Editor’s Note: This article features sexuality and film spoilers.
I went to see Fifty Shades of Grey opening night.
And I’m not sure why.
I’m a read-the-book-before-the-movie kind of girl, and I try to stick by those guns.
But I never finished the book. I couldn’t.
My aunt insisted that I read this steamy novel about a young college girl getting S&M play from a troubled billionaire around the time it was getting a lot of buzz, and the fact that teenagers were horrified that their mothers’ were reading it out in the open intrigued me. What about this book was so great?
This was also around the time that I was in the middle of the Hunger Games series, and Hunger Games won (and will always win).
I found myself forcing myself to get through the E. L. James novel. I only read a little more than 100 pages in Fifty Shades before my mind went gray – pun intended. I thought it was just too much, but not in the way that you may think.
The writing was basic, yet overdone. I was suddenly in the mind of virginal Anastasia Steele, who was an English major, but didn’t write like one, and everything happening to her seemed to overstimulate her. It was understandable, but not believable. I stopped reading and never thought to pick it up again.
But with the sick soundtrack featuring a new version of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” and the hype surrounding who would play Christian and Anastasia, I was intrigued yet again.
Maybe I had judged the book a little too harshly? How would the directors successfully and tastefully depict the sex scenes that had so many people glued to the pages? And what had I missed about the complex character of Christian Grey?
I was excited to see how it would all play out on the big screen.
The movie, to me, however, was just like the book – way too much.
It’s starts off nauseatingly sweet, following Anastasia’s character as she nervously fills in for her best friend for a journalism gig. She interviews Christian Grey, and the story takes off, quickly.
An infatuation seems to grow between Grey, with his smoldering good looks and smothering glare, and Anastasia, the innocent and unassuming college girl. Their connection is suddenly so powerful that you wonder whether you missed something from the plotline.
Anastasia’s shyness and naiveté are sickening.
When Anastasia was shy, she bit her pencil or her lip, or she stuttered. Her desire to be with Christian, despite not knowing much about him, was alarming, especially given the fact that he was into physically punishing and controlling the women he sleeps with, restricting them to contracts that regulate their diets, how much they drink, where they go, who they sleep with and how they are to behave in the bedroom.
The sex scenes throughout the movie were sensual, and often stimulating. Many of them were tastefully done, considering the details I had read in the book. Yet, it was the very last scene that allowed me to collect all of my opinions about both the film and novel.
Anastasia realizes a disconnect between herself and Grey, an inexplicable feeling of distance even when they are physically together, and she learns it’s because he has this insatiable interest in “punishing” her, an issue that may have stemmed from his dark past of what sounds like experiences of child abuse and molestation.
Anastasia asks Christian to show her what he wants to do to her in order to better understand him, and another side of Christian – a forceful and violent side relishing in the pain that she feels – is revealed.
Seeing her cry as he continues to hurt her is more than uncomfortable. She looks at him as a monster and leaves his apartment.
The movie ends.
I couldn’t help but think that the joke was on us, and I could tell the people in the audience agreed.
The guy next to me laughed at all of the cheesy acting moments throughout the movie. The audience groaned and gasped in relative unison during the rolling credits (one person literally yelled “That was terrible!”), and it seemed that this movie was more about the psychological effects of sexual abuse paired with a romanticizing of being controlled masked by fancy trailers and sex scenes.
It’s possible that both the author and filmmakers did the audience an injustice by making something so dark, so titillating, without opening up dialogue about the unhealthy and underlying issues of the film.
Both characters needed therapy.
Christian for his dark past, his desire to hurt and control women, and his incapability of conducting a healthy relationship not ridden with physical pain and contracts. Anastasia, for thinking that if she gave Christian what he wanted, sex and complete control, that she could receive his love in return.
We all have issues, but it doesn’t help to romanticize them.
And in case you’re wondering, the film ranks at a lovely 3.9 on IMDb.
Brittany Britto is a graduate student and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.