The much-anticipated, widely-panned and highly-discussed 50 Shades of Grey has finally hit the theaters, and there sure is a lot to talk about. There are those that have championed it and those that loathed it; some who say it’s liberating and erotic, while others claim it’s misleading and dull. For better and ultimately worse, 50 Shades of Grey is a cinematic and cultural phenomenon of 2015. It became the highest-grossing President’s Day holiday opener ever, with $81.7 million. So at least for a little while, it’s relevant. It seems to be leading the charge of discussions and stories about sex that aren’t normally in mainstream American culture. At the same time, it’s been enjoyed by many due to what appears to be an arduous journey for all involved, including a dubious press tour that stresses the two leads neither like it each that much, nor have the necessary chemistry.
Regardless, like any film, viewing audiences will take from it a variety of messages and ideas. Some of those may be positive, some negative, some with a modicum of truth, and some of them completely misleading. It’s that last category that is both most interesting and most dangerous. This is a film that may be introducing certain topics to some people, while validating preconceived and perhaps ill-informed notions in others. So let’s take a shot at dispelling some of the more ridiculous ideas; this is, after all a movie, but there isn’t much of its kind in American film.
With that, here are the top ten misconceptions men may have after watching Mr. Christian Grey in action. There are some spoilers ahead indeed, but really, if you haven’t seen it already, chances are you never were (and the plot is secondary at best, here).
10. It’s Desirable To Be Mysterious
50 Shades wants you to think that not only is Mr. Grey mysterious and layered, but that his ‘secretive personal life’ is somehow insatiably desirable. In fact, honesty, openness, and humor will go a long way. He’s not even the rebel trope or the bad guy – he’s just secretive. If your secret is that you’re actually a super hero, then that’s pretty cool. But if your secret is that you have conflicting emotions about your feelings and you make women sign contracts in order to be in a relationship, then you’re not exotic. Next please.
9. Women Are Ready To Get Jealous
When Christian tells Ana he is meeting a friend one night, he suspects she will get jealous and then of course she does, getting a little bit bothered in a scene that is so clichéd and so absurd, that it’s equally hysterical and frustrating. For reasons unknown, Christian immediately acts like he is guilty of something, but at the same time, Ana becomes this different person and gets upset. Real life isn’t like this. Men and women are friends and have all different kinds of relationships, and when a new couple isn’t together, their first reaction isn’t to freak out if their partner is out with someone else.
8. Money Makes You Interesting
This should be pretty self explanatory, but obviously just because Christian has a lot of money and wealth and power, doesn’t necessarily mean he is that particularly interesting or sought after. What’s more, most women are more aware than Ana, a precocious woman swept up into this business world where she clearly doesn’t fit in. It’s all foreign to her, so of course she’s drawn in. The reality is that this isn’t at all the case, that money and power don’t mean too much if that’s all there is. Think about this: if Christian did all his pop-ins, all his secretive sex talk and he didn’t have the money, he would seem far less exotic.
7. The ‘Friend Zone’ Exists Between Friends
There is a small throwaway part of the story, but it’s one of yet a myriad clichés that the film purports. Ana has a male friend who clearly has a crush on her, but when he attempts to show his feelings, she pushes him off. It’s meant to say that this guy is a loser in several ways; he can’t compete with Grey’s mysterious aura and his wealth. Also, he’s been relegated to the ‘friend zone’. Firstly, not all men who are friends with a woman are in love with her. Secondly, the idea of the ‘friend zone’ never involves people who are actually friends because it’s about entitlement and ownership. Lastly, just because a friend does have feelings, doesn’t mean that he will always lose out. For some reason, we need this character in the film.
6. Women Are The Submissive Ones
This should be fairly obvious, but women, in fact, are not always the submissive ones in a BDSM relationship. 50 Shades shows a man with wealth, power and desire, being the dominant one over a younger and innocent woman. While the film doesn’t come particularly close to reality in terms of such a partnership, it’s not the case that man assumes the power role and women relent. Christian explains that he was the sub when he was younger, but the implication is that it has to do with age, which also isn’t the case.
5. Women Are Okay When You Surprise Them At Work Or On Their Vacation
Sure, everyone likes sweet surprises. But no one likes the stalker surprises – like when you appear in someone’s house without notice. Or show up to their work. Or visit them across the country when they are seeing their mother and didn’t exactly tell you where they would be staying. That is creepy. Not only is it creepy, but it’s incredibly selfish and entitled, indicating to the woman that her time is without value because she is on her own and not with a man. Each partner in a relationship is to make their own decisions with their time and energy, and basically Christian cares not for that because it’s all about him and he knows better than her.
4. Women Are Waiting
Surely nothing of import is happening in Ana’s life; Christian can just arrive and whisk her away. That’s the message. The idea that these two people have really nothing going on in their lives is absurd – especially Christian, who apparently is a really successful businessman but never really working. Regardless, whenever Christian surprises Ana, she is ready to go. Does she really have nothing going on in her life? She has a roommate and a male friend, sure. She has a job and she is graduating school. But I guess she has all this free time, and just ready whenever to be whisked away. Real life is more complex, and mature, confident women are more selective of how they spend their time.
3. Women Need Saving
The prevailing idea in the film is that Ana is the naive, small-town girl and Christian is the world-savvy, successful city man. She works a generic job, has menial school tasks, owns a broken computer, and drives an old car. So of course, all of that needs to be fixed! Christian assumes responsibility without asking, tending to her needs without her request. It’s as if she can’t do these things herself. The worst is when Ana is celebrating with her friends. She is neither alone nor being accosted, but Christian can’t let her drink, so he takes her from the bar, and when she is passed out, undresses her and puts her in his bed. To Christian, she is some wilting flower that needs protection from everything in the world.
2. Women Think Kink is Abnormal
Perhaps the most disturbing implication is that Mr. Grey’s enjoyment of a BDSM relationship is something to be ashamed of. To him, it can only come due to a traumatic, inexplicable past relationship. What’s more, the film indicates that the woman would also think it’s something atrocious that needs to be shunned. Sure, in Ana’s defense Christian isn’t the warmest, most open person around, so it’s understandable she doesn’t want to be with him in the end. However, the movie points to and suggests as a rule that women would be averse to such a relationship. Of course the paradox here is that the film doesn’t accurately portray such a situation. In the mind of a misguided male though, the message is to keep things secret because no woman would be interested.
1. Consent Is A Joke
Christian goes to great lengths and detail to make Ana sign a contract. He wants her to understand what she is getting into, but also not necessarily be liable for anything harmful that could happen to her. He treats the entirety of their relationship as a business transaction, devoid of emotion, feeling, or honest communication. Consent is seen as a joke at several points, including a clause that basically says he can do whatever he wants to her. In another absurd instance, after stressing the importance of the contract, he basically says ‘screw it’ and has sex with her anyway. So while this whole idea of consent as a business deal is ludicrous, Grey takes it further, more or less indicating that all consent is ridiculous.
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