I dated Christian Grey. In fact, I dated many Christian Greys—numerous variations of him. While not all of them (okay, none of them) were billionaire moguls, all of them were the same in that they were emotionally unavailable men with troubled pasts—fifty shades of fucked up—who had no idea what they wanted and zero concern for what I did.
My biggest complaint about Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t the poor casting choice of Mr. Grey himself or the lack of sex scenes, but the glorification of the dysfunctional relationship between these two characters. There's nothing glamorous about feeling inadequate or feeling a depth of loneliness that light will never touch despite being with someone who claims to care for you. If I wanted to watch dysfunction and listen to a fight between a frustrated woman at her wits end and an emotionally uninvested boyfriend who refuses to communicate, I would have gone over to my boyfriend's place, not have paid $12 to watch a subpar movie in a theater where the fire alarm went off and I had to stand outside in 15 degree temperature for over twenty minutes till the fire marshals came.
Over my course of relationships, I’ve been taken on helicopter rides, received diamonds, opened Dior and Hermes boxes, and delighted over a new laptop. I’ve felt an overwhelming intensity of emotions that shook my core, had sex that made me understand the most primal instincts of biology, and experienced the most intoxicating kind of happiness, but none of it mattered because I never received what it is I truly needed—a committed mindset. Watching Anastasia throughout the entire movie was painful, not due to the sex scenes where she’s being spanked or flogged, but because I felt as if I was watching my own series of relationships from a third person perspective, minus the Seattle penthouse. We’ve all emotionally willingly bent over a table and been repeatedly whipped by someone we loved because we thought taking the pain and abuse was a way for us to better understand them.
Fifty Shades of Grey feeds off of the age-old desire of women to fix bad boys—to save them from their demons. The appeal of the Christian Greys in our lives is rooted in our female tendency to fall in love with potential, how great these guys could become, despite their apparent shortcomings. “We’re different. We can fix them,” we say to convince ourselves. It’s why we stay in obviously unhealthy relationships, why we tirelessly work to fix men who refuse to change, and why we exhaust ourselves into a point of defeat. If only we all had an elevator conveniently accessible to make our dramatic exit.
“What do you want? What do you want?!” Anastasia repeatedly asks Christian throughout the movie. “This is the way I am,” he says on numerous occasions to explain his inability to commit and open up to her. I hate it when men say this because it’s a shitty cop-out for shitty behavior. It’s the easiest way for men to avoid responsibility and evade accountability for their actions. It’s just the way you are? No, being born deaf is just the way you are. Drowning a woman in attention, affection, and adoration and then slamming on the brakes, subsequently playing tug of war with her heart strings, and then being exasperated that she is confused and wants to understand you doesn’t make you “troubled” and “complicated”—it makes you a shitty person. Because as the great Bob Marley said, “The biggest coward of a man is to awaken the love of a woman without the intention of loving her.”