Up there with writing my personal statement and having my wisdom teeth out, I expected Fifty Shades Darker to be one of the most explosively shit experiences of my life. Admittedly, I was proved wrong. The film is surprisingly funny, but for all the wrong reasons. However, it was also a disconcerting sexualisation of patriarchy.
The character of Anna was painful to watch. Along with her awful breathy speech (drinking game: shot every time she lets out a classic hopeless breathy ‘uh’), she was a mahoossive pushover. Repeatedly, Grey acts out in a controlling manner, such as buying the company Anna works for and giving her $24,000 – an event which occurred after the two had sex, and has connotations of prostitution. Her response to all these moments seems to be 30 seconds of meek complaining followed by sex. Sex was used as a tool to silence Anna. On the rare occasions when she did attempt to stand up for herself, she would proceed to instantly melt into a babbling mess the moment Grey touched her. This sent an awful message to the audience, both that sex can be used as a tool against others, and that women are helpless at the hands of men.
“If someone asked me what actually happened in the film, I’d have to hold my hands up and say I didn’t really know.”
I can see how Mr. Grey can be perceived as not particularly controlling. He was never an overtly forceful character, and his dominance was far more prevalent in his words than his actions. It was hard not to notice the dominating nature of his language. For example, when someone proposes it is custom to say the classic ‘Will you marry me?’. But Christian Grey chose the ever-romantic ‘Be mine’. The use of ‘Be mine’, ‘You’re mine’ etc. were a constant throughout the film, and resulted in the depiction of Anna as a commodity.
If someone asked me what actually happened in the film, I’d have to hold my hands up and say I didn’t really know. The film’s driving force was solely its sex scenes. All the other hilariously overdramatic elements of the narrative such as a helicopter crash and Anna’s gun-wielding mentally unstable stalker were so secondary. These moments were brushed over in less than five minutes which just made them amusingly confusing. None of the moments were ever truly explained and I felt like I just spent two hours sat watching a random mish-mash of totally unrelated extreme events interspersed with cheesy awkward sex scenes.
I looked for a feminist message within the film and found none. I am an avid fan of the author Angela Carter who explored BDSM and wrote about it critically from a feminist perspective, which I respect, even though I do not always agree. It is not the idea of BDSM altogether that I found mostly objectionable. What I am against is the way Anna’s complicity in the whole situation is masked as defiance. She supposedly stands up for herself, but ultimately morphs herself into the person Grey wants her to be. On the rare occasions she doesn’t do this, her incapability of being as submissive as he wants her to be is supposedly admirable. As though most women wouldn’t be able to defy a man!
Ultimately, the film was poorly made, cheesy and nonsensical. If you do see it, you’ll definitely find some laughs in it. However, you’re also in for a nice lil’ slice of corrosive patriarchy: you have been warned.
More like this: Twilight (2008)