Posts Tagged ‘Jamie Dornan’

50ShadesofGreyCoverArt“50ShadesofGreyCoverArt” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:50ShadesofGreyCoverArt.jpg#/media/File:50ShadesofGreyCoverArt.jpg

I am not in the habit of commenting on movies I haven’t seen, nor on books I haven’t read.  But the buzz that the recent film adaptation of E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” has generated compels me to make an exception.

The massive commercial success of the “Fifty Shades” trilogy and of the film based on the first book, the “Fifty Shades”-themes menus at popular dining establishments, and the fact that even children’s toys are clothed with Christian Grey attire speak to the fact that the time has long passed since “Fifty Shades” was merely a story.  If it ever was so, it has long since become a phenomenon.

Okay — so I haven’t seen the movie or read the books.  I have, however, read the synopses online, so I can offer some very basic commentary based on what I know of the overall story.  I will begin by reflecting on some of the positive aspects, before proceeding to offer what I consider to be some much-needed criticism. fifty-shades-of-grey-dakota-johnson1College senior Anastasia Steele (portrayed by Dakota Johnson in the film) meets wunderkind business tycoon Christian Grey during what can best be described as an accidental journalism assignment.  In short order, she is drawn into his dark and shady (no pun intended) world of BDSM (short for bondage/discipline and sadomasochism).  Eventually, he has her sign a contract to the effect that their relationship will not entail romance or commitment; she is to be an object for his pleasure, and nothing more.

All that said, literary person that I am, I’d like to play the same “name game” that I played in my commentary on “Frozen.”  If you think I’m reading too much into it, all I can do is ask you to bear with me. fifty-shades-clip2The name “Anastasia” means “resurrection.”  As such, it is an appropriate name for the sweet, beautiful, innocent young virgin who comes into the life of this seductive and dominating tycoon (played by Jamie Dornan in the film) with twisted fetishes.  I think what many of the women who read James’ novels admire in Anastasia’s character is the desire to “save” him — to draw him out of the dark underworld he has built for himself and for his lovers, and back into the light.  Indeed, she does seem to hold onto hope that he will eventually relent in his determination to keep their relationship out of the realm of genuine affection.

If Anastasia’s name is interesting, her nickname is even more so.  Many women with the name Anastasia go by Stacy for short, but James decided to shorten her protagonist’s appellation differently: Ana.  That name means “grace” — which, among other things, can refer to unmerited favor aimed at another person’s betterment.  Surely this should remind us of the aforementioned point. But it is even more interesting when we meet Christian’s mother, whose name is…wait for it… Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-17-Marcia-Gay-HardenGrace.

So Ana shares with Christian’s mother the same name, but couched within “resurrection.”  It is as if she hopes to do what Christians mother was, for whatever reason, unable to do.

And that brings us to how Christian got into this lifestyle to begin with.  When he was fifteen years old, he was seduced by a woman named Elena Lincoln.  Unbeknownst to Christian’s parents, Elena drew him headfirst into the realm of BDSM sex — only she was the dominant partner in this case.

This is very telling.  At a young and relatively vulnerable age, Christian had a sexual experience in the form of being dominated.  We could perhaps infer that his sordid activities as an adult bespeak a subconscious quest to regain and reassert his compromised masculinity. helen of troy“Helen Moreau” by Gustave Moreau – World Gallery; see also Maguire, Helen of Troy, 41. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Helen_Moreau.jpg#/media/File:Helen_Moreau.jpg

Back to the “name game” a moment: Elena is a variant of Helena or Helen, which immediately brings to mind Helen of Troy, the proverbial “face that launched a thousand ships” during the Trojan War.  The name itself means “light,” but it is clearly a false light in the cases of both Helen of Troy and Elena Lincoln — a light that distracts and leads to ruin, as opposed to one that enlightens and leads to life.  So Christian’s dark sexual escapades are bookended by two women: Elena — false light — and Anastasia or Ana – resurrection and grace.

But there is a problem: Rather than being Christian’s salvation, Ana becomes another one of his conquests.  Rather than him being rescued, she is corrupted.  This gives us our segue into my more “negative” comments on the story’s subject matter.

Next time.

Top image from Wikipedia; movie stills obtained through a Google image search

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