The ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ film: Why it deserves more credit than it got

I don’t know about some of you, but when E.L James’ series ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ exploded on to the scene, I wasn’t one of the people rushing to Waterstones to buy it. You don’t need to have read the books or seen the film to know what they were about.

A couple of my classmates in high school became engulfed in it – even though we were under sixteen at the time, all I was doing was trying to keep up with homework – but I simply wasn’t interested in reading that sort of thing. I thought it would make me look dirty and, dare I say it, even though I hate the term, slutty. That seems ridiculous looking back, but I was very shy back then, particularly when it came to that side of life. Well, I still haven’t read the books, but after my experience over the weekend, my mind has been somewhat changed.

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When I was sitting on the sofa with my Dad a few nights ago, flicking through the newly added films section on Sky Movies, I became heart-poundingly worried when he suggested we watch the film.

“Oh, they have it on Sky now.” I said as a passing comment.

“Have what?” he replied as he looked up from his phone.

“Fifty Shades of Grey.”

“Let’s stick it on.”

“…Really?…” Please no Dad, don’t put me through the humiliation, I thought.

“Yeah, why not.”

What could I say? I am eighteen, so there’s no reason I shouldn’t watch it. I reluctantly agreed. “Oh. Okay…”

So I clicked on it and waited for it to download. I was veeeeery concerned about watching it with my Dad. I didn’t really like the idea of watching it alone – okay, I was kind of interested by it, naturally, but I so naively thought I might be left scarred and traumatised for life, so I avoided it – but watching it with my Dad… I assumed this was going to be the most embarrassing experience of my life.

But it wasn’t. In fact, it was the total opposite. Why you say? A teenage girl watching an erotic film with her father, that’s mortifying, right? Wrong. Yes, there are a lot of sex scenes, and some of Christian Grey’s sexual habits are concerning to say the least. He says that he “doesn’t make love”, he requires no emotional connection at all. This alone makes it clear that it went further than being a film with lots of sex in it. A complex but very real character was built, and I am absolutely fascinated by him.

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The film had incredibly strong characters in it. Incredibly strong. The obvious one being the leading male, Mr Christian Grey. He’s good looking, rich, and has a very detached view on sex. A lot of people only look at him in terms of his sexual habits. Yes they are a key part of his character and the overall plot, but it’s important that you look at other parts of his character as well.

  • He presents Anastasia Steele, the leading female, with a contract on what she finds acceptable and unacceptable when having sex.  A contract. To me that screams his need for security and to always know where he stands.
  • He was abused. This would undoubtedly change the way he views sex. Maybe he thinks it’s better to not get attached again, or perhaps his abuse is some kind of backwards revenge. Maybe he’s generalising all females and wants them to feel as vulnerable as he did. I’m not excusing his behaviour, but it could be an influence.
  • He ties Anastasia’s hands together. Some of the readers might put this down to him being kinky. But  by doing this it makes it impossible for her to escape. Yes, he says she can leave whenever she wants to. But, the pleasure he gives her when she is under his control makes it more difficult for her to walk away.
  • He says that he uses sex for pleasure. Fine. But when you look at him as he has sex, it doesn’t look like he gains any pleasure. In fact all the sexual pleasure is on Anastasia’s part, with the ‘pleasure’ he gets in fact being power. He never mentions any pleasure she might get from it. He has extremely selfish motives.
  • He is obsessed with punishment. There’s a scene when Anastasia rolls her eyes at him and so he says he has to punish her. He tells her to bend over and he whips her. Now, one minute he uses whips for pleasure, the next he uses it as discipline. It seems to me he can’t tell the difference between the two. Perhaps this is because in both cases he does this to keep a level of control over her. But it could also relate to him being loyal to his own pleasure and so as long as he feels good after whipping her, it doesn’t matter whether he does this when they’re intimate or on a more abusive level. Although I would suggest, taking everything into account, that these two things turn out to be the same thing.

There are so many other things you can say about him, let me know what you think in the comments.

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Another thought on the side of this: Christian appears to form a closer attachment to Anastasia to any of the other fifteen, so he says in the film, women he’s been with. I thought about why this could be. Then it occurred to me, Anastasia says she hadn’t had sex before. And so when he becomes the first man she sleeps with, she truly becomes his. There’s no one else who has tainted her or made her impure. I guess this relates to the age old obsession of women being pure. We think this is a thing of the past in western culture, but this film raises the question, is it? What do you think?

 

About half an hour in, when the scenes got all steamy and intimate, me and my Dad talked about the bizarre nature of their ‘relationship’. Is it love between them? Is it all about control and power? What is going on his head exactly? Does Anastasia actually love Christian or is it just lust? These were all things we talked about. This lead to us having some very important conversations about relationships, something which should be talked about between a parent and a child. Especially because I am yet to experience my first relationship, it was good to sit and talk about this with my Dad.

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“It’s all about control…” I said to him just before Christian went to tie the newly college graduate Anastasia to a bed. My Dad replied “At the end of the day, I don’t think any relationship should be about control.” And we talked about that as they had sex. I realised that it was a bit ridiculous of me to shy away from having these conversations with my Dad. It’s only sex after all, why should it be awkward? It’s part of life.

But as I said, I haven’t read the books. Therefore, I have to give credit to the amazing acting in the film from Jamie Dornan, Grey, and Dakota Johnson, Steele. I heard that the books are quite different to the film, and obviously I don’t know how true this is, but even so, I can’t not praise E.L. James for creating such a fantastically complex character. If Dornan’s portrayal of Christian Grey is close to her character, then she mastered creating a confusing character, something which I am aiming to do in my own work. For this reason, E.L. James, I may well have to give your books a read. I wouldn’t have contemplated this a few days ago, but now… I see that there is so much more to the story, I want to know so much more about My Grey.

And I won’t feel like I am dirty for reading it, I’m just fascinated by people and how their brains work.

When you think about all the issues the film looks at, it really does make me think that it deserves to be recognised a lot more than it was. It made a lot in the box office, but some of the reviews weren’t exactly supporting of this. Maybe we were watching a different film, because it really, really was a good film. It made me think a lot.

What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments below. If I don’t write another post before, then I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.

From the young M.A. Garrett.

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Reading for pleasure: how it can make exam season bearable

Reading what you want to read is good for your health. Okay, that’s not a professional opinion, but it’s one that I have had since last summer. Throughout AS and GCSE, I was under the impression that if I was reading anything that wasn’t related to my studies, I was wasting my time. Wrong. So very wrong indeed. A lot of my teachers wouldn’t say this – English might, science probably wouldn’t (they could be a bit small minded sometimes) – but I know it to be true.

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When I was doing my A-Levels last year, reading so many resource sheets and text books made each day become a long drag of tiredness and headaches. The headaches were because I needed reading glasses, but I didn’t have my eyes tested so I didn’t know that until recently. But anyway, every single day I would pack my bag full with my folders, get on a stuffy bus and play the jolliest  music I could find to try and perk myself up for another day at school and then the library. Brilliant. Each day blurred into one long… blur.

After a few weeks of constantly memorising psychology case studies (there were a lot of case studies), I decided that I was bored of it all. Should I have just persevered with it? Should I, as my Dad likes to say “bloody well got on with it?” Well… maybe. But at that time I just knew I needed to read something that I enjoyed reading. I needed to remind myself that not all the books written in the world were textbooks. I needed to feel something other than stress or boredom when reading again. So, as I sat in the library, I slammed the AQA text book shut and had a scout around the YA section.

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After having a good look, I came across the first book in the series ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ by Stephanie Perkins. The cover is what first attracted me to it. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by a cover, but after looking at even the most beautiful of covers, if the blurb is naff I don’t tend to bother with it. But it looked like the kind of book I needed to read to feel happier, and the blurb proved it to me. When I went back to my seat and started reading, I thought that I must have been blessed to come across this book at such a time. I was stressed, and this book began to calm me down.

It was bound to catch my attention because it’s set in Paris, and I love love love Paris. It’s light and kind of fluffy, but it’s by far the most enjoyable book I’ve read. They’re just really nice books. They were comforting and exactly what I needed at the time. It has to be said that my favourite one is ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ because I feel that Perkins throws you into the plot a lot quicker than in the other two, and that generally more happens in it. That’s not to say the other two aren’t good reads, I think they’re all very well written. The prose is very clean and to the point and the characters suspend belief. But Isla stands out for me personally. Although there’s always something more emotional about the last book in a series, I think that made it stronger: I wanted to know what happened but then I didn’t want it to end.

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I know my A Level English teachers would understand me needing to do this. I know my psychology teacher might not, but screw it. It got me through. My grades weren’t amazing, and some might say that if I’d have used the time I spent reading Stephanie Perkins on going of those case studies more that I would have got a higher grade. Maybe. But what I do know is that through all that time I spent sitting at my desk losing my mind over my work, I wasn’t really learning anything. But taking some time out to give my brain a break meant that I learnt something.

My advice to anyone who is having to do extensive reading, either in your studies or for other reasons, try to take 15 minutes out of your day to read something that you like reading. Something light and fluffy is encouraged, but whatever floats your boat when it comes to books is good. Just let it take you out of your own world for a while, give yourself something to look forward to.

Take care of your brains. They all need a little care from time to time.

From the young M.A. Garrett.

 

P.S. I wish I could say it’s me in the feature picture, sadly it’s not. For starters, my thighs touch, and I’ve never been to a tropical paradise like that. I wish…

Why ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ is such an important series

The epic book series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin has become a literary sensation across the world, selling millions copies and finding a new branch of success in the t.v. series ‘Game of Thrones’. But, when you look past the gore and sex scenes that it is so well known for, you start to realise that this series perhaps has a far greater importance than so many of us might think of.

This would never have occurred to me to begin with. I read the first book in the series ‘A Game of Thrones’ over the summer holidays this year and thought it was brilliant. But before reading the book I too became obsessed with the t.v. show. Therefore I will also use some examples from the show as I haven’t finished reading all the books yet. I mean, look at them, there are quite a few of them and it took me a solid three months to finish the first one. Not that I’m complaining, I enjoyed every page of it.

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But, I personally think that my main reason for believing that this series so incredibly important is for this reason: it makes people really think about other people. As is the case with many books, the reader likes to have them down as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But with George R.R. Martin’s series… it’s impossible to put characters on these lists. Have you ever come across two people who can completely agree on who they like and don’t like and why?

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For example, I am reluctant to admit, but am going to because it’s essential to my explantation, that Cersei Lannister (pictured above) is one of my favourite characters. Now, for those of you who know what she is like as a character, both in the book and the show, you’re probably think I’m crazy for liking her. And when I think about it I think I must be crazy too as there is no reason to like her as a character. She murders, lies, inflicts pain, tricks, she even sleeps with her own brother… and yet. I find myself saying that for so many of the characters. “I shouldn’t like them, and yet…”

One of my flatmates said she liked Ramsay Bolton. See, I can’t make sense of that at all. But then she can’t make sense of why I like Cersei. Ramsay is far worse than Cersei, isn’t he? I can’t give an actual reason for it. But what this could prove is that despite all her faults, I see something in her, and even with all her horrible qualities, Martin does something to make me as a reader see some small bit of good or desirable in her. Yes, she loves her children. That really is the only good thing I can think of about her at this point in time. But perhaps it is more her strength. Or perhaps it’s not a matter of me seeing good in her at all. Perhaps I like the fact that she’s so twisted, and perhaps we all like that about these characters, whether we can truly admit to that or not.

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I also amaze myself at how I have come to like some of the characters that I hated to begin with. For instance – I must base this more on the t.v. series as you don’t see much of him in the first book in the series – Jaime Lannister. He was completely arrogant and at times incredibly nasty to one of my absolute favourites, Brienne of Tarth. But then you see a different side to him, and as the series progresses I came to like a character who I initially detested. I even overlooked the fact that he raped Cersei (t.v. show only) and how he even slept with her to begin with.  I wouldn’t be able to overlook things like this in a person in real life, so why do I in these books?

I don’t know if this is a dangerous thing, that perhaps becoming too excepting of people who are inherently bad is a dangerous thing. But it’s hard to say because it is hard to determine whether they are inherently bad. Okay, I’m told that Jaime didn’t rape Cersei in the book and apparently that scene in the show wasn’t meant to be portrayed as rape, but he was pushy, and it was with his sister. But I believe that it says a lot about Martin’s skill as a writer and of the plot that his brilliant mind created. I personally am yet to come across another series which creates characters of such complexity so well.

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Looking at another reason I think these books are so important; Martin has opened my mind to making unpopular choices, in terms of what the reader wants to happen, in crafting plot. Now, everyone lost their mind when Jon Snow died at then of series 5. In a way I did as well, not because I thought that he’s too good looking to die, like so many people did, but because I saw him as a central character. I thought, ‘he can’t really die as he’s such a key character’. I thought the same with the depart of Ned Stark. Especially he was killed off in the very first book. I thought, ‘how can the plot work without him?’ But then it occurred to me that in the real world, important people are not exempt from death, so why should important characters be?

The plot works without Ned Stark because when people die in real life, the world carries on no matter how important you are, and when a key character dies in a book, the world created in the series and its plot should carry on as well.

I am only a baby writer at the moment, and even as I gain more experience and grow more in the writing world, I will always look to other books and try learn something valuable from them, in both my writing and generally becoming a more rounded human being. ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ will become more important in this, particularly as the novel I want to write has a historical element to it.

There are so many other things that makes this series such a brilliant one. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

From the young M.A.Garrett

It begins with that disturbing dream I had

Last night I had a dream, which after thinking about it for nearly 24 hours, I think that it was a border line nightmare. I was observing everything but didn’t seem to be involved in what was going on. Two characters from the t.v. series ‘Reign’ were there, and Francis stood by as Mary, Queen of Scots, had her heart cut out. Then a blurry face, which I can’t clearly remember, placed it in my hands. It felt so normal, to have someone’s entire life in my hands. I don’t believe that feelings or emotion or those aspects of one’s life come from the heart, so that’s not what I mean by this. I mean that you cannot live without a heart. It pumps blood, and it does lots of other things I’m sure but I can’t really think what. But her eyes were still open, and somehow she managed to cry her last words to her beloved Francis, even without a heart. It was in my hands, and the dream even had the very moment when her skin was cut. How could I think of something like that? I wish that was where it ended…

I was then told to keep the heart. The blurry face gave me around five squares of toilet roll to wrap it in, and I put it in my tiny little bathroom, the one I’m about two metres away from right now. Then when I went to look at the heart the next day, it was covered in strawberry jam. Strawberry jam. What?

I don’t know what made me write about this kind of disturbing dream on a blog post. I don’t know what made me start to write a blog. Except that I feel disgusted with myself for dreaming this. I might try to blame it on the film I was watching before I went to bed. A film about Charles Dickens’ lover whose child died at birth, and you see the child. You see it and I couldn’t believe what I saw. The film was rated 12, but to me it was horrifying. It was the way it seemed liked nothing to the nurse in the room. She tossed the blanket over and went to take the child out of the room. And I still couldn’t believe what I just saw. Maybe that makes me weak, that I need to stop taking everything I watch on the telly so seriously. But it invaded my mind in a way that made me feel bad about who I am. And I’m still astonished at the true power our brains have. To dig into deep memories and makes us think about ourselves whole heartedly. That’s what our dreams seem to do anyway. They say you have between six to ten dreams per night, but you forget most of them when you wake up. Yet this dream about the heart of Mary, Queen of Scots, it’s now joined the handful of dreams that I have never quite been able to forget.

My name is Melissa Anne Garrett. I was thinking that if I ever become the writer that I really want to be, I could call myself M.A. Garrett. What do you think about that? Is it too arrogant of me? I heard that J.K. Rowling had her first two initials in her name so that she would appeal to a wider audience, and in truth, all I want is for my work to appeal to the widest audience possible. I don’t want to be adored. I want to be recognised. I want to know what it’s like to feel like you’ve achieved everything you want to. I get the feeling no one ever feels that way, because no one ever achieves this, but at this point in time, writing a novel is all I want.

Eighteen. The promise of life finally beginning. But now that I’m nearly nineteen, does that mean my life can’t begin any more? I say this because I believe the world puts far too much pressure on being young. I worry about no longer being a teenager, because it feels like there is always someone who is younger than me and has already done so much better than I ever could. It feels like years will get away from me. And this is at the age of eighteen that I think like this. But it’s the truth of how I feel. And I have to say I don’t like feeling that way.

I suspect that not many people will get past the first few lines of this post. But that’s okay, because really I just needed to get that nightmare off my chest. And I already feel better for it. I don’t know exactly what has begun tonight. Where this decision to start a blog will take me. Or even if it was a good idea at all. But it was a decision nevertheless, and I believe that making a decision is better than making no decision, even if it was the wrong one. Being in limbo for too long can lead to all sorts of pain.

Thank you for your patience. I wish you all well.

From the young M.A. Garrett.