From A Hopeless Romantic, Feminist, Psychology Major: A Review of '50 Shades Darker'
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From A Hopeless Romantic, Feminist, Psychology Major: A Review of '50 Shades Darker'

The romance, the power and the problems in the seductive sequel.

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From A Hopeless Romantic, Feminist, Psychology Major: A Review of '50 Shades Darker'
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The Saturday before Valentine's Day, my girls and I were donning black lace and big smiles and headed downtown to attend the midnight showing of “50 Shades Darker,” eager to experience whatever it was we were supposed to experience in the sequel. I was not ready for the scenes before me, and I’m still uncertain if I can name a single emotive attitude towards the film as a whole. I think I held my breath the entire duration, for various reasons (fear, holding back laughter, surprise, joy, and lots of other things) and left the theater a little shaky and in need of a chilly walk home to clear my mind and really think critically about the film, the portrayal, and the story.

In logistical terms, the filming of the movie was seamless. The music was fantastic, and the acting a huge improvement from the first film which was lacking in chemistry between the characters. The costumes and settings were stunning. The plot was a bit predictable, but still had some surprising shifts and edge-of-the-seat scenes sprinkled throughout. My biggest criticism is in the script; there were a number of lines that were cliché and cheesy, in scenes that could have been serious, breathtaking, or wildly passionate. Instead of something witty and original, the script included something a bit mundane and foreseeable.

But, once I came to terms with the dull lines, I was able to see the movie from three perspectives fundamental to my essence: a hopeless romantic, a feminist, and a psychology major. These viewpoints can contradict each other, but that’s part of the fun when trying to break down something as complex as “50 Shades of Grey.”

From the rose-tinted vantage point of a hopeless romantic, this movie is dreamy, steamy, and appealing to the many facets of succulent romance. There were grandiose gifts, bright mornings on a boat, rose bouquets… even a masquerade ball. Most of these moments had a sexy twist, but some were sweet, some sentimental even. Christian Grey with feelings, who knew, right? Believe it or not, his walls begin to come down with every soft smile Ana gives, every tender kiss she plants on his scruffy cheek. He in return takes on the official role of a boyfriend: he protects her, they sleep in the same bed, he takes pride in her success at a new job… he even has entire closet filled with luxurious clothes (her size, of course) that she chooses a ballgown from in the enchanting masquerade scene. I don’t even have to say it was sexy, that’s a given. Yet it wasn’t sexy in the dangerous and kinky way I was anticipating; there was lust and heat, there was sensuality and what appeared as intimacy, in addition to all of the purely naughty moments.

From the posh parties, to the red lipstick, to the champagne toasts, to quelling each others’ nightmares, all wrapped up with a happy(ish) ending, my hopeless romantic heart was saturated with bliss from one moment to the next in this story, dare I say it…in this love story. To my pleasure and surprise, the signs of love and an emotional spark that were lacking in the first film, came through almost perfectly in this one. They were indeed a little darker, more opaque, and palpable.

In terms of analyzing “50 Shades Darker” from a feminist standpoint, I had some skepticisms initially. In the first film, Christian has vast amount of power, consent is but a cloud of smoke in the velvety-red playroom, the whole dynamic between the characters feels skewed. In the sequel, there is more of a balance of power between the two, if anything it seems Ana almost holds a little more. More conversation is included and more clear terms of consent— there’s more explicit dialogue about what each of them wants (sexually and emotionally) and this elevates the consenting nature of their tantilizing sexual encounters. There is an augmented level of respect for each others wishes and give and take when it comes to their boundaries.

Spoiler alert and trigger warning here, there is a scene of sexual assault in which Ana is assaulted by a man she works with. In the portrayal, she at first tries to talk her way out of the situation where she is pinned against the door by his body, and then (I actually stood up and almost clapped during this part) she grabs and twists his misters, shoves him, and runs out (where Christian is ever so conveniently at the bottom of the stairs waiting to hug and comfort her, *sigh*).

This scene is problematic in the sense that it is actually an accurate depiction of the way that rape culture works in society. In my personal opinion, although it was difficult to watch, it presented the harsh reality that women live in: Ana was at work in a place she should feel safe, her superior used his power in an attempt to coerce her, and he was someone she knew that was supposed to be her colleague.

I give the scene feminist bonus points for highlighting one of the ugly faults of our society in an effective and mostly true manner. Though I didn’t have any strong reactions when reflecting on the film with my feminist principles in mind, that scene in particular reinforced that rape culture is a problem, and that it isn’t the “bad guy in the bushes” stereotypical situation which people view as the most common form of rape and sexual assault today.

As a budding psychology major, I couldn't ignore some of the troubling behaviors of the characters. Especially when looking at Christian’s ex-lovers, my thoughts were spinning and I wanted to jump into the screen and analyze the thought patterns behind their odd actions much more closely. Then, there’s the mind of Christian Grey… I’m sure there would be some thick bars guarding some of his memories and feelings, but would it ever be an interesting journey to dig deep into his history and its effect on his present self.

His need for control, his nightmares, his fear of unknown things, and his fear of his own emotions are more than concerning from a psychological perspective. He also completely abandons the familiar psychological realm that BDSM relationships provided him with for many years to be with Ana, in a way she is more comfortable with. The culture shock of leaving the familiar and entering into the entirely new head space of a relationship could pose some issues for him.

Some of these issues are touched on in the film, more in the sense that he starts to confront some of his severe boundaries by opening up to Ana… which is heartwarming in the context of the movie, but if we’re talking realistically, I fear what may come after a prolonged time in his new state, status, and mentality as a boyfriend. But, that’s my personal (nerdy and cynical) analysis of what might be running through their brains where they're not up in each other’s business and thinking about nothing but each other.

Overall, I would say from these three vantage points the movie was good. From the perspective of a young woman out with her gals, dressed up and eager to see some sultry screen action, this movie was great! The provocative scenes were well done and frequent, dripping with toe-curling, spine-tingling ardor. I would highly recommend watching with a significant other for a little change of pace or a mood setter, and definitely with your pals and a bottle of wine too! Lovers everywhere take note (ahem, gentlemen) because there are definitely some seductive scenes worth reenacting or adding to the to-do list.

Well, what are you still reading for? Go get some tickets, put on your black boots and black lace, and get ready for some serious sexy. Your clothes aren’t the only things about to get a little darker; your whole night is, about 50 Shades to be exact…

xoxo- Abby

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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