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Monday, July 28, 2014

50 Shades of...Oh, Just Kill Me Now

The movie version of 50 Shades is coming to theaters near you in 2015.

First of all, my apologies to EL James. I'm not being dismissive of your work or success. You found something to titillate the human consciousness. It's a little sick and twisted, but hey, you're laughing all the way to the bank. You dirty, dirty girl.

My real bafflement stems from people (particularly fictional characters) who think being dominated is sexy.

Dudettes, please!

Does being at the choker end of a chain really turn you on? And what kind of weirdo likes getting smacked around? In the old days, they'd put you in therapy for low self esteem issues.

I won't call myself an old fuddy duddy because...well never you mind what kind of sex I've known, but I've been around. 

If you come at me with a whip, you're going to walk out without testicles. I don't care how much money you've got.

Being some rich guy's smackin' cushion isn't my idea of fun. My hams aren't made for bruisin'. You know what I'm saying?

I'm tired of heroes with control issues. You want control? There's your rudder. Control that and then I'll believe you're man enough for me.

All I know is if a guy wants to climb my twin peaks he better make it worth my while.

Rub my back. Clean my house. Give the dogs a bath. Weed my garden!

Now that's amore.


In the interest of full disclosure, I've not read these books, but several of my friends have and they filled me in on the details. They assured me they only read the books for research. 

Yeah...I didn't believe them either. 

Are you curious about the movie? Have you read the books?


Marian Perera said...

I had a coworker who insisted I try the first book. I think she believed that since I write romance novels, I would enjoy this.

Unfortunately, I just found it boring (though Ana's breathless "Holy cow! Holy crap! My inner goddess is jumping up and down! Holy shit!" running commentary is perfect for parody).

I have no intention of even watching the trailer, let alone the movie.

Maria Zannini said...

Marian: I've always wanted to know why these books had so many fans. Was it prurient curiosity or watching a train-wreck mentality.

I may never know. :)

Angela Brown said...

Like you, I give E L James an atta girl for her success because there's no need in hating the player. And I also don't hate the game, just not the perfect navigator of it myself lol!

I attempted to read the first book because a coworker of mine insisted it was absolutely great. Thankfully, I didn't buy the book, just borrowed it from someone and didn't make it past the first page. I guess I should have known better. I wasn't able to get into the Twilight craze. I forced myself to read the first book and that was a rather painful process keeping myself from throwing the book at the wall. But I did read it.

I went to a conference last year where I got a chance to meet a BDSM couple. They explained a lot of stuff to help me better understand the BDSM relationship beyond what I saw in Hollywood movies. It was enough to help me be comfortable in writing my own BDSM short story.

As for the movie trailer, I saw it. I wish I could say it was intriguing but what really caught my attention was the music composition to it. I'm sure it will be a hit in 2015.

Could I indulge in a BDSM experience myself? Honestly, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's just my ancestoral lingerings from slavery that prevent me from finding being whipped appealing.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: That lifestyle has to be an acquired taste. And I wonder if it's not more about control than sex. Either way, not for me.

If you come at me with a whip that signifies you are ready to lose certain appendages.

As a side note, I'm sure the parents of those actors in that movie must be soooo proud. ;-)

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...


my taste is in weird stuff, characters with fangs

zombies that are sloughing skin

ghouls that go bump in the night

Now THATS literature

Stacy McKitrick said...

I have not read the books. I saw the trailer, but unless the movie gets raving reviews, I'm sure I won't be watching it either. At least, not in the theatre. If it shows up on HBO or Showtime, I might give it a looksee, though.

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: As long as they don't sparkle, you're perfectly normal.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: I've never liked explicit sex in movies. It takes away from the story.

I always think back to the classic movies when just a look was enough to get your engines revving.

Michelle H. said...

Never read the book and don't plan to watch the movie unless it is on cable. I'm just sick of hearing about it (already). I think all the references and satire and memes soured me from wanting to read the book.

As for the premise of the story (from what little I've heard about) it's the prefect Hollywood movie under the premise that "sex sells." The kinkier, the better.

Michelle H. said...

Also, I think people like seeing movies with control issues and sex as watching train wrecks.

T.L. Bodine said...

The single most aggravating thing to me about the 50 Shades line is that it seems to conflate BDSM and abuse. And since it's the first taste most of its audience will have with BDSM, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth because it totally misunderstands the kink.

I do understand the kink. The thing is that it's a /game/. The whole point of it is that you, as a submissive, get to enjoy the sensation of totally giving over control to someone, and you trust them implicitly to keep you safe. As a dominant, it's your job to ensure that your submissive is both kept safe and also is getting what s/he wants out of the experience -- it's almost like you're the GM of a single-person RP session.

Very little of it has to do with whips and chains -- although for some people "punishment" is part of the game. It invokes some elements of the parent/child relationship but in obviously a very different setting. And for some people, pain elicits pleasure (boosting endorphins, yadda yadda).

But the vast majority of BDSM kink is really about fantasies of control and power, and playing with the fantasy of totally losing that power to a person who you believe has your best interests at heart. It's a very unique sensation, and it can actually feel extremely liberating.

Done well, I think a REAL book about BDSM would be incredibly hot and so much more interesting.

((as an aside: One of my pet theories from my lit major days is that Jane Eyre is ultimately a story about BDSM. Part of me kind of wants to rewrite it as such. Who knows, maybe one day.))

Giacomo Giammatteo said...

Maria, you've hit it on the head. I can't imagine who is reading this, but obviously there are millions upon millions. The question is WHY?

And the bigger question is why would women enjoy it? It baffles me. I think I'll stick to mysteries.

Maria Zannini said...

Michelle: It's possible people like the train wrecks. Why else do these 'reality' shows stay on the air.

I'm obviously not the right demographic. Or maybe I'm just very content in my own skin without the drama.

Maria Zannini said...

TL: I get your meaning, but the armchair psychologist in me wants to understand why people get off on this.

What makes people need this kind of sensation?

Maria Zannini said...

Jim: Maybe I'm just old school, but I was raised to believe that I'm worthy of being loved and cherished in public and private.

A good man is a good man in and out of bed. No airs or avatars necessary.

Jackie Burris said...

Maria while I enjoy a good erotic romance with some BDSM elements have never bothered to even read the blurb to the 50 Shades books, reading some of the hype clued me in enough to know as well liked by an apparently huge fan base as it is the series is not for me.
The movie will come and go and no disrespect to the author, director, producers, actors etc but will find no one living in our house interested watchers.

Diane Carlisle said...

I didn't read the book and don't plan to watch the movie, but I can see where there is starvation for such stuff. The folks who drink it up want the experience of domination without the actual risk as with the reality of it all. Just a taste...

Actually, S&M isn't normal, considered a deviant practice. Kind of like not wanting to be in a satanic cult, but loving to read about it. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: Too true. Everything comes and goes. It's all very trendy and cyclical.

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: I like your theory! It makes perfect sense. People can have their fantasy in perfect safety --and without the kids finding their toys. Ha!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Exactly! The only positive thing I've seen about all of this was a 50 Shades of Gray Kitty event my local humane society held - where gray cats were discounted and many got adopted. And I love this comment you made: "...I was raised to believe that I'm worthy of being loved and cherished in public and private." Couldn't agree with you more.

B.E. Sanderson said...

And no, I haven't read them either. I've heard enough to know I'm not interested.

Sarah Ahiers said...

TL said exactly what i was going to say! There are a lot of people that have different sexual fantasies and fetishes. What excites one person doesn't neccessarily excite another.

But i'm with TL. My problem with 50 SOG is that people think it's an example of BDSM which it very much isn't

Maria Zannini said...

BE: Oh, what a nice way to turn a literary circus into a good cause.

We've been thinking of adopting a cat, but I think a cat already adopted us. He's been coming by anyway.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: And this begs the question, why did 50SoG have the effect it did?

There've been fetishes since the ancient Etruscans and earlier. Social media catapulted 50SoG into a viral phenomenon. But why? The writing, so I've been told, is abysmal. Yet, EL grabbed the public attention with both hands.

She certainly wasn't writing to true fetish aficionados. She actually created a new, broader fan base--something few people have ever done.

Brandy said...

I have no interest in the book or movie. I understand the fascination, but don't care for the subject matter.

Charlee Allden said...

I haven't read the books and I don't know if I will see the movie. From everything I've heard about the story it seems to be about a practitioner of BDSM who gets it most everything about it wrong. I'm sure that happens often. Just as some people use sex itself as abuse (rape) I'm sure some use the cover of BDSM to find victims. That's why anyone who is really interested in BDSM should research and get in touch with others in the lifestyle. The very last thing any submissive wants is a dominant partner who is out of control. Safe, sane and consensual is one mantra I've heard used.

As some of your earlier commenters have pointed out, there is a difference between abuse and dominance and submission (D/s). As an outsider, sadism and masochism (the S&M in BDSM) do seem a bit like abuse to me, but knowing how often other alternative lifestyles are misunderstood, I'm very hesitant to call it that. One of your commenters said it is a game and for some that is true, but not for all. For some, dominance and submission (D/s) is a very important part of their lives. It can be an important but small part of a more normative lifestyle or it can be their lifestyle. D/s often has nothing to do with whips and chains, though they can be a tool that is used.

I guess the thing I want to address more than anything is your comment that it must be an acquired taste. Those who play at it may "aquire" a taste for BDSM in an attempt to spice up their sex lives. But I truly believe there is something much stronger and substantive to all of this. I think dominance and submission are a part of a person's make-up. I'm sure there is a spectrum in the population and for a big chunk in the middle that element is so minor as to not matter at all. But at the edges it is such an integral part of who a person is that going against that nature is painfully difficult. Not to say that the person can't function normally, but they will struggle and be unhappy. They must learn to compensate for their nature and learn to be less submissive or less dominant. I hate to compare it to other things because I'm sure I would manage to offend someone. I'll just say that making light is like making light of any other are where some people are different from the norm.

I know you have an inquisitive, thoughtful mind so I will wrap up my long winded comment by saying there is some science behind this. I touched on one small part of this in a post I did back in 2011: Sex and violence the science behind the trope. You can search my site for it. If you want to know more about the science behind the similarity between pleasure and pain, I'm sure it is out there on the net.

Jenny Schwartz said...

I haven't read the books and have no intention of watching the movie. But one of the things that fascinates me is the title. Fifty Shades of Gray sounds boring to me! ;)

Maria Zannini said...

Brandy: I think we are vastly outnumbered by the curious.

Maria Zannini said...

Charlee: Fringe is fringe. Despite 50SoG's popularity, BDSM is hardly mainstream, so it does smack of weirdness. 50SoG did not help its case at all.

My point is that the series is wildly popular and I don't know why. I'm more interested in finding out why it appealed to the mass market and less about the real fringe group.

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: Yes! I thought the title had a great ring to it too. It was provocative without giving away much.

And the first cover was very good too. It hit all the right marks up to and including the trending color scheme of the time. By accident or plan, EL lucked out with both.

Charlee Allden said...

"My point is that the series is wildly popular and I don't know why."

Bluntly put: Women want to feel special and important. 50SoG fills this need in a sexual fantasy setting.

A sizable percentage of women fantasize about:

- being desired by a man who could have his pick of women. This often translates to a man who is super attractive, powerful, wealthy, or famous. Check.

- being the center of a man's attention. BDSM, puts the woman at the center of a man's attention - even if the type of attention is not what the woman would want in real-life. Check.

Women are attracted to a man with vulnerabilities. It appeals to the nurturing side most women have in some measure and it helps rationalize why this man would choose this woman (she can accept his flaws). Check.

It may seem ugly, but there it is. If you believe in evolution you may be comforted by the idea that this is probably based on a biological remnant that we are evolving away from.

Maria Zannini said...

Charlee: Everyone wants to feel special. What man or woman doesn't fantasize about being desired?

The entire romance industry is built on that concept.

50SoG delivered a fantasy in a safe environment. And it's fiction.

But I feel there is more involved than these rudimentary desires. I can guarantee you every ad executive in New York is trying to figure out (and recreate) the same effect for their campaigns.

Social media is hugely responsible. The message has to get out there. But the message itself still has to have legs.

It would be worth studying the mega trends pre-internet.

Anne Gallagher said...

50SOG to me is just like Twilight. Both authors found a "new" subject and exploited it for their own gain.

As the discussion above continues
about BDSM, it's obvious EL James didn't get anything right about the subject -- therefore people bought the book(s), not only because it is such a forbidden topic, but to see just how "wrong" she was.

I liken it to a book with bad reviews...I've seen it happen time and again, a book with bad reviews will be sitting at #25, while a good book will have to claw it way to the top.

Anyway, I won't read the Grey books. I won't read the Twilight books. More power to the authors for being smart enough to figure out the latest reading craze before anyone else. I'm sure they're laughing all the way to the bank.

Sandra Almazan said...

Anne, 50SoG started out as Twilight fanfic.

I've no desire to read the books (I've read enough bad stuff about them) or see the movie. My theory about what makes them so popular is the "woman tames bad boy" theme. Also, Ana is such a colorless character that it's easy for women to put themselves in her shoes. Personally, I'd rather read about a romance of someone who was worthy of my attention from the start. These fixer-uppers all look unsafe to me.

Maria Zannini said...

Anne: From what I gathered from interviews with EL James, I got the impression she penned her story (based on Twilight) and fell into a gold mine.

I think the part that gets me every time is that despite how badly written it is, it still gained a following. No wonder every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks he can write a book.

Maria Zannini said...

Re: fixer uppers
LOL! If I have to fix a man, he's way too much trouble.

And you might have a point about Ana. If a character is invisible enough, it's easy to step in and perhaps add to the drama in your own head.

Despite the hoopla, this too shall pass. It always does.

Carol Kilgore said...

I don't know the psychology of the people who practice any form of BDSM, but I'm sure there are certain markers.

Did you watch the YouTube video of Ellen trying to read the book? Hilarious!

Anna Soliveres said...

LOL Maria! This line: "If you come at me with a whip, you're going to walk out without testicles. I don't care how much money you've got."

I never got into FSoG mainly because it was a bit tough to read (it seemed to need a lot more editing IMHO). With that said, I definitely think it's curiosity about that kind of sex and role-play that has piqued a lot of women's interest in this book.

Maria Zannini said...

Carol: I remember that! Ellen can make a phone book funny.

Maria Zannini said...

Anna: Now see, you get my humor. Thank you!

Mike Keyton said...

If you come at me with a whip, you're going to walk out without testicles. I can't get that line out of my head. The sensible part of me assumes no one has ever approached you with a whip. The novelist in me imagines a small mountain of testicles hidden in a Texan desert.

I think it was Nietsche who said: "You go to visit a woman, don't forget the whip.'To my knowledge he never went to Texas.

LD Masterson said...

I'm late to this discussion but I don't have much to add. I didn't read FSoG for the same reason I didn't read the Twilight series. They just didn't interest me.

Although the leader of our local writers group is a professional bull whip artist. Seriously. (Think cowboys, not sex.)

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: ROTFL!

Your sensible part wins. I have this theory that predators and fools know their own kind.

Men have always treated me well. The few whose intentions were less than honorable usually had enough sense not to test my good humor.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Wow! A bullwhip professional. I've seen one once. It's amazing what they can do.

I'll bet your writers' group always starts on time. :)

Heather Musk said...

Hi Maria. I have read these books, although I can't honestly tell you why. I suppose I wanted to see if they got any better, but sadly they didn't. I actually found parts at the end quite disturbing and retelling the very first chapter from his POV seemed a waste of time.
I certainly won't be seeing the film, I don't want to lose any more time to it than I already have.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Heather, and welcome!

I know what you mean about reading just to see if it would improve. I've read several series where they kind of led me around without providing a satisfactory conclusion. It makes you feel cheated.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I never read the books or felt any desire to and have even less interest in the movie. I'm with you. How is any of that sexy or romantic? And yeah, a guy that does the dishes is wonderful to have around. And he always buys me gift cards to book stores for special occasions.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: If a guy does the dishes for me, he's in like Flynn.

Ellie Garratt said...

'All I know is if a guy wants to climb my twin peaks he better make it worth my while.'

I can't stop laughing. You have such a way with words.

Maria Zannini said...

Ellie: I think a couple of people missed the humor but I guess you can't make everyone laugh. :D