In case you’re considering skipping lunch to catch a cheap matinee, let me save you the trouble…It will take about the length of an orgasm for you to arrive at disappointment once the film starts, and you’ll feel cheap because you’ll be paying for it…
A few days before Valentine’s Day, while visiting my extended family in Mexico, I receive a group message from one of my aunts. It’s a petition to sign a ban against the release of the movie: “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The message reads: “It’s not right to advertise this as a romantic date film, when we know that’s not exactly the theme.” I almost sign the petition because I can’t help but agree. Now listen, it’s not like I’m easily shocked, not after casting people for a show called “Strange Sex,” on TLC, (check your local listings for reruns). I’ve seen it ALL when it comes to fetishes such as BDSM, cuckolding, adult breastfeeding and other interesting (no judgment) things… So when Fifty Shades, the book, came out in the U.S. I wasn’t impressed. Heck, I’ve never even bothered to watch Miley Cyrus’ infamous MTV performance, and THAT seemed more interesting to me than the E.L. James trilogy. Sex on paper is just not my kind of foreplay.
And then there were the bad reviews:
“If I were a member of the Christian right, sitting on my front porch decrying the decadent morals of working American women, what would be most alarming about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomena … is that millions of otherwise intelligent women are willing to tolerate prose on this level.” – Katie Roiphe’s 2012, Newsweek Story
“The story of Fifty Shades is mundane, in the most straightforward sense of the word. There is no big idea or provocative subject matter or boundary-pushing craftsmanship. It’s just a conventional love story that happens to incorporate a lot of kinky sex—” – Emma Green, The Atlantic
So then I ask, what makes this one of the fastest selling novels of all time? My guess is that it made people curious! There was a lot of hype, and even the bad reviews made it almost too hard to resist. The critics created an: “If this book is so bad, I don’t want to be good”, attitude, particularly with the 30 – 50 year-old female demographic. Also I have to say that there’s something incredibly strange about grown women taking pleasure in reading a sex story between two twenty-somethings who seem like characters out of a Disney movie. I don’t know how the books read, but if the movie is an “improvement” in writing, yet still seems like a Twilight meets Cinderella story, I don’t want to know what the books are like. FUN FACT: author E.L. James originally wrote the story as Twilight fan fiction. I mean the main character’s name is “Anastacia Steele” for Christ’s sake!
Nevertheless, on the night before Valentine’s Day, my friend AD, who has joined me on the last week of my trip, discuss our outing options for the night. “Let’s go see a movie!” I tell her. “Oh yeah, which one?” She asks… “I heard Fifty Shades of Grey is out, but I’m not sure it’s any good,” I reply. “I heard the movie is better than the book!” She says almost convincingly. “Alright screw it, let’s go see it, it will be quick and painless, I hope. But we can’t tell anyone here!” I warn her. “Why not?!” Because I’m feeling fifty shades of shame about it, I think. “Because of my aunt’s petition!” I reply out loud. But it’s not just because I don’t want to insult my aunt’s petition, it’s because I feel strongly against wasting my time on poorly written and possibly misogynistic material.
We sneak away, trying to give as little explanation as possible and head to the movie theater. My palms are sweating when we arrive because the mall is packed and I’m afraid I’ll run into one of my cousins. Thankfully that doesn’t happen, so we buy our tickets at the counter. “I feel like everyone is judging us,” I tell AD, while looking over my shoulder as we walk into the theater. “I think you’re paranoid,” she replies patronizingly. We arm ourselves with popcorn and drinks, I mean, we’re gonna be here a while so might a well!
We walk into the empty theater. “Phew! I guess it’s not that popular here,” I tell AD. Ten minutes later the place is packed with people of all ages, as well as the same crowd who was here to watch Bridges of Madison County almost 20 years ago. The movie starts… Our main characters meet and it’s all good for the first couple of minutes, then things get ugly…
A film full of cheesy lines, lip bitting and a virgin who is deflowered by a handsome millionaire bachelor... Yeah that sounds like the premise to a teenage romance flick to me… I truly can’t find a reason why the film is rated R. Oh yes, the sex, and the almost full-frontal nudity, and the whipping, that’s scary. But if you remove the 20 or so minutes of sex in the film, all you’re left with is a bad episode of Gossip Girl meets 7th Heaven. Ana’s, (the main character), virtuous innocence and good nature is obviously too much for a hot “bad boy” millionaire like Christian Grey to resist. (Can you hear my sarcastic tone?) One of the worst lines in the movie is: “Men must throw themselves at you,” Referring to the fact that Anastacia is a hot brainy virgin, and: “I would like to fuck you into the middle of next week,” I turn and make eye contact with AD, who’s smirking at me. We’re both thinking the same thing: “Is this A$$hole for real?!”
Maybe I’m old school but I don’t find being abused sexy. The truth is that, based on my limited BDSM google research, the lifestyle is meant to be exercised with full consent of both parties, no one enters into it unless they’re 100% sure. So the difference between a BDSM sexual relationship and the one in Fifty Shades of Grey is pretty obvious, BDSM is about sex and Fifty Shades of Grey is about an abusive relationship, masked as an intense love affair. Somewhere between Dakota Johnson’s constant lip bitting and the ice cube scene, (sorry you’ll have to watch it if you want more), I realize it’s not the BDSM but the plot that’s making me want to slap myself.
I found this awesome quote that comes straight out of the book to illustrate my exasperation:
Are you with me now??? She agrees to her lover’s requests, even though she doesn’t want to, as she states several times. But she does this because she loves him and is afraid to lose him. Have I made your head explode yet?!
Back to the movie…
I’m pretty sure we’re the only two women in the entire theater who are laughing at almost every line. We’re probably making the rest of the audience uncomfortable. But how can you not laugh at the ridiculousness of it all? As the film comes to an end, AD and I jam to yet another Beyonce mix, and we agree this is the only thing keeping us from walking out. I make a mental note: “download this song, when I get home.” I’ve finished my popcorn and icee, so now all there is to do is wait until those two do something dirty or cheesy again. The conclusion is nothing short of anticlimactic… in every sense of the word. He whips her, hard, with her permission of course. Then she cries in her room alone, and hopefully realizes he’s got serious issues he needs to work on. Good, maybe things will finally get interesting, I think to myself. But just when I’m expecting a good plot twist, OH MY GOD ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? The film ends…
We leave the theater perplexed. “I can’t believe how awful that was,” AD tells me almost angrily. “I can’t believe there are millions of people who will watch it and think it’s good,” I say back almost sad.
What makes the film, and I’m guessing the books, so annoyingly disturbing is not the explicit sex, it’s that it is written as immaturely as a teenage drama. Middle-class girl falls for rich handsome boy, she’s innocent, he’s not. He falls in love with her because she’s innocent, because apparently, that’s what it takes… make notes ladies! She puts up with things that hurt her, and she hates so she can change him, “for the better” of course. If I were a man, I’d be equally pissed that this story perpetuates the idea that men can be manipulated to change by “love”. I mean don’t get me wrong, Christian Grey needs serious help, but because he was abused as a child, not because he’s into BDSM!
Now I get that not every piece of fiction has to have a solution to a moral dilemma or an educational plot, so I have no quarrel with those who chose to read the books and have enjoyed them. I just hope that people can peel off the layers and see that Fifty Shades of Grey has done nothing to bring us forward, and fifty million things to take us back. The truth is that it’s a story about a young naive woman who stays in an abusive relationship because she’s afraid of losing the guy. In the end, I guess Anastacia brings Christian out of the shadows and they live happily ever after, free of BDSM. Because in the end, the same author who used the BDSM to sell you the first book, now ends telling you it’s a bad thing that people can “recover” from. With the help of the right virgin of course! Seems rather ironic to me. So the moral of the story is what? Take the pain and the abuse because in the end you will “fix” them? How about: Don’t take the pain, and either get some help, or find another relationship where you can be yourself!