Shallow is as Shallow Does

One complaint about 50 Shades of Grey, the movie and books, is the characters are one-dimensional. That is to be expected when considered it’s based on Twilight fan faction. Much fan fiction is one dimensional because we fan fiction writers can simply presume on the character development of the originating author. The initial association with the original gets us readers and leaves us free to ride the coattails (or in Jane’s case, pelisse tails), of that author and allows us to spend all our time spinning what we feel are new and original plots.From past writer of Austen fan fiction, Sarah Hoyt:

“For instance, if you’re writing Pride and Prejudice fanfic, all you have to do is name the character Lizzie, even if you set it in modern day, and the reader immediately imbues it with every characteristic of the Jane Austen character, without your having to do any heavy lifting. In the same way if you name a character Wickham, everyone knows he’s a cad or worse and never mind making his faults believable or foreshadowing them.”

I know I did some of that in the first few chapters of my Frederick Wentworth, Captain novels. However, in previous stories I had written a lot of Frederick’s career backstory, and then went to develop and deepen him by way of exchanges with his sister Sophy, and the strained relationship with his brother, Edward. I also created the character, Admiral Patrick McGillvary, to further the backstory and to compare and contrast Wentworth’s honorable nature. Patrick is also a foil who reluctantly helps to facilitate Wentworth’s wooing of Anne Elliot. From what I understand, 50 doesn’t stray far from E. L. James’s original portrayal of the characters Anastasia Steele (Bella) and Christian Grey (Edward Cullen). Any development is shown in the changes coming by way of their sexual bond.

At its base, 50 Shades is a rich bad boy courting a naive girl from the poor side of town.

The trailer shows Ana in a flowered blouse and poly-blend sweater, hair in a ponytail, and a doe-eyed demeanor. This is all the characterization Hollywood feels necessary to show the middle and lower middle-classes. Cheap clothes and an earnest expression is all that’s needed evidently. One review pointed out some of the gifts Grey gives Ana in the beginning, before he gives her details of his alternatives lifestyle. He gives her a hot car and clothes. There was likely a trip to the salon as well. All these things are supposed to win an economically staited girl’s heart.

Hinds_LynchReferring back to the bad boy theme, I think a much better baddie to observe is Ciaran Hinds’s Sir Brian de Bois-Gilbert of Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.

Google HERE if you want a full synopsis of the plot of Ivanhoe, the basics are: Ivanhoe is the good guy, his mortal enemy is the traitorous Templar knight, Sir Brian de Bois-Gilbert. Between them is the lovely Jewess healer, Rebecca. Rebecca, who loves Ivanhoe but as a Jew can never have him, is kidnapped by the Templar and taken to a remote castle. Ivanhoe’s forces attack–for reasons other than freeing Rebecca–and Ivanhoe is gravely wounded. Rebecca is nursing him back to health while fending off Bois-Gilbert’s threats of rape and ruin.

After some time trapped together in the castle, Bois-Gilbert tires of the banter and drags Rebecca to the roof and lets her get a good look at how isolated she is. The message being, you may as well give in to me as no help is on the way. Even if help should happen by, it will be mowed down before it gets to the gates. They stop several feet from the edge. He lets her go and she rushes to a knee wall.

REBECCA: (she pauses, does not look at him) Are you not afraid I will throw myself off?
BOIS-GILBERT: (remains still and passive) No. You are too curious and will not stain the day with such violence. *
They banter some more and he points out advantages of marrying him.
REBECCA: You will buy me diamonds?
BOIS-GILBERT: I will buy you books.


No matter that he is a bad, bad man, he knows her. He knows that material goods don’t interest her. He knows that curiosity is a major function of her mind and personality, and that access to more knowledge is what will turn this little lady on.

He goes on to say that if she marries him he will introduce her to the greatest medical minds in Europe. He then says no one will hold being a Jew against the wife of Bois-Gilbert.


He puts his foot in it because he’s still in hunting mode. He has been studying her in order to capture her emotions, allowing him to take her in more than a physical sense. But, he is not yet to the point where hurting her could be as much to his advantage as not. Regardless, he has honestly touched her heart. She then goes on to raise the specter of Ivanhoe and Bois-Gilbert’s hatred of him, probably to remind herself of reality and to break the spell he has cast.

It is the rare person who does not want to be known deeply and truly. I believe that to have a man offer you gifts born of observation and understanding of who you are, what makes you tick, is far more likely to bind you to him than his working out a bad childhood with fine leather straps and blindfolds.

The movie differs from the book in that Bois-Gilbert does in fact fall in love with Rebecca. Eventually he offers her freedom, but the gesture comes too late to help her. He eventually dies for her. In the novel there was no romance, and Gilbert died a quick death, sacrificing nothing. The screenwriters did an excellent job in what I think is a little bit of their own Ivanhoe fan fiction.

I have read that in 50 Shades, Christian Grey gives Anastasia a car. To a billionaire, just about any car on the planet is a trinket when measured by cost. In last year’s season of The Big Bang Theory, the character, Penny, quits her waitressing job to pursue acting full time. Within a few episodes her faithful, but caution-light challenged VW blows an engine, and she’s hipped. In a great romantic gesture her boyfriend, experimental physicist, Leonard, buys her a used but dependable car. To me, this similar gesture is truly romantic because while he is entirely too practical to believe in Penny’s dream of being famous, he does support her as much as he is able. He can’t go full-in, but chooses to put it all aside so she can continue to pursue the dream. He knows her, understands her, and is acknowledging what makes her tick.

Christian Grey could take some lessons from a baddie of the Middle Ages and a contemporary nerd boy. If you think you’re the biggest prize a girl can have, you’re probably wrong. Tossing a girl the keys to a car is fun for a moment or two, but tossing her the keys to her dreams might get you forever.


*I think that Hinds was the perfect Wentworth, because even his good guys have an edge. But anyone who has followed his career knows he is a most excellent bad guy. Though, he does have an affectation or two. Instead of twirling his mustache, he juts his chin when his villains are monologuing, and he does so on this line. The other is dragging drag out a syllable for an inordinately long time. In Ivanhoe, he says “vi-i-i-lence,” rather than the shorter, vi-uhlence. In this case it has a wonderful affect and gives Susan Lynch, the actress playing Rebecca, a few more beats to realize Bois-Gilbert thoroughly is in her head.