Whips, chains, blindfolds and a former Calvin Klein model; that’s right, the heavily anticipated film “50 Shades of Grey” released Friday in theaters all over the globe, stirring up not only butterflies in women across the country, but controversy as well.
The film, based on the first installment of the popular trilogy by E.L. James, centers around college student Anastasia Steele (played by Dakota Johnson), who crosses paths with the mysterious billionaire Christian Grey.
The original story was written as an erotic fan-fiction based on the main character from the “Twilight” series. Edward and Bella have been re-introduced as Christian and Anastasia and given an entirely new type of relationship.
With the delicious Jamie Dornan depicting the not-so-typical boyfriend Mr. Grey, it's difficult to see that the relationship between the two characters is quite unhealthy; but this isn't because of the BDSM that Christian practices in the film. It’s because of the way it was portrayed.
BDSM (which stands for bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadism and masochism), also known as a sub-genre of “kink,” is extremely apparent in the trilogy and movie, being the main attraction to the millions of fans who bought the books.
Despite the sexual aspects of the film, Anastasia makes it clear she wants a loving relationship, not just a sexual one. Christian denies her that with the line, “I don’t do romance.” This begs the question, “Why is she sacrificing so many of her needs and desires for his?”
Though the sexual acts depicted in this film are technically consensual, one scene proves to cross the line with many, when Anastasia asks Christian to show her to what extent he wants to hurt her for his pleasure. She finds that his need for control is far more painful than she imagined.
“[The film] does a lot of disservice to the kink community, as well as to women in general,” said Nick Hunley-Moore, a women and gender studies and sociology double-major. “The fact that the film portrays a controlling, isolating, potentially physically and mentally abusive relationship as a hot love story is very disconcerting to me.”
He is not the only one who shares this opinion. Lisa Wilkinson, co-host of Australia’s breakfast TV show “Today,” said the movie “is domestic violence dressed up as erotica” in her own online review.
These claims are quite accurate. Anastasia’s power over herself is completely diminished by Christian in this film, as she is given little say in how she wants their relationship and her own life to be.
She is told what to eat, wear, drive and do in her everyday life by her so called “boyfriend,” who takes his dominance far across the line of the bedroom door.
“The relationship in the movie isn't healthy to Anastasia, and the BDSM isn't practiced in a safe or healthy way,” said Moore, who also studies kink communities. “There are healthy expressions of kink in which both partners are sufficiently educated in the safety of the activities, where support is provided by their sexual partners.”
In an interview with Britain’s Notebook magazine, Dornan said, “If I was about to be doing something particularly heinous to Dakota, I would apologize in advance.”
Other actors also expressed that some scenes were uncomfortable to shoot.
The film undoubtedly has 50 shades of grey area, as legitimately hurting and manipulating a woman (or anyone for that matter) is wrong. However, what about when she, even hesitantly, agrees to it?
This is one of the things that many justify the behavior depicted in the movie with, yet this isn't enough for many groups, such as the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
The organization launched the website, fiftyshadesisabuse.com, which claims the film glamorizes and legitimizes violence against women.
The hashtag #50DollarsNot50Shades is also trending on Twitter, encouraging the public to donate the $50 one might’ve spent on movie tickets and a babysitter to a local women’s shelter.
In a world where sexual abuse is a very real problem in the lives of millions, the way “50 Shades of Grey” depicts a “fun and exciting” relationship is beyond worrisome.
The plot of this film is portrayed in a way that tells women that being emotionally controlled is a good thing, especially when it involves money and a handsome man. Sure, the typical reader of James’ trilogy may fantasize about being in Anastasia’s position in the bedroom, but what would they say if they were actually put in Anastasia’s oppressed position in everyday life?