Why WHIPLASH was a Better BDSM Flick than FIFTY SHADES

Whiplash
There’s been a lot of online discussion lately–and I use the term “discussion” very loosely here–about the recent FSOG release–*snigger*–and whether or not it’s a steamy chick flick with a dark side, or a PSA for the understated pleasures of domestic abuse.

Camps on all sides are adamant, and verbose, in their arguments supporting the “rightness”/”wrongness” of this movie.

FROM THIS:

50sog-1

TO THIS:

50sog-2

(“All women?” Really, VH1?)

But rather than joining my voice to those of the already feverous masses, and adding to the vitriol in one form or another, I’d like to offer an opinion that’s a little more abstract. Let’s not waste any more time judging or trying to assign moral values to Hollywood–because, as we all learned with Showgirls, a movie doesn’t actually have to TAKE a moral stance in order to create moral controversy.

ShowGirls

(Side note: Ever been f***ed so hard you went full lake trout? Apparently, this girl has!^^^)

YIKES. Yeah…not going there. Not enough time.

So instead of arguing morality, let’s argue semantics. Good, bad. Right, wrong. For everyone, not for everyone…all these are relative terms. But in a literary sense, certain ideals are so classic that they have become practically absolute. Such as:

Protagonist: That’s the person you root for, sometimes in spite of yourself. In FSOG, it’s supposed to be Ana Steele. (Though, from what I hear, a lot of people aren’t 100% on that.) In WHIPLASH, it’s a kid named Andrew Neiman.

Antagonist: That’s the person who is making life harder for the person you’re rooting for, whether you like them or not. In FSOG, this may or may not be Christian Grey. (Again, audiences have been known to disagree pretty wildly on this point.) In WHIPLASH, Terence Fletcher is arguably one of THE most antagonistic antagonists since Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.

Plot: See, there’s this thing that your protagonist wants, more than anything in the world. And it’s kind of hard to get. Like, there are steps to the process. In FSOG, the plot centers around…well, from what I hear, it’s pretty much sex. And money. And cars. But really just sex. In WHIPLASH, it’s Andrew’s quest to be the next Greatest Drummer the World Has Ever Seen. (Or heard.)

Conflict: Then, of course, there’s the other thing standing in the way of the protagonist just living happily ever after. For Ana, it’s…um, clothes? Whereas, for Andrew, it’s the fact that HUMAN ARMS WERE JUST NOT MEANT TO MOVE SO DAMN FAST. And/or his atomically dick-faced douche nozzle of a conductor, aka Fletcher.

Anti-hero: Not to mention this sneaky little guy, who spends most of the story making a big, fat mess of things, only to sneak in and steal your heart at the very end when you’ve already given up on him. (Snape, I’m looking at you, you greasy lovable Aslan-voiced bastard.) Again, on this score, arguments could be made for Christian Grey as an anti-hero. Or the tie/blindfold, who I’ve heard could be considered a runner for best supporting sex prop. In WHIPLASH, I was personally shocked to find that Fletcher kind of felt anti-hero-y to me, but only at the VERY end. (No spoilers, I promise.)

Love/like interest aka “Formative Relationship”: The character who has a distracting affinity for the protagonist, and significantly alters his/her personal journey. Can want to bang the protagonist, but also might want to kill him/her and wear their skin like a suit. (Love is tricky that way.) In FSOG, I should hope this connection would be obvious. In WHIPLASH, there is a token first love kind of setup, but then…that little interlude is not NEARLY as compelling as the main tete-a-tete (or, in drummer terms, rat-a-tat–*sniggers self-appreciatively*)

Climax *snigger, snigger*: The point where everything that’s happened suddenly FEELS like a grand, master plan, and suddenly you are really super nervous and/or excited, and you really can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next. This is also usually the part where the protagonist and the antagonist have their final and most glorious face-off. In FSOG, I’m guessing that’s pretty literal. In WHIPLASH, it’s the last scene of the movie. (Whoops, should I have said spoiler there?)

spoiler

Hot damn, a pun!

Now that I’ve given you all a quick crash course in the rules of storytelling, let me let Wikipedia (O Grand Internet Oracle of our Generation) to give you a short lesson on the fundamentals of BDSM:

BDSM

In case you didn’t feel like reading that whole thing, here are some of the basic elements:

Dominant, or “Dom/Domme”: The person who considers him/herself the “master” in the relationship. The one who holds the power to dictate his/her partner’s behavior, based on a mutual agreement to make and/or follow a personalized set of rules. In FSOG, that’s the Grey dude. In WHIPLASH, it’s Fletcher.

Submissive, or “Sub”: The person who considers him/herself subordinate and/or subject to the Dominant personality, whether all the time or just in a certain setting. With FSOG, Anna is a sexual submissive. In WHIPLASH, Andrew is a musical one.

Roleplay: As I previously mentioned, this is where the BDSM is in full-force, and roles are very clearly defined. Doms dominate, subs submit. It’s pretty cut and dried, as long as you stick to those academically generalized, gray areas. (Punpunpunpun! Yaaaay!) In the bedroom, Christian is King. In the studio or on the stage, Fletcher is the first and last word. (Or, is he?)

Power play: In BDSM, this is what it’s called when a sub dares to step outside his/her submissive role, either side-stepping his/her submissive duties or attempting to do something that falls into the category of dominant behavior. This is not always frowned upon, as you’ll see is the case in both examples I have mentioned. However, as anyone with an eye for truly masterful–I said MASTERFUL, don’t be gross–storytelling will tell you, the best power plays are those that end with both parties feeling some modicum of satisfaction. *Giggity* If you don’t believe me, go ahead and watch (or read) the “climax” of FSOG. (I haven’t read it, so don’t spoil it for me if you do.)

However, whether or not you’re into “that sort of thing”–no judgment, either way–you should DEFINITELY watch THIS clip.

If you ask me, from a true BDSM/literary standpoint, in those FOUR minutes of interaction alone, Whiplash quite literally whipped FSOG’s ass.

*Bah-duh-bah!*

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