Fifty Shades of Grey discussed for Banned Books Week


SU students gathered to discuss “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which is No. 4 on the Banned and Challenged Books list.

It was an hour of discussing one of the most controversial and challenged books ever published.

Shippensburg university students gathered in Room 106 of the Ezra Lehman Memorial Library Thursday afternoon to discuss “Fifty Shades of Grey” during the library’s Banned and Challenged Books Week that ran from Sept. 22 to 28.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James is the first of a bestselling trilogy that focuses on a complicated relationship between a college graduate named Anastasia Steele and a young businessman named Christian Grey.

The book is listed No. 4 on the Banned and Challenged Books list because of its explicit erotic sequences and offensive language.

The panelists hosting the event included associate professor Chantana Charoenpanitkul; Catherine Clay of the history/philosophy department; Stephanie Erdice, director of the Women’s Center; professor Christy Fic, instructor librarian; political science professor Sara Grove; and Rebecca Ward, director of women’s and gender studies.

The discussion started off in a comedic way when the panelists showed the audience a YouTube video of comedian Ellen DeGeneres doing numerous outtakes of an audio reading of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” refusing to read the graphic descriptions and instead using sounds from various objects.
Then the real discussion began.

The panelists spent much more time criticizing the book and analyzing the controversial themes and content than praising or defending it.


Some remarks the panelists made about the book included the book dragging along and being hard to read, the unrealistic characters, the debate about the book being more about porn than about a relationship, and the overall bad writing style by James.

“I felt the book really dragged out and I did not really connect with the characters because I did not feel like the characters were very well-rounded.

They played on a lot of stereotypes; I felt that they were very unrealistic in ways that they were just making them kind of extreme,” Erdice said.

“I feel that, when I was reading the book, it was not a page-turner for me because I felt that it was angry at a lot of points; there were control issues,” Fic said.

“The writing is so incredibly bad.” Ward said.

One student whose name is to remain annonymous spoke to the panelists about their experience with the book.

“My mom actually read it and told me not to read it, so naturally, I read it. And I got midway through the book and was absolutely horrified that my mother read it,” the student said.

“There were some inaccuracies related to sexual behavior,” Ward said. “If this is your first book about sex, then you are getting some really inaccurate information about sex.”

Erdice expressed her thoughts on the novel being degrading to young women. She thought that the middle-aged female characters, as old as James was when she published the book, were portrayed as very classy, organized and dominant characters. Anastasia is a young college graduate who is a “hot mess,” and is portrayed as such throughout the novel.

However, as much as the panel criticized the novel, they did have some positive things to say about it as well.

“It sparked reading in people that are non-readers, because I was really stunned going around campus. There were a lot of women who were not traditionally people I’d consider book readers,” Grove said.

When asked why the book is so popular, Clay said, “She [James] actually did something to market [the book]. She was something of a mom and she was an earlier TV executive, and she did a lot to promote it.”

Ward added,“This sort of gave women permission to talk about sex, and I think that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.” Whether or not “Fifty Shades of Grey” deserves to be on the Banned and Challenged Books list, it is clear that the best-selling trilogy has become a hot topic for debate and discussion because of its controversial content.

With a motion picture adaptation planned for release in August 2014, “Fifty Shades” could become the next big literature buzz.

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