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Mommy Porn: The Filthy Shades of Grey

Will Fifty Shades of Grey simply be a long awaited ‘romance’ film, or an excuse to openly play porn at the local cinema?

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E.L. James’  Fifty Shades of Grey recently broke sales records, with millions of copies sold worldwide. The erotic book (nicknamed “mommy porn”) has dominated the Amazon Bestsellers list for weeks on end, with the trilogy taking up places 1-3 and the box set sitting nicely in 4th. So what is Fifty Shades of Grey and what makes it so popular?

The book originated as Twilight fan-fiction (originally Master of the Universe) and was an online hit. As a result, the lead male character Christian Grey is a creepier version of Edward Cullen and our “heroine” Anastasia Steele is a more pathetic version of Bella Swan (believe me, it’s possible), with little to no self respect. The prose is repetitive and poorly written, with a distinct lack of plot development. Edward, I mean, Christian, always walks in “that way” or he looks at Ana “in that way”, while Ana is forever biting her lip and tucking her hair behind her ear. It’s all very dramatic. In fact, while reading Fifty Shades, you could skip chunk of the middle of the novel and quite easily pick up the “story” again many chapters later. Apparently the middle section is just sex.

But the real problem I have with this book (apart from the fact I spent money on it) is the message it conveys about women and relationships. Ana is a virgin at the start of the novel, and instead of her losing her virginity in a loving relationship, or at least with someone she’s been seeing a while, it is treated simply as a “situation” Christian has to “take care” of. Further, Ana is made to sign contracts and agree to terms left, right and centre in order to continue having sex with Christian. There are punishments for not following his ‘rules’, and quite frankly the whole thing is unhealthy. As a woman, I can understand why many women out there might love the mystery and the excitement of it all…  but ultimately I don’t see how they want a Christian Grey character in their own lives when he basically abuses Ana, both mentally and physically. If this were real life, with a real person you knew, you’d be calling the police on account of the domestic abuse. But, because it’s a novel and because he’s just ‘so sexy’ this is not the case, and so this disturbing, damaging cycle carries on throughout the novel (and I imagine the entire trilogy, although I’ve only read the first book).

As for the book’s popularity, I would imagine that the majority of copies being sold at this stage are due to people’s curiosity, both fuelled by word-of-mouth and media attention. In fact, the only reason read the book was because I’d heard rumblings of it long before it became the phenomenon it is at the moment. As far as I was concerned, it was a re-hashed version of Twilight and that perhaps Christian would have some dark secret, like killing a man, which allowed him to get to the top and own a business empire. At the time, I didn’t know the book was erotica (nobody mentioned it in the ever trusty Amazon reviews at the time). Now, of course, we all do, and given the buzz about the book, it’s only natural for people to see what all the fuss is about. I’m no prude, but some of the scenes outlined in the book are disturbing and, as I have said, verging on abuse. I don’t understand how all of this can be found appealing or sexy in any way, and it says a lot about society today if this is our idea of “romance” or sex appeal. It disgusts me that this is what we’ve become. Especially given the fact that I could almost guarantee if a book similar to this specifically aimed at men, other than “Top Shelf” magazines of course, took off like this, with men reading it openly on the train, the bus, in Starbucks, they’d all be branded sexist and sick and women everywhere would rally the troops to jump upon their mighty soapboxes to apprehend them for being so chauvinistic.  The double standards here are unbelievable.

So the question is this: would you be happy if your husband, boyfriend, son or brother were reading something like this? Or is it a question of “Would you be happy if they were reading this as openly as women are Fifty Shades of Grey?”

With the rumours of a film version circulating the Internet, it’s only a matter of time before Christian and Ana are gracing our cinema screens, which raises another question: will this simply be a long awaited ‘romance’ film, or an excuse to openly play porn at the local cinema?

Books

Book Review: The Disaster Artist – My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made

I cannot recommend The Disaster Artist highly enough. It might be one of the best reads I’ve had in a very long time.

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In 2003, the world of filmmaking was shaken to its very foundations. Bursting onto the scene and blinding the city of Los Angeles and Hollywood like a renegade supernova, was a film that went by the insipid title of The Room.

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made is a book all about the making of that film. For those who haven’t seen The Room, the basic synopsis boils down to a ‘love triangle’ plot, between a banker, Johnny, his fiancée, Lisa, and the best friend, Mark. There’s romance, betrayal, drama and finally tragedy. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong.

The final instalment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy might’ve won all eleven Academy Awards that year, but it was The Room that still managed to be the talk of the town (and eventually, the world) amongst many filmgoers.

Don’t be mistaken, The Room wasn’t a sleeper hit or master class in filmmaking. In fact, it was the complete opposite. A train wreck so disastrous that it’s still being watched, studied and talked about, to this day. “So bad it’s good” and “The Citizen Kane of bad films” are quotes often thrown around whenever The Room is muttered.

What makes The Room so bad? Well, to put it bluntly, everything. From the acting to the directing, to the sets and continuity, is a consistency of abysmal filmmaking. Yet despite its terribleness, there remains a kind of loveable charm. Most of this charm seems to stem from the man who helmed the project, the weirdly fascinating and enigmatic, Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau was responsible for acting as the lead character, Johnny, writing, directing and producing The Room (Orson Welles, eat your heart out).

Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book, The Disaster Artist, doesn’t start at the premier of The Room in Los Angeles, 2003. It starts instead a year earlier, with a lunch between Greg and Tommy, a lunch so bizarre and off-the-wall, that it almost reads like sketch comedy. It’s a day before official production is about to begin on The Room, and Tommy with genius-gusto, decides to offer Greg one of the lead roles in his film, as Mark, Johnny’s (Tommy’s character and fictionalized version of himself) best friend. A plan so flawless, until Greg reminds Tommy that the role is already cast.

In the next chapter, we are taken back to 1998 in San Francisco with Jean Shelton and her acting class, where Greg relates his early origins into acting and his dreams of “making it”. It’s here that he meets the one-and-only, Tommy Wiseau, for the very first time. They’d later on become acquainted with one-another, after Tommy steals the show by giving one of the most ludicrous renditions of the famous ‘Stella’ scene from A Streetcar Named Desire ever witnessed.

“Most bad performances are met with silence. This was something else. There were murmurs. There were giggles. Everyone in that basement studio knew they had just witnessed one of the most beautifully, chaotically wrong performances they would ever see.”


 – The Disaster Artist

What follows throughout the book is parallel storytelling, or intersecting storylines. One side focusing on the making of The Room, and the haphazard tyrannical way in which Tommy went about acting, directing and interacting with the cast and crew. The other, on the growing friendship and relationship between a young, Greg Sestero and not-so-young, Tommy Wiseau, both bonding on their dream and love for acting (and in particular, James Dean). Each storyline is as equally entertaining, funny and at times touching as one another.

The Disaster Artist is a book that doesn’t quite feel like it’s written from someone with journalistic prose looking-in on The Room, or the life of Tommy Wiseau. Instead, it’s a book written by someone who lived and breathed these experiences and moments. The final result is a raw and believable account, with a striking amount of humility and sincerity. The praise in this regard goes solely to Greg Sestero; he is quite possibly the best—and only—person capable of telling this story. His perspective is paramount to understanding the making of The Room, and Wiseau.

In terms of the content itself, there are many reasons why fans—or even those unfamiliar with The Room—might want to pick this up. For years, people have been baffled about almost every aspect of this film and the mysterious man behind it. From, “How did Tommy manage to get $6 million to fund this film?” to something as simple as “Just where in the hell is Tommy actually from?”

You don’t have to be familiar with the film itself, or even know a great deal about the players such as Tommy Wiseau to find this book enjoyable. After all, driving the engines is a timeless story, full of great characters and great moments.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It might be one of the best reads I’ve had in a very long time.

The Disaster Artist

by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell
(Simon & Schuster)

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