The ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ film: Why it deserves more credit than it got

I don’t know about some of you, but when E.L James’ series ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ exploded on to the scene, I wasn’t one of the people rushing to Waterstones to buy it. You don’t need to have read the books or seen the film to know what they were about.

A couple of my classmates in high school became engulfed in it – even though we were under sixteen at the time, all I was doing was trying to keep up with homework – but I simply wasn’t interested in reading that sort of thing. I thought it would make me look dirty and, dare I say it, even though I hate the term, slutty. That seems ridiculous looking back, but I was very shy back then, particularly when it came to that side of life. Well, I still haven’t read the books, but after my experience over the weekend, my mind has been somewhat changed.

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When I was sitting on the sofa with my Dad a few nights ago, flicking through the newly added films section on Sky Movies, I became heart-poundingly worried when he suggested we watch the film.

“Oh, they have it on Sky now.” I said as a passing comment.

“Have what?” he replied as he looked up from his phone.

“Fifty Shades of Grey.”

“Let’s stick it on.”

“…Really?…” Please no Dad, don’t put me through the humiliation, I thought.

“Yeah, why not.”

What could I say? I am eighteen, so there’s no reason I shouldn’t watch it. I reluctantly agreed. “Oh. Okay…”

So I clicked on it and waited for it to download. I was veeeeery concerned about watching it with my Dad. I didn’t really like the idea of watching it alone – okay, I was kind of interested by it, naturally, but I so naively thought I might be left scarred and traumatised for life, so I avoided it – but watching it with my Dad… I assumed this was going to be the most embarrassing experience of my life.

But it wasn’t. In fact, it was the total opposite. Why you say? A teenage girl watching an erotic film with her father, that’s mortifying, right? Wrong. Yes, there are a lot of sex scenes, and some of Christian Grey’s sexual habits are concerning to say the least. He says that he “doesn’t make love”, he requires no emotional connection at all. This alone makes it clear that it went further than being a film with lots of sex in it. A complex but very real character was built, and I am absolutely fascinated by him.

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The film had incredibly strong characters in it. Incredibly strong. The obvious one being the leading male, Mr Christian Grey. He’s good looking, rich, and has a very detached view on sex. A lot of people only look at him in terms of his sexual habits. Yes they are a key part of his character and the overall plot, but it’s important that you look at other parts of his character as well.

  • He presents Anastasia Steele, the leading female, with a contract on what she finds acceptable and unacceptable when having sex.  A contract. To me that screams his need for security and to always know where he stands.
  • He was abused. This would undoubtedly change the way he views sex. Maybe he thinks it’s better to not get attached again, or perhaps his abuse is some kind of backwards revenge. Maybe he’s generalising all females and wants them to feel as vulnerable as he did. I’m not excusing his behaviour, but it could be an influence.
  • He ties Anastasia’s hands together. Some of the readers might put this down to him being kinky. But  by doing this it makes it impossible for her to escape. Yes, he says she can leave whenever she wants to. But, the pleasure he gives her when she is under his control makes it more difficult for her to walk away.
  • He says that he uses sex for pleasure. Fine. But when you look at him as he has sex, it doesn’t look like he gains any pleasure. In fact all the sexual pleasure is on Anastasia’s part, with the ‘pleasure’ he gets in fact being power. He never mentions any pleasure she might get from it. He has extremely selfish motives.
  • He is obsessed with punishment. There’s a scene when Anastasia rolls her eyes at him and so he says he has to punish her. He tells her to bend over and he whips her. Now, one minute he uses whips for pleasure, the next he uses it as discipline. It seems to me he can’t tell the difference between the two. Perhaps this is because in both cases he does this to keep a level of control over her. But it could also relate to him being loyal to his own pleasure and so as long as he feels good after whipping her, it doesn’t matter whether he does this when they’re intimate or on a more abusive level. Although I would suggest, taking everything into account, that these two things turn out to be the same thing.

There are so many other things you can say about him, let me know what you think in the comments.

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Another thought on the side of this: Christian appears to form a closer attachment to Anastasia to any of the other fifteen, so he says in the film, women he’s been with. I thought about why this could be. Then it occurred to me, Anastasia says she hadn’t had sex before. And so when he becomes the first man she sleeps with, she truly becomes his. There’s no one else who has tainted her or made her impure. I guess this relates to the age old obsession of women being pure. We think this is a thing of the past in western culture, but this film raises the question, is it? What do you think?

 

About half an hour in, when the scenes got all steamy and intimate, me and my Dad talked about the bizarre nature of their ‘relationship’. Is it love between them? Is it all about control and power? What is going on his head exactly? Does Anastasia actually love Christian or is it just lust? These were all things we talked about. This lead to us having some very important conversations about relationships, something which should be talked about between a parent and a child. Especially because I am yet to experience my first relationship, it was good to sit and talk about this with my Dad.

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“It’s all about control…” I said to him just before Christian went to tie the newly college graduate Anastasia to a bed. My Dad replied “At the end of the day, I don’t think any relationship should be about control.” And we talked about that as they had sex. I realised that it was a bit ridiculous of me to shy away from having these conversations with my Dad. It’s only sex after all, why should it be awkward? It’s part of life.

But as I said, I haven’t read the books. Therefore, I have to give credit to the amazing acting in the film from Jamie Dornan, Grey, and Dakota Johnson, Steele. I heard that the books are quite different to the film, and obviously I don’t know how true this is, but even so, I can’t not praise E.L. James for creating such a fantastically complex character. If Dornan’s portrayal of Christian Grey is close to her character, then she mastered creating a confusing character, something which I am aiming to do in my own work. For this reason, E.L. James, I may well have to give your books a read. I wouldn’t have contemplated this a few days ago, but now… I see that there is so much more to the story, I want to know so much more about My Grey.

And I won’t feel like I am dirty for reading it, I’m just fascinated by people and how their brains work.

When you think about all the issues the film looks at, it really does make me think that it deserves to be recognised a lot more than it was. It made a lot in the box office, but some of the reviews weren’t exactly supporting of this. Maybe we were watching a different film, because it really, really was a good film. It made me think a lot.

What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments below. If I don’t write another post before, then I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.

From the young M.A. Garrett.

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