The Internet, its relative anonymity, and apparent promise of impunity, is always a breeding ground for more-aggressive-than-normal behavior, and the #AskELJames session on Twitter was no exception to the rule. She may have landed herself a movie deal, but despite the relative commercial success of the 50 Shades of Grey franchise, E.L. James learned the hard way on Twitter that critics are often louder (and more conspicuous) than fans.
In what may have been the worst PR mistake of 2015, E.L. James decided to participate in a Twitter question-and-answer session, which ended in tweets filled with more shade than James’ entire trilogy. With many accusations regarding her oft-perceived glorification of abusive relationships and misrepresentation of BDSM culture, the gloves came flying off on Twitter in a setup that was 50 shades of yikes.
The books, if you haven’t had a chance to indulge, are Twilight fan fiction gone sexually astray (even more so than they are already by merit of being, well, Twilight fan fiction). The relationship between protagonists Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey is, at best, kinky, and at worst, abusive (much like Bella and Edward of Twilight). Participants in the Twitter barrage were quick to point out this uncomfortable truth, not sparing anyone’s feelings when it came to asking questions like the following:
Do you ever feel guilty that you made so much money from romanticizing sexual abuse and selling it as "erotica romance"? #AskELJames
— Melanin Monroe (@Jherane_) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames Is it only ok for Christian to stalk, coerce, threaten & manipulate Ana because he's hot, or is it also ok because he's rich?
— 50 Shades is abuse (@50shadesabuse) June 29, 2015
Did you see the abusive relationship of Bella and Edward and think "hmm needs more abuse" #AskELJames
— R_chelCh_rlt_nD_iley (@RachelCDailey) June 29, 2015
Other questions zoned in on tweeters’ poor opinions of James’ writing abilities, which have, truth be told, come up numerous times, particularly when it comes to the lack of variation in the writing of love scenes.
#AskELJames after the success of "Grey," have you considered re-telling the story from the perspective of someone who can write
— Andrew Vestal (@avestal) June 29, 2015
Then, of course, there was the running commentary on just how awful the tweets were (at James’ expense, of course), with tweeters expressing facetious concern about the state of James’ feelings following what could only be dubbed a Twitter evisceration.
#AskELJames Are you going to take a cold bath later to recover from being so thoroughly burned on Twitter today?
— Vanessa C. (@nessaskybooks) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames Do all these negative tweets sent to you seem abusive to you? I think it's romantic enough to be turned into a novel!
— Stephan Krosecz (@Krosecz) June 29, 2015
Ultimately, one tweet summed it up best:
Whoever planned out the #AskELJames tag has obviously never, ever met Twitter.
— Summer Heacock (@Fizzygrrl) June 29, 2015
Cease and desist, Twitter and E.L. James.
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