Fifty Shades of Lame! 2** (1* for production values; 1* for allowing the discussion to unfold so we can learn the truth about BDSM)
Christian Grey: Jamie Dornan
Anastasia Steele: Dakota Johnson
Based on the best selling books by E. L. James with over 100 million sold in 52 languages and a box office hit that blew all records
Critique: Lame and Dangerous
I cannot begin to tell you how disappointing this film is for me as a sexologist.
Yes, the 50 Shades book trilogy made publishing history. It normalized the discussion about sex and especially about the holy grail of BDSM: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sado Masochism. It allowed kinksters to come out of the closet and claim their orientation. Yes, this is a sexual/relational orientation and I am all for it if that is how your own arousal matrix works, or if that floats your boat. Think of it as being sensual or turned on and expressing your interest in a power exchange with another person in a context that is what we call “non-vanilla”– vanilla being the good old tried and true standard baseball diamond approach to sex: 1st base: Kiss, fondle, caress, rub, move hands from mouth to breasts or chest; 2nd base move down below the waist to use manual touch on genitals; 3rd base: oral on the genitals; and finally hit a home run at 4th base by penis-in-vagina sex or regular old sexual intercourse. This is so old school it makes me cringe, but it is how many people (heteros) still do sex today!
Why I hated this movie:
It’s lame. The characters never really grow; even the girl-woman (Steele) doesn’t shift as a character; she is clueless; she is not a real submissive; she is a victim of emotional and physical abuse. She is a virgin who falls in love with an idealized image of a guy (Grey) who seems like he has it all: Looks (not really), style (okay), skills (yes! But not the kind I’d want my virginal daughter to begin with), personality (not really), and MONEY and POWER. He’s a billionaire something. We never get to know what the man really does for a living. She’s a tepid college student, with a cute smile and nice skinny body who works part time in a hardware store. Instead of showing any fully developed characters, we see paper cut outs; clichés; cartoonish sketches of people in a fabricated relationship.
What really annoys me is this:
BDSM is a very complex world. It has rules. It begins with communication, engages people in negotiation, is based on trust and safety, is truly intimate, and is not violence or coercion or seduction run amok. This film shows a distorted view of that reality. In fact, I think it’s just plain dangerous. We see so much violence in the world around us, especially in intimate relationships, celebrities or commoners. I worry that the erotic power exchange depicted in this movie is going to send a message that it is perfectly okay for some violence-driven guy (or gal) out there to take off his leather belt, buckle and all, and start beating the you-know-what out of his girl/boyfriend and call it okay. I can hear him saying now “You know you want it…you know you like it”, as she winces or whimpers or screams with pain and never gets to exert the power of the submissive to her Dom by saying “Spaghetti” or “Florentine” as her SAFE WORD to actually get him to stop. BDSM is never violence. It is always consensual between two (or more) adults engaging in a scene of erotic power play. Whether or not ropes, or handcuffs, or whips, or floggers, or canes, or electrical currents, or any other form of sensory explorations ever take place it is never the taking of someone else without their consent, knowledge and an escape hatch.
What pisses me off?
This movie does not show the real world of BDSM. Instead it shows an entitled and boring serial stalker guy who attaches to the 16th girl as his newest victim to “own” and control her; he wants to be cherished and adored and let him have full reign over her; she is his toy, his thing, his catch, not his girlfriend and certainly not his equal in this exchange ever. What annoys me is that this guy shows up in her apartment without her consent or being given access, her place of work, and everywhere he wants to invade the space of his object of pursuit. He is a sick predator to a sorry prey. That’s not what BDSM is about. That’s what bad filmmaking and poor research and lousy writing does to a sub-par (pun intended) script. Shame on them. Shame on E. L. James, one of the richest authors in our world history, for bringing this upon women and girls. Once more the soupy sorry loser girl falls in love with a power-hungry entitled rich idiot (think Cinderella), and voila a plot for disaster has been let loose.
P.S. If you want to learn about the real deal of BDSM, get this film (a cult favorite documentary): “Beyond Vanilla”