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Why I Didn’t See ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey,’ As Told To My Therapist


The following is a transcript of my recent session with Dr. Hans von Trottenbaten, therapist.

VonT: What brings you into my office today? Your abiding passion for cheese and cheese products?

Me: No, I’ve accepted that as part of my life.

VonT: Your paranoia that ducks are out to get you?

Me: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the threat isn’t real.

VonT: It’s your mother, isn’t it? Tell me about your mother.

Me: No. My mother is fine. It’s my job, doc. I have a problem.

VonT: Go on.

Me: You see, I’m a movie critic.

VonT: Ah, I see. That is very serious indeed. But don’t despair. There is an experimental drug that, while it can’t cure, has shown some promise of relieving the symptoms. Let me write you a prescription.

Me: No, doc. I like being a movie critic.

VonT: Really? [scribbles secretively on his yellow pad for a suspiciously long time]

Me: You see, it’s this movie, “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

VonT: The one with all the leather and whips?

I couldn’t face ‘Fifty Shades.’ It’s all just so loud and hyper, you know?

Me: That’s the one.

VonT: [scribbling, scribbling]

Me: At least, that’s what I hear. I couldn’t bring myself to watch or review it. I had to hand it off to a colleague to review. I’ve never done that before.

VonT: No?

Me: I sat through “Paul Blart, Mall Cop” AND “Here Comes the Boom.” I made it through “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which has way, way, way more sex than “Fifty Shades,” from what I hear. I even sat through all 12 years of “Boyhood,” even though I’m pretty sure I aged myself.

VonT: So you are accustomed to suffering.

Me: Exactly. But I couldn’t face “Fifty Shades.” It’s all just so loud and hyper, you know? All the loudness and hyperness. I just couldn’t.

‘Fifty Shades’ Is Boring

VonT: Go on.

Me: And boring. I mean, there are only two responses to this film. One is to write breathless listcicles appealing to the basest nature of your readers. “The 9 Most Popular Safe Words,” for instance. Or “The 12 Best Knots to Tie Up Your Lover.”

There are only two responses to this film.

VonT: Twelve? I only know four.

Me: Or you can go full hot take…

VonT: Slipknot, half-hitch, figure eight…The rabbit comes out of the hole, goes around the tree…

Me: Doc, focus!

VonT: Right, right… you were saying hot take.

Me: Yes. Full outrage hot take. Clutch your morally superior pearls on your horrified chest and denounce it. It’s necessary that someone does, I suppose, but so boring for me to write.

VonT: You crave excitement.

Me: No. That’s just the thing. I don’t. Not that type. I don’t want to see movies that push the sexual envelope or shock or titillate. I sit out most of them already and can usually get away with it.

VonT: Because you’re a prude. [writes PRUDE very plainly on his yellow pad]

Me: I sincerely doubt that. No. I’m reminded of Roger Ebert’s excellent takedown of a movie called “Kick-Ass” which like “Fifty Shades” pushed envelopes, but unlike “Fifty Shades” had some artistic merit.

Ebert basically objected to the whole thing, to the pressure to like it primarily because it was edgy. He wrote: “Shall I have feelings, or should I pretend to be cool? Will I seem hopelessly square if I find “Kick-Ass” morally reprehensible and will I appear to have missed the point?”

VonT: So you are a prude.

As Ebert said, ‘You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in.’

Me: Not at all. At least I don’t think so. I don’t mind talking about sex. But I am not interested in talking about this sex. It’s like the whole world was talking about S&M all of a sudden. Is it right, is it abuse, is it fun, what’s fun about it, here’s how to do it.VonT: It is true. It was everywhere. Even Al Roker.

Me: It’s just not interesting. As Ebert said, “You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in.”

Here’s What’s Not Boring

VonT: What are you interested in?

Me: Beauty. The mystery and endurance of love. How lovers hurt each other and heal each other. How love echoes to something beyond ourselves, especially beyond our bodies. How sex can trap you. How it can set you free. Did you see “Anna Karenina” a few years back?

VonT: Uh, no. Uh, I was very, um, busy that year.

All I hear about ‘Fifty Shades’ is that there is nothing of that kind of risk, the kind that risks your heart and not your body.

ME: There’s this great part where someone asks Koysta…this guy who’s loved a princess named Kitty practically forever….he asks what made him love her, out of all the women in Russia. Why her?

VonT: Uh, yeah.

Me: He has no answer except that he just does. It’s mystical, it’s uncontrollable. It’s beyond our minds and our bodies. Like Arthur Brooks wrote in The New York Times, it’s scary. That’s what I want to talk about. All I hear about “Fifty Shades” is that there is nothing of that kind of risk, the kind that risks your heart and not your body.

VonT: So your problem is you prefer Tolstoy to erotic chick-lit?

Me: I suppose it is.

VonT: We have medication for that, too.