Secretary: The Film vs the Short Story

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Secretary: A Comparison of the Film and Short Story

–This essay has spoilers of both the film and short story.—

Quotes from the short story are in block quotes

[Film notes are in brackets.]

*General commentary follows an asterisk

The Mary Gaitskill story was published in her collection Bad Behavior in 1988. I reviewed it here.

[The screenplay was written by Erin Cressida Wilson and the film was released in 2002. The story was adapted by Cressida and director Steven Shainberg.] I reviewed and recapped the film here.

Because this post is a long one, the rest will be after this break.

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Men Named Gray: A Rant

I was preparing to write the film review for next Friday (which is 9 1/2 Weeks) and went to Wikipedia to find the names of the characters, because I can never remember those.

And what’s Mickey Rourke’s character’s name? John Gray.

'ANOTHER top named "Gray"?! HMPH' (credit)

‘ANOTHER top named “Gray”?! HMPH’ (credit)

And that was it.

That was the last Gray/Grey I could take.

I’m working on an essay about the theme of dominance in The Picture of Dorian Gray. So there’s one. Though I’ll forgive that one because it’s Oscar Wilde and that book is AMAZING.

Then, recently I reviewed Alasdair Gray’s Something Leather, which wasn’t all that wonderful, unfortunately. I’d read that the book had something to do with lesbians into kinky sex and was intrigued, then saw the author’s name and thought, ‘Another Gray? They’re everywhere.’ But at least he’s an actual human and can’t help his surname.

It all started with that book and film, though Christian’s name is spelled like the colour, with an ‘e’.

Many years before, I’d seen and loved Secretary, but had forgotten the lawyer’s name was E. Edward Grey until a recent re-watch. That character didn’t have a name in the original short story–he was just called ‘the lawyer’–so I wonder why they chose that name when adapting it. They didn’t say in the DVD commentary.

Then, today. 9 1/2 Weeks and John Gray is one of the main characters.

Is it because I’m just now noticing it and so it’s everywhere? Was one (or more) of these characters an homage to the others so it was on purpose?

I’m letting Alasdair Gray off the hook, but the fictional characters are all men out to corrupt innocent people. Or to show them the darker sides of their nature. Dorian Gray and E. Edward Grey both only show people parts of themselves that are already there. John Gray and Manipulative Abuser take people down roads they don’t necessarily want to go down.

Are they named Gray because they represent moral grey areas and every single one of those authors was just that unimaginative?

Either way, fifty shades of shut the fuck up with that name, already.

Losing my mind

Thoughts on Secretary: Then and Now

Secretary

When Secretary was released in 2002 I was immediately intrigued (because the idea of being someone’s secretary greatly appealed).

I remember liking it immensely upon first viewing, though for the life of me I can’t recall if it was in a cinema or on DVD. I do remember renting the DVD from Netflix and watching it a couple times in a row plus once with the commentary track.

This is one of many indicators of my pageism to which I was oblivious for years.

Initial thoughts were swoony ‘why can’t I have a dominant boss to organise and fetch for who will spank me? Life just isn’t fair! Hmph.’

I re-watched after my revelation about pageism being on the D/s spectrum and having learned a bit about BDSM and D/s.

This review will be a recap of the film including my original thoughts, current thoughts from a sub’s point of view and some notes from the commentary of the DVD.

[Commentary notes are in brackets and is provided by the screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson and director Steven Shainberg, who also helped Wilson to adapt Mary Gaitskill’s short story of the same name.]

—My original and current thoughts will be between emdashes.—

Needless to say, spoilers ahoy, Ahab.

This is also an extremely long post, as it’s a recap with commentary and so on (I do break it up with images and gifs from the film so it’s not the Great Wall o’Text) but so it doesn’t take over the front page I’m putting it behind this fancy break.

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