V-Day 2015: 50 Shades Of Not Okay


This past Valentine’s Day weekend, the absurdly best selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey came to theaters. What began as a Twilight fan fiction written by a middle aged British woman has been transformed into a record breaking $81.7 million (and counting) grossing film. Since the Colgate Activities Board (CAB) was offering a free midnight screening of the movie, some of my friends and I decided to check it out as a joke. In the weeks leading up to the film’s opening, a large portion of Tumblr’s community vowed to boycott the movie because they deemed it a terrible misrepresentation of bondage, domination, sadism and masochism (BDSM) that supported abusive relationships. Sometimes there are extremists on Tumblr, so I questioned the abundant abhorrence of the story.

Although it is good to question things on the Internet, I really did not need to question the boycotting Tumblr users. Their disdain for the content in Fifty Shades of Grey was spot on. Not wanting to go into the movie blind, I searched the story synopsis on Wikipedia, which did a poor job of conveying the emotional abuse and absurdity I saw on screen. Considering the story is about a sexually dominant-submissive relationship, the abuse was not the most surprising thing in the film. What caught me off guard was the female protagonist Anastasia “Ana” Steele’s naïveté and stupidity. Miss Steele is a college student nearing graduation who captures the eye of the young billionaire bachelor Christian Grey. She interviews Grey for her university’s newspaper and makes a huge fool of herself on the first encounter. The erotic romance film quickly turns into a comedy in the opening scene as the audience watches an awkward college girl trip and fall into the office of a suave, cryptic young man. Throughout the movie, my friends and I laughed at exaggerated, unrealistic scenes and voiced our bewilderment whenever Christian Grey creepily appeared out of nowhere or Anastasia did not react normally in very abnormal situations.

The movie, and most likely the book, is trying to be something it is not. For the millions of women who found their sexual awakening because of this book – please go see a psychiatrist. There is nothing sexy or erotic about stalking and emotional abuse, which is really what this trilogy (yes, sadly there is more than one book) seems to portray and condone.

After the initial, awkward encounter between Ana and Christian, the next time the audience sees the young billionaire is when he suddenly appears in the hardware store where Ana works. He asks for cable ties, masking tape and rope, which Ana jokingly comments are tools for a serial killer. I felt her psychopathy diagnosis was closer to the mark than she realized. To really emphasize Christian Grey’s incredibly creepy personality, I shall provide a few more examples (spoiler alert). First of all, during the photo shoot for the school newspaper, Christian glares daggers at the photographer José, later asking Ana whether he is her boyfriend. Later in the movie, Christian sends Ana some really old first edition books for no apparent reason. Later that night, Ana goes out to a bar to celebrate finishing exams and drunk-dials Christian. He becomes very tense and demands to know where she is. Even though she doesn’t tell him, Christian still finds her and conveniently arrives just in time to shove José away for trying to kiss Ana. Christian’s possessiveness, although he was helping her in a non-consensual situation, is very surprising considering the small amount of time for which he has known her. His possessiveness borderlines obsession, and there are multiple times when he shows up at places uninvited, such as her bedroom of mother’s house on the other side of the country.

Christian’s character does not hold all the blame for my strong distaste for this movie though; Ana also is a huge factor. Despite the character’s 4.0 GPA and major in English literature, she appears fairly stupid. Her vocabulary and observational skills are seriously lacking, which is evident when her initial reaction to Christian’s automobile present is to repetitively say, “That’s a car!” Anastasia Steele is a very wishy-washy character. One moment, she is saying no and questioning Christian’s actions, and then suddenly she is putty in his hands, agreeing to his every whim. Ana often does not react the way a sane person should. There is one scene in which Christian says he is going to take her home, but the next thing you know, he is driving a sleeping Ana to some woods in order to privately talk to her. If I woke up not in my house, I would be freaking out and thinking the guy who had shown up at my work place to buy cable ties, masking tape and rope is going to use those items to somehow murder me.

The only redeeming quality of this movie is that it has a fantastic soundtrack featuring artists such as Ellie Goulding, Sia, The Weeknd and Beyoncé. However, even the music cannot make up for the pure skin-crawling disgust I felt after watching the film. I think it is trying to promote consent, which is the foundation of a BDSM relationship, but any semblance of that message is overshadowed by the creepy, obsessive stalking of Christian Grey and the emotional abuse inflicted that confused Anastasia receives. I am incredibly glad I did not pay any money and strongly urge people not to support this misguided movie in any way.