Fifty Shades and Popular Culture
Many fans loved Fifty Shades of Grey. Many others loved to hate it. E.L. James’ trilogy of novels, and the film based on them, created a popular culture sensation, revealing much about a society that is both preoccupied with and scandalized by BDSM eroticism. Some critics argued that the franchise glorified kinky sex and normalized sexual abuse. Others praised it for illuminating consensual sexual practices that have long been marginalized in mainstream media. Yet behind their erotic content, James’ novels explored not only everyday failures to identify questionable behaviors in romantic relationships, but also society’s obsession with wealth. They also speak to the value and meaning of fan fiction, parodies, merchandizing and product placement.