The subtle vibration of libidos surging into overdrive? The palpable pounding of heartbeats from coast to coast? The steady hum of cash flowing directly into movie executives’ welcoming wallets?
It’s the Fifty Shades phenomenon, guys, and it’s coming to a theater near you.
In what is surely the driest description of BDSM-related material ever presented, a just-released press statement from Universal Pictures and Focus Features names British writer and actress Kelly Marcel as the lucky lady tasked with translating E.L. James’ bestselling smutty literary trilogy into a box-office-topping smutty cinematic trilogy.
James herself will produce the first Fifty Shades of Grey film alongside Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti which means the franchise already has some Social Network-style street cred behind it. Frightening legitimacy for a story sourced from Twilight fan fiction? Yeah, kind of.
Though the real information fans and self-loathing, pop-culture-consuming journalists want to know is conspicuously missing from the release (who, for the love of God will don the signature silver tie?!), Christian Grey groupies are beyond fired up. In fact, the mystery surrounding the film’s cast has only fueled the frenzy by inciting bloggers to madly speculate about potential stars: Mila Kunis and Matt Bomer.
But what exactly are we doing here? Anxiously anticipating a film adaptation of an adult book series rooted in fan fiction based on a young adult book series, that’s what. And while this all might sound very meta and impressively complex, none of the source material here is Pulitzer Prize-winning, critically-acclaimed, or even, arguably, “good” in the traditional sense. So why are so many of us waiting with baited breath?
I’ve pondered this question before and watching the Fifty Shades hysteria rapidly build momentum feeds my entirely unscientific theory that most of us, admittedly or not, possess a primal drive to seek out absolute, utter crap.
High-achieving intellectuals, ironic hipsters, shy introverts— I don’t care who you are—lowbrow entertainment is the great equalizer among us.
Granted, pseudo-sadomasochism may not be everyone’s red Solo cup of PBR (“cup of tea” is too refined a metaphor for this). But like the Twlight series before it, Fifty Shades clearly hit a nerve. And while its massive success has been attributed to stereotypical, under-stimulated housewives, I’d argue that there are plenty of men and women across the professional spectrum stealthily sneaking Fifty chapters on their lunch breaks.
Our culture grossly undervalues the mental health benefits of escapism and fantasy (again, completely unscientific research, everyone—that bachelor’s degree in Psych sadly doesn’t legitimize my sweeping statements and grand assumptions). Day-to-day life is fraught with frustration, anxiety, and stress. We’re inundated with information and subjected to a seemingly endless amount of apocalyptically alarming news.
But because we’ve been brought up to believe success is only achieved through a relentless pursuit of constant productivity, few of us take the time to completely, mindlessly veg out and recharge. And those of us who do often feel ashamed, silly, lazy, or even stupid. Why do you think so many blushing commuters are bashfully shielding their e-readers? There’s not a lot to be proud of when poring over unintelligible (but super hot!) exchanges between Christian and Ana.
So what will it mean to bring a disgraceful guilty pleasure to the big screen (besides the possible introduction of bondage-themed movie memorabilia into casual gift exchange)? It will mean a public admission of an occasional preference for pure crap. It will mean paying good money to go out into the world and identifying as a patron of unsophisticated art. It will mean allowing yourself the freedom to disregard every societal message belittling mindless entertainment in favor of scholarly pursuits and joyless drudgery.
Save me a seat?