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Fifty Shades of Grey – a Money-Making Leviathan

When it was published in 2011, Fifty Shades of Grey became what some have called a “publishing phenomenon” and a “money-making leviathan”. The erotic novel by E.L. James started out as Twilight fanfiction, and went on to sell more than 100 million copies. Forbes also named James the world’s highest-earning author after earning some $95 million. In 2012 Universal Pictures and Focus Features paid $5 million for the film rights. The screenplay was written by Kelly Marcel and Sam Taylor-Johnson directed the “Fifty Shades of Grey” adaptation which cost $40 million to make. Fifty Shades of Grey has gone on to break many more records in its opening weekend.

After opting to move the release date from October 2014 to Valentine’s Day 2015, the story of the millionaire Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, a naïve student, became the biggest R-rated movie debut in history with earnings upwards of $94 million. Fifty Shades of Grey also became the biggest opening in South Africa, giving Ster Kinekor its busiest Saturday and becoming the most pre-booked movie in Ster Kinekor history. Universal Pictures are reported as not pursuing a theatrical release in China and the film has been banned in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Kenya.

For all the hype there are many questioning the portrayal of the Christian-Anastasia relationship in the books, the movie, and its broader cultural context. There have been calls by domestic violence activists to boycott the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, while others, like Mark Hughes, are questioning the “Abusive Gender Roles Disguised As Faux-Feminism” in the movie. This is especially not surprising as many of the same questions have been asked about the relationship violence and abusive relationship portrayed in Twilight.

How many watch or read Fifty Shades of Grey out of simple curiosity, because they don’t want to feel left out, or because they feel like they’re breaking a taboo by doing so – instead of truly enjoying the material – is not a question easily answered. But, whether you enjoy it, or are weeping for humanity, its popularity remains staggering.

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