Urban Planning and 50 Shades of Gray

I’ve been reading Jane Jacobs’ mangnum opus “The Death and Life of Great American Citites (1961)” which predicts ennui, relationship strife, social estrangement, and children run amok as side effects of adopting Le Corbusier’s “Radiant City” model i.e. suburbanization and its concomitant social isolation. I was reading it on the plane next to a woman reading “50 Shades of Gray” and it got me thinking: could urban planning explain the wildfire outbreak of “stay at home moms” buying erotica en masse to the tune of “selling in Harry Potter-grade quantities?”

One of the interesting parts quotes child-rearing mothers in suburbs speaking with Jacobs lamenting that the sanctioned park in the master-planned “fun zone” is dull, there’s nowhere to warm up or grab coffee with a stranger save the sanctum sanctorum of one’s own home, so the “park” is left empty and in time becomes a haven for underage drinking, graffiti and vandalism. So they stay at home. Waiting. Ticking the hours away enjoying the purported bliss and comforts of suburban life.

But I think I’ve seen a data point that says the suburban life and its safety isn’t all that it’s purported to be and that more and more of the suburb-ensconced are having a harder and harder time swallowing that lie. That data point is the sales numbers of the “50 Shades” series.

I wonder whether each sale tally is an act of protest. These souls are latching on to pop erotica not so much to say something about their pure carnal libido (for some, sure, but it would not explain the numbers’ scale), no, I believe this to be a cri du coeur of the Dionysian libido, the lust for life itself. They’re saying: “My soul has been boxed, packaged, and neatly stowed away and I’m unhappy with being told I should be happy with it and I’m tired of beating up myself trying to make myself believe that this makes me happy and I’m tired of the institutional hate I receive or expect to receive when I say this.”