When it comes to our sexual fantasies, what turns us on in our heads is occasionally things that would repel us in real life. Books often tie into that fantasy world and titillate us with things happening to characters that border or downright are a sexual fantasy. It works in a book. It is just the reader and the words and the images they create. None of it is real.
Then there is the obligatory movie adaption. The reaction I’m seeing spread over the internet is mixed. Well, not so much mixed as mixed in why they didn’t like it. Fans of the books don’t find it to be a good adaption. The characters lack any spark and the actors don’t really portray the characters as written. Others just object to the BDSM that is at the core of the story.
So, what went wrong and what is wrong with this movie. Well, it lays at the heart of the reason the books were so big. Fantasy. I’ve read enough to know that even if the author describes something, a reader can take or leave that description. In this case, the large body of female readers have made Christian Grey whoever they want him to be. By turning it into a movie, you cut off that fantasy and you give them an actor in the role. Suddenly the flaws of the story pop out. You no longer a reader immersed in the world the author created, you are an observer watching two people act out the scenes.
I’ve seen a great many who have praised Dakota Johnson for her performance and a great many who have panned her performance. The book is written in first person present tense. It creates an immediacy and the reader becomes Ana Steele. The movie, by necessity, changes that immediacy to the typical outside viewpoint, similar to third person. That inner connection to Ana is lost and you can only observer what she does. Basically the fantasy is broken.
Then there is the subject matter, BDSM is something unique. It is two people mutually agreeing to have rough sex. That is all fine and good, but it has to be handled delicately. Stray too far and it is no longer BDSM but domestic violence and rape. Most movies that touch on this emphasize a safe word. Some unusual word that allows a participant to call a halt to everything. This is usually because the typical words of “no” and “stop” then become part of the fantasy allowing the simulation of things, all with the knowledge that should it go to far there is always that safe word. For many who have been a victim of domestic violence or rape, watching such a simulation is disturbing to say the least. Safe word or no, the concept of BDSM brings unpleasant memories. There are others who just find it distasteful and anything but romantic.
The end result is a movie that is being panned by the critics and the audience. While the books were a great hit, the movie appears to be a dud. It seems it failed to maintain the fantasy of the books, and just became a tale of BDSM and leaves most viewers wondering why the books were so popular. I think this movie will appeal to those who find Jamie Dorman hot and who can identify with Dakota Johnson. For the rest of us it has become 50 Shakes of Why. That is one of the dangers of making a movie based on such a personal fantasy.