It's hard to believe that Fifty Shades of Grey was only published back in 2011, but here we are five years later... and I am grateful. Yes, you read that correctly: Grateful. Am I a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey? Not really. Do I know people who are? Of course. Do I judge them for it? Not one bit.
Fifty Shades triggered a reading revolution the likes of which we hadn't seen since J.K. Rowling dared children to call themselves “readers” without mockery or Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series challenged women and teens to choose a side in an epic reading war. In fact, it was because of Twilight that we are here today talking about this phenomena. It got teens reading, and six years later, it got them intrigued in its published fan fiction, Fifty Shades of Grey.
Women who were told they weren't readers, who were too busy to read, who only thought books were those recommended in your English lit class—they all became book lovers. Teens and grandmothers alike were reading Fifty Shades of Grey and talking about romance in a way that hasn't been seen since its first rocket to the mainstream consciousness in the 1970s and '80s. In 2011, the book community was about to embark on a reading rebellion like few of us have ever seen—and that the majority of us were fully prepared for.
What was Fifty Shades' Influence?
As one of my friends on Twitter mentioned, Fifty Shades not only had us talking about it among fellow readers, but also took the conversation to a large national stage with widely respected and “legitimate” news outlets. It wasn't just niche readers who were talking about it, but mainstream news outlets. It was talked about in every newspaper, magazine, and morning show. The author became a celebrity, and shortly after, a movie was made—bringing the series to even greater global attention.
While many outlets talked about it in a derisive way, the books also had people asking questions: Why is romance so popular? Who is actually reading it? Is everyone secretly a sexual deviant?
Okay, that last probably wasn't asked all that often, but who can forget the Today show feature calling Fifty Shades of Grey “the dirty secret in the suburbs,” but don't worry, Dr. Drew (the biggest opponent of the book in that segment) quickly got schooled by the internet on the subject.
However, in starting the discourse—condescending as it was at first—the series allowed us to change the conversation and correct some long-held misconceptions.
[Time to break out of the ties that bind the genre...]