50 Shades of Grey: Sex’s Nestlé Alpine White—Well Past the Expectoration Date

by Mike Stabile

At the risk of spoiling something already well past the expectoration date, there’s a moment in 50 Shades of Grey in which weepy floral dress Anastasia Steele confronts her buttoned-up loverboss Christian Grey over his “sadist” tendencies.

“I’m fifty shades of fucked up!” shouts the man who’d be played by Ryan Phillippe in a better movie. He confesses that a teenaged relationship with a rabid MILF turned him into Foucault’s Monster. There’s no referent for his “fifty shades” comment; despite two hours of grey skies, grey suits, grey cars and a drawer full of grey ties, as a turn-of-phrase, no one’s so much as uttered a thing about it. The line in the script only exists in relation to the title itself.

That’s because the movie isn’t so much a filmic adaptation of the book, as an adaptation of the phenomenon—that is, of people discussing BDSM in public without nuance or intelligence. Sex’s Nestlé Alpine White. Wiser voices than mine can break down just how terrible the movie is in a myriad of real ways—Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory takes it down for its lack of consent, Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak for the plot mechanics and the white wine-drinking dom, and Kink University’s resident master Danarama for Anastasia’s utter lack of appeal as a sub.

But, in many ways, engaging with the movie on it’s own terms is like responding to a troll. That’s all it wants. The movie isn’t about BDSM, it isn’t about sex, it isn’t about abuse or women’s rights, or princess culture or rape culture or late capitalism or pornography or even the color grey. It’s only about itself. It’s the Trump Presidential campaign of movies.

No one even bothers defending the movie, even Peter Travers. Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson phoned their way through an epically bad press tour where they didn’t even pretend to like each other—or BDSM. E.L. James spends her time re-tweeting pictures of a 50 Shades-branded wine.

We were all wrong. This wasn’t mommyporn, it was media porn

TMZ.com graphic for 50 Shades of Grey.

TMZ.com graphic for 50 Shades of Grey.

I attended an opening night screening in Hollywood. The audience was largely gaggles of women, with a few gay men thrown in. The audience laughed comfortably at some damp dialogue, but mostly planned what they’d say on Twitter. During a scene where Mr. Grey takes a wary Anastasia up in his helicopter, a friend turned to me and asked if this wasn’t just The Katie Holmes Story. I considered stealing it for a moment, before returning to my own hashtags. In this regard, the movie has been very successful. I’ve tweeted about it repeatedly, and employed it successfully in several bon mot. I’m even writing a review.

Take that, Selma .

Horizontal Rule50 Shades of Grey lends itself to parody. Here’s a sample. For more, click here.

Horizontal RuleMikeStabileMike Stabile is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. His feature Seed Money , about pornographer-turned-philanthropist Chuck Holmes, premieres this spring.

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