Fifty Shades of Grey is a book/film tie-in series that is proving highly popular with the general public. Exploring the life of rich and famous Mr Christian Grey and the young innocent English major Anastasia "Ana" Steele, who interviews Mr Grey when her friend Kate (who runs the school paper) is sick. She is a little clumsy, shy and very innocent. Finding Grey's presence overwhelming, it puts her on edge. Leaving her asking only four of the set questions, one of which asking if he is gay. Which she apologizes for and claims she hadn't studied Kate's questions fully. He canceled his next meeting to spend more time with Ms Steele, but she gets nervous and leaves. When she gets home, she discovers that Mr Grey has emailed over full answers to every question.
Ana convinces Grey to take a photo shoot for the piece, after which he takes her for coffee. Warns her to keep away from him after a conversation about their relationship statuses, and then ends up saving her from almost ending up under a car. Later he sends her a very expensive set of first edition books, which she decides are too expensive for her to retain. Having drinks with friends later, she drunk calls him telling him to keep the books. He realizes what kind of state she is in, trying to make her tell him where she is. She refuses and puts the phone down. He rings back and tells her to stay right there he is coming. She goes outside for some fresh air, leaving her friend Jose trying to force her into kissing him. Grey turns up and makes sure it doesn't happen. Unluckily Ana manages to throw up, with Grey holding her hair. When he takes her back inside to tell Kate and his brother (who she is getting friendly with) he is taking Ana home, she passes out in his arms.
Mr Grey is very angry at her the next morning when she wakes, for putting herself in danger. Tells her 'If you were mine, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week.' The start of hints of what Mr Grey is really all about. He forces her to eat, and change into clean clothes. Explains he would be interested in a sexual relationship with her, he doesn't do romance or dating and talks about a contract he would like her to sign. Before taking her on a lavish date helicopter ride (contradictions clearly are his thing!) and showing her his apartment. Including his 'red room' with a large amount of BDSM items inside. He talks to her about what she is interested in for sex, allowing her to reveal she is still a virgin. So he sleeps with her, to resolve the issue and allow them to start to build a relationship where she might be willing to be his sub.
When the film first came out, I had zero interest in it. I heard enough reviews of people I know who are into BDSM telling me it highlighted it in the worst possible way. I was given a copy of the book, which I skim read a few pages of and found it to be very childish in its style. Certainly not a piece I would expect from an award-winning author. I threw the book into a charity shop bag and thought no more of it. Until the trailers for Fifty Shades Darker started to hit, which I frankly think looks even less appealing than the first movie.
My friend decided to bring over the first movie and made me watch it, I then picked up the book the next day to compare. Yes, okay there is something about Mr Grey at the start, when he is trying to take care of Ana. Get her to eat, keep her safe. I can see why she would consider a small amount of the bondage he is interested in. With his broken past, I can also see where he can't tell the difference between love and obsession, as well as needing the punishment as form of a Stockholm syndrome.
My huge problem with both the book and the film: is when Ana emails him to say she isn't interested and he decides to come over to her house to show her just 'how nice it was knowing him'. And then continues to start to train her as a sub, even though she refuses to sign the paperwork and is clearly terrified of large amounts of the BDSM he is interested in. He harasses her, trying to force her into being what he wants. I completely lost patience with this production when Ana goes 3000 miles away to see her mother to think things through, and he follows her!!! Like some crazy stalker. At least in the book he makes it very clear he will leave if she isn't happy, whereas the movie loses that in translation.
What he does to Ana, from stalking, to threatening, to force selling her car. It is abuse, pure and simple. Mental torture, trying to brainwash her into being exactly what he wants. That isn't what BDSM is about.It should be consensual, between both parties, to both their limits. A true follower would never push her to breaking point as Grey does in this! He would also never haress her to this point, or make her do the things he does sans contract. At least in the book, they go much more into her choices, and make it a little less creepily. However the ending of the book being different to the film it just leaves me in terror for the young women and her broken mental state.
This isn't a book or a film about passion, or romance, or BDSM. It is a set piece which highlights abuse from both the side of the abused and the abuser and what creates them. From that singular point, I have interest in Grey's character and the past that put him there. With his constant defense of what Mrs Robinson did to him as a young man, the Stockholm syndrome becomes very clear. I do feel in the book, he is disgusted at himself and wants to change. Whereas in the film, it feels more like screw you this is who I am, so change to suit. Also in the book, you see a lot more of Grey taking care of his sub after an event, rubbing cream on sore skin after spanking, holding her for the cool down so she knows she is safe. His complete horror when he puts her to tears, and not understanding why yet still trying to make it right between them.
I worry what society is putting out to our youth these last few years. First Twilight and now this, making abuse look romantic. Why are we allowing people to make rape culture and abuse seem like normality to them? Would you really want your daughter to come home and tell you she had these things done to her? I don't think so. I find it an extremely triggering production, as do many of my friends who have also been through abuse.
Stop thinking that abuse is acceptable and sensual! Because trust me when I tell you, it is anything but.
Think about it people, please. For your children's sakes.
3/10 stars (only for the good portrayal of the mindset of an abuser)
Sarah Beth James