You may have noticed that the cinematic adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey -- a Fear Street novel about knots -- made money hand over butt plug this past weekend. And recently, I've been watching the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer over and over in my darkened apartment like it's the Zapruder film. Not because I'm excited to see the film -- I'm not excited to see the film -- but rather that the film's hype, marketing, and message has beckoned me back to the forgotten time of 1997.
A pre-Internet-porn time, when this excitement would have made sense.
I had just turned 13 when the Vans Warped Tour rolled into my hometown featuring a then-unknown Blink-182 and Limp Bizkit. They played "Dammit," folks slam-danced, and a young me desperately clung to the outskirts of a cultural identity like it was a tiger-occupied lifeboat. The next year, I was there all over again, falling in love with The Vandals as they sang a song that would later be inexplicably quoted by Vin Diesel. Being a punk in middle school wasn't fun during those few years, but it got even worse when my bullies started dressing like me after Enema of the State became the best-selling punk rock album ever. Suddenly, 1999 became a wave of copycats and social alphas blasting nasally shit-anthems like "My Own Worst Enemy" while bitter pubescents like myself indignantly clung to even more nasally Dead Kennedys albums.
And now it's happening again -- all the way down to once-ostracizing groups suddenly embracing the ostracized.
Don't get me wrong, South; I'm sure you have some gnarly-bomb sex down there -- but you have to find it funny that a state with laws against premarital sex happens to be the hot spot for dangerous fuck-play picture shows. If you take the most religious states in the U.S. and put them next to the ones preordering the most Fifty Shades tickets on Fandango, it's the same fucking list. Like those kids in high school, the people who were stereotypically the least condoning of an alternative lifestyle are the same ones ironically celebrating its commercialization.
The irony reminds me of this shirt:
"Good quality anarchy!!!!!! Great shirt." -actual customer review
This symbol of anarcho-punk idealism created in the '60s by French and Italian militia groups is now available for $14.95 on Amazon.com. Because, let's face it, capitalism is a pretty fun ride. But despite almost every old-school punk band being a vigorous user of the free market, most teenage crusties worth their weight in clothespins wouldn't be caught dead in the publicly traded Hot Topic, let alone the thousands of giant chain stores that sold these circle-A tees in the '90s right next to the pre-torn Misfits shirts.
For Fifty Shades, that ironic commercialism comes in the form of vibrating dick-rings and blindfolds being sold within spitting distance of children's toothbrushes at your local Target, which is actually pushing Fifty Shades-brand sex tools as if they were camping equipment.
Since Fifty Shades became a hit, sadomasochism has been turned into a $150 "fan experience" hotel package that includes a gift box of lube and frilly leather whips, is being called "the new yoga" in health articles, and was made into a Vermont teddy bear complete with an adorable set of handcuffs.
Vermont Teddy Bear
"For $89.99, I'll do anything. Anything."
Slapping on dollar-store toy cuffs and weak-arming a few softball lashes into the mother of your children is this year's Valentine's Day special. And now, thanks to the film being on IMAX, never has this been a better time for anyone who's wanted to see Buick-sized genitalia.
But commercialized nudity is nothing new.
"But that wart is. Get that shit checked, dude."
Remember that? Suddenly, with Blink-182's "What's My Age Again?" punk rock was whittled down to the fake shock value of not actually seeing a naked person -- which came years after a pug-faced man named GG Allin performed countless sets naked and covered in a puree of bodily fluid. (For those of you who aren't familiar but who feel like being a complete asshole to your own eyes, go ahead and do a Google Image search of that name.) Unsurprisingly, Allin was a bit of a lunatic who eventually snuffed himself out with heroin. Blink took that mind-crazed symbol of self-destruction and made it clean and safe for children of all ages -- totally subverting the darker side of life that Allin represented.
Divergently, BDSM isn't mind-crazed at all when done by consenting adults who aren't stupid about it. However, Fifty Shades doesn't depict that, instead treating the fetish as a calculated sex fiend pulling a helpless young woman into a world of danger toys and nerve damage. All while making the act seem approachable and appealing at the same time. In real life, bondage isn't something you suddenly dabble in over President's Day weekend, which is probably why the book has caused a noticeable rise in S&M-related injuries among suburban couples attempting to get their rocks off.
I'm going to call this the "Woodstock 99" effect, named after the ill-fated music event that turned into a riot when that idiot-faced hate condom Fred Durst riled the crowd into a frenzy. It was there that the '90s rise of mosh pits buckled into a heaping wreckage of rape reports and medical stretchers. All from a group of young idiots who simply didn't know how to mosh. And, yes, there is a right way to do that; the punk rock community has managed to keep mosh pits civil and fun since the '70s. But, like bondage, it's not something you throw just anyone into and dial up to 11 -- nor is it done out of hate or against someone's will.
And so, just like Limp Bizkit, Fifty Shades is ultimately going to be a really embarrassing stain on our pop culture archive as well as our rugs and upholstery. Give it a few years.
Tell Dave how wrong he is about Blink-182 on his Twitter.
While we're on the topic, also check out 4 Sexual Aides That Were Clearly Designed by Maniacs and 10 Real Book Covers From Dinosaur-on-Human Sex Novels.