This has been a good year for film and literature, especially when it comes to giving material to dumb guys making hacky jokes about their girlfriends. Film had Magic Mike, or, as biologists called it, penetration. Books had the massive rise in popularity for the 50 Shades of Grey series.
The 50 Shades books were originally released in 2011, but America was still lingering on insults about vampires to give it the proper reception that it deserved. However, the popularity of the trilogy can only grow, because the first book is being turned into a movie. I won’t say that this is a bad idea, and my keyboard’s spell check won’t let me call it a “good idea” either. I will say that it is definitely a bizarre one.
For all of those unaware, 50 Shades of Grey deals with a rich guy named Christian Grey. Grey is twenty-seven-years-old, so it’s sort of logical that he’d been able to acquire his fortune at this point, and also he’s the right age to be able to start nurturing someone’s daddy issues. His love interest in the book is twenty-two-year-old Anastasia. Twenty-two is a perfect age for her too, since she’s young enough to be “innocent” and it’s not creepy, and old enough to be “innocent” so that it’s kind of hot.
The books romance (and plot) is based around a bundle of conflicted feelings. Ana is both wary of and attracted to Christian. She gets spanked for the first time, and we deal with the emotions presented in every Nickelback song ever written of something that feels both wrong and right at the same time. Christian is into BDSM, which means that, considering that Ana starts the novel as a virgin, she could not be more unprepared. Having your first time with someone who’s into handcuffs and whips is the equivalent of teaching a baby to crawl by using only screaming and a treadmill.
The first step in the creation of any modern movie is fan-casting, in which the internet describes, in detail, why Jon Hamm should play everyone. Sadly, considering that Jon Hamm couldn’t look twenty-seven at twenty-seven, most people want Ryan Gosling to take on the role of Grey, best known to me and my friends as the badass in Drive and to tumblr fans as a jpg of him, smiling sweetly.
The choice to play Anastasia hasn’t been so unanimously decisive, but all signs point to Jennifer Lawrence as the internet’s probably pick, not because she’s the best choice, but because the internet is aware of her.
The creation of the script for 50 Shades of Grey is a lot like one of the central conflicts of the book: the dealings with soft and hard limits. Will the writer attempt to soften the BDSM aspects and just make Grey a guy who likes it rough? Or will they make jokes about gimp suits? The audience for movies is far wider than the one for books nowadays, since movies require literally nothing and books require reading. This isn’t a diss on what could be seen as “brainless” movies, though. I loved Under Siege 2.
Making it more acceptable for the general public would not be dumbing it down. The book really isn’t big on praising the BDSM lifestyle. It doesn’t insult those who practice it, but it definitely presents it with something with pros and cons. Thus, the themes of the story aren’t really hinging on whether or not nipple clips make it onto the screen.
However much “alternative sexual culture” they put into the film, though, is going to seem weird regardless, since that kind of activity is best known for getting knocked out in Pulp Fiction. There’s not a lot of ways that one can put it in a context that isn’t either laughable to the people who bought tickets ironically or appalling to sensitive audience members.
And the people behind 50 Shades of Grey are going to care a shit ton about the audience who will go to see it. With this series, they have the chance to replicate the success of other recent hit series that were adapted from popular books, like Twilight and Harry Potter and Cirque Du Freak, except not at fucking all on that last one.
This balancing act is what’s going to make the film bizarre. It determines how the film will be marketed past the obligatory, “Based on the New York Times Best Seller” card that will appear in every trailer. It determines the word of mouth, which is going to be undoubtedly mixed.
On the soft case, people will critique it negatively for not doing the book justice and on the hard case, people who didn’t know what the series was about will critique it because sex is for laying down and moaning until your husband pretends to finish. Oddly, in this case, there is not “just right.”
Will 50 Shades of Grey punish you for not taking care of yourself? Or will it kiss you tenderly and bashfully? Or will it end up somewhere in between? The third option is what’s likely going to happen, meaning that this is one adaptation that will be weird to watch, not necessarily because of what it is, but because of the thousand different things that it might have been.