Although it’s held on different dates in different countries, World Book Day in the United Kingdom usually falls the first Thursday in March. Also known as International Day of the Book, it’s held to promote reading, publishing and copyrights. In association with the day, a list of cheap, mostly children’s books are released. Basically, it encourages kids and everyone else to read more.
’Tis a beautiful thing.
As can be expected, schools like to participate, with some even encouraging the kids to dress as their favorite great literary characters. And this is where an 11-year-old named Liam Scholes walks into Manchester’s Sale High School dressed as his new favorite book character, “50 Shades of Grey” protagonist and closet BDSM practitioner Christian Grey. To be clear, Liam’s mom, Nicola, says Liam had neither read the book nor seen the movie, and that she dressed young Liam in a gray suit and tie, eye mask and cable ties as a “tongue-in-cheek” joke.
School administrators didn’t see the humor. Clearly sexually repressed Quakers, they.
Although other children reportedly carried toy guns and a teacher dressed up as a serial killer, Liam was excluded from some of the World Book Day events and asked to change his outfit. One suggestion was that he, as he was suited up, be James Bond instead. You know, the kind of wholesome man who treats with women with little respect, and contempt in some cases, and who has a license to murder in his back pocket.
First off, and this will have legions of titillated moms calling for my scalp, but calling Christian Grey a great literary character is like saying someone is great at Twitter or that Cinemax soft-core porn is art. It makes no sense.
Secondly, Christian Grey is a masochist, an oddly youthful, attractive, wildly successful masochist, but a masochist nevertheless. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that — in fact, there can be many things right with the whole BDSM scene, but just not for an 11-year-old child. I doubt many people would argue that.
A lot of organizations dedicated to the prevention of sexual violence have come out against 50 Shades and the character of Christian Grey, saying that it ennobles abuse, which I’m not here to refute. It’s also difficult to deny that this was a case of poor parental decision-making. Liam’s mom should’ve just painted a stupid lightning bolt on the kid’s head and sent him on his way.
Or what about dressing him as Jay Gatsby? A bootlegger who only tried to steal a man’s wife, not to mention indirectly murdering another man’s.
Or “A Confederacy of Dunces” slovenly hermit and borderline schizophrenic, Ignatius Reilly?
Hemingway’s Jake Barnes would be fun! A depressingly impotent, late-stage alcoholic, pining for a love that he can never consummate. Maybe have one of his classmates go as a bullfighter, or the bull.
What about Kurtz from “Heart of Darkness”? Now there’s a wacky character.
Tom Ripley? Dean Moriarty? Humbert Humbert? The murderous Moby Dick?!
I’d go the Orwell route and send my kid to next year’s World Book Day as Big Brother. Though it’s a really, really good thing that I’m childless. Like, a fantastic thing. For the child and society.
What I’m getting at here is this: Few great works of literature exist without a character who’s evil or crazy or into really weird sex.
But again, I do not under any circumstances believe that 50 Shades is a great work of literature. It comes off like an 11-year-old actually wrote it. But if more than 100 million people want to take the time to read it and become obsessed with it, then that’s cool.
I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but I bet a decent percentage of 50 Shades fans weren’t regular readers before “50 Shades of Grey” mania swept the world.
So should a kid dress up as a BDSM enthusiast and carry around cable ties? Of course not. But it also isn’t really a big deal.
Unless he knows what those cable ties are used for. Then we’re in trouble. S
Jack Lauterback also is co-host of “Mornings with Melissa and Jack” on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @jackgoesforth.