Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Read What You Want

I’m a big advocate for the world of books. I think reading is important. Extremely important. Reading opens up brand new worlds. It forces you to rely on your imagination rather than have things spoon fed to you. It can open your mind, let you look into new points of view. And all the CGI in the world is no match for your imagination when it comes down to it.

And, I’ve always defended people’s right to read. I love Young Adult Novels, so when a writer decided that Young Adult Novels were beneath her and she strung together a few sentences letting me know that I’m an idiot for reading them, I defended myself and others who I know love Young Adult Novels. Every year for banned books week, I try to raise awareness about banning books. It’s wrong. The banning of ideas is never a good idea. The Klingons knew it best: 

“Have you ever fought an idea, Picard? It has no weapon to destroy, no body to kill.”

That was our buddy Gowron, leader of the Klingons talking. (He was later killed. Turns out, he did have a body to kill.)

I can even remember way back in the “day” when a little book was burning up the reading lists. It was turning a new generation back into readers, and it was enticing old ones. And a lot of elites thought that this book shouldn’t be read, because it was for kids… FOR KIDS. Of course, it then became 8 movies and a theme park. And I would say the world is a better place learning the adventures of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and the true hero of the book series, Ron Weasley. 

So what’s this preamble for? I’ve talked about Ron. I’ve talked about banned books. And you all know that I’ve been an advocate for reading. Even the bad stuff, even if it’s to learn why you hate it. 

Well, a few weeks ago a little trailer showed up for a movie called 50 Shades of Grey. Yes, I talked about this during banned books week, and whether it should be a banned book. (I don’t think it should be, even with the subject matter. It should be available to whomever, and if you’re worried about your kid reading it, you could try, I don’t know… parenting to your kid rather than keeping everyone from reading it.) But the trailer itself initiated talk about the book, and more specifically, should people read it. 

For the three of you who don’t know, or for those who wish to pretend not to know, 50 Shades of Grey is an erotic novel about a young college student named Anastasia Steele and a rich dude named Christian Grey, and their deepening relationship that happens to involve sex that some people like to pretend that other people don’t actually have. (kinky stuff. I’ll let you look it up.)

The release of the trailer sparked an interesting conversation amongst me and my friends. Particularly, a lot of my previous posts: It got people to read, right? People are reading for all the reasons you just mentioned. Have you actually read the book to know what people dislike about it? Or are you going off what people said and mocking them because of what the book is about.

So really, if I’m an advocate for reading, should I single out a book about a naughty relationship because it happens to be about a naughty relationship based on what the author originally wanted to see happen among several of the characters of Twilight when I have no problem saying everyone should read a book about a boy wizard who saves the world from an evil wizard.

And… they got me. If this book gets people to read, the people should read it. I’m not saying it’s everyone’s silk tie, but my friends are right… if people want to read this, and it gets them back into reading, it’s not something we should spend a lot of time mocking, as many people have. There’s really no difference people the people who decide to pick up 50 Shades of Grey, and when I decide to pick up the latest Mortal Instruments… we’re both reading something we WANT to read. Who’s to judge? It gets our imaginations going. It encourages us to think for a little bit. And it takes us to a different world we may initially not want to visit in real life. (Although if I could have magic powers and fight vampires, I’d totally do that.)

Yes, I get that it’s based on Twilight fan fiction. But who among us hasn’t, in their heads, “written” something about a book we read, or a movie we’ve seen. How many novels about Star Trek, Star Wars, or Warhammer are written a year? And they don’t take place in anywhere but the writer’s mind? All fiction is in some way, fan fiction. This one just got a boost from starting it off by using established characters. Who has really never read a novel that did that? I like superhero novels, you know how many different versions of Superman I’ve read about in the past year? One of my favorite comics is simply the tagline, “What if Batman was the Joker?” It’s not sanctioned by DC Comics, and the dude has a movie deal.  So, the fan fiction thing is pretty popular.

But… WHAT ABOUT THE SEX!?! WHAT ABOUT THE SEX!? IT’S NON-TRADITIONAL?!? Of course, if you are worried about sex and reading this on the internet, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Also, a lot of other books contain sex. They also contain violence. Harry Potter’s ending features a war fought primarily with school children. (A lot of people gloss over that while reading about Ron’s heroics.) But we don’t have a problem holding that up as an example of great fiction. The issue really is about how people feel about it, and the thing is that everyone needs to relax. Everyone has sex. Maybe not this kind. But it’s working for some people.

And yes, what about the children. I’m going to let you all in on a story. When I was younger, I lived in Korea. We got an American station. That’s AN American station. Just the one. There was a show on it that I wanted to watch called Married with Children, because it was a big hit with my friends back home, and all over the place. My parents didn’t want me watching it. So, they forbid me from doing it, despite my pleading. They then ensured that I was otherwise occupied (reading… going outside… etc.) while it was on. What they didn’t do was overly mock it, then request everyone ban it. My point being, is if this book really offends your moral sensibilities, don’t read it. It’s that simple. If you don’t want your kids reading it, don't allow them to read it.

Overall, 50 Shades of Grey won’t go down as one of my favorite books. I felt the relationship was a little more abusive than people like to admit, and the main character didn’t have much of a personality. It wasn’t the worst book I read. It was better than another book I read about death row inmates injected with a serum that turned them all into mind controlling vampires. (How could that have gone wrong???) But was supposedly one of the best books of the year! (The sequel undid everything the first book established. How… how do you say that’s better?) 

But at the end of the day it’s a book, and it’s getting people to read. So, rather than judging other people’s reading choices, let’s focus on what makes us happy to read. Then we’ll all be happy.

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