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Fifty Shades of Grey

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I'm almost hoping Fifty Shades is unexpectedly brilliant. It won't be, but a fella can dream.

At the other end, I'm almost expecting that this will be so ridiculous that I'll be able to take The Night Porter seriously.

 

Next A&F list: movies you should watch instead of Fifty Shades. I'll go ahead and nominate Salò. And I'll be sure to recommend it to anyone who comes out of Fifty Shades raving about how much they love the flick.

I'm thinking of doing that with Eyes Wide Shut, Cries and Whispers, and Blue Velvet, and maybe Wolf of Wall Street and Funny Games as well.

 

(Not really, but it would be so much fun.)

 

Don't forget Irreversible!

 

 

 

 

Next A&F list: movies you should watch instead of Fifty Shades.

Bitter Moon.

 

 

Based on The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, I'm guessing The Piano Teacher should also go on the list:

 

 

--actually, just add The Pervert's Guide to the list.

Edited by NBooth

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I somehow didn't realize until just now that Fifty Shades of Grey star Dakota Johnson is the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith -- and thus the granddaughter of Marnie star Tippi Hedren. I'm sure someone, somewhere, is preparing an essay on gender roles and coercive sex then and now using this particular grandmother-granddaughter duo.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Another month, another movie in which a man impresses a woman by getting her a "first edition" of her favorite book.

 

At least this time the book in question was written only a century or two ago.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The New Yorker:

 

And there you have the problem with this film. It is gray with good taste—shade upon shade of muted naughtiness, daubed within the limits of the R rating. Think of it as the “Downton Abbey” of bondage, designed neither to menace nor to offend but purely to cosset the fatigued imagination. You get dirtier talk in most action movies, and more genitalia in a TED talk on Renaissance sculpture. True, Dakota Johnson does her best, and her semi-stifled giggles suggest that, unlike James, she can see the funny side of all this nonsense. When Christian, alarmed by Ana’s maidenhood, considers “rectifying the situation,” she replies, “I’m a situation?”—a sharp rejoinder, although if I were her I’d be much more worried about the rectifying. Even Johnson’s valiant performance, however, cannot pierce the gloom, or persuade her co-star to lighten up. He brings color to her cheeks, courtesy of mild slaps, but she brings no light to his spirit in return. He spends half the time badgering her about a contract that has been drawn up, in which she—“the Submissive”—must consent to his supremacy. Clauses and subsections are haggled over in such detail that one feels bound to ask: How much of a sex film can this be, given that the people most likely to be turned on by it are lawyers?

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biblioklept: Selections from Five-Star Amazon Reviews of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey.

 

I didn’t really even read books! But this is the best book I ever read! read all 3 in a week!

 
These would be the books I’d take if I was gonna be stranded on a island for the rest of my life.
 
I read all 3 of them within a week and a half. All while working and going to school and having to do bible lessons.
 
I’m not a person who likes to read but….
 
EDIT:
Meanwhile, the AV Club:
 
As the world waits with bated breath for the release of the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades Of Grey, one MIT engineer and developer advocate at Google has created an impressively robust program for people to create their own middling and poorly written erotica. The program is so successful at copying author E.L. James’ style that it bears repeating that these are not excerpts from the books but instead randomly arranged sentences using a Dada Engine.
Edited by NBooth

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Deadline:

 

In Friday late night grosses, Universal Focus’ Fifty Shades of Grey is poised to hit a February opening day record with industry estimates predicting a first day of $31M for the feature adaptation of E.L. James’ fan femme novel and revised weekend projections  standing at $83M for FSS and a potential four-day of $91M.

 

Should Fifty Shades final at its current weekend projections, it is bound to find a place among the top R-rated weekend openings of all-time.  2003’s Matrix Reloaded currently owns the top FSS for an R-Rated film with $91.77M while 2004’s Passion of the Christ is the top weekend opener, and R-rated pic, in February with $83.8M.

 

So the two biggest North American openings since the American Thanksgiving (almost three months ago), by far, are the $89.3 million that American Sniper opened to in January and the $80+ million that Fifty Shades of Grey is set to open to now.

 

Both films are deservedly R-rated.

 

Take *that*, "Dr." Ted Baehr and your "family-friendly movies do best" agenda!


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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This thread should probably contain a link to this, so here -

 

Alissa WIlkinson, "In Praise of Slow Opinions":

“Point of order: no, we won't be running a review, as the film has no real cogent moral or cultural point buried within. Other people have written about most of the larger cultural issues for a long time, so I believe there's nothing to be gained by rehashing them. And by most reports, it's a terribly written book made into a mediocre film, and look: frankly, life is too short.

I've grown increasingly irritated with the topic's treatment — especially, unfortunately, in Christian publications — over the past few weeks. As a film critic working in a religious context, I'm not easily ruffled by the Internet anymore, so I stepped back for a while today to figure out why I was irritated. I've come to some opinions, and critics are paid to write down their opinions, so here you go.

The ‘hot take’ has become a genre unto itself in the last few years, as technology makes quickly publishing one's opinion easier. Alyssa Rosenberg, who blogs on politics and pop culture at The Washington Post, tweeted about this earlier today, asking what makes for a hot take. I don't know what Alyssa thinks (yet), and I don't think of her as a hot-taker at all, but most of her respondents, including me, characterized it as having two elements: (1) a weak, quickly-made argument that is (2) written basically to garner lots of traffic ...

 But the former part is what disturbs me: hastily-made arguments. In my reading, I've seen a few of these — arguments that fall prey to what seem like obvious fallacies. For instance, I've seen arguments against seeing the movies that posture as contrarian because ‘everyone is saying’ that people, even Christians, ought to see the film (I've yet to see someone suggest that), or that ‘everyone thinks it is fine’ (demonstrably untrue, across the ideological spectrum), or ‘does nobody see the problem here’ (actually lots of people do, from religious folks to feminists to people who like carefully-made books and movies).

The trick to writing on the Internet and getting heard is making a very loud, very extreme argument. The Internet does not reward nuanced takes or people who wait a week and a half to think something through, and the Internet especially does not reward people who say, You know? I'm not sure I've figured out what I think on this yet ...

Undoubtedly, there is value to being able to form quick opinions on things. If you're a movie critic, it's a requirement of the job; often we see movies 24-48 hours before the review has to run. I can come up with something to say before I leave the theater.

But there are things that require slow opinions. Sometimes, they're very slow opinions. Sometimes they need to be revised over time, and sometimes they take decades to form ...

It seems to me that in our age of hot takes, of people having to have an opinion on every issue that comes down the pipeline, fallacies are easy ditches into which we can swerve: straw men help us sound innovative; ad hoc and ad hominem attacks make us sound like we have the moral high ground; quick bandwagon or slippery slope arguments make us seem to be prophetic when in fact we're just repeating the same things people have always been saying ...”

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Fifty Shades of Grey, which earned $81.7 million between Friday and Sunday, has set a new record for the American Presidents' Day weekend (previous champ: Valentine's Day, 2010, $56.3 million).

 
It also grossed $30.2 million on Friday, which is the biggest opening day in February ever (previous champ: The Passion of the Christ, 2004, $26.6 million, though that film opened on a Wednesday; the previous best first day for a film that opened on a Friday in February was Hannibal, 2001, $19.3 million).
 
For the three-day weekend, Fifty Shades scored the 2nd-biggest opening in February ever (slightly behind The Passion of the Christ, 2004, $83.8 million) and the 5th-biggest opening for an R-rated movie at any time of the year (behind The Matrix 2, American Sniper, The Hangover 2 and The Passion of the Christ).
 
Fifty Shades also has the biggest opening weekend of any film directed by a woman (previous champ: Twilight, 2008, $69.6 million).
 

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I've been observing the activity here for over four years so I'm entitled to the following opinion (sorry, but even though I think some of you have wives and, I trust, even happy marriages, you don't demonstrate your enlightenment very effectively here, where only Evan gets a pass).  

 

What with A&F being much closer to a good-ol'-boys club than a place with any kind of real awareness to women's issues, I'll step up to contribute a piece much closer to what is needed as a representative response from the fairer sex.

 

This author gets it right, and she hasn't even graduated from college yet--there is hope for the future!

 

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/film/fifty-shades-grey-and-abuse


Art affirms all that is best in man—hope, faith, love, beauty, prayer…what he dreams of and what he hopes for.  What is art?  Like a declaration of love: the consciousness of our dependence on each other.  A confession.  An unconscious act that nonetheless reflects the true meaning of life—love and sacrifice.

~Andrei Tarkovsky

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What with A&F being much closer to a good-ol'-boys club than a place with any kind of real awareness to women's issues...

 

 

For what it's worth, while most of us at A&F are male, and while we mostly talk about movies, I think you'd be surprised how much some of us care about, read about, and talk about what you call "women's issues" outside of our time here at A&F. I think the theme of healthy romantic relationships was very much on our minds during the formation of the Top Films about Marriage list, too.

 

As for the article: The points highlighted there seemed pretty obvious to me from the time I first heard about the book. I've had conversations with men and women about the troubling glamorization of abuse... including conversations with my wife, who was disgusted with that quality of the relationship in Twilight before Fifty Shades became a big deal. I'd speculate that the reason that the subject of abuse hasn't come up in this thread is because, well, A) the abusive nature of the relationship at the center of this story is kind of obvious, and B) I don't think many of us here think the film has enough artistic merit to inspire much discussion. 

 

If you're interested, here's The Kindlings Muse podcast, where three of my colleagues discuss the popularity of Fifty Shades — including novelist Suzanne Wolfe (husband of Gregory Wolfe) and "guest sexologist" Dr. Tina Sellers. A brief description:

 

The question is why? Why would a book about a woman who toys with being dominated, abused and humiliated by a man be at all entertaining to so many women or anyone else? But more than the books, what does it mean to be sexual, to be intimate, and be fully human? Where have we misunderstood the terms "erotic," "love," "pleasure," and "joy?" Both inside and out of the faith community we seem to be at a lost for a healthy dialogue about sex.

 

We whip up a discussion on this phenomenon and why issues of sexuality, self-concepts and the church's refusal to present a healthy concept of sex play (pun intended) into it all. 

 

 

But sure, for the record:  that article sums up one of the most saddening and alarming aspects of the property's popularity. 

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Have we not linked the book and film versions of Twilight here? It would seem to be fairly important to the thread....

 

[i'm actually a bit surprised that no one I've seen talking about the Fifty Shades book or movie has yet suggested that it's a subversion or parody of the really creepy stuff in Twilight. I've not read the book, but the synopses I've seen etc etc etc sure sound like a parody of Twilight]

Edited by NBooth

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Forgive my saying this, Lynn, but I'm not sure what "a representative response from the fairer sex" is supposed to mean when {a} the person who wrote the article clearly hasn't even seen the film, and {b} the novelist, the primary screenwriter, the director, and the studio head who made it all possible are all women. This *entire movie* is the work of "the fairer sex".

 

One of the more interesting articles I've read about the film is this one by Katie Hasty @ Hitfix:

 

The film -- now a massive box office success after its opening weekend -- does have its redeeming qualities. For one, Dakota Johnson is a trooper, providing some much-needed fun to the frequently strained story. Also, even and especially as [a] large-scale release geared toward women, "Fifty Shades" treats sex differently than many commercial dramas and rom-coms (and not just because of the BDSM). For all its controversies, the film purposely eschews some of the book's pitfalls to hint at a much more complicated tale about the bedroom and consenting adults.

 

Below I outline some things the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie brings to the conversation about sex and women onscreen, and where those notions run into trouble in the film. . . .

 

Then there's '9 Clues That 'Fifty Shades' Director Is Definitely Female' by Susan Wloszczyna over at Anne Thompson's blog.

 

I find these articles much more interesting, balanced, and informative than mere denunciations of the film based on what happens to be in its source material (or, worse, based on what one *assumes* is in its source material).

 

I have also found myself wondering if Christians really have a vocabulary for discussing bondage and other kinds of transgressive sexual fantasies. Certainly some of us do have such fantasies -- and I would underscore that I'm talking about *fantasies*, which is altogether separate from reality. Presumably there is a reason that these fantasies exist, just as there is a reason for all the typically male fantasies about running around and shooting people.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Jeffrey, thank you for that clarification.  It is much appreciated.  I do think more input from the perspective of experienced women would be nice to have here.

 

Anyone know some former Women's Studies majors who are also cinema aficionados?

 

I'd like to hear more of a chorus here, and not be a lone female voice every time I speak up; nor would I expect any man to ever be fully versed on the subject, just as I would never feel comfortable trying to represent a male perspective.


P.S.  Peter, in your not knowing what I mean, and in pointing out the females behind the film (traitors to their gender), is illustrated precisely what I meant in my original post.  If it isn't obvious to you, I don't have any hope of success in what would be the massive project of educating you, so I leave you to your continued ignorance.

Edited by Lynn He

Art affirms all that is best in man—hope, faith, love, beauty, prayer…what he dreams of and what he hopes for.  What is art?  Like a declaration of love: the consciousness of our dependence on each other.  A confession.  An unconscious act that nonetheless reflects the true meaning of life—love and sacrifice.

~Andrei Tarkovsky

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 I do think more input from the perspective of experienced women would be nice to have here.

 

 

 

I agree! I think many of us here have voiced that exact wish many times. 

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Lynn He wrote:
: P.S.  Peter, in your not knowing what I mean, and in pointing out the females behind the film (traitors to their gender), is illustrated precisely what I meant in my original post.  If it isn't obvious to you, I don't have any hope of success in what would be the massive project of educating you, so I leave you to your continued ignorance.

 

I get that you think there is only one "right" female perspective. But as a non-female, I don't feel that I'm in a position to make that claim. And when other females come along and present alternate perspectives -- perspectives that are actually informed *by a viewing of the film* -- then I don't see why I shouldn't let them, uh, educate me.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Yes, there is only one right female perspective.  The one that honors all women and girls as having equal rights and dignity to males, and treats them as such.

 

There is not one single thing okay in any woman or girl being manipulated, controlled, abused, and/or treated as a disposable object.

 

Whether or not it is certain sick women that are the ones throwing their sisters under the bus for profit is irrelevant.

 

Hope that's clear, because if it is not clear, especially in a community calling itself Arts and Faith, there is a serious problem in this community that needs to be solved.

 

Is there a problem here?


Art affirms all that is best in man—hope, faith, love, beauty, prayer…what he dreams of and what he hopes for.  What is art?  Like a declaration of love: the consciousness of our dependence on each other.  A confession.  An unconscious act that nonetheless reflects the true meaning of life—love and sacrifice.

~Andrei Tarkovsky

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I would also add that the question of bondage fantasies is not an exclusively female one. Men have them too.

 

And one key element in the film -- which I had never heard before in all the ruckus about the novel -- is that Christian Grey himself is a statutory rape survivor, inasmuch as an adult woman made him her "submissive" when he was 15. This is *not* necessarily presented as a positive thing -- Mr Grey is clearly damaged by his experience -- though I gather I would have to read or see the sequels to see how that all plays out.

 

So please, if we *must* have a discussion about this film, let's pay attention to what's actually *in* the film and stop reducing everything to the simplest of political slogans. Women aren't the only victims of abuse. And letting someone tie you up and so on isn't necessarily abuse in the first place.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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How did I not realize this is about you, Peter?

 

Forgive me.  Carry on.

 

Clearly this is your domain.


Art affirms all that is best in man—hope, faith, love, beauty, prayer…what he dreams of and what he hopes for.  What is art?  Like a declaration of love: the consciousness of our dependence on each other.  A confession.  An unconscious act that nonetheless reflects the true meaning of life—love and sacrifice.

~Andrei Tarkovsky

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The back third of the LARB Radio Hour discusses the popularity of the book and the mainstreaming of pornography, even though (as all three people admit) no one on the show has read the book (which, see my earlier comment about ostentatious seeing-or-not-seeing).

 

A series of questions without intended answers:

 

1. What explains the popularity of this book/movie among women? Many of the pieces I've read have suggested that it has to do with a dearth of woman-oriented pornography, or at least a lack of literature that speaks explicitly to female experiences of desire. Is that a satisfactory explanation? Could there also be: [a] the camp factor, idle curiosity, or [c] love of underdog stories (the fanfic that made good)?

 

2. To what extent is the response to Fifty Shades conditioned by gendered expectations regarding the relative worth of popular fiction produced for women v. that produced for men?

 

3. To what extent does Fifty Shades fit into a generic tradition--the Gothic Melodrama, for instance--in which power-plays are always part of the frisson of the piece? There's something very sub-dom about the interactions in Jane Eyre, for instance, although in that case the pleasure arises from watching two powerful people tussle (verbally) for control. See also Villette. How does the novel's genre modify the way we approach its content (insofar as the two are separable)?

 

4. What historical precedents are there for both Fifty Shades and the furor surrounding it? [Full confession: I actually have an answer in mind for this one]

 

5. Going back to 1, it seems to me that any evaluation offered should be very clear about where the evaluator stands on the fantasy-reality issue; to what extent is fantasy separable from real-world desires--or is it co-extensive with them? See the Zizek clip above. 

 

Frankly, I don't care about the movie. It looks rubbish. But there's any number of fruitful directions of inquiry that can be pursued here.

 

EDIT: Cracked.com fact-checks Fifty Shades. The result is exactly as safe for work as you would expect.

Edited by NBooth

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What I look forward to the most regarding this film...all the "Fifty Shades of Grace" sermon series that will come out of it. Oh, yeah!!

 

[bTW- This was sarcasm. I was poking fun at evangelical culture and church signs]

Edited by Thom

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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There is, in fact, a movie called Shades of Grace.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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ThinkProgress: College Student Accused Of Brutal Rape, Uses ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ As His Defense

 

Writing in the Atlantic earlier this month, Emma Green pointed out that Fifty Shades of Grey became a smash hit at the same time as the concept of “rape culture” became more mainstream. And when you put those two ideas in conversation with each other, it gets really complicated really quickly. Americans are just starting to have deeper conversations about healthy sexual encounters, meaningful consent, and the societal scripts that influence the different ways that men and women approach sex. At the same time, Fifty Shades is hinting at a much more complicated and much more advanced level of sexual activity: The world of BDSM, which is predicated upon very explicit rules of engagement and verbal consent totally foreign to many Americans.
 
Green concluded that many Americans probably aren’t ready to apply the concepts of BDSM to their own sex lives — especially if they’re first being introduced to those practices through Fifty Shades, which has been roundly criticized for its inaccurate portrayal of the kink community. As sex therapist Esther Perel told her: “I find it amazing that this country at this point is going to spill quantities of ink talking about Fifty Shades, when it doesn’t even have a basic education on sex. It’s like you’re introducing alcohol to people who haven’t had any water in years.”
 
Americans are already confused about what exactly constitutes consent, and it’s possible that Fifty Shades of Grey won’t help clarify anything for them. Maybe Hossain really did think he was having a consensual sexual encounter in which his partner happened to be crying, objecting, and resisting. Maybe he thought the woman’s clearly visible distress was just part of the kink.
 
More likely, Fifty Shades is poised to become a convenient excuse.

 

I can't help but be reminded of the way The Matrix became a scapegoat for school violence back when it came out. Or the way comic books became a scapegoat for teen delinquency back in the Fifties

Edited by NBooth

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