© Focus Features/Courtesy Everet/REX Fifty Shades of Grey, Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
In a pleasingly witty bit of scheduling, this year's Valentine's weekend sees the release of Sam Taylor-Johnson's film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.
I'm single and already have plans to spend that weekend weeping into a Pot Noodle, but anecdotal research conducted with my friends in the relationship-having community reveals a groundswell of dread.
Almost every man I know lives in fear of being dragged to see it, and having to sit for 125 minutes as their partners thrum with delight over Jamie Dornan who, like all Ulstermen, is at once human and god.
There are already reports of women block-booking cinemas in a way unseen since megachurches bought out screenings of The Passion of the Christ, but do spare a thought for the thousands of men who are going to endure the somewhat different passion of Anastasia Steele, and then lie afterwards about how much they enjoyed it.
Of course, you can't make anything that will appeal to all the people, all of the time. The film industry is subject to the same immutable laws, and even though it ceaselessly seeks the so-called 'four quadrant' picture, a megamovie appealing to everybody, they hit the bullseye only rarely with the Titanics of this world. It makes far more sense to go after certain sections of the market with certain material, which is why we're unlikely to see a film where Jennifer Aniston pulps a tower-block of Indonesian drug dealers.
And just because something is targeted at a certain demographic, it doesn't mean that everyone else can't enjoy it - as is the case with Percy Pigs and the Sidebar of Shame. However, films seem to be different. Generally speaking, I rate a movie's quality in relation to its levels of graphic murder; it's safe to say very, very few women I know do the same.
That said, I can sit down quite happily with Sense and Sensibility or Jane Eyre in between my spree killings on GTA, and not feel any of the this-is-really-not-for-you-ness that strikes when I see a poster in which a pre-rebirth Matthew McConaughey is leaning against Kate Hudson. Why is this?
The reason goes deep into why we watch movies in the first place. Amazing cinematography or phenomenal effects only get you so far - precise art direction never made anybody cry. Films, or at least the good ones, work on us by offering a character we can relate to; their success are our successes, their miseries our miseries.
The most basic example of this is the hoary old "chosen one" narrative, where Luke Skywalker/Harry Potter/any number of chumps in the Marvel universe are plucked out of their mundane lives and told that only their hitherto invisible but unique specialness can save the world.
Even amateur psychologists can see how this appeals to teenage boys, which explains the popularity of various dystopian YA adaptations, where teenage revolutions against tyrannies run by people over 40 allow young viewers to let off steam about the fact that mum has once again demanded they tidy their room.
Wish fulfillment isn't limited to kids, either. Just count the number of men saving the world in dirty vests or heroically sacrificing themselves to the greater good in so-called 'guy' films. If you want to get all gender studies, you could say they present fantasies of male dominance through violence that appeal to our testosterone-crazed ape minds.
If you want to get further into the cultural studies faculty, you could even say they have their roots in the old heroic sagas, where Gilgamesh or Achilles or Beowulf or countless others would show up, take names, and drink mead around the fire and tell stories of battles old. We project ourselves into these idealised figures, making ourselves for a few brief hours the sweaty hero who tosses Alan Rickman off a building or beats the Matrix's best program or thwarts Blofeld's latest scheme.
Compare these uber-men with the dorks you find in most films aimed squarely at women, the rom-coms, or - dreaded term - 'chick flicks.' Either they're fumbling Hugh Grant-style doofuses with the people skills of a nervous gibbon; or absurdly stand-offish seducers with a phobia of settling down; or worst of all, the distant, damaged sort with a secret.
No man with a respect for human dignity would wish himself into the shoes of the former, and no man, unless he's been a contestant on The Apprentice, would want to be either of the latter two. They're all imperfect figures who need to be fixed, be it through the love of a good woman or realising the virtue of the women they just looked right through.
These films are selling different fantasies of male identity, ones which appeal, of course, to women, rather than men. Who wants to be told they're not perfect?
So, it’s not surprising that not many men will be rushing to cinemas to relish Fifty Shades of Grey, since not many men not many men fantasise about enigmatic, one-dimensional billionaires teaching them self-actualisation through sessions of spanking, lovely as I’m sure that may be. That said, only the most amateur of partners would sacrifice the brownie points on offer from that particular trip to the pictures.