WHAT IF 50 SHADES IS ACTUALLY GOOD?
I MEAN, IT’S PROBABLY NOT. BUT TO BE FAIR, I CAN’T KNOW FOR SURE.
I DON’T READ *THOSE KINDS* OF BOOKS.
Hunger Games? How I feel when I didn’t have time for lunch.
I just don’t read this stuff.
But what puts pop fiction at the bottom of my list? How do I know, without ever reading a page, that a book is indefinitely terrible?
I’ll confess—I recently peeled an Oprah Book Club sticker off of my copy of 100 Years of Solitude, just to purge it of the pop lit stigma. I seem to have an inherent bias against what everyone else is reading.
But obviously E. L. James, Stephenie Meyer, and Suzanne Collins must be onto something. What am I missing? What if these popular books are actually good?
FIRST, LET’S PLAY WITH ECONOMICS.
We all know that Gen-Y’s world is super-saturated with options. We’ve got fast food, fast fashion, and endless entertainment options. And we don’t exactly benefit from this abundance. We become less healthy, harder to please, and more wasteful as Forever 21 and its counterparts crank out more and more of whatever they’re selling. Why is this?
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENS:
Company X goes into business selling some product or service.
- X makes money selling jeans. Z wants to make money, too. Enter: competition.
- Barrier to entry is low. Enter: lots of competition. Each pass go. Collect $200. Etc.
- *A bunch of economics* Basically: supply breeds like rabbits, and things get cheap.
As a result:
- We can get a “meal” for a few bucks at Wendy’s (which is actually OK… if it’s after midnight)
- …And a pair of pants for $5 at H&M (true story)
If you can get those pants for $5, it’s going to be a hard sell for the guy with the $10-20 version next door. *A bunch more economics.* Prices plummet, and then here we have heaps of impulse-buy-worthy trend pieces that will fall apart before you can lose the receipt.
And we buy them! A lot of them. But $10-jeans and $100-jeans are not the same thing.
The price is based (to a degree) on the cost of production, the cost is based (ditto) on inputs, and herein lies the difference: the quality. When you put fair labor and good materials in, you generally get good product out.
When you buy a $100 pair of jeans, you get better jeans.
It’s okay to buy the cheap jeans, but let’s be realistic: the $10 guy simply can’t provide the same quality. Producing a quality pair will cost more than his jeans retail for, and that’s not how profits happen.
The cheaper product is pretty much always inferior.
WHO BUYS INFERIOR PRODUCTS?
…PRETTY MUCH ALL OF US
Fast fashion retailers offer low-grade products for pennies on the dollar and sell a lot of them to make money.
And it works. The CEO of Zara is one of the richest people in the world
It’s not a terrible deal for us, either. We can afford to switch up our wardrobes with a little less cash. But we know (I hope) that we’re sacrificing quality when we flock with the masses to the $10 rack
Knowing this, we make judgments about the quality of a product based on its popularity
The number of people who can afford an item says something about the price. The price magnifies the cost, which reflects the quality of the input. Extremely popular items, like fast food and $5 pants, fall under the first assumption:
ASSUMPTION #1: IF A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE BUYING IT, IT’S A LOWER-QUALITY GOOD.*
- If a lot of people are buying it, it’s relatively inexpensive.**
- If it’s less expensive, it must be cheaper to produce.
- If it’s cheaper to produce, it must be made with lower-quality input.
- …thus, it’s a lower-quality good.
Well, yes. Provided I’m able to weigh price vs. quality, I’ll usually lean toward the better product (especially if it’s something I care about) even if it costs a little more. When I can, I stay away from mass retailers, because I know this assumption to be almost unfailingly true.
So far so good.
Which brings us to the second assumption…
I have nothing against ‘what everyone is wearing,’ I really don’t care. But as a symptom of the supply/demand hurricane of fast fashion, the fact that everyone has an item nowadays probably means it’s less than investment-worthy. Assumption two is the projection of this logic that I’ve caught myself using:
ASSUMPTION #2: IF EVERYONE IS READING IT, IT’S A LOWER QUALITY BOOK.
To me, books like Twilight and 50 Shades are the K-Mart jeans.
I’ve never tried them, but can confidently assume that I’m not missing out.
Not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings here, but I think you know what I mean. These titles sell a lot of copies, K-Mart sells a lot of jeans. From a distance, seems like the exact same thing.
But what if they’re not?
WHAT IF 50 SHADES IS ACTUALLY GOOD?
I’m not giving up my convictions about popular fiction, but I’m willing to admit an injustice on my part.
I’ve automatically disqualified these books. I’ve assumed that popularity implies cheap input, and, in turn, inferiority.
BUT CUTOFF SHORTS AND CREATIVE WRITING ARE NOT THE SAME THING.
A book does not depend on paper like jeans depend on denim.
Still not going to read it. But I’ll try to at least be nice… 50 Shades can’t help it that it’s so popular.
Thanks for reading! I welcome your feedback.
Follow me on Twitter & IG: @miss_mollyjane
*The opposite is overwhelmingly true, too. Let’s play along by limiting the context to fast fashion for now.
**In order for the business to exist, it must be profitable. In order to be profitable, goods that are relatively inexpensive must be (and usually are) high demand. Demand drives production, which drops marginal costs, which lowers prices; repeat until marginal cost exceeds marginal benefit; become multibillion net-worth CEO.