Don Draper Vs Christian Grey

image Did you see “Mad Men” last Sunday?

If you’re a “Mad Men” fan and you haven’t caught up with the latest episode yet, you might want to skip this post for now.  It’s an excellent episode, and you really should watch it deliciously unfold.

Unlike the book the woman who sat beside me during gymnastics class was reading on Saturday.  She’s watching her daughter, I’m watching my granddaughters, and we’ve both brought our usual reading material.  Mine has pictures.  I flip through Better Homes and Gardens or Country Living because I can easily scan recipes and rec room remodels while I watch exuberant girls flipping through their skills, flying through their childhood faster than I can say, “Freeze!  Just for a moment.”  My bench buddy isn’t scanning.  She’s engrossed in her novel.  Never looks up.  She’s actually moving her lips as she reads. 

Okay, confession time.  I spy on readers.  When I’m sitting in an airport or a waiting room, any public place where people read, I give a silent cheer for the novel reader, and I try to get a look at the cover.  Once—on a plane—it was actually a book of mine.  I would love to catch someone moving her lips while she was reading one of my novels.

But no such luck last Saturday.  The lady was devouring what has lately come to be known as “mommy porn.”  I’m, well, nonplussed.  It seems such an odd environment to be reading that stuff with such intensity.  Second confession:  I haven’t read the books.  I’ve read a teaser (as it were) or two thinking I should find out why the books are so popular, but I can’t spare the time for a whole book that’s that poorly written.  And it does bother me when I see the TV ad that refers to it as “a steamy romance.”  I love Romance.  I know RomanceAnd you, book with the gray cover, are no Romance.

Which brings me to Sunday night and “Mad Men,” which is no Romance, either.  It’s a period piece—can we call we that already?—and at it’s best it invites us to take a hard look at said period even as we enjoy a little nostalgia.  There’s such depth of character, and the man who has recreated himself, deluded himself into thinking he’s killed his original tortured self, was exquisitely developed in Sunday’s episode.  It’s really well-written.  You watch handsome Don Draper take his mistress from one of his regular liaisons through scene after scene of increasingly unpleasant manipulation, and you realize that this character you’ve rooted for most of the time, at times sympathized with, often drooled over, is over the course of this hour making you feel queasier and queasier.  Toward the end of the episode when his mistress stands up to him (there’s no physical abuse, by the way) you cheer for her.  It’s his turn to be nonplussed.  Game over.  He has no more control.  The whole dominance-submission deal in the bedroom is a foil for what’s going on in Don Draper’s business life.  And he’s losing control there, too.

And that’s the difference between porn and real story.  Pornography serves to titillate.  Real story plums the depth of human nature and the breadth of the human experience—including sex, absolutely—through character.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not in favor of censorship.  I’m sure pornography has its place.  But poorly written porn?  I just hate to see it at the top of bestseller lists.  That must mean people are reading it, giving it their precious time.  So many good books, so little time.

I’ve wanted to broach this subject for some time, but I needed the right excuse.  So thank you, gymnastics mom and Don Draper.  I hope we’ve opened a floodgate.  What are your thoughts?

After you tell us, check this out:

What the Heart Knows - screen   

Hot off the press from Bell Bridge books, you can read the prolog at Amazon or find a little more detail at my website.  WHAT THE HEART KNOWS was names a “Tom 5 Romance of the Year” by both Library Journal and BookPage, and it’s a personal favorite of mine.

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About Kathleen Eagle

Kathleen Eagle is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of over forty novels.
This entry was posted in "mommy porn", 50 shades of grey, pornography, what the heart knows, mad men. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Don Draper Vs Christian Grey

  1. As a longtime romance reader (and writer) who loves the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, I’m taken aback that it’s being classified as pornography. EL James may not classify it as a “romance novel”–she calls it a love story with kink–but the entire trilogy is firmly focused on the romance between Ana and Christian. Book three ends with their HEA of marriage and children–just like most romance novels.

    Sure, there are some similarities between Don Draper and Christian Grey–they both have tragic backgrounds and an unhealthy initiation into sex–but Mad Men isn’t, as you say, a romance, where Don would find peace in love and acceptance from his significant other. In FSoG, this is exactly what happens for Christian, and he and Ana turn their BDSM play into a healthy part of their relationship instead of Christian using it to control his environment and the people within it.

    I have no bone with criticism of the writing (though I personally found Ana an incredibly engaging and genuine narrator or its origins as Twilight fanfiction, but calling FSoG “pornography” simply because of hearsay about its contents? And from a romance writer to boot, when the entire genre is frequently denigrated as “porn for women”? I’m incredibly disappointed.

    • Pornography’s purpose is titillation and not much else. It’s titillating scenes strung together for the sake of giving the reader a sexual experience. That’s not a judgment. That’s what it’s meant to be, and if it’s successful, that’s what it does.
      I’ve skimmed many many books in my time, and I know how to get the gist even if I don’t get hooked. If you took the scenes that depict bondage, domination, sadism, masochism out of the book, what would be left? It’s a book that’s gotten lots of press, and lots of readers talk about it. What they say generally adds up to titillation. Romance is much more than that.

      And how do you honestly romanticize abusive sex? That was my point in comparing the Mad Men scene. It was honest. You watched a handsome, charming, powerful man become psychologically abusive–show her “who’s boss”–and he really thought it was also good for the woman. It took her a while, but it finally dawned on her that it wasn’t good for her.

  2. Teresa Hughes says:

    My thought on this is simple…its actually a very good book series and its not porn! The lifestlye protrayed in this book is a lifestyle many are involved in. So is those people’s lives porn? Just because I don’t share the lifestyle doesn’t mean it is wrong or tasteless. As for being poorly written there are tons of poorly written books out there, sometimes by authors who have written for years…it happens. I personally focus on the story and try to over look the other. I suggest everyone read the books and make informed decisions. You might get surprised and actually like it! 50 Shades is in fact romance just not what everyone may be used to. It doesn’t take away from how much I like yours or any other of my favorite authors.

    Last point how can anyone say something bad about something that they haven’t experienced? If you or anyone else hasn’t read it then how do you know if it is truly poorly written or that its like porn? Just wondering…

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Teresa. Interesting! People’s lives aren’t porn. I should use the whole word here–pornography. The suffix refers to something that is written or drawn. I’d extend that to include other media, like film, since there’s a script and pictures. As I said, I would never censor the material. I’ve been a student and a teacher of literature for decades, and I believe that people should be free to make choices and to discuss those choices openly. That’s how we educate ourselves. I admitted that I just couldn’t get through the material because it’s so poorly written, which jerked me out of what was offered as a story. Let’s keep talking. This is interesting.

      • Teresa Hughes says:

        I agree the first book took awhile to get into but, once you got through the first few chapters you started getting the true story. Christian was abused as a child which made him the way he was. He was a victim. In order to overcome his abuse he developed a lifestyle. However, feeling true love from Ana changed him. This is something that happens everyday. The difference is usually its a female who is the victim and has to find ways to cope. With females they may become a cutter, develop an eating disorder, or sadly some consider suicide. Christian’s way to cope seems wrong but yet he doesn’t know what more he can do. In the end they have a “normal” and happy marriage just like most romance books. I for one was cheering Christian on throughout the book because I wanted him to heal and find true love. Which he did. It was honestly a good book series that showed that there is power in love. I just wish other people would give it a chanc e.

    • Mona Kekstadt says:

      It isn’t porn. I agree with what your saying Teresa…

  3. michelehauf says:

    I have to admit I skimmed the post because I’m just starting on last season of Mad Men so didn’t want any spoilers, but I do notice Don’s shell is already cracking and I’m finally beginning to cheer because he’s been rather a dull boy to me over the seasons so far.
    I haven’t read 50 Shades. I’m just not into the erotica that features BDSM. Not my cuppa, but certainly many others enjoy it, and that’s great. We all have our flavors.
    I recall, initially, when Twilight came out, I was so angry that some writer just soared up the bestseller charts so quickly and, woe to little ole me, because I’d been writing vamp romance long before her, and how dare she! But you know, after I cooled off, I realized that any time a writer hits it big in any genre, it does a favor to that genre by shining a spotlight on it. It opens that genre wide to readers, so they can explore and find other authors they love. Erotica is steaming up the charts right now. For how long? Who knows. But what a great ride for the genre, eh?

    • Don is an interesting character with the kind of back story that purports to be part of Christian Grey’s setup. Admittedly I haven’t read enough of the Grey series to comment on how the back story works or whether it works at all–in my opinion, of course. We see Don’s back story through flashback. He never really talks about it, which is consistent with his character.

      I drew the comparison between these two because of the scene in the last episode of MM, which serves the story in many ways, unexpectedly changes the course for both characters.

    • I saw bits of the Twilight movies, started the first book and wasn’t hooked, but one friend in particular who enjoyed the books said that their strength was sexual tension, which is key to all Romance, from YA to Sandra Brown.

  4. leannebanks says:

    I’m just glad people are reading and I’m all for women having lots of choices in their reading material. I’m not a big paranormal reader, but I’m thrilled readers have so many choices in paranormal reading these days. Also thrilled there are so many choices with erotica.

    • I’m glad people are reading, too. I’ve spent my whole adult life encouraging people to read. I’m also glad people are discussing what they’re reading, and the Grey series is much discussed. That’s a good thing.

  5. Kylie Brant says:

    I was never caught up in Mad Men. Not of fan of Fifty Shades, either, just not my cup of tea. Actually I prefer suspense with my romance, so most of my romance reading is in that genre these days. I’m thrilled when people read books though…any book. I do the same thing–spying on titles to see what people are reading. I love to talk to them about the book and what they enjoy about it. I have so few opportunities to discuss reading with readers these days.

    • Part of me wants to get into a book club, and part of me says I don’t have time. I think it’s the same part that keeps telling me I don’t have time for yoga. But I love talking about books, love hearing what impressed or moved or taught someone who enjoyed a book.

  6. debradixon says:

    I read all 3 of the 50 Shades. Well, I skimmed the second and third. For me, she didn’t have enough story for three books so I did start skimming. What she did understand was that characters do have to face their fears and be open to the person they love and find the trust in the relationship. But I don’t think she needed three books.

    It’s not classic romance, and it’s really less sexy than a Blaze, for instance. And it’s barely gets into the kink when you compare it to real erotica. It’s a hybrid for me. I think its stunning success was the packaging and ebooks. People who wouldn’t go into a bookstore and buy a sexy book or a kinky book could suddenly explore and experiment with romance, sex and kink. No one could judge them.

    I do like that the books blew down some doors and allowed women to openly claim parts of their sexuality that they wouldn’t claim before.

    Don’t watch Mad Men.

  7. I wanted to read the book because everybody was talking about it, but the teasers were silly. I’ve thumbed through and scanned and the book was totally put-downable for me. I think you hit the nail on the head about packaging and the e-book surge in popularity. The woman at the gym had the paperback, and seeing how she was really did give me pause. I want readers to get caught up in a book. That’s what I’m aiming for with mine.

  8. april says:

    I agree that I’m glad people are reading. My sister who maybe reads a book a year read the book. I read it just so I could have an opinion. Let’s just say she finished the trilogy and I did not. As for Mad Men, Don wanted control (and had it for a brief time), but he neglected to realize that in a true, solid D/s relationship, both partners get something out of it. The dominant one has to remain in control but also makes sure that all of the submissive’s needs are being met and that he/she is happy and fulfilled. Don left and took her book! That I find inexcusable. Fancy clothes or not, no man takes my book away. He kept taking and taking from the relationship without giving anything in return. Two episodes before, he even insults her by saying he doesn’t even want to do it anymore but continues anyway. It is interesting to see a desperate Don trying to remain the Don we remember in 1960. I wonder how he’ll be ushering in the next decade.

    • “No man takes my book away.” I love it! I think MM’s portrayal of the changes in traditional male/female roles over that time period–50-‘s through ’60’s–affected that’s generation’s (my parents’ generation) psyche in ways we might not realize. Women’s liberation is certainly much discussed, but men’s lives changed, too. A man’s home is his castle, father knows best, the man drives and all like that. Granted the S/s game isn’t always about the man hold the reins, but it’s more about exerting power and being in control than anything else. Sex is a complicated issue. I love a well-written sexy Romance, but I want honesty in my fiction. I don’t mean from the characters–if they’re human, they’re flawed–but from the author. There was raw honesty in Sunday’s MM episode. It was achieved through good writing deftly performed.

  9. Mona Kekstadt says:

    I liked 50 shades of Grey…more the love story behind it..everyone has different lifestyles and that is ok. I think Maya Banks Sweet Series(think there are six) very good and a lot more detailed then 50 Shades but, again I love the story line…some of the sex scenes in these books will leave you going OMG! More intense I think then E.L James. I myself liked the third book better of 50 Shades… I like my romance thriller books best. I’m back to reading that now. There others that are supposed to be good like 50 Shades and I’m a little tired of it now. The movie should be interesting will they drag it out into three movies? Or just make one? I hope one. I think one would be enough.

    I don’t watch Mad Men.

    • Mona, is it the “love conquers all” story line? I like that idea, too. And sex can be important to the growth of the relationship. I guess for me a bunch of graphic sex scenes strung together doesn’t add up to a story line.

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