FIFTY SHADES OF ARGH

by ERICA JONG

“Argh,” she says, losing her virginity. This from a virginal contemporary college student, whose hymen is penetrated? The penetrator is one of the “Masters of the Universe” and he dresses in grey. And is named Christopher Grey, has gray eyes, wears gray ties, gray suits and speaks in clichés from badly-written romance novels (which are actually improving).

“Arghh”?  This is a bit unrealistic as dialogue. What college student speaks like this—even in Australia or the outer reaches of the UK? Or indeed the British Commonwealth?

E.L. JAMES—first name Erika— is supposedly the newest litsexsensation. She has typed—you can’t say ‘written’—The FIFTY SHADES OF GREY trilogy, gotten picked up by some publisher stooping to conquer (I forget which), has sold tons of e-downloads and is being pursued by movie folk who forget how hard it is to make a decent x-rated s/m saga that eight-year-old boys in the USA, Asia, Europe and Africa will see unless it takes place on Barsoom, the red planet.

As Maureen Dowd reminded us in the New York Times, “bondage movies have had a troubled history.” She gave as examples—‘the embarrassing 9 ½ Weeks and Exit to Eden (which I did not see).

I might add that The Story of O—that bastard descendant of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine—was originally made in France and even banned there. In the US of A—called by Gore Vidal The United States of Amnesia (but who can remember where or when) movies like Fifty Shades are usually banned by Wal-mart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Mormons, Rudy Giuliani, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and our favorite Mormon son, good old Mittens who drives with his dog defecating from a kennel on the roof of his SUV or Caddy or whichever of his many cars he and Ann and the boys choose to drive.

Golly gee, even The Marquise de Sade was jailed in France in the 18th century. So don’t hold your breath for a movie based on this so-called book.  Besides, an option does not a sale make. When journalists salivate about five million dollar deals, you can bet they are too young to know that five million only goes to the ink-stained wretch when and if  ‘principal photography’ begins.

There are thousands of ways to stiff the unprotected author (who started out blogging for free) and she’ll never think of them all—but where are the authors’ yachts?

Depiction of the Marquis de Sade, 1912.
At the Poets & Writers dinner a couple of weeks ago, all the authors were talking about how impossible it’s become to make a living as an author. And all the publishers were talking about this supposed ‘book.’ They ought to know that movies rarely materialize when they deal with the lives of girls or women. And if they do, they end up starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, or Ashton Kutcher. The ‘girl’—whether Zooey Deschanel, Meryl or Mamie Streep Gummer, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolf, Kate Hudson or her mom, Goldie Hawn—has already ‘peaked.’

Women get older and their careers commit suicide; men grow increasingly employable as their wrinkles deepen. 

And a porn movie—even what they call mommy porn? I read it. I got to the Red Room with its whips and chains and rubber suits. I didn’t believe a word even though The Story of O never fails to arouse. I don’t wanna be beat up in real life, but fiction well done can be arousing. Certainly more exciting than porn movies in hotel rooms starring women whose breasts don’t bounce. And men who look stupid despite enormous equipment.

As research for a novel, I once watched a dominatrix perform. It was fascinating to watch though not my fantasy cup of tea, so to speak. I thought Venus in Fur was great fun and beautifully written and acted.

But this latke? You can take your Master of the Universe in gray. I’m sticking with The Story of O.

Classics last. This ‘book of one hand,’ as the French say, won’t. Neither will the money.
A scene from Venus in Fur.
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