I know I’m a little late to the party, but I watched Fifty Shades of Grey recently. I watched the film instead of reading the book because I’d rather waste two hours of my life than several days trying to read stuff like this:
"I flush. My inner goddess is down on bended knee with her hands clasped in supplication begging me."
"My inner goddess is beside herself, hopping from foot to foot."
"My inner goddess fist pumps the air above her chaise lounge"
"My inner goddess stirs from her five-day sulk."
"My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves."
“My inner goddess is doing a triple axel dismount off the uneven bars, and abruptly my mouth is dry.”
“The remaining subclauses of this clause 15 are to be read subject to this proviso and to the fundamental matters agreed in clauses 2-5 above.”
I’m guessing the last line is something to do with the contract they keep banging on about (wahey) all the way through the film, the one she never actually signs. Ironically, this contract seems like the healthiest, most respectful part of their relationship, and is probably more interesting than any of the sex scenes. It’s so boring it’s almost ‘grey’ you might say (sorry, another awful joke). It takes about 45 minutes to even see nipples. If you want saucy stuff, just watch porn. Christian Grey’s BDSM gear is so clean and tidy it looks like it’s never been touched.
I have no experience of BDSM but people who are into it seem to be pissed off. I’m told it’s often not even about sex. It should be done in a controlled, safe space, with trust and respect. In Fifty Shades if they want to play dom/sub in the playroom that’s great, but instead Christian Grey uses his sexual tastes to try to control Anastasia Steele’s whole life.
I was trying to figure out what makes Fifty Shades so popular, but it seems it’s as famous for being bad as it is for being good. It’s wound people like me up enough to shout about why we hate it, giving it more publicity. The widely known bad writing in the book seems like a clever marketing choice – there’s no way a publisher would allow it otherwise. They’re books marketed for people who don’t often read books, it’s genius really. But this could be so damaging in terms of how people see relationships.
People I know who’ve seen/read it say something got them hooked on the characters (God knows why, they’re so dull) and they needed to know what happened. This is rather like Twilight, which Fifty Shades was originally based on (it was erotic fan fiction). I never want to have to watch the second film or read the books, so I read the synopsis for the sequels. I didn’t care about the characters, I just needed to find out if they got together– that thing they refer to as a ‘happy ending’. And no, not the rude kind. That, in fact, would’ve been better. Finding out what happens in the rest of the story demonstrates the message of it. This is the thing that most people ignore in films, mainly just because the messages are now so normal that we don’t question it: the hero wins, the boy gets the girl, they’re madly in love and live happily ever after and all that fairy tale bullshit. This, somehow, apparently happens in Fifty Shades. But more about that later...
Anastasia is a virgin at the start of the film. A virgin! And Christian expects her to move in with him and be his sex slave? Talk about being thrown in at the deep end. We see Anastasia losing her virginity in that perfect way that people do in films where it’s all clean and tidy. Her character development consists of having sex twice, then suddenly she’s wearing a sexy fitted dress and heels. Christian continues to act like a complete psycho, pestering her and turning up everywhere she goes in that Edward-Twilight-vampirish stalker kind of way. He’s like a mix of Donald Trump and Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. There are so many red flags in their relationship that had me screaming ‘just turn around and get out while you can!’ It was almost like watching a horror.
At the end of the film, Anastasia leaves. You could almost be fooled into thinking she came to her senses. This is why it was important to know what happened in the sequels, so here we go… She changes him, they get married and have kids. So what does this tell us? It tells us that Christian’s behaviour is worth tolerating. But if you were to tolerate behaviour like his in real life, it’s unlikely he would change so dramatically that quickly. So all you’re actually doing is going along with what men want, and quite frankly, enough time has been spent doing that.
It’s seen as a ‘romance’ film, let’s not forget this. It’s marketed as romance. It’s about a troubled man coercing and controlling a woman who clearly has low self-esteem. Romantic? Really? But it is hugely popular, so I’m guessing this means lots of women have this fantasy - to be bought and owned by a man who will treat you like shit. That really saddens me.
Fifty Shades is a symptom of what happens when women grow up with fairy tales and romantic comedies. The notion that you meet ‘the one’, get married and have kids and then you’re happy forever.
Now I’m aware that people often aren’t going to the cinema to see gritty realism about troubled relationships (that’s what I’d go and see) but this is what Fifty Shades should be marketed as. Instead, it’s dressed up in a romantic ideal which too many women can relate too – that the bad boys can change. I’m not saying they can’t, but in the case of Christian Grey, he needs the help of a therapist to do so, not the love of a needy woman.
I can see why women can identify with Anastasia, many of us struggle with low self-esteem. I certainly have felt intimidated by successful men in suits at times. I quickly learned my place as a child – the men were the bosses and the women were secretaries. I had to always be on a diet, had to wear make-up to look pretty for the boys. I had to keep my legs closed and act like a lady. If a boy was mean to me on the playground? Well that’s just because he liked me. Girls are taught to tolerate things from the moment they learn to speak. They’re taught that success is bagging a man with money, marrying him and pushing out babies. That his over possessiveness and jealousy are romantic, and that his sexism is just a ‘boys will be boys’ thing. Women are taught that this is the best we can get. We go along with it because it’s normal.
Fifty Shades is for women who grew up accepting misogyny, never questioning it, and it’s dressed up as empowerment because it’s their choice. They’re giving consent like Anastasia does in the film, but why? Because she, like so many women, has been taught to do whatever it takes to make a man love you.
It's just a film, you say. A bit of saucy fun, like other ‘romantic’ films. With the amount of media we humans consume every day, please don’t be stupid enough to think this stuff doesn’t seep into our subconscious. Fifty Shades is a toxic relationship with characters similar to those in Last Tango in Paris. It should be shown on the basis of how NOT to do romance, exposing behaviours to look out for in an abusive relationship.
So let’s just reiterate again what Fifty Shades is about. It’s about a man who is rich, white, young and hot. He had a difficult childhood resulting in him being a complete control freak. He uses BDSM as an excuse to stalk, control and abuse a woman. She is a virgin with low self-esteem who will do anything for him to be one step closer to the fairy tale dream. So tell me, if a friend or a family member was going out with a guy like Christian Grey, would you be pleased for her?
Fifty Shades is proof that women have been taught to love rich, white, powerful male control freaks. Need more? Just look at how many women voted for Trump.
British actress Emma Watson recently gave a truly inspiring UN speech - you can watch it here:
This fantastic speech got me thinking about 'feminism'; what it means, and what it REALLY means nowadays. I agree it seems some women don't want to refer to themselves as a feminist now as it'd already started to make a bad name for itself. I certainly don't like labelling myself as anything, especially something that may be construed as fighting against men. There are many inequalities out there for men which also need addressing, so to say I'm a feminist seems unfair to men's rights too.
Emma is quite right to invite men to come forward, after all, the change mostly lies in their hands as to how the next generations will view women. But as women we need to be changing our views towards men too. Having 'feminists' and 'masculinists' only brings about more of a divide, even more of a 'fight' between the sexes. How about we stop 'fighting' and start 'supporting' the opposite sexes? Surely a hundred MALE feminists in a room is going to help more than a hundred female feminists? And vice-versa. So, hurrah for Emma Watson; invite the men in.
Imagine this scenario. We finally discover one day that we are not alone in the universe (yes, this is still related to gender equality, go with it!), and our new alien friends (or foes depending on which Hollywood movie most likened to!) have some different reproductive organs. Now to us, they all look the same; big eyes and long fingers and all the usual stuff (apologies if the racial stereotyping of aliens offends anybody!) except for some have a red circle on their bellies and some have a green circle. We wouldn't treat either any differently because we don't have any clue of any preconceived ideas of what this might mean. They wouldn't treat us any differently either because they are not yet familiar with our mainstream media, amongst many other things; to them we all look the same too.
So, simply the easy way to sort this out is if we all go and meet some aliens and start a new. Simple as that. But what happens a few years down the line when the red circle aliens have impregnated a load of female humans? There's pictures of them naked showing off their illicit circles. People are offended if a bit of circle is shown in a restaurant. Websites threaten to leak red circle exposure pictures of celebrities on the internet?
We'll need to move to another planet. Maybe these ones will have purple squares. We'll start again.
And then inevitably we'll all get hit by asteroids, or the universe will implode, or one of the Gods will come and tell us it was all a hoax and we all never really existed anyway, and then we'll all just go back to being a big mass of swirling gasses.
Back to where we came from. All together, as one. All exactly the frickin' same.