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Does Sex Sell?


What can the box-office success of Fifty Shades of Grey tell us about Hollywood’s sex obsession? Natalie Bartrum thinks she has the answer. 

Trashy, poorly written, porn-like – just some of the labels attached to E.L James’ bestselling novel that came out with a bang in 2011 (I make no apologies for the shameless innuendos that will be gracing this article).

The books popularity has recently been eclipsed by the film, appropriately released on Valentine’s Day – who wouldn’t want to salivate over Jamie Dornan’s broodingly menacing good looks (or pretend not to), with your significant other slouching next to you?

Of course this poses the age-old question: does sex sell?

Ostensibly it does, as proven in the past by the popularity of sex-dominated Hollywood productions and programmes. American Pie is an ultimate classic, Wolf of Wall Street has been critically acclaimed (rightly so) and let us not forget those lusty, blood-thirsty vampires in True Blood.

We have to admit that cinema is filled with lusty, sexy men and women which (for some) is what draws the eye in and keeps one captivated. Who isn’t going to want to see the bare, rippling muscles of the likes of Brad Pitt and Jamie Dornan? Similarly, who doesn’t want to admire the curvaceous frame of Dakota Johnson and Penelope Cruz? We live in a vain, judging society that expects aesthetically pleasing things. As bad as it sounds, employing attractive actors is a means of gaining easy audience attention and in turn money in the box office.

Image Credits: Blogspot
Image Credits: Blogspot

However, it can’t just be the controversial sex-scenes filled with S&M, like the mysteriously terrifying yet alluring “red room”, that accounts the intrigue surrounding 50 Shades of Grey, whose takings have impressively surpassed that of Avatar. In my mind it comes down to the heart of the script – the compelling characters also aided by a seductive and liquid-gold accompanying soundtrack such as Ellie Goulding’s “Love me like you do” and The Weeknd’s “Earned it”.

The intense, seductive, closed-off and powerful Christian Grey falls head over heels for the naïve, intelligent and heart-on her sleeve Anastasia Steele. However it’s not a conventional or straight-forward love story with rose petals, notes and midnight snuggles; this story features whips, handcuffs and the darker side of the self.

For that very reason the film isn’t just targeted for the middle aged women getting a bit heady for Mr Grey (bad mental images, bad mental images). This being said the American women caught masturbating in the cinema is not helping that argument. Rather, for me, the film appeals to 50 shades of people, from teenage boys to aspiring successful businessmen and the single ladies who are still waiting for their Christian to appear in the hardware store.

That is not to say that my mother has not read the books and will no doubt be one of the thousands, no millions, of women watching Dornan and Dakota get their kit off on-screen, what I can assure you is that we will not be comparing notes.

Natalie Bartrum 

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