subjugating herself if he made his proposal and then said, “We’ll go in my pickup. My trailer is out past the quarry on Route 10. Well, it’s not my trailer, it’s Mama’s. But she’s in Branson for the week so we can get as loud as we want until Sunday. I’ll grab a six-pack and we can be on our way.”

    Tell me more about the romance of it all.

    No, ladies, this is about money, pure and simple.

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  12. Laura Hile Post author

    Hahahahaha! No kidding it’s about money. Take my uncle as an example.

    He is a self-made millionaire and between marriages women came swarming round. He is a charming man (and obviously successful), but not *that* charming. He is friendly and good-natured, but not impressively handsome. It was about the money and power.

    His first wife, my aunt, was from a good family (well-placed socially), and she worked alongside him to build his business from nothing.

    His second wife was the same age as my thirty-something cousins. It was about his money and her youth and beauty. She was not a woman of character like my aunt (surprise!), and when he found out what she was really like (manipulative), he divorced her and returned to my aunt, who was battling cancer.

    The third wife came after my aunt passed away, and she was even younger than my cousins. She and my uncle are still together. He was around sixty when they married and now is close to ninety. Since she is thirty-five years younger and often travels to Asia to see family, they live quite separate lives. Yes, this marriage was about his money and her youth and beauty.

    The same old story.

    I like wife three, but I wonder if she would say that it was worth it.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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