I don’t think one singular film has ever made me as worried about the state of humanity as the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. When you really sit down and think about what this is, how many people find it romantic and, most alarmingly, how many young women legitimately wanted to go see it as their treat for Valentine’s Day, your instant reaction to what that says about our species as a whole should sensibly be to enter a great depression.
Keep in mind, this isn’t about the fact that we now live in a reality where a book based on pornographic Twilight fan fiction gets to be a movie! I’m sure even books that aren’t incompetently written have originated from dumb ideas. No, this is about the fact that the big news this Valentine’s Day, a day of love and all things sweet, is a film that glorifies an abusive relationship under the guise of “romance” and “erotica” and why you should be horrified that so many people, most of which are women, fall for it.
Even so, let’s briefly summarize the plot. Based on the erotic novel by E.L. James, whose ability to deal with criticism evidently remains since her prestigious days as an auteur at FanFiction.net, Fifty Shades of Grey stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as the two romantic leads that took the world by storm in 2011. The film has been criticized in its casting by at least a few fans and to tell ya the truth, even I envision completely different people when I picture the Fifty Shades couple in my head. My genuine theory is that these two were cast out of desperation two days before shooting began because everyone else they wanted for the roles had insufficiently low standards.
She is Anastasia Steele, an innocent and somewhat shy literature student (remember, this used to be fan fiction) and the man she’s been scheduled to interview by her friendly roommate is the wealthy and powerful Christian Grey, whom she finds to be an unusually intimidating and brilliant fella. Thus, Ana tries to keep close to Christian after the interview and soon enough she comes clean, telling the man that she wants to be with him. Christian wants to be with her as well, but on “his own terms”. A relationship does begin to form and Ana finds out more and more about Christian’s secret tastes, which allow her to explore her own something-or-other and blah blah blah who cares? This movie has human sex in it. There, now you have to go watch it. Sucker.
It is easy to wish that this film would have been directed by Lars von Trier, who would certainly have been more brutally honest about the nature of the source material and its subject matter. Instead the movie is directed by (get this) Aaron Taylor-Johnson‘s 20-years-older-than-him wife Sam, and Aaron himself was in fact rumored to have a small supporting role at one point (I’m guessing he rejected the offer instantly). Other small roles are given to actors like Marcia Gay Harden and Jennifer Ehle, who one would estimate accepted their roles solely on the grounds that it’s good money (not unlike, let’s face it, the true reason why Ana stays with a threatening masochist like Grey). In the meantime, other, lesser known actors such as Eloise Mumford and Luke Grimes were presumably just desperate to be in something at all.
YouTube critic Jeremy Jahns made a better point than I ever could when he said that this movie is what Twilight would look like if you erased all the Fantasy stuff and the actual “plot”, i.e. you’re left with the empty vortex that is the unrealistic, chemistry-less love story that no high-functioning lifeform would even pretend to believe. This so called “love story” is a sexist implication on James’ part that women are so shallow, stupid and pathetic that they’d allow themselves to get manipulated, hurt and controlled as long as they still get to bonk someone who has abs and money. Worst of all: the popularity of this book and the amount of people who (I’m not kidding) desire their own Mr. Grey are all factors that will cement this sexist implication as fact, and probably give rape apologists the chance to use a woman’s love for a certain book franchise as their new justification for the argument “she was probably asking for it”. A jorb well done, James.
The only thing in this movie worth a damn is some of the cinematography, but I’m sorry, I refuse to be enthusiastic about legitimate good work when it supports a film like this and I don’t even know if I can find a humorous way of mocking the bad things in the movie either.
This whole thing is difficult for me to deal with, because as much as I want to laugh at this film for all its inept writing (although I definitely could have used a lot more of those bizarrely laughable narrations from the novel), its disappointingly non-shocking sex scenes, and its utter joke of a “romantic chemistry”, I partially feel like it’s not okay to turn such a potentially harmful movie into a punchline. Maybe if fewer people fell for it. Maybe if even the flipping author herself wasn’t so blissfully oblivious as to what she has actually written about and didn’t try to silence people who call her out on it. Maybe then I could get away with having this film as my personal modern-day version of The Room – which, given that both films feature lots of ridiculous sex scenes and an abusive asshole in a suit, probably isn’t that bad a comparison.
As it stands, however, I am baffled as to what to do when it comes to Fifty Shades of Grey. I can’t change the tastes of die-hard book fans and I can’t warn people into not seeing the movie to avoid the risk of having their ideas of love and relationships warped, since the book has most likely already had its damage on the people that even plan on seeing this shit in the first place. So in conclusion, perhaps it’s better if I just give up on humanity and accept the blessing of unintentional comedy that lies on the film’s surface? If so, expect me to release a RiffTrax type commentary and turn the source of the madness into an 8-bit Newgrounds game very soon.
I know people who have been calling this, a movie based on a badly written fanfic-novel that tries to pass off abuse as romantic and erotic, a “perfect date movie”. I can think of very few Fifty Shades fans who aren’t single, and honestly, I hope it stays that way. At least until they develop a sufficient understanding about what abuse actually is and aren’t so out of touch that they allow actual real-life men to take them to a movie that glamorizes it. No one deserves the kind of life that this could possibly lead to, not even Fifty Shades of Grey fans!