>140: Fifty Shades Of Opinion on FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

More Than 140 is what I'm calling blog posts inspired by opinions that are impossible to express in Twitter's 140 characters. It only seems right that the first one is about FIFTY SHADES, since I've been tweeting about it off and on, but my opinion has ballooned into something far more complex and much less...well...black and white, if you'll excuse the pun.

Recently, my household rewatched TRON: LEGACY. Who cares about its strange and overly Disney-esque plot? The film is beautiful, and there is Daft Fucking Punk, and the movie contains one of my biggest turn-ons ever.

I'm talking about Rinzler. (For those of you who know the story, I'm speaking only of Rinzler, and not the other guy.) If you're reading this blog, you may know that I am rather erotically fond of robots, an interest which extends to an- or gyn-droids, automata, cyborgs, and the like. Rinzler is essentially portrayed as a kind of humanoid/light cycle hybrid. His flesh is never exposed. His face remains completely covered beneath a pitch-black motorcycle helmet. The soft humming he makes when waiting appears to be that of an idling engine.

It would be difficult for you to be at my house while TRON: LEGACY is playing and fail to hear me moan a few times. C'est la vie around my sex drive.

Please, stay with me, if I haven't already baffled you completely. This post is about FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. I am, however, going to address some of the issues through a different lens so as to disconnect those issues from knee-jerk reactions and histrionics we all have which influence our opinions of FIFTY SHADES.

So. Here I am, with a massive boner (if I do say so myself) for Rinzler. Let us imagine that, joy of joys, Hollywood decides that Rinzler is fairly hot property as well, and announces an R-rated movie about his sexual exploits. Huzzah! I say, and become quite thrilled that there will be a starting point to conversations about Rinzler's sexual magnetism that will be shorter and less full of explanation than what I have just written above.

But then the Rinzler movie comes out. It turns out that the movie focuses on the smoothly aerodynamic nature of Rinzler's helmet-head, and how it can be partially inserted into human orifices for pleasure. While I have no particular animosity toward those who apparently find Rinzler appealing for this reason, my disappointment is not just because I did not receive a particularly thrilling experience with the film. My disappointment is largely that the film has caused a great deal of media discussion, and by preponderance of conversational diatribe, saying "I think Rinzler is hot" causes people to presume I am into the motion-picture orifice-penetrating Rinzler fantasy, whereas beforehand, I might have received anything from a puzzled look to a confession of similar tastes.

In short, the Rinzler film is not a bad thing at all, but the fact that many people now believe that they know the content of my fantasies, instead of desiring explanation, leaves me backpedaling before a conversation has even really begun. I was homeschooled as a child; the word back then, however, was not "homeschooled" but "homeschooledbutnotforreligiousreasons" due to the town's formidable religion-based homeschooling culture. Similarly, "I think Rinzler is hot" would become "I think Rinzler is hot, but not at all like it was depicted in RINZLER DOES DALLAS."

Here we come to FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. There is nothing wrong with the story it tells, if understood within its context. As in all sexual interests, there are fantasies and there are realities, and FIFTY SHADES is fantasy. I feel strongly that fantasy must not be policed, nor that pornography (which is, after all, just a subtype of fantasy) should bear any responsibility to depict things like safer sex practices, or even promote consent or eschew misogyny. (You are free to send along the hate mail, but please do read that again first: I do not believe fantasy bears any responsibility to depict realistic or idealistic notions. I have not said anything at all about the things above in reality situations.)

For those who share FIFTY SHADES' fanfiction and BDSM fantasy backgrounds, the film clearly evokes quite a few tropes from these waters, and this makes the narrative somewhat more understandable. High drama, unevenly naive yet worldly characters, and sacrificing continuity for jumping ahead to the next sexy bit are the flora and fauna of fanfiction, romance novels, and stories we tell ourselves at night with one hand between our legs.

There is a problem, however.

(Please tell me you didn't think, even for a moment, that I would recommend or even remain neutral on this film.)

It's the Rinzler Problem, only worse. The general public is regularly bombarded with depictions of BDSM ranging from inadequate to insulting to association with some of the worst crimes imaginable. This means that when the subject of BDSM arises, we can't just say "oh, we're into that, but not like the Rinzler movie"; we have no idea what our conversational partner might have seen or heard that has caused whatever pre-judgment we also do not yet know. Are they thinking of SECRETARY, or a FAMILY GUY joke, or footage of a Leather Pride parade on the news, or (erroneously) Buffalo Bill from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, or someone they know who has two kids and a bakery, or a Law & Order episode?

While a great many of us belong to minorities in which we cannot know the knowledge base of the person to whom we are speaking, the trouble with BDSM is that it is unusual for mainstream depictions to accurately describe the difference between BDSM reality and BDSM fantasy. I suspect this is because BDSM reality often contains fantasy within it, and somehow this becomes incredibly confusing. (From the inside, it's hard to see how someone could possibly conflate the fantasy of "I belong to you completely for the night" with the fantasy of "a billionaire sweeps me away in his helicopter and plays with me in his room of $10,000 toys and the way he stalks me just means I'm really special", but I'm trying to offer the benefit of the doubt.)

This becomes another hurdle between the BDSM and non-BDSM populations. At some point, enough hurdles become present that the populations largely cease to work toward one another. The misinformation minefield seems too vast, the work too difficult, for a vague and unidentified reward. While it can be said that the FIFTY SHADES backlash has opened many doors — you can buy books at Target now that would never have been on their shelves before, and big-name "ladies'" magazines are running op-eds by "real" kinksters to discuss what life is really like — it has also closed doors when it comes to people who simply shrug and say: "I knew it. The dominants are all psycho silver-spoon boys looking for a thrill, and the girls are all confused, emotional doormats." While that hurdle can certainly be overcome, one must first know it's there, and both parties must then be willing to work toward mutual understanding. That sequence of events may happen less often now than it did before.

That said: in the long run, I do believe FIFTY SHADES will be good for the community. When SECRETARY came out, the community publicly cried out regarding inaccuracies in much the same way we do now for FIFTY SHADES. Today, we long for something as accurate as SECRETARY, but FIFTY SHADES has made a much larger societal impact as a film and a phenomenon. Words can be spoken anywhere now that were previously outside the realm of "polite" society. Discussion and debate are hot-ticket items. In the long run, the openness created here will, I think, serve us all well and bring us into the light in a way that a less Harlequin-esque, strangely trope-filled phenomenon could not have accomplished.

(As for the film itself, I must confess that I found the film to be poor overall, independent of its subject matter. Considering what I have heard regarding what I will politely call lack of interest on behalf of almost everyone working on this film, the absence of actor chemistry, the confusing editing, and the general feeling of lackluster attention to detail makes a certain sense. I certainly had a hard time mustering much interest on the other side of things, as a viewer.)