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February 13th, 2015

It’s Valentine’s Weekend, and I am a romance writer who loves to go to the movies. So of course, I am going to the release everyone’s been anticipating for months.

KINGSMAN!!!! With Colin Firth, aka, Mr Darcy, aka the hottest man in the universe, forever, Amen.

I have been panting like a dog for this movie since I saw the preview last October. And yesterday, I say a trailer for THE MAN FROM UNCLE, and am way excited for that, too.

Wait. You say there’s another movie out this weekend? Oh. Yeah. I went to that first. Because I had to. It’s part of my job. That’s right. I saw 50 SHADES, for work. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. And I wasn’t going to say anything about it, because, E L James is a friend of a friend, and I actually met her in Minneapolis a couple of years ago. While posing for a picture with her, I said, “Hi. I write books about England, and I’ve never been there.”

She said, “I write books about Seattle, and I’ve never been there.” (She was on her way West for her first visit).

I geeked on her about her husband, who wrote for the BBC Hornblower series. I had a nice conversation with her agent about the correct way to cook a goose, whether there were turduckens in England (yes). And whether banana skins could be used as a masturbation aid in the Regency. (Probably not).

This is the kind of things romance writers talk about when we get together. E L, aka Ericka, picked up a hefty bar tab for the bunch of us. Actually, her publisher did. But I did not have to pay for drinks in a hotel bar, which is the important thing.

And about that time, I skimmed a couple of the books. They had sex in them.

Flash forward to this week. The movie was coming out and the local theater was having a 21+ all female showing and letting us bring our own wine. Tickets at the local theater are only $4. This was a combination set to make 50 Shades the best movie going experience of the decade.

I messaged my friend Elaine and we began trying to find a wine that paired with popcorn and snowcaps.

Then, the city pointed out that this brilliant plan was illegal.

Stupid laws.

But there is a Mexican restaurant right next door to the theater. Plan saved! We had dinner and some margaritas. Then, we went to the movie.

The theater was almost full. And the fun began almost immediately when a woman behind us said “Mom, just stop talking!” Elaine declared this the best line of the night and turned to high five her. And then she wondered, in a loud voice, how many women were drunk tonight.

No one answered. But since we all reacted to the Magic Mike XXL trailer like it was feeding time at the zoo, I think it would be lying to claim that many of us were sober.

And now, the featured presentation.

Public opinion on this movie break into pretty solid camps. There are the fans who love the story and have been waiting for the film. There are the people who disapprove for moral reasons. There are the people who disapprove for feminist/abuse reasons. There are the people who disapprove because of horrible writing.

And then, there’s me. I approve because of the free drinks in Minneapolis. I will admit to a fair amount of professional jealousy (Why is this not MY MOVIE? Why am I not RICH?) But I am not so jealous that I will not spend $4 on the franchise. I am a feminist and a Christian as well. But I am not so hypocritical as to come down against a story for having sex (which I write) or dubious relationship choices on the part of the heroine (which I have also written).

There is also the camp that says it is bad BDSM. Oh boy, am I the wrong person to ask. For any worried husbands out there, there is nothing about this story that has me thinking a trip to the hardware store would liven up year 32 of our marriage. Mostly, I was thinking ‘Is that the right kind of rope? Because it would leave rope burns. And I just learned how to get out of duct tape bondage on the internet. So that would be kind of pointless…’

Anyway, I read the reviews and part of the books, and went with a doubtful but open mind.
It was…not bad.

The plot: A stumbling, whispery virgin with bad bangs, meets a hot billionaire. He is immediately obsessed. He stalks her a little. He gives her the ‘I’m no good for you, little girl’ speech, which is a romance trope that I HATE LIKE DEATH. But I think, in 25 books, I have probably used it at least once, so I can’t point fingers.

He gives her first editions of her favorite author, Thomas Hardy (known for his rapey book Tess of the D’Urbervilles). He gives her a computer. He gives her clothes (because she got drunk and threw up on hers) He sells her car and gives her a new one.

Wait a minute…

Then he gives her a non disclosure agreement, a little light bondage, and a full contract for a position as his submissive (which is on her knees, by the door). Then he gives her a spanking. And a flogging. And six of the nest across the ass with a leather strap. And then, she leaves him.

The end.

The sex is like the movie itself. A lot of writhing around naked but no orgasms. We get to the end, and there is no closure. Because it is the first book in a trilogy. Duh. But you can tell that a good portion of the audience wasn’t expecting this, because there was a cross between a moan and a roar, when the credits rolled.

However…

I the chemistry between the characters, which was better than a lot of rom coms I have seen.

The relationship was abusive. But the heroine was not a doormat. She knows the gifts have strings attached, even though she takes them.

The scene where she demands a business meeting to discuss the sex contract is excellent. She shows up in what is essentially a fuck-me dress, with a back zipper from neck to hem. They get to the negotiations and ‘our hero’ loosens his tie and prepares to bend her over the glass topped table and take her hard. And she refuses to sign the contract and walks out. And she never signs the contract. Probably because that would be a stupid thing to do.

The dark moment is when he has a bad day at work and tells her to go to the play room for punishment. And she asks why he wants to punish her, when she hasn’t done anything wrong. He says it’s because he’s screwed up (again. Duh).

She says give me your worst. He gives her a strapping (And I think, pussy! Because really, with all those freakin’ toys, I expected the limit of his sadism to be much further away).

But she hates it. And when ‘our hero’ thinks that a beating is going to result in hot sex for him, she informs him that he’ll never touch her again, gives him his gifts back, and walks.

Yes, this is an abusive relationship. But it is also the story of a woman who has agency and leaves an abusive relationship. That’s actually a good thing.

Is it hot? Yeah. But I’ve probably seen hotter. And it does not have nearly as much sex as the books.

Is it the downfall of Western civilization? No. That would be Jupiter Ascending. I will try to blog about that later this week.

And to other romance writers I see on Facebook, posting the “I would never support this trash”?

Especially the ones posting badly written quotes supposedly from the books to prove how horrible the writing is, without bothering to find out that what you are posting are actually made up quotes by people making fun of 50 Shades and romance in general?

I say, get over yourselves. If you ‘would never’ and do not bother to get a copy of the book to search for those quotes to see if the writing is actually as bad as you so desperately want it to be, then you are not capable of giving an informed opinion and should probably just shut up.

As we were leaving the theater, I turned to Elaine was a 50 Shades virgin and said, “You’ve seen it. What do you think?”

Her answer: “Well, I can cross that off my bucket list. Seen 50 Shades. Now I just have to go to Morocco…”

This is why everyone should go to movies with Elaine.