by Kate “One Take Kate” Taylor
|Image via Paramount Pictures and Mr Leon Taylor|
Stand square, flex all the muscles in your torso and arms, spread your palm and fingers as wide as possible. Bend your elbow sharply, lifting your outstretched palm over your head and place it between your shoulder blades. Grasp a handful of your t-shirt and pull it forwards over your head, continuing to flex. This is how Fifty Shades Of Grey would instruct you to remove your clothing…well, if you’re Christian Grey that is. I just thought it was a little silly.
|I’m just hugging you…with my hands…around your neck. Totally legit. Image via Paramount Pictures|
This description is just one small aspect of Fifty Shades that flogs you with constant visual stimuli in an unrelenting manner and effort to titillate. I’m new to the Fifty Shades narrative world – it’s a conscious choice on my part, so in the interests of film science I’ve challenged myself to push my viewing boundaries. I’m not here to dump all over Fifty Shades or its fans; I know there’s certainly a lot about its content that I don’t agree with: and like any rabid fan base I’m sure I’ll cop being told I’m a prude or some other such sleight on my sexuality because I’m not following Christian’s orders. But that’s cool, you guys have this and I’ll keep my misogynistic texts to ultra-violent horror content and dirrrrty hip hop. No worries. On the flip side, I don’t imagine that the vast yet secreted BDSM community are very pleased with the perhaps ‘sanitized for mall cinema viewers’ portrayal of their subculture. Whether the general consensus agrees with this group’s fully consenting activities or not – doesn’t mean inaccuracies on film and in texts are ok either, or are up for use in mainstream cinema to cause pulses to race. For the record also, let’s state here that exploring your desires is good, but abuse and possessiveness is not; and pointing out that this exists in the text is not ‘slut-shaming’ Ana or her character. Get yours people – but make sure mutual respect and consent is the chief decider of your actions.
|Because a guy that needs to fly his own helicopter has no control issues whatsoever, right?! Image via Paramount Pictures|
Now what I want to know is: Are die-hard Fifty Shades fans happy with it? Is it faithful to the text? Is it an amalgam of all three texts or did you feel that thrill of excitement course through your body on the final frame, knowing you potentially had two more visual instalments to come? Is Christian Grey really just Patrick Bateman, with less homicidal tendencies? Has anybody seen Shame starring Michael Fassbender as a successful businessman/sex addict? I reckon the production team on Fifty Shades might have…if you know what I mean. It’s always an interesting social experiment to view a controversial, sexually charged film like this with a pre-release screening audience. My Fifty Shades experience was no different. The back portion of the cinema was occupied by reviewers and journalists guffawing and ‘pfft’-ing at points in the film, admittedly in some of the most cheeseball moments, that was me too. While the first portion of the film was viewed accompanied by hearty ‘too loud’ laughs, snide private sniggers and the equivalent of audible eye rolls…it was interesting that once the content starts to shift into; the world of the dominant and the submissive, the undertones of sexual, emotional and spousal abuse, plenty of shots objectifying Ana but not an equal portion of Christian’s body on offer; or statutory styled virginity taking – that the theatre got realllly quiet.
Pin drop quiet. Perhaps a multitude of triggers were all set off simultaneously?
Academic area: Semiotics – I love a good hidden semiotic meaning as much as the next film academic but the examples in Fifty Shades were pretty neon obvious, so I won’t spend too much time on them. Ana arriving at Grey’s skyscraper building provides an opportunity to link Christian’s character to a visual phallic representation. After their first meeting, Ana emerges into a soaking Seattle rainstorm and gets drenched. Yeah… Once Ana is under Christian’s spell, the pretty bird in a gilded cage depicted on the wall paper just above her bed head. Subtle? No, no not really.
|What do you think the semiotics in this shot is trying to say? You got it? Yuh…thought so. Image via Paramount Pictures|
There’s definitely some impressive aerial cinematography and lighting. Plus the soundtrack is very impressive and balanced featuring Ellie Goulding, The Weekend and more; but you’d want it to be with Danny Elfman at the helm! Plus I do actually like the new version of Crazy in Love done by Beyoncé for the film. They say you should do something every day that scares you. Seeing Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t scare me; more over it scared me to think that this content is potentially dangerous in the hands of the impressionable or naive; and maybe could perpetuate societal viewpoints, which many rights groups and communities work tirelessly to change.
|3, 2, 1 annnd brood. Christian does what he does best. Image via Paramount Pictures|
Where do you stand – will you be seeing Fifty Shades of Grey?