50 Shades review

Ok, in the words of a few colleagues and friends I “took one for the team” by actually going to see the film rather than sit on the sidelines commenting from afar.

The controversy and hype on Social Media has been intense over the past few days.  The jokes and spoofs have also brought a smile to my lips and I was prepared for a challenging couple of hours so I booked two tickets for the studio cinema of the Genesis which has a bar in the cinema and super comfy sofas and ordered a large glass of Shiraz.  I took a good friend, performer and wit Ernesto Tomasini in one of his rare nights off in London and we settled down for a giggle and a groan!

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Top line: I certainly didn’t feel the film was as bad as the hype,  Jane Fae’s review seemed fair and totally on point.  I read it before and I read it afterwards and it strikes me as the fairest and most balanced. Check it out as it says all that needs to be said.  Allowing ME to focus here on my own perspective and trying to say something that hasn’t been said already.

Christian Grey was a clearly mixed up guy who could use some therapy to heal his emotionally damaged childhood  trauma, but he did seem redeemable and in fact he shifted a fair bit on his “I don’t do romance” by taking her on a joyful and completely gratuitous glider flight and during what was a very empowered “business meeting’ to discuss his submission contract, agreeing to a weekly Date Night.

Ana came across as increasingly empowered and strong character who exited the relationship when she found out at her own request how bad Grey’s punishment might be (six of the best, which was actually pretty mild by most people’s idea of CP play).

In fact his ‘punishment’ scene looked like it hurt him as much as it did her and her punishment of him (withdrawal) was much more severe (as it often is).  She portrayed a much stronger person and not the defenceless weak woman I had expected from the reviewers.

Grey appeared more of a ‘Service Dom’, focussing on her sensual arousal and awakening rather than abusing her and she did seem to be consenting. He was not sadistic or cruel or a self centred lover. There were no skull fucking scenes until she gagged and vomited and he didn’t send her back to her room with her face covered in semen. The sex was sensual, tender, and really very tame and Grey used condoms!  

Lifestyle BDSM in a Dominant/submissive relationship often does involve controlling the submissive’s diet, well being, clothing etc.  It probably wouldn’t be rushed into like it was in the film, and especially not with a virgin ingenue like Ana, and so the laments by the BDSM community (most of which haven’t actually seen the movie when asked to comment) that it’s not accurately representing BDSM are missing the point a bit.  It’s a movie, not a documentary!  I actually think we under estimate people’s ability to recognise that movies are different to real life.

We have so few representations of our lives in film I think community members want to see highly accurate portrayal and that may not make for great drama.  I remember  a few decades ago the uproar when Al Pacino played the gay leather clad lead in a film called Cruising. The gay community had no positive representations of our lives that this disturbing film presented us in the worse possible light. Virtually every gay film for decades contains tropes and stereotypes and we know life isn’t quite like that!

Maybe we need the equivalent of the highly effective Trans Media Watch campaigning for accurate BDSM content? This is something that NCSF and CARAS are doing and there are now lots of opportunities for teaching all the neophytes to BDSM lots of things about consent and safety!

I read one extensive post where virtually no one had seen the film (and most hadn’t appeared to have read the books either), but when asked for a soundbite all managed to come up with something to educate the readership (and promote their websites)!  

Two things did disturb me about his stalking really was the most outrageous and scary aspect but we’ve seen that trope of the boy chasing girl in many movies before and not been labelling it as abusive. I also recall Judi Dench as M waiting in James Bond’s hotel bedroom.  It is always jarring when someone surprises us like that.

Is it the BDSM context for this movie which is actually the subject of most criticism, but that it’s being presented  intimate partner abuse?

One thing that seems to have gone un commented upon so far, I found the early ‘Are you gay?’ joke both unnecessary and offensive.

Bottom line: I’m glad I saw the movie myself, I don’t regret doing so and I feel pleased I had a chance to come to some views of my own.

Dominic Davies
Psychotherapist, Clinical Sexologist

If you’re a therapist have you booked for our Beyond the Rainbow conference which will amongst other things explore BDSM on 21 March 2015 in London

One thought on “50 Shades review

  1. Great review Dominic – I haven’t seen it, but I read the books and thought they were perfectly adequate erotic fiction: not great literature, but hey: that wasn’t why I was reading them. Anyway, your review is a triumph of commonsense over hubris, and I’m glad watching the movie wasn’t the torment you anticipated!

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