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The Seductive Consumerism of 50 Shades

Or, How I stopped Worrying About an Abusive Asshole Because He Has a Helicopter

Another 50 Shades post? I know, I know.

But I just finished listening to MarkReads' 50 Shades series and Mark picked up on a fairly large plot point that I'd glossed over on an initial reading. Namely, how much the character (and audience) seem to excuse Christian's controlling, abusive bullshit not just because he's really, really good-looking, but especially because he's really, really rich.


Absurdly, stupidly rich. And constantly spending vast amounts of money without a second thought. I mean, his favorite hobbies — like helicoptering or gliding — all require that you have a shit-ton of disposable cash. And while Ana's enjoying her never-ending stream of perfect orgasms, she seems just as — if not more — seduced by all of Christian's really nice shit. Oh, a baby grand in his living room for when he needs to think about his crack whore mom in the dead of night? So cool. Oh, round-the-clock staff? So cute.

And most of the descriptions of Christian's apartment, for instance, make it sound like EL James is trying to sell you the property:

Moments later, we're in an all-white foyer. In the middle is a round, dark wood table, and on it is an unbelievably huge bunch of white flowers. On the walls there are paintings, everywhere. He opens two double doors, and the white theme continues through the wide corridor and directly opposite where a palatial room opens up. It's the main living area, double height. Huge is too small a word for it. The far wall is glass and leads on to a balcony that overlooks Seattle.


Near the kitchen area, in front of the glass wall, is a dining table surrounded by sixteen chairs. And tucked in the corner is a full size, shiny black grand piano.

but what are the mortgage rates, EL? Can I finance?

It's okay that he's an asshole, because he's rich and tortured. But particularly because who cares about possible rape or stalking when you get out of a shower to heated floors? Or when your boyf can helicopter you to all of your small post-school events with your friends — because fuck their student loans?


I mean, all of the gallantry of stalking aside, EL James goes to great lengths to tell you just how lavish Grey's life is, and how seduced Ana is by it all — and, by extension, how impressed you should be. Because in a post-recession world, don't we all value and respect the ultra-rich?

In some ways, the gross consumerism is even worse when Christian is removed from the picture altogether. After all, even before meeting Christian Ana was rooming with a rich friend whose parents bought them both a 3-room apartment in the Pike Place Market (?!) for after graduation, which Ana refers to as "small," because fuck the housing market. And she gets a paid assistant job at a publishing house right out of school with no experience whatsoever, because fuck the economy... or reality altogether.


I know this was written by a middle-aged English woman, who isn't particularly familiar with just how hard things would actually be for a recently-graduated English major in the Pacific Northwest (not projecting here, I swear), but I feel like the white hot jizz-y consumerist nature of the book is what's begun to bother me more than anything else at this point.

I'm rambling here, but I do find it strange that even though the book is so much about a hot rich guy, there's very little discussion about the richness itself because people get distracted by the book's misleading representation of BDSM.


Because if at any point the book really dealt with the fact that we — as a society — let rich, attractive, white, straight men do whatever they want without repercussions, instead it asks you to be endlessly impressed by every last piece of expensive technology, every shiny car, every impossible job offer from a 27 year old billionaire who uses his money to trap and secure his victims.

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