Stop Shaming Guilty-Pleasure Reads
Blogger and Self-Described Book Nerd Olivia Lanaras on Labeling Books and Shaming Readers
For every one article written about the love of a guilty pleasure book like 50 Shades of Grey or Twilight, there are two that slam and shame it.
“The writing is just not up to par, the characters are unbelievable, and the sex verges on the comical. ”
“Think of it as the “Downton Abbey” of bondage, designed neither to menace nor to offend but purely to cosset the fatigued imagination.”
“Fifty shades of bad writing”
Without a doubt, the authors behind these works are not the second coming of Jane Austen. I have tried reading them and just couldn’t do it. In fact, most of the lines are absolutely cringe-worthy. However, labeling these works as invalid or unworthy of being considered works of literature is not only unnecessary, but also detrimental.
There seems to be a trending opinion that people just don’t read anymore. Apparently our attention spans for words have shrunk, and we only just manage to skim through the bolded subtitles of list articles.
But that’s where we’re wrong: people do like to read, they just like to read the things they aren’t “supposed” to. And it is the stigma against certain books and genres that drives the misconception that the love of reading is lost in our society.
We have categorized these works as less than literature, a sort of “sub-literature”, as if you aren’t even reading if you choose to read these books. We see it as much more similar to watching a soap opera. However, by doing this, we systematically discourage those readers from expanding beyond this genre of books. We have made reading an elite activity, reserved only for those who care to take the time to work through the literature that is considered “legitimate”.
If we want to support an active and passionate society of readers, then we have to stop devaluing the time and energy put into books like 50 Shades of Grey. They may not be the pinnacle of modern literature, but they can serve as “gateway books”, leading readers to more nuanced and thought-provoking work. Becoming engrossed in a story is one of the strongest motivators to keep reading, and those immediate withdrawal symptoms after finishing a great book compel you to search for another.
Yet when you’re told the book you fell in love with wasn’t even worth reading, it stifles this wonderful effect. While searching for something new, you’ll probably be turned off of exploring the world of Jane Austen, since everyone has made it out to be far more “advanced” and “serious” than your beloved 50 Shades. But why it is so difficult to imagine that 50 Shades of Grey fans might love Austen’s playful wit and romance?
Instead of scoffing and rolling your eyes when someone bashfully admits they actually liked a guilty pleasure read like 50 Shades of Grey, try suggesting A Room with a View, Jane Eyre, or the fail-safe Pride and Prejudice. In the end, creating a world of curious readers is far more important than defending the imagined sanctity of “legitimate” literature.
Olivia Lanaras is the Head Blogger and Social Media Coordinator for twazer. She attends Claremont McKenna College, where she studies Government and History. She loves spending her days at cafés, curled up with a romantic novel.