The Psychology of 50 Shades of Grey
The Valentine’s weekend release of Sam Taylor-Johnson’s film of 50 Shades of Grey is impossible to book, so eagerly anticipated is the adaptation of E.L James' erotic novel, the UK's fastest selling paper back of all time.
The story of the filming pitches the director and scriptwriter in a battle with James as they struggled to make a film of a highly commercial soft porn caper. But what’s it like on a psychological level? There is much of the cheesy tongue in cheek on view, as university student Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) goes to interview entrepreneur Christian Grey for her college magazine. A gawky naïve girl, she is soon drawn in by the attractive six-pack billionaire, who visits the hardware store where she works, ordering the tape and rope accouterments for his S & M playroom. She is immediately reduced to a husky whisper, biting on her lip in a state of permanent arousal as he starts an assault on her consent to be his number 16 submissive, with a lengthy contract to boot. The audience starts to giggle when she says she is a virgin. And the truth of BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) is far grittier than the vanilla, stylized sex scenes convey.
The laughter in the cinema suggests not only discomfort, but a lack of believability in the characters.There is fainting and adoration amidst his helicopter rides, luxurious gifts, as the camera pans across waves crashing paintings in five star hotel rooms, with Dakota’s body fetishized, but no penis in sight. The laughter in the cinema suggests not only discomfort, but a lack of believability in the characters. The story of Christian’s abuse by his coke addict prostitute mother, and his seduction at 15 into submission by a friend of his adoptive mother, explains his ‘fifty shades of fucked up’. Like any love addict he is all over her, yet controlling, addicted to work, intensity, sex, but hides behind a wall when it comes to intimacy. He won’t let her touch him, or sleep together, only sharing his story with her when she’s safely asleep. The question of wanting to punish and be punished has its roots in early experience, just as avoiding intimacy can come from an experience of enmeshment and a need to escape. And it’s not always that simple. Anastasia escapes after only one scene involving a flogger. Other codependents are often drawn in for years, fulfilling the fantasies of a partner who totally controls them, even when, like Ana, all they may want is pretty standard sex, a dinner date and a trip to the movies - like the gigglers in the cinema last night.