When asked about the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, the only response that seems feasible is “You just have to read it.” One would find it hard to describe Fifty Shades in a way that is politically correct due to the taboo nature of the story. Director Sam Taylor-Wood makes the trailer a direct reflection of that indescribable nature.
The most important form of rhetoric shown in the trailer comes from the words pictured in thin white lettering, dazzling and sexy, if words can be that. The words read “The Worldwide Phenomenon.. Comes to Life”. This is a direct form of ethos. It gives both reference to the book, which is in itself credible due to its acclaim, and reference to the millions of followers the series already has. “Worldwide” calls upon the ethos of followers from every neck of the woods and “phenomenon” gives insight to the wow factor that is the story. This same ethos is presented in the very beginning when the trailer opens with the Universal and Focus Features logos, two well-known and respected companies, who have created the acclaimed films including Milk and Anna Karenina.
While examining the trailer it is important to distinguish the two types of audiences, those who have read the story or are familiar with its content, and those who have not, as the rhetoric shifts for the differing parties. For those who follow the book, casting was an extremely important part of the trailer because of the immense speculation of whom would be casted as the main character, Christian Grey. “Many filmmakers believe that casting is so integral to character, they don’t even begin to work on a script until they known who’s playing the major roles.”(Giannetti p283) Since the movie is a book conversion, this becomes a major benefit to the trailer as it creates pathos in the form of suspense. For the first forty-five seconds, the camera works its way up Christian’s body, going in and out in powerful short flashes with intense music that fits perfectly. The suspense is heightened to an extreme right before Christian is revealed. When he is revealed as actor Jamie Dornan, logos comes into play. Jamie Dornan fits whom Grey is supposed to be. He is sensual, sexy, and mysterious. To readers, he makes sense as well as attracts them thus logos and pathos combined in the form of an actor.
For those who are not familiar with the story, the major form of pathos comes from the sexual content of the trailer. The beginning starts out relatively innocent, with a hint of chemistry, but as it progresses, flashing in and out in the same way: the picture becomes more deviant. “Sometimes images have the power to persuade by sheer pathos” (Lunsford p452). This is the case of these images of sexual props and rooms jump on and off the screen. The pathos as sexuality and deviance comes to a head, and is really the most sexuality that is allowed to be shown on television as a trailer. Since the audience is unaware of the nature of the story, these images beg the questions “Who is Christian Grey? What is he in to?”, and further “What is this story really about?” The trailer provides just enough sexuality as pathos to get people questioning and therefor into the theater.
Personally, I found the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer to be both riveting and genius. I was intrigued to see how director Sam Taylor-Wood could turn an X rated novel into a film suitable for the cinema, and it was more than imaginable.