As you probably know (whether you want to or not), author E.L. James recently released her new novel “Grey,” which is “Fifty Shades of Grey” written from Christian Grey’s point of view. It is, perhaps predictably, kind of crazy. It is also, very predictably, a huge best-seller already, selling more than a million copies in its first four days.
In an attempt to capitalize on the book’s early success, the official “Fifty Shades” Twitter account partnered with Twitter books to do a Q&A with James’s fans on Monday under the hashtag #AskELJames.
— fiftyshadesUK (@fiftyshadesUK) June 23, 2015
#AskELJames soon began trending worldwide on Twitter, and the organizers were probably hoping the fan questions submitted would go something like this:
#AskELJames What was your favourite scene to write?
— Bee W (@BeeMWrites) June 29, 2015
What is your favorite part of Grey #AskELJames
— DamieLove❤ (@iLovedamie) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames what’s your favorite movie? 😊
— dosia ❇ (@puredakotaa) June 29, 2015
But this is the Internet, where nothing goes exactly as planned. And given the dark and controversial reputation of the “Fifty Shades” franchise, it wasn’t long before #AskELJames began to backfire in some pretty spectacular ways. Users took the opportunity to accuse James and “Fifty Shades” of perpetuating abuse and rape culture.
My boyfriend doesn’t stalk, manipulate, or harm me. Does that mean he doesn’t love me? #AskELJames
— herr swag money (@spockoscocko) June 29, 2015
Is it hard to sleep at night knowing your wealth + fame come from your books, which portray abusive relationships as romantic? #AskELJames
— Dan (@danjc93) June 29, 2015
Did you ever consider naming your new book DESPICABLE ME? #AskELJames
— Norm Wilner (@normwilner) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames how do you feel, knowing your novels make young girls want abusive and unhealthy relationships?
— Captain Franni (@kochajikan) June 29, 2015
what do you hate more?
a) good literature
d) healthy relationships
e) all of the above
— meme(mma) (@PRESERUMPINING) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames do you understand what the word ‘consent’ means?
— emily❤️⚾️ (@applextree) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames so what’s next in your ‘famous’ trilogy of white male supremacy, rape culture and female submission ideology
— نادیہ (@actualnadia) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames what’s it like telling millions of women it’s okay to be in an abusive relationship as long as he’s rich.
Asking for a friend.
— matt (@reginaIdkray) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames why did you think it was okay to teach young girls that a possessive partner who refuses to hear no was romantic?
— jess (mr. 305) (@woIfgangbogdano) June 29, 2015
— Michael Scally (@FizzVsTheWorld) June 29, 2015
This isn’t the first time a hashtag has backfired this badly. In November 2014, Bill Cosby’s Twitter account directed users to a Cosby meme generator. Almost immediately, the generator was used to draw attention to the rape allegations against the comedian, and the widget was quickly removed from the web. It just goes to show that before you promote something, really consider your audience.