Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) – Ace Mini-Review

Fifty Shades of Grey
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
Written by: Kelly Marcel
Book by: E. L. James
Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
U.S.A., 2015

How good is this movie?

I have no interest in shaming anyone who gets a sexual thrill from this movie – which would be no better than any other form of sexual shaming. But as a piece of art it’s tediously lacklustre. There’s no story to it beyond the negotiation of a relationship, and the result is pretty boring. Where it should steam, it feels cold and lifeless. Jamie Dornan’s acting consists of looking really intense while saying the most mundane phrases, and Dakota Johnson switches on a dime between awkward, outraged, and breathless with lust. I didn’t feel any real emotion from either of them – and certainly no sexual chemistry.

How ace is this movie?

I assumed this movie would be ace-unfriendly, and it is – but not in quite the way I expected. There is a fair amount of sex, but what makes it really interesting is its inclusion of non-normative sexual behaviours and experiences. Both Christian and Anastasia fall outside of the sexual norm: he because he’s into bondage, and she because she hasn’t had sex. Unfortunately, shame is attached to both of these positions. Christian reacts with shock and horror to the revelation of Anna’s virginity – something many asexuals should find easy to relate to. Some asexuals may also relate to Christian’s interest in bondage: BDSM is about more than sex, and there are asexual people who practice it. Portraying it positively in a film could have been both sex-positive and ace-positive, but the portrayal in this movie is, at best, conflicted. On the one hand, it offers up scenes of bondage for audience excitement and enjoyment. On the other hand, there are hints that Christian’s penchant is the result of early abuse or trauma that prevents him from having “healthy” romantic relationships. That’s something else that, sadly, many asexuals will find familiar. In contrast, the film seems to romanticise Christian’s genuinely disturbing stalking of Anastasia. He comes to her work, breaks into her apartment, and follows her to her parents’ home in Georgia, but instead of calling him out on his controlling behaviour she only complains that there isn’t enough romance in their relationship. This is despite Christian’s frequent explanations that romantic behavior is “not really his thing” – statements that suggest he may be aromantic. Unfortunately, aromanticism is yet another ace experience that the movie is unable to deal with respectfully.

2 Stars; 2 Aces

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