Fifty Shades of Fabio; erotica vs. romance lit

Fifty Shades of Fabio; erotica vs. romance lit

Jacqueline Kalisch

Courtesy of MCT

Whips and chains may be exciting, but where has the love gone?

Author E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” brought the erotic romance genre back into the mainstream this past year. If only the genre was worth bringing back anymore. When the genre was in its heyday in the 1980s and ’90s, it was personified by Fabio, the heartthrob who graced the cover of many of its premiere novels. “Paradise in His Arms,” a romance novel written by Elizabeth Daniels, is one of those erotic novels.

But “Fifty Shades of Grey” drags the genre a step back from where it used to be. With a leading lady not worth rooting for and a leading man who refuses to be in love, the genre has clearly lost its romantic charm.


“Fifty Shades of Grey” tells the story of of Christian Grey, a single, powerful, billionaire businessman who clearly explains in the novel that he is not the man for Ana Steele, the 22-year-old main character. Steele still wants to pursue Grey and his mysterious world. The plot isn’t anything worth remembering, as all they do is have sex and email each other.

There isn’t anything original about Grey’s dominance over the “innocent” girl. The character is a man who wants to be left alone with his secrets while owning the women he has sex with. Grey lacks the heroic charm and commitment to love that romance-reading women need.

The book is told in first person from Steele’s perspective, which is unfortunate, because the reader must constantly read all of her boring thoughts about how many times Grey “cocks his head to one side.” The constant repetition throughout the novel makes it hard to even finish the book.

But 20 years prior to the ascension of Christian Grey as the man most desired by horny teenagers and unsatisfied moms, there was Fabio. Fabio is well-known for appearing on hundreds of romance novel covers throughout the ’80s and ’90s. His image demonstrated the romantic literary hero who most women could only dream of. With his luscious golden locks and a body built for any hungry woman, Fabio is the image of romantic desire. Fabio fits with the romantic plot, as opposed to the cold dominance that Grey carries.

“Paradise in His Arms” is a romance novel written by Elizabeth Daniels and, and of course has a Fabio cover. The story follows Kate Paradise, an innocent girl wanting to be loved by Captain Caleb Innes. They have both yearned for each other since childhood. Elizabeth Daniels took the time to develop her characters and stick to a romantic story, whereas E.L. James decided never to venture much past pure erotica.

Courtesy of MCT



While most people would assume that, being in the romance genre, “Fifty Shades of Grey” would focus on a budding love between Christian and Ana, this is clearly and terribly not the case. The book is a cheap—yet successful—attempt to get away with selling misguided and immature pornography at a Barnes & Noble.

“Paradise in His Arms” represents love via passion. The sex is an important part of how Caleb expresses his love for Kate. “Fifty Shades of Grey” uses sex as a mechanism to describe the unrealized desires of a bored middle class housewife who has no business writing about something she clearly does not understand.

In “Fifty Shades of Grey” the constant biting of the lips and referring to her vagina as being “down there”clearly illustrates that this was pulled straight out of her middle school diary. The sex described is extraordinarily repetitive and extremely juvenile.

The clear difference between the two novels is the romance.  “Paradise in His Arms” has it, “Fifty Shades of Grey” does not.  Where the character represented by Fabio comes off as manly and dominant, yet romantic, Christian Gray represents a man who takes only his own pleasure into account. If E.L. James had picked up a real romance novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey” might have lived up to the high standards Fabio set.