David Brent has emerged from a decade spent in relative seclusion — during which time I assume he hung out in pajamas, Googling himself and practicing his reggae performance techniques — to appear on Ricky Gervais's new YouTube channel and pointing at people of various ethnicities and sexual orientations on Equality Street with Doc Brown for the U.K. Comic Relief special. Biddily biddily biddily biddily bong, cue the endless stream of comments arguing about racism versus satire ("It's comedy, you miserable pricks").
Just after midnight last night, somewhere in the upper levels of the Doheny Plaza condos, before the glittering backdrop of the West Hollywood skyline, a dream died.
Bret Easton Ellis, the Internet's foremost self-declared candidate to adapt E.L. James's pop-smut best seller Fifty Shades of Grey, got on Twitter to announce to his 320k-plus followers that he was out of the race. For those of you who don't subscribe to this particular newsletter, when he hasn't been spearheading a vitriolic social media takedown of Deadline editor Nikki Finke, Ellis has been spending the summer of 2012 putting together his Team Fifty fantasy league, polling his followers for their favorites to play the leads Christian Grey and Ana (possible candidates: Matt Bomer, Ian Somerhalder, Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Tom Hardy, Ryan Lochte(!!). OK, he was really only interested in casting Christian Grey) and generally treating Twitter as his public pre-production diary for a film that he had never formally been attached to in the first place.
When I was 12, I really wanted to buy an issue of Barely Legal. I never thought it was a magazine for teenage girls. No, I knew what it was and imagined it would reveal all the secrets of sex to me so that I would never face the humiliation of asking a girl at a bar mitzvah what sixty-nining was ever again. Today you can Wikipedia sixty-nining and find scans of the very issues of Barely Legal I wanted to buy. I never purchased a single porn mag, despite the fact that I bought magazines constantly and desperately wanted to see one. I was too afraid of a clerk carding me, of having it around, of my parents finding it mixed in with my Archie comics. I was convinced nobody would sell it to me because I looked too young. Even when porn started to become more easily available on the Internet, there was something about hard copies that seemed especially seedy; the black barrier protecting you from seeing the full covers of magazines, the curtained-off "adult" section of the video store. Nobody needs a dirty magazine to see nudity now, and there are barely any video stores left. That is how I know I am becoming old, turning into someone who talks about what things used to be like.
Right now, the most popular non-Hunger Games book series in the country is Fifty Shades of Grey, a trilogy of explicit erotic novels that features lots of dominance and submission. The series started humbly self-published and was recently acquired for seven figures by Random House, which thinks it has the potential to become the next The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. And if sales sustain themselves, they could be right.