Let me preface this by saying that I normally try to not let public opinion get to me. Public opinion is just that: opinion, not fact. But the more public opinion I read, including some by my own family and friends, the more annoyed I became. So here is my take on the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey.
I read Fifty Shades of Grey a couple years ago. I started the first book on a Friday afternoon and didn’t stop until I had finished the third book in the wee hours of Monday morning the same weekend. I was enthralled, but not for the reasons you might think. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the sexy parts just as much as the next woman. But for me, it was all about the love story. Love story, you say? What book were you reading?! Yes, love story.
I was late to the game, when it came to reading the series of books, and most of what I heard about them consisted of references to “mommy porn” and “Twlight fanfic.” My friends couldn’t talk enough about how hot the prose was. So, of course, I had to check it out for myself.
I have to admit that as I was reading I pictured Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in my mind’s eye; honestly, it was difficult not to, armed with the knowledge of them being written by a Bella and Edward fan. When rumors of a movie started to fly I hoped that the two actors who inspired the story would play the characters on the big screen. Until, that is, some of the possible names began to make their way around the internet. When Charlie Hunnam was chosen for Christian, I didn’t know who he was, being one of the few who had never seen an episode of Sons of Anarchy (I have since seen the whole series and LOVED IT!). I saw pictures of him and although gorgeous, I just never saw him as Christian; there was something missing. Then Hunnam dropped out and Jamie Dornan replaced him and I was excited for the first time since the casting debates had begun. The role of Ana had never really been as important to me – it’s not difficult to play an innocent young woman, but Dakota Johnson looked like she would fit the part nicely.
Like so many others, I waited with bated breath for the film to hit theaters. But as the opening date grew closer, the debates and opinions mounted all across social media platforms. There were those who couldn’t wait (much like myself), those who made jokes, those who didn’t care one way or the other, and those who were demanding a boycott due to the glorification of abusive relationships. Abusive relationships? Color me confused.
At the heart of it, Fifty Shades is a love story, just like any other love story. This is a story about a young woman who falls in love with a man who’s been through some horrible things and never experienced love before. Christian Grey has lived a very specific lifestyle for many years due to the fact that he had a horrific start to life and then was later taken advantage of by someone who was supposed to care about him. As a result, the way he lives is all he knows. Meeting Anastasia confuses and scares Christian, thus the push and pull of their relationship. She makes him feel things he’s never felt before and that terrifies him on multiple levels. Ana challenges Christian. She is willing to live by his rules, but is still her own person.
Even the sex is consensual. Ana never says no. In fact she asks him, nee BEGS/DEMANDS him, to show her how far he wants to take things and how bad things could get. When he does, you know he doesn’t want to. He wrestles with the part of himself that believes he deserves no more and the part of him that wants to let himself indulge in the hearts and flowers. He gives in to his baser self and hurts Ana, essentially ending things for her; at least until the second book.
The relationship between Ana and Christian is intense and fraught with emotional turmoil, but the closest the story comes to abuse is when Christian sells Ana’s car and buys a new one without talking to her first. He is trying to keep her safe, but it is definitely a case of overstepped boundaries. Everything else happens with consent between two adults.
So why are people so upset about this book/movie?
Personally I think it’s because of the sex, because almost every other love story uses the same formula, if you really think about it.