Generally we have to wait until the movie to complain about how a book character has been envisioned as nothing like what we imagined. Fortunately, since Fifty Shades of Grey is on the accelerated program, we can start complaining now!
Compiling female readers' descriptions of the character of Christian Grey—he's our sexy male protagonist, if you haven't read the books; the billionaire that's too good to be true, except also sort of a psychopath—Dr. Faye Skelton of the University of Lancashire has created what's being touted as "the first image" of Christian Grey based on women's mental images of the character. There's a little Brad Pitt here, a little Patrick Dempsey there—plus some Val Kilmer, apparently. Skelton, who admits she sourced her descriptions from a small (read: easily take-down-able) sample size, says “While we don’t want to intrude on anyone’s fantasies, based on a small sample of women, this is the image of Christian Grey they have in their heads when reading the novels. Personally, I think he’s quite handsome—although everyone’s interpretation will be different."
Does he, however, have that Christian Grey It-Factor? We gathered some of the initial descriptions of Christian Grey in the actual book, from when he first meets his lover-to-be Anastasia Steele (this is all her point of view, of course), to see how they compare to the image above.
"Holy cow—he's so young."
He's supposed to be 27, and look younger, we infer. This guy could be anywhere from an elderly 22 to a youthful 35. He is relatively wrinkle-free, it appears, but he's also only in...shades of grey.
"So young—and attractive, very attractive. He's tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper-colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly."
This guy is a disembodied head suspended in nothingness, so we can't vouch for the duds. Nor the copper-colored hair. He does have gray eyes, so, check that. As for that tousled look, we presume he uses product.
"His voice is warm, possibly amused, but it's difficult to tell from his impassive expression. He looks mildly interested but above all, polite."
Yes, this is his expression, exactly. He's saying, "Can I help you with your packages?" "Would you like more tea?" or "Can I borrow some chapstick; my lips are truly plagued with dryness this time of year, are yours as well?" Or possibly all of the above.
"When I pluck up the courage to look at him, he's watching me, one hand relaxed in his lap and the other cupping his chin and trailing his long index finger across his lips. I think he's trying to suppress a smile."
Though he has no fingers, nor a hand to relax in his lap or cup his chin, he does look like a nudge to the ribs might cause him to chuckle. Unfortunately, he has no ribs.
"Why does he have such an unnerving effect on me? His overwhelming good looks maybe? The way his eyes blaze at me? The way he strokes his index finger against his lower lip? I wish he'd stop doing that."
OK, his eyebrows are kind of unnerving. How are they so perfect? Does he brush them with a toothbrush, with a special comb, or simply with his index finger?
"His eyes are alight with some wicked thought."
Nope, not really.
"He smiles, revealing perfect white teeth. I stop breathing. He really is beautiful. No one should be this good-looking."
God, girl, get a grip.
"His mouth is very ... distracting."
In fact, it is. Do we detect an imperfection, a slight unevenness in the cupid's bow? Also he looks like he might be in the market for a shave soon, or perhaps he needs to start using face lotion with a higher SPF. Sun damage happens to all of us, sir.
"He really is very, very good-looking. It's unnerving."
What is unnerving is how far we've come in this day and age of image-generating technology. In 10 or 20 years, maybe we'll even be able to generate that "long index finger" trailing across his bodiless, bloodless lips. Then there would be no mistaking this guy from the original. For now, we give him a B-.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.