Fifty Shades is unrealistic, overly-romantic and condescending to women.... but that is precisely why it is so successful. It is a fine line between amorous and egotistical behaviour, and one that the film crosses brilliantly, just like the other hugely successful films of this genre.
Just like Anastasia Steele, in Pretty Woman, Vivian (Julia Roberts) is a smart, intelligent woman who doesn't need the love of a man to make her life complete. But both women fall for a handsome, successful billionaire and undergo an amazing transformation into confident, sophisticated women. When Grey takes Ana's virginity and begins to educate her sexually, she ditches the frumpy clothes she wore for their initial interview and replaces them with a 'burlap sack' - which turns out to be a sexy, fully-zipped, figure hugging dress and killer heels - for their boardroom meeting. She is triumphant as she strides across Grey's office, no longer wilting in front of Grey's assistants. Similarly, Julia Roberts loses the blonde wig and red lipstick that made her a prostitute, returns to Rodeo Drive where the shop assistants snubbed her to tell them they made a ''big mistake!'' She is elegant and beautiful at the polo match in her polka dot dress (come-on, it was the 1990s!).
It seems women need a man to love them to make them complete - but who can deny that a fulfilling relationship makes us feel on top of the world? Who doesn't want to be carried off by a great looking man, like Bella as Edward flies with her through the forest in Twilight, the way that Grey carries Ana, spent after their great sex, and Richard Gere carries Debra Winger from the factory where she works in An Officer and a Gentleman? Who doesn't want to be taken on a date that entails a chauffeur, a luxury penthouse suite, a private helicopter (Fifty Shades) or a private jet and a night at the opera (Pretty Woman)? And don't we all want someone to defend our honour? Remembering how Daniel and Mark fought over Bridget Jones, I think how Grey repels Jose when she makes a pass at a drunken Anastasia; quite the knight in shining armour with his perfectly timed ''dude, she said she's not interested!''
And that is why films like these are successful; those involved in this production did a great job of understanding women. Consider Grey's bemused look as he takes in Ana's innocence - it makes us melt, just like when Edward (Gere) looks at Vivian (Julia Roberts) in Pretty Woman as she eats strawberries whilst watching reruns on the TV in his hotel penthouse apartment. Don't we all want to be looked at like that? Again, that fine line between romance and condescending!
Okay, it is not true to S and M, and it is totally unrealistic. A young man who has been abused as a child and has deviant tastes as a result, is heavily into S and M and seduces a Literature student, persuading her to become his submissive. S and M for Fifty Shades' Christian Grey involves tying his partner up and stroking her with a huge peacock feather? Really? Pain doesn't come into it, except when she asks him to show her how bad it can be. At which point he strikes her with a belt; she agrees to it, she accepts it, and she doesn't use the safe word to make him stop- so is that really as bad as it gets?
He is a super successful billionaire who himself confesses to having had 15 women sleep in his apartment and be willing sex slaves. Yet he chooses to pursue Anastasia, tracks her down to the DIY store where she works, picks her up when she's drunk, takes her to his hotel room and cleans up her vomit, seduces her, takes her out in his helicopter, buys her expensive gifts and introduces her as his girlfriend. My question is, how on earth does he find the time to work?
She is an independent woman, studying full-time at University (presumably she had to write a dissertation, which is pretty time-consuming), friends, a social life and a job. My second question is, how does she have the time? She accepts his expensive gifts, the first edition books (I think there was a murmured demure about not accepting them quite early-on), the laptop, the apartment and furnishings and the car. Does no one suggest to her that it is a little odd and, God forbid, what will happen if the relationship ends?
So, unrealistic it may be; successful, erotic fiction it definitely is! Just like Pretty Woman, Dirty Dancing, Twilight, An Officer and a Gentleman and many, many other romantic films at the top of their game. Unrealistic but appealing - Ana is a tiny size 8 who doesn't need make-up to look beautiful, she has a loveable giggle (but doesn't break into peals of laughter when the leather cuffs and tie come out, like most people would). Dornan is an absolute dream; every woman's fantasy in the way that Richard Gere is, Colin Firth, and Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen in Twilight). Any man who is interested in understanding the female psyche of the majority of women should definitely considering going to see this film.