Fifty shades of anticipation

Ever since it was announced that there would be a movie made from the popular book, fans of Fifty Shades of Grey have been in impatient and fevered anticipation of its release. Now the fever has broken. The movie is in the theaters just in time for Valentine's Day and its millions of fans, as well as the merely curious, are filling up those theaters.

It really makes no difference, I think, whether the movie is any good. Based on all the reviews that I've seen of it so far, it is very far from good. But then it makes no difference what the reviewers write either. Its fans will not be swayed by movie reviews any more than they were swayed by book reviews.

To be honest, I still haven't read the book. I couldn't make myself do it, not even in the name of scientific curiosity. I am a constant reader, but I try to limit myself to books that I believe I will have a reasonable chance to enjoy. A book about bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism didn't seem like it would meet that test. The movie, starring two people I've never heard of and directed by a third person I've never heard of, interests me even less. 

The producers will never miss me. I predict the movie will make a mint for everyone involved, just as the books in the (now) trilogy have. It seems about as close to bullet-proof as you can get in the entertainment world. 

Sex sells and it seems that nothing sells better than BDSM sex. Why is that I wonder? What is it about the idea of pain and humiliation during sex that turns some people - a lot of people it seems - on?

You probably know the basics of this story, even if you haven't read the books or seen the movie. It started as a bit of Twilight fan fiction in which a fabulously wealthy man enamored of some very kinky sex sweeps a poor, virginal, naive, in fact utterly clueless girl off her feet. It is Cinderella with floggers and butt plugs.

The thing about all that kinky sex though, in the book and in the movie, from what I've read and heard, is that it is never consensual. It is something that Christian Grey forces upon virginal Anastasia and something she submits to because she wants him - not because she truly enjoys it or wants to do it. That millions of women fans get off on reading about and watching another woman forced into what is for her a painful relationship probably says a lot about the psychology of those fans, but I'm not sure I want to know what it is.

In his review of the movie, A.O. Scott of the Times begins:

At the end of a recent New York sneak preview of “Fifty Shades of Grey” — in the blackout between the final lines of dialogue (“Anastasia!” “Christian!”) and the first breathy notes of the last Beyoncé song — a lot of the audience burst out laughing. The source of that laughter continues to puzzle and intrigue me, perhaps more than the actual movie did. Was it delight? Derision? Embarrassment? Surprise? All of the above?
The last answer seems the most likely...
A few hundred words later, he ends the review thusly:

Why do so many women read these novels, even though they have no literary value? I’m no expert, but I can venture a guess: for fun. They seem to be the kind of books you can simultaneously have fun with, make fun of, trash and cherish and adapt to the pursuit of your own pleasures. Which brings me back to the laughter at the end of the sneak preview. “Fifty Shades of Grey” might not be a good movie — O.K., it’s a terrible movie — but it might nonetheless be a movie that feels good to see, whether you squirm or giggle or roll your eyes or just sit still and take your punishment.

And maybe he's on to something. Its fans - and probably its haters as well - see it as a bit of fun, something they can adapt to the pursuit of their own pleasures. Does it mean they are going to rush out and buy their own whips, handcuffs, and butt plugs? Well, maybe, or maybe they just want to marvel at those who do. Either way, it's something they've adapted to give them pleasure. Perhaps that is not actually the end of civilization as we know it.


  1. I have not read the book. I was asked several times at work, and I had a couple of co workers tell me they couldn't even finish the book - not so much because of the subject matter but because the writing was so horrible. I won't be seeing the movie, either. I wonder if there will be an upsurge in paramedics that have to rescue beginners from some of their - er, over enthusiasm.

    1. The excerpts from the book that I have seen have been truly bad and not an incentive to read it. Life is too short for bad books.

      You make a good point about the paramedics. I hope they are all geared up for the increase in business!

  2. I refused to read it on principle because the material is not even hers. Apparently plagiarism has been dubbed fan fiction. It is incredibly difficult to generate a work of art to see someone else getting all the attention for it.

    1. Indeed. I've read that Stephanie Meyer is not a big fan!


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