Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Romance, Social Media » E.L. James event backfires when ‘Grey’ critics air grievances using #AskELJames

E.L. James event backfires when ‘Grey’ critics air grievances using #AskELJames

30 June 2015

From The Los Angeles Times:

E.L. James was thrown a curve ball on Monday when critics of her “Fifty Shades of Grey” erotica series crashed her social media event, using the hashtag #AskELJames to challenge the author for writing books they allege perpetuate rape culture and sanction domestic violence.

The social media event was planned after the release of “Grey,” a follow-up to her novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” that retells the story from Christian Grey’s point of view.

A sampling of the backlash:

. . . .


Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times and thanks to Shelly and several others for the tip.

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Romance, Social Media

68 Comments to “E.L. James event backfires when ‘Grey’ critics air grievances using #AskELJames”

  1. Some people need to learn what fiction is and isn’t.

    • Some manners wouldn’t hurt.

      • Exactly. Criticism should be accepted as a given, but the name calling was way too much.

        • Hmmm. I went to the article PG linked. And I saw some of the actual hashtag. I’m trying to remember any name calling but coming up short. Can you link, maybe? Google’s not being much help.

          • Nobody linked directly to any of them, but I saw more than a few reports by folks who saw such tweets. One such tweet called James a c**t.

            Some of those folks I’ve known for years, and most don’t like her books, so I’m confident they weren’t just saying it to be saying it.

  2. Good job – but are they ALSO giving her a lot more publicity?

  3. This is how we talk to power today to achieve results. It doesn’t even matter if power reacts; the public usually does, and in the way that was wanted.

    • Yeah. These people are really “fighting the power.” About time someone stood up to our erotic fiction writing overlords who steal our bread and spit in our designer coffee. This monster has been allowed to run roughshod all over democracy and freedom long enough! How sinister E L James is, how powerful. Our only recourse to fighting back against her is to make asses of ourselves on Twitter! Stand with me brothers and sisters and those in between. We march on Tumblr!

  4. I read the books and I didn’t see rape or abuse. That is my opinion. We all have our own. I don’t support this.

  5. Sometimes it feels that Twitter has all of the worst aspects of an unmoderated internet forum.

    • I dare you to say that on Twitter. 🙂

    • Sometimes?

    • One of the tweets reported in another article was something to the effect of “Hasn’t she ever met Twitter before?”

    • Yeah, and some of them hate it when they ask me for my twitter ID and I tell them, “Sorry, I’m not a twit.”

      There’s enough raging id10ts out there without joining a site made for them. 😉

      (no offense meant to those here that sometimes twitter about things … 😛 )

      • If I didn’t feel like I have to, I wouldn’t post at all (although it’s fun following certain people I like), so, no, no offense.

      • I enjoy Twitter, and find it useful for things like following major events in realtime (or people’s reactions to them). That said, I’m not so married to it that I feel a compulsive need to post there, or to respond when people tweet me.

        • As I said, wasn’t really trying to rant on any ‘twits’ that hang out here, but just looking into FB was bad enough … 😉

    • Unmoderated Usenet was far more civilized than Twitter. Mostly, I guess, because the loons hadn’t found the Internet by that point.

      On the plus side, lunatic posts on Twitter tell me straight away which authors to steer clear of.

      • I just unfollowed someone on Facebook, a writer who I had been reading for well over a decade, because he insisted on using it as a forum for his political beliefs.

        See, Facebook added this feature that allowed you to place people in a close friends category, which means you receive an email each time they post. I like that feature, except that I discovered that Said Author posted a dozen times a day, and 10-11 of them were political links (not even his own opinions, just political glurge). I took a week of it, then dropped him.

  6. I wonder how many of those people read/liked Twilight. Or were ok with their children reading Twilight (because THAT showcases a PERFECT, HEALTHY relationship).

    You know, considering FSoG started out as an AU fanfic and all…

    Me, I’ve never read either. Got three pages into Twilight and gave up. Watched the movie, and only the first.

    • I don’t know about how many read or liked it, but I’ve definitely seen the same objections raised with regard to Twilight — from people who read enough of both to be able to raise those objections, yes.

      There’s a Rifftrax for Twilight. Even still I couldn’t make it through.

      • It’s a tough watch, even with Mike and no-longer-bots. I watch the first three movies as Rifftrax, but it was a hard slog.

        But worth it for the The Last Airbender rifftrax, when Mike suddenly realizes he recognizes some guy from the Twilight films, and then hates himself for it.

  7. If critics’ aim was to show their disagreement with how the relationship in FSOG portrayed and draw people’s attention to the aspects of it they see as abuse, they are doing it all wrong, because with this kind of behavior the only thing that they had shown to public is their own vicious nature and bullying mentality.
    Criticize the books, not pile on the author.

    • Some people were snarky.

      Some people brought up their concerns with a very problematic relationship.

      Some people were just plain mean.

      It’s not like everyone got together and planned what to ask James. There was no unified “they”.

      • That’s why I used critics with zero article, not the critics.

        • Some critics’ aim was to show disagreement. Other critics’ aim seems to have been to bully (I haven’t seen any I would actually call “bullying” or ad hominem or anything, but I haven’t seen them all). Still other critics’ aim was humor (as mentioned in DaveMich’s post below).

          • Yes, exactly.

            • If critics’ aim was If the people who were piling on authors wanted to show their disagreement with how the relationship in FSOG portrayed and draw people’s attention to the aspects of it they see as abuse, they are doing it all wrong, because with this kind of behaviour the only thing that they had shown to public is their own vicious nature and bullying mentality.
              Criticize the books, not pile on the author.


              • Criticize the books, not pile on the author.

                RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

                Standard Alinsky tactics. Attack the person, don’t debate the issue (which is that some people like books that they don’t–horrors!).

              • I’m just not sure that’s what happened. It’s not like it was a planned-out, targeted campaign or something. It’s a Twitter Q&A that went the opposite way that James and her agent would have hoped, but I haven’t seen any unjustified criticism of the book, nor any at all of a personal nature of the author.

              • Some people did. Some people specifically went on the hashtag to point out their issues with the book and the relationship. Yes, some of them were VERY snarky about it. Not all of them insulted the author.

                I’m not sure if we’re agreeing or not.

                A subset of the people disagreeing with James was insulting the author. Not everyone that was trying to draw attention to the abusive aspects of the books did that.

  8. Why are they mad at James for writing it? She didn’t make it a success. The 60 million people who bought her book did.

  9. There is a group of permanently outraged women who search out things with which to be outraged. They must have very empty lives. Unlike these women, most of us can tell the difference between fiction and reality. Do these women get outraged at all the serial killer thrillers in which women are the murder victims?

    Instead of being outraged about works of fiction, instead of bashing authors of books which people can choose not to read, go after the real culprit. Economic inequality keeps most abused women in abusive relationships. If women are economically independent, they don’t have to stay with an abuser. If they feel empowered to be treated well, they won’t stay and take abuse.

    These bashers of EL James and Fifty Shades may feel as if they are saving women and fighting the good fight, but they are spinning their wheels and engaged in nothing more than self-serving wanking.

    As to the bashing of Fifty Shades and Twilight, I’ve read both and some of it is well-deserved of course, but all the bashing will do nothing to remove money from the bank accounts of either EL James or Stephanie Meyers.

    • It’s not just about economic independence. I know of some who are economically independent and they stay with abusers.

      Some of it is emotional dependence. Cultural expectations can sometimes play a part in the cycle of abuse. And of course, a person who grew up in an abusive environment is more likely to enter into an abusive relationship.

      I read an article a few months ago that gave some insight into why some women seek abusive relationships. It’s because on a subconscious level they recognize the pattern and it FEELS FAMILIAR. Familiarity is comforting and they end up in an abusive relationship. They might become stuck in it for various reasons.

      The solution? I don’t think there is one single solution, since there are so many causes. Although education might be the best solution. (Leads to economic independence, understanding of our motivations etc.)

      I know of several women in my extended family that are in abusive relationships. It’s almost like it’s a cultural expectation. Though I know it isn’t.

      I suppose a certain amount of self respect is necessary- they have to realize they don’t deserve to be abused and do something about it.

      I have a cousin who married an abusive cheater because of his sports “fame”. When she ended up in the hospital, she finally decided to divorce him. She had to reach that decision herself.

    • Trust me on this, women do get enraged about serial killer books in which women are the victims.

      Many years ago I was having dinner alone in a restaurant at a table adjacent to several tables that were shoved together to accommodate 12 or perhaps 14 women who were having dinner together. They kept bursting out laughing, having a grand time together. As I was leaving I kidded them, saying they really needed to cheer up, which caused more laughter. They invited me stay, join them for a while. Someone pulled up a chair for me and I did sit down. It turned out they were a group of feminists who’d just come from a feminists’ bookstore event that featured a singer from out of town.

      They went around the table introducing themselves and telling me what they did for a living. Then it was my turn. I told them I was writer and they wanted to know what I write. Books, I said. They wanted to know what books I’d written. I told them my most recent book was The Prettiest Feathers, written with John Philpin. Next, they wanted to know what it was about.

      I told them it was a thriller about a serial killer who encounters the most challenging victim of his murderous career: a woman who wanted to die. Most, but not all, of his victims were female. It was like someone had dumped a huge vat of ice cold water over that table as I spoke. The women took turns trying to shame me. It wasn’t pleasant, but it also was not worth trying to explain that writers write books that may change society, but they also write books that reflect society, and it’s not up to anyone but the writer(s) to decided which type of book they’ll write. Instead, I made a somewhat hasty retreat.

      • That sucks.

        Some people are overly judgmental.

      • Beautifully put.
        Books to change society vs books that reflect society.
        I’ll have to remember that one.

      • Suburbanbanshee

        But why didn’t they assume it was a searing feminist critique of male serial killers?


        • Patricia Sierra

          Oh, I dunno. Maybe because I told them he would have found it boring to kill a woman who wanted to die, thus he had to bring her alive first to make it interesting for him. That just might have been the tipping point in that conversation.

  10. Huffpo has a different take on it…


    Their favs…

    Will there be a pop-up edition of 50 Shades?

    How is your inner goddess feeling about this hashtag?

    When does 50 Shades: Infinity Wars come out? Will there be a kick a** after credit scene?

    You do realize that if Grey wasn’t a billionaire, the 50 Shades trilogy would be one hell of a Law & Order episode?

    My boss said no when I asked if I could kiss him and then I did anyway because no means yes right? Things at work are awkward.

    “Is this trolling, abuse, or hate speech? The majority of tweets were simply critical of her writing, no matter what the tone. How is criticism bullying?”

  11. Have they no respect for literature? This author has the stamp of Gatekeeper Approval on her forehead. Can they not see that?

    • Yeah, and it’s showing all self pub types and those thinking of self pub that the gates can easily be walked around to reach the reader …

  12. It was obvious that the S*** would go after Romance eventually. But I think they’ve bitten off more than they can chew this time; enraged Romance readers will probably make Rabid Puppies look like… well, puppies :).

    • Well I’m an “S**” and I write Romance. Some of the people going after James are indeed picking on Romance/Erotica as a whole, but much of the criticism is about her writing and/or the issues people have with her books in particular.

      I know a lot of Romance fans that are… annoyed by the popularity of Fifty Shades because it’s such a horrible portrayal of BDSM.

      For the record, I think the relationship in Fifty Shades is abusive but I don’t have a problem with people enjoying it as a fantasy.

      • S**’s? I thought they didn’t exist. Or, you know, “Sensitive Josh Whedon” was the only one.

      • The relationship in 50 Shades consensual. Poorly written, but consensual.

        • I think in addition to missing an “is,” you spelled “abusive” wrong, as well.

          • If you want to talk about Christians past and how it shaped the neuroses and psychological problems he has with control, and then say those control issues are a type of mental abuse, I can see that side of the argument.

            But, my view on abuse is colored, and I readily admit that due to personal experience in dealing with it. And what I dealt with was far beyond anything that happened in the books.

  13. The excerpts I saw included more protests against the bad writing than the abusive relationship. It seems to me that not much has changed over the centuries: pornography inevitably is very poorly written because nobody cares. Such books aim at a different kind of reader. The sexual content quite naturally leans toward over-the-top shocking activities. Describing the ordinary sex act over and over again would be much too dull to hold anyone’s interest without excessive and sadistic aspects.

  14. I finished Alexandra Solokoff’s COLD MOON last night, which had as its anti-heroine a woman who only kills men who abuse women (basically). Lots of commentary about what sorts of things make men able to rationalize their abusive behavior towards women of all ages. 50 SHADES OF GREY was not mentioned, but I can’t help thinking that maybe it was in the back of her mind as Solokoff told her story.

  15. Kind of weird and mostly pointless protest in my opinion. It is still just a book. Read it or don’t read it. Life will continue either way.

  16. People aren’t really worried about the books. They’re worried about the books’ fans. They think so little of the readers (or “the type that would read this”) that they seem to think these women will voluntarily turn themselves into, what, spittoons or something?, unless their betters harangue them about how “problematic” it all is.

    Gag. Also, this makes me spit nails:

    “Does it make you happy to know young girls everywhere may think abuse disguised as love is part of a normal relationship?”

  17. Al the Great and Powerful

    Quoth Ingrid,
    “It seems to me that not much has changed over the centuries: pornography inevitably is very poorly written because nobody cares.”

    Really? Have you read centuries of porn? I thought studying piracy was a cool thesis subject, but getting research credit for studying porn, that’s a whole level of over-the-top. I should have thought more about my major.

    “Such books aim at a different kind of reader.”

    Or a reader looking for a different genre (porn), that also reads other genres (Romance, Thrillers, Lit Fic)? Seriously, even the most dedicated porn readers I knew in the military also read other genres. Nobody JUST read porn.

    “The sexual content quite naturally leans toward over-the-top shocking activities.”

    Some does, certainly. Just like some action movies quite naturally lean towards over-the-top shocking activities (I’m looking at you, Michael “can’t tell a story without gratuitous explosions” Bay). Or some authors quite naturally lean toward over-the-top disquisitions (like Proust).

    “Describing the ordinary sex act over and over again would be much too dull to hold anyone’s interest without excessive and sadistic aspects.”

    And yet if you were to seek out written-porn sites you would find people writing the same thing over and over again, often without excessive and sadistic aspects. And others reading them (as evidenced by their subsequent review comments). For that matter, plenty of people buy Regency Romances, which follow a pretty narrow track as well, without finding them dull.

    I read a whole lot of genres, and it irks me when I see people posting criticism of genres they choose not to write in or read. If they are criticizing porn because they have special knowledge, SUPER! its always good to learn more. Otherwise, I believe that picking on porn is gratuitous bloviation. Just like picking on Crime novels, or Art History, or Trainspotting.

  18. Phyllis Humphrey

    When 50SOG was new, I read the excerpt on Amazon and decided it was probably going somewhere I had no interest in going. Never read it. Not reading critiques of it either. Never regretted my decision. Saves a lot of time.

  19. Im not sure about who ought do what. But I liked what Patricia Sierra said, and I’d apply it to writing by all of us: “…writers write books that may change society, but they also write books that reflect society…”

    I think that is astute insight.

    Also, Id say, having watched xavierra hollander’s [sp] effect on couples with her now ancient book on ‘kink’, as well as whatsernames, an old married couple who championed their book on ‘open marriage,’ in the 70s, and some others over the decades who filled auditoriums when they spoke about freedom to be whatever re sex… that sometimes some listeners/readers took what is presumably entertainment or ed. into realms in their relationship that might be constructive or destructive , depending. Seems something like a book on how to build a firearm. Ok. Then the reader’s intention burgeoning can be peaceful or problematical. Not the book. The person.

    most interesting to me about the author of the ‘greys’ is that the books stand on their own without the author being a sex symbol. As was true of Masters and Johnson and also Kinsey.

  20. I haven’t finished any of the books, but some of the comments on twitter are just vile.

    Reading the tweets is like a cross between seeing a group of bullies in the school yard and one of those moments in history where books are burned because society is too small minded to understand what fiction is.

    In this day and age, it’s pathetic to see. I guess mob stupidity thrives in every generation, and society as a whole doesn’t learn or evolve over time. It just rots.

    This is what I saw happening: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_book-burning_incidents

    And it was crossed with this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullying

    I feel sorry for the author.

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