As the dust settles on a new dawn, the extent of last night’s carnage becomes palpable.
Doors have been rammed. On the streets are trails of stuffing from now vacated seats.
Abandoned tubs of popcorn. Pools of melted ice cream.
In some cities there are pile-ups of stray bodies; a stark reminder of those who collapsed in the sheer hysteria.
These all serve as black and white examples of what can happen when the world is not ready for Grey. Let alone 50 shades of it.
Of course, I exaggerate. There aren’t any stray bodies (at least none that I have seen). And as for ice cream left untouched, things did not get quite that out of hand. However, the hype that led to the hotly anticipated release date for E L James’s roman erotique, ’50 Shades of Grey’ – and the subsequent cinematic mayhem it has left in its wake – has taken me somewhat aback.
From stories of intoxicated middle-aged women being escorted from cinemas due to drunk over excitement and rowdiness, to fights (suppressed sexual tension?) and of course those odious reports of plastic coverings on seats in preparation for cinema screenings and, apparently, uncontrollable bodily fluids – it all seems, to use a favourite phrase of my lovely mother, just a little bit much. And I will tell you why.
In an age of readily available sexual content, I cannot imagine that the hysteria surrounding the film stems from the nature of the content itself, but rather from the idea that such content is available to watch in public, in a room full of strangers. Yet now it is available in cinemas, it seems an awkward social disparity has been unearthed. It is not often that cinema-goers get pissed beyond the point of social acceptability (unless you’re 14 and get kicked out of Love Actually for vodka smuggling, but that’s another story), or start fights for no good reason.
People here are dealing with something that they are, well, not entirely sure how to deal with. Hence the need for alcohol armour and deep breaths. It seems that, despite living in an outwardly progressive society, where women are continuing to explore the realms of an ever emerging sexual empowerment, it is still considered somehow shameful or embarrassing to admit publicly – through the simple purchase of a cinema ticket – that you enjoy sex.
As a result, it seems that instead of launching us skyward, into new dimensions of social acceptance in terms of sexuality and female liberation, the release of 50 Shades of Grey has instead highlighted British reserve at its very worst. The idea that women flock in their masses to view a sexually explicit film because they want to – good. Progress. The notion that they have to be drunk to do it, however, only reinforces society’s backward, yet seemingly unshakeable, idea that – 54 years after the release of the contraceptive pill – enjoying sex is still something women feel they ought to be ashamed of.