Thursday, 24 July 2014

Fifty Shades: Why The Trailer Proves That This Film Will Romanticise Abuse Just As Much As The Books Already Have...

Here's a quick bit of honesty, for anyone new to my blog...  Three years ago this August, I walked away from an abusive relationship.  For more than a year and a half, I was abused emotionally, psychologically and, to a lesser degree, sexually by a man I once loved.  Less than a year after walking away from that relationship, I read a book that everyone seemed to be talking about; Fifty Shades of Grey.  And to my horror and disgust, the title character - Christian Grey - may as well have been my ex.  He manipulated his partner, just like my ex did with me.  He sought to control her against her will, just like my ex did with me. He blamed his abusive childhood on the fact that he "couldn't help" his behaviour as an adult, just like my ex did with me.  He placed responsibility on his naive girlfriend to "fix" him, just like my ex did with me. The relationship was to be entirely on his terms, never mind her feelings, just like I had experienced with my ex.  Can you sense a theme??!!  Volunteers at the abuse charity who were helping me piece myself back together had decided to read Fifty Shades to see if it depicted a healthy relationship.  Like me, they were horrified that it absolutely did not.

I read the first book, hoping for something erotic and romantic, that would rekindle my belief in romance, after what I had been through.  Instead, I found myself crying into my pillow, unable to believe that anyone found this vile man attractive.  Imagine the worst experience of your life, re-written as though it's something to be envied.  That's what Fifty Shades was to me.  I couldn't bring myself to spend money on the second or third books, but I read detailed chapter-by-chapter analysis and realised that contrary to what fans insist, Christian Grey does not get better.  Ana's love does not "fix" him.  He gets worse, yet we're sold the lie that the right form of love will make an abusive man a nice guy in the end, because Ana (and by extension, clearly EL James) decides that he's changed, despite the lack of any evidence in the text.  The books take an abusive relationship and try to make it seem sexy and attractive.  And the scariest thing is that people are buying it.  Literally and figuratively.

Now, a film has been made.  A film that, if it stays true to the books, will romanticise stalking, manipulation, intimidation and threats, non-consensual control and violence masquerading as BDSM (ask anyone familiar with kink and they'll tell you EL James did no research and has created a warped version of the lifestyle which is offensive and dangerous).  After the way the books triggered me, it's no wonder that the last thing I want to subject myself to is the movie trailer.  I doubt I could sit in a cinema and watch the whole thing without having to rush out, eyes full of bitter, angry tears.  But I believe in knowing your enemy and because I think abuse is clearer on screen than on the page sometimes, I'm going to watch it and highlight why what it portrays is NOT A LOVING, HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP.

Here goes...

Within thirty seconds I have an issue.  Note how intimidated and nervous Anastasia looks in this still.  We're meant to find that sexy, because Grey is so powerful.  But considering that he uses his power over her throughout the story, controlling her and manipulating her, it's actually just enough to make my skin crawl.  Consider that this image is played  whilst we hear Ana's voice say how Grey is "polite, intense, smart... Really intimidating" and it becomes even worse.

Seconds later, when Grey asks Ana about herself, she replies "there's really not much to know about me.  I mean, look at me."  He smolders as he replies: "I am."  

I'm aware enough to know that that line could be sexy.  It could be if spoken by anyone other than a man who will later stalk this incredibly naive girl to her workplace, trace her mobile phone and blame her for being assaulted by a male friend on a night out.  A man who knows her address and bank details without her ever having given them.  Armed with that knowledge, the line is less sexy and more intimidating.  Which is apparently what they were going for.  Which is terrifying.  As is the look Ana gives him in response, which makes her look like she's a rabbit caught in the headlights.  Again, I'm sure this is intentional and again, that terrifies me.

After that moment, we get a shot of Ana leaving Grey's office, still looking freaked out and dramatic (borderline scary) music plays.  It's at this point that I realise that if this were a trailer for a film in which the male lead is a psychopath who abuses the female lead, it would be brilliantly done so far.  But no, this is meant to be a trailer for a love story.

And then, after we are shown some supposedly passionate shots of Grey kissing Ana in the elevator, we see this shot:

And the words spoken?  "I'm not capable of leaving you alone."  So my suspicion was right; the art of turning stalking into a sign of TRUE LOVE that EL James so horribly forced into the written version is being churned out in the film.  He's capable.  He just refuses to.  There's a difference and it's not a sexy one.  Oh and that stalking I mentioned, where he tracks her phone and turns up when she's on a night out?  That moment is of course portrayed with Grey as a dashing hero, "saving" Ana.  Never mind that she told him not to come after her, never mind that he tracked her phone and ignored her lack of consent, never mind that he then took her away from the safety of her friends inside the club... He's a HERO.

It just gets worse from there, too.  As Grey's voice claims "I don't do romance," we're treated to this shot:

Anyone who has read the book knows that this is the scene in which Grey touches Ana intimately under his parents' dining table, during a family meal.  Anyone who has read the book and comprehends what is on the page knows that this is the scene in which Grey touches Ana intimately WITHOUT CONSENT IN FRONT OF HIS PARENTS.  She clamps her legs shut.  He "punishes" her for it, later, by having sex with her and warning her not to orgasm or he'll spank her.  Orgasm denial does exist in BDSM, but doing it without consent and threatening physical punishment when the very first thing Ana says after he drags her into his parents' boathouse is "please don't hit me" is not sexy.  It's not BDSM.  It's abuse.  This trailer is now straight-up telling us that abuse is a sexy sign of love.  NO. IT. IS. NOT.  How offensive do you want to be to survivors of abusive relationships, EL James?  What about you, Sam Taylor Wood?!  How offensive do you want to be to everyone involved in healthy, safe, consensual BDSM?!  Because I'm guessing "a lot."

The rest of this horrific insult to anyone who has ever experienced any form of abuse is just a load of shots of whips and chains and floggers etc, because heavens, didn't you know EL James has researched BDSM and if you say her books romanticise abuse, you are the one with the problem, you big prude??!!

Seriously.  It was two minutes and twenty seconds long.  I'm fairly triggered and I want to throw up.  I urge you, with every fibre of my being, if you're interested in erotica, read something good, like The Boss by Abigail Barnette.  If you want to know more about BDSM, do some research; speak to people online who KNOW ABOUT IT.  Do not buy into this movie.  Do not accept that if a man stalks you, or tracks your phone, he must just really love you.  Do not believe that getting a person drunk and manipulating them is the same as gaining their full consent.  Do not allow EL James to tell you that threatening someone and controlling them against their will is safe, healthy BDSM when it absolutely isn't.

Fifty Shades is abuse.  I will not subject myself to the film and I suggest you don't either.


  1. Thank you for this. Very insightful and helpful. I'm so sorry for your experiences.

    I found you via the Twitter account - thank you for the work on that.

  2. Thank you; we're so grateful for the support we've had for the Twitter campaign. :)


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