Fifty Shades of romanticising domestic abuse

When you thought Fifty Shades of Grey couldn’t be anymore sexist Fifty Shades Darker’s “inner-goddess tangoes” (Fifty Shades of Grey, 2011) onto our screen. The previous film ended on a surprisingly empowering note where Anna rejects Christian and decides to be on her own as she realises that their relationship is not healthy. However within the first ten minutes of the film they are back together and yet again he forces gifts and money onto her which she tries to refuse and clearly states that “this is not the kind of relationship I want Christian” (Fifty Shades Darker, 2017). But in Mr. Grey’s world ‘no’ is a mere obstacle to be easily overturned with a slap of his hand and cheque book.

Throughout the rest of the movie the issue of emotional abuse is paraded before our eyes as Christian forbids Anna to go on a work trip to New York, stops her from seeing her friends and buys the company she works for (yes you read that right). However these issues are quickly swept under the carpet and instead the viewer concentrates the overwhelming displays of wealth we see, whether that be Christian Grey’s complex which is relentlessly modern and clean with white plastic and glass dominating the home or the Grey family mansion which looks like a Great Gatsby castle. The shots are long and continuous with a glowing light filter used in the ball scenes, meaning the light of the film radiates from the screen, giving the film a magical fairy tale element. However given the reality of the film the creation of this impression is extremely disturbing as viewers are shown a relationship which seems romantic and passionate on the surface but is actually very unhealthy.


Given this analysis I was extremely uncomfortable when reading the reviews of Fifty Shades Darker because the constant abuse we see has barely been mentioned by the major reviewers. The majority of them focus on the films ‘abrupt swings in tone, dead-end detours, flatline performances’ (Dargis, 2017) and ‘structural issues’ (Lodge, 2017). To put it simply we are ignoring the issue. But why? In the face of third wave feminism when everyone from Beyoncé to Obama have trumpeted the cause why are we accepting Christian Grey, the violent megalomaniac, as a certified sex symbol? Could the answer lie in the fact that every three seconds a person is subjected to physical or emotional abuse by an intimate partner and you had no idea? (Park, 2013) Every day someone lets their own personal Christian Grey into their lives. As a generation we are facing a silent epidemic of abuse from the people we love the most. Yet why is no one willing to talk about it? Why is the fact that violence from a partner is more common than cancer in women aged 15-44 not on billboards and classroom white boards? (Chemaly, 2012)

For me the answer is simple. This is not a pleasant topic of conversation to put it lightly. When James Dorman’s washboard abs are on a 30 ft wide cinema screen why would we want to think about the emotional abuse we are witnessing? But, simply put, we must. We must teach our children from a young age that making someone else feel bad might make you feel powerful and good in the short term but it is not a long term path to happiness. We must imprint the lesson on their brains that they never ever deserve any kind of abuse, no matter how small, because they are worthy of love and affection from the people they who are lucky enough to be in their lives.


Fifty Shades of Grey. (2011). [DVD] Hollywood: Sam Taylor-Johnson.
Fifty Shades Darker. (2017). [DVD] Hollywood: James Foley.
Dargis, M. (2017). Review: ‘Fifty Shades Darker,’ and Only Half as Watchable. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
Lodge, G. (2017). Film Review: ‘Fifty Shades Darker’. [online] Variety. Available at: [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
Madison Park, C. (2013). WHO: 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence – [online] CNN. Available at: [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
Chemalaya, S. (2012). 50 Facts About Domestic Violence. [online] The Huffington Post. Available at: [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].


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