ByPeter Flynn, writer at
An advocate for understanding the phenomenological wonder of the moving image. Also Tremors is the best.
Peter Flynn

I'd wager that Fifty Shades of Grey was the highest performing movie that appealed to an audience with no idea of what they wanted. Just look at the gargantuan popularity garnered by EL James' novel. Aside from the comically poor grasp of prose, the main draw was to read a woman rather comically express, for a lack of a better word... smut. I use that word with the utmost adoration. There's nothing wrong with some mainstream titillation so long as it identifies as such. I'm all for an unbridled expression of sexuality in film if it isn't subsumed into what's deemed normal and fine. Sadly enough, that's exactly what Fifty Shades of Grey was.

There were many vocalized problems with Fifty Shades of Grey. The way it romanticized an abusive relationship, the way it accidentally channeled American Psycho, and the way it had basically no middle. Perhaps most irritatingly for those involved in a BDSM lifestyle was the way the movie watered down and sugar-coated the imagery to appeal to mass audiences.

Wow really pushing the bar there!
Wow really pushing the bar there!

Universal, and the filmmakers behind Fifty Shades are faced with an interesting conundrum in the approach to Fifty Shades Darker. They can either continue to water down the subject matter, exciting the audience that already made the first movie one of the highest grossing films of 2015 while not offending mass cultural sensibilities. Or, they can double down, and give us sex scenes that are even more graphic than we first imagined.

Going Explicit

So let's imagine a hypothetical world where Fifty Shades Darker is released depicting all the steamy details just as EL James wrote them. It would likely be denounced as pornography for literally a millisecond before studios shut any of those claims down because this is a very VERY profitable series we're dealing with here! It's a slightly unfair privilege that the written word holds over film. Erotic novels are made up of words on a page, which the innocent children probably can't read anyway. Once you translate it to film, then all of a sudden "MY GOD IS THAT A PENIS?"


Imagine the places Lars Von Trier's [Nymphomaniac: Volume I](tag:214201) went, only with the Fifty Shades of Grey story surrounding it. It would make the movie challenging; something the audience would have to adjust to, and thus the more problematic elements of the original text aren't so troublesome anymore. Once you make a movie slightly unpalatable to a mass audience, you remove the unsavory case of audience members taking everything they see as gospel, and developing unsavory world views as a result.

How likely is this? So the financial implications of making a mainstream movie sexually explicit are sadly still quite high. An NC-17 rating still limits the market appeal of a movie significantly, and this is likely the biggest reason why the first Fifty Shades of Grey film wasn't as graphic an adaption as some people wanted.

The Future for Fifty Shades Darker


There are many different avenues for this series to go down. EL James has just recently announced Grey, a retread of the first book form Christian's perspective. While that is an interesting perspective, the perpetual tone of the Fifty Shades brand is one of vanilla comfort. Are you pleased about this sticking to established tone, or would you like to see the filmmakers get a little more arty and challenging with future installments? Let us know by voting in our poll, or by commenting below!


What should be done with Fifty Shades Darker?


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