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Guess the Quote: “American Sniper” or “Fifty Shades”?

February 17, 2015

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Top 5 Love Lessons from “The Bachelor” (Iowa + Hometowns)

February 17, 2015

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from “The Bachelor’s” hysterical Twitter feed

It’s kind of ironic that “Fifty Shades of Grey,” with its helipads and helicopters and gliders and penthouses and fancy cars, came out the same weekend “The Bachelor” aired its least glamorous episodes ever, featuring the scent of manure in the air, the shuttered businesses of a 400-person town, the fluorescent-lit high-school hallways of one’s glory days, the tattered drapes and 80s-style couches of three-star midwestern hotels… (Seriously, shouldn’t these ladies be traipsing quaint European villages by now?) In a first for the show, the producers pulled back the curtain to reveal the real Bachelor with all the bells and whistles removed — in this case, Chris Soules in his natural habitat, a ghost of a town called Arlington, Iowa. The ladies quickly learned that life with Prince Farming would include fifty shades of corn and not much else. That only one of the remaining contestants expressed a real impulse to run just goes to show how lights, cameras, too little food, and too many cocktails can really impair one’s judgment.

Don’t let your romantic judgment be impaired, either: learn the dating lessons from this week’s double feature of  ”The Bachelor” right here, right now:

  1. Beware the man who’s main method of communication is silent bobble-heading. Also, look out for someone who, when he’s at a loss for words, immediately starts making out just to fill the long, awkward pauses.
  2. Talking shit about other women to your date is unattractive. Only do it if you want to get dumped.
  3. If you feel you are being mistreated in your relationship, by all means speak up and speak your mind to your partner. But do it in private, not in front of other people — especially if those other people are interested in your partner for themselves.
  4. Everyone makes mistakes. Even if you have regrets in your past, own them. Don’t treat them like a mutant half-sister you secretly keep locked in your attic (unless, of course, your regret is enslaving your monster sibling). So, you took some nude photos on a lark — so what? The bigger the deal you make of these kind of mistakes to your date, the worse they’ll seem.
  5. Don’t throw your friends and relatives under the bus in a paternalistic effort to protect them from getting their hearts broken. Let them make — and learn from — their own romantic mistakes.

Read up on last week’s love lessons learned from “The Bachelor.” 

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How the “Fifty Shades” Movie Is Better Than the Book

February 16, 2015

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Yes, the movie was better than the book. Of course, if you’ve read the book, then you know that’s not saying much. The bar was pretty low to begin with. And one would hope that with a 40 mil production budget and a feminist director, that bar would inevitably be raised pretty high. Of course, as it’s been widely reported, the author E.L. James did everything she could to keep that bar right where it was, for the sake of her die-hard fans. So the movie was an improvement, but not a miracle.his

Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of 26%. Ouch. We guess that’s understandable if you’re judging it as a stand-alone movie. But we would argue that you can’t take it out of its context as Twilight fan-fiction turned historically successful — and historically acceptable — “mommy porn.” If you judge the movie by comparing it to its literary (and we use that term loosely) origin, then it’s smarter, funnier, and more believable. It’s also shot beautifully and delivers in the sexy department (though the book will still surely be better wank material for most women).

Before the movie came out, we had a list of ten ways we hoped the movie would improve upon the book. Let’s see how it faired below. Then we’ll cover our pleasant surprises and less expected disappointments.

1. No cable ties: FAIL

In the first book, when Christian visits Ana at the hardware store and picks up some DIY bondage supplies, it’s implied — intentionally or not — that he’s hoping to use cable ties as wrist restraints on his next guest in his Red Room of Pain. Big mistake. HUGE! If used in such a way, cable ties could cause cuts, poor circulation, and a little thing called nerve damage. The only thing they should be used for in BDSM play is organizing all the cords of your various plug-in vibrators. The movie doubles down on the idea of cable ties by having Christian actually explain they are items, in addition to rope and cuffs, that he could use to restrain her. Bush league!

2.  No explosive orgasms from Ben Wa balls: SUCCESS

In the book, Christian pops them in, spanks away and then it’s Orgasm City. Very unrealistic, at least for the majority of women. They don’t even make a cameo in the movie, which we’re sure disappointed fans (there was no tampon removal either — damn, MPAA!). But at least by omitting the balls, the movie did away with another ridiculous sexual expectation most women can’t meet.

3. Give Ana some sexual experience: FAIL

Just a smidge? Nope, not in the book or the movie. We’re supposed to believe an adult woman who’s not a member of the FLDS can graduate college with absolutely no sexual interest, no experience with men, and no attempts at masturbation ever? It perpetuates the myth that women aren’t sexual creatures until the right man comes along. Please. She’s the virgin and he’s the stud, and they save each other — gross. And even if we were to believe that such a mythical woman could actually exist, it would be totally irresponsible — reprehensible even — to dunk her over her head into the world of BDSM (even with a single introductory vanilla cherry popping’ sesh). At least in the movie, Christian seems as surprised to hear about her sexual status as we were.

4. Full disclosure on the slave contracts: SEMI-FAIL

Christian doesn’t ever clearly articulate to Ana that slave contracts are not actually legally binding — you know, thanks to Abraham Lincoln and that whole abolitionist movement. Here’s a kid, for all intents and purposes, who is not what you would call worldly or business savvy or lawyered up. Not cool for a romantic interest who’s supposedly falling in love. But we will say this: if this is one of those suspension-of-disbelief things Hollywood requires for the fantasy, then at least they didn’t push it too hard in the movie. And major points scored for making the contract negotiation scene a meeting of the minds, in a boardroom, head to head, with witty repartee and humor and Ana ultimately holding all the control (rather than Christian wining and dining and pressuring her to just sign the damn thing, as it goes down in the book).

5. Easy on the controlling, abusive, stalker-ish behavior: SEMI-SUCCESS

In the book, Christian spies on her and tries to control who she can see, where she works, what she eats, how she works out — and she is not down with it. She’s afraid he’s going to hurt her; he causes her physical and emotional pain she doesn’t want — that’s not a D/s relationship, that’s abuse. And where’s the aftercare? The movie does make him less of a criminal. It eases way off on him obsessing over her food intake and workout routine, which helps make him much less creepy.  Meanwhile, Ana seems to have a much stronger sense of herself, a greater ability to assert her desires, and a better sense of humor. She basically tells him to cut the shit and open the door when he’s hesitating outside his playroom. However, he still breaks into her apartment and she never says, “How the fuck did you get in here?!?”

6. More well-adjusted kinky characters: N/A

We thought it would be nice if the movie could add a character or two who’s into kink who isn’t royally fucked up. In the book, it’s Christian the controlling abusive boyfriend, his crazy gun-wielding ex sub, and his statutory rapist from when he was a kid. Not exactly the best advertisement for the kink community, the majority of whom are uber-responsible, law-abiding, stable citizens. The first movie in the series focuses solely on Christian, with his ex-dom, “Mrs. Robinson,” just a mysterious off-screen character.

7. Drop Ana’s issues with eating:  SUCCESS

With Ana forgetting to eat all the time, not being hungry and being forced to eat by Christian, it’s like she’s got an eating disorder. Maybe EL James was just playing around with a woman’s ultimate fantasy of never being hungry, but it’s a distracting issue — let the girl have a healthy appetite. Fortunately, in the movie, she enjoys making — and actually eats — food.

8. Have Ana enjoy the kink more: SEMI-SUCCESS

She can be conflicted about it, sure, but she should ultimately love it, embrace it and not be so afraid of it. In the movie, we’re spared Ana’s original wishy-washiness: visually, she seems to be thoroughly enjoying every kinky sexual experience, at least up until the walloping climax. A truly novel ending would have had Ana, through tears of pain, grinning in ecstasy, in spite of herself.

9. Make the sole minority character less date rape-y:  SUCCESS

Jose, basically the one minority in the book, is on a clear path to sexual assault as he tries to take advantage of Ana when she’s super drunk outside the bar. In the book, he tries to kiss her even though she keeps saying no and trying to push him away. He continues to hold her in a bear hug and is about to commit a crime before Grey breaks it up. Criminal tendencies aren’t a great quality in a “really good friend.” Fortunately, in the movie, they softened this scene by making it clear Jose and Ana are both drunk and by having Jose basically go in for a single kiss that’s more “I’ve been in love with you for a long time and am so pathetic I can only admit it when we’re both wasted” rather than “I’ve wanted to fuck you for a long time and now I’m going to take advantage of your inebriation to get what I want.”

10. No Ana narration: SUCCESS

Thank the Inner Goddess, the movie dispenses with Ana’s insipid internal dialogue. There are no voiceovers about the “ghost of a smile” on Christian’s face or her rather communicative Subconscious. There’s just a single, quiet, understated “Holy cow” uttered after she leaves his office — it’s manageable, just barely.

 

THE PLEASANT SURPRISES

1. Ana has pubic hair! 

We were pleasantly surprised to see some real bush (or even just merkin) in the movie — in ANY movie. In an interview, the director Sam Taylor-Johnson says Ana’s pubic hair goes on a journey with Ana throughout the movie; if that means Ana doesn’t have any pubes by the end — implying Grey’s insistence in the book on down-there-hairlessness — we didn’t notice.

2. No “crackwhore.”

Fortunately Christian doesn’t call his mother a crackwhore — instead, he refers to her as a crack addict and a prostitute. A small but still significant victory.

3. More funny jokes.  

There were some nice, unexpected moments when the movie had the audience laughing intentionally.

4. Dakota Johnson wasn’t half bad.

We were braced for a cringe-inducing performance (akin to that of Drew Barrymore in “Mad Love”), but Johnson (aided by Taylor-Johnson’s attempt at giving Ana more control and agency) actually made Ana bearable, likable even.

 

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS

1. Too many terrible lines from the book. 

With all the control given to the author over the movie, we knew a lot of the worst writing would have to be included, but we still hoped for heavier editing. There were quite a few times when the cheesiest lines from the book elicited loud laughs from the movie-going audience.  And when Dornan has to say “I’m fifty shades of fucked up,” he turns away from the camera and lowers his head — we have a feeling the shame he was emoting was NOT acting.

2. Wet-noodle flogging scene. 

The scene with the rope and the flogger in the Red Room of Pain was pretty mild, and didn’t do much to convey how pleasure and pain can mix erotically.

3. Jamie Dornan was pretty flat. 

After his great performance in the BBC series “The Fall,” in which he plays a serial killer, we had high hopes for what he could do with Christian. But sadly, he’s more charismatic, sexier, more soulful even as a soulless murderer.

4. Not enough male nudity. 

Hello? Women are the ones going to this movie. We want to admire Christian Grey’s body! While we appreciate the realism and subtlety with which Dakota Johnson’s nude form was shot, we really would have appreciated a heavier female gaze when it came to Dornan’s bod. We’re not even asking for full frontal. How about a quick side shot? Hey, if Ben Affleck can do it…

5. That hairpie! 

Oh, how can you make Jamie Dornan not hot? Somehow, the stylists managed to give him a hairdo that conveyed more “dork” than “dreamboat.” And the occasional mussiness resulting from t-shirt removal was not enough to fix it.

 

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Blog Snog: The Fifty Shades/Frozen Mashup Is So Wrong It’s Right

February 13, 2015

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Top 10 Things We Hope the “Fifty Shades” Movie Does Better Than the Book

February 12, 2015

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OMG IT’S TONIGHT OMG IT’S TONIGHT OMG IT’S TONIGHT! The film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book in the mega-selling erotic trilogy by E.L. James, finally opens tonight! Well, officially it opens tomorrow, but a bunch of theaters are holding screenings tonight. Ladies, we hope your limos are booked (ours is… seriously). With the casting of Jamie Dornan (The Fall) as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson (The Social Network) as Anastasia Steele, many diehard fans have been crying foul, saying that the filmmakers got it wrong. They certainly get Jamie Dornan’s hairstyle wrong in the movie, of that much we’re sure. Then again, we’re not sure any casting would have been universally warmly received (short of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart), but we do think the film has a chance to definitely get some other things right. Behold, our top 10 improvements on the book we hope to see in the movie tonight:

1. No cable ties: In the first book, when Christian visits Ana at the hardware store and picks up some DIY bondage supplies, it’s implied — intentionally or not — that he’s hoping to use cable ties as wrist restraints on his next guest in his Red Room of Pain. Big mistake. HUGE! If used in such a way, cable ties could cause cuts, poor circulation, and a little thing called nerve damage. The only thing they should be used for in BDSM play is organizing all the cords of your various plug-in vibrators.

2.  No explosive orgasms from Ben Wa balls. It’s just not realistic, at least not for the majority of women. Giving them the same power as, say, a vibrator just sets women up for yet another sexual expectation most can’t meet. Balls (like LELO’s Luna Beads) are better suited for working out your pelvic floor muscles and thus improving pelvic health, which can lead to better sexual sensations. But as little balls full of cosmic orgasm potential? Uh uh.

3. Give Ana some sexual experience. Just a smidge. We’re supposed to believe an adult woman who’s not a member of the FLDS can graduate college with absolutely no sexual interest, no experience with men, and no attempts at masturbation ever? It perpetuates the myth that women aren’t sexual creatures until the right man comes along. Please. She’s the virgin and he’s the stud, and they save each other — gross. And even if we were to believe that such a mythical woman could actually exist, it would be totally irresponsible — reprehensible even — to dunk her over her head into the world of BDSM.

4. Full disclosure on the slave contracts. Christian doesn’t ever clearly articulate to Ana that slave contracts are not actually legally binding — you know, thanks to Abraham Lincoln and that whole abolitionist movement. Here’s a kid, for all intents and purposes, who is not what you would call worldly or business savvy or lawyered up. Not cool for a romantic interest who’s supposedly falling in love.

5. Easy on the controlling, abusive, stalker-ish behavior. Christian spies on her and tries to control who she can see, where she works, what she eats — and she is not down with it. She’s afraid he’s going to hurt her; he causes her physical and emotional pain she doesn’t want — that’s not a D/s relationship, that’s abuse. And where’s the aftercare? Christian is a terrible top. The movie should make him a better one.

6. More well-adjusted kinky characters. It would be nice if the movie could add a character or two who’s into kink who isn’t royally fucked up. In the book, it’s Christian the controlling abusive boyfriend, his crazy gun-wielding ex sub, and his statutory rapist from when he was a kid. Not exactly the best advertisement for the kink community, the majority of whom are uber-responsible, law-abiding, stable citizens.

7. Drop Ana’s issues with eating.  With Ana forgetting to eat all the time, not being hungry and being forced to eat by Christian, it’s like she’s got an eating disorder. Maybe EL James was just playing around with a woman’s ultimate fantasy of never being hungry, but it’s a distracting issue — let the girl have a healthy appetite.

8. Have Ana enjoy the kink more. She can be conflicted about it, sure, but she should ultimately love it, embrace it and not be so afraid of it.

9. Make the sole minority character less date rape-y. Jose, basically the one minority in the book, is on a clear path to sexual assault as he tries to take advantage of Ana when she’s super drunk outside the bar. He tries to kiss her even though she keeps saying no and trying to push him away. He continues to hold her in a bear hug and is about to commit a crime before Grey breaks it up. Criminal tendencies aren’t a great quality in a “really good friend.”

10. No Ana narration. We hope and pray the movie dispenses with Ana’s insipid internal dialogue. Please no voiceovers about the “ghost of a smile” on Christian’s face or her cartwheeling Inner Goddess.

For an awesome book about kink that should be made into a documentary movie, check out our award-winning “150 SHADES OF PLAY: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink” – now available as a Kindle E-book! 

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Top 6 Love Lessons from “The Bachelor” (The Badlands)

February 10, 2015

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from “The Bachelor’s” hysterical Twitter feed

After such a tepid start, this season of “The Bachelor” has really started delivering on the crazy, thanks in part….okay, all thanks to the evil manipulation of events by the hand-rubbing, mustache-twirling producers. Let’s give the jock the short wedding dress during the mud run competition so she’s sure to win the one-on-one date where Chris can unceremoniously boot her off! Let’s force Chris to ditch his other dates and secretly take the one they’re most jealous of to a concert she won’t even like (but the others would have loved)!  Let’s make Chris keep the two craziest ladies in the house long after he wanted them gone just so he can dump them both in the Badlands and escape via helicopter!  We’d feel pretty morally outraged if we weren’t so shamelessly entertained. With all the choreographed drama this week, there weren’t a lot of obvious love and dating lessons to be gleaned, but somehow we managed. After all, we’re professionals:

  1. Even though it feels like you “won’t ever get over” a breakup (Mackenzie), you will. Especially if you’re only 21. Life goes on, and you will too. The more proactive you are about it, the better.
  2. Just because you’ve never experienced something in the flesh, doesn’t mean your first time with it has to be totally uninformed. Whether you’re an inexperienced kisser, a heterosexual intercourse virgin, or a newbie to the Bend Over Boyfriend Kit, do a little research, read up on some tips and tricks, watch some vids for inspiration, and/or practice by yourself. For example, even though Becca may be a virgin, after a great date with obvious chemistry there’s really no excuse for kissing Chris like somebody’s parents would in front of their little kids.
  3. As soon as you feel overconfident about the security of your relationship, that’s when you should really worry about losing it. Overconfidence breeds selfishness, myopia, and lackadaisical loving — three things that are anathema to a healthy, thriving relationship. The person who thinks they “have this in the bag” often has a big-ass hole in their bag.
  4. When it comes to makeup, less is more. Use a light touch when applying foundation. And, for the love of all that’s holy, do not attempt contouring unless you are a professional makeup artist, otherwise you’ll end up looking like you rubbed dirt all over your face for you’re date (which, if your date was in the dusty Badlands, maybe you did).
  5. If a lot of people, including the person you think you’re going to marry, feel the need to point out certain personality flaws to your face, that’s probably a good time to do some soul searching and life questioning, rather than doubling down on the idea of how perfectly unflawed you are.
  6. As much as we understand the impulse (and enjoy watching the resultant visuals on TV), do not revel in the romantic misfortunes of others, because the exact same fate likely awaits you…and soon. Karma’s a bitch (and so is the Bachelor).

 


 
Read up on last week’s love lessons learned from “The Bachelor.” 

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How to See the “Fifty Shades of Grey” Movie in Style

February 10, 2015

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In case you couldn’t tell from the onslaught of Fifty Shades posts on our site in the past week, we’re a teensy little bit excited about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie that opens this Friday. It’s not because we loved E.L. James’ book. (We didn’t. Too many inner goddesses doing cartwheels and too much cliched writing.) It’s not because we expect the two stars to have any chemistry on screen. (They clearly don’t.) It’s not even because HOLY MOTHER EFFING SPARKLY VAMPIRES IS JAMIE DORNAN HOT. (He absolutely is, but the filmmakers inexplicably ruined it all by giving him a bad haircut in the movie. Who knew it was even possible to make him look unappealing?) And it’s certainly not because we expect to get any decent sex tips from the movie. (That’s what our book is for, duh.)

No, the reason we’re excited is this: What better excuse can you think of to get your drink on with a bunch of lady friends and go giggle at the big screen? And that’s exactly what we plan to do. It will be a much needed respite from the rather bleak selection of Oscar movies this year: Nightcrawler is brilliant but cheerless. Mr. Turner is simply cheerless. The Theory of Everything seems kind of uplifting until you Wikipedia Stephen Hawking and realize how soon he is likely to be suffering from locked-in syndrome. American Sniper is a great movie that made us feel bad about America. Still Alice made us weep. Foxcatcher made us feel funny inside.  (Bad touch! Bad touch!) And so on.

So tell us this: Which of the above movies would be appropriate to see drunk on champagne? Only Fifty Shades of Grey! Which of the above movies would be appropriate to car-pool to in a cheesy white stretch limo that is more commonly hired for local proms? Only Fifty Shades of Grey! Which of the above movies warrants you getting dressed up and teasing your hair big like you’re actually attending one of those local proms? Yep, you got it: Fifty Shades of Grey.

And this is exactly what we plan on doing this Friday, February 13th. Yes, we’re serious about the stretch. Our husbands think we’re nuts, but they just don’t understand. Sure, this could be a painful viewing experience, but as the inimitable E.L. James wrote: “There’s a very fine line between pleasure and pain. They are two sides of the same coin, one not existing without the other.”

So get your tickets in advance (they’re selling out), rent the limo, and get your girlie drink on without shame!

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The Best Last Minute Valentine’s Day Present This Year!

February 9, 2015

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Here are the top 10 reasons why our book 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink — now also available in a discreet Kindle edition! – makes the best Valentine’s Day present this year:

  1. It gives you the great excuse to try something new in the bedroom — perfect for longterm couples on Valentine’s Day.
  2. It also has staying power. The perspectives it can give you on kinky sex can inspire your sex lives for years to come. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
  3. It’s timely and relevant. We’re pretty sure even Kurdish fighters know that the Fifty Shades movie is opening this weekend. Our book helps put such a huge cultural phenomenon into perspective, in a way that’s fun and flirty (and actually well written).
  4. It helps round out a nice gift basket of treats for Valentine’s Day: chocolates for your sweetie’s sweet tooth, tickets to the Fifty Shades movie for some eye candy, roses for romance, and 150 Shades of Play for playtime! (Way better than some ill-fitting lingerie they’ll never wear.)
  5. Even if your partner doesn’t love it, you can pass it off as a gag gift that makes a great bathroom book. Just turn to the entry on  pony-play!
  6. The lighthearted tone of 150 Shades of Play takes some of the pressure off of you two to perform (unlike the gift of, say, a strap-on dildo).
  7. It’s a great way to give your partner hints about what you’d like to try…just happen to leave a bookmark or post-it next to a section that catches your interest, then leave the book on their pillow/night-stand. Or just get the book for yourself, read up on some tips and techniques before Valentine’s Day, and then wow your luvva with your amazing new moves!
  8. Not only can it improve your sex life, it can improve your social life! You can enliven future cocktail parties with some of the trivia you’ll learn from 150 Shades of PlayDid you know that we get the term “masochist” from Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, the author of the 1870 novel Venus in Furs? Both he and his main character got off on being degraded by dominant women wearing fur. And that’s one to grow on!
  9. It’s affordable!  Especially on Kindle! You get so much — 230 pages of well-researched history, fascinating cultural information, good sexual advice, precise technical instruction, cool illustrations, and side-splitting humor (basically everything that wasn’t in Fifty Shades) — for so little: dollars less, in fact, than what 8 measly pieces of Godiva chocolates costs! Less even than a single movie ticket in most of this country!
  10. Not only will you be giving your partner/friend/friend-with-benefits a great gift, you’ll be giving us a gift too: By buying our book, you will literally help keep this site up and running. So won’t you please be our Valentine?

150 Shades of Play is available on Amazon.com, in either a gorgeous glossy paperback or a discreet Kindle edition. Visit 150ShadesOfPlay.com for more information about our book, including excerpts and praise from actual celebrities.

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Watch the Entire “Fifty Shades” Movie Online Right Now!

February 6, 2015

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Okay, it’s not exactly the entire movie. But from these five sneak-peak clips that ran on the Today Show this past week, you basically get a complete picture (lots of awkward pauses, dubious chemistry, lame Christian Grey hair). Are we still gonna see it? Hells yes! But now, you don’t have to. Here they are, in what we’re guessing is chronological movie-scene order:

“We offer an excellent internship program.”

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 
“Ok… rope, tape, cable ties. You’re the complete serial killer.”

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“You’re energetic this morning.”
“I’m making pancakes!”

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“I don’t do romance.”

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“This is my playroom.”
“Like your Xbox and stuff?”

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Catch up on all our “Fifty Shades” posts in this Special Issue:



The Top 5 Writing Lessons of “Fifty Shades of Grey”

February 6, 2015

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According to Wikipedia, the Fifty Shades of Grey series “has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages, and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time.” Not only has it introduced many people to the world of kink, it’s given them a lesson in how not to write. And if a lack of literary merit didn’t slow down sales, well, at least people can learn about the elements of style while being turned on by the elements of sadomasochism.

1. Avoid repetition of words and phrases. 

When Ana first meets Christian Grey, she thinks she spots a “ghost of a smile” in his expression. That’s a nice, descriptive way of putting it — it’s easy for the reader to imagine. The problem is, James uses the same exact phrasing only a few pages later, for the same character. And that’s not the last we hear the term “ghost of a smile,” either — it pops up a few more times in the first book. Using something so specific again and again just comes across as lazy.

 

2. Use adverbs sparingly. 

Anastasia Steele never met an adverb she didn’t like, especially when it’s modifying the way she or another character speaks: “I mumble almost inarticulately”; “I murmur apologetically”; “he murmurs softly.” (For painfully excessive use of the word “murmur” throughout Fifty, see rule #1).

 

3. Don’t use substitutes for the verb “said.”

The Fifty Shades characters rarely just “say” something, they whisper it, they breathe it, they moan it, they mumble it, they murmur it, ad nauseum (see rule  #2, and then rule #1). One of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules on Writing is this: 

Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled,” “gasped,” “cautioned,” “lied.” I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

What he said.

4. Be accurate. 

There is such a thing as creative license, but E.L. James’s should be revoked. Like driving, creative license is not a right, but a privilege, and should be used responsibly and with the utmost care. For example, the author creatively personifies Ana’s internal struggles over various situations as two polar-opposite people living in her head: a sex-loving, open-minded, free-spirited, back-flipping “Inner Goddess” and a careful, cautious, judgmental worrier called her “Subconscious.” Cute, but what Alanis Morissette did to the word “ironic,” E.L. does to the word “subconscious.” To quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” If it were truly Ana’s subconscious guiding her, Ana would not be aware of her — that’s what the whole “sub” part of that word means: not conscious! Similarly, there are a ton of British anachronisms in a story about American characters living in American cities with nary a funny Mancunian sidekick to rub off on them. James even includes an apology at the end of the third book for including a scene so preposterous that it defies all logic and law — that’s when you know you’ve abused your creative license.

 

5. Don’t worry about the rules of writing.

E.L. James didn’t, and look where that got her: laughing all the way to the bank! The most important thing is just sitting down and actually writing. As long as you do that — ideally with passion and conviction — then there’s a chance (albeit small) that you can ignore rules 1 through 4 above and still be a success.

If you liked Fifty Shades (despite the writing), you’ll love 150 Shades of Play, our how-to companion piece to the popular trilogy! 

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