In the recently trailer for 50 Shades of Grey (which in just its first week’s release has become the most watched trailer, with over 36 million views, now over 100 million) the handsome billionaire antagonist, Christian Grey, makes it bluntly known to the film’s protagonist, the innocent and aloof Anastasia Steele, “I don’t do romance.”
In case you have been living under a rock the past two years or, better put, wisely choose to tune out yet another book trilogy whose controversial topic has taken the world by storm, 50 Shades of Grey is a best-selling novel whose movie premiere just may be the most anticipated book-to-film adaption in years. Appropriately opening Valentines Day 2015 (note my extreme sarcasm), makes one question as an audience, do we care for romance anymore? Rather, does America still “Do romance”?
First, let me fess up...
Roaming a Books-a-Million two years ago, I picked up this bestselling book eager to find what all the controversial fuss was about, my curiosity heightened by the anticipated film adaption. And yes, the book was “50 Shades of Grey”. And yes, this was well before everyone and their mother knew exactly what this book was all about. And yes, I am yet another female suckered statistic confirming romance novel marketing schemes. In the moment I didn’t know anything more about the book than that everyone was reading it from my friends 50 year mom to stylist Rachel Zoe, but I wanted to find out what the deal was with this phenomenon. What mature kind of Twilight-twist did this story have that was drawing masses of grown women to inhale and made this book become the fastest-selling paperback book ever (that’s right, even beating J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series).
My Dad always says you can likely tell whether or not you will like a book after reading the first chapter. So I overlooked the simplicity of the typical boy-meets-girl set up, the B-grade writing style, (which I guess manages to swoon any girl desperate enough for it) and maybe managed to read past the first chapter... or so. I wanted to make a just and fair assessment. (Yes, truth be told, I guess I’m a sucker along with the rest of them.)
Is Grey secretly a vampire, or zombie? Is he a momma’s boy-turned-psycho? What was this big, dark secret?? I wanted to get to the bottom of this.
Sooner than later (probably more soon than my overly-romanticized imagination could handle at the time) I discovered what the rest of the world is now well aware of: Grey is a masochist.
And this where any desire to read on ceased. Done. Book down. Kaput.
Unlike a typical glamorized boy-meets-girl, girl discovers boy is a crazy-psycho (hello can we recall the movie Fear?) Grey’s dark side is not hinted at or alluded to other than the fact that Anastasia is him so intimidated by his she’s turned on. When it’s clear that their interests are mutual, Grey sits Anastasia down to sign an agreement of what this “relationship” would entail should she choose to comply. This “relationship” agreement is plainly known as BDSM. Or as one male reviewer from Times magazine even admits (a husband eager to know what women were freaking out over), “I would describe it, literary genre-wise, as ‘a porno book.’” (Did I mention this film is set to premiere Valentines Day 2015?)
Granted the past few films to premiere on Valentines Day have not quite been classic romance blockbuster sensations. 2013 brought us Safe Haven, which may not have received over 12% on Rotten Tomatoes but this didn’t dissuade every girl dragging their boyfriends to see it, and in 2014 it was the likes of A Winters Tale, one sorry attempt at romance and Her, described as a seemingly-soulful attempt at soft porn.
The 2015 Valentines Day feature will portray an innocent girl who get’s swept off her feet by a power-hungry billionaire and handcuffed to a bed. Wasn’t it just last December a film came out about a man in handcuffs for years and audiences celebrated the close of this memoir-based film when the handcuffs came off? Oh that’s right, it was called 12 Years a Slave, recording the past sufferings and bondage that many audiences cringe to look back at, recalling torment America had inflicted upon human life.
One year later and we’re celebrating that bondage and dominance as enticing and... romantic? Maybe we’re allowing these overly-glamorized, junior high-like fantasies of love to derange our idea of what ought to make us swoon and weak at the knees.
Or maybe audiences just don’t do romance anymore.
If this is what we would call romantic, give me more movies like The Break-Up, hollywood please!