Despite grossing over $156.4 million domestically, according to Forbes, audiences and reviewers alike have come to the same conclusion, the film is boring and bland. The film has only a 25 percent approval rating on the film review website Rotten Tomatoes.
Ana enters the first sex scene a virgin. Astonished by this, Christian, her love interest, decides to, in his words, “rectify the situation.” What follows is a scene where Ana loses her virginity, yet it’s not exciting.
Perhaps the disappointment lies in the fact that the film, with 70 percent of the opening weekend audience being female, according to LA Times, doesn’t seem to have a clue what turns women on. It undermines female sexuality and reduces female desires to being conquered by a man.
That first sex scene plays out like a 14-year-old’s fantasy of what losing his or her virginity might be like. The only nudity we see is Christian Grey ripping off his shirt and flashing his cologne-ad abs and Ana’s belly button as Christian proceeds to kiss it.
Globally, the Fifty Shades book trilogy, the first of which the film was based on, has sold over 100 million copies. The novels have been translated into 51 languages. Although the writing has been called poor, the sales show that regardless of this, the explicit lines and graphic sexual description are stimulating to the many women who purchased the novel.
Though the books are not representative of every woman’s sexual fantasies, the trilogy chronicles the exploration of sexuality through the perspective of a woman, something rare in a society that usually views sexuality through the lens of what turns a man on.
The film seems to have stripped the story of that one essential facet and goes in the traditional route of what is deemed sexy.The later sex scenes display as minimal nudity as the first, with the furthest the film goes with nudity is showing Ana’s breast—something already commonplace in modern cinema.
The film had the opportunity to break down the taboo of female sexuality; however, by toning down the sex for audiences, it leaves Ana and Christian’s relationship as the main focus. Their relationship is more appalling than any giggle or blush inducing lines in the books. In their relationship, Christian is overly domineering, getting upset that Ana didn’t tell him she was flying out of state visiting her mother.
Ana puts her foot down and defies his wishes by going anyway. To counter her defiance, he shows up uninvited to dinner with her mother. This is depicted as romantic, but the only way Christian knows how to show his love for Ana is to smother her.
Adding even more to the failure of the film are the disastrous results that have occurred after people watched the film and tried to reenact scenes.
In one report by The Washington Post, University of Illinois at Chicago student Mohammad Hossain, 19, has been charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault for tying up, blindfolding, gagging and beating a 19-year-old woman he brought back to his dorm. When questioned by police officers he said he was re-creating a scene from Fifty Shades of Grey.
In addition to misrepresenting female sexuality, the film also misrepresents what women want from romantic relationships. It glorifies a controlling relationship and the idea that a woman wants to be dominated. As if when Ana says no she really means yes, she just didn’t know it yet. The film and its reactions underline the importance of changing how female sexuality is presented in society.