Sunday, 15 February 2015

50 Shades v Outlander

Interesting to compare the reception of  two different shows that share a major component. The first is 50 Shades of Grey, and the second is Outlander. The major component, if you haven't guessed, is sex. The first few episodes of Outlander aired recently, and the next few are scheduled to begin soon. 50 Shades went on general release yesterday.

I think I'm right in claiming that the E L James has sold 100 million copies in the 50 Shades trilogy and Gabaldon 20 million over seven or eight books. Even if the figures are slightly different, it is easy to see which is the most popular. Why then all the brickbats and bashing for 50 Shades and fewer complaints about Outlander?

The biggest complaint about 50 Shades is that it offers and even recommends abuse of women. I don't think this is true. I read the first book and the heroine actually signs a contract to say that she is a willing participant in the relationship which leads her into the pleasures of bondage. At any time she can withdraw, but chooses to stay. The complainers say this leads men of a different type to try and do the same without the willing consent of their partners. We night as well say that crime stories lead people to loot, steal, rob and commit murder, They complain that Grey is a handsome billionaire who makes everything seem romantic. Well, naturally; this is fiction, after all. It wouldn't work if he was a tramp and lived in a dustbin.

Outlander on the other hand, has a story about a modern women stranded in 1745. More imaginative, but even more outlandish, you might say, than the set up of 50 Shades. Claire, the heroine, sees and filters everything through the eyes of someone used to the life of a 1940s woman, It is possible that Claire is more independent than women actually were in the 1940s despite their necessary work during the war years. Claire, I often feel, is as modern and independent as the author, born in 1952 and 39 when she published the first Outlander novel.

There is a good deal of sex in the novels. Claire is threatened with rape so many times in the first few episodes of the Starz production that I lost count, but I think they were present in the book too. It is so long since I read the first one that my memory of it is hazy on certain points..Then comes her relationship with Jamie. The film episode where they marry is devoted to their lovemaking to the exclusion of almost everything else. The difference is, in this production/story, Jamie is a virgin and Claire is the one with sexual experience. I remember thinking how great that Gabaldon had turned the usual man-in-charge-thing on its head in the novel, and cheered. I also noted how many women worked on the Starz production team alongside Gabaldon. I think what we have on film  is a woman's perception of making love.

That is also what we have with Anastasia in 50 Shades. We share her perceptions, not his. The only difference is that in 50 Shades, he is the controller and she the novice, In Outlander, Claire is in control or at least an equal partner in the later novels. And I think that is what makes the difference, why so many women complain about 50 Shades.

1 comment:

Jen Black said...

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Maggie Scott Nice post with some valid points. But how about the fact that there are some of us--a minority to be sure--that find both books are supremely boring and scarcely worth a read, much less all the hype? I thought 50 Shades showed all the writing skills, etc., of a middle-schooler, while Outlander was a wall-banger for me by the third chapter.

Susan Cook: Maggi, did you see this post from Vicki Smith?

Jen Black: I thought it was all very tongue-in-cheek and I laughed aloud at some of the inner goddess asides.