Ordinarily, I’m thrilled when I find out an actor that I really like is getting a new role. Most of the time, it doesn’t make much difference to me what they’re playing because I just like seeing what they do with a role. Granted, with some of the actors I really like (I’m looking at you, Mr. Hal Ozsan), that means that I’ve watched them play some really horrible characters. Villains may be fun to play, but sometimes, it’s hard to watch someone that you find so attractive beat the living tar out of someone or worse (with Mr. Ozsan, it’s usually worse).
I like to see them get roles that are well-written, especially if they’re starting with great source material. Whatever it is that they’re in, I usually watch it, my own feelings about particular genre and/or quality of the piece be damned. I am not often disappointed, because I realize it’s just a role and they’ll likely go on to play other characters.
Today, I just found out that Charlie Hunnam is going to play Christian Grey in the movies they’re making of “50 Shades” (http://www.deadline.com/2013/09/charlie-hunnam-gets-christian-grey-role-in-fifty-shades-of-grey/#utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter) and, to be honest, I’m really horrified.
Charlie Hunnam is one of my favorite actors because of the amazing job that he has done playing Jax Teller on “Sons of Anarchy”, which, in my opinion is a fantastically written show that keeps up the pace and the action without losing sight of character development. It manages a balance not often found in shows that feature a larger cast and focuses on a violent, criminal lifestyle.
Then, he turns around and does “Frankie Go Boom”, which was hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. Frankie is a character who could have come off as just too stupid to live, self-absorbed, and whiny. In Hunnam’s hands, though, Frankie was a sympathetic, emotionally battered, charming survivor who refused to let the idiots surrounding him dictate what happened in his life.
He’s a good actor, but, I think, he also has had good material to work with. Say what you want about “Pacific Rim”, I enjoyed it for what it was, a big, gorgeous, flashy kaiju versus mecha summer cinema event.
"50 Shades", though, isn’t good source material. It’s horribly written. Not just a little bit, either. When an elevator is described as traveling at "terminal velocity" and the author and/or whatever passed for editors working on the book did not catch that, this is an enormous problem. As in, your heroine should have been dead at the end of that ride kind of problem. Writers make mistakes, and I understand that, but that’s not even the most egregious of the errors. A boardroom table can’t be vast. Expansive, yes, but not vast. Also, describing something as glass, steel, and white sandstone every time is both lazy and tedious. That’s not even getting into the serious issues with how that whole sham of a "relationship" is set up in that book. Christian Grey is an abusive jerk and the girl in it, she’s absolutely too stupid to live. These are not people that know anything about BDSM or ethical relationships and are, therefore, not responsible enough to be having that kind of sex.
There’s actually a far better academic analysis than I could provide that was published in the “Journal of Women’s Health” and I really think it’s worth a look: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jwh.2013.4344
I’m not going to advocate burning or banning a book because I think it’s awful. Nor am I going to say that about a movie, just because I don’t like it. People have the right to their fantasies and if “50 Shades of Grey” got you or someone you know off, then so be it. If people are going to be into the movie, so be it.
What I would hope, more than anything, is that people will do some research and recognize “50 Shades” for what it is. It’s fiction, and while it can serve as some kind of inspiration for ideas and maybe get you thinking and talking about things you hadn’t considered before (which isn’t necessarily a horrible thing), it shouldn’t serve as a blueprint or make a basis for you to take action.
I do think that there are going to be people out there who get in way over their heads because of those books. I think there are people who are going to get hurt because of those books. I think the movies are going to make that effect more widespread. And, rather than look at the people and say “Why in the hell didn’t you do some research on this before you jumped in headfirst?”, instead the book and the movie are going to be blamed. That just makes it easier to blame fiction and stories of any type for a total lack of common sense.
And then, there’s Charlie Hunnam. He’s an actor I respect, who has done work that I really like. I understand this is huge for his career. Or, at least, I hope this is huge for his career. They aren’t starting with good source material and I’m not entirely certain how they’ll manage to make these movies with a broad enough appeal to attract a mainstream audience. It’s one thing to download a “naughty” book on your Kindle or your Nook or buy a copy or check it out in the library and take it to the privacy of your own home. It’s quite another thing to go into a movie theater with a whole bunch of strangers and watch the kink played out on a screen 20-30 feet tall. I imagine that we’ll probably be spared a 3-D version of this particular movie, but, considering Hollywood seems bound and determined to make the film, I suppose I can’t actually rule that out just yet. Who knows, the movie might do exceptionally well as a VOD offering and in DVD sales.
Still, it’s just so badly written. It’s going to take an army of screen writers and I am not certain that there is enough coffee or whiskey in the whole world to get them through the process. I just don’t feel like there’s actually going to be enough there for Mr. Hunnam to work with and build a character on.
I hope that I’m wrong. I really do, because I want to see Charlie Hunnam in more roles. I’m just pretty sure that I don’t want to see him take on this one.