I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not but there’s a big movie coming out in a few days. It’s been all over the TV in the form of adverts and music videos. It’s about a billionaire with a secret, a billionaire who enjoys things that are a little….unconventional. No it’s Batman. (I am for the record actually Batman so I’m not writing a blog about myself.) No – I’m talking about 50 Shades Darker. The highly anticipated sequel to 50 Shades Of Grey.
I wrote a blog last year when This Morning did a segment about sex toys asking whether this was a step towards breaking the taboo that is often associated with using them. This Morning did another segment this week where they interviewed the two main stars of the movie Jamie Doran and Dakota Fanning. It wasn’t as hard hitting as the sex toys segment and looking through Facebook comments it hardly even registered any uproar – in fact the Kim Woodburn interview seemed to generate more hate than this interview did.(side note – she’s amazing!) This got me thinking, for about the millionth time, why 50 Shades as a brand seems to be immune to the scorn that is usually associated with anything sex related.
Obviously there will always be jokes associated with 50 Shades from men who just don’t understand the love that the original trilogy received when they were released. In terms of branding the books broke records, it got people discussing sex and as someone who was working in an adult store at the time I can honestly say it got to the point where I heard or said the name Christian Grey more than “do you want lube to go with that?”.
I’m not going to go into massive details about the 4 minute interview, it was your standard press junket where the interviewer is one in a very long line of people to come in, ask questions and then promote the movie. Alison Hammond was brilliant as always (I really love her and think we would be total BFFs) and she brought a brilliant streak of classic British tongue in cheeky humour. They skim over the actual bondage aspect of the movie and focus more on Anna’s growth as a person and her new found strength. The fact that it was on This Morning means that it would have been watched by millions of people and again the conversation about 50 Shades would be reignited. Which if you read my previous blog post, I’m a huge fan of anything that ignites conversation about sex and sexual preference in an adult way, especially if it’s helping to break barriers and normalize social taboos.
However, it did make me wonder why 50 Shades has made such a cultural impact when 9 years earlier there was another film that dealt with BDSM relationships in a much more frank and (in my opinion) realistic manner. For those who have seen it I can imagine the head nodding that’s going on, for those who are unsure the movie I’m talking about is Secretary which came out in 2002.
This is movie which tackles BSDM, fetish, sub/dom relationships and of course has a deep rooted love story. However it takes a much more frank approach. Mr Grey in this (played by James Spader) isn’t a dominant billionaire who has embraced his fetish as he is nervous and uncertain. He knows the risks that living a full BDSM relationship involves and the central theme of the movie is about power. Who has the power – the submissive or the dominant? Where is the line between sexual fulfilment and abuse? It doesn’t shy away from the use of spreader bars, spanking or the mental exchange that comes with a willing sub/dom relationship. If you are interested in 50 Shades for the fetish aspect of the trilogy I cannot recommend this movie enough. It’s a love story that at heart is about accepting yourself and your own sexuality. It’s an unapologetic view of a world that until very recently has been the butt of jokes or for uniformed viewed as abusive.
It does beg the question- why did 50 Shades make such a cultural splash when Secretary didn’t? The answer is quite simple – format. Both started as books, admittedly Secretary was a short story in a collection called Bad Behaviour. While 50 Shades was a standalone story and came at the point of a big step in technology. The invention of tablets and e-readers meant that the original trilogy could be read anywhere at any time without anyone knowing what you were reading so there was absolutely no shame in reading it on the bus. Word of mouth obviously played a large part in the success as well and then BOOM before you knew it 50 Shades was everywhere. People were openly talking about sexual preference; they were WILLING to try out new things. Bondage was thrust into the lime light and suddenly people were willing to try something that might be outside of their comfort zone. The adult industry suddenly became a lot of frightening and people visited sex shops eager to kit out their own Red Room.
So why did 50 Shades succeed in breaking down a wall that movies like Secretary and Preaching to the Perverted fail? People were happy to talk about it, people had embraced it. The timing was just right. The fact that This Morning did an interview with the stars of the movie goes to show how far we have come in attitudes towards sex and sexual preference. The key part of having a morning show talking about this is that it will generate conversation. Conversation leads to understanding and understanding leads to acceptance. There’s a quote from a movie I watched years ago called Party Monster that has stuck with me for years. “If you feel like a troll, you should dress like a troll. It doesn’t matter what you look like. If you’ve got a hunchback just throw a little glitter on it honey and go dancing!”.
This applies to everything. If you’re embarrassed about your fetish, you turn it into a dirty secret. If the cultural success of 50 Shades has taught us anything, it’s to embrace your own unique taste. Be you. Enjoy every aspect of what makes you, the unique individual you are, if you like MILFS, Chains, Latex, PVC, Transsexuals, Rope, BBW’s, Older Men, Hairy Ladies , all the above or none of the above that’s fine. Don’t be ashamed of it and if you are the type of person who judges people for this, remember in 2002 a movie came out about a fetish lifestyle and barely got noticed, while in 2011 a movie came about a fetish lifestyle and completely changed the landscape of sexual discussion. Times are changing and who knows what the next taboo is that will get broken. Its’ 2017 – take your unique tastes and talk about them. Break the walls and help normalize something that is important to you.