When the books first came out, I had no idea what they were. Honest. If you know anything about me, it’s that I am always the last person to know about trends and what people are buying and why. Someone had told me they thought it was a book about a demon who makes a woman sign a contract to have sex with him (I am not joking) so I thought that book sounded interesting. Boy howdy was I disappointed on multiple levels.
I could spend DAYS telling you all the problems about the books, plot, character, editing, and subject matter-wise, but honestly I’m not about bashing authors and I honestly get why people like it. I do. If you read these books and genuinely loved them, that’s awesome. I love when people read, regardless of what it is. I think it’s amazing that someone can write a fan fiction, make people fall in love, and then create a whole phenomenon around it. Also, it has opened people’s eyes to BDSM (even if the books are flawed in this area) and if nothing else, they’re fun.
But since I was taken to see this movie this weekend, that’s what I’m going to talk about. If you loved the film, mayyyybe don’t read this. Or read it and disagree with me. Whatever floats your expensive sex boat. So without further ado, here are just a few problems I had with Fifty Shades Darker.
1. All the men in Anastasia’s life are skeeze-buckets full of skeeze
Let’s list the men in this movie, shall we?
There’s Christian, of course, the BDSM, billionaire, sex god, best man of all creation. We’ll get to his problems later.
There’s Jose, the friend that we’re supposed to feel bad for but he really is just as obsessed with Ana as the next guy, even going so far as to take “portraits” of her (which, come on, she’s looking DIRECTLY into the camera in some of them) that she does not know about and then he sells them for profit.
The boss, Jack, who seems normal enough and nice until he finds out Ana has a boyfriend, at which point he becomes a rapey fuckboy.
The brother, Elliot, who only appears a few times and god I hate him so much. I hate his hair, I hate how he thinks he’s sexy. I hate his stupid "bad boy" hoop earring. I hate that he’s paired off with Kate just so Ana’s roommate won’t be without a man (which, in this universe is something akin to having leprosy).
Oh, and then there’s Christian's dad, who doesn’t have any lines except at the gross benefit dinner that looked like it was shot in someone’s garage with party store props so I guess he doesn’t have a chance to prove his skeeze-abilities. Don’t worry, there are more movies for you, Mr. Grey!
What’s worse, any time we are shown how awful, controlling, and just plain creepy Christian is, the movie shows us that no, THIS guy is bad! Not her boyfriend, he would never do THAT!
I don't have a problem with flawed characters, especially male ones in a romance genre. however, all of these men's flaws (except for Daddy Dearest so far) is that they are obsessed with Anastasia. Which would also be a fine plot point if it wasn't presented as desirable. Ana is always treated like an object by men, and it not only is it treated as completely normal, but absolutely acceptable (with the exception of the boss, at least after a certain point).
2. The characters seem to have no common sense, or maybe they just don’t care
The salon scene:
Ah, Mrs. Robinson. Damn, the woman from Batman has aged well! I seriously had a crush on her when I was younger and now I can say I still do. Honestly, can someone write a romance with her and Ana? I would watch that.
Anyway, Christina wants to take Ana to a benefit. She needs a dress and to get her hair done, which of course, her rich knight in Armani armor is prepared to pay for. So where else would he take her but to the place he's taken every other woman he's been with? Yeah, the salon that he co-owns (but why? Does he really like hair for some reason?) with the woman who took advantage of him as a boy.
Any man who is supposed to be as worldly and intelligent as we're supposed to believe Grey is would have thought about this. He knows this woman makes Anastasia uncomfortable. If he thought hard enough, he would have figured out that it's a scumbag move to take her somewhere he's taken women he's been with before (who supposedly didn't mean as much to him as his vanilla goddess). Why? Why does he do this? His only explanation is that he's in business with her and that they're friends. Okay. Because it's rich, sexy, suit-wearing Christian, it's all forgotten by the next scene or two.
The ex-sub scene:
This woman has been stalking Ana since the beginning of the film. When she finds out about Leila (I think that's her name. They both pronounce it differently. For real.), she informs her newly committed and newly vanilla guy and he shrugs her off until someone destroys her car.
Let's dive into the subtle, perhaps unintentional symbolism here. The car is the one Christian bought for her (of course). It's expensive and pristine. Only when it is destroyed is she taken seriously. Only when objects can no longer perform in their specific way are they explored and treated with the respect they should have gotten in the first place in this universe.
So he takes her on his sex boat to keep her safe. Of course. Why not. Anyone else think it was going to tip over? Anyone else WISH it would tip over?
Anyway, she goes back to her apartment to get her toothbrush and of course the ex-sub is there. Christian works his Dommy Dom magic on her and has her kneeling and handing over her gun in seconds, all the while the woman he's supposed to care about is barked at to leave.
Ugh. I hated this in the book and I hated it in the film. So far in this movie, your girlfriend has been stalked, sexually assaulted, and let's not even go into the mind games and manipulation. She just had a gun pointed at her by someone you used to sleep with--someone who had previously given you exactly the relationship you wanted--and you can't calmly explain things while your ex-sub is in subby mode, completely under your control (which is totally plausible and not strange)?
There's a lot more, but honestly it gives me a headache, so let's move on.
3. It is quite literally a cock tease
Any time there was a conflict introduced, I got excited. I could feel it happening, I was wondering how it would unfold, and I slowly tried to build the anticipation in my mind (because Jesus this movie is boring and I was latching onto anything remotely interesting) so the payoff would feel that much more amazing (see what I'm getting at here?). So imagine my disappointment when I found out that this "conflict" was just part of a very elaborate shit sandwich.
Don't believe me? How about we break down the main conflicts of the movie.
Exhibit A, Leila:
We see glimpses of this woman throughout the movie. Great. Really trying to build the suspense here and trying to hint that she comes into play later. Like I mentioned before, Christian takes Anastasia on his sex boat to be safe (because why hire security when we can have a long-ass boat scene?). Then when she finally shows up, pointing a gun at Anastasia, it's diffused in less than a minute (I freaking counted, as I was counting down how much longer I would be tortured). They have a tiny fight back at his place afterwards, and then have sex again.
Sex, shit, sex.
So really, it's a sex-shit sandwich. The worst kind. Don't wanna invite them to a pick nick.
Let's look at another conflict.
Exhibit B, the rape-boss:
Jack, the boss that seems cool until he's rejected. He's pushy, gross, and just a real dick to her once he finds out she's with Christian. Then he tries to rape her. This should be a huge conflict. It should be a main focus of the plot, as the story focuses on sex and you could do so much with it if you tried, come on! It's right there! Anyway, she knees him in the balls, runs out into the arms of her waiting boyfriend, and his driver takes care of the rape-boss. They go back to his apartment and Christian tells her that he has connections (OF COURSE) and had this man fired. That's it. No police, no charges, no nothing. Conflict over. Let's have sex in the shower.
And just because it made me want to crawl out of my seat and across the aisle to the door:
Exhibit C, the helicopter:
Okay, this was the point where I just wanted to scream. He takes a helicopter with his assistant (who is a woman, who we find out is gay or at least hinted at being gay, so it's okay that he's with her because any hetero woman can't control themselves around this brooding sex god) and it starts to go down. Everyone is in a panic because no one knows where he is or if he's still alive, so they all meet at Christian's apartment to gawk at the news. But oh wait! just as the news anchor announces that he's alive, he walks in the door! Hurry, make your family leave so we can have sex again.
Gag me. And not in a kinky way. Just make me go unconscious so I can dream about getting those two hours back.
4. The sex scenes are all the freaking same
Listen, not for nothing, but I had to show my ID to get into this movie. Me, a 27 year old woman. I had to show ID because it's just that racy.
For someone who is into "kinky fuckery", the sex scenes were anything but. There are a lot of shots of Anastasia breathing heavily and moaning as Christian barely touches her. There are two shower scenes--in one, they start off in the shower and she tells him to take her to the red room, where he breaks out baby oil and fucks her in time to the music. I WISH I was making this up. The only hint at BDSM is the spreader bar, which is used once, the benwa balls, which we'll get to shortly, nipple clamps that he puts on her finger for a whopping three seconds, and a few cuffs he takes off before actually having sex with her. Oh wait. He does spank her. Like, three times. Almost forgot. DIRTY! I suppose to the person that only has a vague idea of kink, this is super exciting. For me, I was more bored than when they were attempting to have a conversation.
5. “You’re not putting that in my butt”
Yeah. An actual line (in reference to the benwa balls). Overall, the dialog was a bit better than the last film; funnier, wittier, at least on Anna's part, but of course they had to throw in some golden lines like that. Some of my other favorites include:
"I want you back. I want to renegotiate terms."
Romantic. Swoon. I now see what everyone sees in him. I take back everything.
Ana: "You should have told me."
Christian: "I did. You were just asleep at the time."
He said as if it was obvious that he was trying to communicate. They are, after all, in a real adult relationship and they love each other and it isn't creepy or weird at all.
6. They're in love, damn it. I mean it!
The last film, as far as I can tell, attempted to portray a story of a woman finding herself sexually...or something. I'm not really sure. In this film, I feel like they were trying to disprove the argument that many people make about the books: it isn't BDSM, it's abuse.
I wouldn't have a problem with the movie trying to show this love that may or may not exist, but they go about it the wrong way. In this universe, love means money, material things, sex, and changing who you are.
The movie's opening scene is him sending her a super extra bouquet of white roses (because she's pure. Super subtle symbolism, guys. Great job). First he buys her "portraits" because no one can look at her but him. When they get back together, he hands her a box that contains a laptop, a phone, and a check for a mere $24,000. There's the sex boat, the car (which happened in the last movie), the buying her clothes and taking her to fancy rich people things. I'm not discriminating against him because he has money. However, there isn't much else to this guy besides the fact that he's a billionaire, does some kind of business with important emails and phone calls, is good at sex (maybe. I'm guessing. Can't tell going by the sex scenes), and he really likes white wine (seriously. I think he drinks it more than anything else in these movies).
I really wish this story wasn't presented as a romance. I wish it was about something deeper with romantic elements. There are so many directions the author could have taken. This, for instance, could tell us more about his character. Why does he see money as love? Was it how he was showed love when the rich doctor adopted him? That would be interesting. It would be something to explore and things like that would make the entire franchise slightly more than just soft-core missionary porn disguised as something kinky, romantic, and mysterious.
But getting back to the movie.
Anastasia isn't without her own faults. We can't blame everything on Mr. Grey (although I'm fine pinning most of it on him). She seems to think that love is people opening up to them about stuff they obviously don't like talking about. With her, I can understand where she's coming from. She really doesn't know anything about this guy she's about to marry. She can't touch outside of the lipstick lines that somehow last an entire day under a white dress shirt with barely any smudging. However, she can tell that his past triggers something painful in him and she can't take a hint. Pushing people to relive trauma is just as much abuse as coercing a virgin into a contracted relationship. That's just my view.
Long story short, the writers went out of their way to show how much the characters love each other, but it came off as desperate. No one wants a desperate Dom or sub. It ain’t cute.
7. More Serial Killer Grey!
The first movie was ripe for the psychopath picking with these instances. I was so happy they kept the serial killer trope in the second film! It really connected the two movies.
Let's start off with him showing up at Jose's art exhibit and buying the door-sized photographs of her. We don't see them ever again even though he spent a ton of money so no one would look at "what's his". I can only assume (fingers crossed) there is another playroom filled with Ana's hair, fingernail clippings, discarded tampons (don't even get me STARTED on them leaving out the pivotal tampon scene), and on the walls painted in her favorite color (white), will be her life-size portraits in black, white, and yes, grey.
Then there's the file. THAT HE'S KEPT. He explains it away as "I've had a file made for every potential sub" as if it's comforting. Okay. So you used to be weird and you're used to your routine of filing away information on girls you think might let you spank them. Cool. Why do you still have it if you aren't planning on killing me so brutally that they'll have to go by dental records to identify my body (which, let's be honest. If there is really a playroom dedicated to Anastasia, he's going to keep the teeth)?
No, you can't go on that business trip. Well, okay, you can go on that trip with your boss, as long as you go with me. Ugh. From now on, my safeword is business-trip.
So the thing with rape-boss happens. She goes home, takes a shower, and he pours her a glass of (white, duh) wine. Then he takes it away before she can take a sip. Not necessarily serial killer material, I know, but come on! The least you can do after a super stressful day is letting your girlfriend have a fucking glass of shitty white wine.
8. Ana is a blank slate
Anastasia, the main character, who we are supposed to be rooting for, blows any way the Christian Grey wind dictates. She doesn't seem to have too much of a personality unless she is fighting or having sex with her boyfriend. As I mentioned before, the dialog is better than the last film. She's slightly more independent (or we're supposed to think so). She pays her own bill! She orders a quinoa salad! She makes that joke about icecream and tells him he's chopping that pepper wrong! Finally, a personality we only got a glimpse of in the first movie when she was drunk! Look at her go!
However, just when I start to like her she becomes a piece of plain ass toast, ready to be spread with any manipulative jam Christian wants. They try to make us think that she has a mind of her own. At one point, she even says something like "This isn't a relationship, it's ownership." And I was like, yeah! Good for you, Anna-banana! But then they have mind-blowing missionary and it's all forgotten in yet another sex-shit sandwich.
9. The ex-sub. Of course she’s MENTAL. INSANE!
Leila, the woman who has been stalking Ana and eventually tries to kill her, was once one of Christian Grey's subs (which, in his language, means 'a woman I had sign a contract, sleep in a different room, and listen to everything I say'). She's insane. A crazy person who slits her wrists in front of him for no other reason than him coming in to rescue her. Then she changes her motive from killing herself to killing his current girlfriend. CRAZY! The actual diagnosis, even though Christian has a file on her and knows everything about everyone, is unclear. The only reason for her behavior is that she lost her husband (who she married after the relationship of her life, of course) and that combined with Christian's rejection makes her go off the deep end.
Yes. The only reason for mental illness in women revolves around men. Same goes for his mother. She was addicted to crack, so she was with some guy that abused him. It's always the woman's fault, right? Again, this would be a good aspect of Grey to explore. Without legitimate reasons, he just seems like an insensitive prick.
10. Abuse always leads to BDSM, you fool!
But wait, he isn't a Dom anymore, guys! He's a sadist. He likes to hurt women who look like his mother (this little tidbit of information is just glossed over before they have sex, by the way). I will say, if people have suffered from abuse, sometimes BDSM is a way for them to work out these issues. However, not all (or even most) people who are submissive or Dominant have had a history of abuse. On the contrary, most of these people are the ones you would least expect. In all honesty, when I read the books I was hoping, praying that Grey's abuse would be the key component in the story, show us what abuse can do to a person, and explore something deeper than run of the mill erotica. They have every opportunity to dive into this aspect and make an amazing story, yet it's treated as just a part of his backstory. In addition to that, instead of promoting and educating on the lifestyle, it is saying that only "damaged" people can possibly want these things. It isn't normal. Healthy, stable people who aren't emotionally damaged don't do these things.
11. They might be the most boring, Wonderbread, plain, milquetoast couple I have ever seen
You know, I wanted to go into detail here, but I honestly can't remember a single interesting conversation Ana and Christian have. They talk about parties, money, sex, his mother, Ms. Robinson, Leila, the sex boat, getting married (by which I mean a proposal. That's pretty much it), moving in together....etc. It's like watching a boring Sims family living out their lives after you've put in the "motherlode" cheat code and can buy anything you want. It seems like it would be interesting, but it's not. It's so boring that you want to take away all their doors or set the kitchen on fire without a fire detector. If you know what I mean.
In addition to that, I couldn't help but keep thinking that this movie was just an acted out erotica story, plain and simple. I mean, that's what the books are; I know that. However, there is a difference between books and movies (I know, shocking!). Some things seem more exciting and titillating because of the readers' imaginations. People like reading these books because they are most likely curious, a fan of erotica, or just want to do something a little naughty. Cool. I think that's awesome and empowering. You do you. However, when these things are translated to screen, they need more to carry it through as a story, especially for people who have never read the books.
12. The nudity isn’t equal, just like their relationship
I originally thought that the director might have been confused. This is a heterosexual romance between a man and a woman. The main audience is women or people who are attracted to men, or Jamie Dornan, or Christian Grey, whatever. However, we get one butt shot of Grey while we get close ups of Ana's boobs and the very hint of her privates multiple times. Christian isn't even all the way naked in the sex scenes most of the time--he's wearing a shirt or pants. Hey, I think Dakota Johnson is hot and great. I didn't mind. However, it was a bit obvious how lopsided the point of view was. The first movie was seen more through Anastasia's eyes, while this one was not. The only female perspective where sex is concerned is during that lame, sweaty scene where he's doing pull-ups with his shirt off and balancing on a freaking pommel horse (like, seriously? Who even has one of those?).
13. Women have nothing to offer but their bodies, and men have nothing to offer but money
Anastasia wants to work in publishing. They even go into her work a little more in this movie (and more than they ever did in the books), showing a meeting, people arguing about online presence, and the selling of books. I really appreciated this nod to the indie community, and I wished I had seen more instances where Ana was passionate in every day life, not just when her boyfriend is kissing her neck or telling her to take off her underwear.
Now, Christian says that he loves Ana. That she matters more to him than BDSM. But. And there's a big but. He doesn't really mean it. He doesn't really show that he means it. What he does show is that he's scared he'll lose her--that is abundantly clear. And as I touched on before, she has not much of a personality except that she sometimes works, sometimes eats, and when she gets mad, she can be funny. Christian has nothing going for him but money. They're one-dimensional paper cut outs smooshed together to have boring sex and live boring lives.
14. The word “No” doesn’t seem to work in this universe
There are multiple times in this film where Anastasia flat out says no, or she is denied her chance to say no, which is worse. First, there's the "art show". Ana, looking for her good old token ethnic friend Jose, stumbles upon the photos of her and, like anyone would be, is speechless. Jose's response is something like "Yeah, I know. But if I had asked you would have said no."
Like, what the flying fuck? Yeah, douche. Just because you know her answer doesn't make it okay to ignore the fact that you need someone's consent.
Then Mr. serial-killer-sexy-suit Grey buys the photos and asks her to dinner. Ana says no. He says please. She says no. He says pretty please I just want to talk. She says okay. No does not mean "convince me". No does not mean "badger me until I give in". Jesus. I just...please just take your paintings and go home to your shrine-playroom, sir.
Of course there is rape-boss too. He's the classic, "I'm not going to listen to you say no" character. This would be a powerful device if everyone else in her life didn't disregard her feelings. It would be good if he wasn't just a tool to show how "normal" and "not creepy" Christian is.
15. None of the negative aspects seem to matter to the masses
As you can imagine, I am not the only person who is not a fan of this franchise. I understand it, but I'm just not a fan. If you are, that's cool. Different sex boats for different folks. I get that people only see this as a fantasy, and that gets their motors running.
Listen, I’m not here to criticize BDSM or the lifestyle. However, like most people (at least most that I’ve talked to), I'm of the opinion that this story isn’t really about BDSM. It’s supposed to be about love, how it conquers all, how couples can compromise to love one another, how you should change everything that makes you, you for someone who will not look at you unless you fit into their mold.
In the first movie, it’s all about Anastasia changing for Christian, trying to be a submissive woman when she isn’t really all that sure about it—or sex in general for that matter.
However, in this movie, I saw that Christian was doing much the same. Changing this part of him that he has lived with and come to terms with before Anastasia, and now trying to be someone he isn’t in order to be with her.
In both cases, in real life, this would probably spell disaster. Two people who are unfulfilled does not a happy couple make. I’m all about compromise in all aspects of a relationship. Not to toot my own horn, but you don’t stay with the same person for more than a decade without learning a thing or two about compromise. However, completely changing who you are, even if it seems vain because it has to do with sexual preference, seems just as wrong to me as Anastasia being more or less manipulated into having kinky sex with some rich guy just because it’s the only way he’ll have any sort of relationship with her.
The whole time I was watching this movie, I couldn't help but ask "Who is this film for?" The only answer I could come up with was simple: the fans. People who loved the books will most likely love the movies because they are attached to these characters, for better or worse, despite their flaws or perceived perfection. They want to see them come to life and relive that first time they opened the book(s) and fell in love. I completely and totally agree. That's why I can't knock people for liking what they like. It's what makes the world go 'round.
I hope you liked my review/rant. Hope I didn't hurt anyone's feelings with my opinions. I genuinely went into things with an open mind, wanting the movie to be better and more realistic than the book, but sadly, for me, It just didn't get my sex boat started. However, I'm still going to see the next installments because I'm a bit of a masochist. Pretty fitting if you ask me.