If there were a competition for false advertising, the much-talked-about trailer for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie would walk away with first prize. The trailer is filled with scenes of wealth - from Christian Grey's office to his private plane - and scenes of him and Anastasia having what looks like hot consensual sex in elevators and bedrooms. The signs of wealth are important in both the book and the trailer because they act as a kind of up-market cleansing cream for his abuse, and his pathological attachment to Anastasia is reframed as devotion, since he showers luxury items on her. I doubt that Anastasia would be so bowled over by Christian if he were living on unemployment benefits in a rundown shack, eating cereal for dinner.
If we move from the trailer to the book, the sex isn't so much hot as violent and dehumanizing. Christian has a thing for what is generally called sadomasochism in the popular press, but in the book what we see is pure sadism carried out by a sophisticated predator who knows how to groom vulnerable girls. While Anastasia is supposed to be 21 in the book, she acts and speaks like an adolescent ("Holy crap!" is her favorite saying), even when being beaten by Christian the sadist. In the trailer she is wearing what could pass for a Catholic school uniform with a plaid skirt and a cardigan, a marker of her immature status.
In the trailer we see a heavy make-out scene in an elevator that looks mutual and kind of fun. In the book, however, Anastasia is taken aback by Christian's idea of intimacy. Not surprising given how she describes it: "Before I know it, he's got both of my hands in his viselike grip above my head, and he's pinning me to the wall using his lips... His other hand grabs my hair and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine... " For those of us brought up in the age of a feminism that demanded hot sex that was equal and consensual, we would have run for our lives from Christian. But not Anastasia, who keeps coming back for more.
A few chapters on, we get a clear vision of how Christian's foreplay has progressed into full-blown violence: "Suddenly he grabs me, tipping me across his lap. With one smooth movement, he angles his body so my torso is resting on the bed beside him. He throws his right leg over both mine and plants his left forearm on the small of my back, holding me down so I cannot move... He places his hand on my naked behind, softly fondling me, stroking around and around with his flat palm. And then his hand is no longer there... and he hits me - hard."
In the trailer there is a hint of some of the violence that is about to come Anastasia's way when he tells her "I don't do romance" and warns her that "I am incapable of leaving you alone." Stalker talk, for sure! In his book on batterers, Lundy Bancroft provides a list of potentially dangerous signs to watch out for from boyfriends. Needless to say, Christian is the poster boy of the list, not only with his jealous, controlling, stalking, sexually sadistic behavior, but his hypersensitivity to what he perceives as any slight against him, his whirlwind romancing of a younger, less powerful woman, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings. Any one of these is potentially dangerous, but a man who exhibits them all is lethal.
But in true Hollywood style, the last scene of the trailer is of Anastasia having an orgasm as she is blindfolded and tied to a bed. Likewise, the book also ends happily ever after with the sadist and his submissive - yes, that is what he calls her in a contract he asks her to sign outlining the ways he intends to control her - living in wedded bliss with children in a beautiful house.
The most likely real-world ending of Fifty Shades of Grey is fifty shades of black and blue. The awful truth in the real world is that women who partner with a Christian Grey often end up hightailing it to a battered women's shelter with traumatized kids in tow. The less fortunate end up in graveyards. But my guess is a movie that ends with a funeral and weeping children will not pull in the millions that this film promises to earn. Happy Valentine's Day!
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