I know I’m a dollar short and a day late with this one but in my own defense, chick flicks, especially overly lewd ones, aren’t really my speed so I don’t usually watch them. Fifty Shades of oldrey (I’m referring to the movie in this post) was no different and it wasn’t until I read a Facebook post from a friend who was defending the film and the book that I decided to watch is and see what all of the hype was about in a sense. I had no interest in seeing the BDSM scenes which is part of what got the movie so much hype. I became interested in the story/film when the controversy started about Christan Grey (the male main character; a rich playboy who was into whips, leather, BDSM and apparently a sweet and contrite young lady) being controlling and abusive and that this story/film offered a skewed perspective on love and that Anastasia Steele (the sweet and contrite young lady who was the object of Grey’s twisted affection) was bewitched under some sort of love/lust stuck spell and money – as if most modern day women aren’t but who’s nit picking – that had a number of people and feminist organizations in an uproar. You know me! My curiosity will also was guide me to investigate such controversy and so I did.
Before getting into the weeds of my review, lets cover the basics. First and foremost, understand that I’m writing a review of the storyline, concepts and issues presented throughout the story; not the characters, the acting – or lack thereof – in the film or things of that nature. I’m only focusing on the story. Moving forward, I’m not much of a reader but to really try to get a grasp of the concepts and elements presented I made a semi-honest attempt to read the book. Heaven help E.L. James – the books author – because I’m sure she tried her best and is now a millionaire because of it so I’m not hating, but sister is not much of a writer. Very early on I got lost in the poor imagery that the story presented and abandoned the book before even making it to the fourth chapter. I was able to gather the concept however from reading cliff notes notes on the story. The current BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism) taboo was a big part of the story but not necessarily what it was about. As described above, Grey is a rich fellow who is into BDSM and Anastasia – who Grey nearly always referred to as Ms. Steele – is a young college graduate who was as pure as well-water until meeting Grey. From there, he introduced her to his ‘interests’ including his “Play Room” and a whirlwind romance full of the usuals. The usuals being gifts, dates, the “push and pull” (will describe later), breakup, makeup, compromise, arguments, fights, demands/expectations unmet… that stuff all bad romances are made of. On the whole, nothing too crazy was presented in the storyline. Now, on to the review!
First, after watching the film I can say with clear conscience that the BDSM was taboo and that’s what raised so many hairs. The sex scenes in the movie were not over the top; believe me, if they were I wouldn’t turned away. I’m pretty squeamish when it comes to things like that but I was able to sit through those scenes with no issues. Judge all you want, but that should showcase how (reasonably) mild those scenes were. Furthermore, with the way the BDSM elements were introduced in the film before used, they seemed a lot less intimidating. When Grey first took Ms. Steele to the “Play Room” (note: this was referred to as the “play room” in the film, but was referred to as the “Red Room of Pain” in the book) he let her walk around and take a look at everything and ask as many questions as she wanted and actually answered all of them, told her the name of each “toy” and explained to her what each device was used for. Also, during the first scene where the toys were used thing started off quite reasonable and showed that all of the devices weren’t used for pain. To be more specific, in the first sex scene he blindfolded her and hit her with a small flogger and asked, “did that hurt?”. Ms. Steele answered, “no, it didn’t” and he went on to state that with BDSM, most of the pain is in your mind and that most of the items are used for pleasure and not pain. From there, Ms. Steele gave her consent for him to continue and he/they did.
A large part of the controversy surrounding this film was based on the premise that Christian was abusive towards Ms. Steele and some have incited rape. After watching the film I must respectfully disagree. Throughout the film and in all facets of it, Mr. Grey made it a point to clearly seek Anna’s consent before taking any action both in a physical sense and in a romantic sense. No sexual act was committed without her spoken consent and at the beginning of their relationship, he even offered a contract that outlined his rules. Lets take a look at that. To some – myself included – a guy offering a girl rules and expecting her to sign a legally/morally binding contract does seem extremely controlling. If I was in Anna’s position I wouldn’t have signed the contract (she didn’t). One thing that did strike me however was that he gave her the contract for her to review and offered her to opportunity to make any changes, ask questions and strike out anything that she wasn’t comfortable with; an opportunity that she took.
Upon her initial review of the contract she and Grey had a formal meeting to discuss her qualms with the contract and as agreed, he terminated and elements (terms, mostly) toys and concepts (certain sexual acts and degrees of control such as a curfew) that she was uncomfortable with and would not tolerate. As agreed, Grey did not attempt any of the acts that were disregarded and had no issues with her counter offer for the contract. In my mind, a controlling relationship gives the idea that the person in control dominated the other person and does not offer them an exit; that was not the case with these two. As mentioned, even in a romantic sense if ever Ms. Steele felt uncomfortable Christian offered her an open and available avenue of exit and throughout the film, she exercised this right on a couple of occasions. To delve into this a bit further, a specific scene in the film that many viewed as a display of Grey’s controlling nature was a scene when he allegedly scooped her up from a bar and dragger her out of it. This is another concept that puts me on edge so I was quite interested in seeing what actually happened. Yes, Christian did show up at a bar where Ms. Steele was hanging out with friends but it was not to stop her from having a good time or to “snatch her away” as some had implied. Anna, being the virginal little being she is, had been drinking and was clearly quite drunk and being hit on by the usual bar crawlers. She drunk called Christian to give him a piece of her mind and he could hear the drunkness in her voice and the madness going on and asked her who she was there with. She informed him that she came with a friend but that she couldn’t find her. From there he (Grey) asked where she was and headed over to the bar to pick her up.
From my standpoint, I think he did the right thing her. A girl who he knows isn’t a drinker called him from a bar and was clearly drunk and in what could turn into an unsafe situation really quickly, called him so he came to pick her up and made sure she was taken care of. Mr. Grey did not, I repeat, did not, grab, kidnap or snatch her away from the bar. After he arrived she was a bit resistant to leaving – as any young graduate who just drank their weight in cheap liquor would be – but after getting sick (vomitting) was more than ready to go. Even when she got sick, Christian held her hair back and carried her to the car after she passed out. The next scene cuts to her being in his home in a bedroom in clean clothes. Curious about the events leading up to that, Anna asked Christian what happened and he told her about the bar, informed her that they did not have sex and that she’d slept in his home and that she was in new clothes because she’d vommited on hers and that they were in the washing machine. With this, some have implied date rape because she woke up in a strange bed of a mans home. Without being too explicit, as ladies we all know things feel a bit ‘different’ after certain acts; particularly if its your first time (its addressed later in the film but it would have been hers) and the fact that Ms. Steele was in no distress, no pain and didn’t feel off, I believe that Christian truly did no harm to her and was being a gentleman by taking her. Once she was awake, he served her breakfast in bed and gave her some Tylenol to help with the hangover. Once she was steady, Ms. Steele was free to leave and she did just that; no strings attached.
Still looking at this same scene, I’m curious as to why Christian was crucified as a controlling man for doing what he did whereas her “friend” left unscathed. Rape of any sort is a rampant issue in the world and it is important – particularly for us ladies – to always use the buddy system. What type of friend leaves her “friend” at a bar to sneak off with some guy? She briefly checked with her (Anna) to inform her that she was leaving with some guy but made no attempt to ensure her safety or stick with the plan that I’m sure they had before they left the house: to stay together. In my eyes, she was was the bad person and worthy of controversy; not Christian.
Finally, on to the big point of my friend’s Facebook status that drew me into the story and captured my inters: love. Again, throughout the controversy you’d grow the believe that Christian had no love at all for Ms. Steele and that she was just a pawn to him. Some have even been so brash as to categorize Ms. Steele as a gold digger of sorts because Christian was a millionaire. I actually read on statement from on individual that implied that if Grey wasn’t a millionaire, he’d just be viewed as a deranged guy with a weird fetish (BSDM) and no woman would give him the time of day and certainly wouldn’t have ventured with him to the “Play Room”. Furthermore, arguments have stated that the way Grey treated Steele further showed that he didn’t love her at all. Throughout the film, Mr. Grey had a pretty strict no touching rule – which he himself broke on a few occasions – and to a certain degree, remained a complete mystery to Ms. Steele. In addition, Mr. Grey made it a point to continually state that he, “didn’t do romance” – another ‘rule’ he broke on multiple occasions – further feeding into the “no love” dynamic of their odd relationship and basis of controversy. With all due respect to those with such opinions I must wonder, did you watch the movie at all? Or just scenes?
Lets begin with the no touching rule. Early on in the film when Anna’s friend was giving her a pre-brief on the notorious Christian Grey in order to prepare her to interview him, she stated that though his fame, he’s never been pictured with a woman which to some, implied that he was gay – as if; particularly in this day and age – or that he was the player we all imagine and doesn’t settle down thus making it a point not to be seen publicly with any particular woman. After the interview was complete and the bizarre, whirlwind romance between Anna and Christian began he did tell her on a few occasions that she was not permitted to touch him and naturally, she got upset. However, as things progressed in their relationship and throughout the film there were a number of occasions where the two were clearly touching and such affection went both ways. In an attempt to get him to loosen up, as they were getting ready to go out, Anna put on some music and grabbed Christian’s hand and began to dance with him. If he truly intended to exercise his “no touching” rule, having a woman affectionately grab your hand would have been the most appropriate time to do so, but he didn’t. Again, while the two were on a date, he affectionately touched her (grabbed her hand, her thigh and played with her hair) and seemed to have no qualms in doing so. Overall, I feel as though the controversy with this issue was drawn mostly off of Christians words but on the whole, we neglected to look at his actions.
Stepping away from the story for a moment, its normal for us as humans, particularly when in uncomfortable situations – like/love is certainly one of them for many of us – to say one thing but do something else. I too am one of these people and if that makes me a monster like Christian then so be it. My significant other and I have been together for quite some time and throughout the life of our relationship I exercised the same hands off concept and still struggle with it at times. He’s much more partial to conventional affection than I am. If he’d attempt to hold me hand I’d either pull it away or ask him not to. If he got too close to me I’d squirm away and much like Christian, I verbally made it known that I didn’t like to be touched and asked him not to do so under most circumstances. Mr. Grey’s actions were no different. If however you look at his actions and do not fixate solely on his words than you’d see quite the different story. The same goes with me and I’m sure any other person who destains touch or is uncomfortable with physical affection. We say “don’t touch me” and scream “stay away” with our body language but if you get us with someone we genuinely like, such as Anna was for Mr. Grey, then its a completely different story; we convert from Wolves to Lambs almost. This is not to say that this change does not come without a fight and reservation but the change is there and apparent if you care to see it.
Reverting back to the story, as mentioned above another cause for confusion and in my opinion, distortion of the concepts in the story was the fact that Christian continued to state that he “didn’t do romance”. Much like the no touching concept, I believe this is an element that became an issue because of what was said but we ignored his actions; or did we? In the film after Grey and Anna entered into a relationship of sorts, as opposed to a strictly physical and gift giving relationship, he agreed to take Anna on a “normal date” once a week “a day of your choosing”. If that’s not romance, I’m not sure what is. In a standard context, if a guy is interested in a girl and he offers to take her on a date once a week any day she chooses, in the eyes of most that would signify a genuine interest in the young lady and not just a lustful desire. With that however some have argued that even though he made this offer, there was a chance that he had other women he made the same offer to or was dealing with thus rendering his offer a form of manipulation to string her along rather than honest interest. To that, I respectfully disagree. From what it seems the issue of monogamy (implied, because it was never clearly stated in the film) came into play. Towards the beginning of the relationship once the contract was introduced Grey made Anna start on birth control and get tested for STDs and he also got tested for STDs and they exchanged results. This act implied that the two used no barrier contraception during their romps in the “play room” which signifies monogamy in my eyes. Also, part of Ms. Steele’s contract stated that she was not permitted to engage in sexual acts with anyone other than Mr. Grey while bound by that contract further implying that the two were monogamous to one another and bound by the ties of a relationship.
To expand on this, from an outsiders perspective looking in and based on the story line, I can see why such a concept would pose an odd look at things. Generally in movies or stories that revolve around a relationship there’s some type of clear cut boundary that defines the relationship. For instance, the couple is married or outright agrees to being boyfriend and girlfriend. It appears that since this did not happen, its assumed that there was no relationship and that Mr. Grey must have been using and abusing Ms. Steele but I don’t think that was the case. In the normal context of an adult relationship, aside from marriage itself, how often are the terms of a relationship (i.e. “together”, “talking”, “just casual”, “dating”, etc.) clearly stated? From my little experience and vast observations such limits are usually implied and mutually agreed upon through action or if one person disagrees, its addressed then and the relationship is either dissolved or made clear at that point. The expectation of having things clearly stated – at least verbally – is more conducive to young people such as teenagers but seldom are adult relationships so clearly defined.
Referring the fact that Mr. Grey was rich and that some have implied that if Christian wasn’t a millionaire, his treatment of Ms. Steele (the BDSM) would be considered barbaric and that she only dealt with it because he was wealthy. Based on what was shown in the movie and interjecting my own womanly logic, I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that-that was not the case. If Anna was only in this for Christian’s money, would she have broke up with him at the end? No. Would she have been brave/bold enough to say “no” to the things she wasn’t comfortable with? Probably not. Throughout the film Anna made is clear that she was interested in a legitimate relationship with Mr. Grey and his money had nothing to do with it. When these two men, Ms. Steele didn’t even want to deal with him. She was doing her roommate/”friend” a solid by interviewing him for a story but made every attempt to evade conversation when he would try to get to know her. Furthermore, she respectfully declined his first offer to take her out after finding out that he was rich. Its difficult for me to say this kindly so I’ll just come out with it: in my opinion, if you believe Ms. Steele to be a gold digger than you’re just a hater. We as women all want some degree of romance and special treatment; granted, this “special treatment” is different for all of us. Some women like rose petals, others like fancy jewelry, some are content with tickets to a baseball game and there is no shame in any of it! It is your significant other’s civic duty to do whatever makes you happy not to appease the public and you as a lady should feel no shame in what makes you happy so long as your lover can provide it. In this case, Anna’s lover just so happened to be a millionaire who could afford her to sweep her off of her feel in his private helicopter and take her to dinner and send her home in a limo. Should she have decline? No! She would have been silly to do so! Her boyfriend took her on a nice date and there is no shame, blame or gold digging in that. If you’re so misguided as to see that as a her being a gold digger I must kindly wonder your state of happiness in your relationship. Jealousy is an ugly thing especially on a lady; don’t do it girls. Keep searching and be the best “you” you can be and one day you’ll find your Prince Charming or your Christian Grey but don’t bash another woman because she’s found hers and is enjoying it. Refer back to the examples I referenced above. Although she was sweet as pie and soft spoken, Anna had no issues with standing up for herself and if she was truly oppressed – as she began to feel towards the end of the movie – she would’ve walked away.
Its almost sad but on the whole we as people tend to project our own feelings and perceptions onto situations that have nothing to do with us and skew it to fuel our own – often misplaced – thoughts. This situation was no different. To this same effect, the element of love was very clear in this story. It may not be love in a conventional sense but that does not mean that it does not exist. The concept of love is founded on the notion that no one is perfect; you know they’re going to make mistakes just like you know you’re going to make mistakes. The love comes in when those two individuals not only refuse to give up on each other, but work together to get through whatever madness and mayhem life throws at them and through it all, find some way to try to help one another become a better person while simultaneously trying to improve self. That’s love. I am a firm believer in fairy tales and continue to believe that I’m living through my own, but it so seems that a jaded idea of love plagues our minds and when something – even if its a normal, consensual, functioning, adult relationship – we reject it and assume its bad or broken. A relationship is only broken when the two people involved are unhappy. Outside opinions have no bearing in a relationship and I firmly believe that’s where this last bit of controversy came from. People who aren’t in Christian and Anna’s relationship (yes, I know they’re both fictional) cast their opinions onto the relationship and make it seem bad when that wasn’t necessarily the case. If you want to look at this in a sexual sense (an area I’d like to avoid but its inevitable with this story) Anna appeared to be in heaven throughout such scenes. She wasn’t hurt, was often seen smiling afterwards and clearly enjoying herself as was Christian equally happy being the deliverer or said pleasure. What’s wrong with that? If it works for them, then that’s all that matters.
In closing, I believe that a lot of the controversy this film/story spawned from the taboo of BDSM and a myriad of opinions. Of course, we are all free to give our opinions but I believe the bashing the author has received and the negative feedback this film/book series has received was unfounded. If this storyline isn’t your speed, don’t read it. If you think Anna was oppressed, don’t worry, she’s fictional. If you think Christian was a monster, don’t date a guy like him. I however saw the story to be twisted love affair just as all of them are. Even the most iconic love stories of all time has some bizarre dynamic to them but the two people involved in the bad romance were happy so were cheered them on and labeled it “true love” and “classic”. This story however took the same concept and splattered and uncharted element onto it and suddenly it because cause for concern, threats and controversy. The only thing that leaves me in a bit of bewilderment about this is the fact that the controversy seemed to stem for an odd angle even when I take into consideration the taboo of it all. Zane’s books are notorious for being lewd and graphic but she’s received no backlash. In fact, one of her books (Addicted) actually directly referenced domestic abuse and was later made into a film but that didn’t raise a single eyebrow. Other books and films alike have blatantly displayed rape, date rape, addiction, physical/emotional abuse within a relationship and adultery but no one seemed the slightest bit concerned but all of a sudden a couple who likes leather and aggressive toys, who uses them in a safe, controlled environment where there is consent is cause for concern? I can’t help but think that our focuses can be on the wrong things at times.
All in all, that’s my review of the film adaptation and storyline of “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Check it out for yourself and draw your own opinions. With this one boys and girls, don’t believe the hype.