UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Glorifies Abusive Relationships

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Raises Questions on Domestic Abuse

The highly-anticipated film adaptation of ”Fifty Shades of Grey” is much like the notion of having sex for the first time. The film is not so powerful as to induce time travel, but rather, it evokes the excitement of the unknown only to lead to the deduction, “that’s it?” It is much less about the expected sexual awakening and more about an abusive relationship. It isn’t just a movie about sex, despite being the main draw for the film. There are about 18 minutes of sex in a 125 minute movie, and the rest of the film not about sex is about abuse that the creators possibly didn’t even intend or realize.

The message becomes one that young girls are quite familiar with. Most girls grew up on Disney princesses, many of which had their dark undertones, and Beauty and the Beast is no exception to the rule. Belle is set with the impossible task of changing this beast into a handsome prince by loving him enough. She falls in love with her captor in a classic case of Stockholm syndrome.

For Anastasia Steele, Christian Grey is already virtually a prince. His wealth and good looks make his abuse acceptable. On numerous occasions he not only stalks her, which on screen looks like a forced serendipity disguised as a form of romance, but he escalates to breaking into her home. It is implied that he tracks her phone and thus invades her privacy in order to protect her—in his mind at least. In his first interactions he immediately becomes jealous and possessive over Ana. Not only of her male friends, but even when she wants to drink with friends or visit family. Grey becomes angry when he finds out that Ana is visiting her mother, claiming that she belongs to him, as if she is a possession. He goes so far as to agree with Ana and that she should be intimidated by him—that he is not right for her. Classic cases of abuse involve isolating the victim to keep to themselves. Grey furthers the isolation of Ana by having her sign a contract that is about more than just sexual control, but emotional control. This contract outlines what she eats, how much she drinks, what type of contraceptive to take, which doctors to see, and who she can talk to. It is outlined that she is to pleasure Grey without hesitation. Most of this contract reads like an abusive relationship, leading to the concern that the women who now look for their own Christian Grey will end up in a battered women’s shelter, and that’s if they’re lucky.

It comes to the attention of the audience that Anastasia is an English Literature major, whose favorite author is Tom Hardy. This is much to the surprise of Grey, who assumes she would have liked Jane Austen, a notoriously romance heavy author. He is pegging Ana as an innocent and delusional girl who is distracted by things like romance despite his rejection of relationships and all that comes with it. Jane Austen’s ”Pride and Prejudice” is all about what Christian is not—marriage, love and romance. Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr. Darcy and his proposal throughout the novel paints her as a strong character, but the final lines of the novel are about her decision to marry him after all. Grey may not have understood the romance, but he certainly would have appreciated the male dominance over another woman.

The one aspect of the film that audiences are certainly expecting for the creators and actors to collectively get correct, would be the impressive dialogue and plot. Just kidding. It’s the sex scenes! The sex was supposed to be the best part, assuming that watching sex scenes with a few hundred of your closest friends in a packed theatre isn’t a problem. If you can’t get through an episode of Game of Thrones with your family, this is not for you. One of the sex scenes involving an ice cube that tries to be ambitiously different ends up reading like something a young girl could find in a Cosmo Girl magazine. And this is the one thing they are supposed to have mastered. It is a movie based on a book about sex after all.
Love used to be about balance. Valentine’s Day weekend used to be about celebrating that kind of love, but now it involves breaking records for crowds wanting to see a movie about a loveless and mainly physical relationship. Watching ”Fifty Shades of Grey” makes me ashamed to be a girl with bangs, where typically the aesthetic choice comes with its moments of regret anyway, especially being a choice that tends to be a lasting one. To be compared to Anastasia Steele now is to be gullible and ignorant, a victim.