Title text: I just came from The Martian, and I just have to say: Forget BB-8; I want a pet Sojourner! It's always been the cutest of our Mars rovers.
There's a common punchline in which the plot lines of two thematically-different works of fiction (usually movies) are compared in greatly-abbreviated form, and the speaker sarcastically concludes that the two movies are "basically the same". For sake of example, Disney's Aladdin and James Cameron's Titanic both feature a story in which a lower-class boy and an upper-class girl fall for each other, among other cherry-picked yet interesting parallels. But due to the different emotional tones of the films (a family-friendly "happy ever after" tale and a disaster thriller respectively), one would not normally describe them as similar.
This comic spoofs the idea. Instead of comparing plot lines of two movies, Ponytail and Cueball compare the respective movies' development histories.
The Martian was originally a serialized story written by Andy Weir on his blog which was later compiled into an ebook for people to easily download, then published into a physical book, and has now had a movie created based on it. The movie was officially released in the US on the same day this comic was released (October 2, 2015).
Fifty Shades of Grey began as a fan fiction of a well known brand (the Twilight book series). It was originally written on the internet by E. L. James. It was then transformed into a successful book series which was later turned into a movie released in February 2015. The book was already referenced back in 2012 in 1128: Fifty Shades.
Since Fifty Shades is a romance story about a sadomasochistic relationship, and The Martian is a very technical story about surviving completely alone on a hostile planet, the two books could not be any more different, hence the joke due to the juxtaposition.
Cueball continues the joke by joining the two titles using red for Mars, to make a new book title, that should cover both books: Fifty Shades of Red. Ponytail says to Cueball that such a book would be irresistible for him. She does this by daring him to say that he wouldn't read it, believing he could not say so without lying. The red could also be a reference to the safe word used in the Fifty Shades series, for when things hurt instead of being pleasing. It means stop! But stop should be a word you can say, without the other one stopping, adding to the illusion of being forced; actually stopping would be done by saying red. Reading it like that, the title would be Fifty Shades of Stop!
It is not clear from the comic if Randall liked the movie. Since he now compares it to a book series that has been described as mommy porn it could indicate that he was not so satisfied with the movie. On the other hand, he may just have noticed this connection and found that it would make a great joke here on the release day.
An alternative explanation is that Randall is commenting on the frequent comparisons made between The Martian and the movie Interstellar, comparisons centering on the fact that in both Matt Damon plays an astronaut stuck on a deserted planet, but also mentioning, among others, the appearance of Jessica Chastain and the similar design of the spacesuits used in both movies. These comparisons have been prevalent on the Internet long before the release of The Martian, so evidently spurred by the movie trailers, rather than by reviews of viewers. Randall is making the point that to one who has seen the movie, comparing The Martian to Interstellar is as far-fetched as comparing it to Fifty Shades of Grey. According to this interpretation, Randall is not ridiculing The Martian, but rather Interstellar. By proxy, he is praising The Martian. Given that Randall has chosen (now for the second time) to mention the film explicitly on his site, the idea that he is promoting The Martian is perhaps more plausible than the idea that he is expressing dissatisfaction with it. The title text, where he makes a similar comparison, favoring The Martian over Star Wars: The Force Awakens, further boosts this explanation.
It is possible that the brand that The Martian derives from is NASA itself. The Martian has been compared to the film Apollo 13 by Randall in 1536: The Martian. Apollo 13 does indeed glorify the roles of the NASA engineers, and The Martian does a similar thing. That Randall would go see this movie as soon as it was released was already made perfectly clear back in June when he released the comic 1536: The Martian showing how excited he is about the book. He then really looked forward to the movie.
Randall indicates in the title text that he has just seen the movie (certainly possible, if he caught a midnight screening; perhaps he drew this comic in advance and wrote the title text after) and finds the Sojourner rover adorable. Of course, he could also have seen it in the trailers.
The BB-8 mentioned in the title text is the astromech droid from the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens and is available as a toy (see also BB-8 on the official Star Wars home page). Sojourner was the Mars Pathfinder robotic rover.
Spoiler alert: The rover was used by Mark Watney, the protagonist of The Martian (played by Matt Damon in the movie), to allow him to contact Earth.
Randall indicated that he thinks the Sojourner is much cuter than BB-8, and that he would like to have one as a pet. He then states that the Sojourner has always been the cutest among all the Mars rovers. The cuteness of Mars Rovers is also mentioned in 2433: Mars Rovers. There have been four so far the other three being Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity which have already been used in xkcd comics: 695: Spirit, 1091: Curiosity and 1504: Opportunity.
- [Ponytail is talking to Cueball.]
- Ponytail: So it's a work of fiction about a well-known brand. written on the Internet by an enthusiast, republished as a bestselling book, and then made into a big movie.
- Cueball: Yup.
- [Ponytail holds her hand to her chin. Beat panel.]
- [Ponytail is talking to Cueball again.]
- Ponytail: Yeah, The Martian and Fifty Shades of Grey are basically the same book.
- Cueball: "Fifty Shades of Red?"
- Ponytail: Man, tell me you wouldn't read that.
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I've heard 50 Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fan fiction, but don't know how The Martian came to be. 220.127.116.11 05:56, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
-- Still missing from the explanation is what kind of brand The Martian is about... -- 18.104.22.168 08:18, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- NASA? 22.214.171.124 08:22, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- A Mars bar? --126.96.36.199 09:09, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- I'm going with NASA. --PsyMar (talk) 09:30, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- The Martian has a feel a lot like Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and other Mars stories. Jv (talk) 18:37, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- Maybe duct tape
- It is Twilight fan-fiction. The original version is still availble for free. They just renamed the characters and removed references to Christian being a sparkling vampire and published it as a new book.188.8.131.52 08:43, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- Allegedly removed by the author, first from the fan fiction sites and then her personal site just prior to publication! And you're right, the original is 89% similar to the published trilogy. Names have been changed to protect the author from legal battles, and crucial changes from "holy cow" to "holy crap" were also made.
- [http://www.literarykiss.com/2012/10/communication-in-fifty-shades-of-trey.html I even found a few graphs about its literary horror and crap references, for people like me who are easily amused. Unfortunately it's so bizarre I'm feeling the effects of Poe's law here. Is it really that bad, or is this some parody? I'll never read the books to find out. --Fedora-tionOfPlanets (talk) 11:28, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
I believe Ponytail is not terrified by suggested title. That's more like she thinksthat Cueball will almost certainly read it and dares him to say otherwise. --184.108.40.206 11:46, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- I agree; the tell is italicized, and that emphasis indicates she's using an American idiom to indicate her enthusiasm for the idea. 220.127.116.11 12:11, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- To clarify: in English (American?) slang there are two ways to use "tell me you didn't/wouldn't X".
- A) "(please/AUGH) tell me you didn't X" can be translated as "I am horrified to think you did/would-do X, please reassure me you didn't/wouldn't do it:" (usually preceded by a pleading "please" or some exclamation of horror): "please tell me you didn't cross the streams", "ARGH! Please tell me you didn't tell Blackhatguy my email-address, living address and greatest fear!"
- B) (smugly/challenging) "tell my you didn't/wouldn't X" would be translated as "I know you well enough to be 99% sure that you actually _did_/_would_ do X, and I really enjoy your blushing right now because you realise I caught you red-handed, but you cannot lie about it to deny me": "Oh dear Randall, tell me you wouldn't watch a debate between the reanimated corpses of Feynman and Einstein. *Randall blushes in guilty admission* Haha I knew you would"
- 18.104.22.168 12:31, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- I agree, that was my reading of it too. 22.214.171.124 12:48, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- I also agree that she thinks it's a great book idea, I made the change. Not sure how I like the wording I jsed so please edit. Bbruzzo (talk) 12:53, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
Considering the timing, I wouldn't be surprised if Randall did indeed saw the movie, but had the comics ready in advance and after the movie only added the title and published it. So the part about him not liking the movie based on comics is unfounded. -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:47, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- It also seems like pure speculation. Is Randall's opinion on Fifty Shades of Grey even known? 126.96.36.199 15:08, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
Is the sojourner used to communicate in the movie? It seems like it is just kept around to beetle around the hah module and the Lander is used for comms. 188.8.131.52IB
As you've given me a spoiler for the film, I've added a spoiler warning Kev (talk) 16:52, 3 October 2015 (UTC)
Curiously, in Italian the third book of the series (fifty shades freed) has been actually translated as "Fifty Shades of Red". --184.108.40.206 13:22, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
Is it of any relevance that "red" is a common safe-word for bdsm?220.127.116.11 15:29, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- My first thought was that it's a reference to menstruation. And isn't there an infamous tampon scene in the book/movie? PhantomLimbic (talk) 10:50, 6 October 2015 (UTC)
Just saw The Martian today, and it is really great. Now I think I have to put the book on my x-mas wish list ;-) (and of course a pet mars rover) --Kynde (talk) 19:55, 10 October 2015 (UTC)
So "The Martian" could be more validly compared to "John Dies At The End"? 18.104.22.168 21:18, 30 October 2015 (UTC)
Why are there no references to the London Fire Brigade's "Fifty Shades of Red" campaign? See here: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/558213/Fifty-Shades-of-Red-London-Fire-Brigade-tweets-funny-callouts --22.214.171.124 05:01, 1 February 2017 (UTC)
Isn't there a new mars rover Perseverance? Sarah the Pie(yes, the food) (talk) 21:57, 10 February 2021 (UTC)