Fifty Shades of Grey (the book) caused no end of controversy when it was released. For a good few months, it was all anyone could talk about, as the little fanfic that could rose through the ranks of bestsellers, titillating some readers and angering others. It's difficult to pin down exactly what got everyone talking: was it the BDSM (ish) sex scenes, the hilarious writing style (and I use that term loosely), or the truly groundbreaking gender dynamics (that was sarcasm). Everyone knew about Fifty Shades Of Grey, and chances were they had an opinion on the book.
The worldwide phenomenon spurned many parodies (my personal favourite is Fifty Sheds Of Grey), as well as the completion of the trilogy with Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Naturally, it came as no surprise to anyone when the Hollywood movie was released. In the run up to the Fifty Shades Of Grey premiere, everyone was buzzing about how the steamy scenes could possibly be reproduced in a film without an NC-17 rating. But did the film's release make fans lose interest in the franchise?
All Press Is Good Press
Everyone loves controversy. It's fun to talk about, it's fun to argue about, and it's fun to watch the whole issue spiral out of control. Such is the story of Fifty Shades Of Grey. Most of the people I know who read the book did so to find out what everyone was so angry about, or out of morbid curiosity. The people who hate it bought almost as many books as those who loved the story, and the copies flew off the shelves.
Obviously the book had many feminists and BDSM enthusiasts up in arms about its romanticisation of abuse. There's plenty to be angry about - emotional manipulation such as gaslighting passed off as adoration, genuine sexual assault glossed over because she signed a contract, right? But once the anger cools there's still plenty to spark conversation, as at the end of the day some of the writing is just plain funny...
"His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel... or something."
"I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of The Communist Manifesto."
"I can almost hear his sphinx-like smile through the phone."
"I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious - she's doing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his."
And some of it is just downright disturbing...
"He’s said such loving things today … But how long will he want to do this without wanting to beat the crap out of me."
The movie only fed off the hype, as reports of its tricky production spread like wildfire through the internet. The movie seemed to struggle with everything, from the script (never good enough for EL James) to the acting, which was reportedly difficult for both Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.
In interviews, Johnson and Dornan admitted that the sex scenes were far from fun. Dakota Johnson found the ordeal "emotionally taxing", while Dornan struggled with what he had to do as Christian Grey, saying "I had to do stuff to her that I'd never choose to do to a woman." Yeesh. That's not really what you want from the press tour for one of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters.
With the actors' lukewarm reports of the film, and EL James thwarting any attempt at writing or directoral creativity, its no wonder that when Fifty Shades Of Grey was released, it was distinctly less than everyone hoped.
Fifty Shades Of Meh
The Fifty Shades Of Grey movie could have been risque, tantalising, and saucy, breaking boundaries with erotic sex scenes. But the edgier parts of the plot (you know, the stuff people love) were sapped from the film's story in order to get an R rating. What was left was the clunky dialogue and awkward romance, with Johnson and Dornan's chemistry (or lack thereof) carrying the film. Fan reaction varied between wild approval and disappointment, and the critical reception definitely leaned towards the latter.
"Like a lot of people, I was hot with anticipation ahead of Fifty Shades of Grey. Or, rather, at the prospect of having an appalled, outraged reaction. Yet I exited the press screening in Berlin feeling just, well, flat. It’s a numbing bore of a movie, and I can’t even work up much righteous indignation over its retrograde view of relationships."
Despite juggling abusive themes and sexy content, the Fifty Shades Of Grey movie became the one thing no-one expected: boring. And thanks to Fifty Shades Darker's production moving at a glacial pace, the hype over the franchise has almost completely died down. Even EL James' release of the new book Grey (retelling the story from Christian's perspective) hasn't sparked much controversy, though that didn't stop 1 million copies flying off the shelves.
It seems that now the only people left dedicated in the franchise are the hardcore fans, and if Fifty Shades Darker is delayed again then by the time the movie is released there won't be much interest left. Which is a shame for all of us entertained by the controversy but hey, maybe it'll inspire the studio to push Fifty Shades Darker to an NC-17 rating! That would certainly be something to see...
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