Tuesday, 17 February 2015
I confess to having been left utterly cold by the tedious over-publicity surrounding the novels. The only heat they generated for me was the energy to write in protest when I found them casually for sale next to the 'wholesome foods' section of our local Waitrose. I further confess to having no interest in seeing the movie beyond the trailer and the unavoidable stills on show everywhere: too clean, too pretty, considering the subject matter. Anyone wanting that subject matter might prefer the 2002 film "Secretary" - as I'm sure has been pointed out before - an adaptation of a short story by the edgy American writer Mary Gaitskill, from her début collection Bad Behavior (1988). In "Secretary" you find a Mr Grey (really, that's his name) who doesn't do abs or model-like looks. He's just a schmuck with love and commitment issues who finds his match in a troubled, self-harming young woman and grows, in his own way, to love her and she him. Of course, it also does pretty where it shouldn't - a white dress that should be obviously soiled, bare skin that should be obviously scarred - and even changes the lyrics of a key song, from 'what a fool am I' into 'what a grace have I', but it also shows the silliness and tawdriness of the anti-vanilla thing generally, and doesn't indulge so much in what could be called money porn. The reason it works, and "50 Shades" works, for all I know, is that it taps into the very simple answer to the allegedly unanswerable question: what does woman want? Well, is that so difficult? Woman wants to be The One. We want to be the beloved, the Princess, the Queen, the one and only one. This goes right back to Woman (Eve) being presented to Man (Adam) as The One Made For Him and he, very appropriately, rejoicing mightily and reverently. Let's not be fooled by the fact that the working out of marriage in this Fallen world too often falls short of that perfect beginning. The original impulse remains. It's simple, straightforward; no shades of anything come even close to satisfying this desire. The problem is that all contemporary mores claim that being the beloved is no longer a legitimate aim for a woman, and claim this quite intolerantly. Is it any wonder that this fundamental desire hits a huge mainstream nerve for women when sneaked in under cover of deviance?