Monday’s Friend: Iona Brodie

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for a few years, it won’t have escaped your notice that the film version of a certain best-selling erotic novel was released on Valentine’s Day, and it seems everyone has an opinion about it – including my guest today, author Iona Brodie, who has chosen it as the subject for her guest post. Iona and I have blog swaps today, and you can read my piece on writer’s block on her blog.

Welcome, Iona!

Fifty Shades of “Meh”
By Iona Brodie

The film adaptation of the multi-million selling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is due to hit our screens in February 2015 so I thought that it was about time that I revisited my views of this series.

I first read this when it was a fan fiction piece called Masters of the Universe when Christian Grey was still called Edward Cullen and Anastasia Steele was Bella Swan. I read it all but have to admit to skimming across large portions, mostly the repetitive sex scenes.

Masters of the Universe took all of the things that I hated about Twilight – boring first person narrative, boring self loathing main character and creepy relationship (watching her sleep? Romantic? I think not) and intensified it.

Boring first person narrative – check. Extra points go to the super annoying inner goddess creation. What is an inner goddess and why should we, the reader, care if it is salsa dancing? Boring self loathing main character – check. Limited language – check. Memorably at the sight of Christian’s mammoth manhood Anastasia exclaims “Holy Cow” in an incongrous PG 13 outburst.

Here are five issues that I have with 50 Shades of Grey:

  1. Anastasia is in an abusive relationship

Why should something played out on the pages of a glossy Hollywood screen be treated differently to what happens behind closed doors? Christian is controlling, selfish and at times frankly terrifying. He isolates Anastasia from her friends, buys the company at which she is interning to control her career and even tries to dictate what she eats and how often she exercises. He spends a lot of time angry and Anastasia spends a lot of time worrying that he will physically hurt her. This is an abusive relationship and certainly not something which should be idealised in print or on the big screen.

  1. Anastasia’s self worth is made or broken by Grey

Anastasia is ecstatic about her relationship with Grey and how sexy he makes her feel. It is uncomfortable as a reader to see change in a character caused solely by the attentions of another party rather than due to character development.

  1. The motif of abused becoming the abuser

One of the most disturbing elements of the story for me was Grey suggesting that his controlling, abusive nature was caused in turn by a controlling, abusive relationship that he entered into as a younger man. I am intensely uncomfortable with this connection being made and the suggestion that he cannot help himself. Firstly, being abused, horrible as it is, does not give a person a get out of jail free card for the rest of their lives. Murdered a spouse? Oh, don’t worry, you had a crap childhood, we’ll just forget about prosecution. Secondly, what sort of message does it send to people trying to recover from abuse that there is a tangible link of this nature?

  1. The BDSM

Many from the real-life BDSM community have spoken up to voice their concerns about the relationship depicted in the novels. One dominatrix makes the point that Fifty Shades of Grey is designed to “arouse not educate” and that it “leaves out the things which differentiate BDSM from abuse.”

This is superbly illustrated in one memorable scene in the red room of pain Anastasia uses the safe word to make him stop. Later he comments that his “wife fucking safe worded him” with absolutely no care or understanding of what he had been doing to make her feel unsafe. This is the very antithesis of true BDSM.

  1. Feminism Forgotten

DarkWatersOfTheHeart_200x300 (2)I remember reading some Mills & Boons novels almost twenty five years ago that I had borrowed from a yellowing corner of my parents bookshelf. My feminist young self was horrified at some of the cruel alpha male heroes and the seemingly abusive relationships that they represented. I just could not comprehend why having your hair tugged cruelly or being pushed roughly against a wall by a man was something to fantasise about or aspire towards. Nevertheless Fifty Shades of Grey seems to tap into an anti-feminist wave that has been creeping into mainstream culture.

Lana Del Ray in her 2014 album Ultraviolence follows on from her bestselling debut with more depressing songs about abusive relationships. The chorus of Ultraviolence has the memorable and uncomfortable refrain of “he hit me and it felt like a kiss.”

The question is whether we have we come so far in our feminist strides that we fantasise not about a time when we can be equal but about a time when the responsibility for our own lives is again taken away from us and put in the hands of a man.

Given recent data that indicates that the gender pay gap is alive and well with women paid on average 19.1% less than men and only 23% of FTSE 100 company Directors women it seems clear that we still have a long way to go to achieve true equality.

The balancing act:

Because I am the type of person who sees things in shades of grey rather than black and white (excuse the dreadful pun).

  1. Why I will be going to see it anyway

Like it or loathe it Fifty Shades is a cultural phenomenon. If you want to be involved in those heated debates around the watercooler or on the internet/ twittersphere you have to see it.

  1. Is it really an abusive relationship?

A good friend of mine, whose opinion matters enough to make me give this additional thought, argues that Fifty Shades shows how strong a woman can be and does not degrade them. She points out that Anastasia refuses the BDSM element of the relationship at first but later decides to try it as the relationship develops and she realises how much that she cares for him.

She also points out that Anastasia cedes control to Christian only when it is not important to her but stands her ground when it is something that she cares about thereby suggesting an element of equality and give and take in their protracted negotiations.

  1. Brings kink out of the shadows

The same dominatrix that I quote in point four above also points out that despite their reservations about the novels and movie that they are pleased that it brings BDSM out of the specialist realm and firmly into the mainstream. Surely for us notoriously stiff upper lipped Brits this is a good thing?

Jacqueline Gold of Ann Summers noted in 2013 when discussing a spike in the sale of nipple clamps that the books, “have got women everywhere talking about sex and encouraged them to be more intimate, experimental and confident.” Surely more discussion and more sex is a good thing?

Fifty Shades of “Meh”

The final word on the matter is that I don’t really care. The novels were mediocre at best and I imagine that the film, even if just as mediocre, will be even more popular.

The only question left on most writer’s lips is, “Why didn’t I think to write it?” The cruel twin prongs of desire to achieve E L James’ level of success combined with a disdain of the quality of writing and the subject matter makes the release of the movie a bitter pill to swallow.


Author Bio:

Iona Brodie writes fiction with a twist of mythology and the paranormal set in Scotland. Whilst her first published novella, Dark Waters of the Heart, is firmly targeted at adults given the intense and dangerous seduction her debut novel, Hot Voodoo (due out in Spring 2015) is aimed at young adults. Find out more at:



1 comment so far

  1. Iona Brodie on

    Thanks for having me Sara! I am going to see 50 Shades on Wednesday so I will be sure to update everybody!

    Thanks for giving me some hope on surviving writers block in your blog appearance on my own site:

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