It wasn’t a surprise when the film 50 Shades of Grey broke box office records following its Valentine’s Day release, considering the media hype and excitement from fans that surrounded the long awaited adaptation. The movie has been in theatres for over two weeks and still everywhere you look there are people talking about the film, the book, merchandise being sold complete with “romantic” 50 Shades style weekend getaways for couples looking to get their kink on. However, despite the film’s rapid success, equally unsurprising is the controversy surrounding the film’s release.
The issue of much debate is whether or not the film glamorizes an abusive, male-dominated relationship and the concern that young girls might think this is a normal type of relationship to be in. While I agree that the relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele is deranged, under no circumstances do I agree that this is grounds for the film or potential future films similar in nature to be banned from theatres, which was the basis for protests globally.
Whether or not you agree with the film’s content, it’s important to be both critical and open-minded to the types of media we’re taking in. In the case of 50 Shades I understand why so many are upset about the relationship being portrayed in the film, but on the other hand, it’s important to see the film for what it is and accept that it is in fact disturbing that isn’t meant to be “normal”.
Admittedly, I didn’t read past a page of the first book and frankly had no interest in reading any further, but with all of the excitement both negative and positive surrounding the film, I wanted to see what all the hype was about for myself.
The acting was disappointing and I found the on-screen chemistry between Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnston) to be incredibly forced. Hopefully their relationship as co-stars will evolve as the series progresses but it was all too evident how new this was to them as actors which took away from the story. That being said, the story itself was also ridiculous, but I understand both sides of the controversy from those who are for and against the film.
It’s problematic that the film was released on V-Day, as if to suggest that this was the perfect film for lovers everywhere to making a date of, but objectively, the film looks at a number of issues that do not suggest this is an acceptable relationship. Grey is a very distressed individual who has struggled through hardships of his own that have cause him to act out these extreme sexual fantasies that are arguably controlling and abusive.
The abusive nature of the relationship is concerning, but it’s important in the context of the story to remember that Anastasia willingly signed up for this, and while Christian is scarily persistent in convincing her to say yes, it’s really no different than any other sociopathic thriller film, and it’s no reason that it shouldn’t have been made into a film, or that it should have been banned from theatres. If people want to watch a movie like that, or anything else, that’s their choice.
That being said, when watching the movie, it’s equally important to recognize the background story that has made Christian this way and understand that it is being portrayed as problematic, thus leading to a healthier progression of a relationship between them.
Did I care for the film? Not really. Was I influenced by it? Not even remotely. It’s a fictional drama that contains a lot more than just a kinky relationship between a dominant and his submissive partner, it’s also incredibly psychological and sad. It’s important to recognize that it is a fiction, and if we’re going to start banning certain movies, then it’s certainly a slippery slope to censorship. It will be interesting to see if the second installation will be confirmed soon, and whether or not the controversy will continue.