The Marketing Genius Behind the Fifty Shades Phenomenon

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Thoughts on the Fifty Shades Books and films?

 Why have certain women responded to it the way that they have?

Check out my video response below:

For more Old Simo YouTube videos click here

 

In 2011 British born E.L. James released the novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The Fifty Shades trilogy includes Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Free.

It depicts the relationship between a virginal college graduate (Anastasia Steele) and a young business man (Christian Grey). Grey is a mega wealthy, mysterious and emotionally desolate man who has a taste of kinky sex. Anastasia is drawn into Christian’s world of BDSM .

James originally self-published Fifty Shades as an e-book and publishing rights were purchased in 2012. It has become a major best seller. It has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. The trilogy has been translated into over 50 languages.

The 50 Shades of Grey movie was commercially successful. It  starred Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. It was critically panned though.  The film sequel, Fifty Shades Darker was recently released.

Fifty Shades is often referred to as the erotic version of Twilight. Poorly written and poorly constructed.  Salman Rushdie famously quipped “I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made Twilight look like War and Peace”.

Despite the critical panning from the literary world it has struck a chord in its female target market. The phenomenon suggests that there is some sort of new sexual revolution happening in the world of films and books.

The marketing machine behind the Fifty Shades trilogy is genius. It has somehow tapped into the average mainstream female market. It knows that these women have limited knowledge and awareness of other texts that are available in the market. Therefore, they are able to present the product offering as something unique and revolutionary.  Another component of its marketing value is that it promises to inspire you and spice up your sex life.

French author Catherine Millet stated “If you want to speak about sex in a novel today, in the 21st century, you must be completely explicit. You cannot be metaphorical any longer”.

It also appeals to its target female market because it creates the possibility that a handsome highly desirable billionaire would desire and pursue an ordinary, insecure and dull woman. This is often the mirror image of the target market itself.

I think that Fifty Shades a flaccid and overly simplistic portrayal of sexuality. It’s not palatable or erotic in any way. I have digested far better erotic texts and I have always been aware of the variety of options. Hence, they are able to market these books as something new, unique, and revolutionary. The marketing plan heavily relies on lack of knowledge of alternatives from its target market.

Erotic literature and cinema is a post modern invention. The Marquis De Sade, DH Lawrence, Henry Miller,and Anais Nin are my favourite erotic authors.

Films depicting BDSM relationships have left their marks. 9 ½ Weeks, The Story of O, Secretary and  In The Realm of the Senses. European cinema is renowned for making films about sex and sexuality. Their films are often challenging and confronting. They explore the concept of human sexuality in a frank manner, dealing effectively with the multiple layers that exist within the sexual realm. Now that’s the stuff that I want to consume!

The BDSM sub-culture has criticized the series  for its unrealistic portrayal of the fetish/lifestyle, specifically that the writer has confused the practise of BDSM with mere abuse.  The relationship between Steele and Grey  is a one dimensional and shallow representation of sexual relations. This is possibly due to the author’s lack of understanding of the sexual subject matter that she is trying to portray.

Furthermore, it depicts a rather abusive relationship that places the female character in a very disempowered position. She has no real sense of identity and seems to think it’s acceptable for a man to inflict elements of isolation, intimidation, stalking, and control.

Anastasia is a woman in jeopardy who does not realise she is in jeopardy. Steele  accepts Grey’s treatment of her because he is handsome and wealthy. There is no issue in presenting a destructive and unhealthy relationship but there is no sub text driving the work. It’s just a glossy exterior with nothing of substance to offer.

Despite these major criticisms females have claimed it has enhanced their sex lives and intimacy in their relationships, 73% of women in a UK survey in 2012 believed Fifty Shades improved their sex lives. Adult stores worldwide have reported significant spikes in sales of sex toys and BDSM accessories due to the success of the book.

Maybe it has done some good after all. it’s not completely useless if it has improved sex lives. I just couldn’t think of a worse aphrodisiac.

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