Fifty Shades of Grey has become a bit of a phenomenon, with people on both ends either loving the romance of the story or hating it passionately for its misrepresentation of the BDSM community as well as glorifying emotional abuse. It's very similar to what we just saw unfold around Suicide Squad, where people pointed out that the relationship between Joker and Harley Quinn was presented in a misleading way, with the abuse being portrayed as romantic.
I felt the same way after reading the books and seeing the original Fifty Shades of Grey movie, yet I'd hoped that that would be addressed in the second film. But the first trailer for sequel Fifty Shades Darker makes it clear that that it hasn't really changed in its portrayal of emotional abuse, and is continuing down the path of glorifying relationships that are quite a bit unhealthy.
Though it's just a trailer, trailers still represent the movie and there are a lot of troubling signs already. Let's break them down.
The Soundtrack: Still "Crazy" In Love
The trailer follows the formula of the first movie, with the soundtrack playing a haunting version of "Crazy in Love," this time covered by Miguel. While some people may take issue with the replacement of Beyonce in this instance, it makes sense that it's sung by a man this time. The sequel is about Grey losing himself in love and finally admitting to it, whereas in the first film it was about Anastasia and her need for his love and falling in love in this crazy situation. The lyrics are made that much more poignant given that Christian is battling his own demons from his past, one of the lines being "Got me hoping you'll save me right now." Not exactly the right time for a relationship — you shouldn't expect other people to save you, but work on saving yourself.
A Plea To Let His Prior Abuse Slide
One of the title cards shown in the trailer has text that says to "forget the past." It wants Anastasia, as well as the viewers, to simply forgive how he treated her, to literally forget the emotional abuse and manipulation. In a voiceover, Christian states
I want you back. I had no idea what this was going to become.
As this is being said there is a shot of Anna getting flowers from him and in the background you see a poster with "Stop moving" on it:
It's a visual representation of what he's asking her to do. Anna had been moving forward with her life, trying to get away from him and now, he plans to upend her peace of mind again right when she has presumably been trying to heal from the pain and confusion he caused her in the first film. He had been emotionally abusive, making her constantly question where she stood and isolating her from her friends and family. Of course it's not exactly something we should want our heroine to return to, though as we see in the trailer she does. It follows the emotional pattern of the "battered wife" syndrome: "This time, he'll be better. THIS time, it will be different."
Same Old Flashy, Superficial Tricks
In the first film, while he claimed that he "didn't do romance," Christian was constantly plying Anna with new clothes, electronics, and trips. For him, these weren't gestures born from a romantic desire, but from the desire to make Anna feel indebted to him as he molded and shaped her in the image he wanted. It appears that this hasn't changed, with her receiving a new dress and mask, as well as a trip on a very expensive-looking boat in the trailer.
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While it is nice to be treated well, this once again emphasizes the superficiality of how both of them think romance should work and what the point of it is. It is funny, as well, that she says no more rules or punishments — she never did sign that Non-Disclosure Agreement in the first film so there should have been no repercussions to begin with. But his emotional manipulation was so thorough that she fell into that trap anyway.
He's Painted As The Victim When His Past Emotional Manipulations Come Back To Haunt Him
There are a lot of new characters that will be showing up in this film (for a breakdown you can check out this article) and it looks as though they'll reveal more than a few skeletons in Christian's closet. One of these new characters is Elena Lincoln, with whom Christian had had a Mrs. Robinson-type relationship. But the other is Leila Williams, one of his FIFTEEN ex-submissives. She ends up stalking both Christian and Anna, who wanted what Anna had with him — a "real" relationship with him, not just a sub and dominant one — or at least as real as Christian could give her. Anna is put in real danger in both the book and this trailer, but Christian also portrayed as somewhat sympathetic here, even though it was his own emotional manipulation that caused the issues in the first place.
This movie provides more issues, both literal ones for the leads, and intangible ones regarding the message it's sending. And it doesn't appear it will provide any real resolutions to what was initially brought up in its predecessor. Hopefully it will be addressed properly in the future, with the characters discussing their very real problems with each other, as that is how relationships should work. From some of the trailer it does appear as though they will at least acknowledge it, but whether or not that will be built upon is yet to be seen.