Over/Underrated 2012 – Part Ten

10 Jan

Well folks, when I wrote the date on a piece of paper today I actually remembered to write the correct year, which means that I’m officially able to move forward in 2013 and leave 2012 behind me. It also means that this is Brook and I’s last edition of Over/Underrated 2012. Immense props go out to Brook for helping me write these entries; I couldn’t have done it without her. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as we have enjoyed writing them. Later this week, my blog will return to its random musings and metacognitive rantings. But for now, I leave you with one more pop culture dish. Happy new year.


Fifty Shades of Grey

Every time I start to think of the literary atrocity that is Fifty Shades of Grey, I have to stop and remind myself: it started as Twilight fan fiction. Given that tiny nugget of knowledge, it makes sense that E.L. James’ popular erotic novel is as poorly written as it is. Like her Stephenie Meyer-penned muse, James has a tendency to use the same phrases repeatedly throughout her novel to describe the same damn thing she described only pages before (in James’ case, the beauty of one Christian Grey). If I ever see the words “subconscious,” “inner goddess,” or “mercurial” printed in a novel again it’ll be too soon.

Even if I, a self-proclaimed literature snob, were able to put aside the appalling quality of the writing and just examine Fifty Shades of Grey’s plot, I would still sadly come to the same conclusion: it’s terrible. The Mad Hatter could come up with a more plausible and satisfying storyline. For those of you blissfully unaware, allow me to pop your Shades of Grey cherry and catch you up. Supposedly smart and sensible Anastasia Steele is taken by surprise when the fabulously wealthy – and did I mention attractive – Christian Grey takes an interest in her. The only issue is that he’s not just interested in her as his girlfriend. Oh no, instead, he proposes that she sign a contract thereby allowing him to beat the shit out of her for his own sexual pleasure. Rather than saying, “Okay, creepy, good luck with that…” and then booking her ass out of there (as someone who was actually smart and sensible would do), Steele thinks to herself, “Well, I don’t like the idea of getting beaten to a pulp, but you are really hot…” Dilemma and tortured inner monologues ensue. While I’m someone who isn’t necessarily deterred by the ridiculous (I do love Lost, remember), there still needs to be a sense of logic amidst the absurd; characters still need to act in a way befitting of their description. This was just not the case in Fifty Shades of Grey.

So, even if I, a self-proclaimed literature snob, were able to put aside the appalling quality of the writing and the ludicrousness of the plotline and just examine Shades of Grey’s ummm…erotic qualities, I would still come up with the same conclusion: it’s terrible. As I, embarrassingly, told a male colleague once, “I’ve read better.” (Open mouth, insert foot.) The bottom line is that Fifty Shades of Grey is lacking in everything it’s touted as possessing. It’s true the second and third novels in the series are better, but barely. If your eyes haven’t already been scarred by what Fifty Shades of Grey has to offer, I’d hold out and wait for the movie. With names like Ryan Gosling and Matt Bomer being tossed around there’s no doubt that the movie will be better than the book, but then again, pretty much anything is. In the meantime, I suggest you get your kinky kicks elsewhere by authors such as Victoria Dahl, whose quality of writing (and everything else) surpasses James’ by leaps and bounds.

Fifty Shades



Lena Dunham is nothing short of a wunderkind. On Sunday, season two of the 26-year-old’s critically acclaimed drama, Girls, returns to HBO. She is not only the show’s creator, but she stars in the show, and has written and even directed some of the episodes. And with Judd Apatow as the producer, Girls hardly stood a chance of being anything other than a smash. However, despite its positive reception, Girls has not been immune to controversy. Namely, some accuse Girls of not being racially diverse. Save for one homeless character, the entire first season cast was comprised of white people only, which overtly sensitive people took to mean that the only place for brown people on TV is as a low life of some kind, which is obviously absurd. People find it doubtful that a twenty-something living in New York City didn’t stumble on a more diverse group of friends. True though that may be, I think it’s fair (if not obvious) to point out that Lena Dunham is using her show to tell a story, noteveryone’s story. But of course, no one wants to upset the ratings whores on the top floor of whatever building HBO executives congratulate each other on yet another job well done, so Dunham has apologized saying that the all-white cast in season one was in no way intentional, and she hopes to right that wrong in season two.

Honestly, if the race card is all there is left to play, that must mean the show is pretty damn good and that other faults are hard to find. Instead of getting hung up on a total non-issue, I want to praise what the show does right. My generation grew up watching Sex and the City and Friends. We fell in love with Hollywood’s version of New York City, a land where opulence and luxury were not only possible, but ours for the taking with little or no effort. We were gonna live there one day. Live in a fabulous apartment, have so many fabulous clothes we’d have to use the oven for storage, and since we’re using our ovens for storage, we’re obviously going out to eat every night at the chicest restaurants. Anyone who’s been to New York City knows that’s a bald-faced lie. The city will chew you up, spit you out, and then trample over you. And that’s on a good day. But if you can handle it, it may just be the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of.”

Girls makes no bones about it. Living in New York City is a bitch, especially after your wealthy parents cut you off, which is how we find Dunham’s Hannah Horvath in the pilot. But not unlike SatC or Friends, Hannah gets through with the help of her gal pals. Girls takes the romanticized version of NYC and flips it on its head.  The result is not the total truth (because really, when does TV ever tell the truth?), but it’s closer to be sure. They live in tiny apartments, drink milk straight from the carton, and put up with weird shit in the bedroom just to avoid being alone for more than five minutes because if they were left alone, they’d have to come to terms with the fact that their lives are not what they thought they would be.

For far too many this hits a little too close to home which explains why Girls has struck a chord with so many regardless if the show is alienating some of its viewers.  Self-loathing and self-doubt are equal opportunity monsters.  No one is exempt from that desperate, paralyzing, downward spiral, though we’d never admit it to each other.  Girls lets us know we’re not suffering alone, and with the help of good friends, we’ll be just fine.
— Brook



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  1. Over/Underrated 2013: Part Nine | prettyandink - January 9, 2014

    […] Throughout all the fan fervor I was so tired of hearing about the movie casting that almost anyone would do. I silently prayed please God just let them pick someone so I can be done hearing people talk about this infernal movie. Thankfully I only had to wait a couple of weeks before news that the role of Christian had once again been cast, now with Jamie Dornan snagging the role. This time around, fans were split. It’s true the man has the smoldering eyes, and have you seen him in his underwear? But being a relative unknown, fans were unsure of whether or not his acting chops could do the role justice. How they think Dornan’s portrayal could possibly be more poor in quality than the written work the character comes from is beyond me. (For more on my literary critique see last years overrated entry here.) […]

  2. Over/Underrated 2015 – Part One | prettyandink - January 1, 2016

    […] Still, if you’re one of the few people who haven’t seen the movie, don’t. Similar to how I felt after reading the book, the only thing I have left to say about the movie is, “I’ve seen […]

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