Shades of Darkness

So… Fifty Shades Darker has been out for a while.

It’s mostly done well at the box office, in spite of its obvious deficiencies. I have not seen it, and I’ve no plans to, as it’s part of the Fifty Shades trilogy. I dislike the series so much.

The big problem I have with the Fifty Shades movies is that they are, by design, fundamentally dishonest in their representation of the books. (Believe it or not, I have experienced the books by way of the Mark Reads series on YouTube. I couldn’t actually bring myself to read them.) The trilogy, if it has any redeeming features, celebrates female arousal, and female pleasure… and the trilogy also glorifies abuse.

See, there are stunningly few movies that treat female sexual pleasure the same as male sexual pleasure. If you have any doubt about that, then I recommend you watch This Film is Not Yet Rated, a documentary on the voluntary, arbitrary ratings system that largely controls the output of Hollywood. The net effect of this is that female pleasure is simply secondary to male pleasure; it appears less on screen, it is systematically erased or glossed over, and including it is almost guaranteed to raise a film’s rating unfavorably. It promotes the concept that female pleasure is somehow more obscene than male pleasure.

The Fifty Shades trilogy was ostensibly written for the female gaze, and it’s very much about female pleasure and female kink, more or less. The movies had a real opportunity to be groundbreaking in that respect, and I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide whether the first two have succeeded. But the crime, in my eyes, is that regardless of their success or failure the movies are still tied into the narrative of the books, and thus tied to a narrative that explicitly elevates abusive, manipulative behavior and presents it as a bastardization of ‘true love’.

This is the crux of my dislike for the movies in particular. They are movies that should pander to the female gaze, to female expressions of pleasure–and there are so very few such movies because of Hollywood prudishness–but they are a perverted and distorted view of healthy sexual relationships and healthy kink and fetish play. For many women, the first time they will see their sexual selves highlighted on the big screen will be in a movie that tells them that abuse is love.

That will never sit right with me, and it should not sit right with you either.


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