Scrolling through Twitter and Facebook recently, it’s been impossible to ignore those ubiquitous Fifty Shades ads. The marketing team have done a good job once again of ensuring that the upcoming film release won’t go unnoticed. The hype and raunchiness are off the scale.
So, what’s the harm in a little sensual entertainment? Here are some reasons why I won’t be going to see the new Fifty Shades Darker release:
- Legitimisation of abuse and emotional mind games
Especially if you’re rich and/or sexy: fuelling the ‘they can’t resist me’ male myth – in other words: ‘it’s ok’. This idea perpetuates notions of a Blurred Lines-style: “You know you want it” narrative. Having spent the last 50-100 years trying to undo this line of thinking, many feminists will despair that younger generations are now lapping it up again. As revealed in the character of Christian at the end of the first film, abusers tend to start out seeming wonderful before turning nasty, including being manipulative, violent and hyper-jealous as time goes on.
Some may argue that the relationship is based on BDSM, though most proponents of this argue vehemently that Fifty Shades is a poor mirror of their highly consensual practices, slamming its storylines – stalking, for instance – as neither “safe, sane or consensual”. Fifty Shades features some twisted notions of relationship, including the idea of submitting to demands you’re uncomfortable with, if you love the other person. The insidious thing about 50 Shades is that it masquerades as the climax (pun not intended) of desire while in fact promoting scenes that reflect real life domestic abuse. Natalie Collins, the founder of the Fifty Shades is Domestic Abuse campaign said that the franchise “glamourises Christian Grey as the ideal partner,” when Christian’s character is clearly abusive. She said: “The [films] feed into a culture where men’s domination of women is the norm, and romanticise men controlling and dominating women, especially if that man is wealthy and handsome.” While she doesn’t think that Fifty Shades alone would have a detrimental impact on people’s relationships, she did state that the films “exist within a spectrum of messages that sexualise and devalue women, and encourage men to be dominant and coercive”. For such reasons, Natalie is organising a protest of Fifty Shades Darker at the premiere on 9 February, raising awareness of the abusive themes in the film. See here for more information.
2. I might actually enjoy it
This reason is probably the most alarming to me. Aren’t these themes just a bit of fun, a bit of a laugh? Of course, we’re drawn to sexiness; of course we’re pulled in by tales of luxury and decadence. Even some ads on TV try to appeal to these desires. But are these scenes of sexual and emotional coercion good for your psyche or do they have the potential to creep up on you, making you dissatisfied with, or disillusioned by, your committed relationship or current non-sexual relationship status? For some, could viewing films of this nature distort your view of how you perceive women want to be treated? Do you want to be a willing observer of control-freakery and other sociopathic tendencies, disguised as romance? Having observed a teenage relative succumb to similar behaviour from a so-called boyfriend, it’s shocking to think I could just sit back and ‘enjoy’ such themes.
There may be those who can watch nonsensical erotic fantasy content – intended to give women “a break from their husbands” according to EL James – and not have it mess with their thoughts and real-life relationships. Unfortunately, I acknowledge that films like Fifty Shades may be likely to occupy too great a space in my mind, so I just don’t want to go there.
3. Typically, demand fuels supply
Generally, the more people line up to see Fifty Shades, the more producers will search for similar material to put on screen. Do I really want to contribute to those viewing figures and help fill the Fifty Shades coffer? Do I want to encourage more of this type of film? Even if you just go to FSD to check out what all the hype’s about, you’re effectively adding popular support to the furtherance of such content. If this is at all alarming to you, listen to your voice of hesitancy. At least, check out some reviews from a source you trust first.
4. Under-developed characters and superficial storyline
It can’t have escaped most people that the film is based on the poorly-written sequel by E L James, essentially oozing excess, luxury, contrived dialogue and misinformed fantasy ideas of romance, involving being seduced and used by a hunky guy. Leading character Ana appears to be lacking in foresight and common sense; Christian comes across as a stereotypical philanderer, albeit an incredibly wealthy one. If you’d balk at the idea of a Mills & Boon blockbuster on the big screen, then why even consider going to see Fifty Shades? It’s somewhat insulting to one’s intelligence. See here for excerpts of the poor dialogue that may or may not feature in the film (language alert).
In reality, Christian Grey would probably be getting his kicks from a whole harem of lovers tucked away in his mansion, and would probably wind you up with his moodiness and unpredictable outbursts, than dazzle you with his sexual prowess. While suspension of reality is a common feature of blockbuster viewing, it seems that unlike other fantasy hits, the Fifty Shades phenomenon is in fact toying with many people’s very real views and/or practices. Read here and here for more on its influence.
I’m not saying don’t watch the new release. But I know that if I indulge in the movie I might start to become mesmerised by the film’s flawed projection of ultimate love and sex. At the end of the day, I’d prefer to spend £10 and a couple of hours of my time elsewhere.