I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been fascinated with the recently published (and now film) 50 Shades of Grey. As a 19 year old student, my sexual promiscuity is at an all time high and I am ever intrigued by new fads.
I read all three books when I was a family holiday in the Maldives in 2013 at the height of their popularity, and I watched the film last night. Whilst I did endure all of these experiences willingly, I have to admit that I have some serious issues with trilogy.
I’ll begin with the books, whose plot is practically non-existent. Aside from the sex scenes that interject the otherwise mind-numbing narration, almost nothing happens to the characters. The narrator Ana is an unbearable voice throughout; she is annoying, cloy, constantly banging on about her ‘inner goddess’ and refusing to ever use the words ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’. There is nothing innocent about this book and the way it deals with BDSM, so why not just say “he put his massive dick into my vagina”? rather than using the word ‘sex’ to replace what we already know is happening? It’s infuriating. Finally, the sexual encounters between Ana and Christian, although begin saucy and exciting, occur so frequently and in so much detail only for them both to orgasm after about 3 minutes of penetration, that they become exhausting to read. The characters are supposedly so attracted to each other, that they climax pretty much as soon as they touch each other, but it gets boring. It’s unrealistic. I’ll admit that there were a few moments where my downstairs tingled, like the silver balls at the dinner table, and I’m all for handcuffs, but it becomes so ridiculously frequent that the sex becomes boring, and I found myself searching for a plot beneath the whips and chains in the red room.
Similarly, the film is lacking in almost everything. I was hoping for a creepily attractive and powerful Christian Grey. Think Christian Bale, Eddie Redmayne, even Leo would have been better. Whilst Jamie Dornan is beyond sexy, I wanted someone that would make me feel uncomfortably attracted to them (weird I know, but it’s what the books did for me). I think what was interesting about the books was the feeling that Ana was attracted to someone she really shouldn’t be. Christian is broken, messed up and maybe even a little mad, but this was what created the desire and suspense which are missing in the film. Dakota Johnson also, is not what I was hoping for from Ana. I wanted a clumsy, frail weirdo. Someone I could relate to, but who didn’t annoy me in the same way the books did. Kristen Stewart in her awkward sexiness, or Keira Knightley in her fragile frame would have been more what I was expecting. By not being stuck inside Ana’s head as the book forces us to be, the way she deconstructs Christians character and her journey into accepting her position as a submissive are completely lost. Being immersed in Ana’s mind kept Christian unavailable to us as readers, and this was exciting, but by losing that aspect of self-reflection I think we lose the sexual dynamic that built up between them as a pair. Both actors are great, but they lack any chemistry at all, and this makes the performance weak and the sex scenes uninspiring. The plot is dire, and although tastefully done, the BDSM is boring. I’m not saying I was hoping to get myself off in the cinema, but the books provided promise that the film was going to be some kind of soft porn, alongside a ‘promising’ plot line, and this is not what I got.
Although the books are horrendously written and insulting to many who actually practise BDSM, I did actually enjoy parts of them. The Christian Grey character, although weak in the film, tapped into many desires women have to be dominated by a man: the contract between Ana and Christian is more than that of a masochistic man and a weak woman, it’s a contract of trust, and a contract of care. I am a feminist in almost every sense of the word, but I have no shame in admitting that having a man want to posses me sexually, is something that definitely attracts me. And I applaud E.L James for managing to create this figure in an almost tasteful way.
This trilogy has really opened my eyes to the world of BDSM and made it seem not as scary as I thought it initially was, and although the books are tragically awful, they are a guilty pleasure and despite my complaining, I did read every one until the end.
What does everyone else think of the books or the film? I’d love to know!