Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On Fifty Shades of Grey...and Contractual Agreements

All right. I don't in any way think that E. L. James needs my help in selling or promoting her books, but I feel compelled to consider the implications that are ominous in the making of the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey. And yes, there is no question whether there will be a movie or three, as the case may be, but who will be cast and what the rating will be? So much passionate discussion has been provoked not only from her trilogy of books already, but the movie itself. I'm under the impression that despite the fan-made movie trailers, the movie does not have a screenplay yet, nor a cast of characters. That's not to say that fans haven't taken these matters into their own hands, and have put together a convincing display of fantasy movie trailers to tease each other into an Anatasia-like frenzy.

The frenzy brings several points of interest to mind: Why is there such a debate among women in particular, about whether to read or not to read this book?  What is the film to be rated? and What will the actors agree to do and not to do in this movie, ironically implying the need for a contractual agreement much similar to the one Christian Grey expects the naive Anastasia to sign in Fifty Shades of Grey.

As for the debate among women, I think one premise holds true: you can't debate the contents if you haven't read it. I've heard many discussions condemning this book as "Mommy Porn" by people who haven't read it. True, the explicit sexuality involved makes it so interesting as to be unable to put it down until the wee hours of the morning, but there is more to the story than just the sex, if you can navigate yourself around the elephant in the room to see further into the characters. The character of Anastasia has been criticized as a young, naive woman who, as a virgin, is taken advantage of by Christian Grey. After all, who wants to be tied up and pounded upon in such a way? Well, she does. She actually enjoys being his submissive, and as he points out, the submissive is the one with all the power. Still, Grey obviously has found more than he's bargained for in the young Ana. She is far from the submissive he thought, but she does indeed wield the power over him, her strong-willed nature leaving him out of control and often times at a loss, needing to punish her, which she also enjoys!

A second part of the criticism of Ana, is that after realizing she has fallen in love with Christian, she does what we all do: tries to change him. In fact, Ana does not try to change him. She does love him, but she takes a different tack than most women; she doesn't seek to change him, only to understand him, which leads him to understand himself, and therefore he effects his own change. What woman wouldn't love that? What woman who reads this book wouldn't be proud of the strength of character Anastasia displays despite her young age and lack of experience? All sexual exploits aside, she depicts the kind of woman who is true to herself and what she believes, and shows humility, kindness, and selflessness in her relationships with all of the other characters with whom she is involved. She just happens to meet the most intriguing, beguiling, and smokingly hot billionaire, Christian Grey. Oh well. Such is life in a fantasy, but she does herself proud in the end. And so does he. What's not to love about Christian Grey?

So, the next question is: What are the movie moguls going to do with this film? How far can they go, or not go, and still capture the essence of this tale and create a mainstream movie in the process? This will indubitably be one of the most unprecedented films of our time because of all the attention it is already garnering. And what will the actors agree or disagree to do? Their movie contracts will most likely mirror the same details as the one Christian offers to Anastasia in the first book. No doubt the actors cast in these parts will be rocketed to instant stardom, but at what cost? The artists' challenge is thrown like a gauntlet.

Never before in my lifetime have I heard such a debate among women about such an explicit topic, but it is because there is more to the story than many people want to acknowledge. Good for E. L. James for writing her first book, her first love story, and her first phenomenon. After all, that is all she meant to do, write a love story. And a very good one it is!