Ok, so the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer is here, which means that once again it is time to reiterate just how truly terrible this film is going to be. In fact, it’s not only going to be terrible; it’s going to come into your house in the middle of night, tie you and your loved ones to the designer kitchen island unit, and proceed to give your feminist ideals the emotionally manipulative whipping of a lifetime.
For those of you who are still wondering what the big deal is, here’s the bottom line: Fifty Shades of Grey glamorises and normalises emotionally abusive relationships, and no amount of stripped down Beyoncé tracks are going to change that.
The story also veers dangerously close to physical abuse. Central character Christian Grey is ostensibly the dominant partner in a BDSM relationship. Usually, BDSM is a carefully controlled practice commonly indulged in by two or more consenting adults who know what they’re about. However, many read Grey’s actions as overly sadistic, and often verging on non-consensual. By all accounts, the real BDSM community hates Fifty Shades like Oscar Wilde hated his wallpaper. That alone should tell us all we need to know here.
A fact that seems to have been roundly whitewashed out of the public memory now that 50 Shades has become a proper thingy all of its own, is that it originally started out as fanfiction based on Twilight. Yes, Twilight, that renowned bastion of liberated teen fiction in which a hundred-year-old dead man stalks a teenage girl because he likes the way she smells (and kinda wants to kill her), engaging in such wholesome activities as following her around wherever she goes, standing in the corner of her bedroom and watching her while she sleeps, and just generally being a creepy controlling manipulative perv. It should however be noted that Salman Rushdie has been quoted as saying Fifty Shades ‘makes Twilight look like War and Peace’.
Books and films that feature relationships like this are everything that makes me want to vom spectacularly for at least three quarters of an hour, and then pack myself off to a remote island with nothing but the complete works of Maya Angelou and a framed photograph of Germaine Greer for company.
The women in these tales are essentially children who need to be looked after by the men, and who are literally tripping themselves up all the time. Luckily, the men are there to catch them with their man arms (so fortunate I happened to be stalking you just then, huh?). The women have no life experience (drinking/drugs, travelling, other partners) before meeting the one magic dude who changes their entire lives with his phallo-sorcery. Thank the Lord for that one magic dude, or we’d spend our whole lives just sitting in our bedrooms eating dry crackers and reading Cosmo.
Then the women are pretty much cut off from their lives previous to having met the dude, because they don’t need friends, family, careers or a life of their own when all that useless nonsense has been replaced by his superlative ding-dong. And that’s when it usually starts to get really exciting, what with the emotional manipulation, the psychological abuse, the repetition of phrases bearing a resemblance to ‘no-one will ever love you the way I do’, and thinly veiled threats of what will happen if the woman ever leaves (they usually range from ‘I’ll just come to find you and bring you back’ to ‘Here’s a shovel, start digging. Six feet should probably do it’).
But never mind, because deep down the woman knows that if she just stays with the guy for long enough, and puts up with enough abuse, she’ll be able to fix him. Huzzah for relationships!
All that, and Fifty Shades is badly written too (and also probably badly adapted, acted, directed, and even edited, if the trailer – linked to below the title – is anything to go by). Spend enough time being told that abuse is romantic, that non-consensual dominance is sexy, or that emotional manipulation is fulfilling, and sooner or later you’ll start believing it. If we hold any sort of solidarity with those who have been abused in this way, we won’t go to see this film – because if we do, they will keep making more just like it.
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