Tuesday, August 4, 2015

50 Shades of Degradation (Updated)

I originally posted this back in February when the film was first released in theaters, but I hadn’t seen it. Initially, I didn’t intend to, but I kind of felt I could stand stronger on my points if I saw it. This past weekend myself and two friends (we couldn’t go through it alone haha) decided to watch the film so people would stop telling us we "don’t know what we’re talking about." Disclaimer: I would not recommend this film to anyone.

It was easily two of the most uncomfortable hours of my life. It wasn’t necessarily the sex scenes, I expected them to be gratuitous and extensive. I pretty much just tuned those out because Dakota Johnson completely overacted the whole time and it was honestly quite laughable. What made the experience unbearable was more due to the characters and their dialogue exchanges. It's excruciating listening to two psychologically disturbed people mumbling the same questions and answers over and over. Also, if I have to see Dakota Johnson make another cutesy brat face or bite her lip for the fiftieth time, I’ll lose it. 

My friend and I skimmed through parts of the first book at Barnes and Noble a while back. We could not stop laughing at the banal and juvenile composition. We did the same thing for Twilight and it was hysterical. The "author" of 50 Shades of Grey, E.L. James, originally based her story as a Twilight fan-fiction. However, there came a point when my friend and I stopped laughing, when the abuse and horrifying nature of the the circumstances were revealed. Somewhere between James's awfully repetitive prose and orgasmic exclamations lies something truly dangerous.

In 50 Shades, Anastasia Steele is another Mary Sue, possibly even more so than Bella Swan. She is an early twenties, virginal college student who works at a hardware store and doesn't know how to use computers. After interviewing Christian Grey (a conveniently handsome and powerful, self-made billionaire) for a school publishing, he decides for absolutely no reason that he's insatiably taken with Ana.

Christian Grey is a controlling, abusive, broken, and otherwise very screwed up human being. We are all sinners and we all have our demons, but that's not the issue here. The issue is this man is glamorized and built up to be the epitome of the modern woman's fantasy. I do have to say, at least his portrayal in the film went into his past and gave the audience more of the “why” he is the way he is because of the abuse he endured growing up. However, Christian Grey is not someone to be idolized or desired as he is not seeking help to heal his wounds and deal with his issues. He seeks out release in consensual sexual abuse.

Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey soon embark on a purely sexual relationship fueled by Christian’s extreme BDSM lifestyle. 50 Shades shamelessly glamorizes this lifestyle that is ultimately more about control and pain than it is about sex. Christian even drafts a contract, legal paperwork, for her to sign so she can be his "Submissive.” The contract is extremely business-like and outlines all the rules that she must obey, and exactly what is expected. 

We can't feel overly sorry for Ana though, because she actually chooses this lunacy. He constantly asks her if she wants to do this, or has to repeat his intentions over and over. Ana’s character is completely vapid as if she doesn’t understand what any of this means even though he makes it ABUNDANTLY clear. She asks him repeatedly like a whiny high-school girl why they can’t be in a real relationship. You could seriously play a drinking game with how many times that exchange occurs in the film. Her character drove me nuts. 

Additionally, Christian financially provides for her and she has to remain in good health and physical shape. Exercise and diet are strict terms of the contract. She's even not allowed to make eye contact or roll her eyes. I'm sorry, but WTF? She is literally his toy, basically a self-declared sex slave. Christian's dominance also leaks into her personal life. He stalks her every move and sends her insulting and verbally abusive e-mails and text messages in which he subtly reminds her who holds all the cards. However, this aspect wasn’t as bad in the film as it is the books. 

Jane does not approve.
I personally cannot understand this movement that claims 50 Shades is feminist. It's the complete opposite. There is nothing empowering about Anastasia Steele. Many will argue that what makes her a feminist figure is that she is releasing her caged sexuality and freeing herself from apprehension by flirting with her darker side. Honestly, she plays mind games with Christian almost as much as he does with her. Why can’t she find her sexual freedom and empowerment in a healthy relationship? 

What I don't get from my generation is why feminism or women's rights ALWAYS comes down to sex or something sexual. Birth control, abortion, being able to sleep around without consequence, these seem to be the only woman's issues people want to rant about. Meanwhile, there are women in many areas of the globe who are fighting on the edge of death simply to get a basic education, choose whom they want to marry, or even show their faces in public.

Women's rights are about so much more than just sex, but how can we know when EVERYTHING in Western culture revolves around sex? Why is sex the only method or weapon we have in our arsenal to rise to the top? If it's not sexuality, then it defaults to this stereotypical Lara Croft version of feminism which means wear leather, shoot guns, and act like a b****. What happened to women being intellectually or morally strong?  A true feminist would have called the cops on Christian Grey the minute he first stalked her at the hardware store shopping for serial killer accessories.

This isn't normally a subject or film I would talk about on my blog, but I want to be a part of the counter-movement of women who are not okay with this and who want more out of empowerment than sexuality. We need women in fiction who are strong and empowered just by being themselves. We need more Hermione Grangers and Katniss Everdeens, and less Anastasia Steeles or Bella Swans who rely on the men they are obsessed with to release their "inner goddess." Gag me, please.

Just not with a neck tie. 

Save yourselves the trouble and have a laugh, just watch the Honest Trailer for the movie...  


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