Subtle kink in popular culture?
August 28, 2008 3:31 PM   Subscribe

Books and movies with BDSM overtones?

I'm trying to find books and movies that are not, strictly speaking, erotica, but which have hints of dominant/submissive relationships between characters.

Things like Secretary and The Story of O definitely qualify, but I'm looking for films/books where the theme is far subtler. Two examples that I can think of are Lust, Caution and (to a lesser extent) Gone With The Wind.

posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

posted by Class Goat at 3:40 PM on August 28, 2008

it's a stretch - but the overwrought sexiness and power struggle themes of the newer adaptation of Chicago can get my bells ringing. i especially like the marionette/ventriloquist scene, roxy on the lawyer's lap, tarted up, being moved and made to talk by the stick on her back. good stuff.
posted by nadawi at 3:41 PM on August 28, 2008

Blue Velvet might fit your description (although it's not very subtle).
posted by burnmp3s at 3:43 PM on August 28, 2008

Tie Me Up Tie Me Down
Belle de Jour
posted by spec80 at 3:45 PM on August 28, 2008

oh dammit... I missed the word subtle... sorry
posted by spec80 at 3:47 PM on August 28, 2008

Dead Ringers - there is some BD sex in it but the relationship between the brothers is definately dominant/submissive.

Tightrope - Clint Eastwood in a really creepy cop role.

Proof (not the Meg Ryan one).
posted by elendil71 at 3:49 PM on August 28, 2008

Subtle is "Girl with a Pearl Earring", by Tracy Chevalier.
posted by vers at 3:53 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's definitely some in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, in the relationship between Howard Roark and Dagny Taggart.

I also thought immediately of a bizarre children's book series from the 50's, I cannot remember the author's name but she was a woman, and the book consisted of vignettes with dolls/teddy bears and such posed and photographed in black & white and these dolls had rather unusual relationships. I really hope someone else can ID the author because this is perfect for what you're looking for.
posted by mattholomew at 3:55 PM on August 28, 2008

Mary Gaitskill's Bad Behavior and Two Girls, Fat and Thin.
posted by ifjuly at 4:05 PM on August 28, 2008

Pretty much all of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's films deal with the idea that relationships exist as power struggles between dominance and submission. I'd start with "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant".
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 4:07 PM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Something Wild.
Catwoman, although an execrable movie, does feature Halle Berry in leather with a whip…

I'll be in my bunk
posted by adamrice at 4:10 PM on August 28, 2008

The Germans in Gravity's Rainbow are really weird.
posted by low affect at 4:25 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hitchcock's Vertigo
posted by Paragon at 4:25 PM on August 28, 2008

Lots of Hitchcock - Rear Window for example.
posted by rongorongo at 4:40 PM on August 28, 2008

How about Pearl (Lucy Liu) in Payback?
posted by pjern at 4:50 PM on August 28, 2008

Michael Powell directed some distressingly obsessive films in the first half-century of cinema:

The Red Shoes (gotta dance!)
Black Narcissus (nuns in the Himalayas)

Some Marlon Brando films were less than subtle:

One-Eyed Jacks
Last Tango in Paris

James Mason as a piano teacher ('nuf said) in The Seventh Veil
posted by doncoyote at 5:02 PM on August 28, 2008

How about Lucy Liu in anything?
posted by rokusan at 5:02 PM on August 28, 2008



posted by buggzzee23 at 5:04 PM on August 28, 2008

Black Snake Moan for the win.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:22 PM on August 28, 2008

mattholomew, are you thinking of The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright?
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 5:24 PM on August 28, 2008

9 1/2 Weeks is more on the erotica side, but was still (iirc) rated R.

Exotica is very much about power dynamics in a way that's both related and unrelated to the erotic content.

and there's always marcie and peppermint patty in "peanuts".
posted by rmd1023 at 5:27 PM on August 28, 2008

Jean Genet's novels.
posted by amusem at 5:36 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

mattholomew, are you thinking of The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright?

YES! Thanks, that has been bugging me all afternoon.
posted by mattholomew at 5:39 PM on August 28, 2008

the movie McClintock with John Wayne features spanking.
posted by nadawi at 6:01 PM on August 28, 2008

well, Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series is perhaps a less subtle offering than some, but a very fun and sexy read nonetheless!
posted by supermedusa at 6:10 PM on August 28, 2008

Everything by Michael Haneke and Francois Ozon. Also Damage.
posted by desuetude at 6:11 PM on August 28, 2008

Bound, perhaps?

Fight Club - much of the imagery is sadisticly homoerotic.

You could say the same about 300, with a thick layer of self-hating homophobia layered over the top (less apparent in the film, very much so in the comic.)

Sin City is redolant with kink; killer hookers slinging big guns in their high heels, men having the shit beaten out of them in loving detail, and so on.

I haven't watched that much of the new BSG, but what I did see could be parsed as having wodge of dom/sub going on with Baltar and Six.

Pretty much everything by Anne Rice, of course. Julian May's Saga of the Exiles had a bunch, as well.
posted by rodgerd at 6:51 PM on August 28, 2008

2nding Bound. Hottest thing my 12 year old mind ever saw.
posted by markovitch at 7:49 PM on August 28, 2008

Seconding Battlestar Galactica, not just for the, more or less overt, relationship involving Baltar, but also more subtely throughout the series. Mainly between the female characters, cos the boys pretty much are all subs. In fairness, an incredible amount of switches *koff*Starbuck*koff*, but the themes are absolutley there.
posted by Iteki at 10:32 PM on August 28, 2008

High Plains Drifter. But yeah, rape scene.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:48 PM on August 28, 2008

I can't believe I forgot Dangerous Liasons.

Flash Gordon - at least the de Laurentis version. The whole Dale/Princess/Flash/Baron dynamic is an entertaining interplay from that persepective.

Kill Bill - Bill's position vis-a-vis his band of young female killers could bear quite a it of analysis. Hell, there's probably a bunch of papers on that one already.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course.
posted by rodgerd at 1:13 AM on August 29, 2008

The Night Porter.

Belle De Jour has quite a bit of non-vanilla activity in it (I mean the book on the blog, not the Deneuve film) but covers a few scenarios.
posted by mippy at 5:40 AM on August 29, 2008

Bull Durham

And this is really a stretch, but I couldn't help seeing some kinky overtones among the Death Eaters in the Harry Potter books, particularly between Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:54 AM on August 29, 2008

The 1955 film version of Oklahoma. Seriously.

When I found out that philosopher Michel Foucault--author of a three-volume History of Sexuality and one of the foremost theorists on the nature of power relationships in society--was a big old leather queen, I was totally unsurprised.
posted by the_bone at 7:09 PM on August 30, 2008

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