With less sex and more romance, the author tries to repeat the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon


Julio Boll

It’s not easy to repeat numbers like those in “Fifty Shades and Grey”. After all, more than 150 million copies have been sold (of which 7.5 million in Brazil) since its launch in June 2011. The cinema adaptation, starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, was not far behind: released in 2015 , the film had gross revenues of US$570 million (more than R$2.8 billion at current exchange rates) at the global box office. But author EL James keeps trying.

This Friday (10), his new work, “Madame”, arrives in bookstores, the second in a series that began with “Mister” in June 2019 and published in Brazil by the publisher Intrínseca. Throughout its 400 pages, the plot may leave fans of Christian Gray’s (the protagonist of “Fifty Shades…”) sexual domination games bored, but it has its audience.

The books follow the impossible love of Maxim Trevelyan, a London playboy who falls in love with Alessia Demachi, an Albanian victim of human trafficking in his homeland. After being freed by him at the end of “Mister”, the young woman now fights for the approval of the family of the newly appointed Earl of Trevethick, while preparing for her wedding ceremony.

Because of these elements, the drama ends up being influenced by a debate that has intensified in recent years. According to the UN, the illegal trade in people generates US$32 billion (R$158 billion) annually across the world, 85% of which comes from sexual exploitation.

In an email interview with F5, EL James (acronym for Erika Leonard James) says that the intention of the plot was simply to mark a “complete contrast with Maxim’s life”. However, the author says that her works are her way of fighting for women. “There are areas of the world where time has stopped and women are still present in patriarchal societies. We have come a long way – but we have a long way to go,” she says.

Far from being unanimous, the Brit’s prose has already been the target of criticism — and also from more demanding readers — for the way in which her female protagonists can sound immature. She, in turn, highlights that Alessia, despite having gone through something so brutal, is a resilient woman. “She managed to escape and establish a life for herself. She has a lot of courage. And she also shines a light on a truly evil part of humanity,” she says.

As the pages go by, in fact, Alessia begins to seem more empowered — to be a fashionable adjective. She worries about going back to school and carving out her own space in the world. “From Alessia, I want a person to have courage. You can change your circumstances with courage and determination,” she says.

While waiting for his new franchise to hit theaters and perhaps become a new hit —in 2020, Universal announced that it will adapt “Mister”—, James mentions that even men can be victims of a sexist society. Maxim, for example, is reluctant to appear vulnerable at his own wedding. But the author is optimistic about this. “I think a lot of men have become much better at expressing themselves,” she says.

She warns, however, that women should not fall into the same trap. “This toughness is something women can do to themselves for the same reason: We don’t always want to break down and cry. We want to appear strong,” she explains.

For the writer, this entire discussion goes against what she has been defending for some time: women’s freedom to be whatever they want, without fear of judgement. “I think that, today, more women feel comfortable expressing their desires”, she says, proud of her contribution to the pop phenomenon that was “Fifty Shades…”. “Anecdotally, I’ve heard from many women who have been able to be more open with their partners about what they want in terms of their desires.”

Even though her new protagonist couple prefers a more traditional and monogamous relationship, without as much space for the sexual antics that she narrated before, the writer says she trusts that her stories will continue to set trends and influence women around the world. “After all, this is a romance and we all want a ‘happily ever after,'” she says.

Cover of ‘Madame’ by EL James – Disclosure

Source: Folha

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