Fifty Shades of Grey

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on February 13, 2015

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Dear Liam Helmer
BDSM Consultant

Dear Liam,

I mean, really. Why even bother showing up?

It was no doubt exciting when the Fifty Shades of Grey filmmakers first chose you as they’re own Christian Grey – a confident, experienced man to guide them through the pain-for-pleasure world of BDSM. You probably stroked your whip, fondled your chains, and tugged your rope in anticipation. Oh, the things you were going to show them. But how soon did you realize that Hollywood is even more of a cold-clam than Anastasia Steele?

Maybe they lead you on for a while. Even I felt slightly seduced (or at least amused) by the film initially. There was a playfulness to director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s touch – a warmth and self-awareness that forgave the cloud of naïveté wavering overhead. After all, audiences aren’t used to erotic thrillers. We know every beat of action movies and romantic comedies, but this was supposed to be different. More adult – sophisticated. As such, my wife and I guided each other through the complex and prolonged foreplay sequences:

“The grey pencil in her mouth represents his PENIS!”

“The rain represents how WET he makes her! Pathetic phallic-cy!”

Normally, making these remarks in a theatre would get us punished. But the long pauses between lines of dialogue almost invited midnight movie-ish call-outs. And we weren’t alone. Our advance screening was packed with over 300 women (and 27 men, the security guard told me) buzzing before and during the film. The teenage lip-bitters to our left and fifty shades of grey hairs in front of us were all working through a serious case of the vapors. It almost felt warranted for a while, as the film gently asserts itself with blunt talk and tours of Christian’s playroom (which ultimately feels more like a museum). But it loses any momentum or sense of danger once it finally indulges in the carefully framed, dimly lit, slow-moving sex scenes – showing just enough ass, tits, and pubic hair to feel risqué. You might have been a great help to the props department, but how emasculating it must have felt to never flex your flogging muscles.

Aside from the 27-year-old billionaire fantasy, however, this is actually a more reasoned first reaction to the leather lifestyle. Dakota Johnson nails the neophyte virginal aura, even if she eventually overdoes her elementary tells. Jamie Dornan also strikes a good balance between mysterious and miserable. The film ironically climaxes during the contract negotiation scene, where they at least talk about NSFW butt plugs, genital clamps, and fisting (both vaginal and anal). This clinical consent sequence (which is the entire storyline, actually) is all done with tongue-in-whatever-cheek so pretty much anyone will feel miles away from needing a safe word. As a beginner’s guide to bondage, I can see the appeal.

But that ending. A quick scan of the synopsis online tells me the script stays pretty true to E.L. James’ pop-erotica phenomenon (which I also learned, hilariously started as Twilight fan fiction between Edward and Bella). But it feels like an outright condemnation of you and the people who do BDSM. It’s far from my bag, but I can’t see you getting new business after this. Rather than an exciting foray into the world of gag balls and suspension, it’s a light romp with feathers, blindfolds, and harmless spanking – right up until it goes to an only slightly darker shade of grey, and becomes outraged by the whole thing.

That’s, as Christian says, what's fifty shades of fucked up.

Hot and bothered,


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