Secretary (2002)

Secretary (2002) movie poster

Steven Shainberg
viewed: 09/30/2016

BDSM and its many permutations have never really been all that interesting to me.  So, this film, an indie rom-com with a good reputation about a dominance-submissive relationship between a secretary and her boss, just failed to speak to me enough to get around to seeing it.  That said, it’s reputation has held up and so I kept it in my queue.

And you know, it’s pretty sweet.  The relationship between secretary Maggie Gyllenhaal and boss James Spader is more than just a bottom seeking a top.  Gyllenhaal is terrific here, probably her prime, as the young girl obsessed with self-harm.  And Spader is nicely understated as the repressed recluse of an attorney, E. Edward Grey.

Secretary was adapted from a short story by Mary Gaitskill, who found it a sort of Pretty Woman treatment of her material.

I can appreciate how people can want different things from one another and how a relationship based on mutual needs and desires is totally fine in a world of mutual consent.  So, when I say S&M isn’t my thing, it’s not that I am down on anyone who digs it.

In this relationship, though, where the woman is the submissive and the male the dominator, there still echo issues of sexual mores and roles that don’t really agree with feminism per se.  So as open and successful as this relationship is meant to be seen, there is a subtext for me that leaves a bitter taste alongside the sugared love story.

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