What can be considered one of the most anticipated movies of the last year had an opportune premiere date on Valentine’s Day. The underground world of BDSM found its way into the mainstream with the book “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James and according to Forbes, the movie had sales of $85 million over its debut weekend.
While the movie is far from a cliché in the ‘traditional’ sense, it is still about a woman who does not have much money and is unsure about where her life is going. She is essentially ‘saved’ by a powerful man with lots of wealth and influence. He pursues her and sweeps her off her feet to what would be a much more affluent lifestyle. On top of this, towards the beginning of the movie before the two main characters have an official relationship, young billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dorman) seems to be overcome with love or lust for college kid Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), but at the same time knows he’s not the right man for her. It is then that on a street corner he grabs her face and turns out what is probably one of the most cliché lines of all time: “I’m not the man for you. You should steer clear of me. I have to let you go.”
One of the biggest controversies about “50 Shades” in general is that it perpetuates abuse towards women. Many think that BDSM in itself promotes abuse and unsafe practices. However, in the movie, there seems to be a divide. Grey seems to take care of her in that his sexual need for power and dominance is not abusive. He always lets her know why she’s being “punished” and even though he tries to get her to sign this contract for more than half the movie, he allows her to have it modified to her liking. During one scene, the two have a meeting to discuss said contract and Steele takes out sexual practices such as vaginal and anal fisting without Grey’s objection.
The abusive nature in the movie actually lies in the persuasion of getting Steele to sign the contract and agree to the BDSM. At one point, Steele is out with Grey and she gets fed up with him. She asks him to take her home and he agrees, but instead of doing so, he takes her to a secluded wooded area so he can talk her into signing this contact. Now, if you’re trusting someone you’ve only known for a few weeks to take you home and they basically say ‘screw that, I’m going to do what I want’ by taking you to some wooded area so you can ‘talk,’ that would be a red flag. At this point, Grey has complete control over the situation since they drove his car there and Steele fell asleep on the way there. She wouldn’t know where they are or how to get home. If he really wanted to take advantage of that situation, he could. What would have been more appropriate would have been Grey listening to Anastasia and taking her home, then maybe discussing the issue at her place where she could feel safe.
“50 Shades” certainly isn’t the best movie of the year, but it is understandable that the movie would fall short to all the hype it’s gotten since its conception. In addition, with characters who are supposed to fall into some unexplainable lust for one another you’d think that they would look like they at least like each other. However, the duo looks so awkward on-screen that it makes all the BDSM scenes look nonconsensual.