"Mommy porn" will one day become a mainstream movie.
"Fifty Shades of Grey," the tale of a dominant-submissive relationship between a young business magnate and a recent college graduate, is the publishing sensation of 2012.
The book and its two sequels have sold more than 10 million copies, publisher Knopf Doubleday reported. The primary audience for the novels reportedly is women in their 30s.
In March, Universal Studios and its boutique arm, Focus Features, bought movie rights to the trilogy written by British author E.L. James.
Since then, the hot topic on Hollywood red carpets and on "Shades of Grey" message boards is who will star in the film. Actors in their 20s and early 30s no doubt are coveting the film's lead roles: the stratospherically handsome Christian Grey and his awkward but enthusiastic partner in kink, Anastasia Steele. Ian Somerhalder, star of TV's "The Vampire Diaries," took to Twitter to combat rumors he was "desperate" for the Christian role.
Angelina Jolie also has been linked to the project not as a star but as a possible director.
The bigger question, though, is how to translate the novel to the screen. The dialogue would need to be tweaked, since it is terrible, and the sexual content toned down considerably.
"Fifty Shades" began as a piece of "Twilight" fan fiction. The resulting book is as well-written as you would expect a novel based on "Twilight" fan fiction to be.
Anastasia's "female hormones" rage in Christian's presence.
Smiles never reach eyes. A Latino character punctuates sentences, unironically, with "dios mio!"
The bigger sticking point is of course the highly descriptive erotic content. Were "Shades of Grey" to be translated literally to the screen, the film would be rated NC-17. Or at least the milder scenes would be. Others would be rated "straight-up porn."
How will Hollywood handle such racy material? Probably the way it has with other mainstream erotic films. Gauzy filters and mood lighting can suggest sex without showing it. Shots of pieces of rope are titillating in context but innocuous on their own.
"Shades of Grey," when it becomes a movie, will be part of a long line of mainstream erotic films. (By mainstream, we mean movies that target a broad audience. Art-house curiosities such as "Brown Bunny" do not factor.)
The films listed here were considered daring when they were released. Several are from the 1980s, before studios decided sex was for art houses and multiplexes were for pyrotechnics and silly romantic comedies.
BABY FACE (1933): Made during Hollywood's short-lived, gloriously liberated pre-Code era, this movie follows Barbara Stanwyck as she sleeps her way up the corporate ladder. Racy and completely without subtlety, the film shows Stanwyck entertaining gentlemen and then literally advancing to the next floor of her office building.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951): Really, any 1950s film adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play could fit here. These films combined heightened sexual awareness with psychological torment a perfect fit for the hemmed-in studio decency standards and general sexual repression of the 1950s.
LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972): It would not be made by a big studio today (Marlon Brando would be considered too chubby for the 18-24 demographic). But "Tango" was treated as a popular film upon its release.
Brando gives one of his most vulnerable performances and that is saying something as an American man trying to feel something via anonymous sex with a young Frenchwoman. But the sex scenes disgusted some people and the film was slapped with an "X."
AMERICAN GIGOLO (1980): It's more '80s consumerism porn than anything, given its attention to Richard Gere's Armani suits and home décor. But a mainstream movie about a male prostitute is still highly unusual.
There's even pathos, and a notable lack of the fairy-tale qualities of Gere's better-known prostitute movie, "Pretty Woman."
BODY HEAT (1981): William Hurt breaks a window to get to Kathleen Turner.
The 1981 Jessica Lange-Jack Nicholson remake of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" belongs here, too. Both movies brought to the surface the raw sexuality hinted at in 1940s noir films about murderous dames and the men they sucker.
9½ WEEKS (1986): As in "Last Tango," the male half of the duo doesn't do relationships and wants a sex-only affair. Shades of never mind.
Though the movie is most famous for its food play, its most striking feature now is that Mickey Rourke once was a sex object. It was Rourke, not Kim Basinger, who made "Wild Orchid" and the straight-to-video "Another 9 1/2 Weeks."
THE BIG EASY (1987): This film and 1989's "Sea of Love" had crime plots. But they were mostly about Ellen Barkin being hot. She's especially hot with Dennis Quaid. Their love scenes are more realistic than airbrushed, and their characters maintain sexual tension even after acknowledging they like each other.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING (1988): The political implications within this story set against the backdrop of the 1968 Czech revolution are fascinating. Just kidding.
BASIC INSTINCT (1992): The Michael Douglas-Sharon Stone sex scenes are too self-consciously athletic to be sexy, and the much ballyhooed lady kisses pretty tame. But Stone's interrogation-room seating adjustment broke new ground. And what's kinkier than sex with an ice pick under the bed?
The success of "Basic Instinct" led to the abominations "Sliver," "Jade" and "Showgirls." All were written by "Instinct" screenwriter Joe Eszterhas. Together, they established '90s Hollywood as a place where sex went to die.
IN THE CUT (2003): Acting for Jane Campion ("The Piano") rather than Nora Ephron this time, Meg Ryan went topless and engaged in several naughty acts on screen. Ryan is very good here, complex and vulnerable as a professor caught up in an affair with a cop. But America did not embrace this departure by its one-time sweetheart.