Earlier this year, the upcoming erotic-drama 50 Shades of Grey was released in cinemas world-wide. Based on E. L. James’s best-seller, the movie adaptation has rippled waves of discussion throughout multiple mediated public spheres. For Fifty Shades had effectively introduced a taboo genre, erotica literature, into the turbulent debates that define mediated public spheres.
Huffington Post Journalist, Jessica Goodman’s article “Why Doesn’t ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Show Ana Having An Orgasm?” described the 50 Shades phenomenon as having “made erotic literature acceptable to read on the subway or in a book club.” Moreover, it has generated countless discussions over internet forums and mediated television articles. This has brought public attention to contentious issues around BDSM representations, a topic that was once too taboo to even enter the public sphere.
In Goodman’s article, there is a focus on the lack of the female orgasm in the movie, and how it has nevertheless been given a high rating for “strong sexual content.” She went on to argue that this caused a discrepancy between the book, which delves into the Ana’s sexual gratification to target a female audience. This triggered an extensive list of mediated online comments, one of which by Annie Rubanis noted that the movie was about a relationship of abuse and “how her orgasm is hardly on his list of goals”. This was responded to by Christian Aragon whom disagrees in believing that 50 Shades’ filmatic orgasm representation was on point. They wrote: “withholding that pinnacle of pleasure is a common trait with subs and doms. It’s part of the play.” Meanwhile other commenters merely dropped lines that spoke for themselves, Bill Bill simply stating “Fifty shades of soft porn.” These are only a few of the countless responses to one online article on the film, demonstrating how Fifty Shades sparked an eruption of debate in the public sphere of online commenting.
Another example of a public sphere inundated with public opinion on the film is that of the newsroom. A good example can be seen in the story covered by WAPT News Jackson, which honed in on a localised pubic sphere’s response to the film, the local sphere being none other than Mississippi. The article concerned itself with how the state was defying its polls of “being the most conservative state in the country” in purchasing four times as many presales than expected for fifty shades. Vox pops of Mississippians entering the cinema captured their responses to the film, some of which being “just because you watch a certain movie doesn’t mean that you live your life that way” to that of “Southern bellies like to have fun too”. Opinions of more notable names were also mediated by the article, such as Wesley biblical Seminary Professor Matt Friedeman. “Well, I can’t be a fan of abusing women. I can’t be a fan of hitting women,” he said. “I can’t be a fan of putting handcuffs on women sexually. It’s just not a typical Mississippian act.” An even stronger reaction were provoked by Pastor Dwayne Pickett of New Jerusalem Church. “The things that entertain us are typically things that are the racy things that are on the edge or just downright sin,” Pickett said. This array of reactions and opinions provoked by 50 Shades of Grey goes to show the diverse and controversial impact that it had on the public sphere.