So, the time has come again, folks. The second Fifty Shades movie is due out next February and the first trailer has appeared, sending fans into a frenzy. Depressingly, it would seem that not even the ghastly inner workings of Christian's mind, as featured in Grey (the book retold from Christian's perspective) has put the most hardcore Fifty Shades fans off. The trailer for Fifty Shades Darker was watched 114million times in the first 24 hours of its release.
Speaking as a survivor of a man frighteningly similar to Christian Grey (and as a hater of all things Fifty Shades related), the task has fallen to me to analyse the ...Darker trailer. Yaaaaay.
LET'S DO THIS THING.
So, the trailer begins with plinky-plonky dramatic piano music. We see Grey wistfully standing by a large expanse of water, watching fireworks.
So broody. Much millionnaire. Wow.
Sadly, nobody comes to push him into said water, so we see a title card with the words "This Valentine's Day" flash up on screen, instead.
Let me just take a moment - literally five seconds in - to moan:
YOU CANNOT KEEP RELEASING FILMS ABOUT AN ABUSIVE MAN IN TIME FOR A HOLIDAY SUPPOSEDLY CELEBRATING LOVE.
Let's get one thing clear, shall we? There are certain things that have no place being associated with a healthy relationship:
- Coercion/ignored lack of consent
- Unwanted and obsessive levels of control
Grey does all of these things. Now, I may be a terminally single person who views Valentine's Day as a commercialised beast, but essentially, it's supposed to be a day to celebrate love, romance and healthy relationships. Fifty Shades has no place being mentioned alongside those things.
Okay, back to it...
We see Grey handing Ana a present, followed by another card, telling us:
Seriously, trailer??!! Forget the past???!!!! Which part would you like us to forget? The bit where your "hero" took an unconscious woman back to his hotel room, undressed her and lay in bed next to her, without her consent? The part where he stalks that same woman when she asks him for space? The moment the "hero" beats that same woman with a belt, not stopping, despite her very obvious distress? The fact that the author of this horror story has ignored and blocked abuse survivors and charities, whenever they point out the dangers of romanticising a man like this? The plagiarism of Stephanie Meyer's work? We have a lot of history, trailer. You're going to need to be much more specific...
I feel the need to point out that we're only nine seconds in and I already feel the beginnings of a rage headache.
I'm going to need to numb the pain.
We then see Christian putting on a masquerade mask and the title cards tell us to "slip into something a shade darker."
Quite frankly, the only thing I'm in any danger of slipping into is a coma from lack of arousal, but okay, trailer. Whatever you say.
We see a box being opened (presumably the present we saw, earlier), to reveal masquarade masks. Christian asks Ana if she's intrigued and puts the mask on her. We're then treated to a shot of the pair in fancy clothes, attending the masquerade ball from the book. I think we're meant to find Christian incredibly hot in his tux and mask, but I'm not going to lie to you, dear readers, I thought he looked hilarious.
Is he going to rob the house?!
The music, by the way, is yet another version of Crazy In Love (you know, like in the first film...), because if there's one thing EL James has proved beyond doubt with her desperate re-writing of books she's already
stolen written, it's that she just loves to flog dead horses.
After some dramatic shots of Christian and Ana doing twirly dances at the ball, we see Ana discovering a bouquet of flowers from Christian and we hear his voice-over telling her: "I want you back. I had no idea what this was going to become."
You mean a relationship in which you abuse her, Christian? Because I totally saw that coming. You lack foresight, my friend.
Anyway, Ana looks super happy with her flowers and not at all freaked out or intimidated by Christian's attention, what with having dumped him in the last book/film for being "one f*cked up son of a bitch":
"Ooh, goodie! My stalker still loves me!"
Ana replies in voice-over: "I don't see how this can work." And I, watching this trailer whilst wishing I was doing literally anything else, scream at my computer screen: "THEN RUN FAR AWAY AND NEVER RETURN, AS IF YOU ARE SIMBA FROM THE LION KING."
Oh, you have no idea how much I would rather be watching The Lion King...
Cut to Ana walking through Jose's photo exhibition, looking all sad, wistful and, if you ask me, mildly terrified. It appears that she has every right to be, because when she turns around, Christian is staring at her like this:
Not at all looking like he's going to kill her, or anything.
And Ana, as you would, if you turned around and saw the ex you recently dumped staring at you in a mega creepy fashion, is delighted:
The ROMANCE is palpable.
I genuinely can't decide whether this is a case of bad acting, bad chemistry or bad source material (well, the source material is atrocious, but you know...), but if I was watching this with literally no clue what happens in this series, I would be thinking I was watching the trailer for a psychological thriller about a guy who refuses to let a woman go.
Which is exactly what it is.
There's then a scene of Ana in her fetching silver dress from the ball, asking an admiring Christian whether he's just going to "stand there, gawking," to which he answers: "yes."
We're then treated to the sight of Christian and Ana pushed up against the wall of the shower, with the water running, eating one another's faces. I think this is meant to show us how passionate their relationship is, and that Ana wants him just as much as he wants her, but thanks to the creepy thriller vibes we've had so far, I'm now just convinced that the victim in this psychological thriller is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
After some more hot, sexy scenes (I would describe them in more detail, but I was really busy, attending to a chipped nail, which was more interesting), we hear Ana say: "This time, no rules. No punishments," then we see the happy couple on a boat. Because, see, they're a healthy, normal pair of lovebirds. Or something.
Push him in, Ana. Please. Do it for me.
We hear Ana's voice-over continue: "And... No more secrets." Then, of course, we see the couple all tucked up in bed, only for Leila to appear ominously watching them.
Now, Leila was a character who was handled appallingly badly in the books (for a start, she was made to talk like Gollum from Lord of The Rings) and it'll be interesting to see how she's treated in the films. Let's face it, it can't get much worse, can it? I mean, in the books, we see how much research EL James did on the subject of mental health and the treatment thereof (none) and how much compassion she's prepared to show towards a character with severe mental health issues (very, very little), so I can only hope that if this film gets just one thing right, it treats Leila better than the books ever did.
Then, because this film doesn't seem enough like it's not even in the same postcode as a "LOVE story," we're given a glimpse of Ana being attacked by Jack Hyde. It's always intrigued me that a man who thinks of women as property and who isn't overly bothered by freely-given, enthusiastic consent as long as he gets what he wants, is rightly treated as a "bad guy," in the same franchise as a man who thinks of women as property and who isn't overly bothered by freely-given, enthusiastic consent as long as he gets what he wants, is treated as the "hero." Jack and Christian are not that different. They're both psychopathic abusers. It's just that one has good looks, money and enough manipulative charm to get under our heroine's skin. If this was written intentionally - if this were a thriller - I'd be heaping praise on EL James for this clever writing tactic that speaks volumes about our often-shallow society, but it's not written that way. We're supposed to hate Jack and love Christian. Who, in case you've forgotten, conveniently victim-blames Ana when he hears about her attack and decides not to get the police involved. Swoon.
Anyway, the attack is suitably chilling, although I won't lie, it took me several watches to realise that this wasn't Christian, because forcibly stopping Ana from leaving just feels like something he'd do.
You know I'm right.
Because this film is looking likely to be as awful as the books by this point, we gloss over this assault of Ana, in favour of a return to the masquerade ball, at which we are treated to our first glimpse of
the child molestor "Mrs Robinson."
I don't know if I'm just going slightly insane from boredom/depression, but I honestly thought she was Jennifer Saunders and I briefly got excited at the idea that this was about to become a comedy.
If there's one thing this film is lacking, it's the ability to be ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS.
We don't have any further chance to meet this character, however, because we have the very serious business of Ana discovering Grey's grotesque invasion of her privacy, in the form of the dosier he had compiled on her when they met. It includes photos taken without her consent, which, you know, I'm just saying: Jack Hyde and Christian Grey = NOT SO DIFFERENT. Ana, once again, looks overjoyed to discover that her sort-of-boyfriend knew her bank details, address, family addresses and various other personal information, without her ever having provided it. Because this is the height of romance, guys.
"So, er, you're re-dumped." - Fifty Shades if I wrote the script.
After some images of Ana running away (which I like to imagine were shots of her taking my earlier advice...), we see Leila confronting Ana at home, asking: "Do you think you're the first woman who's tried to save him?"
You know what, guys? This isn't even funny, anymore. In this scene, we're being shown a woman with enormous psychological trauma (CAUSED BY THE DAMN "HERO" WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BE WETTING OURSELVES OVER) telling the new partner of the man who emotionally broke her that others have been in this position and gotten hurt in the process. And although the trailer is ambiguous as to what Ana thinks at this moment, those of us who've read the books (because HI FANS, I'VE READ THE DAMN BOOKS YOU ACCUSE ME OF NOT READING) know that Ana sticks by her beloved Christian and cures him, because she is oh, so perfect and magical and we should all wish to be more like her.
Which is bull.
This is it, right here: THIS is why I hate, loathe and despise this franchise more than I have ever hated any work of fiction before or since. This is EL James (and now her husband, who wrote the screenplay for this film) saying: "hey, other girls tried and failed to save Christian, but let's gloss over the enormous emotional and psychological price they paid in doing so and focus on the fact that ANA WINS!"
No. No, no, no. NO.
I've been there. I've been Ana. I've told myself: "Nobody else has ever gotten through to him like I have. Nobody has ever been this close to him. I can save him."
I was wrong. Because - in all but what I can only assume is the tiniest number of cases - you are always wrong.
You can't "cure" an abusive person. You can't magically "fix" them, just by loving them the "right" way. There is no "right" way. What made my abuser hold me and tell me he loved me one week, was the very thing that made him scream at me and tell me I disgusted him, the next. That's because abusers thrive on staying in control. And by keeping you off-balance, they ensure they retain that. An abusive person will only change if he or she can acknowledge their behaviour as being abusive and want to change, via extensive, professional help (Doctor Flynn, with his victim-blaming and abuse-enabling behaviour does NOT count). Christian never acknowledges that he has abused Ana in any way. He talks about wanting to change, but he doesn't show any major changes in his treatment of her, or his behaviour in general.
But that desire to "save" the abusive partner is what keeps people in dangerous relationships. All-too-often, it's what keeps people in situations where they run the risk of being emotionally destroyed, beaten or even killed. So, by all means, tell me that this is "just fiction," or "pure fantasy." But in perpetuating the myth that the "right" person, with the "right" kind of love can somehow cure an abuser, EL James is spreading a disgusting, dangerous message that personally offends me on a primal level, because, at the core of this message, she's telling people like me - who walked away from abuse (or those who were killed by their abusers) - that we just weren't the right one to "magically fix" the people who harmed us. We just didn't love them the "right" way.
And I have a message for EL James in response to that:
Okay, Emma. Breathe. You have fourteen seconds of this to go, then you can reward yourself with a night out at the cinema.
OH GOD, THEY'RE GOING TO SHOW THIS TRAILER THERE TOO, AREN'T THEY??!! I DID NOT THINK THIS THROUGH.
And, as if by magic, the trailer Gods have favoured me! The last fourteen seconds are just title cards, reminding us of the name of the movie,
Fifty Shades Is Abuse Fifty Shades Darker and the release date (Valentine's Day 2017).
Well. There's little more I can say, beyond the fact that what I just watched did not in any way resemble the trailer for a "LOVE story." It appeared to be the trailer for a thriller about some gross creep who invades the privacy of the woman he wants to be in a relationship with and whom other women try to warn his girlfriend away from. Despite the boat ride and the masquerade ball and the shower sex, at no point did I think: "Yep, this is a movie about a romantic and truly healthy relationship."
Fans are going to argue that I'm coming at this from a biased viewpoint (because they don't have any original arguments left, judging from experience...), and that this is a love story about a damaged man finding redemption in the love of his soulmate, but all I can say to them is:
A few people have asked me whether the 50 Shades Is Abuse campaign will be protesting the second film. Well, you'll be thrilled to know that my campaign co-runner Natalie and I are already planning on getting the ball rolling for that very soon. So stay tuned if you'd like to get involved, as we'd love to see an even bigger turnout than we had for the first movie premiere.
For now, if you need me, I will be weeping silently over the fact that there are still actual, real-life people who see this story as romantic.
No. Just... Really, really no.