Fifty Shades Darker continues to stigmatize BDSM

The sequel to E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker , which came out on Feb. 10, was awful. The movie, based on the novel of the same name, was torn apart by Manohla Davis of The New York Times: “Soon, though, the individual scattered titters and excited murmurings began to shift and to harmonize as skeptics and true believers alike became as one, joined by the display of so much awfulness,” she said in a scathing review. The first film, an homage to dirty bondage sex had an amazing soundtrack but a lackluster and poorly developed plot to match. The college graduate Anastasia Steele, or Ana, played by Dakota Johnson, falls in love with bondage aficionado/billionaire Christian Grey played by Jamie Dornan. Christian introduced Ana to his favorite hobby: BDSM. At the end of the film, tired of his controlling and overpowering behavior, Ana calls it quits. As an apparently contemporary feminist, she rejects his overbearing efforts to control her. While I was upset that the movie producers chose to represent BDSM as an inherently abusive and toxic form of sexual pleasure, I was glad to see Ana walk away from Christian in the end. Fifty Shades Darker opens up with Ana and Christian getting back together and I immediately think: “Okay, either she is crazy or he has made a miraculous character change?” Nope.

Christian is the same controlling boyfriend who commands Ana around for the entire movie, the only difference being that he smiles and hugs her every once in a while. Fifty Shades Darker has a more complex plot than the its predecessor, but one that I felt was seriously underdeveloped. This time, Ana gives Christian the chance to change his ways in order to sustain their relationship. At one point, Christian’s first dominatrix, Mrs. Robinson, makes an appearance to spook Ana into thinking that Christian is incapable of a healthy relationship. Another one of Christian’s former partners appears to threaten Ana and prompts Christian to exercise his control over her in a way that unsettles even the toughest of viewers.

To be honest, I cannot even tell you what the movie was about. It felt like nearly two hours of boring and uncomfortable sex scenes with disconnected plot points thrown in the middle. The movie was a huge let down, especially when the title itself suggested more exciting content. I mean Fifty Shades DARKER? More like Fifty Shades Weirder and Less Entertaining.

The sex scenes in the film seemed less exciting than the scenes in the first movie with the only difference being that Ana was naked and fully exposed pretty much all the time. Christian, on the other hand, rarely took his pants off and the most we saw from him was his chest and lower back. It felt really weird watching a movie where the lead female was so exposed while the male was hardly in the picture, especially contrasted with Fifty Shades’ predominantly female audience. One of my friends joked that we were watching ‘girl porn’: porn with a complex story line. If Fifty Shades Darker is in fact ‘girl porn’ it is poor quality material that seems carelessly produced and unnecessarily stigmatizes unconventional form
of sexual pleasure.

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