50 Shades of Grey – The Movie

Posted: March 14, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Ever since the book came out, there have been countless articles, blog posts, editorials, and reviews written about 50 Shades of Grey and its author, E.L. James.  When news of the movie’s pending release (not actual release, but pending release) hit social media, those conversations and comments on them doubled, tripled, and quadrupled.  Everyone was talking about 50 Shades, everyone had an opinion and, oddly (or maybe not) nobody had seen the movie yet and a great many had not even read the book.

A bit of a disclaimer and small reveal here.  I have read the first book, but not the second or third (yet).  I just saw the movie, for the sole purpose of being able to make an intelligent and informed set of comments on it.  I also have an academic background in the subject matter – my Master’s thesis was, to the deep chagrin of some at my very liberal and progressive alma mater, on Consensual Slavery – and a personal interest in D/s and BDSM.  Any literature, film, or other publicly accessible work on the topic is up for scrutiny, because I do want this lifestyle to be presented in a truthful light.

This may be where I differ from some of those others who have had some experience with D/s or BDSM.  I hold that there are different truths to many things. The basic foundations for this lifestyle are solid – that of consent, safety, sanity – although even within those (the first two, specifically), there may be some give and take among partners who have been together for a long time.  But a D/s relationship is not unlike a vanilla one; partners bring their own issues, their own strengths, and insecurities.  Publicly, it’s hard to admit that relationships – especially the kind that aren’t socially acceptable in the first place – aren’t perfect and don’t always follow the rules to a T.  But, seriously.  Is any relationship perfect?  And does any relationship follow all of the rules without at least a couple of hiccups along the way, especially in the beginning?

I waited to see this movie until all the fervor had died down, so that I wasn’t influenced by audience reaction and I’d had some time to think about articles and comments I had read.  I attended a Saturday showing, at 4 o’clock.  There were not many people in the audience, a few couples and a couple of pairs of older women.

First of all, I have to remind everybody that this was a work of fiction, NOT a documentary or how-to on D/s or BDSM. Further, it was written as a work of erotic fiction (and maybe erotic romance, although I’m not really even so sure about that). It seems that any author writing to please a reader of that genre would do her very best to focus on the raw, primal aspects of the relationship rather than get all caught up in the details and specifics of story.  There have been lots of go-to-see-on-Saturday-afternoon movies about traditional relationships that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend as ideal models

I’ve seen basically two camps expressed in the 50 Shades debate.  In one, it is suggested that both book and movie tell a story of an abusive, nonconsensual, pseudo D/s- BDSM relationship between a vulnerable, gullible girl and a controlling, Dominant billionaire asshole.  That camp, incidentally, is populated by both folks in- and outside the lifestyle.

http://www.salon.com/2015/02/13/%E2%80%9C50_shades%E2%80%9D_of_coercive_sex_the_movie_is_even_worse_than_the_book/

In the second, are people that are primarily in the lifestyle (I gather) and who report that what we read and see in both book and movie are not uncommon for some D/s relationships and for BDSM.  Of course, those in the first camp not-so politely let those in the second camp know they are idiots for staying in abusive relationships and rather hostile debates ensue.

I actually stopped reading all the articles and comments about this book and movie and decided to sit back and decide for myself what I thought about it.  I discovered I was initially influenced by what a lot of people said and I questioned my own involvement in the lifestyle because, see, I identified a little with Ana, when I was first starting out, when I was new to D/s and BDSM.  I didn’t much care for the way 50 Shades was written because, aside from the poor technique, the D/s dynamic – the very foundation of the story – was off from the start.  The relationship comes across as manipulative in the book.  Coercively manipulative, as opposed to the sort of playful, give-and-take that you might see in D/s.  I watched carefully for that in the movie, and didn’t see it.

What I did see was a very intense, controlling Dominant eager for a relationship with a woman he saw as being a good fit for him and a young, inexperienced girl just as eager for and flattered by the attention she received from this man.  Although there were several interactions/comments that could have been construed as abusive or condescending under certain circumstances, in the context of even a new and developing D/s relationship, they are appropriate and expected.  In the movie I noticed, perhaps more readily than I did in the book, that usually the character of Ana would respond to these sorts of comments with a kind of “tease” which, as any submissive (or woman, for that matter) knows, only serves to provoke a partner into further play, not stop him.

An excellent set of comments to the above included link can be found here:

http://www.salon.com/profile/RolandLind 

What it all really boils down to is one’s own ability to recognize the difference between a healthy relationship and one that is, at its core, abusive.  Although it may seem to those on the outside an easy, cut-and-dry determination, especially when looking at a relationship that involves an alternative lifestyle like D/s, the intricate intertwining of control, care, desire, love, and power is complex and not one for casual judgment.

If nothing else, 50 Shades of Grey got a lot of people talking about something that has been almost taboo in society.  I’m not sure very many people actually learned anything, but I have a renewed belief that my own lifestyle choices are perfectly ok, just as I’ve chosen them, no matter what anybody else may think and no matter how others may judge.  As for Ana and Christian?  They are characters in a book, for chrissakes.

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