What Fifty Shades of Grey Needs

Starting out as “Twilight” fan fiction (based on Stephenie Meyer’s books), the novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” (and its two sequels) by E.L. James has become a sensation in Hollywood. Its story revolves around a college graduate and a young businessman in Seattle and contains plenty of S/M sexual play. I haven’t read the novels, but find it hard to get excited about them – after all, isn’t this the same kind of erotic literature as Jackie Collins’s books and Jean Auel’s Ayla franchise? Maybe the comparisons are unfair (in more ways than one). But what’s interesting as far as this blog is concerned is the fact that Hollywood now intends to turn James’s books into movies. One can’t help wonder what will become of them – and Variety blogger Anne Thompson offers her interesting take on what Tinseltown should do.

Thompson argues in favor of a woman producer to steer this potential movie franchise in the right direction – and she’s obviously right. James’s material is written for women and they are the target audience. As Thompson writes, a male producer would likely make the mistake of approaching this project with the intention of attracting both genders, even though a female audience easily could carry this a long way on their own. In the end of her blog entry, Thompson is still unable to come up with a good-enough name and settles for James Schamus as an acceptable compromise choice. He’s a reasonable candidate… but Schamus does have a penis, if I’m not mistaken. Seriously, is there such an alarming lack of female producers in Hollywood that it’s impossible to find one for this task? There have been rumors of Angelina Jolie wanting to direct a film adaptation. Well, fine, she produced and directed In the Land of Blood and Honey last year. Why not make her a serious offer?

Just as a reminder of what an exaggerated male look can do to movies, I’ve selected three examples from the early 1990s, a period when erotic thrillers were very popular. It all started with Basic Instinct (1992), a sleazy whodunit that never apologized for turning Sharon Stone into the sexiest object men had seen on screen (outside of porn) since Bo Derek. Watch her now famous interrogation clip here.


Sharon Stone followed her Basic Instinct success by making another erotic thriller. Sliver (1993) was all about a man (William Baldwin) who liked to watch. Just like Paul Verhoeven’s thriller, Sliver was released in an unrated version that was talked about for its full-frontal nudity content. These movies excited audiences for trying to come as close as possible to pornography without actually being porn. The problem with Sliver though was its poor writing.


This short-lived trend was effectively killed by Madonna. Her Body of Evidence (1993), which co-starred Willem Dafoe, was so ridiculously over-the-top in the sex scenes (and completely uninvolving in every other aspect) that the genre suffered.

What these movies had in common was a clearly male perspective. What “Fifty Shades of Grey” probably needs in its adaptation is a little more thought to it than simply adding a lot of nudity and heavy breathing involving peroxide blondes.

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