‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is out in theaters nationwide, and this means it’s time to relive the unfortunate cultural phenomena of normally vanilla housewives fangirling over the disturbing saga of Christian and Ana. Step back, traditional love stories, because it’s time to embrace implausibly mega-rich damaged-goods playboys who just need the love of the right woman to fix them.
The second in a trilogy chronicling the unconventional courtship and marriage of two of the most flat and un-relatable characters ever written, “Fifty Shades Darker” delves further into Christian’s backstory and the relationship between the two lead characters. The marketing department responsible for foisting the previews and posters promoting this franchise to the world are trying really hard to ignore the glaring issues with both the storyline and characters. They’re dressing up the abuse and untreated mental illness central to the plot as some kind of modern-day, arousing fairy tale.
In showcasing this as normative and entertaining, they’re doing women (and men) everywhere a huge disservice, though, because “Fifty Shades” isn’t sexy, it isn’t a love story, and it certainly isn’t a storyline to daydream yourself into. Christian isn’t a knight in tarnished armor, sweeping a damsel off her feet while he rides in on a helicopter, he’s a freak. Christian stalks Ana, lies to her, and controls what she eats, the medication she takes, and the doctor she sees.
Forcing People Into Danger Is Wrong
If Christian’s character weren’t ludicrously rich and visually appealing, this movie would be a dark thriller, not a romance, and that’d fit the truth of the relationship between the two so much more. “Fifty Shades” seeks to normalize abuse and control by wrapping it up in a pretty package. That’s a dangerous road to go down. We don’t need more tacit agreement that abuse is really what women desire and need, and we don’t need to tell men that they have to be monsters to win in life.
Consenting adults can legally engage in all sorts of activities together. Within the confines of a relationship, people can make a wide variety of sexual choices, and this isn’t some prudish slam against the BDSM lifestyle. BDSM enthusiasts, in fact, have repeatedly called out the misinformation, misrepresentation, and harmful behaviors the books and movies feature.
Consider these words from a fetish model and performer active in the BDSM world about Ana and Christian: “she’s clearly not up for BDSM, and he could find someone else to do it. That makes their relationship abusive.” Christian doesn’t respect safe words (a word or phrase set up for either party in an encounter to halt the activity), and he doesn’t respect consent. Without consent and the ability to stop activities she is afraid of, Ana is a victim in this relationship, not an equal partner.
Christian Is Not Someone to Admire or Desire
When Ana tries to get some distance from Christian, he breaks into her house. That’s not love, that’s criminal. Physical abuse aside, Christian is a major jerk, and he’s a terrible male role model. He’s unlikeable, and his job success and wealth don’t make sense, either.
Instead of creating a character with the maturity and life experience to have created corporate venues to fund his lifestyle, we’re given a juvenile male, without self-control in any aspect of his life. Christian doesn’t seek mental health care for his deep-seated psychological issues, and the harmful and illogical premise that a woman can fix a man just by loving him enough is a basic tenet of the series. Love doesn’t conquer all, and love alone can’t overcome a lifetime of dysfunction.
Modern men have lots of advice on how to attract a lady, and how to keep her once they’ve found her. From chauvinistic ideals like The Red Pill (I see you there, Redditor) to more mainstream advice on grooming and manners, there’s no shortage of strategies on how to have a happy relationship. Bottom on the list for all ideologies across the spectrum should be schooling an unenthused lady friend on the inner workings of sex toys and ways to overcome her objections on being whipped.
Here’s a friendly free tip for men: don’t abuse the women in your life. Manipulating them into no longer objecting doesn’t suddenly mean they want to be hurt, but rather that you’re emotionally abusing them. Normalizing unhealthy relationships hurts us all. Relationships aren’t about constant power plays, nor about creating the partner you want out of the person you currently have. They’re about mutuality, respect, and love. They’re about being better together, and helping your partner, not hurting her.
Don’t waste your time with “Fifty Shades.” It’s not a love story, and doesn’t deserve your financial or emotional support.