In Defense of Fifty Shades of Grey

fiftyshadeshead“Let’s do something stupid.”

For too long now, I’ve needed a topic to get back in the blogging harness. I felt tied, if you will, to a certain routine. I needed… mmmm… discipline. Maybe something a little dangerous would get me back in the swing. The sex-swing. Which is an actual object I witnessed through fearful tears.

This week, I was determined to do something stupid. And it doesn’t get much stupider, much sadder, than…

“One for Fifty Shades,” I half-mumbled. The teller recoiled. Part of me died.

Another part of me was living...

Another part was living

With seven dollars willfully misused and the saddest four words in existence hanging like a stench, I fell to a transcendent new low. I lingered outside, pretending to wait for a nonexistent girlfriend as close to American Sniper as possible. But they knew. The pervy middle-aged ladies knew.

I realized too late the cost of waiting. I’d have to walk in when they were all seated. Damn. Damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn.


Luckily we were all similarly shamed. An unspoken agreement wafted around the room: We tell no one. 


That’s how I ended up with a bunch of women at a Fifty Shades of Grey matinee. Most were aged half a century. I was surprisingly not the only male in attendance, but the others had the luxury of coupling. Hen-pecked husbands with little to lose.

My envy welled. Lucky bastards.

Of course, by the end, no one seemed particularly lucky. Because I can think of no reason anyone would enjoy Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s amateurish, stilted, the leads have no chemistry, the motivations are atrocious, and (this is the oddest bit) it’s not in the least bit sexy.

In my notes, I have three ALLCAP lines. Two are “NO CHEMISTRY” and “REPULSIVE, HOW TO DEFEND.” And my very first line is “WHY ANNIE LENNOX, WHY?

With that, let’s review my notes.


Good lord, I hope everyone knew I was taking notes…

The film begins with dark city skies and an Annie Lennox song. I know, I was also crestfallen. It wouldn’t be the last time either, since the Rolling Stones have a song attached and Beyoncé has two. Two. Oh Queen Bey, what have you done?

I have many notes from Anastasia and Christian’s first interview, but I’ll spare you the details. It’s mostly weird platitudes and emotionless flirting.

“I could offer you a job here.”

“(breathy snort), I don’t think I’d fit in here, look at me…”

“I am.”

Oh gag me with a… well, I can never use that phrase again.

And when Christian literally stalks Anastasia to her job at a hardware store (“oh, of course,” I noted), they have a bit more wispy flirting as he buys tape and rope. I am now unable to buy either without gagging… hmm, can’t even use the word.

After more super-creepy controlling behavior, Christian and Anastasia eventually get it on. You see boobs, possible inner thigh kissing, ass from both parties, one shot of thrown panties and hands hitting a bedspread. I’m unsure of the exact proceedings. It’s all so inky and moody and stupid.

“Why can’t they turn on a light,” whispered a nearby woman I nicknamed Berta. Her husband, who I will call Burt, responded with a distracted “Eh?”

The next morning, Anastasia dances to “Beast of Burden.” It’s now the second thing I think when I hear that song.

After this, Christian attempts to convince Anastasia to sign a contract. A contract filled with descriptors like “The Dominant” and “The Submissive.” And nothing is sexier than a table read of legalese jargon. Those court documents get all the ladies hot and bothered.

And when Anastasia asks for regular couple stuff outside the kinky weekends, Christian rebuffs with…

“Dinner and movies aren’t my thing. Try to keep an open mind about this. Agree to be my submissive, and I’ll be devoted to you. This is what I want.”

To her credit, Anastasia runs away from this creep. But she relents after a walk, where Christian reveals that he was a “submissive” at age 15 (!!!) for one of his mother’s friends. He tells Anastasia of the many benefits of bondage, of being free from all choices. Because… I can’t even make a joke.

Real talk: Are any of you turned on by this horseshit? This damaged, molested jackass talks about the “freedom of giving up control,” freedom “from making your own decisions.” Is that what anyone wants, to be a brainless piece of meat? To be used by a sadist in manipulative mind games? To be stripped of personhood for sexual gratification? I am volcanically outraged by this.

Afterward we get a semblance of denouement. They have a long, dark scene of veiled BDSM set to underwater Beyoncé. The slap-happy couple go rich-people plane gliding. Christian calls Anastasia his “girlfriend,” which shouldn’t be a character peak but is played thusly. And it all ends with an angry Anastasia storming out and boarding an elevator, the threat of “sequel” hanging in the air. But I admit, I was almost too angry to care.

I wrote, “REPULSIVE, HOW TO DEFEND” in my notes, underlining a few dozen times for irate emphasis. But I think I found some answers. Thank God for Burt and Berta.

As the credits rolled, Burt asked his wife, “Well, did you enjoy it?” And Berta, bless her soul, responded with an unamused “Eh. Nothing I’d want to try.”

I personally disagree. The rich-people plane gliding looked awesome.

I personally disagree. The rich-people plane gliding looked AWESOME.

As Cracked author  points out in his article “4 Reasons ’50 Shades of Grey’ Is the Limp Bizkit of Sex,” you can tell a lot from ticket sales. He links to a couple different lists, one for the most pre-order ticket sales for Fifty Shades, the other for most religious states. Bell eloquently asserts, “it’s the same fucking list.” And while Bell writes about commercialism, I choose a different tangent.

I’ve read calls to boycott the film and Christian pleas for purity, but the uproar speaks to the fact. Many of the ladies seeing the film are religious. Some of those women must be a little… well, bored. Maybe outwardly prudish. A little curious. Maybe sexually repressed.

If they’re turning to this, they must be desperate.

This is hotter.

Better than the movie.

If nothing else, maybe Fifty Shades of Grey shows a need for communication. If you’re feeling dissatisfied with your marriage and sexual life, there are ways to liven it up. BDSM is one of those options, but not as depicted in Shades. BDSM folks hate this series with a passion. They say it’s an unsafe and unhealthy depiction of their hobby, and I’d trust the lady with the leather whip.

Burt and Berta were uninterested, but maybe they displayed the point. Openness about possible kinks is a surprisingly good goal. Most of the ladies watching Fifty Shades might find it embarrassing or perverse to talk about their fetishes. A lady must be a lady at all times. But here’s a guy secret:

We kinda like when you talk about fetishes. I know, what a surprise.

"Martha, is this what you meant when you..." "Shh shh shh... let me have this..."

“Martha, is this what you meant when you…”
“Shhhhh… let me have this…”

It helps to not be sadistic, and to not demand someone give up autonomy. I don’t respect power plays and selfishness. But it’s not really about what I respect. Maybe that’s what some people need.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m disturbed and deeply repulsed by the idea of sexual dominance. But some people are weird. Fifty Shades might be for them. After all, I represent a minuscule portion of their intended audience. The “misanthropic, moronic young male” market probably isn’t a high seller.

In the end, I’m forced to admit that Fifty Shades might help couples feel more fulfilled.

There’s other admirable discussions derived from this series, like thoughts on gender equality and amount of change required for a relationship. And most importantly, there’s articles about abuse, and not the “fun” kind. I’m talking about psychological and emotional abuse, like Christian displays repeatedly in this (need I remind you?) terrible, terrible film.

Granted, this series might convince people in abusive relationships that everything will turn out alright, that their sadist partner can be normalized and that free will is bad. I weep for that possibility. But I believe it’s more an exception than a rule. And who knows, maybe the sequels (good god no) will correct the flaws of the source material. Like… this movie did?

I just recoiled. Another part dead. Oh well, I’m not defending the source material. I don’t want to talk about Twilight fan fiction.

See you next week, when I’ll defend… dammit, fan fiction? Really?


“Let’s do something stupid.”


One thought on “In Defense of Fifty Shades of Grey

  1. Pingback: In Defense of Fanfiction | Pop Culture Courtroom

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s