How The Fifty Shades Movie Emotionally Broke My Girlfriend

I’ll have more of my own thoughts and a more traditional review of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie later this week (I promise!), but I wanted to share an anecdote with you first. Much like Ariel did, I made my significant other watch this movie with me. This was a selfish move on my part, not just because I needed emotional support (the hell I was sitting through this train wreck by myself), but because I quickly realized she was single-handedly expressing a greater range of emotion than the characters in the movie.

This is the story of how the Fifty Shades of Grey movie broke my girlfriend, emotionally, mentally, and – at least at time of this writing, having watched it about half an hour ago – in terms of her faith in humanity.

snark week fifty shades of grey movie

As a film adaptation of an infamous guilty pleasure read, watching the Fifty Shades movie with company really emphasizes the movie’s somewhat paradoxical purpose. How could this exist if not to watch it with others, mercilessly mocking it? That was how my girlfriend and I started out, much as we planned. We laughed at the terrible acting, played armchair critic with the film’s unintentional slasher movie atmosphere, and struggled to come up with adequate jokes we could tell each other during the very-much-not-subtle imagery.

I mean, I'm not expecting Wes Anderson here, but seriously.
I mean, I’m not expecting Wes Anderson here, but seriously.

And yet, during that first half-hour, life was good. Fifty Shades struggled to be a rom com, but my girlfriend did not struggle to find suitable quips:

  • “She bit her lip! Drink!”
  • “Ugh, all this breathy shit. They’re trying so hard to make you like her, which is different, because in the book it’s very easy to hate her.”
  • “Matt! He sexily ate her toast! Why don’t you sexily eat toast? You have to sexily eat my toast!”

Even as the movie advanced to the notoriously Fifty Shades part of Fifty Shades, we were enjoying ourselves. Granted, not in the way the movie intended, but at least we could laugh at how awful it was. Good times!

  • (We see the red room of pain for the first time) “I feel like we’re in a Vincent Price set.”
  • (Christian sits motionlessly, nakedly at his piano in the moonlight) “Look at him. All alone in his man pain.”
  • (Christian sits motionlessly, nakedly at his piano in the moonlight, AGAIN) “Look at him. Still alone in his man pain.”

But eventually, I took notice of something. Less of my girlfriend’s commentary was quips, and more became frustrated half-sentences trying to simply describe the movie, to which I never had anything to say aside from a joking, “If you’re trying to make sense of the plot…”

But no. She was past joking.

As we began to get into the less notoriously, but still very, very essentially Fifty Shades part of Fifty Shades (So. Much. Fluff.), I turned to look at her, and noticed she was making the exact same expression as, say, Adventure Time‘s Lumpy Space Princess.


I’m not exaggerating. I took a picture later, for comparison’s sake.

I very conveniently HAVE a Lumpy Space Princess pillow, which she actually made for me! Although I made her watch this movie, so now she probably regrets it.

Yes, later, because she never stopped making this face. Once Fifty Shades triggers that existential emptiness, it never leaves.

An hour into the movie was when I first began to suspect this, because she had curled up next to me. Not in a cuddly romantic way. In a “no, I can’t see the screen, and I don’t remember how to care about anything” way.

This was confirmed fifteen minutes later, when she asked how much longer the movie was.

It was about 45 minutes.

Ten minutes later, the hatred had begun to set in. “You’re such a jerk,” she told me. “You made me watch this shit.” When a Frank Sinatra song came on, she made actual whimpering noises. “My Italian blood is furious. My ancestors are rolling in their graves. Goddammit.”

What didn’t occur to me at the time was that – save for reading our SparkNotes-esque coverage on this blog – this was my girlfriend’s first actual experience with Fifty Shades of Grey. This was the first time she was faced with the full, unfiltered force of just how bad it is. I shudder to think of how many couples must have unwittingly shared this experience on its release day, on Valentine’s Day, no less. I would love to see statistics for how many couples went to see Fifty Shades on Valentine’s Day, how many had never seen it before, and how many are now single. I don’t think my girlfriend would care to see those statistics, though. Based on how she’s still reeling from her first encounter with the unrelenting awfulness of Fifty Shades of Grey, I don’t think she can care about anything right now.

The single, lonely surge of energy came during the glider date towards the end.


You know, one of those big, hokey romantic spectacles with big scenery, big music, big romance.


My girlfriend was having none of it. She rose from her Fifty Shades of Comatose-state to launch into a whirlwind rant about the awful and gender-performative symbolism through the beautiful scenery and all the other shit that he HAD to show her, as she stared on, passively and glassy-eyed. When I asked her if she could repeat any of that so I could try to write it down, she mustered merely, “Obnoxious. Fuck.” and gave up again.

All the humor and life we had at the beginning of the movie was gone. She sat through the last scene, not even pretending to watch the movie anymore, in relative silence. When it finally ended, I had to ask her for any thoughts or any kind of reaction.

“I want to take a shower… hug a puppy… (long silence) maybe go… I don’t know… (more silence)”

So overall, we got about half an hour of snarky laughter, and maybe an hour and a half of emotionally draining fatigue. I would presume she would not recommend it, as she has said about three sentences since the credits rolled about an hour ago.

I’ve been fairly familiar with just how almost revolutionarily bad Fifty Shades is for quite some time now, and I’m a little numb to it by this point. I forgot how depressed, how angry, how awful this story has made me feel over time. Maybe if there’s anything good about there now being a film adaptation, it’s that more people will also feel depressed, angry, and awful. Not that that’s a good thing in and of itself. Like, at all. But maybe our collective cultural consciousness really needs to hate this thing.

I asked her about this.

It’s so easy to make fun of the bad writing that it’s easy to lose track of how harmful it is. The way it portrays gender roles, relationships… It’s not funny at all, actually.

In a weird way, by nature of being more competently made, the Fifty Shades of Grey movie might be worse than the books. At least the books were such an improbably fucked up attempt at communication by one of modern civilization’s authors most undeserving of their success that they were laughable. When you remove the amateurism, you lose that levity, and you get this almost mechanical distillation of everything that’s most wrong with it. Not wrong in terms of the absurd, like the double craps and Ana’s subconscious dancing with a hula hoop. But it’s just the problematic parts, worryingly and competently showcased by a corporate mass media filter. The Fifty Shades of Grey book was just this toxic, but at least it was candy-coated.

The movie is just toxicity.




  1. notlaurie Reply

    This poor woman looks like her dog died. I WAS going to watch it while shouting out rude comments, but I don’t think I will now. You guys have taken the hate-watching bullet for me, and for that I thank you.

  2. Kristin Reply

    Guys, I love the snark here about what a piece of trash the books are (and now the movie is) but it’s still just a movie. No reason to take it to heart.

  3. Irish Skye Reply

    I disagree, Kristin. Unfortunately, young people (young women, especially, I’m sad to say) take their cues from Hollywood and think this is the ideal kind of man and relationship. Seriously, my stepdad read that “the only thing about this story that makes it romantic is that Grey is rich. If this took place in a trailer park, it would have been an episode of CSI.” That is unfortunately true, and there are already thousands of girls who idolize Grey and want to be in Ana’s shoes. With the golden gleam of Hollywood sparkle added to it, it becomes an even more romanticized idea.

    Matthew, you are absolutely correct, and I didn’t think about this either. Without all of Ana’s insipid and ridiculous inner dialogue, the story becomes more disturbing, more misogynistic. And now I hear that ELJ is demanding MORE control over the sequels and that both the screenwriter and the director will not be back for the next film because she feels that they did not show MORE or the interactions between this couple and more of the sex, too. (Wth, does she want each movie to be 3 hours long??) She wants audiences to see more of Grey’s darkness and show a lot more of the times when…what, when he threatened her? Scared her? Stalked her?

    I wish, I truly wish, that no one would take it to heart, but the problem is that too many people these days seem to think this is a LOVE story, when in fact nearly every interaction these characters have hits the CDC’s checklist for an abusive relationship. People are lusting after this man? Why?? I don’t get it. I have NO problem with the idea that they are (SUPPOSED to be) in a BDSM relationship and have kinky sex. Kinky sex is fun. But their relationship is not a BDSM one, even when they are doing the kinky stuff. (No safe words, he is taking her straight into hard stuff without talking about it first, there is no after care depicted, limits are discussed but never seemingly agreed on and then completely dismissed…I could go on and on but I won’t.) What I have a problem with is that he calls her stupid, acts like she is a moron (she is, really), and she never ever says, “Hey that hurts my feelings and I don’t like it.”

    I’m sorry your GF’s first experience with this BS story was the stripped down version of the movie. Maybe if she had seen more of the crap with the Subconscious and Inner Goddess and Ana’s one word exclamatory reactions, she could have taken it all more lightly. Go get her a puppy and make sure you are super sweet to her til she recovers.

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