Christian Grey

Photo Credit: Rodolfo Suarez | Daily Texan Staff

It’s here. 

After three years of production, and over 100 million books sold, the film version of “Fifty Shades of Grey” has arrived. 

As far as adaptations go, this one is quite faithful to the erotic novel by E.L. James. For fans of the book series, that’s probably a good thing, but, for a general audience, “Fifty Shades” is just a boring picture – more laughable than erotic.  It entertains at its own expense. 

The story focuses on Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson), a shy college student, and her mysterious lover, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a powerful business magnate who enjoys all things BDSM. 

Following an initial encounter, Christian starts to follow, or stalk, Ana. The two of them gravitate toward each other and, eventually, do the deed. Afterward, Christian tells Ana that he wants their relationship to be purely sexual. He asks her to sign a contract which will allow him to “dominate” her sexually with floggers, belts, chains and ropes. Ana must decide whether to consent to his outlandish tastes. 

The conflict might be dull on paper, but it’s even duller on film because Ana is such a passive, unresponsive character. She’s swept along by Christian at every step of their relationship and rarely displays any strength. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (“Nowhere Boy”) and screenwriter Kelly Marcel (“Saving Mr. Banks”) do their best to elevate the source material, but they are held back by E.L. James’ work. When “Fifty Shades” manages to make the conflict somewhat interesting by allowing Ana to stand up to Christian’s abuse, it abruptly ends. What a tease.

Though Ana is a weak character, Johnson does lend her some likability. She’s smart, gentle and often has something funny to say. She displays self-awareness about the film’s ridiculous plot, lampooning Christian’s bizarre behavior. On the other hand, Dornan’s performance doesn’t give Ana much reason to fall for Christian. He’s stiff in bed and equally stiff out of it. Cringe-worthy lines make both leads’ jobs more difficult, hobbling their performances.

When it comes to the sex, “Fifty Shades” is surprisingly flaccid. While the book takes pride in its trashy, pornographic nature, the film is afraid to show its teeth. It depicts sex in a soft-core, romanticized way you’ve definitely seen before. Strangely, even though the film’s been marketed heavily towards women, it shows off more naked Ana than naked Christian, a win for the straight male audience.

“Fifty Shades” does excel in its technical aspects. Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography is as stylish and slick as Grey’s apartment. The sets are clean, spotless and tasteful. The soundtrack, which features Beyoncé and The Weeknd, will undoubtedly be a bestseller. 

The best place to watch “Fifty Shades” is a theater, even though the subject matter is vaguely dirty. Like it or not, this is an event film which demands to be seen in a group setting. You’ll feel naughty watching it in public, but those awkward giggles you share with friends and strangers will distract from the thin story. In spite of its source material’s faults, “Fifty Shades” can be a fun time if you take it for what it is. Just don’t expect to reach a climax — because the film never does.

Watch the trailer for "50 Shades of Grey" now:

Whether you see it in a park, a bus, a sandwich shop or in class, “Fifty Shades of Grey” continues its sexual revolution across America and the world, still arousing and creating fantasies in the minds of those who read it. Erotic stories, not just visual pornography, can turn you on like wildfire.

While many see the novel as sex-positive and one that sparks new conversations around sexuality, other discussions have emerged around the unhealthy relationship between protagonist Anastasia Steele and lover Christian Grey. In an article for Forbes, journalist and author Kathryn Casey said that a man like Grey, “who needs to dominate, humiliate and physically abuse a woman isn’t a hero” and “isn’t the man of any woman’s dreams.”

Despite any controversy the book may have caused for some individuals, there are still lessons about human sexuality we can take away from this novel by E.L. James. To honor the Oct. 27–28 Texas Book Festival, here are my favorite aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey:”

1.  BDSM play: BDSM stands for bondage, discipline/domination, submission/sadism and masochism. “Fifty Shades of Grey” helped bring BDSM play out of the taboo closet and into the mainstream world, fostering conversations that can help curious partners discuss and explore the world of BDSM play. Although BDSM can include rough sex-play, from spanking and nipple clamps to games with hot wax, this type of sex-play is not meant to physically or mentally hurt your partner but rather to create a mutually respectful, enjoyable sexual experience for all parties involved. One of the most important parts of BDSM play are “safe words.” Steele chose the word “popsicle” in “Fifty Shades of Grey.” These words need to be fully respected and listened to by sexual partners, because they help your partner understand the difference between pleasure and pain.

2. Awakening your fantasy land: Sexual fantasies and dreaming about having sex with someone else, such as Grey or Steele (or both), can be a completely healthy and rewarding activity. A study published in 2001 in “The Journal of Sex Research” found that 98 percent of men and 80 percent of women said they had fantasized about someone other than their primary partner in the previous two months. Whether you’re a student in college or a mother of three, fantasies can open your mind to secret realms of your sexual desires without crossing any boundaries in your everyday life.

3. Love for sex toys: Sex toys can help add that extra vibration to your sex life, whether we’re talking about ball gags, whips or vibrators. The Chicago Tribune reported that ever since the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon, Good Vibrations increased sales of bondage sex toys by 65 percent while Babeland increased its sales by 40 percent. 

Erotica, of course, should not end with “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The Daily Beast shared a collection of similar books to expand your library of sexy stories. Exploring your sexuality, whether through books, BDSM, sex toys, fantasies or beyond, is a worthwhile quest to make.

Printed on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 as: 'Fifty Shades of Grey' inspires ideas for sex