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Fifty Shades of Done: A retrospective on an unexpectedly successful novel

The Fifty Shades of Gray movie is set to be released in 2015. Will the hype from the book last that long, or will the movie be a too little, too late?

Hannah Ball
A&E Reporter

When “Fifty Shades of Grey” came out, the book was in every bookstore, on international best seller lists, a favorite in book clubs, and mentioned constantly on many social media sites. The erotic, BDSM romance novel became a household name, as did the protagonists Christian and Anna Steele. Author E. L. James proved that shock and sex sell, especially when put together. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the result of Twilight fan fiction and a mid-life crisis, and it quickly turned into something much bigger.

Before, it was just a series to read under the covers with a flashlight at night. Now, the series has a confirmed movie with high-profile actors and actresses, and merchandise like the Inner Goddess shirts at Hot Topic. Fan fiction sparked fan fiction with multiple “Fifty Shades of Grey” inspired series in their own ever-growing section at Barnes & Noble. If readers did not get enough in three books, there are other erotica series, as well as parody books and cook books, all “Fifty Shades” themed. Playwrights have written their own version of the tale of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. Western Michigan University’s campus had a showing of a “Fifty Shades of Grey” parody called “Spank!” as recent as Nov. 16.

Over 5.3 million copies of the series were sold in the UK, according to The Telegraph. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is Amazon’s biggest selling book to date, according to The Huffington Post. However, this paradigm has shifted. Different studies prove that readers may be bored with the sadomasochistic series, especially in the UK.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” might have once been the most-bought book in the world, but in 2012 it was the most left-behind book at hotels, specifically Travelodge, according to ABC. Every year a list is compiled of the Top 20 Abandoned Books, and the “50 Shades” series found its way on it. “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” also made it on the Top 20 Abandoned books of 2012.

“Fifty Shades Freed” now has the title ‘Most Likely to be Left in a Travelodge.’ According to the survey of abandoned books, Travelodge found 1,209 copies left behind in their hotel rooms. That means at least three copies of the book were left behind daily. Moreover, the other two books in the series made the top 20 list, with ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ at number 10 and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ at number six.

There are many possible reasons for the abandonment: the anti-feministic views, poor representation of BDSM culture, writing style, shady characterization, readers grew bored, the scenes were too intense, the fact that the series is Twilight fan fiction, or any other reason under the sun. Maybe the books were simply forgotten. Maybe over 1,000 people recognized the irony of leaving ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ next to the Bible in the drawer.

Besides being left in hotel rooms, secondhand bookstores have an abundance of the erotica series.  According to an article in The Telegraph, charity stores in the UK are receiving many copies of the books, but due to no one buying them, the stores stopped selling the books. The books cannot be recycled because of the glue that was used for the binding. Some stores have thousands of copies.

The books are being left to die, but maybe the movie will give the trilogy new life.

Ever since the movie was confirmed, the guessing game of who would play Christian and Anna caused much debate. The public’s expectations of “Fifty Shades of Grey” are higher than ever with this movie, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson. If readers were shocked while reading the books, imagine the reactions when Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson act out the scenes on the big screen. Shooting may start this winter in Vancouver, but it will be a while before the film comes out.

Originally, the movie was set to be released August 1, 2014 but was pushed back to Feb. 13, 2015. Many people are disappointed. Although, new pictures have placated desperate fans. Entertainment Weekly recently released pictures featuring Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, posing together, in character for the first time. The photographs have received mainly positive feedback.

Before Jamie Dornan signed on to play the BDSM dominant, “Sons of Anarchy” star Charlie Hunnam was set to play the character, but he dropped out. The official story is that Hunnam was too busy to prepare for the role of Christian Grey, but many are speculating on whether that is the actual reason.

Now that the film will not come out for over a year, the public’s opinion has time to change in many ways. Without new products to excite fans, like the pictures from Entertainment Weekly, the buzz will die down. No doubt the movie will be a major blockbuster, but everyone has to wait over a year. Anticipation will build and build; fans may expect more than the movie can deliver. Is the movie destined to take the same road as the books? Will it be the most popular movie in the world for a few months, but then drop out of theaters because of bad viewing rates? This will be unknown for a while, but if “Fifty Shades of Grey” proved one thing, it was to never underestimate the popularity of Twilight fan fiction that was written because of a mid-life crisis.

 

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One Comment to Fifty Shades of Done: A retrospective on an unexpectedly successful novel
    • Crissy
    • I would argue that with the film in production they have a chance to string the public along for a year releasing tidbits or photos, previews and interviews along the way.

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