I was walking towards the door at my local movie theater, feeling somewhat satisfied by the B-horror flick that I have just finished screening when I saw it: a life size cardboard advertisement for Fifty Shades of Grey. The advertisement, which stands taller than me, is in the shape of a man in a grey suit watching me with stern, creepy eyes. Positioned at the bottom of the man’s torso, just above the groin, are the words: “Mr. Grey Will See You Now.” Beside the poster, a group of three girls giggle excitedly in anticipation of the film’s release. I pass them on my way out of the theater, hearing one girl proudly shriek “finally a film about female desire, Hollywood is finally making films for us, ladies we have arrived.”
While I’m not certain that Fifty Shades of Grey is what feminist film critics had in mind when they called for more progressive portrayals of women than the fetishized images provided by classical Hollywood, the girl’s assertion that dominant cinema is changing toward female-centric narratives seems fairly accurate.
The 2008 Twilight phenomenon proved that films aimed at a female audience are highly lucrative, rivaling the financial success of male fantasy films such as James Bond and Transformers with estimated revenue generated by commercial tie-ins alone ranging in the billions. Since Twilight, studios went to work on imitating franchise’s success, pumping out film adaptations of popular teen romance and fantasy novels at an alarming rate. Fifty Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games, Vampire Academy, The Divergent Series, and The Mortal Instruments all have followed in the wake of the Twilight craze, and all but two have become highly lucrative franchises. These films all feature a central female protagonist and focus on female desire, i.e. the objectification of the male lead .
With female-oriented entertainment one the rise, the question becomes: is Hollywood now shedding a light on Freud’s ‘dark continent.’ Feminist film critics assert that Hollywood mass produces male fantasies designed for a male audience, leaving the female spectator forced to take part in the fetishization and punishment of her cinematic double. However, with the popularity of active film heroines such as Katniss Everdeen and Clary Fray, the tides seem to be changing. Is there finally room at the theater for the female spectator?
*Images in this post were screen-caped from the Official Trailer*