There are degrees of separation that theoretically define levels of human interaction. Yet in this wonderful world of colors, there seems to be a preoccupation with 50 shades of Grey. These aren’t colors. This is a fictional character. Through a unique relationship in a rather simplistic novel, it’s about exploring the shades of the grey matter lodged deeply in the brain. Reading the 50 Shades of Grey has become a world phenomenon. Why?
After a decade that a female British author bedazzled teens with worlds of magic and wizardry, another female British author delivered another tale of wonders for an adult audience. The tale is the 50 Shades of Grey. It is essentially Beauty and the Beast but not as Disney would portray it. The beast is not ugly, well not physically. The beast is wealthy and exciting. He is just what any woman (and some men) might consider a George Clooney kind of catch. There’s one snag. He can only “relate” to a woman as master and slave. Author EL James crafts a simple tale of how a rather commonly attractive young woman attracts “the not so perfect” Christian Grey, with a little give and take. But no real master and slave routine; just a unique form of bonding.
50 Shades of Grey is a 3-volume novel that, since published in 2011, has become one of the top-10 most sold literary works worldwide. A movie was released in 2015 with a sequel to follow soon. Why is this Beauty and the Beast so popular?
In an age of psychology and an emerging femdom class, the heroine toys with the beast to shed his ugly psychological layers as the beast toys with his feminine prey. Those are the 50 shades. They get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. Just like, we suppose, Beauty and the Beast. The 3-book story takes one very common plot and makes kinky BDSM approach normal. The books are among the top-10 fictional novels worldwide. It drove sales of erotic toys to the roof and may be responsible for a bump-up in the birth rate. Porn? Movie is only R-rated. It’s Beauty and the Beast with erotic spice. A classic plot where, like cartoons, the cat is outwitted by the mouse.
Is it possible that all the stories you have ever read involve only 7 key plots? The seven basic plots are: overcoming the monster; rags to riches; the quest; voyage and return; comedy; tragedy; rebirth. Plots are themes. The plot might be viewed as action, while the story is the emotions associated with the action. “Overcoming the monster” may be one of the key plots. Is it the monster within your self or of others. Variances are often referred as plot shades. The “The Beauty and the Beast” folk tale is a popular plot. The popular success of 50 Shades of Grey as a trilogy of novels and subsequent movies was yet another modernization of this plot. The books and movie drove digital media profits and now more Beauty and the Beast erotic novels are dotting Amazon Kindle and Google.
“Overcoming the monster” has always been a great plot. It has been used with wars, criminals, and the supernatural. They are addicting; often challenging our minds and bodies to overcome adversities with new sets of tools. Horror movies, for example (no matter how silly), use formulas over and over again. People are continually fascinated with the plots and action.
One popular TV show, Dexter, had an improbable story where the medical examiner of a police department was also a serial killer. Serial killers are normally monsters but Dexter was a killer with noble purposes. The durability of the series was through constant adventures and character development. Ultimately, Dexter was overcome by the challenges of life itself.
In 50 Shades of Grey, Christian Grey may seem monstrous to many. He is the beast within a suit of incredible wealth, power, and magnetism. Most readers found him fascinating. It was the smart but naïve innocence of Anastasia Steele to wield the sword at Grey’s beasts through passion and love. While it could be considered taboo or pornographic, the basic instincts of finding true love while overcoming the monster is the iconic formula. There is a Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in each of us and overcoming the monster is survival.
50 Shades of Grey made digital media tablets surge. Rather than carry the books around, you were able to read with the privacy of your smartphone or tablet screen.
Plots and stories intertwine to make the simple equation entertaining, provocative, and current. Carl Jung, a peer and competitor of Freud’s more popular psychoanalysis, believed that consciousness involves archetype personalities. Novels, like personalities, knit and play with very basic plots. An author with proficiency and artistry can take that same plot as a painter can bring an image come to life from just shades of 3 primary colors.
Jung defined twelve primary types that symbolize basic human motivations. Each type has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits. The key 4 are Self, Shadows, Animus, and Persona. Jung highlighted a number of archetypes, including the ‘anima’, the ‘mother’, the ‘shadow’, the ‘child’, the ‘wise old man’, the ‘spirits’ of fairytales, and the ‘trickster’ figure found in myths and history. Myths, tales, and rumors often guide our consciousnesses regardless of validity.
Unveiling the 50 shades of Christian Grey was undeniably attractive to so many that the erotic novel has ascended to over 100 million books sold worldwide, not including digital sales. E.L.James, yet another of many female erotic novelists, elevated 50 Shades of Grey to literature. As in the Beauty and the Beast, it is the female that is empowered to disenchant the male beast through patience, love, and nurturance. Needless to say, more literary 50 shades imitations are evolving with many attracting female readers.
Vampires, phantoms, monsters, and beasts were often overcome by females in countless novels through the past two centuries. Dracula could be killed if a woman, of her own free will, kept him awake long enough to see sunlight. In the folk tale Beauty and the Beast, the poor beauty dares to lift the curse that has turned the wealthy prince into a monstrous beast. Within the set of plots and Jung’s archetypes of shadows and mothers, the pulp writing of 50 Shades of Grey will probably be considered the most popular literary contributions of the 21st century! Is 50 Shades kinky porn? Does it ignite the shadows within women to extend beyond limited persona?
Jung’s archetypes have no scientific validities, Jung believed that the influence of the mother on a child derived not only from the actual mother, but also from the Great Mother archetype. Christian influences on Jung extended the shifting roles of two simplistic yet complex Great Mothers. The Great Mother is an archetype of opposites, including at one end the sympathetic, caring, solicitous mother and at the other the devouring, seductive, poisonous mother. The first may be represented by the Virgin Mary, for example, while the latter might be represented by Kali, the mother who devours her young. In many ways, mothers can nurture or destroy, according to Jung’s ways of thinking. Does the unveiling and outcome of 50 Shades of Grey help revise that thinking?
While BDSM and out-of-mainstream sex pervades the 50 Shades series and imitators, BDSM is no longer considered a psychological disease in the psychiatric diagnostic statistic manual. It’s an alternate lifestyle. Perhaps not as acceptable as homosexuality, these books legitimize the concepts of role-play among consenting adults. “Consenting” is a powerful word. Suprisingly, more women are fascinated by these consensual fantasies than ordinary sex. The action in 50 Shades of Grey was always consensual. Consent and safety are the nets that entice and coexist in a world where more women are placed in controlling positions. It is the dominance of the Great Mother that stretches and survives through adversities. There’s always that mix of sugar and spice.
Consensual role-play may be how persons discover the stuff hidden by persona. According to Jung, the Persona archetype is how an individual projects to others, as differentiated from the authentic self. In contrast to Jung’s reference to environment and society, revelations through role-play may help refresh some stale relationships. Then again, they can destroy them too. Cutting through personas is often very delicate in a society that endorses masks of many layers. The play in 50 Shades of Grey is more fantasy play and it isn’t easy to determine to what extent the couples go.
No one will object to the different interpretations of the Beauty and the Beast scenario and story. It is the ultimate chick-flick formula. 50 Shades of Grey may seem unorthodox to many. Within the limited number of plots, author EL James appears very ordinary. Yet, in 2015, (in books and film) her variation of Beauty and the Beast is still exciting and relevant. What it says is that the power of the myth and tales that extend reach far deeper than even Jung could have imagined.
Beneath and behind, ones unimaginable thoughts might be someone’s reality. Most countries around the world view consensual BDSM play on the fringe of legal, provided there is no lasting harm. If you can imagine the reluctant Beauty locked in one of the beast’s dungeons, the consensuality and eroticism in the pages of 50 Shades of Grey seem tame to Disney or the classic Cocteau movie version. The ends are somewhat the same.
The surprising popularity of 50 Shades of Grey opens the realities few have shared to many. For some, it is gospel, for more it is entertainment and for most it’s trash. Undeniably, 50 Shades of Grey helped make consensual BDSM play more accessible. Of the many shades that can be interpreted from different versions of Beauty and the Beast fairy tales (and once upon times) the plot will return. You can count on it.
The ever afters might be different. The stories change and the plot becomes more meaningful. Our addiction to overcoming monsters remains a set of learning dominant tactics that, through fiction, breed answers to some intrinsic problems. Unveiling the shades of people, the environment, and the self are not necessarily psychology. Sometimes fiction draws closer to the core than most of us might imagine.