FIFTY SHADES OF GREY: the first of my highly personal responses
I just got back from watching the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. Yep. I wanted to experience the cultural zeitgeist in a public setting, see if I could pick up anything about this phenomenon from the collective experience. Calling together a few friends for this outing turned out to be the right approach, because we ended up having a GREAT post-show discussion over pie and coffee, but I still didn’t get all my questions answered. Some, yes, but now I have more questions, too. There is a thundering mass of things rumbling in my head that want to be said, about commodification of desires and reinforcing of heteronormative expectations and the spectrum of problematic rom-com tropes. I will be taking notes for a day or two and figuring out how to constructively dig into this. I did not enjoy the movie, but it tripped a lot of little switches in my brain, and helped me make some connections, so I’m glad I went, I really am. I can freestyle-comment off of this shit for hours, apparently.
I do want to get one thing out right now, though, because it’s weighing heaviest on my soul after watching the movie. PLEASE NOTE: I have known from the get-go that I am not in the target demographic for either the book or the movie. I know this. I know that I live and love and play in a bubble. I have for decades. I am used to not finding nuanced, truthful portrayals of that life and love and play in mainstream pop culture or media. (This has been one of the motivators behind writing the kinds of shows that I do. No one is going to “do me” right, so I’ll do it my own damn self.)
Knowing all that, I still felt so strange and alienated by the final punishment scene in the movie. Christian Grey, the world’s worst dom, is angry, about something at work and about Ana’s continued resistance to signing The Contract. She says—and I’m paraphrasing—”I can’t sign it until I understand what you mean by punishment. Do you want to punish me now?” “Yes,” he says. “Then do your worst,” she says. “I want to know.” They go off to the Red Room (OF PAAAAAIN), where Christian bends Ana over a table and reaches for… not a whip, not a thick bamboo cane, not the paddle studded with metal spikes that looks straight out of the illustrated plates from the Spanish Inquisition Handbook, but a belt. A basic, braided leather belt.
Six strokes, he says, and you need to count along. He does the six lashes, and that, my friends, is enough to make her finally revolt and say No and we’re through. That is what makes her call off the whole renovation project. That is the worst that a broken, twisted, pathological sadist can do.
Being belted is also one of my favorite things.
In that scene, with each thwack my vision zoomed further and further out, and suddenly I was outside myself watching this as if I was sitting next to a vanilla person who was flinching and hissing and getting squicked out by the visuals. This specific activity that I enjoy so much, as part of my healthy play repertoire with a trusted lover, is past The Limit, like, officially. It is used to illustrate just how far past The Limit this sick fuck has gone. He is seemingly irredeemable, for wielding a cheap belt badly.
It is a weird, bad feeling to see one’s real, beautiful, consensual desires held up as The Wrong Way.
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