We’re informed – men, especially – “society” is truly terrified of “this” woman:
And why? Because, we’re also informed, we never see her. Other women dominate the silver screen:
….You know exactly what sort of leading lady I’m talking about: the damaged damsel in distress who’s tragically tethered to the tree of danger, and is patiently awaiting a sweepingly powerful (masculine) energy to find her in the thick of the forest, cut the ropes with his bare hands, rescue her and wrap up her tiny body in his big, burly arms.
OR it’s the doe-eyed, heartbreakingly self-destructive waif who hates herself with a fervent relentlessness and we watch, teary-eyed, as she spirals into the harrowing vortex of addiction and self-abuse — until the earth shattering moment an authoritative male figure magically appears in her life, by absolute happenstance, and an instant falls in love with her and peels her off the ground, saving her from the cell of herself….
As one who creates and writes many women characters, that assertion made me sit up and take notice. It’s certainly not unreasonable on some levels. But it’s also a massive over-generalization.
Think about it: Are nearly ALL women characters really portrayed only one of those two ways on screen?
Another installment of that book series is upon us. A Newsweek reviewer (interestingly, by name a man, although the books do appear aimed primarily at women, and are written by a woman; but I don’t want to disgress down that path here), disparages it this way:
Cinemax softcore masquerading as fiction
Really? So then it’s perfect to adapt into a possibly “award-winning” cable TV series? Just shift the tale and main characters to, say, Rhode Island?
My uncle has been at me again. Out of the blue, he sent me a Facebook message early yesterday:
Obviously I’ve removed his name and replaced his photograph with a stock silhouette image. As you may know he’s a HarperCollins published novelist (his first books appeared in the 1980s) and also writes screenplays. As you probably also know if you stop by here regularly (Hello again!), he has no idea (yet) that I’ve taken up writing.
His message got me thinking about the process of turning novels into movies – helped along by the fact that currently we’re seeing lots about a newly released major film that’s based on a massively selling recent novel.
Happy Sunday! I stumbled on this yesterday. Back on Friday, a 21 year old commentator in Britain’s Independent newspaper shared this Fifty Shades analysis:
Evidently this now needs pointing out: both Mr. Grey and Anastasia are – let us recall – fictional. That means they are not real people. Insofar as I understand it, the books are novels, not biography.
France’s classification president, Jean-Francois Mary, said that the movie, starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, “isn’t a film that… can shock a lot of people”.
He believes that the movie, which contains nudity and sadomasochism between an entrepreneur and a virginal student, is “a romance – you could even say schmaltz”.
The book was a huge seller in France as elsewhere, and the film will get a wide release there. However, while there have even been protests over the film in the U.S. and Britain about its portrayal of domestic violence, that rating in France is, one might say, a “Gallic shrug.” What Mr. Mary is essentially asserting there is that it’s not really a film that needs to be taken all that seriously by adults.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson’s Comments About Filming ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Are Kind of Appalling
Previously I’ve addressed the book in general terms – although I have not read it; and I have no plans to see the film – largely because as writers we can’t pretend it’s not there. Indeed it’s foolish for any fiction/ romance author to imagine it’s honestly possible to ignore (for the moment anyway) its reach and impact. It’s that 800 pound gorilla on the bookshelf.
I had an, uh, “interesting” phone chat with my mother in Pennsylvania last night. It went generally like this….
• Mother: “Have a good trip back to England. Say ‘Hi’ to everyone for us.”
• Me: “I will of course. Helen spoke to her mother. Everyone seems okay. She always misses Helen when she comes over here for a while.”
• Mother: “Her mother adores her. Oh, you know, I noticed that your friend Carol’s husband, in England, that Helen wrote on Facebook that he’s written a book?”
• Me: [Uh, oh. Gather thoughts, Rob.] “Yes, he did. He worked on it for over a year. In his spare time. I bought a Kindle copy….” [Darn! Why did you say you bought a copy!?]
• Mother: “Well, that’s great to get something like that published the first time you do it.”
• Me: [Still wary.] “He didn’t. He self-published on Amazon. That’s become a big thing now. There are lots of best sellers by people who do. He hopes it’ll attract some interest. He’s not expecting millions.”
• Mother: “Getting published used to be about who you knew. My brother managed to know the right people. Now you can do it yourself. Have you….”
• Me: [Trying to shift the discussion quickly away from my friend’s book, which has that potentially explosive ***Acknowledgement*** to me issue (I don’t want my mother buying it!), and what I suspected was about to be a question from her about my writing something myself someday.] “You know that Fifty Shades book. The one they’re making the movie….”
• Mother: “….Of course I’ve heard of it. I bought it for your sister. And I was thinking, ‘What is this?’ She said, ‘It’s erotica.'”
• Me: “I get the impression ‘erotic’s’ not a strong enough word. [Am I discussing that book with my mother?] Anyway, I’ve read she started out with a blog, writing fan fiction of Twilight, I think. When she developed her own characters and published it on Kindle, she sold like a gazillion copies. I read someone who also said it sold so many that way because women could read it on Kindle sitting next to their husbands and kids and no one could see what they were reading because the cover wasn’t visible!”
• Mother: [After a laugh.] “How things have changed. Hey, you know those people living behind us? They moved….”
Whew. That was a close one. Book discussion concluded – by mother.
I think it was de Gaulle who once said a politician should never lie, but he must be careful about how he tells the truth. Well, whether politico or not, definitely don’t lie to your mother! Just avoid mentioning what she doesn’t directly ask. Or get her off the subject – quick! ;-)
Yes, we’re flying back to London later today. I may be quiet for a day or two. See you on here next from “over there.” :-)
On Thursday morning, Universal Studios debuted its first trailer for “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the highly anticipated film based on the erotic novels by E.L. James.
The movie stars Jamie Dornan (who appears san [sic] shirt) as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as his inexperienced lover Anastasia Steele….
We don’t know yet if the film will be “decent.” (If that’s the right word?) But the quality of the book and its film adaptation are not really the concern here; those are for others to argue about. I’ve not read the book and have no plans to see the film.
I will say this, though. While you might dream a novel you write will one day find itself a film, if it were to do so that film’s actual quality is mostly out of your control. I suppose the bottom line is if you found yourself paid (especially if you were paid “big”) for film rights, I suspect as a writer you would be thrilled to take the money and run. ;-)
But, privately (between just us here…. and the internet), I’d hate to see my book(s) theatrically ruined.