The Fifty Shades of Grey franchise has caused a furor since the first book was published, and in the years since then the movie adaptation has only increased the franchise's popularity and polarising effect. Everyone has an opinion on Fifty Shades: from those who abhor the abusive nature of the content, to those that celebrate the message of sexual liberation.
Naturally, the anticipation for Fifty Shades Darker is high, though the critical response to the first movie was pretty lukewarm. As work on the sequel churns away, all eyes are firmly placed on the stars of the film, which is honestly a problem within itself. But can the sequel fix Fifty Shades Of Grey's big mistake?
Grey: Not As Bad As You'd Expect
There's a lot of things to balance with Fifty Shades Of Grey. The book has plenty of explicit sex scenes, but there's also a strong romance plot. To avoid getting the rating bumped to an NC17, the creative team focused on the romance, but that might have been the film's greatest mistake.
The Fifty Shades Of Grey book is hardly the most romantic story in the world. When you look at it coldly, it's honestly more disturbing than anything else: a woman's boss stalks her, tells her he can't sleep with her unless she lets him hurt her, ignores safe words, prevents her from seeing her family, tracks her phone, and ultimately, continues striking her with a belt even though she begs him to stop. The film, on the other hand, plays down the more iffy parts of the sex scenes. There's a lot less coersion and a lot more asking for consent than in the book, which is fantastic!
But while the sex scenes, though less explicit, are largely improved upon in the film, the romance angle just kinda makes the whole thing a lot worse. Ultimately, the film (and the books) are guilty of glorifying stalking, possessiveness, gaslighting, emotional blackmail, and a whole lot of other stuff that really shouldn't be involved in a healthy relationship.
Obviously, Christian Grey is one seriously disturbed individual, and if any of these actions were problemised and commented on in the story, it wouldn't be so bad. But instead they're passed off as romantic, as Ana seems swept off her feet and falls in love with him (which, naturally, Christian doesn't take well).
The Fifty Shades Of Grey book and movie end with Ana deciding she couldn't give Christian what he wanted (after a very upsetting punishment scene which Christian should never have gone through with). This puts Fifty Shades Darker in a good position to actually fix some of the mistakes of the first film, as long as they change some aspects from the books...
Healing The Story
It's very doubtful the filmmakers will do this, but if they play down Christian's stalkerish behaviour, and rewrite scenes where he twists Ana's words and accuses her of not communicating (interrupting Ana uh, opening up about her feelings...). In general, if they write the romance as actual romance instead of passing off Christian's manipulative behaviour as misguided and affectionate, then Fifty Shades Darker could be a really good movie.
Of course, there's another way to go: throw in some scenes where Christian's behaviour is discussed as problematic and have Ana help him see how badly he's treating her. The first film started to do this, so it's not too big of a step for Fifty Shades Darker to take.
Unfortunately, it looks like Fifty Shades Darker is on track to stick even closer to the books than Fifty Shades Of Grey did. Author EL James is wrestling more and more creative control from the studio, and with her husband now penning the screenplay, it's highly likely she'll insist that the film is as true to the book as possible.
Right now, whether Fifty Shades Darker will continue to pass unhealthy behaviours off as romance, or whether poor Ana will be subject to more manipulation, relies on the filmmakers' choices. Here's hoping we'll see a Fifty Shades Darker that embraces the idea of romance as it should be!
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