50 Shades Generator skewers more than bad writing
Bad writing generators and erotic fic generators are nothing new, but perhaps no one told the creators of the 50 Shades Generator, who lose themselves in juvenile sex jokes and say very little about Fifty Shades or erotica.
Cheekily announcing itself as “a breakthrough in erotic fiction,” the generator delivers euphemisms like “mayonnaise cannon” and “south mouth.” It also delivers uglier pieces of slang (“fallopian fish stock,” “chlamydia canal”), as if the anonymous creators either don’t realize that mocking bad porn doesn’t equate to mocking female body parts, or don’t care.
Laughing at erotica is nothing new; as we’ve learned from generations of “bodice rippers,” those steamy romance novels often hidden under covers lavished with shirtless models like Fabio and ilk. In fact, the only distinguishable difference between the traditional bodice ripper and what’s now being called “mommy porn,” the dismissive label applied to Fifty Shades and its many subsequent clones, is that the former is shelved under the Romance section of your bookstore, often far away from the Erotica section.
Fifty Shades and its clones have effectively bridged the two genres; no more is your favorite guilty pleasure tucked quietly away, but waiting near the checkout of your next trip to Target. For what may be the first time in history, women aren’t expected to feel guilty about what they read.
Yet, as the 50 Shades Generator shows us mainstream discussion of the books, hasn’t quite gotten the memo that “trashy” narratives can still have cultural value. It’s true that after talking to fans, Buzzfeed decided that the BDSM erotica was “less about being dominated than about being served,” but then again, The Daily Beast decried the fact that “millions of otherwise intelligent women are willing to tolerate prose on this level.”
Many more iterations of this theme, such as popular Twitter @50ShadesofShit, one of the inspirations for the 50 Shades generator, have focused on the bad writing. On another inspiration, a thread at British Army community website ARRSE, user Hector asked members to help him construct a “crap porn book.” He set the ground rules: “Internal logic and chronology doesn't matter. It never did before.”
To millions of romance readers, of course, these things matter very much. Romance review sites like Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (SBTB) have grown incredibly popular almost solely on the basis of making fun of hilariously bad romance while refusing to treat their readers like idiots.
Even anti-blogs like 50 Shades of Suck tend to focus on the often-problematic themes and portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle as well as the bad writing, rather than merely being a compendium of bad descriptions and fish jokes. 50 Shades Generator’s eagerness to have nothing to do with its namesake in terms of real content underscores the dismissiveness of pop culture in general towards not only Fifty Shades but all of her sisters.
SBTB engages in loving mockery, embracing the idea that you can find value in something while still making fun of it. In a way, it’s a defense mechanism as much as an intellectual pursuit. A generation of Twilight fans has grown up seeing critics and mainstream culture totally trash the series they love. It’s hardly a surprise that now, when these same fans are reading Fifty Shades of Grey, their attitude towards its critics is one of indifference. They’ve had plenty of practice.
The New York Review’s Emily Eakin asks:
“What sway does a critic have compared with 55,000 members of Goodreads.com or, for that matter, the entire Twilight fandom? It’s tempting to argue that the Fifty Shades trilogy marks the apotheosis of a new industry paradigm, in which power has shifted... to anonymous readers and fans.”
But, as the 50 Shades Generator reminds us, the backlash towards first Twilight and then Fifty Shades also involves the typical male backlash against female erotic power. On its Twitter account, the 50 Shades Generator reblogs helpful suggestions by followers, including “shamevelope” and “slut slayer.”
When B3ta discovered the generator, user McChaff declared, “We've created what could be the future of erotic fiction.” All kidding aside, let’s hope that future doesn’t come to pass—and not just because of the bad writing.
Photo via Broccoli1965