The other day I had what seemed like a brilliant idea when reflecting on Fifty Shades of Grey – what I thought was the worst film of 2015, and what certainly was a low point for women in film. My own beliefs clashed pretty violently with this film’s implicit disregard towards women, and apart from being politically reprehensible for me, it wasn’t even a well-constructed film. For those who haven’t seen this yet, here’s the synopsis (stolen from my previous write-up):
Fifty Shades of Grey tells the story of Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a mousy and awkward young college student who is tasked with the responsibility of interviewing the massively powerful young billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Anastasia, or Ana to her friends, fumbles through the interview but gains his interest, and what follows is a love story of sorts as Ana and Christian get to know one another better, and Ana gets to know Christian’s preferences in the bedroom. Christian is a man of “singular interests”, which includes inflicting pain on his romantic partners. Surprise!
My partner Adam has pretty similar beliefs to me, both of us being loud and proud feminists. Since he hadn’t yet seen Fifty Shades of Grey, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to make him watch the film so that I could record his responses to the film’s content. My hypothesis was that I would be able to capture some beautifully elucidated treatises on feminism and the representation of women’s rights on film. I was sure that this film would inspire some passionate discussion and critique, so I watched the film with him, laptop at the ready to record his genius at work.
Anyway, I was wrong. Here’s what happened.
Sam Taylor-Johnson, who the hell is that?
Oh my god, he’s (Jamie Dornan) a bit wooden in this. In more ways than one. HA HA HA WHOOOAH
[referring to Dakota Johnson] Hi, I’m a bit frumpy and indie? And I have the same hair as Anna (Film Grimoire)?
Oh, he (Christian Grey) sounds wooden because he’s putting on an American accent and he’s Irish.
Production design’s a bit strange.
Is this the only scene in it besides the sex scenes? This is boring.
God this is boring, does this go anywhere?
There’s no point in me watching this because you know I’m a feminist and I hate this kind of shit.
[becomes bored and Googles the film] This film premiered at Berlin!?
What a very patriarchal piece of shit to be written by a woman.
This is actually doing a disservice to all women, this film. And it’s also painting a pretty awful picture of the corporate white man.
Oh my god, this guy is a total serial killer.
I can’t watch this. One, it’s boring, and two, it’s frustrating.
[sees male buttocks] Ugh!
Yeah, this guy’s obviously not making any money because he just sits around [bleep]ing all day.
[begins whistling The Smiths’ ‘This Charming Man’]
Halfway point: I feel like nothing’s happened.
[contract signing scene] Geez, calm down on the music Danny (composer Danny Elfman). The stakes for this film are so low that Danny has to work overtime on the music to make us feel like there are emotional stakes.
Just say yes or say no! God!
[Danny Elfman music escalates] Calm down Danny!
Rrreeedd Rrrrooommm [referring to The Shining]. I want to watch Dial M for Murder later.
Me: So listen Adam, I need you to say some smart shit because so far you’ve got complaints about Danny Elfman’s music, whistling The Smiths and complaining about how bored you are.
Oh, yes! We only have half an hour to go!
So did she sign the contract and I missed it?
I’m surprised he’s managed to find 15 women to do this. Then again this was written by a woman and half of middle aged women in America [bleeeeep] to this book.
“That’s myyy sideboob” – referring to this scene from Family Guy.
Oh, calm down Danny. The TV can’t handle it.
Don Johnson just had a heart attack.
[makes awkward face]
So when did she sign the contract?
This is so PG-ified.
This film is pretty poorly done. It’s like Neighbours. I can’t wait to watch Dial M for Murder.
This guy is a dick.
Has she signed the contract yet?
For a film about sex, this is one of the most boring films I’ve ever watched.
Adam: This is beautifully directed.
Me: Are you serious?
Dornan is good in The Fall but he may as well be a log in this film. Doot-doot-doot-doot! [referencing the Family Guy scene where Keanu Reeves has a woodpecker tapping at his forehead]
Pathetic. This just annoys me.
Structurally, this film is pretty much a rom-com without the comedy and without the romance and the payoff. It continues to push patriarchal assumptions and stereotypes.
Final thoughts: That is a pathetic film. I’ve just wasted two hours of my life. It’s just such a cynical Hollywood production though. Let’s get all these pop artists on the soundtrack, get the dopey inferior version of Hans Zimmer who used to write the Batman scores and is just over the top every time he writes a soundtrack and always completely misses the emotional point of a scene, get a hot looking guy and hot looking girl, and just make something that goes nowhere. Pathetic. And as I’ve said previously, it just re-affirms gender norms and stereotypes. There is nothing good about it. It’s a pile of shit.
Well, that was my experiment. I am unsure whether this was a successful exercise. Have you ever forced someone to watch a film to see whether the response would be insightful or not? Did I waste another two hours of my life on this film? I think I may have.