Reader’s Caveat

Yesterday I read one of the many reviews on Fifty Shades of Grey, and it began – like many others I have read – with a caveat, where the reviewer stated that she didn’t condone rape or domestic abuse. (Of course not!) Why do so many reviewers find it necessary to start that way?

I have yet to read a review of a mystery, thriller, or crime novel that begins with, “Let me start by saying that I don’t condone murder, kidnapping, alien adductions, or whatever the grim acts are at the center of the story.” When I read a mystery novel, I don’t aspire to be the murderer or the victim, but why do we need to distance ourselves from whatever is going on in Fifty Shades of Grey?

Has Fifty Shades of Grey brought a taboo into the light of day? Does it speak to our hidden desires? Do we over-identify with either E. L. James or the characters in the book? What in the world is going on?

Generally, I view it as a great compliment when readers make a book their own. Albeit, you won’t catch me in a cape and wand, searching for platform 9 ¾, but in the case of the reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey it seems to me that readers are joining the author in claiming or rather denying responsibility for the contents.

That just strikes me as so wrong. The author wrote the book; he or she is responsible for its contents, not the first reader, the reader who loved the book, or the reader who disliked the book. The equivalent would be that everyone watching a movie or worse yet the news, in some way is responsible for what they see.

They – we – are responsible for our actions based on what we see or read. The fact that we have seen or read something, doesn’t even factor in to limiting our culpability.

In addition, we easily let the writers off the hook. I don’t imagine Stephen King or Dean Koontz of being murderous masterminds (well, only in a literary sense). Nor do I believe that E. L. James is a dominatrix extraordinaire 24/7. Why then, don’t we let our fellow readers off the hook?

Okay, today I ask more questions than I answer. Have you considered any of this? If so, feel free to comment below.


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