I am by no means above seeing a bad movie. Bad movies are some of the most entertaining movies. The poorly constructed plots, the awkward acting, the supremely cheesy wink-wink-nudge-nudge humor – it’s all great.
At first I thought that perhaps Fifty Shades of Grey could be this movie, and I’m sure that attracted many viewers to the box office. But Fifty Shades is not a good-natured, comically-terrible, bad movie; it is just a bad movie in every sense of the word.
I have not seen the movie, nor will I ever, and yet I feel perfectly confident pronouncing this judgment on it. Any defense of Fifty Shades in its original form is completely tarnished by the creation of a theatrical version. The guilty pleasure of a steamy romance can be hidden in the backlight of an e-reader, not on a 55-foot theater screen.
From a novel that earned its fan base through explicit sex scenes, an NC-17 rating would seem apt for its theatrical counterpart. And yet the lead male actor, Jamie Dornan, refused to be filmed completely nude (it seems perfectly fine for the female lead, Dakota Johnson, to bare it all though).
Fifty Shades is a story (if it can even be called one) that values and promotes severely unhealthy BDSM – Bondage and Discipline (BD), Dominance and Submission (DS), Sadism and Masochism (SM) – relationships, as well as sexual abuse. The character of Christian Grey is meant to be a strong, manly man who knows exactly what he wants and hates the word “no.” Confidence is sexy, dominating attitudes can be sexy too, but one of the core principles in BDSM relationships is the presence of respect. People who participate in BDSM practices value “safe words.” This is a word or words that basically mean “stop, immediately.” Safe words ensure safety and enjoyment for everyone involved. Christian Grey introduces the character Anastasia Steele to BDSM, and yet refuses to acknowledge her safe words or maintain her security.
Partially I feel bad for shaming this enterprise, especially when the largest portion of the Fifty Shades fans identify as women. It is so valuable for women to feel comfortable expressing their sexuality and sexual preferences and to be excited about talking about sex without feeling guilt. Too often is the space for sexual discussion reserved for men. But my issues with the film and the message of the story itself strongly outweigh any benefits it may have.