So, I’m a masochist. I’ve always liked pain to some degree. The surrounding culture says that pain is always a bad thing, though, and I found my own experiences to be detached from what is common knowledge, which has led me to at certain times in my life disregard my personal perception of pain. The first time I ever heard of masochism was from watching the 1986 movie Little Shop of Horrors, which features a sadistic dentist and his masochistic patient. I initially thought the idea was weird and it took quite a while before I began to associate it with myself, but this was a significant moment as it was my first introduction to the idea that there were other people out there who felt the way I did. At this point in my life I’m more knowledgeable, I’ve seen Secretary, and I can look at Little Shop of Horrors’ depiction of the sadomasochism from an analytical perspective. I have to say that Little Shop of Horrors’ portrayal of sexual sadism is negative and is associated it with psychopathy, but that the portrayal of masochism isn’t that bad considering the masochist is Bill Murray being silly.
“I think I need a root canal. I’m sure I need a long, slow root canal…”
So, I don’t find the masochist really offensive at all. It’s over the top and unrealistic, but it is a comedy and Bill Murray is really funny. The character’s masochism ends up working for him, and he manages to severely annoy one of the antagonists because of it. Like with Gonzo in Muppet Treasure Island, his ability to enjoy pain subverts what is otherwise an act of evil. While his masochism is portrayed as weird, Orin’s “Goddamned sicko” comment is ironic considering he’s one to talk. In contrast, Arthur seems like basically an okay guy, if naïve and a little strange, masochism notwithstanding.
The sadist on the other hand is just a wicked antagonist that sure looks like plant food to me. That is, he exists as an obstacle between Seymour and Audrey, and his death at the hands of Seymour doesn’t seem that immoral because Orin is a sadistic creep, which opens the door for escalating sacrifices to feed Audrey II. In order to cement the image of Orin as a sadist they associate him with various aspects of BDSM, even though the sadist is a psychopath unconcerned with the wellbeing of his girlfriend (or his patients). BDSM isn’t well understood, and audiences may be quick to associate it with abuse.
In conclusion, the portrayal of sadomasochism in Little Shop of Horrors could be better. I have to give the film some slack because it is a comedy, but even then their portrayal of sadism in relation to a BDSM-ish atmosphere is unduly associated with abuse and misogyny. Arthur, on the other hand, is a fairly decent portrayal of masochism even as he is humorously over the top. Little Shop of Horrors isn’t the best, but I do give it some credit in that it managed a basically decent portrayal of a masochist, which helped me come to accept myself and my quirks.