ByEleanor Tremeer, writer at
MP staff. I talk about Star Wars a lot. Sometimes I'm paid for it. More ramblings on Twitter @ExtraTremeerial
Eleanor Tremeer

Fifty Shades of Grey has been criticised for many reasons: the book is badly written, the film has odd dialogue, and the story seems to romanticise an abusive relationship (not the actual physical abuse so much as the emotional manipulation but yeah, that too). But the most unexpected critique of the Fifty Shades Of Grey film is that it just wasn't sexy enough. Which is odd, considering sex is a huge part of the source material. So can Fifty Shades Darker fix this mistake?

And actually, was it even a mistake in the first place to erase the sex? Well, Fifty Shades Of Grey's 90 year old editor seems to think so...

Casting Shade

Anne V. Coates is no stranger to the darker side of sex, in film anyway. The Oscar winning editor has worked on great films such as Lawrence Of Arabia and Erin Brockovich among many others, and now she has Fifty Shades Of Grey to add to her impressive CV. Originally though, Coates had expected to include a bit more sex in the film, as she reveals to The Hollywood Reporter.

"I thought it could have been a little more raunchy myself. Creatively, it was quite interesting because they were trying to get as sexy as they could and get an R rating. So we were very delicately going around some of the scenes."
Sexy and risque... or not?
Sexy and risque... or not?

For a book that is known for its BDSM style sex, the movie definitely fell short in its risque portayal of a life behind closed doors. Even The Guardian's reviewer was disappointedly not offended by the way Anastasia and Christian's sex life was represented.

"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."

So what's the solution? Unless they go for an NC-17 rating, there's not much the movie makers can do to increase the amount of sex in Fifty Shades Darker The solution in Fifty Shades Of Grey was to focus on the romance instead, but that carries its own problems...

Romanticising Abuse

Fifty Shades Of Grey 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. Ah yes, the dream.

Christian Grey / Jamie Dornan looks so bored.
Christian Grey / Jamie Dornan looks so bored.

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).

How dare she.
How dare she.

But how could Darker fix this? Well, it's all to do with how they choose to portray the romance of the story. Ultimately, Christian's behaviour is very damaging, and the film just makes us sympathise with Ana more. 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.

For all that people like to criticise it, Fifty Shades Of Grey actually started taking some good steps in the direction of portraying Christian as misguided rather than romantic, so hopefully Darker will take this further.

And as for the sex well, it looks like you'll just have to wait for the porn parody for that. Or you know, you could pick up the book and use your imagination...


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