50 Shades of Letdown

Soooo.... I went and saw 50 Shades of Grey last night.  I made my guy go with me, so luckily I had someone to listen to me rant all the way home from the theater.  But, as with the book, I feel like I need to get some stuff out.

The Good

Let's start off with the two best things about this movie - Dakota Johnson and the set design.  First, look at her.  She is absolutely gorgeous, and managed to make Ana about 1000 times more likable than the character in the books. Probably partially because we didn't have to listen to any of that blathering inner dialogue or hear about her subconscious or inner goddess even once. She was stuck with a slow, bad story, and some pretty terrible dialogue, but she did what she could, and she was really funny.  Ana is still naive as hell, but in the movie that's pretty much the worst thing about her, which is a huge improvement.

Second, the look of the movie was great. The cars, Christian's gorgeous condo, Ana's clothes, and the playroom were all really well done. Fun to look at and just what you might imagine when you're fantasizing about being swept off your feet by an uber-rich dude who can afford to just buy you car for a gift. Oh, also, Marcia Gay Harden, because she is basically ALWAYS awesome. The music was also pretty good, though during 'Earned It' I couldn't stop thinking about this atrocious music video.

The Bad

Unfortunately the rest was not so great. I actually felt really bummed out when the movie was over. The sex scenes that were supposed to be so hot were... just, not. I mean, they were partially okay. It was really nice to see a woman with pubes and leg hair in a popular movie. But almost everything that was shown in the movie was shown in the previews. One of the things that makes sex scenes hot is the chemistry and buildup between the characters and it just wasn't there. There was no foreplay, and no climaxes, and just like in the book Christian kept telling her to be quiet, or everything was overwhelmed by music. It was awkward and all of them were very short. This couldn't even qualify as soft core porn. It wasn't about chemistry or passion, it was about creative camera angles and Beyonce music.

The same issues were there between Christian and Ana just like in the book. He is drawn to her like a magnet, then can't be with her, but then he is there, then he says he can't. On-again, off again, etc. The thing is, most of the first book was sex, and most of the movie was not, so it ended up being slow moving and my friend said he was bored for most of the movie.

Jamie Dornan. Oh Jamie, I really wanted you to be okay in this, but it just didn't happen. At this point I'm convinced the lack of chemistry is mostly on his shoulders. I have read several articles that referred to him as a Scottish robot, and I'm afraid that's apt. His American accent was terrible, and it was pretty impossible to relate to him. He's not smoldering. He's not even that good looking, I mean, he's okay, but has zero magnetism. He was just not believable. It made me feel sad.

The Ugly

All right.  Let's talk about what everyone's been talking about. The nature of Christian and Ana's relationship. I have been reading different articles about this movie for the past few weeks. Funny articles about 50 lingering questions after seeing the movie, about a Mom and Grandma going to see the movie together.  I have read reviews that wonder where all the hot sex was or describe it as boring and depressing. Then there are the more serious articles, like this one about 50 Abusive Moments in 50 Shades of Grey. The article I would most recommend is this awesome article at Buzzfeed about 25 Facts about BDSM That You Won't Learn in 50 Shades of Grey.

After watching the movie, I found that there were a few things I could sum up that really bothered me. The first, like in the books, was the lack of a realistic/respectful Dom/sub relationship. Actually, the lack of a respectful relationship, period. So many issues exist with Christian and Ana's that it's hard to know where to begin, but one of the worst is the muddling up of their romantic relationship and their D/s relationship. If someone is that set on only having a certain type of relationship and requires a contract for it, they are likely not going to lose control and be unable to stop themselves from breaking their own rules. I know that is the fantasy - but therein lies the problem. The base message this 'romance' seems to convey is this: Just stay with him while he hurts you, even if you don't want it, because eventually he will fall in love with you and you will get what you want, you'll completely change him and get married and live happily ever after. That seems like an EXTREMELY dangerous message to be sending.

Ana doesn't understand where Christian is coming from, which is understandable. She is naive. But the fact that he continues to lead her down this path while she is crying and asking him why he wants to punish her/hurt her... it just leaves an extremely bad taste in my mouth. I liked it that Ana seemed to be a bit more self assured and powerful in the movie, and at the end when she left and told him no,  it was empowering. Of course, we all know that doesn't last, at least if you've read the books.  

Then, of course, we have the inaccurate portrayal of a healthy D/s relationship. A real Dom is respectful of their sub's feelings and thoughts. Negotiations happen beforehand, not DURING the playing or relationship. I read that they had BDSM consultants working on this movie, so there were little things that bothered me. Like, the lack of any type of aftercare. Consent and safety are a huge part of real-world BDSM communities, and hitting someone to the point that they're in tears and then walking out the door is a pretty big faux pas. Additionally, having a virgin who has been open hand spanked twice ask you to "do your worst" and then actually DOING it? Just... no. At one point during the movie, she says "you do this to women?" and he says "women who want me to." Just like in the books, however, it never really seems like Ana wants him to do much of anything, she just LETS him. It's frustrating.

I also still have huge issues with the fact that the only reason Christian is into BDSM is because he is "fifty shades of fucked up." And yes, he actually said that line out loud in the movie, and yes, it was totally as awkward as it sounds. He had horrible issues as a small child and then was sexually abused as a teen. He says he was a submissive to an older woman for six years, but when that submission started at age 15 that's not something he did of his own free will and is absolutely inappropriate. Ana is correct when she calls "Mrs. Robinson" a child abuser.

I know that it's just a movie. I know it's a fantasy. In a way I'm glad they made the movie because I feel like it's spurned so many articles talking about healthy relationships, what BDSM really is, and what parts of Christian and Ana's relationship are really messed up. I was sad that I couldn't even enjoy what little hotness there was because I was too disappointed by the whole hot mess.

I've read articles describing Christian's behavior as rape and stalking. Some people think that's taking it too far, that it's just a fantasy etc. In the movie, I felt like there was less of Ana saying no to him, she seemed to consent to the sex itself, which is better than some parts of the book. But Christian does continue to show up and be controlling of her behavior. Which could be the case in a D/s relationship, and be fine - IF both parties have ALREADY AGREED TO IT. Not before. Not when they barely know each other. Not showing up in her apartment, or tracking her down when she is out drinking, or following her to another state. It's problematic.

I have heard the arguments that 1. I am being snobby by having these opinions and 2. It's not real, it's fiction, let it go or 3. It's just a story.  Yes, I understand that. However, I don't think it's asking too much to be able to talk about what the issues around this are. You can take the book and the movie with a grain bottle of salt, but I feel like it's important for people to understand that this isn't normal, and it isn't necessarily healthy. If it gets people into exploring sexually, that is GREAT. More power to them. But they should know what is and isn't okay, that they have the right to consent, negotiate, and withdraw consent, and that just because someone is Dominant doesn't mean they are disrespectful.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I am left with a couple of lingering questions, and a general sense of dis-ease.  How does someone live in college without a working computer? How come Ana could google 'submissive' but couldn't google butt plugs? In the end, am I glad I saw it?  I don't know. I felt like I needed to go see it so I could have my own opinion, but I won't ever watch it again. I was hoping that it would be campy enough that it would be so bad it was good, but it wasn't. There were enjoyable parts, courtesy of Ana being funny. But as a whole, the movie was just depressing and a letdown.