Valentine’s Day is approaching and the times of chocolates and roses are far behind us. This time, instead of having the Valentine’s Day supporters and the haters, we will have the Fifty Shades of Grey fans and the ones who groan loudly at the very thought of this movie. I am talking to you, boyfriends who will have no choice but to see it while taking notes, and to anyone else who just doesn't get why people are so obsessed with this story.
If by any chance you have no idea what 50 Shades of Grey is about, consider yourself truly blessed. In short, there is a young woman, sweet and innocent. There is a brooding man, handsome and filthy rich. She is awkward and inexperienced. He is vastly experienced and mysterious. He wants her but he is into BDSM relationships. She is a virgin and says ‘Holy cow!’ more than any human being. She falls madly in love with him. He has commitment issues.
While 50 Shades has an undeniably strong following that will guarantee ticket sales this weekend, it would be a lie if they said it is an original story that brings something new to the table. In fact, it has been done before and even better. Here are some story ideas and movie plots I am certain EL James took into consideration before writing her best-selling erotic book:
1- Twilight (2008)
If your study book for good writing was Twilight, something went wrong. While this is not an example of ‘done before and better’, the origin of Fifty Shades stems from Stephanie Meyer’s vampire trilogy.
Fifty Shades started off as a Twilight fan fiction series published episodically on fan-fiction website under the pen name ‘Snowqueen Icedragon’, which is, if I must admit, the most badass pen name I have heard. Titled originally "Master of the Universe", the series featured the main characters of Meyers, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, but in a more…adult scenario. James later rewrote it for her own website, FiftyShades.com, and changed the names to Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele because, you know, immortal teenagers doing naughty stuff and drinking blood might get a little creepy.
Taking inspiration from a book you loved, even if it is Twilight, in order to create your own story is not a sin. However, taking so many details from said book and leaving them practically intact minus a tweak here or there would be considered literary suicide. Yet in the case of James, it only meant guaranteed success.
Like Twilight, Fifty Shades is set in the rainy state of Washington. The male protagonist has a troubled past and is virtually perfect in his sophistication and wealth. The female protagonist is clumsy, brunette, and feels like she isn't much to look at. But that is why the sexy guy is there, to show her just how desirable she is and how blind she has been all along. On top of that, in both stories, men find this Plain Jane completely irresistible though she doesn't appear to have any remarkable qualities.
Anastasia, just like Bella, is absolutely mesmerized by this glorious being who, for some reason, has noticed her. She can’t believe her luck and everything he does is impressive and only makes her love him more and it is this love, just like in Twilight, that will change a man set in his ways to become a better person for the one he loves.
It’s basically Twilight is what we are saying, but with whips and nipple clamps.
2- Secretary (2002)
This is the original Fifty Shades of Grey. If you were looking for a romance story with BDSM, this is the movie you should watch.
Secretary follows Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as she is released from a mental hospital and tries to integrate back to society by applying for a secretary position. Employed by a demanding and odd lawyer, their interactions quickly turn from employer-employee to a secret sadomasochistic relationship.
The 2002 film isn't as glossy as Fifty Shades of Grey promises to be. The male protagonist is not a multi-billionaire and he doesn't have the ‘Greek God’ look of Christian Grey, but Secretary succeeds in making you feel uncomfortable, intrigued and enticed all at the same time. It is not a sugar coated view of this sexual dynamic yet you will be able to identify the same main story of Fifty Shades.
Did I mention his name is also Mr. Grey?
Like Christian, Mr. Grey (James Spader) has had a previous teacher, and older woman as well, who has taught him all the BDSM ways, and now he is passing them on to Lee, who finds them strange but thrilling.
Mr. Grey is the dominant counterpart in this relationship, but that does not make Lee a passive submissive who is mesmerized by everything he does. She participates and manipulates him, knowing what makes him tick and whenever she wants to be spanked, she will push his buttons to get her way.
The main difference is while Anastasia succumbs to Christian’s terms in order to be close to him –secretly wanting a boyfriend and a more romantic relationship- Lee discovers herself in this lifestyle, finally feeling comfortable with her mind and fully accepting this man the way he is.
3- Wild Orchid (1989)
Back when Mickey Rourke was a total hunk, he too played a mysterious millionaire with a taste for kinky sex and he also fixated on the sweet naïve girl who falls in love with him.
Emily (Carré Otis), a young recruit at a law firm is sent to Rio de Janeiro to help finalize a real estate deal when she meets James Wheeler (Rourke) a self made millionaire who mesmerizes her with his reserved manner and mysterious past. She soon becomes curious of his sex antics and takes part in secret erotic encounters.
The similarities here lie less in the sex and more on the male characters. James also has a dark past and his interactions with Emily are intense yet controlled by his demands. He also made his own fortune and his way of life of playing sexual games with women comes from his troubled childhood. Like Christian, James doesn't want to be touched He may not be ‘fifty shades of fucked up’ as Christian so eloquently put it, but he does have reservation about getting close to Emily, even when she offers her love and believes he can change his ways. Sound familiar?
There is nothing wrong with movies that center around sex. There is nothing wrong with bringing BDSM relations to the masses. If there is something that can be praised about this book it is how it got people talking about interests they didn't know they had and that women enjoy sex and not just in the cookie cutter way it has been popularly portrayed. Yet with a mousy protagonist who says Holy Cow and Jeez more than 84 times, unrealistic dialogue and a presentation of BDSM unapproved by its own community, there is better erotica out there to consider.
Either way, enjoy your Valentine’s weekend, whether is frisky, experimental or traditionally romantic. Just don’t end up calling the fire department because your handcuffs got stuck. Happy Valentine’s!