James Spader’s Secretary

I just finished watching Secretary, a movie starring James Spader (of Stargate and Boston Legal fame) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (of Dark Knight fame). The movie is incredibly awkward — I spent a good bit of the movie curled up in a seat, eyes partially covered. It’s full of very broken people who don’t know how to deal with themselves or other people. It’s also about the two main characters’ sadomasochistic, D/S relationship, which is why I was watching it. Well, first because it was James Spader, and second because it featured D/S.

I’ve always been fascinated by D/S relationships; it’s a power play/exchange/relationship that I’ve always wanted to partake in, ever since I first read Elf Sternberg’s Journal Entries eight-ish years ago (wow, that makes me feel my age a bit). I always imagined I would make a good submissive.

I’ve found, however, that I might be too self-contained to truly be able to take part in a D/S relationship. From either end. I have too much sense of self to become a extension of someone else, and too much (or maybe too little) to allow someone else to append themselves to my will.

Not to mention the fact that I very rarely ever truly relax and let go.

I’ve never been sure if the fact that it doesn’t come easily means I have to work harder at it, or if I should just leave it to the naturals. Is it a skill that one can acquire, like any other? If I become good at submitting (or dominating), even in that particular context… what would that mean for me the rest of the time? I don’t think I could segment it from “the rest of me”, make it something so distinct that it wouldn’t show in some way at other times.

Then again, maybe that would be part of the fun, too.


  • Dre

    I was told to watch that movie because I’ve been interested in that too. I don’t think I want to get into the extreme forms of it though. Maybe just some light role play or something. I think I’m more into the idea of binding and being bound.

  • Lissa

    I think you’d like it. James Spader’s a great actor (and this role is rather similar to his Boston Legal role — Greg and I even joked that this could have been his BL character’s job before he ended up at Crane, Poole, and Schmidt). But the awkwardness… Dre, it’s a killer. Far worse than the kind of brokenness we saw at Rose.

    Conversely, though, I’m more interested in the longer-term aspects of it than light roleplaying. Maybe not the “extreme” aspects of it — which, in this case, I mean very public and/or humiliating displays of D/S — but what it means to have a relationship that includes those elements. I’ve found that the lighter… “session-based” sorts of encounters feel faker, like, well, roleplaying.

    There isn’t much (physical) bondage and binding in the movie. I think it’s hard to show that sort of thing in a “mainstream” movie and not have it come across as cheap or have it subvert the more emotional message in the movie. It would end up being the focus of the movie, when that’s not really the point.

  • Elf M. Sternberg

    (Warning: this contains a spoiler.)

    You’re feeling your age? How do you think I feel, knowing that the Journal Entries have just hit their nineteenth birthday? It’s very odd, too, because I sympathize with your position: when I started writing D&S stuff, I thought I’d make a great submissive, but wasn’t into the pain stuff. Imagine my surprise when I actually started doing it and turned out to be exactly the opposite: a smart ass, sarcastic and very heavy masochist. And a sadist with a mean sense of humor.

    I really loved Secretary. It’s one of those films that does a good job of showing what it’s like, what it can be like. At the beginning of the film I hated the fact that Lee was a cutter, but toward the end I both understood what the writer was trying to say with it and appreciated that Grey still loved her despite, maybe because of, the scars.

    And yeah, the awkwardness was hard to watch. But that was the point. Broken people often have only jagged lines to try and match up.