[Spoiler Alert: Don’t read this if you don’t want some idea of what happens in the book/movie, Fifty Shades of Grey]
Okay, okay. I will admit it. I finally jumped on the bandwagon of Fifty Shades viewers and watched the movie. I had acquired the book on my kindle, because when someone says not to read something, it almost makes you want to read it.
I had heard mixed reviews from some of my friends that the movie does an injustice to the “kink scene”–as in, people who are actually into dom-sub relationships and specific fetishes.
I’ve read some of the book, and the writing isn’t very good–I’ll admit that–but the part that I thought was done with consideration, at the very least, was the subtleties of the art of seduction.
See, I’ve read The Art of Seduction, by Robert Greene. I’ve discussed the book with others. I’ve literally employed tactical devices within the book. Seducing men was never a problem I had; I’m what you’d call a natural at it, but I was lured in by the psychology behind the art.
In the book (as much as I’ve read) and the movie, Christian and Ana are in a constant “game” with one another to assert their dominance and have the upper hand–yes, even though she was characterized as the “submissive”. This might seem like something only relatable to the world of kinky sex fetishes and fantasies, but I assure you, it’s not.
Power plays occur every single minute of every day between all types of relationships, whether it be parent and child, boss and employee, friends, strangers, and of course, romantic entanglements. Humans are just naturally hard-wired to react and respond in ways which will allow our “status” to remain on stable ground.
Let’s say we go out on a first date with someone we really enjoyed. Obviously, we want to talk to them right away afterwards or perhaps even try to see them the very next day. Most people, out of a perceived level-grounded, almost nonchalant collectedness will back off for a few days. Or we get the text we’ve been waiting for all day from the person we care about and we don’t want them to know we had the phone right next to us. Seems too eager, right? So, we don’t answer for two hours.
These are all defense mechanisms, clearly, as are most embodiments of power plays. It’s important to have the winning cards, not only so we don’t get hurt, but also so that we sustain interest. That’s the part I’m most concerned with. I’ll attend to the former later on.
How to entrap and intrigue the other party. How to keep them on their toes. How to, in the case of Ana and Christian, magnify the intensity to such a point that both parties are intoxicated and enamored beyond what they can any longer control. It starts to roll like a rock down a hill, and as it careens, it gains momentum. It does, unlike a boulder tumbling down a cliff, require maintenance and attention. But if the mystery and intrigue, the carefulness and affection, the let down and subsequent gentle caress are all there between both parties, then it piles and amasses until something like mind-blowing sexual chemistry erupts. Or complete infatuation. Or beautiful, romantic love.
It may seem like power plays are bad things, but they are not necessarily. If used with sensitivity and good intention, then they enhance and add flavor to our relationships.
In Fifty Shades, I see this occurring. There are the not so great parts–Ana continually wanting something she can never fully have; Christian being cold and emotionally distant due to an awful upbringing and abandonment from his biological mother. This is the part of the movie that I think (think?) critics take issue.
In having knowledge about the “kink scene” or dominant-submissive play, I know that respect, limits, pleasure, debriefing, and ultimately, a more bonded, intimate relationship are key elements. Does this seem to be missing from Fifty Shades? I actually don’t think so.
I think it’s a movie. In the book, there’s more elaborate description of what the relationship entails, but in the movie, like movies do, you have to gloss over a lot of that to make it engrossing.
Sure, there’s a business meeting to discuss the matters of the contract, but it’d be boring if it were just this mutual discussion with hugs at the end, or this ongoing play-by-play of every line in the agreement, complete with coffee and bathroom breaks, and phone call interruptions. This isn’t real life; it’s a movie.
The business meeting is, in fact, one of my favorite scenes in the movie, due to the tantalizing, empowering nature Ana suddenly displays when she teases the crap out of Christian and then leaves him high and dry. She didn’t do this to be cruel; she did this to pull him further in.
Well, it worked. There’s science in it. It’s like the dangling carrot in front of the chariot horse. What’s going to keep him running? What’s the prize? The ever elusive idea that he is *this close* to what he wants. Getting what we want is good too, we just have to know when and when not to give in completely.
This is the game.
In this way, I do not think the movie did anything wrong. There’s a constant give and take between the two of them for this attainment of “love”. Christian is also protecting himself–that’s part of why the idea of controlled, submissive sex and romance is so appealing. You cannot get hurt if you don’t allow anyone to penetrate your armor. He may have exemplified his guardedness and inner turmoil in a way that was not okay for a dom-sub agreement at one point, but we are all messy humans who continually blur the lines between what we should and shouldn’t do and with what intentions.
Having a degree in Psychology, I actually found this to be a natural (and cliché) path for the movie to take. A plot merely about fetishes with no depth: How are you going to make a box office hit? People like romance. We like protagonists and antagonists. We like movies that will our souls to seek change. We like anything we can relate to on a personal level.
I’ll come forward and say it: I related to this movie on a profoundly deep level. The movie itself wasn’t profound, but its effect on me was. No, I have never been whisked away by a stunningly beautiful billionaire, and I haven’t been chained to a wall in a “play room” (although it sounds fun). However, I know what it feels like to be entranced by an insanely gorgeous and charming man. I know what it is to have him forever far away, and often times, emotionally distant and protected. I know what it is to watch everyone around me go on dates with their significant others, and I know what it’s like to have plans broken at the drop of a hat because something career-wise has popped up and taken precedence.
I know what it’s like to be in the position of Ana, where it very much appears to be romance and love, and have the other person contradict it. I know what it’s like to be abused by the person I love, too. This isn’t all one person, of course, it’s a collective.
But I know.
In this way, I could so truthfully relate to the emotions felt, and as an “incurable romantic”, my heart spasmed when Christian confesses his fears and childhood trauma to a sleeping Ana, because he wishes he could tell her consciously.
I gasped at the scene in the elevator when their lust was first manifested, and I delighted in each passionate kiss Christian launched at Ana the second she walked in the door, because I know exactly how those things feel.
Christian is driven to say to Ana that she is everything he wants, and Ana tells Christian, choking through sobs, that she’s in love with Christian, which makes him recoil. I know what it is to feel as though I am everything that someone wants but never secure enough to say those three words.
When Christian smiles at the text Ana sends, expressing how she misses him and wishes he were there, was probably one of the most tender and painful moments for me, because every time I press send on the end of my phone saying the same thing to someone I care about, I am hoping, no matter how emotionally protected he may seem at times, that he is secretly smiling because he cares, too.
Fifty Shades, although not prophetic or enlightening, substantiated the art of seduction, the deeper, darker colors of humanity, which mold and shape our behaviors, and still kept present a hint of hope for change, which to every incurable romantic, is our raison d’être.