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A Call For Respectful Discussion of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

Nikki VanRy

Contributing Editor

Nikki VanRy is a proud resident of Arizona, where she gets to indulge her love of tacos, desert storms, and tank tops. She also writes for the Tucson Festival of Books, loves anything sci-fi/fantasy/historical, drinks too much chai, and will spend all day in bed reading thankyouverymuch. Follow her on Instagram @nikki.vanry.

I get a bit hot in the face from the abhorrent amounts of hate and judginess that is spewed at Fifty Shades of Grey AND its author AND its fans, but recently it went too far.

A commenter legit wrote that E.L. James should be shot.


When we’re talking about a book, let’s remember that a real person wrote it. There are real people who enjoyed the book you’re trashing. There are real people who identified with the characters you despise.

It’s okay (and welcome) to criticize a book.

It is not okay to be a terrible person.

We all get it. We do. Really. You don’t like the FSoG books. You want us to know that. We got it. Promise. But, it’s pretty terrible to make blanket statements about how awful a book is, and in the process, suggest that any reader of that book is also awful.

It’s also pretty terrible just how many mean-spirited and hateful comments this and any other Fifty Shades of Grey post will get. When we post about it on Book Riotwe all brace ourselves for the full force of hate. We are bracing ourselves now.

But we post about Fifty Shades of Grey, because it’s worth it.

When people shout the same insults about a thing over and over ad nauseum, it takes shaming to the highest level. It becomes normal for a person to say that an author should be shot because of a series she wrote. Someone who enjoyed FSoG will read those comments (over and over and over again) and begin to feel more like an outsider in the book community. Someone who enjoyed FSoG will begin to question whether or not they’re a “real” reader.

And, damnit, they are. Readers are allowed to like what they like. End of sentence. Period. Done.

And more than that, all of the hate is just tiring. What would happen if we judged other books the same way we judge Fifty Shades of Grey? If we bottle that collective hate, can we begin to recognize how absurd some of it is?

  • Romeo and Juliet is an inaccurate representation of how teens fall in love.”
  • “I will not read On The Road because that is nothing like a road trip I’ve ever been on.”
  • “I refuse to read Wuthering Heights because it’s about an obsessive and controlling relationship.”
  • “I refuse to read Moby Dick because it’s about an obsessive and controlling relationship between a man and a whale.”
  • “I refuse to read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress because it’s an inaccurate representation of life on the moon.”
  • “Stephen King’s IT is an inaccurate representation of ancient spiders who prey on the fears of the young.”
  • “I refuse to read Green Eggs and Ham, because salmonella.”
  • “You know that West Side Story is actually based on Romeo and Juliet, right?”
  • “I refuse to read Interview With a Vampire because it is an inaccurate depiction of human/vampire relations. It’s really just a waste of the paper that it’s written on.”
  • “Oh lord, kill me now. Is J.K. Rowling really writing another book in that series? Doesn’t she have enough money yet?”
  • “You realize that Mr. Darcy is an egotistical, self-absorbed jerk, right?”
  • “You realize that Heathcliff is an egotistical, self-absorbed jerk, right?”
  • “I’m sure we can all agree that Bridget Jones Diary is just a terrible fanfiction of another terrible book.”
  • “I refuse to read Girl With the Dragon Tattoo because dragons don’t exist.”
  • “I refuse to read The Martian because potatoes don’t actually grow that quickly on Mars.”
  • “I’m not going to read Journey to the Center of the Earth because that’s just not humanly possible.”
  • “I mean, can we agree that Nabokov is romanticizing molestation here?”
  • “George R.R. Martin just needs to stop. That series needs to die a fiery death.”
  • “Running away with a pirate to an island full of buried treasure isn’t an adventure. It’s kidnapping. Robert Louis Stevenson should be ashamed of himself.”
  • “I’m not reading Gone With the Wind because that author made waaaaaaay too much money off that book.”
  • “I refuse to read Poe’s The Raven because it is an inaccurate depiction of the vocalizations of a bird from the genus Corvus.”
  • “Guh. I can’t read The Aeneid, because it’s obviously just a fanfic of The Odyssey.”
  • “Bleh. I can’t read Ulysses, because it’s obviously just a fanfic of The Odyssey.”
  • “Ugh. I can’t read The Penelopiad, because it’s obviously just a fanfic of The Odyssey.

    Got. It. Yet?

    via GIPHY

    I’m not asking anybody to love the Fifty Shades of Grey series. At all. It’s totally cool if you don’t.

    I am simply asking everyone to be kind to other people when they talk about books. Books teach us empathy. Let’s use it.

    You can be kind enough to say, “I didn’t enjoy that book, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.” You don’t have to be nice and sugarcoat it or love the thing because other people do, but you can be kind for fuck’s sake. Take the judging out of your voice, accept that other people will like a thing you don’t like, and move on. Let’s all practice that, yes?

    And, if you want to read a fascinating unpacking of the success of the series, I’ll send you to Sarah MacLean. Or, Amanda Nelson, who had some pretty on-point comments about the gendered hate of FSoG.

    Credit for many of these go to other Rioters and my friend Melanie for sparking the idea. Oh, and many of the really terrible remarks here were paraphrased directly from Facebook comments about Fifty Shades of Grey. 


    Book Riot Live is coming! Join us for a two-day event full of books, authors, and an all around good time. It’s the convention for book lovers that we’ve always wanted to attend. So we are doing it ourselves.