When “Fifty Shades of Grey” first became popular, I jumped on the bandwagon of hating it without actually having read it. I was shown textual evidence of the romanticized abuse within the novel, and that was enough for me.
I knew, though, that I had to actually read the books in order to form an opinion on them. And while I couldn’t get past the terrible writing in the novels, I eventually sucked it up and watched the first movie. In it, while the story was dull, I could only find a single instance of actual, abusive behavior.
So, when I saw the previews for “Fifty Shades Darker” and it appeared to have an actual plot line, I wanted to see it. I was hopeful, even. And I could not have been more let down.
The story line shown in the previews is one of about seven unrelated conflicts within the movie, all of which are anticlimactic. If the majority of the conflicts were taken out entirely, I don’t think it would have made a difference. The antagonists (save for one, who makes an appearance at the end) are always merely put in their place and then never to be seen again.
I could have gotten over this, though, and been only as dissatisfied with the movie as I was with the first in the series, if it had not been for the emotional abuse that creeps up and gets brushed off in this one.
The main character Anastasia’s boss, Jack, and her boyfriend, Christian, both exhibit the same qualities: they are controlling and manipulative, not ever taking what Anastasia wants into consideration.
Her boss flirts with her, coerces her into going to New York with him under the guise of business, and forces himself on her. Christian, on the other hand, frequently makes demands, at one point asking, “Why can’t you just do what you’re told for once?”
When it’s clear that Anastasia is slipping from his control, Christian manipulates her by telling her about his tragic (and horribly cliché) past and, eventually, asking her to marry him.
Only the boss is demonized in the story, though. Christian’s abusive tendencies are never seen as abuse, but merely as his inclination to be a “dominant outside of the bedroom” – something normal, just not fit for Anastasia’s lifestyle.
This inclination is justified simply because Christian was traumatized and abused when he was a child. By the story’s logic, he is misunderstood and deserves the love of Anastasia, even if it means she gives up her independence and is berated any time she goes against what he wants.
And she does go against him, quite frequently. This would be an empowering quality of the film if she did not continue to give him more and more chances, if there weren’t romantic sex scenes played almost immediately after scenes of him yelling at her, and if they didn’t, ultimately, get happily engaged at the end.
All throughout the movie, we are meant to root for the couple’s happy ending, even if the circumstances would call for us to root against them in real life. I truly had high hopes for “Fifty Shades Darker,” but it ended up being the epitome of why I was so against the franchise in the first place.