What a week it’s been. The news has been all over the internet, discussed and debated over dinner tables and water coolers. It’s on everyone’s lips and at the forefront of everyone’s minds. The choices that have been made may affect the course of American history.
I’m talking about the announcement of the casting decisions for the 50 Shades of Grey movie, of course. It was announced this week that Charlie Hunnam will be playing Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson will be playing Anastasia Steele. Oh boy. And now debate rages as to whether these were good or disastrous casting decisions.
Frankly, I don’t think it matters. Because this movie is destined to be a massive flop.
Let me backtrack for a second. I have not read 50 Shades and I will not read it. I don’t enjoy BDSM erotica and a trusted reader friend has told me the writing is terrible and it’s not worth my time. So I’m not basing this opinion of future floppage on my personal opinion of the plot, the characters, the author, or the phenomenon.
No, the reason I think the 50 Shades movie will flop is because the nature of the phenomenon does not translate to the big screen.
Okay, what do I mean by that?
By its nature, 50 Shades is a guilty pleasure. It’s something you read with a little bit of a blush. From what I understand, it’s heavy on the erotica and not the kind of book you want your mother to know you’re reading. Plus the backlash against it has been so pointed that even some of the people who have read it and enjoyed it and don’t have mother’s looking over their shoulders and monitoring what they’re reading don’t want to admit to reading it. Obviously, they’re buying it, but they’re not letting on. So are those people really going to show up in the flesh at a movie theater where everyone can see them in attendance?
The second part of that is that the rise in popularity of 50 Shades coincided with the rise of the eReader. They helped each other along in so many levels. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of people sitting next to some innocuous-looking person on the subway, glancing furtively to see what they were reading on their eReader, only to find 50 Shades. The beauty of the eReader is that you can read the most scandalous, graphic, naughty stories the world has ever known, and no one will be able to tell by the book cover. I honestly think that this is why erotica as a genre is so popular right now: because no one can tell you’re reading it.
Again, if the thrill of reading 50 Shades comes from reading it in plain sight without people knowing you’re reading it, are those people really going to show up at a movie theater to be seen?
It goes beyond that though. There is a fundamental disconnect on the part of the producers of the film that has to do with the psychology of men and women and pleasure. We’ve heard it for years, but men are visual creatures whereas women are much more emotional. Men watch porn. Yes, some women watch porn too, but this woman, at least, finds the vast, vast majority of porn to be either cringe-inducingly gross or hilariously ridiculous.
That’s why romance novels and erotic fiction are so popular with women. I still believe that most of us would rather read our porn so that we can get inside of the characters and experience the emotion of the heroine as the hero is doing all sorts of naughty things to her. Flat-out descriptions of activities engaged in are boring as the day is long, but add that twist of what the characters are thinking and feeling and then you’ve got something truly juicy!
Movies. Visual. ‘Nuff said.
Considering everything I’ve heard about the book, I can’t see how any 50 Shades movie adaptation is going to get a nice, sweet movie rating. Maybe not even R. As un-entertained as I am by erotica, it strikes me that in order to do the books the way the book was meant to be done, there would have to be some hefty scenes in there that wouldn’t be suitable for television. So the movie is either going to be tip-toeing along the line or porn or will be so watered-down that those who do enjoy erotica will balk at the punches that were pulled. In short, either way, they’re going to mess it up.
And then there’s the casting. Frankly, I don’t think the true fans of the book would be happy with any actors cast in the lead roles except for these two:
Because that’s who the roles were written for. The fact that I’ve read a long list of actors who were rumored to be in consideration for the parts who then turned around and said “Hell, no!” (Emma Watson for one) is a long one. Their reasons for turning down the part are eyebrow-raisers too. It’s telling that big name actors don’t want anything to do with the project. But it’s an adaptation of a best-selling novel! Look at all of the best-selling novels that have gone on to huge movie success! Yeah. That’s a clue right there.
But really, I think the movie will flop because the book was never meant to be a movie and the phenomenon around it is not the sort that will cross media. Let the book be the controversial ambivalence-fest that it is. By taking it to the big screen, someone stands to lose a lot of money.
*Attribution for K-Stew & R-Patt pic: By Stewart-pattinson.png: *Kristen_Stewart.jpg: lukeford.net Robert_Pattinson.jpg: http://www.mtv.com/photos/the-robert-pattinson-photo-biography/1610082/1824391/photo.jhtml derivative work: Darolu (talk) derivative work: Scarce (Kristen_Stewart.jpg Robert_Pattinson.jpg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons -Whew!