The Clare Spark Blog

February 14, 2015

Fifty Shades of Romantic Necrophilia

Lygeia and  her familiar

Lygeia and her familiar

Today is Valentine’s Day, 2-14-15, and the times are bad for romantic love, which is misunderstood by such culture critics as Lee Siegel in the Wall Street Journal, which devotes two pages to the subject, contrasting pop culture and high art, concluding that Beyoncé’s cynicism is worthy of emulation. (Lee Siegel’s “The Truth About Romantic Love” 2-14-15.)

What no one, even most feminists are willing to examine is the ambivalent relations between adolescent and grown-up sons and their middle-aged mothers. For Freudian-derived attachment theory is out, having been thrown overboard by cognitive behavioral therapy. ( For evidence that the middle-aged mother is the target of S-M addicted males, see

Without the embarrassment of developmental psychology, it is easy to applaud the broad popularity of the just-released homage to sadomasochism, Fifty Shades of Grey, which has opened almost as enthusiastically as American Sniper. And for some critics, financial success is just fine, and then they may drop the subject without reflection.

But even recognizing the [middle-aged woman] as the creature to be silenced, is not enough, for the remarkable popularity of the novel and the movie is susceptible to class analysis. How many shop-girls or working class women or house-bound wives are not dreaming of an ever more elusive upward mobility, personified in the black Knight to carry them off in a private plane or helicopter to a life of luxury, notwithstanding the bondage and humiliation, even death in life that is submissively endured in S-M sex. After all, didn’t Edgar Allan Poe write “Lygeia,” the epitome of romantic necrophilia, to be updated with Fox’s The Following?

And is not Linda Darnell’s double corset one of the most popular clicks on my website? (

WSJ 019026

But perhaps the scariest image I have found today is in the Spring Fashion Magazine of the Wall Street Journal. The model is propped up against a painted tree (, thus allying her with the latest Nature-preserving identifications. But to me, she is yet another Lygeia, especially the come-hither gesture combined with the blood-red shoes. Is she an image of the male’s own death?

Wyeth: Spring 1978

Wyeth: Spring 1978

Gone is grandma’s lacey Valentine; in comes a new era of the femme fatale/male double, enticing though dead to the world.


  1. Thank you, Clare.

    Wyeth would have been 60 when he painted ‘Spring 1978’. It is interesting that the Wikipedia entry on Andrew Wyeth quotes his longtime wife Betsy, whom he married in 1940, as saying that she was the ‘director’ of the ‘greatest actor in the world’. Apparently, according to the entry, she had as great an influence on him as his father had. An interesting dynamic, if true.

    Your entry also reminded me of the movie Moonstruck, which, if you’ll pardon my lowering the tone of your site momentarily, featured Vincent Gardenia — as Cosmo, head of the family having an affair. Olympia Dukakis, in the role of his wife Rose, told a bemused Loretta (Cher) — paraphrased — ‘He’s having an affair because he’s afraid of death!’ She is the middle aged woman who must be silenced. But notice the intimations of mortality where Cosmo is concerned. I saw Wyeth’s 1978 picture and thought of him immediately.

    The movie also shows Rose going to the neighbourhood Italian restaurant which shows the middle-aged Journalism-Professor-from-Columbia character trying to woo his young student. He overplays his hand condescendingly and, if I remember rightly, she throws water over him. At that point, having watched the proceedings from a distance, Rose invites him to share a table with her to teach him something about women and life. He later tries to make a pass at her. She says, ‘I know who I am’, and refuses it.

    The movie shows both sides of the equation: the middle-aged wife and mother who is self-assured (and, by definition, must be silenced, including by Cosmo’s father) as well as the young student with marital and material aspirations. In between is Cher’s Loretta, happy in love with Ronny Camilleri, the black sheep baker with one hand, brother of her notional boyfriend Johnny, away in Palermo, moonstruck with his ailing mother and, as such, prevented from marrying Loretta because of his emotional maternal attachment.

    Who would have thought a mainstream comedy could provide such a rich seam to mine? The older I get, the more often I watch it.

    Comment by churchmouse — March 16, 2015 @ 9:55 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: