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Red As Blood: Women & Gothic Romance

1 Jun

Lovely readers — I attended a panel at #WisCon that made me cry out with perverse desire.  It was called Red As Blood — a panel on women and the Gothic genre.  Loosely organized, it revolved around the interesting desires and situations that comprise Gothic joy and perversity.

“A young woman meets an interesting, mysterious man in a giant, lonely house.  It turns out he may have bad intentions.  Sometimes she wants him to have bad intentions.”–Emily Cataneo.

What I liked about this panel was that everyone on the panel–authors and fans alike, really obsessed over what I obsessed over, and had exactly the same attitudes that I had. Everyone on the panel was raving over Crimson Peak–especially Tom Hiddleston, especially the house and clothes — AND

Spoiler Alert!

…especially the end where two women fight it out with knives in bloody nightgowns.

Everyone didn’t care if there was no logical reasoning behind certain events in their favorite Gothic novels or movies.  Our love of Gothic is not about reason.

Then what is it about? It’s about a feeling of creeping doom, of impending horror.  But no ACTUAL horror, mind you.  If horror is that moment of curdling screams and blood splatter on the wall, then the gothic genre is about hearing that scream from a far distance and discovering the blood splatter on the wall by prying open a secret passage.  (Preferably 5 to 20 years after it got there.)

The gothic genre is about secrets.  About dread.  About creeping horror — yes! But it’s a psychological horror.

Notorious is supremely logical–but the sense of oppression is still intense.

Now let’s talk romance in these novels.  For my joys I hit the Goodreads best Gothic romances page. There you will find not only the old classic authors like Anne Radcliffe and Victoria Holt but also Gay Gothic Romances, and Gothic romances with witches!!!!

Now, when we turn to Gothic film, the problem is that they are often horror films and take things just a leeeetle too far for my taste. Sigh.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about gothic romantic films:

The Gothic romance film is a Gothic film with feminine appeal. Diane Waldman wrote in Cinema Journal that Gothic films in general “permitted the articulation of feminine fear, anger, and distrust of the patriarchal order” and that such films during World War II and afterward “place an unusual emphasis on the affirmation of feminine perception, interpretation, and lived experience”. Between 1940 and 1948, the Gothic romance film was prevalent in Hollywood, being produced by well-known directors and actors. The best-known films of the era were Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), and Gaslight (1944). Less well-known films were Undercurrent (1946) and Sleep, My Love (1948). Waldman describes these films’ Gothic rubric: “A young inexperienced woman meets a handsome older man to whom she is alternately attracted and repelled.”[1] Other films from the decade include The Enchanted Cottage (1945) and The Heiress (1949).[2]

The Gothic romance films from the 1940s often contain the “Bluebeard motif”, meaning that in the typical setting of the house, a certain part is either forbidden to be used or even closed off entirely.[3] In the films, the forbidden room is a metaphor for the heroine’s repressed experience, and opening the room is a cathartic moment in the film.[4] In addition, the layout of the house in such films (as well as Gothic novels) creates “spatial disorientation [that] causes fear and an uncanny restlessness”.[5]

In 2015, director Guillermo del Toro released the Gothic romance film Crimson Peak. He said past films had been “brilliantly written by women and then rendered into films by male directors who reduce the potency of the female characters”. For Crimson Peak, he sought to reverse this cinematic trope.[6]

And did he EVER! If you adored Crimson Peak then here are some treats for you.  Here’s my fun review of Crimson Peak for one, along with some other movie recommendations below.  First of all, I highly recommend Suspicion–a Cinderella story in which we and the heroine are gradually brought to realize that a) she’s no Cinderella and b) this is not a happily ever after.

But if you want to get your gothic horror movie on–here’s a list from Indiewire to check out.  Some of them are fabulous.  Rosemary’s Baby is excellent.  Picnic at Hanging Rock is really mysterious. It’s like the missing girls floated off into some alternative realm after enough feminine corset squeezing and hair braiding to last a lifetime.  Gaslight is excellent.  As I mentioned above, Suspicion is one of my all time favorites.  The Shining is fabulous — but something I’d put on while doing another task so I could walk away as needed…(I’d put the premise of The Shining this way: What’s the scariest monster of the 70’s? The absent dad figure suddenly returned to be a ‘part of the family’.  Shiver. Ugggggggh!) Les Diaboliques was good, Notorius is sublime.  This list also made me want to see The Haunted with Kate Beckinsale as well as The Tomb of Ligeia…

THE GOTHIC ANTI-HERO OF ALL TIME? It’s gotta be Micheal Fassbender.  As I’ve commented before, Fassy seems to be all alone in his films.  That alone-ness is exactly what we want in a gothic anything. In the latest-greatest remake of Jane Eyre, he is utterly riveting.  At once flesh and blood with his long mutton chop whiskers, he seems like a Victorian that doesn’t wash everyday, that sweats, that chews his food. There is something very real and authentic about him–especially when it comes to his presence around women. Nevertheless, for all that he still seems like a very quietly haunted man who will NEVER be happy.  What I realized watching his performance is that Jane Eyre is a tale of warning: don’t fall for the man you work for.  Don’t let him seduce you.  Don’t succumb to the temptations he leads you towards breadcrumb of attention by breadcrumb of attention.  He has bad intentions and nothing good for you will result.  Fassy’s breathtaking performance is a seduction: rather slow and tender, but also deliberate enough to make one realize how wrong it all is.  His inscrutable mind is clicking behind the command of his words, looks, and touches the entire time.

Tom Hiddleston is an incredibly close second for my all time fav goth anti-hero.  His charismatic flavor however, connotes the possibility of a happier ending. If Fassy is the haunted man in his giant spooky house at the beginning of the movie, then Hiddles represents that peek of sunshine, that thin slice of spring — expressed only by a few blades of grass and one lone daffodil at the end of the movie.  There is something a little softer and more pliant about Hiddles the lover. He represents hope and escape from psychological hell into some sunnier, more mild and quietly happy place.  Tom seems like a man who needs an other to pair with him.  While Fassy, a more coporeal lover in the moment of temptation, perhaps–seems to stand alone in his blank emptiness to the bitter end.

I see Tom as more of an HEA guy–even if the HEA is with his sister.

What do you think, readers? Sound out below in the comments section — and I’m all ears for good contemporary gothic romance reading rec’s.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Person Of Interest: My TV Show Hangover

30 Mar

He’s a soft-spoken, hot killer–if you like that sort of thing.

By Madeline Iva

The upside to having a week long bout of stomach flu was enjoying a PERSON OF INTEREST marathon, aka watching Jim Caviezel eye candy.

I’d never been interested in watching the show until I saw a recommendation on i09 that was like: The last season is out! You have to go check out the entire show on Netflix! Well, okay then.

Now I’ve finished the last episode, and I am in the thrashing throes of a terrible TV show hangover…So thanks, i09.

Of course, seeing commercials for the show at one time, I thought: Hey! It’s that guy who was the leader of the Others on Lost.  And hey! It’s that guy who was in that whack sci-fi alien/Viking film (Outlander—but not the Outlander you’re thinking) and G.I. Jane. Damn he’s hot. Even when he’s looking anxious and sad.

I *liked* Carter and am following her from this show to other work she’s done.

So why wasn’t I interested? Cause it seemed to be about these wistful attractive women in danger, and this creepy-yet-competent ex-military guy who saved them with some slightly futuristic computer device. Yawn. Happily, it’s not like that AT ALL.

WARNING: SEMI-SPOILERS AHEAD!

Even in the first episode there a tart reversal and the heroine in need of saving turned out to be something else all together.  That made me happy and kick-started my whiffling through all five seasons before pulling the plug on Netflix. (I have a book deadline coming up and need to buckle down.) Also, I had no idea that it was a bit futuristic. (Though since the election it leans into that zone where it’s not completely Science Fiction, it’s really more like Really Scary Science Fact.)

The show with an AI called “the Machine” spitting out numbers that saved people morphed a lot as it went on. It started out as a kind of surveillance heavy 24, with a lot of white, male characters. Instead of dumbing down like most shows do, it went the other way…We saw more POC story lines and actors join the show, more female characters & LBGT references—and more female villains. The show found a sci-fi geek audience and as a result, leaned into progressive, liberal ideas and concepts as it went along, reversing its stance on the surveillance machine from “I know it violates our rights–but look! It does good things!” to “I’ve created a monster! A MONSTER!” wails of despair and gnashing of teeth.

But when we’re talking the best parts of the show, I’m sorry, CHARACTER IS KING! Pontificate on all the weighty discussions you like including:

  • AI and personhood
  • Safety vs. privacy in the modern state
  • Misuse of governmental power

my true obsession will still lie with Jim Caviezel and powerful story arcs about Carter, Sameed and other human characters. The AI lacked all qualities I want to spend time my with: sexiness, humor, cleverness, and personality.

Jim Caviezel, on the other hand, is this reader’s hero proto-type. The character he plays, John Reese is brooding, handsome, soft-spoken with a sense of humor, and yet, um, deadly.  Because he’s in mourning for his dead one true love, every episode leaves you wondering–will he feel the pull of desire/love/passion again? Oooooh how I wanted him to! But then I’m a complete masochist for the unattainable hero.

A do-er, not a talker, Reese has done bad things to a lot of bad guys—and yet, he can no longer tolerate the grim, clandestine life where he was given orders, but no iron clad proof of guilt for those he assassinated. Unquestioningly following orders eats at his soul, until he’s at the point where despite orders, he can’t betray his partner—who at the same time betrays him.  At the top of the show, he’s lost his mission in life, his identity, and even his one true love.  He needs redemption and a purpose—enter Harold who has a quirky all-powerful machine and gives John Reese’s ex-CIA black ops dude a goal in life.

Tarij Henderson – so sparkly bright and fun off the TV show, plays Detective Carter–who goes looking for “the man in the suit” out shooting knee caps of bad guys and breaking a thousand laws while doing so.   Now, I knew from Kiersten Hallie Krum via facebook, that Carter left the show at a certain point. For Kiersten it was hard to keep going after that. For me, knowing Carter was going to leave but not when or how ended up giving the show tremendous suspense — and like a horror movie I waited, tense and clutching my pillow to see when It Happened, getting more and more wrenched about it the more I liked her character. Henderson did a phenomenal job with developing her character and growing it. By the time she left the show, I was nodding my head thinking about what Lexi says about the infuriating state of racial diversity in entertainment today…This is another tragic example, and though the actors actually sought to correct that as much as they could in their penultimate scene together, grrrrrr. And now I’ve followed Tarij over to not just her Oscar nominated role in HIDDEN FIGURES but also over to EMPIRE where she’s did an actor 180 and portrays a completely different kind of role. (Why has no one on Lady Smut talked about Cookie yet? Why?)

Kevin Chapman plays detective Lionel Fusco, a crooked cop who finds redemption after some swift strong-arm tactics from Reese sorts him out.  Lionel got some great noir-ish lines and had fabulous delivery. I wonder if they had planned on making him such a big part of the show from the beginning, or if he was a happy discovery.  Reese has done much worse and seems less fundamentally tethered to the world.  As Jim Caviezel said at one point (I paraphrase from an interview I found on You Tube that took place at some con) Reese is a shark.  If he stops moving, he dies.  Other men have described him as batman in a suit.  It’s very interesting that the show portrays these two paths to redemption, each with its own singular flavor.  Lionel’s character has some charming grit, and a less tragic trajectory.

Michael Emerson was born to play the role of Harold, reclusive billionaire dork.  Harold builds the machine that plunges the characters into their episodic heroism.   Amy Acker (you know her from Firefly) got the thankless task of spending half her time having moral dialogues with Harold, while the other half was spent voicing the words and motives of the AI. Not fun—not fun at all, and yet she carried the weight of a whole other character upon her shoulders to the point where you felt like there actually was a machine with some proto-personality hovering about inside the internet ether.

I enjoyed the inclusion of Sameed – a short, female version of John Reese’s character, showing that a woman could do whatever a man could– and playing a kind of sociopath role to boot. No guilty torment for Sameed!

Although the show starts off Reese and Harold as the stars and swiftly includes Lionel and Carter as side kicks, the show changes direction in a fundamental way.  Soon, it becomes more of an ensemble cast with Harold and Amy Acker’s character, Root, in the staring roles.  We often see a lot more of Sameed as well, and John Reese’s role shrinks substantially over five seasons.

I think this was a wise move on the part of the producers…nor did a greater sense of inclusivity (fall out from Carter leaving the show?) seem to bother Jim Caviezel much in interviews about the show.  There was a way in which the show settled his character arc and then let it rest there.

Then they turned to other topics that more heavily involved Michael Emerson’s role as Harold, and his moral responsibilities as the one who created the surveillance AI machine. By the end, the AI character, AKA “The Machine” had as much character growth and backstory as any of the other characters—not an easy trick to pull off.  

Another thing that I liked about the show was that it started off grim, and only got more grim as it went along. But I’m perverse that way…

I’ve watched all five seasons now, and I now have a horrible tv show hangover. I actually went to You Tube and started watching a lot of videos taken at various Comi-Cons to ‘learn more’ but really to ramp down my addiction until I could walk away.

Hangovers I now think, are more than any other reason why we authors have social media platforms…So people have a place to go when they can’t say goodbye.

In all these interviews, I never really wanted to hear anything about what the creators had to say about the show, even though they were articulate men of ideas. I wanted to hear from the actors instead. This is because in essence the creators HAD their say…and we saw it all play out. Choices about character deaths, romances, etc, we saw the creator’s ideas were splatted across numerous episodes and dialogue everywhere. I was more interested in the background behind the show. What kind of training the actors go through? What kind of humor did they share? How did cast members related to each other? (Jim Caviezel trained with special delta forces men in San Diego, Tarij told all kinds of Jesus jokes poking fun at Jim, and Michael Emerson is every bit as articulate and intellectual as his character.)

Now I’m going to go off and write something in Jim Caviezel’s character’s voice…buh-bye!!!

Follow our blog — we’re not soft spoken, we’re outspoken, but charming nonetheless.

And check us out at RT Booklovers convention where we’re going to have a really fun event:  Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever — and win crowns, toys, books and more. (Ooo, and we’ll have brownies….) Goodybags (with fun stuff!) to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/ event/never-have-you-ever- ever-ever

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

 

 

 

Alternative Endings to the Bachelor

16 Mar

Huzzah! Rachel Lindsay–The first POC bachelorette.

by Madeline Iva

I saw the very first season of the Bachlorette while packing for a Big Move to the South.  I made it through a few seasons after that because I was fascinated by watching grown women aggressively fight for the attention of one man–while pretending not to. So deliciously perverse! Alexa Day posted about the announcement of the latest bachelorette on Tuesday, and the rest below is just one long riff about The Bachelor and other thoughts her post inspired.

I loved how the most interesting women (to me) on The Bachelor in the end ultimately had to be–I mean HAD TO BE–there for the money. (Student loans, I’m guessing.) Top ways to tell:

  1. They were very popular with the other women in the house. This, I think, is a key sign. But at the same time, they didn’t seem to have a secret boyfriend at home, or were there for some kind of acting career –and thus could dodge the “you’re not here for the right reasons” attack.   (BTW has anyone ever gone up and attacked a contestant saying “You’re just here to pay off your student loans—aren’t you, bitch?”)
  2. Often they would acknowledge being on the fence about their feelings for the guy. Why? Because they weren’t that into Mr. Available.  This only helps them not seem like a threat to the other women, of course.
  3. The fact that they weren’t so into the bachelor often seemed to make the bachelor far more into them.  Like he wanted to chase them hard.  After all, for most men, chasing is their comfort zone.  (Some of us are challenged when it comes to being adored.) Logically, enlightened men *know* it’s okay for a girl to chase a guy.  But they’re not actually comfortable with it.  It’s not their usual pattern–and sometimes breaking patterns feels odd.
  4. Because these women were just “passing time” to earn their paycheck, they could neatly avoid conflict in the house with the rest of the women–and work on soothing things out.  This is where their attention was.  It’s like they reguard the other women in the house as their fellow co-workers and wanted to be team players more than they were actually vying for the heart of one man.
  5. There’s almost an instant, quick and quiet break up following the conclusion of the show when one of these women was chosen.  The fact that a break up would immediately follow seemed like wonderful karma to me.  That’s what you get, you bachelor guy, for going for the girl that’s “not that into you” and ignoring the ones who were good people and desperate for your man-love.

At any rate — I’m glad that the show chose a POC bachelorette.

But I gotta wonder: how is this show going to continue to appeal to any but the most conservative audience? Because with polyamory becoming an accepted thing amongst all the hipsters and millenials, doesn’t the idea of picking ‘the one’ seem just a wee bit old fashioned?

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with being a monogamous type of person (I’m one myself). I’m just saying that when the Batchelor says “OMG, I’m in love with BOTH of these women” is this still the shockingly upsetting drama that it used to be?  Aren’t twenty and thirty somethings across the land saying “And? This is a problem why?”

Or–a more radical theory still–was the repetition of season after season of The Bachelor/Bachelorette actually paving the way for widespread polyamory across our heartland over these last ***seventeen*** years by making TV America overly familiar with the idea that one person can easily fall in love with two (or more) people at the same time?  I mean, think back to when polyamory started becoming a thing–right? Amiright?

I’m just waiting for the season when the Bachelor/Bachelorette decides to propose to *both* women or accept a proposal from *both* guys.  Now that would be a ratings booster.

Maybe if this this new bachelorette says yes to a black man AND a white man we can all have our cake and eat it too.

MEANWHILE — Idris Elba for Bond.  Seriously.  Accept no other substitutes.  Unless it’s Tom Hiddleston.  Then we’ll have to talk.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

 

Half Past Time: Rachel Lindsay as the Next Bachelorette

14 Mar

Not sure what lies ahead for Rachel, but she seems to have done pretty well so far, no?

By Alexa Day

Her name is Rachel Lindsay, she’s 31 years old, and she’s an attorney working for a very supportive law firm.

She’s the next Bachelorette. And she’s black.

Some of you can’t be bothered to care, and that’s fine. I will defend to the death your right to apathy. Just understand that this is a really big deal for a great many people.

I’ve never really watched the Bachelor; I could only watch so many grown women burst into real tears on camera over some dude they just met. By the time, I stopped paying attention years ago, the show’s few black cast members were usually on the show long enough to make the network look good. Then they were gone before anyone started to think that the Bachelor, usually a white man, would actually choose a black woman as a romantic partner and potential spouse.

Gradually, black women garnered longer stays on the Bachelor. But before Nick Viall, whose run as the Bachelor will end tonight, none had cracked the final three. Indeed, Nick had a more diverse selection of women than many Bachelors. In the history of the franchise, going back 21 years, the Bachelor and Bachelorette have had only 43 black cast members, and eight of them were with Nick this season.

Rachel left the Bachelor last week, leaving Vanessa and Raven to vie for the final rose. This is about the time I found out that Rachel would be the next Bachelorette, and after I shook my head in wonder that it only took ABC thirteen years to make a black woman the show’s lead, I started to pick through the press coverage.

I liked Rachel immediately. She said her law firm is holding her job open while she films the show, something she knows to be an anomaly in the legal industry. She said she had no desire to know what her dad and Nick talked about, when the two of them apparently had their suitor-parent conference. And then, in The New York Times, she said, “Even though I’m an African-American woman, it’s not different from any other bachelorette.”

You might be asking, at this point, what the big deal is. She says she’s going to be just like any other bachelorette.

That’s the big deal. That’s a huge deal.

I’ve got a few years on Rachel, and so my experience with popular culture’s expectations of black women is probably a little different. Today, we have Rick and Michonne on The Walking Dead, who have moved beyond being the zombie apocalypse’s most dangerous couple and become its most adorable couple as well. On Scandal, Fitz’s adulterous relationship with Olivia might be a thing of the past, but he’s involved in another, similarly complicated interracial relationship with Angela, the director of the FBI … and his ex-wife, Mellie, is flirting across racial lines with her aide, Marcus. Not that long ago, I was delighted to spread the news about the immense but understated magnetism of Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in Loving.

My point here is that we’re seeing black women with white men in the popular culture. We’re seeing it frequently. What’s so different about this?

The headline that sent me down this Bachelorette rabbit hole was this one, from The Hollywood Reporter: “History-Making ‘Bachelorette’ Opens Up About Pressure to Pick a Black Man.”

Rachel hasn’t even started production yet. And she knows there’s going to be some pressure for her to pick a black man, because to some person or persons out there, it’s okay for her romantic options to be limited by her skin color.
In short, she knows that a lot of people think that black people should be with other black people, to the exclusion of all other people. Whether this view is espoused by enough people to affect her pool of suitors remains to be seen. But she knows the truth about people’s perceptions, and she is willing to tell The Hollywood Reporter about it. In spite of this, she’s determined to pursue her reality-TV romance just like any other woman, of any other race.

“It’s my journey in finding love,” she said. “And whether that person is black, white, red, whatever — it’s my journey. I’m not choosing a man for America, I’m choosing a man for me.”

I hope the network is prepared to support her in this mission.

If Zack and Lisa mattered to you back in the day, then Rachel probably ought to matter to you now.

Because I’m older than Rachel, I remember how many a television show would bring on a completely random black character for the sole purpose of being an appropriate, but temporary, love interest for a more permanent black character. I’m also aware of the longstanding TV trope of pairing the black character with the least romantically desirable character on the show. We’ve made progress, sure. But let’s be honest. Popular culture is still very comfortable with black romance (interracial and otherwise) on the sidelines, leaving black characters with societally appropriate partners who have no chemistry with them, with some grand mission to assist other characters at the expense of their own love lives, or with no partners at all. Honestly, I’m still a bit annoyed with Magic Mike XXL for pushing Rome into the corner. I’m enjoying the rise of Richonne because part of me is afraid it’s going to be taken away soon. Please don’t start me talking about Sleepy Hollow again.

I’m not going to sit here with you and suggest that the Bachelorette is the flagship of romance. I did just say I couldn’t bear to watch grown women devastated to discover that they wouldn’t be marrying some dude they just met a little while ago. But Ali Barthwell from Vulture says it best in “Why a Black Bachelorette is a Big Deal.”

“Celebrating black womanhood in the context of marriage and motherhood might seem reductive to some, but because they’ve so often been denied those roles in pop culture, it’s in fact, revolutionary,” she writes. “Seeing a black woman as the woman pursued, riding off into the sunset, would do so much to diversify the narratives of black romance.”

Will I tune in for Rachel? Well, just last night, one of her future suitors apparently greeted her, on international television, with the promise that he was “ready to go black and never go back.” I have to support a woman who could hear a man say that and not punch him in the face, cameras be damned.

In the meantime, let me present two tales of reality TV romance where black women take center stage.

In The One, by Danielle Allen, heroine Zoe is a reality-TV skeptic who suddenly finds herself on a Bachelor-style show. And Bridget Midway’s Love series, starting with Love My Way, features a reality TV show that pairs Doms with their submissives.

Still looking for excitement? Try this on for size.

Let the Confessional Games Begin!

Have you ever had mad monkey love on a motorcycle? A three-way in an alley? Been roped, tied and pleasured? Have you never, ever, never done any of this? Be rewarded for your naughty or sweet past and win crowns, toys, books and more at the Lady Smut special reader event, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. at the RT Booklovers Convention.

Follow Lady Smut. This is where the fun starts.

 

 

We Saw Fifty Shades Darker So You Don’t Have To

11 Feb

by Elizabeth SaFleur & Madeline Iva

Happy Weekend! We’re here to share with you all our thoughts after seeing FIFTY SHADES DARKER at the movie theatre last night. fifty-shades-darker

Madeline: I loved seeing that group of women who all came into the theatre wearing masks. In fact, my role here is to see the film with eyes of love.  To understand why women love it, why it’s so ridiculously successful.

Elizabeth: This blog post also could be titled, Fifty Scenes of Dakota’s Boobs. Or Fifty Shades of Mixed Messages.

Madeline: You’re in a mood this morning.  I can tell.

Elizabeth: I don’t hate the Fifty Shades franchise. I don’t love it either. I’m neutral, though I was really hoping Hollywood did a better job of portraying the lifestyle than they did previously. Of course, I recognized this story, from the get-go, isn’t a BDSM erotic romance at all.

Madeline: I mean, I agree.–But what is it then?

Elizabeth: It’s a story of a man with PTSD from his childhood who channels his angst by engaging in supposed sadism (I don’t think he’s really a sadist, by the way) with submissives. He meets an ordinary girl who sends this man mixed signals. But she would. She’s in her early twenties and still figuring herself out. But, Jesus, the back and forth!

All that chest--and no touching it. I would go mad.

All that chest–and no touching it. I would go mad.

Madeline: Yes, she’s still figuring it all out.  Jackie and I talked about that with the first movie. This is a strong message that’s getting out into the world these days and I applaud it.  You hear that men? Women are not playing games.  They’re not f**king with you.  They’re trying to figure it out, okay? And sometimes it’s not easy.

Elizabeth: I get why people love 50 Shades. Billionaires, mild kinky scenarios—

Madeline: Yay to mild-kink! Or, as I like to call it, Kinky-lite.  We need t-shirts.  I’ll get my people right on that.

Elizabeth: –especially if you’ve not been exposed before. People also love the luxurious settings, a man changed by the love of a woman. That trope is old as the hills.

Madeline Iva: As old as the hills–and yet there are real haters out there.  Haters who love romance, confoundingly.

Elizabeth: I get why people hate it. Bad BDSM benchmark set, a weak(er) story structure and did I mention the mixed signals from both characters?

Madeline: One thing about the mixed messages: I think that the movie makers had to do it the way that they did. They had to be true to the book and in the book, she’s walking away from kink.  On the other hand, what do we want? We want hot sex scenes in the movie! Like we had in the first movie, only different.  They delivered both.  Could they have delivered a movie that had a lot less sex? I don’t think so.

Elizabeth: The PR/Marketing person in me also thought they missed an opportunity to make the movie the best possible thing ever. No excuse! I mean, built-in audience, Hollywood! We had a row of women behind us who came as a group all wearing masks. You can’t buy this kind of loyalty.50-shades-darker-teaser-mask

Madeline: You think they should have really dug in and changed things, deepened the script, the plot, etc?

Elizabeth: Yes! So, sadly, this movie isn’t going to win any Oscars.

Madeline: So, here’s what I say — is this even really a movie? I mean, I thought of it as something in film form that was an homage to the book.  I think we’re in the early days of a whole new medium. We need to come up with a jazzy name for it.  I mean, that whole weird section with the helicopter crash? “Real” movies don’t actually work like that.  Which is okay–but comparing this to a movie is like comparing apples to…an apple flavored jolly roger candy.  You know?

Elizabeth: It will certainly please the 50 Shades crowd, but in equal measure that it will tick off the real-life BSDM enthusiasts. (I can’t help but think of how this mirrors our very-politically-divided country right now.)

Fifty pull ups. Cause you know *that* joke isn't getting old.

Fifty pull ups. Cause you know *that* joke isn’t getting old.

Madeline: Aren’t they already ticked off? I mean, by this point, I can’t imagine real-life BDSM enthusiasts going see this movie for sheer love.  Me, I was frankly relieved that it was so kinky-lite in the first movie.  FIFTY SHADES DARKER’s little play-time scenes were icing on the cake.  Besides, I brought my husband to see the movie, and was hoping to placate him with all the sexy biz.

Also, as Jezebel writers said: “What was good: basically nonstop puss eating.”

Elizabeth: !

Madeline: So sez Jezebel, so say we all. On the other hand, people kinda wanted to see Christian’s dick.  Not me, just…people.  #dickparity is a thing, I guess.

Elizabeth: What I liked about the movie: Dakota Johnson has got acting chops.

Madeline: I agree.

Elizabeth: She’d better than most people probably realize given she had to develop that character herself. Anastasia Steele’s clothes. I want that La Perla bustier garter set she’s wearing.

Madeline: We all want that La Perla bustier garter set.  And the body to go with it.

And it looks even better from the back...

And it looks even better from the back…

Elizabeth: –Ya know, for sitting around my home office so I can pretend I’m about to be whisked to a ball. Also, her lips. M and I agree – she had the best lipstick. And it stayed on no matter what they were doing like sucking face, which they did often.

Madeline: I liked the sucking face.  Jamie Dornan sucks face well.

Elizabeth: Christian Grey’s boat. Niiiice. Jamie Dornan’s buffness and scruffness – just the way I like it. Oh, and his neck! I just wanted to bury my face in it.

You want to grab him. Admit it.

You want to grab him. Admit it.

Madeline: I did not need him so buff.  But I am obsessed.  (Posting on that later.)

Elizabeth: The general eye candy was great. They live in a beautiful world.

Madeline: I was going through eye candy withdrawl. This movie definitely helped.

Elizabeth: But I can’t get over the mixed signals: “Christian, I can never, ever give you what you need.” Ten minutes later, “Christian, spank me.” “Take me to the red room.” Make up your mind, lady. You’re either into the kink or you’re not.

Madeline: Okay, here’s my take on that — at first in their relationship he wanted total control.  Even to the point of saying he didn’t “do relationships”.  Gah.  It’s like a dance, and he was always leading.

In FIFTY SHADES DARKER, she takes control.  It’s not about consistency.  It’s about her leading. In the past, with all his interactions the dominant dynamic was about them pleasing him.  Now he has to keep up with her, follow her lead, and prove to her that he can please her.  It’s all about her, people! (Which is catnip to us romance ladies.)

She's steering the ship now.

She’s steering the ship now.

Elizabeth: His admission that he’s not a Dominant, but a sadist really bothered me.

Madeline: It was certainly abrupt.

Elizabeth: And they acted like being a sadist must be a very, very, very bad thing. It’s not!!

Madeline: She’s getting on her BDSM soap box people.

Elizabeth: If you’re truly a responsible sadist, you play with consenting adults, and you never harm anyone.

Madeline: Which is different from causing them pain

Elizabeth: Right.  Pain is temporary, and some masochists get an endorphin rush off controlled pain, which registers as a kind of pleasure…so they like it.

Madeline: Yes, yes, yes!

Elizabeth: Harming someone is completely different.

Madeline: Noted.

Elizabeth: I had an issue with the symbolic kink. The movie brings out the usual kinky props, but clearly for symbolic reasons. There’s the blindfold and the cuffs but within one minute they’re having sex. They bring out the spreader bar and within one minute they’re having sex.  He gives her four spanks and then they’re having sex. I get it. They’re young, full of hormones and hot. But don’t expect any real BDSM. The movie had tons of sex and a little slap and tickle.

Madeline: I didn’t mind that at all. Huzzah to symbolic kinky sex!

Elizabeth: Speaking of the spreader bar. People…please DO NOT go to Amazon, buy the first spreader bar you see and do that flip move that Christian did to Ana without a lot of practice.

Do not try this at home...

Do not try this at home…

Madeline: It did look…quite…gymnastic.

Elizabeth: I’m not quite convinced that spreader bar exists in real life.

Madeline: A retractable spreader bar.  Yeah, that was a new one to me too.

Elizabeth: So don’t risk spraining an ankle or wrenching a back.

Madeline: Her breasts were like a third character in the movie.

Elizabeth: If there was an opportunity to show them off, the movie did.

Madeline: It’s actually in her contract–she must be topless or naked at least every fifteen minutes of the movie. (Joking.) But reading interviews, I think the actress has made this her thing.  And if an actor is a bit of an exhibitionist, who are we to complain? (I’m looking at you, Orlando Bloom.)

Elizabeth: Why couldn’t we get his glory to be the third character? Equal rights, man.

Madeline: #DickParity — starting that hashtag right now

Elizabeth: This movie was more sex positive than the last — and Ana wasn’t as big as a doormat as she was in the first movie.

Madeline: Amen to that!

Elizabeth: Oh, and for grins you really must check out this post from a Redbook writer, I Tried All the Sex From Fifty Shades Darker In One Weekend. Hilarious.

Madeline: I can’t believe Redbook did that…that is awesome.  Final comments?

Elizabeth: Bottom line: If you are a 50 Shades fan, you’ll love this movie.

Madeline: Durh.

Elizabeth: If you are a real-life BDSM lifestyler, you’ll probably stay away anyway. Christian is someone who needs to be “cured.” Yeah, right.  But what he needs (IMHO) is help with his PTSD, not his BDSM proclivities (though I’m not convinced BDSM even really is his thing).

Madeline: What is his thing?

Elizabeth: Okay–Growing up, Christian discovers how to use kink to channel his anger from his childhood trauma.  And so maybe when he gets together with her, and they bond, that anger starts to go away? And that’s why he walks away from it all.

Towards the end of the series, he says he doesn’t want to do it anymore.  In the third book he doesn’t want a red room in the new house.

A Dominant, meanwhile, that’s their main thing–being in control.  If he actually can be happy without being in control, yeah, he’s not a Dominant.  And a sadist — I’m sorry, but you don’t just actually decide not to be someone who gets off on pain.  It’s like trying to pray your way out of being gay.

Madeline: So if this was real life–which it’s not–Elena would be right.  Ana and Christian together as a couple would be a compromise for him.  A compromise most couples don’t survive.

Kim Basinger plays Elena in the movie--which makes it all very meta.

Kim Basinger plays Elena in the movie–which makes it all very meta.

Elizabeth: Right.  If it was real life.

Madeline: Which it’s not.

Elizabeth: I don’t care if this story is fiction, that idea should be sorted out. Okay, Hollywood, can you do that for us? So we’re ALL happy? See built-in audience above.50shadesshouldersleeping

And don’t forget out V-Day Giveaway.  Subscribe to Lady Smut — push the pink bottom at the top right of your screen and you’ll be entered to win. 

Includes massage oil, candle, lip balm, and soap. Continental US only, please!

Includes massage oil, candle, lip balm, and soap. Continental US only, please!

5 Ways Millionaires & Billionaires Aren’t Like Us

11 Feb

By Elizabeth SaFleur

bizmeetingAccording to the latest Fifty Shades Darker movie, Christian Grey makes $24,000 every 15 minutes. Possible? Yes. Over the years I’ve met a few billionaires and lots of mega millionaires in my day job. Not sure what they make in fifteen minutes, but I can tell you these super-magnets for wealth exist.

Christian Grey is young, hot, and tormented.  He’s not like you and me with his anti-relationship contracts, and crazed need for control.

Okay, this is really just an excuse to post more pics of Jamie Dornan.

Okay, this is really just an excuse to post more pics of Jamie Dornan.

While your average mega-rich guy may not be like that, neither is he like us ordinary folk. Here are five things I’ve observed about the super rich.

  1. NEVER ENOUGH.  You worry about money.  I worry about money.  The uber-wealthy worry about money too, but not like you and me. As long as I’m paying the bills, taking a nice trip or two a year and someone comes to clean my house once a week– I’m golden. That’s enough. Millionaires and Billionaires worry about losing their super-wealthy status, and they worry about it all the time. They’ll always have money, but it’s having “enough” that’s troublesome.  Their version of “enough” is in the seven figures–for a while. Then they need more…and more…
  2. CHEAP IS CHEAP. The super-rich have odd ideas about what’s expensive. Watch them recoil in horror that a Frappacino at Starbucks costs six dollars.  However they’ll approve that 60 grand for the new pool in the third house with the swipe of a pen. (Or a phone call. They have people who handle that stuff for them.)
  3. RICH MEN DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE. It’s usually someone calling for money. Their voice mail is perpetually full. Their people will get back to you.  Maybe.
  4. RICH MEN DON’T RUSH. They walk. Other people can run–and should run, because rich men despise tardiness in others. So don’t be late for meetings with them.
  5. RICH MEN SAY NO. If a situation doesn’t suit them (like they don’t like the restaurant you pick or that company they thought they might buy), they walk away–even if they leave you hanging. Is that rude? Well, yeah.  Sometimes. Do people around them point that out? Well, no.
Thinking important business thoughts. This is what the super-rich do.

Thinking important business thoughts. This is what the super-rich do.

Ultimately, there are two kinds of super-wealthy men: those that buy their way into everything and those that buy their way out.  Is this nature or nurture? Are they rich because they have these traits, or does being rich change them? One thing’s for sure–you and I will probably never know. ; >

Includes massage oil, candle, lip balm, and soap. Continental US only, please!

Includes massage oil, candle, lip balm, and soap. Continental US only, please!

Don’t forget to subscribe to Lady Smut and be entered in our Valentine’s Giveaway

Elizabeth SaFleur writes contemporary erotic romance and she’s not afraid to get graphic about it  — “it” being the sex, the BDSM or Washington, DC society, which she regularly features in her series, the Elite Doms of Washington. Join her Sexy, Saucy, Sometimes Naughty exclusive reader’s group or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

One Hot Zombie Husband, Please!–And Other Lustful Zombie Stuff

2 Feb
santaclaritadiet

Let that repressed manic side out, Timothy Olyphant.

by Madeline Iva

On Friday night I’m watching a new show called THE SANTA CLARITA DIET on Netflix. Why? Two words: Timothy Olyphant. The guy has a kind of restrained mayhem vibe that makes women purr. He’s good when he’s a bad boy, and I like it when he does the humor thing, but really underplays it. Let’s hope he gets to do both in this new TV show.

What’s unusual is for Olyphant to be part of a duo, for he often plays the lone wolf.  Yet he’s a supportive husband (awwww) as his wife’s body goes undead and her twisted feral id coming to life. (Peeps, this could be my own marriage we’re talking about—esp. when I’m on deadline.)

As for the rest of the show–we shall see.  I lurv Drew Barrymore and early reviews say the supporting cast is excellent.  The creator is Victor Fresco who did the short lived but great (!) show BETTER OFF TED, which walked the line of absurdism and also had a supportive, understanding, and munch-a-licious lead.

But hey, let me be your zombie pimp and recommend some other zombie joy you may have overlooked. My preference is for zombie comedy/satire. Take R in WARM BODIES.  So cute and so protective in his own teenage, shuffling, groan-y way.

Click to buy the DVD

Click to buy the DVD

 

There’s also a wonderful funny little book call BREATHERS.  Subversive and with a sexy element that I quite enjoyed.

Click to buy.

Click to buy.

Have you seen the movie SEAN OF THE DEAD? It’s a bit like The Office meets zombies. Quite surprisingly daffy and satiric all the way through.

Imagine The Office as a zombie flick. Click to buy the DVD...

Imagine The Office as a zombie flick. Click to buy the DVD…

Meanwhile, let us not forget some serious Zombie smut, like what you’ll find with our own Isabelle Drake’s SERVANT OF THE UNDEAD along with Daisy Harris’ mix of not-quite-human stuff.  I lurved Hariss’ “Steins” and sex bots.  In BUILT FOR IT Harris discovered M/M erotic romance and never looked back. (Can you even get these books anymore Daisy?)

 

557e4e368babb5e201b7f2d2b531d8cbOnce upon a time, Lexi waxed philosophical on the ethics of sex with an undead body. I, dear readers, completely understand.  Who really wants to kiss decaying flesh?  On the other hand, a zombie is nothing if not a metaphor.  Give me your metaphors–satiric, comedic or full of pathos and killed by societal excess and ennui.  Sometimes we all seem a little rotten to the core.  Zombies get to wear their decay on the outside where it’s all embarrassing and visible.  Ultimately, they’re monsters and I dearly love a monster-hero, even if his heart is dead and cold.

That’s not to say that one can’t enjoy zombie horror.  Lexi has traced the path of an end-of-the-world romance on the Walking Dead that I’ve followed probably with more enjoyment that I took in watching the actual show.  Check out her posts:

LIFE AMONG THE DEAD: IS MICHONNE READY TO LOVE AGAIN?

THE DEAD DELIVER: IS THIS THE SEASON FOR RICHONNE? 

DEAD ON! REJOICING FOR RICHONNE

If you do like your zombies with a lot of blood splatter, there’s a movie coming out called THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.

You'll slurp it up if you like post-apocalyptic action/adventure. Click to buy.

You’ll slurp it up if you like post-apocalyptic action/adventure. Click to buy.

The book was gripping–I stayed up all night reading it.  I’m sure the movie will be excellent too, but check out the book first. It’s post apocalyptic, British, and I liked how the balance of characters in the book were female.  They seemed to have deliberately switched around the race of the characters in the movie.  Hmmmmmm.

There’s also World War Z — not your typical zombie genre book.  It’s totally different and only about a thousand times better than the movie. (Sorry Brad Pitt.)

Another book I've read in one sitting. Click to buy.

Another book I’ve read in one sitting. Click to buy.

Well, time for me to do some groaning and shuffling myself as I sign off to go jog, shower, and write. Follow us at Lady Smut.  We give you reasons to live.

wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_high_res_1800x2700Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

Making A Pitt Stop For Brad

1 Feb

By Elizabeth Shore

In a conversation with my fellow Lady Smutters, we realized – to our dismay! – that in the nearly five years since we’ve had our blog, we’ve never once published anything about Brad Pitt. No gushing about his phenom body in Troy. No acknowledgement of his three Academy award nominations; no props for his humanitarian efforts. Not a Pittance! We’re like the blog version of Oscar voters who’ve snubbed outstanding performances. Well, no more. We’re righting our wrong here and giving a proper Lady Smut shout out to all things Brad.

Lately, of course, the news on Brad has been far from Hollywood sparkly. He’s in the midst of an oft-reported messy divorce from Angelina Jolie, and was charged – although later cleared – of child abuse allegations toward his eldest son. Ach! This is a far cry from the sweet-faced Brad who burst into fame in 1991’s Thelma & Louise playing sexy con man J.D. Although he’d done a fair bit of work prior to that, it was this film that first had our girly bits sitting up and asking, “Who is that?!”

Whether or not you’re a fan of Brad’s acting, it’s hard to find fault with the worthy causes and humanitarian efforts to which he’s donated time and megabucks. He’s been a supporter of causes as diverse as combating AIDS to housing for disaster victims to help for refugees. Both he and Jolie have been outspoken about supporting marriage equality and through their Jolie-Pitt Foundation have donated close to $30 million for “health, education, conservation, and sustainable development efforts,” according to InsidePhilanthropy.com.

All that is awesome of course. But, um, going back to that body…

 

Was this the best movie evah? Negative. Do we care? No we do not. Because, really, why the heck else do you need to watch Troy other than to drool over those giant guns. Those washboard abs. Those ripped pecs. Ahhhh…..

The number one rule of Fight Club is, we can talk about Brad Pitt

No doubt the movies for which Brad Pitt is best know are the Ocean’s movies and, of course, Fight Club. Can you believe that was made all the way back in 1999? Get. Out! Yet it’s true. Hard as it is to believe, the number one rule of getting older is not to talk about getting older. So I won’t dwell on the fact that Fight Club came out 18 years ago, which means kids in high school today weren’t even born then, which means…damn. Which means I need to change the topic.

babel-brad-pittBrad Pitt’s filmography is actually quite varied. He’s been the stud in Troy, the wheeler dealer in Moneyball, the crafty spy in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which is where, of course, he met Angelina Jolie. But one of my favorite movies of his is much lesser known – and seen – and that’s 2006’s Babel. In it, Brad plays Richard, a man in a troubled marriage to Susan (Cate Blanchett) who goes on vacation to Morocco with his wife to try to work things out. Susan ends up getting accidentally shot, and her shooting and the aftermath are all connected to a series of four interlocking events that come together by the end of the film. Brad Pitt’s acting playing the distraught husband is really first-rate and I found myself enjoying the film and his performance much more than I would have guessed. I had the same reaction when I saw him in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. His performance in that movie was amazing.

Now, admittedly, not all Lady Smutters are swooning over Brad, although our own Alexa Day does cite this amusing introductory speech at an awards ceremony to be, and I quote, “the finest thing he’s ever done.” See for yourself.

 

I’ve mentioned above that we want to correct a fundamental wrong in never once writing about Brat Pitt here at Lady Smut, but how did it all come about? How did we realize the error of our ways? Well, ahem. It’s because stats guru Madeline happened to notice that our top searched for term last week was Brad Pitt smut. Ah…yeah. Brad Pitt smut. And that’s when we realized we have none to share. No Brad Pitt smut whatsoever. Horror of horrors! So with this post we’re correcting it pronto. Oh, and see below. Not necessarily smutty, per se, but I’ll take ’em.

Enjoy! And be sure to follow us at Lady Smut. We’ll give you what you want.

brad-pitt-600-1

 

 

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Why Tom Hardy Won’t Play The Hero

19 Jan

by Madeline Iva

There’s scuttlebutt going around about Tom Hardy playing Bond. (My vote is still for Idris Elba).

It’s a tease, folks.  Don’t believe it.  Won’t ever happen.

Tom Hardy can look like that really bad boy–the one your parents worried about when you were growing up.  tom1He can look like trouble on a stick, and his lips are all smokin’ hot and sensual, making one’s panties go perfectly damp. Yet he’s elusive.

He wrinkles his forehead and all you want to do is clutch him to your cleavage and sooth him.  You see pictures of him cuddling his dog and your ovaries get all rumbly.tom2  Yet he manages to evade massive female adoration, mostly by doing projects like this that we’re not really that into.  It’s as if some gravitational pull of the universe was drawing him away from us.

He simply won’t play the hero.  He denies that women could be attracted to him, yet he knows how to look perfectly pretty-boy if he wants to.

You can play the pretty boy if you want to, Tom. If you *want* to.

You can play the pretty boy if you want to, Tom. If you *want* to.

However, he says he’s got crooked teeth, toothpick arms, and yada yada yada.  Bullsh*t. He’s got those lips, that nose, that voice and that smoldering something.  I submit to you the following evidence:

I see a toothpick, but it's not your arms, Tom.

I see a toothpick, but it’s not your arms, Tom.

Gah!

I first noticed Tom and his wonderful British accent in RockNRolla – and I admit, one had to squint a little to see him around the combined mega-wattage of Idris Elba and Gerard Butler.  But I remember his role far more clearly than the characters that the other two played.tom4

I think Tom didn’t have much success with more woman-friendly roles at first. So he went sideways on us.

Clearly he wants respect.  In interviews he speaks with such concentration, as if not wanting to say anything ass-hat-ish and sorta squinting with multiple pauses.  It’s like he’s struggling to not say any words that aren’t spoken from his deepest principles, but these principles are hard to hear amidst all the other jostling emotions surging up inside him.

He’s had his troubles.  He was a wee bit bi at one point in his life. And did his baby-mama ever actually marry him? No.  Now he’s engaged married to Charlotte Riley, who’s that funny looking yet excellent actress from JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL.  They met on the set of Wuthering Heights, yet even while playing Heathcliff for god’s sake he still denies he’s the hero-type women want.

Because we don’t want someone intelligent, Tom? Because we don’t want someone who defies boundaries and stereotypes? Pah.tom3

Fine.  Make us chase you, Tom.  But your destiny is written in the sky, and you can’t escape fate.  If not Bond, then some other role will reach out and pluck you by the back of the neck.  Some other role will require you to once and for all demonstrate that you know how to hold a woman in the palm of your hand and with one twist of the fist make her all orgasmic.  You can’t fool us, Tom, even though you try.

Follow us at Lady Smut and SUBSCRIBE to our hot-hot-hot news & giveaways by hitting that subscribe button.

wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_high_res_1800x2700Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

 

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