The Joys of Live-Reading the Hated Book
by Anonymous — In Media Res Special Category
September 23, 2012 – 00:00
Editor’s note: In Media Res maintains a policy that users create accounts under their real names and professional identities. Among the reasons this policy exists is our desire to facilitate engaged and respectful discourse among our curators, readers, and staff. In a rare exception, we have attributed the following post to Anonymous after the curator expressed anxiety about institutional blow black due to the content of the post. Theme week coordinator Karen Petruska will address this and other issues of taste and the professional stakes of popular culture consumption in her own contribution for the Fifty Shades of Grey theme week tomorrow.
It all began with a dare-you-to-read-this taunt on Twitter, and enough of us bit to join The Fancy Ladies’ Book Club on Facebook. Through social media we goaded each other into hate-reading through the novels’ painful prose stylings, annoying plot holes, improbable narrative twists (sure, an English major who has only ever seemed to read two authors and acquires her first email address from her lover in 2010 will land a top job at a Seattle publishing company in this economy), and her magical ability to have mind-obliterating orgasms on command. Every time. A few of us slogged through all three novels, while others bowed out after the first. We followed Christian and Anastasia on Twitter; they followed us back; we unfollowed because our feeds were clogged with passages from the novel. Then one of us suggested a live reading at the next academic conference we attended, and a few months later in Boston, it was on.So with bitten lips and full hearts, we gathered to celebrate our shared experience in person. Kindles and smart phones in hand, we murmured favorite passages, such as defining hard and soft limits (“no acts involving fireplay”), Ana’s multifaceted, acrobatic inner goddess and disapproving self-conscious, and the many utterances of “Dios Mios!” Though we didn’t entirely purge the problematic bad object that is the trilogy, we achieved a different kind of bonding through mocking the bondage in the trilogy. We sipped cocktails, laughed until it hurt, and important literature happened. We weren’t doing anything that novel. After all, multiple celebrities, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Gilbert Gottfried, Kristen Stewart, Adam Lambert, Morgan Freeman, and Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell have performed recorded readings of the Fifty Shades trilogy. Googling “fifty shades of grey live reading” finds “about 19,400,000 results,” featuring drunk, or occasionally sober, men and women who were keen to post videos of themselves reading passages from the books. It’s even spawned a musical, a penguin adaptation, and a team reading by the Washington Nationals. Moreover, OnlineClasses.org provides a primer for the literary sensation: “7 Hilarious Excerpt [sic] from ‘50 Shades of Grey’ You Have to Read to Believe,” which confers on it a vague sense of scholarly consideration. So why wouldn’t feminist academics join in the fun and, in my case, brave the tenure vote to own it?