Fact: films and TV influence our lifestyle choices. Sometimes it's fashion (Flashdance, Miami Vice, The Matrix), other times it's hairstyles (Friends, Ghost, Pulp Fiction) and often it's quirky extracurricular activities like pole dancing (Striptease), Roller Derby (Whip It) or archery (The Hunger Games). But for some people the power of film is so great it can lure them into exploring a whole new subculture. I mean, everyone knows if you let your daughter watch Frozen, it'll make her a lesbian.
Having pondered this, I'm a bit concerned. Two weeks ago a little film called Fifty Shades of Grey was released, and I'm convinced nothing good can come of the influence it is having on the general public's interest with BDSM. So it's to you, general public, that I voice this plea; if you're going to let Hollywood tell you how to live, and if BDSM is something you've always thought about, please, I beg you, don't let Fifty Shades of Grey be your inspiration. Get yourself along to writer/director Peter Strickland's sublime The Duke of Burgundy instead.
For those of us too busy, lazy or intelligent to read the Fifty Shades Trilogy, the movie version presents us with fewer excuses to avoid it. For the first two in that list, there's likely to be a high percentage to whom losing a tenner and two hours of their life is not as much of a deterrent as trawling through 1500 pages of atrociously written sludge. And for those falling into the last category, the fact that director Sam Taylor Johnson's name is now constantly prefixed with the words 'the artist' means you've got one less reason to snub the film.
After just a week on release, Fifty Shades of Grey became the highest R-rated earner in UK film history. Unsurprisingly, it's also made almost $150 million in America, so far. So it stands to reason BDSM communities will once more see a huge influx of curious newbies. But if you're going to let film or TV influence your lifestyle to this extent, you need to make sure it's the right type of influence. For example, if somebody said to me after seeing Nightcrawler that they were thinking of getting into TV News, I'd say "What are you, a sociopath?" And then I'd tell them to go watch Broadcast News. Yeah OK, it's outdated, but at least nobody's going to die.
But let's get serious. The bigger issue here is this; if mass popularism of BDSM is coming, some of our friends and acquaintances are going to get into it, or come out that they're already into it. Then, being supportive friends, it's going to impact our life too. With Fifty Shades of Grey as a point of reference, we'll get theme park BDSM.
Soon you'll ask us to go to new BDSM bars with you for moral support, where shiny rooms that must be a bastard to dust will be kitted out with red leather, whips and wrist restraints. There we'll be forced to sip Deviant Daiquiris and Long Island Gag Teas and try not to spill them on our PVC onesies whilst we sway precariously on a bondage swing. You on the other hand will become entranced by every idiot in a designer suit who tells you they're the real Christian Grey. Eventually you'll let him take you to his red room of pain, where in all likelihood he'll peel off your skin to make a nice set of quivers ( perhaps to sell to all the new archery enthusiasts out there). Or, if he's not actually a sadist, he'll cover you in welts and burns, and not in the good way, because he doesn't know what the hell he's doing with all that gear he just bought. Worse, you'll expect us to rub ointment on all the chaffed parts you can't reach because nobody told you about talcum powder.
But, we don't need a DeLorean or a cyborg assassin to change this horrible vision of the future. The cinema scheduling gods have seen fit to provide us with an alternative. Listen to them, general public. Skip Fifty Shades of Caca and watch recently released The Duke of Burgundy instead. Then, you might be inspired to explore the true depths of domination and submission, to seek out masters of the art of BDSM and, if it turns out to be for you, you'll experience eroticism, pleasure and pain in ways E.L James/Christian Grey would never understand.
With The Duke of Burgundy as your guide, the only reason we'll be rubbing ointment on your sore bits is because you've spent the weekend being a human toilet or locked in a wooden box. And in this future, we're much more likely to be on hand holding duty in some idyllic mansion in a far off land of luscious ladies, where there's butterflies, Euro Indi Pop, and where even washing underwear is a sensual affair.
I rest my case.