Film Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

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Ever wanted to know what a BDSM version of Twilight looked like? No? Congratulations, you are a normal person.

The negative hype surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey made it difficult to go into with an objectively open mind. Expecting the play-out of an abusive domestic relationship, several of my friends placed bets on how long it would take me to walk out in disgust.

With a storyline echoing Twilight, the handsome but stern and painfully uncharismatic Christian sets his sights on the young Anastasia and proceeds to ‘woo’ her by stalking her, bombarding her with ostentatious gifts, turning up unannounced to ‘rescue’ her, and intriguing her with ominously abrupt assertions of his dark nature: ‘People that know me, know to stay away from me.’ and the like.

These actions, although ridiculous, are not met realistically by Anastasia and to condemn the film on grounds of glorifying harassment, one would also have to condemn the Twilight series among countless others! In short, I do not believe that this film particularly glorifies domestic assault or non-consensual violence.

Despite the initially poor acting and unconvincing dialogue, the film picks up pace as Christian cajoles Anastasia to be his submissive and the couple engage in light bondage. The underlying principles of BDSM, that of safety and consent, are made clear throughout the film.  Anastasia is at no point physically forced or threatened, merely persuaded and she negotiates her contract with Christian to meet her preferences.

I had been led to believe that the sex scenes were disappointing but was pleasantly surprised and would go as far as to say that the up-close filming and intense music made them the highlight of the film.

For all concerned that this film promotes abuse within a BDSM relationship, the ending of Fifty Shades arguably sends a far more positive message than the ending of Secretary (2002), wherein a young woman endures much more pain for the man she loves and is ultimately rewarded for her misguided servitude.

Perhaps therefore, Fifty Shades should be criticised not so much from an ethical viewpoint, but for the way in which the unconvincing screenplay sabotages what might otherwise have been a fascinating look into the psychology and dynamics of sexual power play.

[Kathy Carr]

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