Why Do We Read Garbage?

Note: This post is a bit snarky. Please ignore if you’re not in the mood for snark.

Sometimes I wonder why people read and support garbage.  Would you take garbage out of your can and give it to someone else and say, “Hey, eat this!”?  No, I don’t think you would. Yet we continually share trashy novels with each other and I’d like to know why.

On today’s hit list, I’ll be focusing on Fifty Shades and Twilight. Now, some of you may not know it, but Fifty Shades is actually fan fiction based off of Twilight. Yes, that brilliant flash in front of your eyes was a lightbulb popping on. “Ahh,” you say to yourself, “It makes so much sense now. Now I know why they BOTH sucked.” 

Oh wait, you didn’t say that? But you meant to, I’m sure of it.  Why do I say that they sucked? Let’s examine them point by point.

Characters: Bella, Edward, and Jacob are the main characters in Twilight. Bella is a despondent, self-loathing girl from a broken home with no real connections to anyone.  She has a death wish, and displays a real sense of apathy about her present and future. The setting suits her character perfectly: Washington State which is known for its dank and overcast days.

Jacob is Bella’s long-time friend, son of her father’s friend. Kind of awkward, mechanical, and definitely in the “friend zone.” When he becomes a werewolf, he gets hotter, but remains in the friend zone.

Edward is the mysterious stranger. He’s sexy, rich, and elusive. And a vampire.

Of course he picks Bella to fixate on. It’s her personality right? Um. No, wait, she doesn’t have a personality (Kristen Stewart was perfectly cast here).  It’s her intelligence. Definitely. Right? Well… No, not exactly. Bella does way too many stupid things to be considered intelligent. So what is it that draws a 90-year-old sexy vampire to this self-loathing, socially boring, depressed teenager? I couldn’t tell you. I never figured it out.

In the same way, Fifty Shades introduces us to the hardly noticeable Anastasia (Ana) Steele and the insanely noticeable Christian Grey.

Ana is a senior in college, book smart, socially inept. Also from a broken family, with no real connections other than her roommate/friend.

Christian, like Edward, is sexy and wealthy. He’s a multi-billionaire at the age of 27.  There are about 10 people in the world under 30 who are MULTI-billionaires. So this just rings a bit false. But, whatever, it’s fantasy right? Go with the flow.

Like Edward, Christian has a dark past. Both were abused in different ways; both have destroyed (or negatively affected) the lives of others. Other than their hotness and money, there’s not much to recommend them.

Interestingly enough, both Edward and Christian are total control freaks. Once they’ve fixated on their respective mice, they turn into total Dominants. Christian at least admits that he’s into that by choice, but Edward does it by nature.

What is astounding is that both girls put up with it.  And women readers swooned.

Moving on to plot:

Depressing girl meets sexy wealthy boy who almost instantly falls head over heels with her. They go back and forth with the “Oh no, you don’t want to hook up with me, I’m too dangerous for you” and the “Oh I need you now, you’re so amazingly mysterious. Whatever is wrong with you, our love can fix it.”  Enter the villain or villains. Thankfully the villains change slightly from novel to novel. Some are added, some are removed. But the villains always have some connection to the mysterious past.

Fighting ensues. Depressing girl has to be kept safe, so rich boy runs away. Or depressed girl decides that she’s not worthy of rich boy and runs away. There’s always this running away crap. And it’s not just once, but multiple times. Seriously: it gets OLD.

So there’s some sexy or romantic stuff. With Twilight, Stephanie Meyer held off on the sex until Bella and Edward are married. Nice, but even in their marriage bed it’s all boringly solicitous. I think that scene in the movie was one of the most UNsexy wedding nights I’ve ever seen.  Ana and Christian however, don’t wait. He pretends to, citing that he didn’t want to have her without a contract, but her beauty overwhelmed him and he couldn’t help himself. Yeah, I’d buy that for a dollar.

Married life doesn’t bring peace in either relationship. More fighting (villains or in the couple) and more running away. Can we say repetitive?

By the way, I’m not even going to expound on Renesmee. Three words: WTF.


Forbidden love (no, this is not lambada): Vampires and Kinky Dominants

Knight in shining armour: the wealthy rich guy will save the poor depressed girl.

Problems can only be solved by running away

Insecurity can ruin a relationship

So, after that impressive literary critique and comparison, I ask again. Why do we read garbage? What is it that draws us to celebrate and support mediocrity? The dialogue in Fifty Shades made me want to pull my eyeballs out of my head. “Laters baby.” Really? Who says that?? And using e-mails as a way to fill pages is a wee bit of a cop-out in my opinion. That says to me the author didn’t really know how to construct effective dialogue and used the e-mails as a device to advance the plot.

Yet I read all of the Twilight books and all of the Fifty Shades books. I did not recommend them to anyone. In fact I told most people they were like car wrecks. It is hard to not look even though it’s terrible.

Is it the fantasy element that piques our interest? Have we all been so brainwashed with the hope that “Someday my prince will come” that we look for that theme in modern romance novels? Are we holding out hope that there actually exists someone who is wealthy, good-looking, over-protective, amazing in bed, AND wants his woman to eat?

Or are we longing for the 90-year-old perpetual teenager to kill us so that we can live with him and his super loving vampire family for eternity? I just couldn’t find where the love was in either. Maybe I was just too disgusted by the ridiculousness of the characters and their situations to allow myself to be open, but I think not.

There is something inside of us that longs to read about the misfortunes of others, if only to say for a moment “I’m better than they are”. It’s what draws us to tabloid magazines, reality television and stupid videos on the internet.

I say it’s time that we upped our cultural IQ. If it’s trash, put it in the garbage, don’t share it with others. We don’t need the cooties.


About Jeannie

NYC born and raised. Bibliophile and ailurophile. Aspiring writer and singer of karaoke masterpieces. Humongous fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. 2013 Reading Challenge Jeannie has read 77 books toward her goal of 100 books. hide 77 of 100 (77%) view books
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2 Responses to Why Do We Read Garbage?

  1. Ethan says:

    I wonder why women are so crazy about “literature” that so obviously insults their intelligence and reduces them to silly stereotypes.

  2. Jeannie says:

    That’s an excellent question. I believe it has something to do with the fantasy element of it. I’m also wondering if it has to do with the ways that women receive pleasure- more cerebrally than men, who prefer to get their titillation from videos…

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