TUBI ORIGINALS: Safe Word (2023)

There’s a fine line between a dominant person and someone who takes advantage of their submissives. I mean, yes, there’s always the element of taking advantage of someone within BDSM, but the idea of consent remains paramount so that the headspace to roleplay can be successfully explored. But when someone takes advantage of that trust, they prove themselves to be the absolute worst in humanity.

Unfortunately, when Hollywood allows this hidden side of human sexuality into their films, it’s often for. the exploitation value and always leads toward antagonists who use their power in the worst of ways. For the unitiated, it seems that the world of domination and submission is a mind destroying world of sinister sneering men and meek brutalized women.

Safe Word would be another of those films, but at no point did I expect it to give me life lessons or properly translate the multiflavored world of kink for a mainstream audience. I just expected to be entertained.

Colette (Moriah Brown) has just met Ethan (Gavin Houston) and she’s already smitten. He’s good looking, seemingly successful and able to push her libido into forbidden places. For some reason, one of those forbidden places is to reenact the meet cute in Notting Hill, which doesn’t seem like something a young African American couple would get turned on by, but who am I to yuck anyone’s yum?

Within just a few weeks, Colette is neglecting her job — the tension between she and a co-worker feels like the kind of storyline that would last for weeks on a streaming show but here is over in minutes — as well as her friend Lainey (Kajuana S. Marie) and even her mother. Then, she and Ethan run off to elope and her dream relationship quickly grows brutal and dark, with arguments erupting over everything, including multiple arguments over the quality of pudding. Look, if you’ve been in a bad relationship, you get that fights can emerge over the smallest of things. I may have never fought over the quality of my homemade desserts, but I can see it happening.

Ethan also breaks down Colette’s sexual hangups and brings toys and restraints into their bedroom. She reminds him that she has some behavioral health issues that cause her to panic whenever she’s confined and he explains to her how a safe word works. Yet within days, he’s telling her things would be hotter without the safe word that stops him from going further. This should be her — and anyone’s — first clue that this guy is the wrong person to give power to, as the very idea of a safe word allows the play of saying no and stop while the dominant keeps going. The safe word keeps that illusion while also giving the submissive a level of security that yes, things can actually stop.

He also brings her to a sex club where she has her first threesome, an event she brags about to Lainey, who seems way interested in her friend’s romantic life, a fact that upsets Ethan and makes him consider ending their marriage. There’s also the matter of a woman that Colette meets, Stephanie (Shaquita Smith), an ex-lover of Ethan who seems deranged as a result of what he made her endure. Is she just a jealous woman from the past or is she justified in wanting revenge?

Spoiler: She’s totally right, as Ethan comes from an entire secret society of sexual beings who own the police, the courts and, well, pretty much everything. I kind of love that this weird side of the movie only comes out once or twice. And I adore that Stephanie is an absolute maniac when she attacks people, brutalizing them beyond the point of normalcy.

Directed by Sara Seligman and written by Dana Verde, Safe Word could be considered a Lifetime version of 50 Shades of Grey with a more evil edge. As most Tubi movies have been having sequels, I can definitely see how this can have another chapter and you know, I’d definitely watch this. Yes, I disagree with the way that it presents the world of kink, but you know, that’s a lost battle. It does achieve it’s main goal, which is being ridiculous fun.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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