Two years after my first read-through, I realize I still have a complicated relationship with Fifty Shades of Grey. Perhaps it’s a bit embarrassing to say so, but I don’t think there’s any series of books I’ve devoted more time to than E.L. James’s train wreck of erotica, and still in no ways do I consider myself an expert on the lifestyles of Anastasia Steele and her wanna-be dom, Christian Grey. In fact, when finding the correct spelling of our heroine’s name just now, I landed on the Fifty Shades wiki, which I literally did not know existed until this moment. (Why we need a wiki for this, I have no idea.) It’s true that in some respects I appreciate the novels for making discussions of female sexuality and BDSM more accessible and acceptable to an audience, and have gotten many people to explore facets of their sexuality that otherwise would have gone unnoticed or ignored. However, this by no means excuses the series from its blatant framing of abusive relationships as part of the BDSM scene or as desirable, and it certainly doesn’t hide the fact that the misconceptions as perpetuated by Fifty Shades are, unfortunately, more likely to come up on a Google search than, say, the advice of people who know what they’re talking about.
While unwitting women and girls spend time looking for their Christian Grey and predatory men use this glamorized brand of abuse to draw in uninformed partners, many people are trying hard to expose James’s every creepy string of lies and romanticism woven between the books’ pages. While I have critiqued and sporked (see: critiquing in a humorous fashion) a fic or two in my time, Fifty Shades is a task too daunting for me to take on myself. Luckily, thanks to some very devoted folks online, I don’t have to.
I’m a latecomer in the Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom; I just finished watching the series a few weeks ago and I’m now making my way through The Legend of Korra. Even though I loved Avatar more than I’m enjoying Korra so far, both shows are great. But they’re not perfect. I can let a few things slide here and there, and they don’t diminish my enjoyment of the show. However, Book 2 of Korra contains one plotline that seriously bothers me: the relationship between Bolin and Eska.
Yes, Bolin, I’m very uncomfortable about this relationship as well.
Trigger warning for discussion of dominance/submission, physically and emotionally abusive relationships, and PTSD. Also, spoilers for Legend of Korra Book 2.
In my previous article about the manga Sensual Phrase, I discussed how the manga didn’t take advantage of its storytelling and character-building potential because it was so invested in shoving its heroine to the side. One of the side effects of this, intended or not, is that instead the love interest, Sakuya, is placed further in the spotlight. So while our attention on Aine is lessened, our focus and scrutinizing on Sakuya is increased. If creator Mayu Shinjo wanted Sakuya to remain a likable character, allowing this to happen wasn’t the best course of action. At all. This isn’t because Sakuya is a bit of an asshole—he’s a seventeen year old rock star, I’d be hard-pressed to find one of those that isn’t at least a little bit of an ass. Rather, it’s because the story lays out just abusive Sakuya and Aine’s relationship actually is.
Trigger warning for discussions of mental and sexual abuse under the cut.