Everything Wrong With The Fifty Shades Darker Trailer

The trailer for the latest installment of the Fifty Shades franchise debuted online this week, proving yet again how easy it is to present people with lazy, tone-deaf portrayals of kink. In fact, I would venture to say that the new Fifty Shades Darker trailer represents everything wrong with the series’ portrayal of BDSM.

In less than two minutes we get: stalking as romance, mental illness as violence, possessiveness as passion, female competition between crazy obsessive exes, and statutory rape as erotic awakening (as long as the adult is a woman and the child is male). Worst of all, the Fifty Shades of Grey movies continue to perpetuate the harmful and erroneous notion that BDSM and healthy committed romance are mutually exclusive.

I’m sorry to say I have suffered through the source material, the book Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James. While the filmmaking craft of the movies is unquestionably superior to the non-prose of the book, it doesn’t fix this bunk cautionary tale of straight vanilla love as redemption from perversion.

Here’s a quick decoding of what we see in the trailer:

1. Kim Basinger as the older woman who "introduced Christian Grey to the lifestyle" when he was a teenager and continues to manipulate his life

2. Bella Heathcote as Christian’s former submissive/ex-girlfriend, a volatile threat

3. Christian stalking Anastasia at her friend’s art gallery and her current job

4. More of the same wealth porn from the first movie, where being swept up in lavish flowers, boats, and mansions is a shitty metaphor for the passion of love

5. Anastasia wearing a cable-knit white sweater in natural daylight to represent "real" vanilla love as opposed to all that sick nasty dark shit Christian thinks he needs

I truly am all for escapist trash, and I almost want to like these movies sometimes, for all their silky, sordid intrigue. However, as an ethically-focused and reasonably well-adjusted kinky person — and someone who's immersed myself in and written extensively about the wonderful world of kink — I am fully aware how these narratives negatively affect how my community is perceived. BDSM is not masquerades or manipulation or shower sex with your clothes on. BDSM is, above all, a system of communication, in which desires can thrive within boundaries — and consent is everything.

The irony of Fifty Shades getting everything warped is that the impulse to enjoy high drama and sensational stimulation within the context of fiction is part of the appeal of kinky adventure. So viewers might be getting closer than the characters to an experience of submission as they give themselves over to the pleasurable power of the filmmakers. It’s Anastasia, sadly, who is still in the wrong story.

The gap between what we learned in sex ed and what we're learning through sexual experience is big — way too big. So we're helping to connect those dots by talking about the realities of sex, from how it's done to how to make sure it's consensual, safe, healthy, and pleasurable all at once. Check out more here.

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