News and Commentary

In The Era Of #MeToo, ‘Fifty Shades’ Dominates Box Office

The climax to the infamous “Fifty Shades” trilogy dominated the box office this past weekend, taking home a grand total of $38.8 million.

Despite a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 11%, and an IMDB rating that never even broke a 5.0 throughout all three films, the movie pulled in a sizable female audience this past weekend, propelling it to number one past the classic children’s story “Peter Rabbit.”

“An end to a damp squib of a trilogy which sees Johnson as the only one to emerge unscathed,” said Ian Freer of Empire.

“A film that goes out of its way to avoid entertaining anyone with a pulse,” said Chris Wasser of The Herald.

“With little else to keep me interested as the story stumbled along, I did enjoy keeping track of all the trendy names of various minor supporting characters,” said Richard Roeper

Since launching in 2015, the “Fifty Shades” franchise has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, making it one of the most successful film franchises in history. That the movies tell the story about a woman in a borderline abusive relationship with a billionaire BDSM fanatic makes that success story all the more disturbing.

Some have noted that in the era of #MeToo, the “Fifty Shades” franchise has morphed from a dark adventure into Lady Gaga “Bad Romance” into a haunting relic of a confused and dangerous past.

At Hollywood Reporter, Kristen Lopez noted, the film seems eerily out of place in an era where rich men like Harvey Weinstein, Paul Marciano, and other celebrities have been outed as alleged predators of women.

In a world where abuse against women is finally being discussed in-depth, it’s nearly impossible to dissociate the pic’s romantic fantasy about a controlling, wealthy man and his unbalanced relationship with a young, female subordinate from the current discourse about why such a setup is inherently problematic. The film takes a position that as long as behavior is legal and consensual, it’s also morally fine. It’s a stance that feels particularly anachronistic in the midst of the productive national conversations about consent and abuse of power that have come with the current reckoning.

Christian’s control of Ana has progressed through the trilogy without ever varying in its approach; Christian’s love manifests through controlling Ana’s every move and asserting ownership over her, body and soul.

Does this mean Hollywood has finally learned its lesson and will no longer profit off the “Fifty Shades” franchise? Hardly. In fact, later this year, the movie “Book Club” starring Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda will tell the story of a group of 60-something women who read the “Fifty Shades” series in their book club only to have their lives changed forever.

No plot specifics have been unveiled, but given that the movie bills itself as a comedy, it’s difficult to imagine the movie not exploring how the book inspires this group of Baby Boomer women to spice up their sex lives.