With the recent release of the movie 50 Shades Darker has come another shit-storm of discussions and accusations regarding the literary validity of the book and those who have enjoyed perusing the trilogy’s pages. While I certainly enjoy reading and joining in the debates, over the past few days I have seen a disdain for a social community at large that I find far more concerning than whether or not the books have any literary merit.
Many people in the BDSM community, both readers and authors alike, have been pointing out the glaring inaccuracies of the BDSM aspect of the storyline. What they are met with more often than not is the sentiment of “It’s just fiction, so it doesn’t have to be accurate.” While I agree with this to an extent, I think society as a whole is missing the bigger picture.
Why is everyone so quick to dismiss the BDSM community’s outrage at the inaccuracies in the book? Why are their feelings, and in turn their entire community and lifestyle, being swept under the rug as if they didn’t matter simply because the trilogy is “fiction?” Do their feelings and concerns not matter?
Let’s break it down. Had this story centered around any other social community or group – say a religious sector or the LGBT community – and contained so many inaccuracies, these communities would be in an absolute outrage over it. What’s more, society as a whole would confirm that these people have every right to be outraged. Why had the author not bothered to research that religion and/or community before having that work published? Why were these groups’ feelings, lifestyle, and community not taken into consideration before publishing something so inaccurate?
If that trilogy had been centered around some horrible tragedy, such as the Holocaust, and contained so many inaccuracies, society as a whole would be outraged, and people would confirm they have every right to be outraged. How dare the author not do any research before broaching such a delicate and emotionally charged event in history before publishing?
The simple fact of the matter is, people who read historical romance get incredibly upset if the backdrop to the story contains so much misinformation that it distracts from the story. The same goes for literature centered around real-world communities and groups or events. And for all intents and purposes, EL James shined a spotlight onto a very secretive group which never once asked to have society as a whole peek into their world and then basically insult them by telling them their community doesn’t count because EL James writes about fictitious characters. It’s absolutely absurd for people to think this, much less use the “it’s fiction” excuse when the members of this community try to educate the readers of this book as to just how inaccurate the BDSM portion of the books actually is. As an author, it is our duty to ensure our stories, despite being fiction, accurately represent the world in which they are set.
Yes, we can all agree that people loved this book because it was your typical “girl meets damaged hero and teaches him how to love” HEA love story. It’s a storyline that has been used for centuries. The problem lies when the author did not bother to do any research into a rich society that actually exists, grossly misrepresents their lifestyle and relationships, and never once acknowledge she may have been premature in such representations in her haste to get the books published. To compound the problem, because most people do not realize just how wrong the depictions in the books actually are, they do not understand why the BDSM community is so outraged about the discrepancies. And the more the community tries to educate people on why they cannot support the books, the angrier people get, once again dismissing the community’s lifestyle and standards as not being of any value or importance because “it’s just fiction.”
And this leads me to the whole point of this article. Exactly when did it become socially acceptable to dismiss an entire community of people simply because the average person doesn’t understand them? Why are their feelings and outrage over the gross misrepresentation of their community not valid? I had so hoped that society as a whole had come much further along than this.
If nothing else, many people have admitted that the trilogy was their “gateway book” which has led them to seek out books written by authors with a better understanding of the lifestyle, those who have researched the topic, who have or is currently living the lifestyle, or who just want to do their own works and their readers justice by providing them with a more believable fictional experience. Yes, it may be fiction, but that doesn’t mean research and work arent’ involved.
I only ask that readers keep in mind that the BDSM community exists. It is a society filled with loving people and relationships, and their chosen lifestyle has validity and they should be respected, even if it is within the pages of a fiction book. After all, fiction may be art imitating life, but misrepresenting the truth has far-reaching consequences when dealing with people, lifestyle choices, heritage, and society. This group of people exist in the real world, and both the people and their lifestyle have every right to be respected by everyone, even authors who write about fictitious characters.