Valentine’s Day is a uniformly awful event, simultaneously feared and loathed by anyone sensible, observed only by weirdos and the pathologically dull. To celebrate this most unloved of annual events we saw the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey film. Mass hysteria ensued to the point of panic levels. There has already been a Fifty Shades of Grey inspired riot in a shopping centre and another incident where a group of women attacked a man at a screening and proceeded to vomit en masse in the aisles.
What is the source of all this madness? For the unacquainted, E.L James’ debut novel on which the film is based documents the budding romance between a malfunctioning sex doll and a cardboard cut-out psychopath. The story begins with English Literature student Anastasia Steele stumbling into an interview with ‘something’ magnate Christian Grey. Grey, captivated by her complete lack of personality and inability to maintain her balance proceeds to prowl around like some sort of sexual predator, turning up where he isn’t wanted, buying her extravagant presents she doesn’t want, and sending endless bossy emails.
Eventually, she succumbs to his advances, at which point he produces a mammoth contract regarding what will be expected of her if she wants a relationship with him; details including her sleeping habits, her diet and whether she will be required to get pissed on. (No, by the way; that would be weird). The two of them proceed to flop around, discussing contractual clauses, engaging in sex acts, which are two parts improbable and one part tedious, until eventually he whips her arse raw and she runs off crying. The end.
Given the source text, the filmmakers must have known that they weren’t going to be producing the next Citizen Kane. Their job was simply to make this cinematic portrayal as bearable as possible. Ultimately, they failed – but not as dramatically as they could have done.
Leaving aside the obvious problems with plot, characterisation and writing, the casting is appalling. Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele and spends most of film oscillating between looking like she can’t decide whether she wants to laugh or projectile vomit – which is a natural reaction to having to deliver lines like “What’s a buttplug?” before catapulting yourself into orgasmic oblivion forty seconds later. Jamie Dornan, apparently on a mission to sabotage his career, is more interested in controlling his accent than he is in fanning out waves of sexual fission. Incidentally, if you imagine Jamie Dornan lurking around hardware stores, inquiring about cable ties and growling out lines like “I’m a masking tape connoisseur” and “I want to show you my playroom” in an East Belfast accent, events take on an altogether more sinister resonance and the film is improved immeasurably.
Who is enjoying Fifty Shades of Grey, I wonder. Not people who actually get their rocks off tying their sexual partners up and giving them a good fisting. BDSM practitioners are in a state of outright dismay about the phenomenon of Fifty Shades, claiming that their lifestyles have been insulted and degraded (things they probably enjoy) because of the elements of outright emotional abuse in the relationship between the two main characters.
Fifty Shades of Grey began life as Twilight fan fiction, meandered into an absurdly elongated masturbatory fantasy and became a global sensation. It’s worth reminding everyone at all times that Fifty Shades is the vaginal soup of a grown woman who is not ashamed to write erotica inspired by a book for teenaged children about sparkly vampires. This is the level of sexual sensibility we are dealing with. Fifty Shades is the fruit of a very poisonous and very fucking stupid tree indeed and, to make matters worse, it is women who are slobbering over this shit. I have it on good authority that if a man tries to read Fifty Shades of Grey his penis will curl up into the foetal position and eventually start screaming.
The sad fact is that emotional abuse and coercion isn’t an unfortunate addition to an otherwise interesting tale, but the point entirely. Anastasia Steele is a virgin; she’s never even masturbated, or had a sexual thought in her entire life. She has to be pursued to the point of a restraining order to get into a relationship with a man and she has to be literally tied down to experience any sexual pleasure at all. She is entirely passive and that’s the whole point. If she’s passive then she is absolved of any responsibility for her own sexuality. This is the fantasy – being able to have pleasurable, consensual sex with a hunky millionaire without being a dirty slut who would actually admit to enjoying things like that.
The type of woman who sees this as a sexual fantasy is the type of woman currently spraying multiplexes with vomit. Idiots, in short. Pathetic losers who can’t get to grips with the concept of themselves as sexual human beings. That they are in such populous numbers should be read as a hideous indictment of the sexual zeitgeist.
And to make matters worse, you don’t even get to see Jamie Dornan’s cock.