Guest Post: 50 Shades of Shame

Guilty Pleasure ReadsStop 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”.

50 Shades and Classics

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.

Blogger Olivia Lanaras

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.

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12 thoughts on “Guest Post: 50 Shades of Shame

  1. Reblogged this on newauthoronline and commented:
    An interesting perspective. I agree with Olivia that we should not decry an individual’s choice of reading matter on the grounds that we don’t consider it to constitute good literature. However there is a difference between personal attacks on people’s choices and expressing our honest opinion of a work’s merits. If a reviewer doesn’t like a particular book they are honour bound to express their honest opinion as to what they consider to be it’s flaws. The honest expression of an opinion by a reviewer should not be construed in the same manner as a personal attack on the reading habits of a given reader. Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for the reblog, Kevin! Also, I completely agree. I hope people don’t stop sharing their opinions, but instead share them in a way that still encourages others to continue reading.


  2. I am an avid reader of just about anything I can get my hands on be it a research study in a subject I love, classics like “A Room with a View” and “Howard’s End” to the “guilty pleasure” read. Your perspective is interesting. I have never thought to shame a writer for what they have written. A critique, maybe, but never words meant to shame and denigrate that writer’s ideas and thoughts. I have never thought to shame a reader for reading the “guilty pleasure” books as I have my own list of novels that could be considered “guilty pleasure” reads by an errant critic who cannot get past the fact that the writer is not the next Dickens, or Austin or Emily Bronte. I do not always want to read the classics and have to think about what the writer is working to convey. In school, they call that homework. I do not always want to do my homework. Sometimes I just like to read for the sake of reading, and having an adventure that is solely in my mind.

    A feeling of shame should never be a part of the pleasure of reading. Who is to say what “good” literature is? Reading is a subjective experience. Just because an “expert” on good literature says that a book is not up to par does not mean that readers will not enjoy it, and want to keep reading books in a certain genre. My “guilty pleasure” reads are definitely not literature, per se, but they are engaging and more importantly, they are fun to read. Reading is not a chore. It is a gateway to other realms, other opinions, and often mystical places. Who is to say where those imagined places should be?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for reading! I completely agree that reading is a very personal thing and your choices do not need to be moderated by anyone. But alas, there will always be those who think that their way is the highway, and that if you read anything they don’t like, you aren’t a “real” reader. Which is absolutely ridiculous. If you connect with a book, and it takes you to another place, there should be no shame in it!


    • Exactly! There’s something in them that resonates with people. I think that more “advanced” books do the same, and they can do it for the same people. I don’t see why there needs to be a distinction between readers. By the way thanks for the reblog 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Guest Blogging Spotlight: Readers + Writers Journal

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