Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Image via E! Online

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

I just want to say that I deserve so much gratitude for taking one for the team and watching this movie, which we all expected to suck. Well, suck it did, but at least not as badly as I thought it would. Three cheers for super low expectations!

To better explain my rating, I thought that I would break each element of the film down and grade it individually. There’s so much discuss, so let’s get right to it!

The plot: C+. I’m not going to summarize Fifty Shades of Grey here, because if you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of years, then that’s not my fault. Although I have not fully read the series, given how crappy it is, I knew that this movie was the first of a trilogy. This didn’t stop me being disappointed with how and where the film ended. Many viewers may feel that there was nothing redeeming about Anastasia and Christian’s relationship, but I felt that it should have left hints of reconciliation since they end up married with children at the end of it all. Unfortunately, the cut-off point just gives the viewer a bad taste in her mouth.

The casting: B. I give Dakota Johnson a lot of credit for doing well despite the poor source material. Everyone has been saying that Ana is much more likable on screen than in the books, and I commend Dakota for giving her character a personality. Jamie Dornan, on the other hand, is a better model than he is an actor, and I couldn’t stop staring at his expressionless, rapist-esque face and wish that Ian Somerhalder had been cast instead. Dakota looked great, but Jamie ironically looked too vanilla for such a kinky bad boy role.

The dialogue: D. Holy crap. No seriously, holy crap, as in any college student who utters that phrase, or any other PG-rated terms, shouldn’t be participating in BDSM. The conversations were so stilted and awkward that they detracted from the erotic mood. The lines were funny without meaning to be, and they were just a reminder of how ridiculous E.L. James’ writing is. At least the inner goddess monologue wasn’t included!

The sex: B-. I feel that the sex scenes were more visually appealing than emotionally, meaning that they superficially portrayed two attractive white people, but they didn’t focus on real pleasure. I knew that the film wasn’t going to be that explicit since there was no full-frontal male nudity, but I enjoyed the consensual scenes in the playroom. Is the sex an accurate and healthy depiction of BDSM? Absolutely not. Was it sexy at times? Sure, although I think true FSOG fans should find an X-rated adaptation instead if they’re looking for something more hardcore.

LOL YASSS!!!

The music: A+. Hands down, the best part of this film was its soundtrack. The songs appropriately fit each scene, and they were diverse across genre. From the modern twists on old-school classics, like Annie Lennox’s version of “I’ve Got a Spell on You” to the club tracks of The Weeknd, everything worked harmoniously. And how sexy was Beyonce’s remix to “Crazy in Love?!” I’ve been playing it on repeat for days!

 

 

Bonus…The literary courting: F-. So, first off, Christian is super condescending when he asks English major Ana which author made her fall in love with literature, whether it was Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, or Thomas Hardy. He assumes Austen, because he’s being sexist, and she surprises him by answering Hardy. To court her, he sends her a first edition of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, to which I demand: WTF?! That has got to be the WORST choice to woo a woman. Is nobody going to point out that the novel was about a RAPE?! Spoiler alert: Tess is raped by Alec, and it ends with her murdering him in revenge and being sent to prison for her crime. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is!

Overall, unless you’re a massive FSOG fan, you’re better off saving your time and money. Check out the soundtrack, but don’t bother watching this movie. The production is such a train wreck: the actors despise one another, and the director most likely won’t do the sequels because she hates the author so badly.

You want to watch a great love story featuring some hot eye candy and smoldering sex scenes? Hop on the Outlander bandwagon! There’s even torturous flogging on that show too, just out of the bedroom where it belongs.

Top ten things I HATE when it comes to romances in books

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

I couldn’t resist participating in today’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is right on the heels of Valentine’s Day, as it discusses what we love and hate when it comes to romances in books.

I’ve read plenty of romance, and whether it’s the main story or just a side-plot, there are standards that must be met for me to consider it worthy of my reading time. It’s no surprise that Fifty Shades of Grey breaks pretty much all of these rules, considering just how crappy it is. Since the movie adaptation is about to hit theaters, why don’t we take a few more stabs at the series while we vent about what we despise in romances?

Haters, let’s start hating! Here are the top ten things I HATE when it comes to romances in books:

The look of a guy with mommy issues

1. Sob story backgrounds to justify normal behavior. In Fifty Shades, Christian Grey’s mother was a drug-addicted prostitute who committed suicide, an excuse he uses for enjoying BDSM. Say it with me: Boo. Flipping. Hoo. While it’s a tiring trope to make a character orphaned or ‘troubled’ to make him more likable, it’s especially annoying when authors do it to justify typical human behavior. There’s nothing wrong at all with BDSM as long as it’s consensual, and Grey’s backstory just creates the false impression that his kinkiness is a sickness. Commitment-phobic because your parents are divorced? Distrusting because your ex cheated on you? Call the whambulance. You’re not a special snowflake; you’re normal. Now get over your sob story and become a better person!

White people almost writing: a crappy attempt by Nicholas Sparks

2. Excluding the vast majority of society. Hey, romance novelists! Where are all the people of color? How about LGBT characters? Would it kill you to write about men shorter than 5’10”, or women who are larger than a size 6? Maybe I’m not reading the right books, but most of them seem to be about stereotypically attractive white people, and lord knows there’s enough of those in romance. How refreshing would it be to see more interracial or gay couples? Reading has been shown to increase empathy, so including more diversity in books will in turn better society’s tolerance. Get to it, writers! The world depends on you!

3. No secondary characters. Just because you’re writing romance doesn’t mean you’re excused from writing sidekicks. Your main characters had friends and family before they met, and those people didn’t disappear once they hooked up. Bella Swan sacrifices her mortality and her normal teenage life for vampire love; that doesn’t make her romantic, it makes her a stupid jerk. Don’t all Twilight fans realize that Bella gets the lovely opportunity of watching her parents and all her friends die? If your love interests “complete” each other, then congrats, you’re writing a crappy romance. How about making them complete on their own? Make love the frosting, not the whole damn cake.

Lighten up, Grumpy!

4. Why so serious? We get it: your love interests have never had chemistry like this before. No one in the world has ever experienced passion at this epic level. Ho hum. Too many romances have been written about brooding, angsty men and the cold, uptight women that they turn into sensual vixens. Everyone should check out Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Nerd series if they want excellent examples of how playfulness can be sexy. Let’s face it, falling in love can be painfully awkward, and if you can’t laugh at yourself, then I don’t care about your happily-ever-after.

5-10. Bad sex. Okay, I tried to make ten unique complaints, but I realized that most were on this particular subject, so I’m grouping them together. Let’s be honest, nobody reads Playboy for the articles, and nobody buys romance novels to read about two characters holding hands. #SorryNotSorry!

What makes sex bad in books? Let me count the ways:

5. Calling your lover by name way too frequently. I’m talking to you, Mr. Grey and Ms. Steele. If you have to reference your lover’s name that often, whether it’s inside or outside the bedroom, might I suggest name-tags?

6. Referring to your lover’s nether regions with obnoxious terms. I swear, if you use the phrase “velvet-covered steel,” I will stab you in the face. Same goes for rods, members, nubs, and love buttons. You don’t have to talk like a doctor, but don’t talk like a middle-schooler taking her first shot at fan-fiction either (*cough* E.L. James *cough*). If you wouldn’t use the term in real life, don’t write it down!

7. Gasping at your lover’s well-endowed package. Cue eye-rolling! There’s nothing wrong with admiring the male form, but if your sex scene begins with a gasp and a “But…will it fit?” then you need to go back to Creative Writing 101. Not all men are porn stars, and that’s totally fine. It’s about quality, not quantity. I could add something about boats and the ocean, but I’m pretty sure you get what I mean.

8. Expecting climactic results with little-to-no foreplay. This is my biggest pet peeve in all erotic media: it’s all reward and no work, creating generations of men who are horrible in bed. No man’s “member” is so magical that he can flat-out ignore his partner’s pleasure. If your male protagonist doesn’t make a stop downtown, you can bet I’m throwing your book out the window.

9. Having an inner goddess. Imaginary friends are for children, and there’s absolutely nothing sexy about that. Your inner monologue doesn’t need a spokesperson providing commentary. If you’re having a great time between the sheets, just say so! The inner goddess trope in Fifty Shades is so absurd that even Cosmopolitan magazine makes fun of it–a huge red flag that the book really does suck.

10. Not making it safe! Look, no one is saying that contraception is a turn-on. But you know what’s definitely NOT sexy? STDs. Even Mr. and Ms. Perfect are at risk, and since they most likely fell in lurrrrvvvveeee in only a matter of weeks, they better wrap it up after whipping it out. I also feel inclined to make a joke about life’s most common sexually transmitted disease–babies–but I’ll leave that to comedic genius Donald Glover:

Alright, on that note, I’ll see myself out! There you have it: the top ten things I hate the most when it comes to romances in books! I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day! You’ll find me at the movie theater, hate-watching Fifty Shades, of course. I’m taking one for the team, so you don’t have to! Don’t forget to come back to Book Club Babe this weekend for my review!

Fifty Shades of Grey: My Rant on Crappy Books and the People Who Buy Them

Nothing gets my blood boiling more than animal abuse, religious fundamentalism, and crappy books. As someone who hopes to write novels one day, I get pissed off when mediocre writing gets an abnormal amount of hype, followed by movie rights and millions of dollars before I can even say “For the love of the Oxford comma!”

Right now, that hype is surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey (FSG), an erotic fiction trilogy by E.L. James. While I could discuss my annoyance over the excessive use of initials among authors–usually to disguise the writer’s gender in order to appeal  to a larger audience (sexist much, publishing industry?)–I have WAY too many other things to rant about. Here’s an abridged list:

These crappy books are crappy Twilight fan-fiction. Why are people acting like this is an original story? FSG used to be known as Master of the Universe. James, or “Snowqueens Icedragon” as she’s called online, wrote a BDSM tale about Edward and Bella, but then decided to rewrite it with her own characters. Instead of a story about a billionaire vampire and a high school virgin, it has become a story about a billionaire mortal named Christian Grey and a recent college grad/virgin Anastasia Steele. I’m not accusing James of copyright infringement because FSG now contains no connections to Meyer’s equally crappily-written trilogy, but I’m tired of media outlets ignoring the fact that James is essentially a crappy book copycat.

These crappy books make real erotica look bad. I read the previews of FSG on Amazon, so I believe that I have enough knowledge to judge their literary merit. (Trust me, you don’t want to read more than that!) I have also read my fair share of erotic novels, and even erotic fan-fiction, and I am embarrassed for the writers out there who are actually good at what they do. Here’s an excerpt from the Tumblr “50 Shades of Suck:” “Oh my, the look he gives me could be solely responsible for global warming” (Freed, Ch. 2). And another one: “‘Hold tight, baby,’ he murmurs, and magically produces a foil packet that he holds in front of my mouth. I take it between my teeth, and he tugs, so that between us, we rip it open” (Darker, p. 194).

If you didn’t cringe and groan while you read those sentences, then you might want to re-evaluate your literary standards. But there are many more examples where those came from, so feel free to check out that Tumblr. If anything, the outrageous number of times that these characters say each other’s names is enough to turn me off, not turn me on.

These crappy books have created a sexist conversation. Look, I have nothing against BDSM. I believe that women can be submissive in sexual relationships without being submissive in other aspects of their lives. As long as people enter into consensual agreements, what they do behind closed doors is none of my business. However, I can’t stand how media are calling this trilogy “mommy porn.” I find this term offensive, because it implies that (1) the only readers of erotica are housewives and (2) women don’t watch actual porn.

Both of these generalizations are completely false. Women are sexual beings just like men, whether they have children or not, and to trivialize their desires is sexist. What women can do to fight this verbal misogyny is to discuss their sexuality in an honest way and battle stereotypes about sexual fantasies. Stop this romance novel versus hardcore video, gender war nonsense! You should be able to like, or not like, various expressions of sex without “The Today Show” cracking jokes about your preferences.

These crappy books have undeservedly made way too much money. Speaking of “The Today Show,” E.L. James was recently interviewed on the NBC program. The author even admits, “I’m not a great writer.” (As if we hadn’t noticed!) Jezebel discusses how James is just as shocked as I am about her books’ popularity. And yet, they are topping the NYT bestseller list, and people are already hoping to cast Chris Hemsworth and Dakota Fanning as the film’s stars.

It simply boggles my mind what books make money nowadays, while well-deserved stories go unnoticed. James is now a millionaire, while the rest of us aspiring novelists are considering lowering our standards to get published, or at the very least, adopting pseudonyms just so we can earn enough to pay our bills without sacrificing our literary integrity.

Granted, I realize that this blog post is only fueling James’ success with publicity, but I hope that my intelligent subscribers will recognize crappy books when they read them–just don’t pay for them if you do!

What are your thoughts? Do you love or love-to-hate Fifty Shades of Grey? Or maybe you have never heard of it? What other crappy novels get your blood boiling?