Jordan Peterson Presents: 12 Shades of Grey

Originally Published on Medium - July 31, 2018

I haven’t read all of 12 Rules for Life. I tried, but it doesn’t seem to be great to me. I have mentioned before, but I think he covers in 100 words what other psychologists and eastern philosophers cover in 10. I think that his book is the 50 Shades of Grey of self help, because marketing is all that matters.

If you recall, 50 Shades of Grey was a major best-selling novel, and became a major motion picture. It was an “erotic novel” with huge success. But there are many other erotic novels, as in thousands. And a cursory read of the internet, or discussion with a connoisseur will tell you that they are almost all better than 50 Shades of Grey. What 50 Shades of Grey had that the others didn’t was marketing. It leveraged its own hype to get superbly popular, and once it snowballs to a certain point, it is self sustaining.

I believe that is largely what happened with 12 Rules for Life. Jordan Peterson hadn’t written a book in decades, and from what I remember reading had not planned on writing this format of book in the near future. What he did have all of a sudden was a lot of notoriety, a lot of free marketing. So he published a book. By no means do I think it is garbage, and it apparently helped a lot of people get their lives back on track, so good for him, and I am happy about that.

Popularity does not a masterpiece make. 50 Shades of Grey gave a lot of women really great fantasies, but it does not mean it was the best erotica ever written. There are short stories that serve as far better examples. I think with time, 12 Rules will be relegated to a similar status in the annals of literature. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact, it doesn’t mean it isn’t successful, but it could just mean it was well marketed. And there are no better marketers than the angry left-wing people on Twitter. Kudos to Jordan Peterson, I look forward to the bad movie made about your book.

David Birnbaum