The premiere of “Fifty Shades of Grey” last month was a girls’ night out for women, including university students, across Lafayette and the rest of the country.
Groups of women migrated into The Grand 16 on Johnston Street like packs of hyenas. They started arriving as early as 6:30 p.m. for the sold-out 8 p.m. premiere of the controversial film. Tickets for the premiere were gone as early as two days before the showing.
Nationally, the audience was 82 percent female and 59 percent of them were younger than 30 years old, according to the online magazine, Deadline Hollywood. The crowd at The Grand 16 appeared to follow that trend.
While many of the young women at the theater admitted to being University of Louisiana at Lafayette students, the majority of them refused to be interviewed.
“I bought my tickets over a week ago,” said UL Lafayette nursing sophomore Kendall Barrett. Barrett was there to see the movie with a friend, who denied an interview.
Barrett said she was eager to see the movie adaptation of the book that she has been a fan of for the past five years.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “I literally have no idea what to expect.”
After the movie, Barrett did not return for a follow-up interview as she promised, but another Ragin’ Cajun was willing to talk about his experience in the movie.
“The movie was great,” said Jebby Soignier, a UL Lafayette alumnus. “I feel like it really stayed close to the books as far as the love scenes and his passion for Anastasia and his understanding of what he’s asking Anastasia to do. The books themselves were a true love story, and I feel that the movie plays off of that love story and not as much as the hype that the media is making it out to be.
“There was a lot of chemistry between them,” he continued. “You can see the internal struggle that Anastasia is feeling, but you also see the inner struggle that Christian is feeling. It’s a two-way street.”
However, Soignier said he isn’t interested in trying any of the things portrayed in the movie and books.
“Probably not. I’m too vanilla, as the book would say.”
Here’s what some of the movie-goers said before and after the film.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” made $85.1 million in its opening weekend, shattering box office records. The movie was not only the top-grossing movie that weekend against other movies, including “Kingsmen: The Secret Service” and “SpongeBob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water,” but it has also become the highest-grossing theater premiere of all time for the month of February. It was the nation’s most popular movie for two weeks and has grossed more than $157 million domestically and about $528 million worldwide.
“It was not something that you had to go into an X-rated bookshop [to get],” Mitchell Kaplan, one of the first booksellers to sell “Fifty Shades of Grey” as a book in the US, told “The Atlantic” magazine in an effort to explain the novel’s appeal. “It had all the elements of successful commercial fiction — it was also just very explicit.”
The movie, and the book under the same title, follows the story of Anastasia Steele, a 22-year-old virgin who is graduating college as a English literature major and is falling deeper and deeper in love with multibillionaire Christian Grey, who has a habit of tying his lovers to the ceiling in his “red room of pain,” has never had a “vanilla” relationship in his life and has deep-seeded mommy issues. “Vanilla” is the term author E.L. James uses to describe traditional sex. The book has sold over 100 million copies worldwide.
The controversial love story centers on an alternative sexual lifestyle that some claim glorifies abuse of women. A popular movement against the film is “#50DollarsNot50Shades,” which was sponsored by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, London Abused Women’s Center and Stop Porn Culture. The groups urged people to donate $50 towards a domestic violence shelter instead of buying a ticket to the movie.
There is an interest in the lifestyle portrayed in the movie in Lafayette.
According to Fetlife.com, the Internet’s largest BDSM social media site, there are more than 2,000 “kinksters” living in Lafayette. Members of the group meet locally once or twice a month to socialize.
One member of the site, a sophomore computer science major at UL Lafayette, who originally agreed to an interview, backed out the day before our meeting and blocked us from continuing our communication. According to his profile, he is a submissive man, who wishes to be dominated by a woman.
The group has two meetings, or “munches” as they call them, scheduled for March. One is at the Ground Pat’i at 2512 Kaliste Saloom Rd., and another is near campus at the Caffe Cottage at 1013 E. St. Mary Blvd.
The success of the movie and books also has led to increased sales at adult products stores across the nation.
“Since the books were published, it gave women a reason to come into the stores,” said Jolene Menard, co-owner of the upscale adult boutique Crave in Lafayette. “It gave them ideas like, well, ‘I had no idea what that was. Let’s go check that out,’ and so a lot of people were coming in together, asking more questions, and a lot of it had to do with the book.”
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