Folks, it’s time to get a little angry.
Don’t worry, you’ll like me when I’m angry.
Here, have a flower.
It occurred to me recently that this blog has become somewhat of a utopia for nerdgasms and things that I feel incredibly passionate and happy about. Like television, literature cake and very very small shiny things that you can stick to stuff. It also occurred to me recently that something I have to see and deal with during my regular working day has been making me very, very angry. So I decided it’s time to get the proverbial claws out and tear this thing up a little bit because it has been nibbling away at my peace of mind like a lab rat on diet pills.
First of all I should mention that my not-so-new pet hate is intrinsically linked to the significant rise in popularity of erotic romance books. Now, let me be very clear here, I have absolutely no problem with the writing and reading of Erotic fiction. Personally the likes of E.L James, Vina Jackson and Sylvia Day are really not my cup of tea. I have not and most likely will never read them and seeing the ever growing stock of books they publish DOES give me headaches to some extent but that is just my own big fat opinion. I am currently in a state of acceptance with the fact that at the moment these books are in demand. People are going to read whatever the fuck they want to read and that’s just fine (sort of).
HOWEVER, due to recent sightings in my local book haunts, I’m beginning to feel that certain lines need to be drawn. Lines that have a lot to do with the restructuring of beloved classic novels that are now in the Public Domain such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Picture of Dorian Gray to suit the genre of erotic fiction. Key titles I’ve seen so far have been the nefarious Jane Eyre Laid bare and of course the one that irks me so horribly with its awful pun-like title, 50 Shades of Dorian Gray.
I should also cite here that I am all for many ideas of the postmodern parody, re-representations, pastiche works or whatever you want to call them with regards to these stories. I loved Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars Trilogy (a re-working of Alice in Wonderland which I SINCERELY recommend) and I have yet to sink my teeth into Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters or Android Karenina but I’m sure I’d enjoy them too.
I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and it was AWESOME. Elizabeth Bennett totally ruled as a kick ass Zombie hunter. Honestly, much of the social and cultural context of the text wasn’t changed much…apart from the zombies and many of the female characters being well trained in Karate and Kung Fu and what have you. In summary, yes the zombies were awesome and badass and it was good to see Mr. Darcy get kicked by Elizabeth but I was happy that was all that changed. Ultimately, the relationships between the main characters is what drives these novels. I felt that the developments in character relationships in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies were still somewhat effective because they still very much kept tuned to the manners and codes of society of the landed gentry in early 19th Century England. Apart from when Elizabeth the zombie hunter kicks Darcy in the stomach. That wasn’t landed very gentry (HARHARHAR).
But you see what I’m getting at, right? No? Okay. I may have wandered off topic. Zombies put to one side for now, my main problem with these restructured versions of 19th Century Romance Novels with ‘Erotic Twists’ is this: These ever so important relationships and romances in books like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre and the drama and tension they bring will suffer a lot. Ergo, the story in general will suffer.
These stories were constructed in a social and cultural context where romance was a pretty damn strict code, so sure there will be that temptation to break the code and let all hell break loose, but then where would ALL that dramatic social tension go? If Jane Bennett slept with Mr. Bingley at some point behind a closed door and very much out of wed-lock (which is only how I’m assuming it would be written into an erotic version of the tale) that’s a good chunk of the romantic tension between them gone. Maybe I’m being a snob. Maybe I’m being overtly critical. But I really love these books. I loved that they were written so well into their own social systems. Romance worked so well back then because all the frilly manners and social codes just drew it out. And I feel I MUST defend them. From formal introductions to courtships and everything in between, it just worked for these stories because a lot of that stuff developed relations and kept us in that suspended happy romantic tension place where our brains can think things like:
‘OH MY GOODNESS HE PICKED UP HER GLOVE AND GAVE IT TO HER AND THEN TALKED ABOUT THE WEATHER HE IS TOTALLY INTO HER I HOPE HE DANCES WITH HER LATER AT THE BALL.’
For some reason, all that stuff would kinda just disappear if there was an illicit sexual encounter involved and the whole world of the text would just be crushed for me. I don’t WANT Jane Eyre to have sex with Mr. Rochester because I WANT there to be drama and quiet suffering and tension because, for me that makes everything a lot more interesting. That and it just DOES NOT fit into the social and cultural context. It would just feel so alien in that circumstance. Plus Rochester does NOT deserve an additional plot hook featuring physical satisfaction from that girl, some of the shit he puts her though? He can fucking WAIT. I don’t care if you lost a hand and most of your eyesight, Edward. That’s what you get for locking your crazy wife in the attic.
So when I saw that there was a mashup novel of 50 Shades of Gray and The Picture of Dorian Gray…I kind of wanted to kick something. Okay, so yes The Picture of Dorian Gray does have that underlying Faustian theme of dealing with the devil and giving into temptation…but…but again with the social values kind of being key features that are important to me! Gah! And you can’t just TAKE the character of Basil Hallward and turn him into a woman! YOU JUST CAN’T.
My other fear is that the staggering popularity of erotic fiction will cause people to surpass the ACTUAL BOOKS and go straight for the smut. I think if you ARE going to read 50 Shades of Dorian Gray or Jane Eyre Laid Bare, as much as I recommend you NOT to…you should at least see how wonderful the original is before you read the desecrated version!
ANYWAY, in conclusion to this already way too long rant. Bodice ripping is just fine. Just, please keep it away from classic books that I love. You can add ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT. Aliens, Zombies, Vampires, Mutant Squirrels, Ninja Tiger People, Cthulu ANYTHING…just PLEASE keep the characters out of each others pants.
After all this anger, I think I feel the need for another Anime Happiness Splurge.