“Why cover this movie at all? It’s not nerdy!”
Good question, Mister (or Ms.) hypothetical commenter. Although not really. The answer should be obvious: since day one, Topless Robot has been associated with fan fiction. Both I and my predecessor have gradually become well-versed in terrible things created by hardcore fans whose biggest problems with their favorite movies and cartoons are that there isn’t enough perversity in them.
Now, with the highest-profile movie ever to be based on fan fiction about to come out, tell me: how many of the other people writing about this film will have voluntarily read tales of McDonald’s Happy Meals raping people and forcing them to lactate McFlurries, or My Little Pony characters who give birth to baby spiders at the behest of Cthulhu? I’m betting none. It is not only my duty, but my inherited calling, to take this movie on, on your behalf.
TOTAL SPOILAGE follows, but it’s not like anybody’s going to go see the movie for the plot anyway. Here are the dumbest things you can see – and drag queens will soon enough be reenacting – in Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie.
1. As Twilight Fan Fiction, It Is Unrecognizable.
I’ll give author E.L. James credit for one idea – making blatant the Twilight subtext that its own creator doesn’t even seem to see, that Edward and Bella have an abusive, codependent, stalker-and-victim, statutory rapey relationship. Fifty Shades just makes the pain, punishment, and general fucked-upness literal. But neither the absurdly named Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, and inheritor of her mother’s voice) nor Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) have much in common with the Twilight leads, whose defining characteristic was not having sex before marriage because Mormonism. Additionally, Anastasia is nowhere near as passive as Bella, and Christian is certainly not the wet-blanket killjoy that Edward comes off as. Perhaps if you imagine him as Edward and Jacob in one, it makes sense.
But here’s the thing: if I were a Twilight fan, the Twilight fanfic I imagine reading wouldn’t be about spankings and blindfolds. It’d involve sparkling schlong, vampires accidentally violently fucking humans into traction, and werewolf beastiality. And the only director who’d want to film it would be Uwe Boll.
2. Anastasia’s Stupid-Ass Uneven Haircut.
I’m guessing the book has a subplot about how she learns she likes humiliation as a result of cutting her hair herself.
3. Her First Look at Christian Grey’s Office Tower.
It’s shot from a low angle as she stares upward at it, like it’s a giant erection. Since R-rated movies aren’t allowed to show actual erections, it’s the closest you’re gonna get. Take it or leave it.
4. The Circumstances Under Which They Meet Are Absurd.
Ana’s roommate is supposed to interview Christian Grey for a journalism class assignment, but she has a cold, so she sends Ana instead to ask her questions. Ana is an English major and knows nothing about journalism.
A number of questions arise here, like, are professors at Washington State just totally cool with letting students have their roommates do their assignments? Is a wealthy, successful businessman whose time is money just going to be similarly cool with the last-minute substitution? Could Ana’s roommate not have taken DayQuil and sucked it up for the ten whole minutes plus drive time it would have taken for her to do it herself?
The world may never know.
5. I’d Complain About the Title, Except It Used to be Called Master of the Universe.
It’s called Fifty Shades of Grey because his name is Grey, and his name is Grey because he’s morally ambiguous, thereby combining the worst aspects of Poetic Justice and Meet Joe Black‘s titles in one.
But at least it’s not sullying the good name of He-Man, as the original fanfic did.
6. Ana’s Reaction After Her First Meeting With Christian.
She stares up into the rain and says “Holy Cow.”
7. Ana’s Reaction When Her Roommate Says Christian’s Attractive.
“I’m sure, if you’re attracted to that type of human.”
Every woman in the film goes on about how hot Christian is. Meanwhile, his whole family assumes he’s gay.
8. The Closest We Get to Seeing a Blowjob…
…is Ana putting one of Christian Grey’s personalized pencils in her mouth, in extreme closeup.
9. Ana’s Really Convenient Part-Time Job.
She works in a hardware store, where Christian one day decides to buy his bondage gear: cable ties, ropes and tape. He doesn’t end up using most of it.
10. Their Coffee Date.
Her: “I find you intimidating.”
Him: “You should. Eat!”
Then he suddenly decides to walk her out, apologizes, saves her from being hit by a cyclist, caresses her face, and says, “I’m not the one for you. You should steer clear of me. I have to let you go.” That part is like Twilight, with less douchey hair and clothes.
11. This Is the Second Movie in Two Months Where “First Edition” Books Are a LOL-Worthy Gift.
It’s not as goofy as Jennifer Lopez being given a “first edition” of ancient Greek epic The Iliad, but once again we have a stalkerish would-be lover using old books to impress – Christian sends Ana some suspiciously new-looking first editions of Thomas Hardy novels, after learning he’s the author who steered her towards loving great literature.
If characters could achieve sentience, she’d hate herself for being in a book that nobody, anywhere, ever will equate with Hardy. Or “literature.”
12. Mr. Grey Becomes a White Knight.
In the film’s best bit of acting by Dakota Johnson, Ana gets drunk, does her impersonation of Christian’s bossiness over a cell phone and gets hit on by her best guy friend, who is shut down immediately when Christian suddenly shows up – having magically deduced which bar in the city she’s at – and yells “Dude, she said no!” She promptly vomits at his feet.
13. Alas, in Blunderland.
Ana awakens in a bed with signs reading “eat me” and “drink me” on the nightstand. But don’t get too excited: they refer to ibuprofen tablets and orange juice. Not to mention a hackneyed Lewis Carroll reference that indicates she’s about to head down the rabbit hole.
So, no, they don’t refer to penis and semen like you probably thought.
She realizes Christian slept beside her in the bed, something he says he’s never done before. Just to clarify that nothing happened besides sleep, he adds, “If you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week.” Then: “You’re here because I’m incapable of leaving you alone.” Then: “I’m not gonna touch you – not until I have your written consent.” You think for a moment that he might be the first character in all of fiction to make those absurd campus consent laws actually seem workable. But no – he can’t keep his hands off and they make out furiously in the elevator, in front of a poster advertising jazz music.
14. The Way Christian Actually Utters the Goodbye Phrase, “Laters, Baby.”
Neither Jamie Dornan nor the character of Christian Grey can make this palatable. They simply, evidently, don’t believe it can be said unironically. Yet he says it more than once, indicating it’s a habit.
15. The Way Ana Tries to Rub Her Hardware-Store Pricing Gun Sensually Across Her Chin the Next Day.
Some things just aren’t meant to induce boners.
16. No College Student Is This Na?ve Except Maybe at Religious Colleges.
Ana is a virgin.
Yeah, I’ll repeat that: a VIRGIN.
No virgin is this good at sex their first time out, especially if they know absolutely NOTHING, like her.
“You’re a sadist?”
“I’m a dominant.”
“What does that mean?”
Ana’s response, when he tells her he has a “playroom”: “Like, your Xbox and stuff?”
Is it distasteful to point out the lack of bleeding hymen? Probably.
17. The Camera Tilt up During Their First Sex Scene.
Once he starts thrusting, you figure we’re probably going to fade out or something, and sure enough, the camera tilts up. And up. To the ceiling.
Where we end up on the ceiling mirror, featuring a clear reflection of the butt-thrusting.
18. The God-Awful Music.
Note to Hollywood: You are not absolutely required to immediately start up a song every time characters have sex. Especially not if your options are a terrible cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” an industrial remix of Beyonce, or a tune that prominently features the title of self-help book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway in the lyrics.
I’m no particular Sinatra fan, but when they finally dance and Frank comes on the soundtrack, I’m just happy for some real tunes.
19. “I Don’t Do Romance.”
That’s what Christian Grey says. After flying Anastasia in his private helicopter, giving her a nice glass of wine, playing piano for her, and having his assistants ready with sushi whenever she needs it.
I think that kind of “non-romance” will work for most women. Not that I want to speak for them.
20. The Way Even Search Engines and IM Screens Are Gray in This World.
Bravo, production designer David Wasco (Pulp Fiction). Bravo.
21. “That’s a Hell of a Sack, Miss Steele.”
Again, not what you think. She jokes about wearing a burlap sack, then ends up in a body-hugging dress with nothing underneath instead.
It is not a reference to her having a nutsack, metaphorically or otherwise.
22. The Business Meeting Where They Discuss a Sex Contract.
Christian wants a BDSM relationship, but wants Ana to sign a contract saying what she will and won’t do. Disappointingly, I’m sure, to most fanfic readers, she vetoes anal fisting right away. And vaginal fisting too. And genital clamps.
Then she asks, “What are butt plugs?”
For an English major, she sure doesn’t know the meaning of things described in plain English.
23. Christian Grey Is Also the Keynote Speaker at Ana’s Graduation.
With full double entendre powers in effect, he states that his goal is to “eradicate hunger.”
Speaking of which…
24. What the Fuck Does Christian Grey’s Company, “Grey House,” Actually Do?
I still don’t know. Something about agriculture?
25. “Welcome to My World.”
When Ana won’t sign the sex contract right away, Christian urges her to try things out anyway. Here is how that extremely kinky night goes:
-They drink Champagne in teacups.
-He says, “Roll your eyes at me again and I will take you across my knee.”
-She rolls her eyes again.
-He takes her across his knee and spanks her…TWICE!
-Then he leaves for a business meeting.
Yo, folks…I went to visit a sex dungeon and got hit four times in the ass with a wooden paddle by a giantess. And that stuff does not turn me on at all. Shouldn’t people who are actually into it do, y’know, a bit more? And is two spanks really a radical departure from normal relationships?
26. The Apple as Metaphor.
There’s this one part where she’s headed off to meet him, and she takes an apple from a nearby fruit bowl, for no particular reason other than to make a clumsy Eden metaphor.
I can’t believe no filmmaker ever thought of that before. Oh wait…
27. No Penis.
Yes, like Magic Mike, this is a movie trying to appeal primarily to women who want to indulge sex fantasies – yet it leaves its primary pistol uncocked.
Here’s what you do get: one close-up of male pubes and the very, very top of the shaft…but that’s it. You have to be happy with Jamie Dornan’s thrusting ass the rest of the time.
For those keeping score: Ben Affleck showed more penis onscreen in the past 12 months than Jamie Dornan.
28. The Big Confession.
Ana keeps bugging Christian to talk more about himself. You know, like every woman in a relationship with a man since the dawn of time, yet this is strange to Christian. Finally, he breaks down and admits: “The woman that gave birth to me was a crack addict and a prostitute.” She snores at this response, because she’s asleep.
29. Seriously, What the Fuck Does He Do for a Living?
He yells stuff into his cell phone like “Well, tell them that they don’t have 24 hours!” But who is they? And what are they doing? I have no confidence anybody involved with this production knows.
I will say that Dornan is still more convincing uttering those words than Charlie Hunnam would have been.
30. The Real Title of the Movie.
Wanna know why it’s called Fifty Shades of Grey, for real? Aside from the “Grey” part?
You really don’t. But to save you watching the movie, I will tell you.
When Ana really, really – she means it this time – presses Christian as to why he likes to hurt people consensually, he hesitates, then finally blurts out…
“BECAUSE I’M FIFTY SHADES OF FUCKED UP!”
I kid you not.
31. All in All, This Is Really Tame.
The most explicit sex scene in the move has Christian tying Ana to the ceiling and blindfolding her with light spanking, and tickling with a goddamn peacock feather, because rich assholes have those lying around. The climax comes when she demands that he do his worst, just to see how far he’ll go…
…and he hits her hard in the butt with a riding crop six times.
I’m serious. That’s it. That’s the perversity everyone’s on about. Six hits.
32. And What About That Sex Contract?
They never sign it. They just kinda-sorta agree to say fuck it. This might be why the BDSM community has such an issue with the flick, although they do maintain safe words (but never say them).
33. The Ending.
Knowing full well what a kinky bastard he is, she angrily leaves him for being that same kinky bastard. Admittedly, by sleeping with her occasionally and breaking his own rules to be more romantic, he is leading her on a bit to think she can change him. But signing the damn contract could have cleared it all up.
Though I’d love to see the court hearing that would happen if one of the parties broke it and the other sued. That should be the sequel.