For those of you familiar with Twitter you can probably guess how this went down.
Sure, there were a few genuine questions for the best-selling author. Like who was her favourite character or what she learned while writing the series.
But those kind of questions were far from the majority. Not surprising, since the Fifty Shades of Grey series (and its creator) have been the subject of serious criticism ever since it first arrived on the scene – allegations of homophobia, plagiarism and glorifying abuse are just a few examples, all of which were touched upon during the chat.
#AskELJames Can you please explain how stalking is something attractive and desirable?
— Khrys (@newarcticme) June 29, 2015
Are you as homophobic in real life as your books are? Asking for a friend. #AskELJames
— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames I need advice on making a BIG romantic gesture. Should I put a GPS tracker in her phone and make threats if she tries to leave?
— Liam Dryden (@LiamDrydenEtc) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames how does it feel to have such a big role in perpetuating abusive relationships and sexism in pop culture?
— Rhonda Rogombe (@RhonniRogo) June 29, 2015
I personally question why anyone on James’ publicity team thought this Q&A would be a good idea. That being said, I’m not a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey and I do think there are some serious discussions to be had about the content of those books (and the actions of the author). Though the chat may have been a failure from a publicity standpoint, I do think its important that people had an opportunity to open a dialogue on these issues — even if James didn’t respond to any of more unfavourable questions. And for some abuse-victims it was an opportunity to share their experiences with E.L. James in the hopes that she’ll understand why her novels had such a negative impact on so many people.
It’s important to note, however that some participants went beyond criticism, personally attacking the author. Downright attacks are never appropriate or funny. Especially, when others around you are trying to spark a serious conversation about consent and abuse. Fifty Shades of Grey is a cultural phenomena. And like any cultural phenomena we should be able to engage with it and ask critical questions. And we can do that without resorting to name-calling or threats.
#AskELJames How does it feel to have something you agreed to do get alarmingly out of control?
— Gwen C. Katz (@gwenckatz) June 29, 2015