Picture the situation; a handsome but shady billionaire meets a shy and inexperienced English literature student. An exchange is formed and he begins to stalk her; turning up uninvited, buying her ridiculously expensive things, and controlling everything from what she drinks to what she wears. He doesn’t let the girl touch him, but will take her to his “red room of pain” and whip, flog and blindfold her. The girl is new to this kind of kink, she’s hesitant towards it and conflicted about whether she actually wants to try it. When the dominating rich guy finally beats the shy young girl with a belt, she cries, and shouts at him to stay away from her.
It may sound like the build up to a rather bloody and disturbing episode of Criminal Minds, but in actual fact this niche little “story line” is that of the infamous 50 Shades of Grey. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two months, you would have been hit by the overtly controversial 50 Shades shockwave. I went to see it yesterday despite apprehension to subject myself to a sexist train wreck.
I came out of that cinema, feeling like a shaken-not-stirred mojito as I tried to figure out if this “sexy” number was supposed to be a comedic horror. Back in 2011, I read the books and, I must say, the words and so called plot within that novel should never had made it onto the big screen.
From the outset the film is hilariously cringe-worthy, and the poor writing of E.L James becomes shamefully and blinding obvious as you witness the painful exchanges between Anna and Christian that make the entire theatre laugh. 99% of the movie is an utter shambles, and really it points back to the fact that the characters lack any sort of depth, the story is jumpy and Christian is merely a rich psychopath.
The film ends with a the image of a distraught and crying Anna, who is leaving Christian after he beats her to tears, and this supposedly warrants as a cliff hanger, as E.L James has announced she is writing a screenplay for a sequel. Now, I’m open to this idea, but on two conditions.
- The film is made into a comedy, all abuse, control, manipulating of Anna and offensive attempts at portraying a BDSM relationship are removed and we sit back with our pre brought snacks and laugh.
- The violence in the relationship is addressed, and the film becomes a sort of campaign of noticing the warning signs of abuse.
However, I see this being very unlikely, and, like all great failures, a singular film production from the series is more than enough. 50 Shades merely enforces patriarchal roles of submissive woman and controlling men the sheer lack of knowledge that E.L James’ has of BDSM relationships is ridiculous. The relationship that is shown between Christian and Anastasia is abusive, and nothing beyond that. He controls and manipulates her, not just in the bedroom, but in everyday life. He scolds her, tries to changes her (her own words here) he follows her around, he’s obsessive and he is forceful. There is one instance which very much borders on rape. Some kind exchanges, helicopter rides and face touching is thrown in in an attempt to mask the underlying cruelty, and Anna is granted the occasional backbone, but this film is expressing a disgusting portrayal of how relationship works. In a nutshell, this film glamourizes abuse.
The notion of a sequel is enough to make me shudder in repulsion. Whether or not E.L James tries to increase the romance level between the pair is redundant. The relationship is not about BDSM but about sexual and domestic abuse. The BDSM community believe in safety and comfort and consent is always necessary. After role play, the pair are supposed to comfort each other to transition out of that zone. None of that is present in 50 Shades. The film is misrepresenting BDSM. It is romanticising abuse. It is telling women and men everywhere that that kind of fear and pressure in a relationship is ok.
If this is as repugnant to you as it is to me, join me in a pitch fork and flaming torch style mob. At least then you will match the backwards nature of 50 Shades of Grey.