By Riti Das Dhankar
Looking at the recent trend, it seems the internet can be easily broken by Kim K’s behind, Beyonce’s “un-retouched” pictures or Fifty Shades of Grey. All in all, I can say that the human anatomy, especially women’s bodies, can break the invisible.
About the buzz that the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, has been creating, it’s very hard to escape its charms if you are an internet user. The online forums are full of the movie’s reviews and its magnanimous box-office collections. There is a swarm of people (mainly women) going crazy, landing up in Dream Ville.
The bondage-inflected romance novel, Fifty Shades of Grey had topped The New York Times bestseller lists for 10 weeks, followed at numbers two and three by its two sequels. It’s been most popular with women, especially moms, leading many to call it (dismissively or worshipfully, depending on their point of view) “mommy porn.” On Friday, SiriusXM convened a radio fan forum, moderated by Kim Alexander and “Just Jenny” host, Jennifer Hutt, to determine what about this book that gets moms so hot.
I have not read the book. Though I remember once going to a book store, where I came across the book and found the title interesting (I love grey, the colour I mean).
Coming to the movie, it’s available on the internet and can be easily downloaded. I watched it on the internet mainly because of the following reasons. First, if a movie like this were to be screened in India, I expect only the beginning and the end-credits to roll smoothly because the rest of the movie would be censored (i.e., if the movie makes it to the theaters). Second, who would like to take a chance with swine flu in a large public gathering? Third, one could always pause or stop a movie at will if one were watching at home!
With an open mind, I started watching the movie. The movie has been projected as a love story that portrays BDSM. As the movie progressed, I couldn’t help but mentally go through my check-list of a stereotypical romantic movie and was happy to see I scored full marks. Not even a single miss! (My parents would be so proud). Ideally, when a love story is presented, it often consists of a few inevitable elements. A “good” girl, preferably a virgin (umm make that definitely), slightly confused, doe eyed and a boy, manly, not a virgin (because hey, c’mon, it’s 2015! Who cares about the virginity of a man!!??), oozing masculinity in every possible way (even while paying the bills and gifting cars. Oops! But that is a man’s job right?). Opposites attract – simple physics and guaranteed chemistry.
When a movie is made, it targets a specific audience. It falls into a particular genre. It becomes part of a group or category. Some movies are made targeted at a certain audience, promising a few aspects (grossly misinterpreted) and become a rage. This one is sadly one of those movies. The movie was supposed to be a love story and since it had BDSM aspect to it, it was expected to be more mature than naïve.
It’s not necessary for a movie to have good content. I mean, if someone has money and wants to create trash, who are we to stop him/her? It’s not necessary for a movie to be logical (being Indians, we know that by now as we have watched the recent blockbusters from Rohit Shetty, Slaman, and SRK), nor does the movie require to represent facts because it is nothing but a perception and if you have got a problem with it, we needn’t watch it. It’s as simple as that. What’s disturbing here is how such movies or such role-playing gets widely accepted across the world, across different cultures.
Somewhere in the movie, a little after the male lead discloses that he is a Dominant, there is a very important conversation that takes place between the two protagonists. It goes something like this:
Christian: Well, when you had sex was there anything that you didn’t like doing?
Anastasia: I wouldn’t know
Christian: What do you mean?
Anastasia: I haven’t…
Christian: You are still a virgin!! You’ve done other things, right?
Christian: Where have you been? (holding her close)
And they kiss.
Was I the only one who went meh on that one? Did it not ooze double standards, as his love suddenly grew exponentially when she mentioned she was a virgin? Especially, when Christian admitted to having brought 15 women to his house for sex. Shouldn’t Anastasia have just slapped him for being such an MCP?
Every movie should make us think, whether it is good, bad or funny. This movie made me think that the image or the social expectation of women remaining ‘chaste’ is not because of men but because of women. It is as if women – a large number of them, in fact – think that the “good-girl-never-done-it-before” is the mantra for finding true love.
I read a few reviews where it appeared that the lead i.e., Christian Grey, is a man who rapes, tortures, and stalks a girl. Well, I think he is the only “normal” character in the movie because right from the beginning he sticks to his ethos. He asks for permission, explains the scenario, and lays out loud and clear that opting out at any given point is an option. What else is he supposed to do? And there is Anastasia. Full of confusion, a hopeless romantic, someone who cannot speak for herself, enjoys violence and, at the same time, feels sorry for her own self.
In 2002, Secretary was released, starring James Spader (his name in the movie is Edward Grey. Coincidence, I guess) and Maggie Gyllenhaal, that dealt with Dominant-Submissive behaviour. I would like to add here that the movie was more “real” because it was a result of a good amount of research, leading to a more plausible portrayal of the behavior. And the subject was handled with maturity.
On the contrary, Fifty Shades of Grey is a stereotypical love story with a supposedly “normal” girl being a complete nut-job and the “troubled” Mr Grey being the only consistent, non-weird thing in the movie. It seems the movie has had a huge opening, collecting good money and that is something scary and to be worried about. Such movies are made and supplied because there is a demand for them in the market and the demand for such movies means that the self-image of a woman (here I speak mainly about women because most of the fan following of the movie are women) is that of a helpless, meek, and sorry soul, who is willing to go through anything to be “loved”.
After watching the film, we should observe a 2-minute silence for all the women, who thought equality and individuality are essential to every woman’s existence.
Riti Das Dhankar is a freelance writer. She is doing her PhD in Psychology from Jaipur, where she completed her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.
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