I get it guys, I do get it. The fanbase is super excited for the next iteration in the weirdly popular Fifty Shades of Grey series; so the rumour mill is working overtime when it comes to speculation about when filming is going to begin, who is going to be brought in to fill out the secondary cast and how the impending birth of lead actor Jamie Dornan's second child will affect his filming schedule.
Yeah, What's The Deal With This Dornan Fascination?
But there's a weird trend recently, the vast majority of news about the upcoming Fifty Shades Darker is about Jamie Dornan. Jamie Dornan looks hot eating pizza! Jamie Dornan just bought a house! Jamie Dornan is having troubles with his marriage. Jamie Dornan is delaying production again on Fifty Shades Darker.
We already know that the reported "issues" regarding Dornan's marriage are a bunch of bull, a hangover from publications peddling the claims that there's actually any means of a spark between Dornan and co-star Dakota Johnson. Despite their on-screen interactions we know there's not much between the two in reality, even their press photos look awkward. And Dornan has repeatedly emphasised that he's very much in love with Amelia Warner, his wife of three years.
It's already problematic enough that grown and young women alike are idolising the figure of Christian Grey (something that has been critiqued again and again and again), but this rabid obsession with Dornan that persists in the tabloids crossed the line of appropriate straight into creepy a long while back. Celebrity culture has always been a little disturbing that way, but it's really been ramped up here and the intense focus on Dornan takes away from what (I assume) the books are trying to achieve.
So Why Is This Problematic?
See, there is an argument that Fifty Shades of Grey is in fact a vehicle of female empowerment, chronicling Anastasia's sexual awakening through her encounters with the damaged Christian Grey whom she "fixes" with her love through a series of tampon-pulling lip-biting sexual experiences.
That's problematic in itself as the female character shouldn't just be there as a means for the male to sort his shit out, but when every single story and fan fascination is firmly focused upon Dornan it seriously underscores the falsity of this argument. This isn't a franchise designed to hoist up a new era of female sexuality, at its core it is all about hegemonic masculine desire and our obsession with and celebration of that.
I'm not saying that women who enjoy the franchise cannot feel empowered sexually through reading the books or viewing the film; if they do then that's great, certainly something we should aspire towards opening more women up to. But the wider discourse surrounding the franchise does not align with this idea. Why are we so obsessed with Dornan, his life and his relationships? Why do we assume he has the power to dictate the way the franchise unfolds?
The Problem With Ana
It's because Anastasia Steele isn't a character; she's a cardboard cut out designed for the reader to be able to insert their own personality into, that's why she's so bland and unremarkable. She doesn't need to have development or attention because she doesn't really exist as a solid character in her own right, she's just there as a reaction to Christian Grey. It's not about Ana, it's about how Grey uses Ana.
This isn't Dakota Johnston's fault by any means, it's the shoddy writing of the original text and the fact that E. L. James has been so nightmarishly stubborn about allowing changes in order to translate between the two media. That's why, even though it made an incredible amount of money, Fifty Shades of Grey received "generally unfavourable reviews", because the screenwriter wasn't allowed to craft a proper adaptation and the director wasn't allowed to direct.
Whatever I thought of the book and the film aside, I can't tell anyone what type of media to consume or how to consume it. If you enjoy this poorly written faux-BDSM and can take something positive from it then there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But don't kid yourself that this is the type of text that we need to be feeding to young men and women in the current sexual climate, which is confused enough as it is.
And for the love of God, give Jamie Dornan and the rampant speculation about his marriage and family a break. It's almost as disturbing as the books themself.