WARNING! SPOILERS! I just got back from seeing 50 Shades of Grey at a multiplex near me. If you don’t want to read spoilers then go away. If you don’t want to read another post about 50 Shades of Grey then go away. Unlike Christian Grey, I give absolutely no fucks (more on that later).
REQUISITE NOD-TO-THE-HATERS DISCLAIMER: This is my REVIEW OF THE MOVIE, not the books. Plenty of haterade has already been served up over how badly the books are written. And all that hating matters exactly not at all. 100 million copies of these terrible books have been sold–something like two books a second during its peak of popularity. And the movie that nobody is going to see because it’s so awful made $85 MILLION dollarinis in its opening weekend.
All of this conspicuous consumption of something that everybody hates means something. What that something means is currently a matter of much public debate, but it means something whether we like it or not. And since so many people don’t like it at all, one is left to wonder if the haters aren’t actually the ones driving the FSoG juggernaut.
Pearl Clutching and the legacy of the Victorian Era
50 Shades of Grey for all its terrible writing stands among some mighty literary/smut giants. Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Fanny Hill, Moll Flanders, Lolita, and The Story of O have all drawn the attention of the pearl-clutchers of their day.
Nobody is surprised when all the religious leaders agree that a movie about sex is not okay, but you know you’ve hit a nerve when even the BDSM community is clutching its pearls by repudiating the notion that 50 Shades reflects the values of their community. Let that sink in for a moment. Both the bishops of the Catholic Church and Professional Dominants think Christian Grey is a bad boyfriend/domme.
It all boils down to consent. The charge against Christian Grey is that he never fully explains his predilection for sadism and the consequences thereof to Ana. She’s an innocent unwittingly drawn into Grey’s
sick and twisted sumptuous and well-appointed Red Room of Pain. On Facebook people are coming right out and saying that this movie doesn’t just promote but celebrates something called “the rape culture.” As a feminist, I take that shit seriously. But as a sexual adventurer–within the context of a 30-year monogamous relationship–I wondered if–like almost always--it’s much to do about nothing.
My Movie Experience
I saw FSoG on a whim. I could see the movie theater right across the street from the restaurant when the thought popped into my head, “Hey! It’s my night off; I should go see FSoG.”
I texted my husband to let him know so he wouldn’t worry when I didn’t answer my phone. I laugh when I think that some of the people I know who publicly denounce the relationship between Christian and Ana would be the first to think that I really ought to get my husband’s permission to see this movie. Irony much?
Which brings me to my first real thought about the content of the movie.
Is male dominance anything new?
Is it really the relationship between Ana and Christian that has people so bothered, or is it just the kinky sex that Ana mostly enjoys? Because frankly their relationship is the perfect fantasy lived out loud of every Christian marriage self-help book I’ve ever read.
Give the man all the sex he wants, let him think he’s in charge, and then he’ll marry you and take care of you for the rest of your life.
Ana just has the good sense to play this well-worn game with a billionaire who likes to have sex in thoughtful and unique ways instead of the mostly pieces of crap husbands I see so many women so desperately trying to submit to.
I walked to the theater feeling a bit dirty and wrong. I hadn’t been able to make it through a single trailer for this movie, plus I was worried that I might be letting down my entire gender by tossing in my 8 bucks to support a rape culture.
I actually walked past the theater on my first approach because there were two young men walking towards the theater at the same moment. I didn’t want them to think I was the sort of woman, you know, dowdy, middle-aged, mommy pornish, who had nothing better to do than go see 50 Shades of Grey all by herself. Even if that is the truth I didn’t want anyone else to know. On my second approach these two guys were still standing there talking to each other so I had to decide not to give a fuck and walk inside and buy a ticket.
They followed me inside.
For some reason I really did not want these guys to know I was going to see this movie. It crossed my mind that if they saw me going then maybe they’d think I’d like to get raped afterwards.
But they weren’t going away, so I set my resolve. I kinda whispered to the clerk that I wanted one ticket to FSoG. She repeated back in a voice that I’m sure was heard across the lobby, “ONE TICKET FOR 50 SHADES OF GREY.” for no apparent reason other than to let the two guys behind me know that I was going to see the movie that promotes a rape culture and that after the movie I probably would like to be raped. I cringed inside.
As I walked away with my ticket I heard the two guys say, “Two tickets for 50 Shades of Grey.”
Walking into the theater I immediately realize that I am easily 10 years younger than any other woman there. I sat down behind three women who are older than my mother would be if she was still alive. They are tittering away excitedly, but I’m not so sure I want to watch soft porn with my grandma. A few minutes later a woman my age sits down next to me with a girl who looks like her daughter. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to watch soft porn with my daughter either.
The two young guys make their way in holding their freshly warmed over popcorn followed by a lone gentleman, I kid you not, who looks to be about 90 years old. I realize the universe could not have gathered a more non-erotic crowd if it had tried. All that’s missing is Pee Wee Herman and maybe somebody with a little baby. Fortunately neither of those things happen and the movie starts.
The Movie is Better Than the Book
This may be the first time in history when the movie is better than the book. They changed the part that was hardest for me to swallow where Ana doesn’t own a computer or have an email account. YOU CAN’T GET A COLLEGE DEGREE TODAY WITHOUT A COMPUTER AND A FUCKING EMAIL ACCOUNT! Now her computer is just broken. Other problematic parts have also been either taken out or replaced with more believable scenarios.
We quickly get to the part where Christian and Ana meet. Frankly, at this point in the story I don’t have a clue why Christian Grey falls in love with Anastasia Steele, but it’s easy to see Dakota Johnson’s appeal. Yes, like Bella, she bites her lip a lot, but she has very pretty lips and she bites them with such depth of emotion and sincerity. The same cannot be said for James Dornan’s portrayal of Christian Grey.
Get to the Sex Already!
Was the sex hot? Yes and no.
The scene where Ana and Christian negotiate the sex slave contract is the hottest in the movie. It’s really only then that you start to see Ana not only an equal to Christian, but possibly the one with the true upper-hand. She plays him like a fiddle.
After getting anal fisting and genital clamps crossed off the list of things she’ll agree to do, she starts describing the sort of sex they could have right there and then on Christian’s fancy conference table. Just when he thinks he’s going to get to have his way with her, Ana stands up and tells him she’ll “think about it” and walks out. Damn. That’s hot. The funny thing is that there is no actual physical sex in that scene. Maybe the director should have gone more with that.
The scenes where the self-descriptive non-lovemaking Christian Grey is making zee love with Ana are pretty decent. He sure goes down on her a lot which is nice to see. We’re seeing that a lot in movies these days which I think is a trend we all should encourage.
But in all honesty I must admit that I closed my eyes and plugged my ears during most of the BDSM sex scenes. Not because they were all that raunchy, but because I had three grandmas and a 90 year old man sitting right in front of me, and somebody’s 18-year old daughter there right next to me, and I just couldn’t cope.
Enjoying adventurous sex requires a level of intimacy from me that I simply wasn’t equipped to allow while sitting alone in that theater full of strangers. Maybe movie-goers should get a safe word too.
Personally, I think this movie will be much more fun for me when I watch it at home with my husband. Which I will. I have no doubt that the sales of FSoG once it goes to DVD will dwarf movie ticket sales because watching porn with your grandma, the PTA president, and that pesky neighbor-lady down the street just isn’t as arousing as watching it with someone who can make your every nasty fantasy come true, or at least alone with your trusty Toshiba.
The James Dornan Problem
Maybe I could have suspended disbelief more if James Dornan had tried at all to make his character believable. It’s obvious from his interviews that he holds the character in complete contempt which is all fine and noble but it made it impossible for me to care about his character much less get turned on by him.
Lines like “I don’t make love. I fuck. HARD!” were delivered with an expression so pained that I felt bad for the actor until I remembered that I’d paid him $8 to convince me that he’s actually a guy who likes fucking hard.
If the actor doesn’t believe in his character, how can I?
This is the real problem with this movie: James Dornan. Why him? Why not Ian Somerhalder who reported campaigned for the role? Why not somebody, anybody, who actually wanted to play this character? Why choose somebody who delivers all of his lines like he’s got a gerbil trying to claw its way out of his ass?
Okay, to be fair, Dornan has his moments. There are a few precious scenes where I stop seeing the pained actor and catch a of glimpse of the tortured but erotic Christian Grey. But those moments are so few and far between. Dornan does have a great ass (gerbil notwithstanding) and nice abs and he does look very believable when he’s going down on Anastasia again, and again, and again. But overall he just doesn’t do it for me in this role. And I’m not alone. Why this actor was so badly miscast in a movie that had to have had unlimited financing is one of life’s great mysteries.
The Set-Up For The Sequel. FSoG Isn’t Going Away.
The movie ends abruptly. After demanding that Christian show her his worst, he spanks her with a belt six times and she’s donesies with him. She returns his computer, the expensive first edition of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and the brand new little red Audi he bought her as a college graduation present. It was then that I understand why Christian wanted her.
Men want what they can’t have. Edward wanted Bella because she was the one person whose mind he couldn’t read. If he could have read it then he’d have known it was filled with utter nonsense, but that’s besides the point. The point is that he couldn’t and that made her novel. Men like novelty when it comes to women. I’ll betcha the other 15 subs Christian had holed up in his Red Room of Pain before Ana didn’t return his expensive presents and dump him after only six spanks with a belt.
Which leads me back to the charges that this movie promotes a rape culture. Maybe I’m blind, but I just don’t see it. Each and every single time Ana says a real no to Christian he immediately stops whatever he’s doing. While reluctant at times, which is entirely understandable, Ana wants to be tied up and ravished by Christian. What she doesn’t want is to be punished by him. That’s her hard limit. And Christian lets her go when she’s reached it.
By the end of the movie it is clear who is really in charge of this relationship, and it isn’t Christian Grey. Ana deftly turns the tables on him by not needing his money or wanting his kinky sex. What Ana wants is a little bondage with an otherwise normal boyfriend. I haven’t read Book 2 or 3, but in the sequels to come somehow I expect that it will be Christian Grey who will be getting the education and not Anastasia Steele.