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Fifty Shades of Controversy: Contemporary Love Story or Promotion for Domestic Violence?

The worldwide phenomenon of “Fifty Shades of Grey” has been stirring up some pretty sensitive topics of debate, mainly that of domestic violence. Critics and viewers are claiming that the movie is condoning the controlling and dominant types of sexual acts performed by lead character, Christian Grey. The “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, has been in theaters for over a month now, allowing plenty of time for more and more viewers to see it and offer their two cents. From a first glance it may be intimidating to some viewers to visually see EL James’s story on the big screen which could provide a shock value and cause a turn-off to some people, especially more conservative viewers. Perhaps the reason behind so many viewers’ concerns is because Ana and Christian do not have a traditional relationship. However, when the specific details of the book and the movie are broken down, it is clear that neither forms of the story promote any sort of domestic violence. The most prominent reason? Consent. Not to mention that behind all of the explicit content, there is also an underlying romance blossoming between Ana and Christian. Even leading actress, Dakota Johnson (Ana), has released a statement responding to the claims that the movie promotes domestic violence in a recent interview with journalist Kjersti Flaa. She reminds us that first of all, it is just a movie. She also stresses the fact that both characters agree to everything they do.


A Sneak Preview of a “Binding” Agreement

Throughout a decent chunk of the movie Ana spends time contemplating whether or not she agrees to Christian’s offer of a dominant vs. submissive relationship. There is not a single moment where Christian forces Ana into surrendering to any of the proposed sexual acts. Christian first introduces the idea to Ana through an exclusivity agreement for her to sign stating she cannot discuss anything that happens between them with any other person. When she questions why this is so, he takes her for a tour of his infamous “red room” to give her a preview of what she is getting herself into. Christian discusses the terms of the proposed relationship including the different toys as well as sleeping arrangements. He explains to Ana multiple times that she may leave at any moment if she is uncomfortable. Yet, Ana stays with Christian. It isn’t until Christian drives Ana home that he gives her a written contract. Christian stresses to Ana that she read the contract carefully and dissect each section so that she can come forward with any objections or revisions. They then have a business meeting to discuss the revisions Ana requests which Christian agrees to. Though Ana does not sig the contract yet, she still agrees to continue seeing Christian while continuing her own sexual exploration out of curiosity. Christian may have rougher sexual tendencies than the normal guy, but he is respectful enough to only conduct these acts with Ana’s written consent.

Contract business meeting
Contract Business Meeting

Fifty Shades of Christian

Christian’s character is in question when viewers believe he is abusive towards Ana, both mentally and physically. Some may argue that he uses his charm and success as a facade and a ploy to seduce Ana. We agree, he is exceedingly charming, extremely handsome, and grossly wealthy. However, the tables are turned when we see that Ana is slowly breaking down Christian’s walls, all fifty shades of them. Ana admits to have fallen in love with Christian, but he too is falling in love with Ana. Deep down there is a softer side to him that only Ana can reach. He admits he does not sleep in the same bed with other women, yet he breaks this rule with Ana a few times. He also stresses that he does not “do romance”, yet he agrees to take Ana on a weekly date as a revision to the contract. Christian may come off as an assertive debonaire, but we see right through him.

Is it fair to criticize “Fifty Shades of Grey” so harshly when movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street” blatantly exploit chauvinistic sexual encounters? Why single out Mr. Grey? Possibly because the book trilogy became such a phenomenon with women so quickly which caused a much-anticipated big screen release, immediately putting it under a magnifying glass. Still, Mr. Grey is not an abusive dominant by any means. This big ol’ softie is just as much under Ana’s spell as she is captivated by him.

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  1. I have to disagree with your opinion. Fifty Shades of Grey is not a romantic movie in any way.

    From the way Ana acts to how Christian treats her, this seems more like an abusive relationship more than anything.

    In fact, many of the ways the two characters act are similar to patterns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define “interpersonal violence and associated reactions known to occur in abused women.”

    Look at the scene near the end where Ana is naked and Christian just destroys her with a belt while she’s crying. At the end, she tells him “You will never do that to me again!” while he just looks like he is ready to jump her. That’s more creepy than “Sexy and dominating.”

    You say that Christian never pressures her to sign the contract but he does. He even begs her at one point.

    She never wanted to sign the contract, it’s made quite clear that she only signed it because she wants to be with him. She specifically says, many times, that she wants to have a normal relationship, where they go on dates and sleep in the same bed. When she can’t have that, she signs the contract. If there is anything less romantic than that, I don’t know what it would be.

    Going back to before she signs the contract, she googles “submission” and gets super creeped out by the images she finds so she sends him an email saying goodbye. What does he do? Show up at her apartment, uninvited.

    To me that screams stalker. I don’t care how rich and handsome he is.

    You mentioned consent and how Ana gives it. But I disagree. I think her consent was coerced and Christian abused it, especially in that last violent scene with the belt.

    Of course, this is a movie so Ana “saves” Christian and helps him find true love but the relationship is messed up.

    Most victims of abuse, whether they are male or female, rarely see themselves as victims at first. They see themselves as someone trying to save the abuser. They stay because they believe they can “fix” the person, like how Ana wanted to fix Christian.

    It doesn’t make sense to compare Wolf on Wall Street with Fifty Shades of Grey because DiCaprio’s character isn’t meant to be a sexy, dominating partner. He’s a drug addicted, messed up person. It’s not supposed to be romantic at all, whereas Fifty Shades of Grey is supposed to be a love story. That’s what makes it so horrible.

    This series didn’t come under fire just because it became so popular, he came under fire for idolizing abusive behaviours in romantic partners and trying to make it seem okay. Just because Christian finally falls in love with Ana in the end, doesn’t make his previous abuse of her okay.

    To me this movie is about an abusive man who takes advantage of a naive young girl, coercing her into signing a contract, and taking advantage of her meekness.