Earlier this week, Universal announced that they acquired the rights to E.L. James’s The Mister, once again fueling my theory that Snowqueens Icedragon knows some pretty damning information about some executive and is using it as blackmail for production deals.
This would mark the fourth venture between the studio and the author. That’s right – fourth. Whereas other production companies are in the business of picking projects that they hope garner both box office success and possible Oscar nominations, Universal clearly is gunning for more Razzie nominations.
Why, Universal? Why?
The Mister tells the story about a British millionaire with a dark secret, fighting his desire for a young ingenue. Their “love” is threatened and…basically it’s the Fifty Shades trilogy with British accents. Good to see James “borrowing” from her “own” stories rather than someone else’s. Please note the quotations marks, because even that’s shady. Pun completely intended.
Will The Mister make box office gold? Perhaps. The entire Fifty Shades trilogy grossed over 1.3 billion dollars in worldwide sales, but it’s worth noting the break down of that cash. Compared to the first film, which opened with $85 million and grossed a total of $166 million in domestic sales, the final installment only opened with $38 million with a final domestic gross of $100 million. Declining numbers don’t lie: by the end of its run, the Fifty Shades trilogy – rightly so – lost its fervor with audiences.
Numbers aside, The Mister in and of it self is completely problematic. Aside from it being widely panned as just insipid and vapid writing with sex scenes that inspire abstinence (“Her moan is soft and husky as her head falls into the palm of my hand. It’s music to my dick.” Guh. Ross.), the book perpetuates archaic notions of power, both financially and sexually, as solely reserved for men. Women simply serve as the timid, wide-eyed creatures who need to be both protected and taught. This is coupled with the fact that the author used human trafficking simply as a plot device to explain the female lead’s hesitation with sex.
Trauma should never be just a plot device.
We live in a #MeToo world, where IRL monsters like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffery Epstein used their money and power to manipulate and abuse women and even young girls. As women, we’re no longer willing to accept the damsel in distress role, waiting for an alpha male to swoop in and save the day or, in E.L. James’s world, teach us how to orgasm. We crave more female-centered stories, complete with richly developed, complex, and fierce women who would take one look at men like Christian Grey or The Mister’s Maxim Trevelyan and shut their shit down before the sentence would even finish.
Fortunately for us, there are female authors – New York Times best selling authors, Universal – who have time and again provided these stories. Authors like Jasmine Guillory, Sarah MacLean, and Kristan Higgins just to name a few of the many writers who understand that what we want is empowered female characters who crave healthy relationships, and that as an author, you don’t have to forsake the “hot” for the “healthy.” This is beyond E.L. James’s abilities, yet here we are.
Give these far superior and well-deserving authors the same attention and opportunities that you’ve given E.L. James, and I will give you my well-earned, without-a-man’s-help cash. Because that, to quote James, is “music to my dick.”
Which author and her work would you like to see come to the big screen?
Julie believes great books should be read more than once and prides herself on finding the "dirty part" in any romance novel under a minute. Loves red wine but loves it more when shared with friends. Has an (embarrassingly) extensive knowledge about all things Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl. Is currently curating the perfect playlists that ALWAYS include a song from one of the Twilight soundtracks.