No, this is not a review of the book Fifty Shades of Grey, nor is it of the movie that was released in February 2015. This is about my sheer disbelief that a movie was made at all. (For the innocent, here is a catchup: Fifty Shades of Grey is an erotic/sadomasochistic romance book, part of a trilogy that has sold 100M copies world wide.)
I was curious about the book, so I did attempt to read it. It was a hopeless exercise not because I was shocked by it, but because, it was super uni-dimensional and a cognitive overload to continue reading it.
Why would anybody want to read a few hundred pages of extreme-erotica? Why would the female lead in the book agree to such a binding (literally) contract? Why would a person in the Free World want to explore and discover her sexuality through an initiation of sorts? Will the last book balance it out or make it worse? Why does it need a trilogy to reverse the roles?
I was not the least bit interested in finding out. And I was not alone.
“I read the reviews and was not at ALL interested in reading the book. It seemed boring and I cannot understand how somebody would enjoy continued subjugation,” says Srividhya from Palo Alto, California asserting, “I will not be watching the movie.”
Someone who has read the book and seen the movie, and who prefers to stay anonymous, declared “I liked the book better, because it’s from her point of view. The film does not allow access to her interior dialogue.”
Speaking of, there have been movies made about people expanding their experiential palette through sexual encounters, for example, the Kim Basinger movie, 9 and ½ Weeks.
And that is exactly my point, we have gotten used to watching blatant acts on the big screen, complete nudity, people using the bathroom, bloody cadavers, … Fifty Shades will get the masses used to another level altogether in what is essentially a private act. There’s the whole next wave to consider too: The other two books in the trilogy, YouTube, On Demand and Netflix maybe. Once it’s a movie, exposure has only just begun.
On opening day, news reports had the terror attacks and previews of the movie back-to-back. Was the irony of this lost in print? Why has violence become the theme in our society: politically, culturally (honor-killings), in our homes (domestic violence), and now sexually too? We are a race with adaptive DNA and cumulative intelligence that gets passed from generation to generation. That’s the reason we have survived longer than many other species. If we celebrate the enjoyment of violence by making a mainstream movie, what then happens to future generations? Will more of them be genetically inclined to impart or enjoy violence?
Yes, I understand that both parties are consenting in Fifty Shades of Grey, so it’s not really “violence.” But I’d rather that such stretching of the envelope stay as a media outlier! Doesn’t mainstreaming extreme erotica as a sensual act glamorize it, much like showing the actors smoking?
Intellectually speaking, it is possible to explain sado-masochism. To somebody who is into sex as a form of excitement, inspiration, relaxation, or simply as a form of getting adrenalin-high, extreme forms of it are possibly a natural progression. Like extreme adventure sport, it could be an evolutionary outcome for those who have sex as the sole pursuit and goal in their personal lives. My question is, why not just let it stay in the private domain; why drag it into the public domain? It is NOT a rite of sexual passage that must be celebrated en masse!
Let’s explore yet another dimension. Sadly, there is a notion believed by both sexes, that women like “macho,” like the idea of a dominating man and that the prospect to dominate turns on men. But is that nature or something that a patriarchal society has nurtured over centuries? In any case, I challenge it. Has anybody stopped to think that the real turn-on for women is when the macho man shows his sensitive side to her? That the actuality of domination is a turn-off? Sure, there will be a percentage of both men and women who will enjoy this movie because of their own sensibilities, but WHY has it been unleashed in every neighborhood theater?
Why was this movie made? To make money? There is enough controversy to meet this goal. The story needs to be told? I don’t think so. Commentary on our times or a precursor to the future? Definitely not. Get audience to have a good time? Well, here are some comments from Indian women who watched the movie:
“He has all the power. Why does only she have to sign a contract?”
“Made me think about my daughter … keep away from these sick guys!”
“Yuck. Disgusting. Porn. I had no idea what the film was about. I just came because all my girlfriends told me not to be a prude. I did not like it.”
It is astounding that this movie is considered to be a “chick-flick.”
Priya Das writes about extraordinary nuances of everyday life, reporting on stories of personal courage and uncommon experiences.