Monday, 2 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1064: 50 Shades Of Careers?

Dakota Johnson

The internet is abuzz over words that they have cast the leads in the movie version of the "Mommy Porn" best-seller 50 Shades of Grey. Actress Dakota Johnson will play the female lead Anastasia Steele and Charlie Hunnam will play kinky young billionaire Christian Grey that taught a generation of young women that abusive relationships are okay, as long as the man is rich and good looking.

I've written about this project before, first about the overall wrongness of the whole thing, and when they were trying to recruit Harry Potter star Emma Watson for the female lead. If you're too lazy to click the links I'll explain, and might even make some new points.

The first problem is the whole issue of that the film is not really based on a book, but a fad. 50 Shades sold truckloads of books, spawned more than a few imitators, but almost as quickly as it appeared, the whole "mommy porn" genre went from the being the future of all literature to something that readers either claimed to appreciate its poorly written lewdness ironically, or a source of mild embarrassment.

Then there's the psychological aspect. The book sold well because women traditional prefer erotic text, while men prefer erotic images. Movies are by definition images, which means that the film, regardless of its literary pedigree will essentially be a soft-core porn film. 

There lies the problem inherent in selling blatantly "erotic" material that offers little more than its own eroticism...

Women may be turned off by the medium, as well as the potential of sharing the theatre with assorted creepy men in dirty raincoats, and men will stay home and get more graphic material on the internet for free and in private. (Remember, Universal has a small fortune invested in this film, they will not let it get an NC-17 rating.)

So called "experts" like to say that "sex sells" but are loathe to admit that it doesn't really sell as well as it used to. When Hollywood pushes the "sexy angle" the audience sees that and sees through all that sexy nonsense. They know that when they're selling sex they're certainly not selling stories, which is the main reason for investing the time and money required to go to see a movie in a theatre.

Sex is basically a special effect these days.

Then there is the casting.

Dakota Johnson, the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, is at the beginning of her career. This movie could be the beginning and the end of it.

Lest we forget...
Remember Elizabeth Berkeley? She went from the kids show Saved By The Bell to do Showgirls. Showgirls was a relatively big budget production with an "A-List" director and writer, and it was going to make her a big movie star.

The movie tanked, and Berkeley spent years trying to get past being a product of novelty stunt-casting to becoming a working actress again doing guest spots on television.

It could be even worse for Johnson if the movie's successful. Then she'll be pigeon-holed as the "girl who gets nikked," and Hollywood can be brutal keeping an actress from getting away from that. She could end up doing Cinemax and straight to DVD productions and wondering how much cosmetic surgery will she need to keep getting the work that pays for the surgery that keeps getting her work.

And no matter who was cast they will not match the image the readers have in their minds, and each mind sees a different person. Which is not healthy for the movie.

Whether the film will do well or not remains to be seen. I'm not holding my breath about it.


  1. Are there any creepy men in raincoats in that kind of theater any more? Does that kind of theater still exist?

    I agree with this- there's no much point to the book absent the willing submissive/S&M desires of the protagonst, and if you scrub it down to PG-13, there's literally almost nothing there. It might work if they go the other way, make it graphic and borderline-disturbing, a la "Last Tango in Paris" (though that was very much a product of its time), but that likely limits the audience to tiny art-house numbers so will not be what they do.

    I'm not sure the lead would be painted into a skin-flick ghetto by this- I can think of any number of young actresses who started out their careers being eroticized, including in stinkers, but went on to decent careers (Brooke Shields, others). Plus she's a Hoolywood priness because of who her parents are, and in Hollywood nepostism is a very powerful force. I actually see this as decent move for her.

  2. Young girls who look pretty or sexy at an early age, such as Johnson, often turn out not all that sexy/pretty when they hit adulthood. See Emma Watson. This may be Johnson's last chance to star in a sexy movie.

    Also, I'm getting pretty tired of nepotism in the media and politics. An aristocracy isn't just a bad idea, it makes for lousy movies and politics.

    =Meghan McCain