This weekend I went to watch the movie that everyone has been dying to see,”50 Shades of Grey”. I was eager to find out whether the movie was as great as everyone says and if everyone’s excitement including my own was worth it . Since BDSM is a topic that is still considered taboo, I had the hope that the movie would challenge the misconceptions. However, I sat at the theater for 2 hours to find myself highly disappointed in the movie. I would like to clarify that I have not read the books and I will only be critiquing the content from the movie. I will not be comparing the movie with the books.
I found a lot of problems within the movie. One of the biggest problems that I found in the very beginning was that Anastasia was portrayed as a vulnerable young woman who did not seem to have much self-esteem. Christian Grey, on the other hand, was portrayed as a wealthy, important, mysterious and intimidating young man who apparently Anastasia was drooling over as soon as she met him. What if Christian Grey was homeless, or living off of social security? Would she still be drooling over him? I highly doubt it. I find it very disappointing that in 2015, movies would portray women in this way. These characteristics of Anastasia and Christian promote the patriarchal and sexist society in which we continue to live in. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the media is one of the most powerful tools that influence people to think a certain way. By showing Anastasia as vulnerable and Christian as powerful, change is not being created and that is very unfortunate.
The second problem that I found with the movie was that Mr. Grey was excessively controlling towards Anastasia. He claimed to not want a romantic relationship but expects to be told where and when she is going place. Seriously? Also, there is a scene where he finds out that Anastasia is going to Georgia to visit her mother he gets very upset and tells her a one point that he “owns her”. How is this showing a positive things about the BDSM community? Even if Mr. Grey and Anastasia were in a relationship, he has no right to tell her that he owns her. No one owns anyone else. This controlling characteristic of Christian Grey promotes violence against women because it sends out the message that it is acceptable to allow someone to control you.
Many argue that consent is shown in the movie and when I saw Mr. Grey hand a contract to Anastasia I was glad. Anastasia and Christian also meet to negotiate the contract which is also a positive thing shown in the movie. They do give her some power by having her specify what she is willing and not willing to try. However, the contract is never signed by Anastasia at any point of the movie. This is very disappointing because they engage in sexual activities in his play room. This defeats the purpose of the contract!!!!! The point of the contract is so that all parties involved are aware of what each person wants and what is to expect. The purpose of negotiating a contract is so that all parties negotiate the things that are acceptable and not during the activities. Also, no activity should happen until the contract is signed. After the negotiation, Anastasia asked for a couple of days so that she could think things through. Christian agrees, but pressures her throughout those days for her to sign the contract by sending her messages saying he was waiting impatiently.
On a more positive note, there are few things that did somewhat positive sexual health. Condom use is promoted in the movie because Christian Grey is shown opening a condom package before every sex scene. Also, as I mentioned before a contract and negotiation is also shown in the movie. Although, I would have liked to see the contract being signed to show a true side of the procedures that happen before engaging in BDSM. Another somewhat positive part of the movie is that safe words are created and Christian Grey assures Anastasia that she is allowed to use the safe word at any point of the activities. However, at the end of the movie when Anastasia is being spanked by Christian, she is crying in pain and does not use the safe words. Then what is the point of creating them if she is not going to use them?! The movie should have at least shown Anastasia use the safe words. The absence of the safe words promotes violence against women, and it is very disappointing.
“50 Shades of Grey” promotes a lot of violence against women because Christian, the main male character, is portrayed as a professional groomer. For those who might not know what grooming is, it is when a sexual predator aims to establish an emotional connection with the victim as a way to prepare the victim to unwillingly submit to abusive behavior. In the movie, Christian Grey begins to buy Anastasia very expensive gifts, sending out the message that expensive gifts are way more important than feelings to establish an emotional connection with a woman. Also, Christian buys her expensive gifts after making it clear that he was not into romance. His grooming techniques unfortunately worked because Anastasia continues to see him and ultimately engages in sexual/abusive behavior with him.
“50 Shades of Grey” also portrays virginity as a burden. When Anastasia confesses to Christian that she is a virgin, he is automatically shocked! Not only that, he begins to talk to her as if he felt sorry for her. Then, to make things even more degrading, he begins kissing her. Anastasia asks him what he is doing and his answer is that he is going to take care of a situation. I was speechless with disappointment. This sends out the message that virginity is not accepted and that all girls should lose their virginity at a young age. However, no one should feel pressured to have sex just so that they can lose their virginity.
People may argue that Anastasia did give consent by telling him to show her what he wanted so that she could understand. In some part that is true which is another flaw of the movie that portrays women as being irresponsible. Christian should have been responsible enough to say no and wait to find out if she was going to sign the contract. By not waiting, the movie sends out the message that contracts and negotiation are just a joke in the BDSM community when in fact, they are one of the most important things.
Many may argue that “50 Shades of Grey” brings awareness to a community that is often not spoken of because it continues to be taboo. However, I completely disagree with that argument. The movie falls into the category of movies that are created solely to make money and without the purpose to educate. The movie does not steer away from stereotypes, it actually creates new ones while bringing more shame to the BDSM community. One of the stereotypes that is maintained throughout the movie is that people believe that the submissive person does not enjoy engaging in BDSM. However, that is false. In BDSM, ALL parties involved should be on the same page and should enjoy the activity.
So what affect does “50 Shades of Grey” have on people’s real life? People may argue that it does not have much affect because it is just a movie and movies are not real. I completely disagree. “50 Shades of Grey” does have a huge effect on people. In fact, there have been several reports of men who have been arrested for sexually assaulting women by re-enacting “50 Shades of Grey”. BDSM has nothing to do with sexual assault. On the contrary is has everything to do with consent, negotiation and sexuality. To read the most recent story of UIC student who was arrested for sexually assaulting another student by trying to re-enact “50 Shades of Grey” click here. I really hope that this movie is taken off of theaters and never comes out on DVD. I believe it is shaming the BDSM community rather than steering away from stereotypes. To read an amazing article that critiques the “50 Shades of Grey” books, click here.