One of the strangest phenomenons of the modern literary environment is Automatic Hate Syndrome. AHS is serious business, and it describes the baffling moment when someone confidently informs you they disapproves of what you’re reading, then proceeds to make mean-spirited judgments about you based on it—only to reveal, without a hint of shame, that they’ve not actually read the book in question.
In recent years, E.L. James’ wildly popular Fifty Shades trilogy have been among the books most likely to be deprecated by people who haven’t read a word of them. For those who have read and enjoyed the original trilogy, the release of Grey, E.L. James’ retelling of the story from Christian Grey’s point of view, is simultaneously exciting and unnerving, because it’s an intriguing twist on the story that grabbed you the first time, and because it means once again enduring the snark of Grey Haters (Graters?).
Fear not: we got you. Here are five things you can say when someone tries to Grey Shame you.
1. “The people demanded it.”
E.L. James wrote Grey for one main reason: her fans wanted her to. She writes, “This book is dedicated to those readers who asked…and asked…and asked…and asked for this.” This isn’t a crazy risk by an overreaching author or a moment of ego tripping; this is a writer responding to the overwhelming demand of millions of people who love her work. Grey is a love letter to the people who have given her so much success, and the next time someone tries to Grey Mock (Grock—wait, that one’s taken) you, you can ask them politely when the last time millions of people begged them to do anything was (aside from keeping their opinions to themselves).
2. “Too many levels for you?”
Retelling the original story from Christian Grey’s perspective is a pretty bold literary move that takes a story already fraught with sexual and emotional themes, symbolism, and action and makes them even deeper. Telling the same story from different perspectives isn’t easy for a writer, requiring a reassessment of just about every aspect of the original, from the dialogue to the details conveyed to the reader. Not everyone is going to understand the complexity this adds to the original story, and it’s okay if their brains can’t handle the idea of finding all new shadings in a story by reversing the angle and looking at everything with fresh eyes—as long as they leave you alone to enjoy it yourself.
3. “Stop hating fun.”
People who want to mock your love for Christian Grey and Fifty Shades always miss the real point: these books are fun. Whether you read them as a guilty pleasure or to access the emotional core underneath all the BDSM, the fact is these books are entertaining to the max. People who talk trash about your excitement for Grey will always mention the sex—it’s usually one of the first things they bring up, in fact. They hate fun, and they’re threatened by things like sex and pure fantasy escapism. So when someone tries to mock you when you mention Grey in casual conversation, ask them why they’re so dead inside and incapable of joy. Just be prepared to comfort them when they burst into tears and start actually telling you.
4. “Why be ashamed of sex?”
Those bluenoses who belittle Grey as just mindless erotica are perpetuating a culture of silence around sex, sexual fetish, and lifestyle that the modern world is trying hard to push past—and E.L. James’ books are part of that struggle. We’re living in the 21st century and still fighting against rape culture, homophobia, and the fact that people think it’s okay to make jokes about Caitlyn Jenner. It might not seem like these fun, breezy books are part of a bigger struggle, but they are, because they’ve brought sex, BDSM, and other realities to the forefront for people to experience, discuss, and be smarter about. So when someone tries to shame you over these books, tell them proudly that you’re not ashamed of sex, curiosity, or reading, even if they are.
5. “You just don’t get it, bro.”
Whatever else you want to say, Fifty Shades is a series of books written by a writer for her largely female fans. Not all women are into safe words and the occasional spanking, but the female-centric sensibility and point of view mean that some men, who are, shall we say, less developed emotionally and not nearly as worldly as they might be, find the books a bit threatening. Those guys just won’t get it, and if they try to mock your taste in books, tell them to come back when they’re grownups.
So let that cover show on the train. Ask people if they’ve read it yet. And post your reviews of Grey online under your own name. Let your Grey Flag fly, and if anyone snarks, just refer them this way.