Fifty Shades Of Grey Tattoos Tell Me Everything I Need To Know About Fifty Shades Of Grey
I never read any of the Fifty Shades of Grey books, because 1) I was advised not to read it by my very good friend who was reading it voraciously when it came out, and 2) Luvvie Ajayi epically live-tweeted reading the first book and called it #50ShadesOfShade, and it was perfect, and I pretty much got the gist, 3) let’s be real, here: Fifty Shades is a fanfic of Twilight which itself is a ripoff of The Vampire Diaries and none of those things are really all that good, 4) there are all of the sexual-political incorrect-BDSM things that are wrong about the book that have been dissected widely on the web, and finally and most importantly 5) I read excerpts, of course, and the writing was so bad it made my eyes bleed. How could I get through even a chapter with bleeding eyes?
With the movie coming out next week, my YouTube has been taken over by “Fifty Shades” trailers that give off a weird vibe that makes me vaguely uncomfortable, my Feedly is like at least 10 percent “Fifty Shades” there’s constant speculation about the lack of chemistry between Blandota Blandson and Blandie Blandan (what I’m saying there is “this movie looks boring, on top of being vaguely creepy and not very sexy”), and the only way I can cope with it is by mocking it. And I do believe it deserves to be mocked: I like BDSM; I’m relatively vanilla by a lot of kinky people’s standards, but kinky people are my friends, and they deserve better representation than Fifty Shades has afforded them, inasmuch as it depicts an abusive relationship, not a healthy, happy BDSM relationship, and knowing the difference is important. Here’s a tip for people who read Fifty Shades and decide that they want to dabble in BDSM: Don’t contact a dom/inatrix and ask them to be Christian Grey for you. It is actively insulting to them.
Beyond that, it’s really bad writing. I mean, painfully bad. And nowhere is that in more abundant evidence than in the tattoos people get to commemorate their love of Fifty Shades of Grey. I have absolutely zero problem with cultural references in tattoos — on top of what I think are my classier or at least classic tattooed cultural references, like Lynda Benglis, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Marilyn Monroe, and “Star Wars,” I also have tattooed on my body a reference to the ska band Streetlight Manifesto, “YOLO” and “FBGM,” the once-popular Chicago band Kill Hannah’s sniper heart logo, a line from “Doctor Who,” and a Sleigh Bells lyric on my sternum (it says “remember who you are,” and most people think I took it from “The Lion King,” which would be pretty badass IMHO).
But the only really stupid choice in there, to me, was the Kill Hannah tattoo — everything else was planned out well in advance (years!), or ironic, or wasn’t an obvious reference. It’s one of those “they meant a lot to me when I got it when I was 18” things, and by the time I had the opportunity to get it covered up, I couldn’t think of anything to cover it up with, so I decided to just keep it as my one stupid-teenager tattoo. At least it wasn’t just that I liked their music; it was also that I started listening to them with a group of friends who were really crucial in my formative years. So, I don’t know, I will admit the possibility that Fifty Shades has community value to some of the people who read it and then proceeded to get tattoos for it.
But none of that takes away the fact that, apparently, the only really catchy thing anyone ever said in Fifty hades of Grey was “Laters, baby.” This is apparently spoken as a matter of habit by a wealthy 28-year-old man. Pause and let that land. In fact, go ahead and say “Laters, baby” out loud right now. Did you do it? Did you feel like one of those teenagers who thinks they can earn a cool reputation by using stereotypical cool-kid language, but who everyone else knows is desperately uncool and trying way too hard? Yeah, me too. And EL James might have felt that way if she had ever bothered to read her dialogue out loud before she went ahead and clicked “submit” on whatever fanfic forum she was writing on, but my guess is she didn’t.
If the only thing you can take away from a book is a mask, a pair of handcuffs, a key, a tie, and a catchphrase — the first four of which have no nuanced symbolic meaning, they’re mainly just props that facilitate Christian and Ana’s sex or create the atmosphere of the Red Room, with the mask and the key maybe being clunky and very tired metaphors about identity or vulnerability or relationships or whatever — then the book isn’t very good. In pop-musical terms, those symbols are hooks. They’re catchy, they feel good, they’ll grab your attention and help you to remember the feeling of the song, but they don’t mean much. Getting them tattooed on you is like getting “Hit me baby one more time” tattooed on you, and god help anyone who did that. (It might be a better tattoo for a sub than any Fifty Shades tattoo, now that I’m thinking about it.)
So, like, sorry not sorry if I point and laugh at these tattoos a little bit, because the people who got them are grown-ass adults with free will, who exercised that free will to get tattoos that say — of all things — “Laters, baby.” Not “So it goes,” not “I will drink life to the lees,” not even “All you need is love” or “Mischief managed,” but “Laters, baby.” What does it even mean? What values or principles or joys or sorrows does that represent? What are you saying about yourself other than “I like a really really poorly-written book about an abusive relationship operating under the guise of BDSM”? I figure, if I don’t blame people for laughing at me for having a Kill Hannah tattoo — it says about me that I was a mopey teenager in Chicago ca. 2003 and took myself too seriously — then these Fifty Shades tattooees are fair game.
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