September 4, 2012

What Women Want in Books vs. Real Life

When you read as much as I do, you start to notice trends.  There's the vampire/werewolf/angel trend. The lethal touch or I have super powers trend. Then I can't think of a contemporary one because let's face it, the whole girl meets boy and they fall in love thing never gets old.

Oh and let's not forget the overly-possessive alpha male with stalker tendencies and anger management issues that all women can't help but fall in love with trend.  

Yes, you read that right.  

Ever since I read all three Fifty Shades books (so, you can't accuse me of not giving it a fair shot!), I feel like it's just taken over.  It's everywhere! Far too many women are reading it, there's a movie in the works, there's even a Fifty Shades dummy text generator for web developers (WTF).  Even worse, other books are trying to piggyback on its success and are obviously basing their male characters on Christian Grey.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I hate this.  But I'm going to try. 

Let's start with Christian Grey.  How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.  He describes Ana's first time having sex with him as "rectifying a situation", wants her to sign a contract before said sex, tries to tell her what to eat/wear/do, hits her, makes her cry (often after sex, especially in the first book), buys the company she works for in order to "keep her safe", admitted that he liked having sex with women who looked like his birth mother (two seconds later, he proposed to her), put hickies all over her body so she wouldn't be able to wear a bikini in public, will fly across the country if she doesn't go home at the time he specifies.. shall I go on? HE IS A CONTROL FREAK WITH MAJOR ISSUES.  It pains me when I read Facebook statuses talking about how wonderful Mr. Grey is.  Listen ladies, I don't care how hot he is or how smoldering his grey eyes are - that is not an excuse to let yourself be treated like a mindless idiot incapable of taking care of yourself.


Next up, Travis Maddox of Beautiful Disaster. When I got an email from B&N saying this was the next Fifty Shades, I knew that I would be staying as far away from it as possible.  Although one friend (whose taste in books I no longer trust), kept insisting that I should. Luckily for me, Carina had the unfortunate experience of reading it so she was kind enough to explain the plot and characters to me.  Travis has a rap sheet, slept with who knows how many women and is part of an underground fight club. He starts pursuing "good girl" Abby Abernathy and basically she plays hard to get because he's a man-whore. Eventually she just can’t resist anymore (can you sense my sarcasm?). He becomes super protective of her, beats people up, tells her what to wear, doesn't want her doing anything without him and tells her to attend his fights because he wants to keep an eye on her.  At some point they do break up temporarily and he goes bat-shit crazy. Throwing things, breaking stuff, completely in a rage.  This is not normal behavior! It’s also not normal to elope with this maniac after a few months.  Any man who takes pleasure in beating people to a bloody pulp or says things like “I'll end up in prison if I hear you slept with someone else” is NOT a keeper. 

Then there’s Jude Ryder of Crash. I’ll give him some credit - he’s not as bad as his predecessors. But he still sucks. Like Christian, he’s got grey eyes and scars all over his body. He had a rough childhood. But he too has anger management issues, been in jail multiple times, and slept with a lot of women (this seems to be the status quo). The main female protagonist in the book, Lucy, mentions on more than one occasion the sudden rage he’ll express and two seconds later, talk to her like everything is normal.  People, this is the opposite of normal.  Luckily for her, he doesn’t tell her what to do although he is possessive.  But his fosters brothers do try to set her on fire and he takes her to the dance in a stolen car.  These are not reasons to keep dating the guy. These are reasons to go running for the hills. 

The more I kept thinking about all these characters, the more I realized that there was one more person I needed to mention.  The one I’m realizing started it all. 

Edward freaking Cullen. 

I mean think about it - Twilight was the basis for Fifty Shades.  Christian is pretty much Edward on steroids.  Edward never once trusted Bella to take care of herself.  He would watch her while she slept (stalker much), at one point left her for her own good instead of communicating with her, tried to keep her away from her one friend Jake by breaking her car.  He called all the shots in their relationship.  And Bella let him because she was constantly questioning why he loved her.  She never felt good enough for him because she’s not pretty or she’s not this. Instead the author chooses to gush over how hot and wonderful and perfect Edward is instead of letting Bella grow as a person. Instead of letting the female protagonist, who all the female teenagers will see themselves in, find any confidence. The only time Bella does find any self-esteem is after she’s died and become a vampire. 

I think what upsets me most isn’t necessarily the guys in these books but how the female protagonists (and readers) respond to them.  I get the bad boy appeal, I honestly do. Just ask me about how much I love Damon Salvatore.  But in the end, he’s a vampire like Edward and there’s going to be a certain expected level of disbelief.  But Christian, Travis and Jude - these are men set in contemporary books.  And in real life, do you really want the guy who’s going to dictate your life and occasionally slap you around? NO.  And I don’t want to read about the dumb female who can’t make her own choices in life because she’s so blinded by her man’s hotness.  I’d like to think that most of us want and deserve better than that. These books are just sending out crazy messages and sadly overshadow some really awesome books that do feature strong female and male characters with healthy relationships. (My next post is going to be about my favorite male characters!). 

Does anyone else feel this way about the latest trend in books that feature possessive men and disturbingly unhealthy relationships? Or am I over-thinking it? 

8 comments:

  1. OMG! Hilarious post! And I totally agree. Granted, I still have to read the books you listed (minus Twilight) but just hearing descriptions of the male characters, from not only you, but other women - I just don't get what the appeal is!

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    1. LOL I'm glad you found my entry funny :) I really don't get the appeal either!

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  2. Such a GREAT, thoughtful post, Rachel! The only book I've read on the list is Twilight, but dang - you made me realize a few things about him that my naive self several years ago neglected to see. Sure I'll always be happy that people are reading, but I do wish people were seeing healthy relationships instead of the Christian Grey and Beautiful Disasters ones. A friend told me about Beautiful Disasters and I just... can't. I won't be reading that one.

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    1. Thank you! I know what you mean though, I didn't see these things at the time when I was reading Twilight. I think it was seeing it on screen that made me re-evaluate what I had read haha. And yes.. I am with you on Beautiful Disaster. Not reading it either!

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  3. That Fifty Shades Dummy Generator is HILARIOUS. Is that what she used to write the book? I've never read it, so I wouldn't know. Glad I could help you with Beautiful Disaster even though I tried very hard to erase that story from my memory.. just horrible. Anyways, I'm really glad you posted this!

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    1. Hahaha I will never understand how that woman wrote Fifty Shades or why. But thanks again for your help with Beautiful Disaster, I know it was painful having to relive the book for my benefit lol.

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  4. *clap clap clap* Honestly, you expressed it a million times better than I ever could. Though I will probably NEVER read 50 Shades of Grey or Beautiful Disaster or Crash, I can understand the frustration with the male characters, but even more to how the female characters respond. It's strange to me how much these irredeemable bad boys seem to appeal to women...

    Also, Damon Salvatore <3 <3 <3

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  5. Okay, this is awesome! I haven't read the Fifty Shades but I totally will read it (even if it sounds like a chore) to give it the fair-shot thing. I have read countless reviews of the trilogy and it's just mind-boggling to me that how come women are falling in love with the series.

    And I never thought about it that way but you're right, Christian, Travis and Jude are from a contemporary books and it seems so wrong that readers will find these guys appealing in any way. Hotness does not compensate for abusive behavior. At all.

    Don't even get me started on Edward Cullen. Ha I thought it was romantic he watched her sleep but then I was like wait a minute- he watches her sleep is like the mildest term for someone stalker-ish with control freak tendencies and now I'm mortified that I ever thought that. Eep!

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