How “Secretary” Set the Bar for #Fifty Shades of Grey

How Lee (#Maggie Gyllenhaal) found confidence in kink?

Lee Holloway and E. Edward Grey did it first. And did it better.

Many people may think Ana Steele and Christian Grey of the “Fifty Shades” trilogy set the bar for a modern D/s (dominant/submissive) relationship. But that bar was cleared back in 2002 with “Secretary.”

If you haven’t seen the movie (and you really should), here’s what happens: Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) gets a job at a law firm run by lawyer E. Edward Grey (James Spader). Grey orders Holloway around (in both personal and professional ways), and each person soon realize that the other is into it. This back-and-forth battle of wills then evolves into a mutual dominant/submissive relationship.

When “Secretary” arrived on the scene 15(!!) years ago, sexual mores were a lot different, especially regarding D/s and kink. BDSM was lot more closed off, and wasn’t as mainstream as it is now. (Hell, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian have both rocked high-end latex dresses, once seen as solely part of kink costume, at mainstream high-profile events.) Consequently, people may have held misconceptions about what a D/s relationship was.

“Secretary” showed a woman who was willing to explore her kink, learn about it, and grow with it. The film doesn’t demonize or judge the kink (though it places other supporting characters in those roles). It simply sits back and lets Lee evolve into her true self. As she evolves, Lee gains confidence in her newfound submissiveness. She displays a more polished appearance that hints at her sexuality (including employing the classic tight black pencil skirt) and becoming more vocally assertive. She also becomes more active in pursuing her sexuality, educating herself on submissiveness and answering kinky personal ads.

Facebook Can Tell When You’re In a Relationship

One thing Facebook can tell… is when a user starts a relationship.

Facebook Relationship Status interface (Daily Mail UK)

Facebook Relationship Status interface (Daily Mail UK)

It’s no secret that Facebook knows everything about its users at this point. The social network knows your favorite movies and TV shows, where you’ve worked, and what you read. Of course, this is all information users manually input. But Facebook can also glean information from a user’s patterns of how they use the site. One thing Facebook can tell from this is when a user starts a relationship.

In 2014, Facebook’s data scientists noticed something interesting: When a couple enters the courtship period, timeline posts increase (presumably both for interaction purposes, and so the other party can see how awesome/funny/interesting, etc. the first person is).

For the visual learners, here’s a chart to illustrate this:

Facebook activity as it relates to relationship status (The Atlantic/Facebook)

Facebook activity as it relates to relationship status (The Atlantic/Facebook)

Once two people are firmly “in a relationship” (as defined by posting an anniversary date), the number of posts decrease, but the tone of said posts becomes happier overall. This probably points to the fact that the couple are spending more time together in person and have no need to post on each other’s walls.

Here’s what that looks like:

Facebook activity in terms of relationship status and positive emotions (The Atlantic/Facebook)

Facebook activity in terms of relationship status and positive emotions (The Atlantic/Facebook)

According to Facebook Data Scientist Carlos Diuk, here’s how the data science behind the study breaks down:

During the 100 days before the relationship starts, we observe a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple. When the relationship starts (“day 0”), posts begin to decrease. We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world.

Facebook’s parameters for this study were users who had “Single” as their relationship status 100 days before changing it to “In a Relationship,” and who were in a relationship 85 days after their posted anniversary date. Anniversary dates used were between April 11, 2010 and October 21, 2013.

In other words, Facebook can tell when you’re…Facebook official.

Julia Leigh’s “Sleeping Beauty” Film Subverts Traditional Sexual Politics and Why We Should Care

Are you sleeping through power and consent dynamics?

Leigh has interesting things to say about who wields the male gaze, power and consent.

In the opening scene of Julia Leigh’s 2011 erotic drama “Sleeping Beauty,” we see a researcher wearing a white lab coat guiding a long tube down college student Lucy’s (Emily Browning) throat. Lucy sits perfectly still, with only intermittent gagging as slight signs of resistance.

This scene isn’t sexy (though of course some might disagree), but it tells the audience some key concepts. First, the facts about Lucy’s personality: Loner. Passive. Emotionless. We see how these traits play out in her future. Then there’s the power and sexual dynamics at play: Lucy, the woman, receives from the man, who gives. Throughout the film, these dynamics twist and turn, fighting for supremacy.

Lucy works odd jobs and, like many a broke college student, is always on the lookout for extra cash. She answers a want-ad, and meets with Clara (Rachael Blake), the madam of the operation. Lucy’s job will be to provide silver service (essentially, high-end waitressing) for rich clients, working in a team with other girls. And she does this a few times. After she’s proven herself, Lucy is offered a more lucrative gig: Sleep in bed for one night while a male client can do anything he likes with her, except no penetration and later, leaving no marks on her body.

This film displays its sensuality openly. Leigh has interesting things to say about who wields the male gaze, traditional sexual politics, and consent.

When Lucy arrives for an initial interview with Clara, Clara asks after her health and then asks Lucy to strip down to her bra and underwear. Clara’s male assistant then lightly runs his hands over Lucy’s body, with Clara watching from the side (after lightly cupping Lucy’s breast). Lucy remains motion- and emotionless during this inspection, passive to the end.

Any woman has probably felt the way Lucy felt in this moment: frozen to the spot while being visually dissected. But the other male gaze in the room comes from a woman: Madam Clara eyes Lucy keeping in mind what her clients will like. It adds an unexpected energy and another dimension to the scene.

The silver service scenes are overtly erotic, with Lucy clad in white lingerie and the other girls in black strappy one-pieces with their breasts exposed. This world’s sexual politics are called out from the beginning, with Lucy and the other girls serving a dinner to a group of older men. But Leigh subtly subverts this old boys’ club feeling by giving an older woman a seat at that dining room table. It lends a frisson of tension that this exclusive club admits women, and leads the audience to wonder what might have been, or what could be.

Once Lucy consents to the sleeping gigs, another sexual dynamic plays out. Lucy, while sleeping, is completely passive (which was her choice, as she took the job). This point is hammered home by the men who pass through the bedroom and are curious to see just how “asleep” this beautiful girl is. They push the boundaries: yelling at her, roughly moving her body around, one even burning her with the lit end of his cigarette. It can be hard to watch. Violence can be the flip side of sexual expression, and the two are closely linked in this film.

Lucy’s final action of the film is screaming hysterically, due to an unexpected event. It’s a significant moment: It’s the first time we see Lucy experience such intense emotion, that she makes the choice to feel something. It also happens right when she wakes up. It’s an apt metaphor for the film itself: After being thrust into a world where nontraditional sexual and power dynamics are the norm, you’re thrown back into reality. The dream is gone, and it’s time to wake up.

Finally Classic Films Are Getting a Female Reboot

Within the last few years, many films have been updates to classic films. While it’s no secret that Hollywood likes to recycle its own ideas, there’s now a push to make the films more inclusive.

The 2016 release of “Ghostbusters” brought one change to the classic film: the ghostbusters were all played by women (the very funny Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones). While some butthurt fanboys cried that the reboot killed their childhood (actually, they usually used a much more brutal, assault-y verb for it), the movie brought in $46M+ on its opening weekend, and grossed $229M+ over its theatrical run.

“Ocean’s 8,” which will be released in (wait for it…) 2018, will also feature all female leads in its remake-of-a-remake. (Seriously, the first version involved Frank Sinatra and his boys’ club Rat Pack and was released in 1960.) But “Ocean’s 8” does one better than “Ghostbusters” in that it’s more diverse. In addition to Anne Hathaway and Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling and rapper Awkwakfina will also star in the ensemble. And that first cast photo looks lit.

This weekend, Disney is releasing a live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast.” This movie has a lot going for it: For starters, Emma Watson as the titular character gives it some feminist cred. Watson had a lot of input on the character, and Belle doesn’t wear a corset and is an inventor. (Remember, in the original 1991 film, Belle’s father was the inventor with the wacky contraptions.)

Updating the characters to reflect modern times also extends to the supporting cast. Le Fou, muscle man Gaston’s main lackey, is now going to be gay. And in love with Gaston. Which puts a lot of things into perspective, actually. Though Le Fou will be the first openly gay character, he’s far from the only gay character that Disney has created.

The movie will also feature the first two interracial kisses in a Disney movie: one between wardrobe Madame de Garderobe (Audra McDonald) and harpsichord Cadenza (Stanley Tucci), and the other between candlestick Lumiere (Ewan MacGregor) and feather duster Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). And Disney is here for it.

I can’t wait to see how Disney movies continue to grow and evolve in terms of representation in the future.