by Kleitia Vaso

The merciless analysis of 50 Shades of Grey and its audience – including myself – might give the impression that I hated the entire experience of watching it. In fact, it is quite the contrary; the movie proved especially useful in regards to my observation and attentive consideration of the surrounding world, which I too often try to ignore. On many occasions I view the world outside from a distance which can be just as negative as the positive evaluation of something like the 50 Shades Grey book/movie. Through different routes, both reactions create an isolated, seemingly but incorrectly secure, unreal world. But, this may turn into another topic.

Ultimately, everything that makes one think is positive, in my opinion. For instance, in this particular case, as I was watching the less than thrilling scenes, the superficial representation of supposed pain reminded me of the intense suffering of an authentic literary character: the little mermaid.

I haven’t read this fairy tale since I was a child but I still remember being utterly confused by the mermaid’s dilemma, her mixed feelings of willingness and fear about turning into a human to win the prince’s love. “Why is this transformation so excruciating?” I wondered. “How can it be undesirable to become a human being?” Understandably, at that time I couldn’t have known that adaptation to the world’s desires and demands – simply adaptation, really – is quite a painful process. In order to become successful adults, we must gradually eliminate not only our tail, wings and all but also unseen parts which are no longer useful. So as to avoid the unbearable pain, we must slowly self-inflict it until it hurts us no more and we feel nothing.

Since then, I have made great leaps in understanding the vulnerable mermaid and the splitting of her tail into two ordinary legs which cause her stabbing pain with each unnatural step. At times, I have felt this same piercing pain caused, fittingly, by shoes, precisely on occasions during which I had to pretend to be a fully-grown woman.

Once upon a time, during a beautiful day, as I was returning from a job interview, with my carefully blown-out hair, wearing a modest but uncomfortable skirt, and pointy, high-heeled shoes which I usually skip altogether, I lost my way home. I am generally not that absentminded but I had just recently returned “home,” to my beloved city and, thrilled and excited by everything, I was temporarily living with my head in the clouds. I was suddenly in the middle of a muddy and unpaved road when I started to feel a heart-wrenching pain which was not caused by any delicate feelings but the cruel shoes which make us look so “feminine.” At one point, the pain was so unbearable that I started to talk to myself, calling on my mother, God, the human and superhuman forces one usually invokes in moments of great suffering. And, then, the mermaid. “Mermaid, I finally understand you! The unnatural transformation into a seemingly necessary role is no easy feat.” Towards the end of the road, with massacred feet, I realized I had left a trail of blood showing my arduous journey in an only slightly less macabre version of Hansel and Gretel…but that is another tale…

I thought of the mermaid again during the movie premiere and her pain seemed infinitely greater and more real than the artificial and meager tears onscreen. “Commercial suffering,” I thought, momentarily disappointed with a good portion of the population for asking so little of themselves.

Strangely enough – and this might be one of the things which I would have been ashamed to admit previously –I also thought of Angelina Jolie, perhaps because of her troubled and bloody past. Although women generally either admire her or hate her – this latter attributed to her “lack of class” – I would say I feel neither but I do greatly respect her – as I would anyone – for bravely doing whatever her heart desires. After many experiences with frogs and frogettes, she met a kind of a prince, one who is perhaps equal to, if not lesser than, her. In this case, differently from the story depicted in Grey, one doesn’t ask “How is it possible?” or “what happened here?” because one already knows the answer. In this case, the happy end does not happen as a fortuitous accident; the actress, man-stealer, drug-user, bisexual, director, pilot, ambassador, etc. etc. had to inhabit many versions of herself to reach the current one which comprises them all. This story may also be interpreted as a distant fairy tale but, at least, it is one in which I want to believe and partially do.

by Kleitia Vaso