*”Fifty Shades of Fucked Up” is how the character Christian Grey describes himself.
I did not leave the cinema totally disappointed, I have sat through worse films than Fifty Shades of Grey. This is a nice little film. It is ok. It is not great. But it is almost perfect for its market.
No, its market is not people who work in BDSM or who know anything about BDSM – it isn’t really about actual BDSM in any way, other than that the lead male character has a room full of “proper” BDSM gear, as you’d expect from any man of means who has a hobby. This film is no more BDSM than the film Pretty Woman is a realistic depiction of street-based sex workers, I’m sure it was not pretending to be otherwise. If you believe that is the case, you may as well take a wander down the street in your city where some sex workers work from, and try and spot someone who looks like Julia Roberts or clients similar to Richard Gere, or who even drive cars, or have chauffeurs, like Richard Gere. Make sure you are wrapped up warm, as you will be waiting outside for a long time. Comparing Fifty Shades to real practioners of BDSM is like that.
Much ado about nothing, as it happens.
And in answer to columnists who criticise the film because it is about a rich powerful man forcing a poor desperate woman to do things against her will which sends the wrong message to impressionable young women: Yes, it was about a man attempting to do that, in particular trying to get her to be his submissive so that he could inflict pain on her, but it was also about a young woman who resisted it the whole time, but did allow him to slightly dabble, I suspect because she was curious: as far as I can tell she never did sign that contract, and I will not say how it ended because that would be a spoiler.
I found it interesting the time that the film spent trying to explain or justify his kink. This was obviously an attempt to go beyond the BDSM factor. I suspect this was of interest to a lot of women, pop psychology being a bit of a trend, and some women do like to deeply understand their men or men in general. This was a mistake in my opinion, as a kink is just a kink usually. But given that analysing and what I consider over-thinking is our thing, this was a good strategy to give the film more depth and obviously it needed padding out to go beyond the soft porn factor, which would never do, particularly if you want to show a film in mainstream cinemas.
I have not read the book. (I will read the book because I have an academic interest in film adaptation and I like to do film-book-film sandwiches). However, I can remember among the middle-aged mum set, of which I am a fully qualified member, there was a murmur of arousal because of the book at the time of its release. Copies were being recommended, bought for others, lent and read in a night, which I could tell from the film, would be an easy task. It’s not for me or you or anyone to mock tweens who get fanatical about boy bands, or women who get a bit obsessed with a sexual scenario they have never explored, or even ever thought about. It’s great when a spark of interest is ignited, and even a new thought is given to sex by a group of women who lead such busy lives, generally quite fulfilled lives actually, that often these are lives where sex takes a back seat because you just can not fit everything in, to the chagrin and disappointment of their husbands who have to live with vows of fidelity they made in a church a few years earlier, (but no vows were made to stay sexually active when life takes over.)
I admit, while I wanted to leave the film early to watch my present sporting obsession – I had a friend text me the opening situation which I naughtily checked from the cinema (so spank me) – I really did care about how it ended and I also wanted to see how hardcore the BDSM actually got. If you care, go and see the movie and find out for yourself.
So what’s it like? Well obviously the story is unrealistic, in true Mills and Boon style. The man was impossibly handsome (very nice gym-toned body and pleasant enough boyish face) with intense eyes and of course a vast fortune. A cold control freak. I thought the character was a prat but I do like a man who reeks of lovely dosh. The girl was a virgin and prone to innocently asking “what?” when she was confused. She was young and attractive with big blue eyes and a young body. The set was gorgeous in a sterile way – he was after all a billionaire – and I quite liked the music, but not the music he played. (He played maudlin pieces on a grand piano which he had in his apartment). I thought it ended neatly with the very clever elevator door motif which is full of suggestion (future sequel options).
My verdict? Well, first my position. I’m a mature sex worker with an interest in society and its attitudes towards relationships and sex. I care about the sexual fun of other people and while I have never known anyone to have the same lifelong interest that I have had in sex or bodies or fucking, I believe that most people have an idea that sex and in particular orgasms are healthy and good for both men and women and I’m all for anything wholesome and legal that inspires sexual exploration. I socialise frequently with other women who are not sex workers and we talk a lot about men and sex. My verdict is that for the purpose of causing curiosity and even arousal, (yes, I was turned on) the film works.
If you want something representive of BDSM this is not it. If you want something deep and meaningful this is not it. But if you want something with beautiful actors who have to occasionally say quite lame things but do it well, this is actually pretty good. And it’s titillating. It is not quite perfect for its market (we are a bit brighter than that), but it is adequate. Leave it be.