A Lukewarm Defence of Fifty Shades Part 3: Freed

A Lukewarm Defence of Fifty Shades Part 3: Freed


Christian is beside me, stretched out on a
sun lounge. My husband – my hot, beautiful husband, shirtless and in cut off jeans – is
reading a book predicting the collapse of the Western banking system. “Me neither.” He grins, puts down his
BlackBerry, and stands. His shorts fall a little and hang… in that way so his swim
trunks are visible beneath. Mister Grey will see you now. [Title Music] Fifty Shades Freed is a 2018 film directed
by James Foley, written by Niall Leonard adapted from the 2012 novel of the same name written
by television executive Erika Mitchell under the pen name E L James. Originally published online as Twilight fanficion
between August 2010 and May 2011 under the title “Master of the Universe 2”, Freed is
unique in the series in that it is the only chunk of the trilogy that was somewhat conceived
as a finite story with publication in mind. By January of 2011, about half way through
“Master of the Universe 2″’s writing, Mitchell had reached an agreement with Australian publisher
The Writer’s Coffee Shop and the process of editing “Master of the Universe Part 1”
into Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker had begun. This would be publicly announced at the end
of the March 5th instalment of “Master of the Universe 2” in conjunction with the online
versions of more or less everything up to that point being pulled from fanfiction.net
and fiftyshades.com. I have some exciting news – well exciting
for me. I have been given the opportunity to publish
this beast by TWCS. So I am going ahead and doing that. The first book… yes there’s more than
one – it’s sooo long as you know, will be out at the end of May. I have pulled every thing except the last
few chapters of motu2. I know a great deal of you will be delighted
for me… and some less so. You must tell me what you want… if you are
still speaking to me. I was actually able to find a copy of Master
of the Universe 2 with the blog notes still intact, which makes for a fascinating read,
injecting the context of public performance back into the text. Like, it’s wild to see that at the exact
moment publication was assured every outstanding plot thread is either dropped or resolved. The entire main plot is resolved in the next
chapter after the announcement, and the three after that are mostly various characters explaining
things to Bella and backfilling the majority of the plot holes. And you’ll be happy to know that the legacy
of Fifty Shades Freed as a hastily written fill in has been preserved in the film version. Sadly, they didn’t preserve the parts where
the American characters talk like a middle aged English woman. He smirks. “Eat,” he orders. “You didn’t
eat yesterday.” Oh, bossy Fifty! “That’s because you were being an arse.” Mrs. Jones drops something that clatters into
the sink, making me jump. Christian seems oblivious to the noise. Ignoring
her, he stares at me impassively. “Arse or not – eat.” his tone is serious.
No arguing with him. Now, the main history of Fifty Shades that
I relayed in the first video focused entirely on the pedigree of the films, the chain of
adaptation, but let’s take a minute to talk about the parallel history to that. In early 2012, as the deal with Vintage was
materializing, Mitchell tried to erase the history of Fifty Shades from the internet. The remaining content on FiftyShades.com was
deleted and replaced with a stock author bio light blog, takedown notifications were issued
to various blogs that has syndicated the fanfic, and Erika’s lawyers contacted the Internet
Archive and had both Fifty Shades.com and the relevant pages on fanfiction.net removed
from the archive listing. Not only did this eliminate the most obvious
copies of the fic, but effectively wiped out a tremendous amount of the parallel discussions
that are now left to only be relayed by word of mouth. Assembling the timeline of basic events like
“when was the first chapter posted to fanfiction.net?” or “when were the books first published?”
was surprisingly difficult for something that happened only eight years ago. The information is crumbling, some lost to
digital decay, and some to deliberate obfuscation. The history of Fifty Shades has effectively
become folklore, and folklore is a delicate thing. In interviews following publication Mitchell
would tell a few different variant stories about the origin of Fifty Shades, generally
downplaying or outright denying the fanfiction origins of the story. Even up through 2017 the go-to narrative was
this muddled sort of half truth about how she wrote a Twilight fanfiction and then wrote
another story that would go on to inspire Fifty Shades of Grey. I read about something called fan fiction
and I didn’t know what fan fiction was and I thought “well this is interesting” and I
looked up and um I decided to have a go myself So I wrote, I wrote a novel, a seventy thousand
word novel in three weeks, and while I was doing that I had the idea for what became
Fifty Shades. Now, it’s sort of a weird half truth because
there is another fanfic. Before Fifty Shades of Grey, before Master of the Universe, there
was Safe Haven by SnowQueens IceDragon. Edward Cullen is filming his new movie in
Las Vegas. His only solace is Bella, who lives and works in the luxury hotel he is staying.
But is she all she seems EXPLICIT adult content. It’s not entirely clear which strictly came
first, but Safe Haven was the first fanfiction posted to Fanfiction.net under the handle
SnowQueens IceDragon, and it is functionally a one hundred and forty
three page prototype of Master of the Universe told from Edward’s perspective. The obsession with Audi, the classical music,
the way Bella is a virgin who has never so much as had an impure thought before Edward
comes along, the pervasive misogyny, and the fact that it’s really just a loose re-telling
of Twilight hitting most of the same major plot beats. It’s revealing, because it sets out patterns
in Mitchell’s writing that can be seen repeating throughout the rest of her work, elements
that remain fixed in place even after edits or adaptations, the critical one being this:
Anna is not the self-insert of Fifty Shades, Christian is. This is part of why I find Safe Haven fascinating.
The first fanfic wasn’t Bella’s point of view it was Edward’s, an Edward that is controlling,
demanding, petty, and easily angered. Through adaptations, though mutation from
Edward to Christian, these are the personality traits that stay intact. The screenwriter is replaced and given a mandate
to preserve the accuracy of the books, and what’s the thing that survives the process? Dumbass arguments about an email address,
where Christian uses his power to get pointless concessions out of people in a way that improves
nothing, but makes him happy because now people are doing his bidding. I tried emailing you. It bounced. We talked a bunch in the last video about
how Erika pretty much hijacked the production, but I didn’t really talk about how. The leverage that she kept using on the set
of the first film was that if any change displeased her too much she would withdraw support and
tell all her fans to boycott the movie, which, in the context of a film like Fifty Shades
is pretty much death. It’s the kind of movie that relies very
heavily on fans to be the backbone, to be the word of mouth, more than on a general
audience just going to see it because it looks cool. Marketing wise it was 100% banking on being
the movie version of a cultural phenomenon as opposed to the adaptation of a good story. With this in mind it ends up being really
fascinating when you watch the behind the scenes extras for Darker and the selling point
for the new writer and director, Niall Leonard and James Foley, is “they get along with
Erika.” He’s incredibly experienced and he has a,
has a very impressive roster of great films under him. And we met and we just hit it off. And Niall, who’s actually Erika’s husband,
did the adaptation, which I thought was a good thing for us as producers because he
lived with these books and the process of these books being written. He did a really fantastic job of boiling everything
down so that we got all the main set pieces and fan moments that would be expected. He kinda went off and did his thing and then
he’d bring me a draft and say “what do you think?” and I’d go “oh this this this” and
we’re still speaking to each other so I think that’s probably a good thing. And just from watching the on-set interactions
in all this material and how Erika is pretty much just directing the movie it’s obvious
that Mitchell threatened Universal that she would take her ball and go home, so they found
her a proxy writer in her husband, and a proxy director in James Foley. It’s also fascinating how Grey’s behind
the scenes stuff spends a lot of time talking with Johnson and Dornan about the sex scenes,
and both of them relay at length how much trust they put in director Sam Taylor-Johnson,
how much work she put into helping them find a head space they could be in and work in,
and then for the second and third movies they’re out on the press junket talking about doing
whisky shots to get through the sex scenes. Do you guys have a pre-game ritual before
these scenes? Shot of whisky, and, yeah. He does push ups
and I just lay there and drink whisky. On the lighter side of that subject, I’m
pretty sure I can identify the first scene where Dakota Johnson was drinking to get through
the day, and it’s the topless boat scene from Darker. The tell to me is that Dakota
Johnson just seems kinda drunk. Who did this to you? So one of the things that really stood out
to me as I was getting into all of this, as I was researching and assembling this whole
long project, was that with every pass I made over the movies the differences became more
and more clear. The level of craft put into the smaller things became more and more identifiable. This is how e first see him. Very structured,
very businesslike. The next he takes her on this small coffee
date. It’s still guarded, with the vest, protecting the heart area, but it’s a little more open,
and trying to be more of a regular guy. It’s also worn with blue jeans. It’s open, it’s one level, it’s a different
colour, and has a little flare with the pocket square. And so in subtle ways we find him
opening up and wrapping his mind around becoming part of her life. Erika was very keen that movies two and three
should stick as closely as possible to the books and to the sense of the books and to
the sense of the story. Freed is basically a low budget James Bond
knockoff, like if instead of having a whole bunch of wild gadgets, a car chase, a boat
chase, and a fight on a helicopter there was instead a gadget, a car going over the speed
limit, a boat, and a fight. Anyway, the movie opens with a wedding montage
and already I want to stop and talk about the sickly green under-tone that’s been
graded into this scene. So, green is very common in nature, but it’s
rare for the ambient light to be green. Green ambiance is unnatural and off-putting, so
using green as an undertone, or even as an overtone, is, in cinematic language, shorthand
for a state that is unnatural, disconcerting, or wrong. It’s why The Matrix is tinted
green, why the office in Joe Versus the Volcano is green, and why the first Twilight movie
is pretty much entirely green until Bella decides to stay in Forks. Also the fact that it is unnatural makes it
a really obvious tell. If you’re watching a movie and the lighting looks tinted green
it’s because someone was mucking with it, it didn’t just happen to look like that. Given that Freed is going to be more of a
thriller it makes sense that we’re going to see green used as an undertone, and it
makes sense that it would appear early in the film to set the mood. It makes sense when Jack Hyde is breaking
into Grey Enterprises Holdings Incorporated to plan a fire bomb in the server room, but
it doesn’t make sense for it to be used in a wedding scene when that wedding is supposed
to be fairy tale beautiful, when this is supposed to be the emotional high before anything has
had a chance to spoil it. And as a visual shorthand its use is really
inconsistent. Some relevant scenes have it, some don’t, and there’s nowhere else in
the movie where it’s as pervasive as it is in the wedding. Alright, so, we’re thirty seconds into the
film and I’ve already gone on for a minute about colour. Cool. Anyway, the rest of the title montage is all
honeymoon stuff in Paris and things finally settle on the beach with Ana asking Christian
to apply more sunscreen. Could you put this on my back? Take off the whole thing. Not a chance. you’re showing plenty as it
is. I am wearing more than any woman here. You want to be ogled by every guy on the beach? To my disappointment they decided to skip
on the literal adaptation of Christian Grey, image conscious billionaire, lounging at the
beach in cutoff jeans over swim trunks. Ladies. Christian leaves to have a swim, and Ana removes
the rest of her top anyway. Cutting away from that, a mysterious stranger
gets into Christian’s office tower, changes into a disguise, hacks the electronic lock
on the server room, and then plants a bomb. Wait for it. Christian and Ana argue again about Ana taking
her top off, and Christian finally reminds her that there might be paparazzi around,
continuing the fine tradition of Christian always being justified for pushing Ana around.
See, it’s just like when he pulled her out of the way of the bike. Then the argument ends and they go back to
the boat and have sex. Christian’s assistant Ros calls and informs
them that the bomb did indeed, finally, go off. It totally exploded, uh, you know, over there.
Off screen. Just made a real mess of things. Totally fried the servers. Lots of damage.
Really expensive damage. Just over, you know, over there. Anyway it’s Jack Hyde. Oh my god, that’s Jack. Oh and also the helicopter crash was totally
sabotage and that was also Jack Hyde. I got a report from the FAA, they don’t think
that the helicopter crash was an accident. they said it looks like sabotage. Jack Hyde, fiction editor, sabotaged Christian’s
helicopter. The day after Jack Hyde, fiction editor, was
fired from his job as fiction editor, Jack Hyde, fiction editor, sabotaged a helicopter. Ana and Christian cut their honeymoon short,
go home, meet the new security guards Christian has hired, and get into a petty argument about
having children, starting one of the major threads for the movie. Don’t worry, it gets worse. Ana goes to work where she finds out that
while she was gone on her honeymoon her temporary promotion has been made permanent and the
office was renovated and Liz is pretty obviously resentful of the whole situation. I mean, yeah. By the way, Liz is the head of human resources
at SIP, who you might remember from the last movie as the woman who clearly knew Jack was
bad news but still encouraged Ana to spend time with him in a social capacity. Ana’s assistant Hannah comes in and the two
talk about changing Ana’s email address from Anastasia Steel to Anastasia Grey and
Ana just says you know what, leave it for now. The scene wraps up and cuts to Ana taking
a meeting with her biggest client, Boyce Fox, when Christian comes storming into the office,
demands to speak with Ana immediately, insinuates that she’s cheating with her client, then
throws a fit because he tried to send an email to Anastasia Grey at publishing company dot
com and it bounced I tried email you. It bounced. There’s no
Anastasia Grey at SIP. and we’re going to talk about lighting. Now, this whole point is incredibly petty,
but the fact that they didn’t re-light the set between the two scenes is what really
elevates it to comedy for me. It isn’t just later the same day, it’s
basically immediately. Ana goes to work, the sun streaming through
her windows, and before she’s even taken a coffee break Christian is standing in her
office demanding to know if their marriage is a sham because she has been back to work
for forty five minutes already and hasn’t yet changed her email address! To this compelling argument Ana caves pretty
much instantly because she has at this point more or less accepted that her life largely
consists of managing Christian’s emotions for him, and his face lights up with just
the most punchable grin. Just a reminder, this isn’t even an argument
about her changing her legal name, it’s purely about her changing her professional
name and her email address. Also it will never come up again. There’s no future complication as a result
of changing email addresses and it doesn’t even become petty ammunition in a future argument. Ana says she’ll think about it, Christian’s
like “yay, I bullied my wife into giving me a petty win” and just like the bathing
suit it’s never mentioned again. After work Christian drives Ana out to the
country and surprises her with a house. I didn’t even mention this in the previous
movie, but when Christian and Ana spent a day on his boat Ana saw this house on the
shore and was like “that’s a nice house, I love that house” and now Christian is
like “hey I bought you this house that you like” and then Christian’s architect comes
in and is like “cool, so, we’re going to bulldoze the house” and Christian is
like “yes, let’s bulldoze the house that I bought for my wife because she said that
she loves the house.” If that sounds like bizarro whiplash that’s
because it’s setup for Ana’s transformation into a wealth monster, because the architect,
Gia, is a blonde, and as we’ve discussed blondes in Fifty Shades are all homewreckers
and temptresses, so Ana dresses her down for the vicarious enjoyment of Erika Mitchell
who hates women in general and blondes in specific. Oh, and this is a good place for a reminder
that in the logic of the story, Christian hired Gia specifically because she’s a blonde
so that she wouldn’t remind him of his dead mother, who he refers to as The Crack Whore,
and thus he wouldn’t feel compelled to beat her sexually in an act of displaced revenge. Anyway, Christian lets Ana drive home and
they get into a car chase and then have sex in a parking lot. Back home their security tells them the driver
that was chasing them is a woman, then Ana finds Leila’s gun, still loaded, in Christian’s
desk drawer and he promises to get rid of it. I’ll get rid of it. A whole bunch of nothing happens until Ana
goes out with Kate for drinks, even though Christian told her to go straight home, and
then Ana gets home and Jack Hyde, who has broken into their apartment, attacks her with
a kitchen knife and tries to kidnap her, but he’s taken down by her new security guards. Better restrain him. I don’t have anything. We do. I mean, we, I can find something. Alright, that line is kinda funny. Like, it’s
funny on purpose. I like that line, it’s funny on purpose. Also because this detail is hilarious I want
to point out that in the book this doesn’t happen, Jack doesn’t take Ana captive at
knife point. Instead Ana gets home from the bar and the
action is already resolved, Jack broke in while she was gone and her security team has
already incapacitated him. Everything exciting already happened off screen. See, that’s what happens when you don’t
actually edit your fanfic before publishing it as a novel. Ana is talking with the police who tell her
that in Jack’s stolen van they found a note saying “you owe me a life” and assure
her that he’s definitely not going to get out. Alright, then there’s three scenes where
nothing really happens, but Christian isn’t happy, then Ana gets home from work and Christian
takes her to the playroom where he tortures her with orgasm denial in revenge for saying
she would go home but then going out drinking with Kate, and it escalates to the point that
Ana needs to use her safe word. Now, okay, there’s a bit to unravel here. First I’m going to refer back to what I
said in the first part of their series. It’s okay, from a narrative perspective, if Christian
is a dick, it’s just that the conflict that arises out of it needs to go somewhere. The issue is that despite the fact that Ana
is the one who has been wronged here the scene still pivots to be about Christian’s manpain
and explain why it is that he just can’t stop abusing her. And with that violation of trust out of the
way the movie comes to a standstill for fifteen minutes while Ana and the gang piss off to
Aspen for the weekend. Wait, the bikini, the email address, the attempt
at punishing her for going out with Kate despite the fact that she was attacked at knife point
less than twenty four hours earlier, it’s almost like there’s a pattern of Christian
violating Ana’s boundaries then giving her extravagant gifts and/or sex in lieu of apologizing. When they get back Detective Clark tells Ana
that Jack Hyde, the man who was caught on camera planting a bomb, stole a vehicle, and
attempted to kidnap Ana at knifepoint, is probably going to get bail because he’s
saying that she came on to him first and he totally didn’t try to molest her, so extenuating
circumstances? Ana goes to the courthouse for his bail hearing
and sure enough he gets bail, though the judge sets bail at half a million dollars because
it’s his first offence. Or, well, his first slate of multiple offences
including criminal arson, grand theft auto, and attempted kidnapping. But who’s keeping
count. Ana immediately runs to the bathroom and throws
up, then hard cut to the doctor’s office where Ana’s gynecologist tells her that
whoopsie doodle she’s pregnant because she hasn’t taken her birth control since the
end of the last movie. At dinner Ana tells Christian that she’s
pregnant and Christian is like “that’s bad, I don’t want a baby right now” and
Ana is like “I know it’s bad, I don’t want a baby right now, either” and even
though that makes it sound like the two of them are totally on the same page vis a vis
this pregnancy, they just yell at each other instead. Christian storms off, eventually coming home
in the middle of the night, piss drunk, where he slurs about his fear that Ana will choose
the baby over him. As Ana is putting his stuff away he gets a
text from Elena saying “good to see you tonight, I’m here for you, anytime.” which
sets Ana off, so she goes and sleeps in the playroom. The next morning Christian is busy organizing
the help into a search and rescue party when Ana comes downstairs. This begins a prolonged
argument between the two where Ana is naked for most of it. Like, it’s just an entire scene of dialogue
and throughout Ana is just naked. It’s nudity that’s pointless to the point
it’s honestly kinda surreal. Alright, I don’t know how to segue this,
because just saying it out loud makes it sound somehow even more abrupt than it actually
is, but like an hour later Ana gets a phone call from Mia EXCEPT IT’S JACK HYDE AND HE WANTS FIVE
MILLION DOLLARS IN RANSOM IN TWO HOURS OR HE’S GOING TO KILL MIA. So… I don’t… I don’t know what Jack’s
exit strategy is here? He’s out on bail for a bunch of really serious
crimes, and Ana knows exactly who he is, so it’s not like he’s some anonymous dude
who can grab a duffle bag full of money and just disappear. And he doesn’t know this, but Christian
doesn’t actually like his family all that much, so killing Mia would maybe make Christian
a bit sad but mostly it’s just going to add murder to Jack’s already substantial
list of crimes that he’s already definitely going to prison for. I dunno, we’ll talk more about Jack’s
plan later. In the meantime Ana goes home, changes into
her teenage runaway outfit, gets a duffle bag, the chequebook, and grabs Leila’s gun,
which Christian had promised to get rid of several weeks ago. I’ll get rid of it. Hey, isn’t it weird how whenever Ana breaks
tiny, inconsequential promises like “I’ll come straight home after work” or “I won’t
take my top off on a topless beach” it’s deemed worthy of derision and punishment,
but when Christian breaks his promise to get rid of a loaded handgun that he keeps in an
unlocked drawer in their home it’s fine because it totally turned out Ana needed a
loaded handgun? Anyway, now that she’s armed and dangerous
she gives Sawyer the slip and takes off for the bank. At the bank Ana, dressed in a hoodie and clearly
in a hurry, asks to withdraw five million dollars in cash from the joint account. Banks don’t carry that much cash on hand,
by the way, but just accept it or we’ll be here all day. The bank manager, Troy Whelan, calls Christian
to confirm the transaction, and Christian asks to speak to Ana in private. After their conversation a sobbing Ana gives
the phone back, and Christian tells Whelan to give her the money. Despite this being a situation built entirely
out of red flags, Whelan gives her the cash, and his phone, and helps her take the money
out the back door of the bank and load it into an SUV being driven by a person who looks
like they’re trying to look shady. Oh, and the driver is Liz. You know, the head
of human resources at SIP? She’s the one who got into the high speed car chase through
Seattle. So Christian has figured out that something
is up, and that Mia’s missing, so he calls the cops, and he’s tracking Ana’s cell
phone which she hid in the bag of money, so everyone’s converging on the spot where
Jack has Mia tied up. Jack beats Ana up and kicks her in the stomach,
so oh no pregnant, then Ana shoots Jack and the police arrive and that’s it. The entire standoff resolves in about 45 seconds. From there it’s just a slow roll downhill
to the end. Christian wants a baby now, and the baby’s
okay, and here’s all of Jack Hyde’s motivations and stuff sort of I guess. Christian is shocked because he realizes that
the only substantial difference between him and being a pervert middle manager is that
he started off with millions of dollars and turned it into billions, but this rare moment
of accurate self-assessment is undercut by Ana disagreeing. If I’d been left in the system who knows how
I would have turned out? You’re a man of honour. And you treat people
well. I’ll get rid of it. You’re showing plenty as it is. I get off on punishing women, women who look
like you like your mother I tried emailing you. It bounced. There’s
no Anastasia Grey at SIP. And you treat people well. Turns out Jack and Christian were in the same
foster home in Detroit and Jack remembers and resents Christian and we’ll talk about
this in a bit, we’re almost done the movie. Ana and Christian visit the gave of Christian’s
birth mother and he doesn’t once call her The Crack Whore. The crack whore used to let me play with her hair. I think. I don’t know if it’s a memory or a dream. Whoa! His birth mom. There’s a montage of all the highlights
from the trilogy, which is weird because it really just calls attention to the fact that
nothing has really happened. Then the movie fake ends with Ana setting
up the playroom, and it’s the first time in the movies that Christian’s ratty dom
jeans have gotten any explicit attention rather than just being an environmental detail, so
this loving close up as Ana reverently laying them out on the bed is kinda comical. Christian remarks that Ana is topping from
the bottom, a line we are going to be talking about a lot in a bit, and fade to black for
a few credits before an epilogue where everyone’s happy and rich and Ana’s pregnant with their
second kid. The. End. Alright, get a drink, we’ll be right back. This episode was brought to you by tap water.
Mm, mm, good old municipal tap water. This is, by far, the most literal adaptation
of the three, no doubt helped by Master of the Universe 2 being somewhat more self contained
and less of a sprawling catastrophe. There’s a bunch of stuff, but the main one
that I really want to talk about is that last line because I’ve been wanting to talk about
it since we started. It’s this line from Christian to Ana “I believe you’re topping
from the bottom.” Flashback time! Mitchell also has an awkward habit of juxtaposing
erotic imagery with infantilizing internal commentary from Anastasia. Ana is seemingly
perpetually confused by the world around her and naive to the point of farce, a thread
that persists all the way to the very end of the trilogy. “You know, you’re topping from the bottom,”
he murmurs against my lips. “What?” I don’t understand what he’s
talking about. If you’ve been following along with the
movies and you still find these characters to be insufferable and frustrating that’s
fair, but I promise you it doesn’t hold a candle to the books. Mitchell as a writer
is seemingly incapable of ever changing characterization. All the way up to the final pages of the book
Ana is still utterly oblivious to the world that she has gotten herself into. So this change, having Ana implicitly acknowledge
that she is, in fact, the one who’s really in control here, I like it. I wish it were
in a better movie. One of my favourite changes from the book,
mostly because of how it contrasts the original, has to be the ending with Christian’s mom’s
grave stone. Like, this is such a natural end point for
Christian as a character. The book is even called Fifty Shades Freed. Christian is Fifty
Shades. Ana calls him “Fifty” constantly in her inner monologue, so the title of the
book is Christian Grey, Freed. It is the book where, ostensibly, Christian finally gets
over his myriad problems and can be normal. Except, he doesn’t. So, in Darker, at the mid point of the book,
remember, Christian has a major miraculous breakthrough where he no longer feels compelled
to take out his psychosexual hangups on Ana, at least as far as physical violence is concerned
and he lets Ana touch him. So after that the big hangups would be his
need for petty control and his fear of parenthood which is tied in with his resentment of his
mother. Alright, in this book he resolves one of these,
which is that he gets over his very specific hangups about being afraid the baby will split
Ana’s attention and she won’t be able to devote all her energy to managing his emotions
anymore. But he’s still petty and controlling. Just
look at the whole email argument and the sunbathing argument and the went-out-drinking-with-Kate
argument. None of that comes back, none of it is resolved,
and Christian never lets go of that problem. But it’s the other one that’s just baffling. The first time Christian refers to his mother
in Fifty Shades of Grey he calls her a crack whore, and the last time he refers to her
in Fifty Shades Freed he calls her the crack whore. “How do you feel about that?” I whisper. He frowns. “About having no living relatives?
Fuck that if they were anything like the crack whore…” he shakes his head in disgust. So why is it that the film version is able
to see such an obvious bit of closure, while the originals weren’t? The answer is that Erika Mitchell just doesn’t
think that there’s anything wrong with this framing, since Ana also refers to Christian’s
mother as The Crack Whore. This is confusing – I’m his wife, not
his submissive, not some company he’s acquired. I’m not the crack whore who was his mother. Change of pace, let’s disassemble Jack’s
plot in its entirety, and for that we’re going to go all the way back to childhood. Jack Hyde spends his youth in the foster care
system of Michigan. When he is eight or nine Christian is put into the same home as him
for two months. At some point he is adopted or simply ages out but either way he’s able
to attend Princeton, graduate, and move out to Seattle where he gets a job as the fiction
editor at a successful boutique publisher. He also becomes a sex pervert and rapist who
molests his coworkers and keeps a log of sex tapes as leverage. Then one day he hires a new assistant named
Anastasia Steel. At the end of her first week on the job they go out to a bar where he meets
her boyfriend, Christian Grey, which starts some wheels spinning in Jack’s head. The next night he infiltrates an exclusive
charity dinner and auction in order to creep on Christian. The following Tuesday he pins Anastasia against
the door of his office and gropes her, then gets kneed in the balls and beaten up by her
boyfriend’s security guard. Later that evening he’s fired because Christian has all but
officially bought the company. Two days later he sabotages Christian’s
helicopter Charlie Tango, causing it to crash in the forest near Mount Saint Helens, but
Christian survives. The next night Jack watches them celebrate Christian’s birthday from
across the lake at their home. Two months later he breaks into Christian
Grey’s offices and hacks into Grey’s personal files before firebombing the servers. He then contacts Liz and uses the threat of
releasing their sex tape to have her get into a car chase with Christian and Ana from the
countryside into downtown Seattle. What the point of this was remains unknown
because Ana manages to shake her off in traffic. A week and a half after the bombing he steals
an elevator maintenance van, outfits it with fake license plates, and uses the van and
I guess the tools in it to gain access to the elevator at Escala which gives him access
to the apartment where he hides in the closet with a kitchen knife until Ana comes home.
He then tries to kidnap Ana at knife point, but is incapacitated by her personal security
and arrested by police, who find a note in the van that says “you owe me a life”. A few weeks later he is granted bail set at
five hundred thousand dollars, which he pays. The next day Jack is released from custody
and with the help of Liz immediately kidnaps Christian’s sister Mia and tries to ransom
her for five million dollars, but is thwarted when Ana shoots him in the leg with a gun
and also the cops arrive and arrest him. So. It’s maybe a little weird and pointless to
interrogate the inner life of a one-dimensional character, though it’s just as weird that
Jack starts as Ana’s antagonist, but we’re assured that, no, he actually already hated
Christian before Christian got him fired, and everything with Ana is basically pure
coincidence. This is why the baby plotline feels so weird:
it doesn’t really matter because Ana doesn’t really want anything. The last thing she wanted
was a career of her own, so Christian bought her a publishing company. Since then she’s
pretty much been on auto-pilot. Part of what makes a thriller great is watching
a convoluted plan come together. A good thriller has a plan that’s complicated and maybe
even a little bit wacky but there’s this deep satisfaction from watching it all fall
into place. This… is not that. Jack’s scheme is less of a plan and more
of a series of disconnected twists that made good cliffhangers for a serial fanfiction
that was being written with an end goal but no plan. The longer you think about it the worse it
gets. I mean, for one all the individual parts are just absurd on their own merits. A woman
who works in human resources gets into a high speed chase through traffic for no discernible
reason. A fiction editor sabotages a private helicopter and firebombs a server after stealing
personal files that have no purpose or value in their own right. Now, if you want to talk about one of the
clearest examples of back-fill, where a writer has addressed a problem in their writing not
by going back and making changes to the earlier parts of the text but by explaining things
after the fact, we need to talk about Linc. The ultimate antagonist of the Fifty Shades
books, the puppet master at the middle of all of it, is a man named Linc, or Mister
Lincoln. He’s only mentioned in the books about five times total, depending on how you
count, and even the fan wiki considers him so superfluous to the story that he isn’t
even given an entry in the list of minor characters. An added scene at the end of the unrated cut
of the film refers to him as John Lincoln, so the movies eventually gave him a first
name, but he’s not in the theatrical cut at all. Even in the extended version he’s only in
two scenes in Freed, one where he’s introduced and one where he’s arrested. And you know what, I’m hard pressed to decide
which is worse storytelling: having an epilogue that amounts to “oh yeah, this guy, uh,
this guy here, he totally did it, he did it all, because… uh… because reasons. And
also he did it by funding a guy who wanted to destroy Christian’s life for completely
unrelated reasons.” Or having an epilogue that leaves you with
the absurd conclusion that a fiction editor would have the means, skill, and opportunity
to sabotage a helicopter in an incredibly precise way such that it would still work
but would fail after several hours of flight, infiltrate the high security areas of an office
tower belonging to a notoriously paranoid billionaire to plant a James Bond style bomb,
steal a car, forge a fake licence plate, break into the home of aforementioned billionaire
at a point when he has explicitly raised security, and pay half a million dollars in bail. If you think I’m being a little thin with
motivation here, this is about all that exists. Basically Linc found out about Christian’s
relationship with Elena and they got a divorce. But also he was abusing her, so they were
probably going to get a divorce anyway. Oh, look, there’s that thread again where people
become doms because of unresolved trauma, joy. But that’s it. That is the sum total of
Linc as he appears in both book and film. And, again, the only reason that the books
have a secret puppet master villain in the first place is because Mitchell needed to
explain how Jack suddenly had the resources to both get and pay bail when he’s been
charged with arson, grand theft auto, breaking and entering, AND attempted kidnapping. The funny thing is that this was really easy
to fix. Just make Elena the actual villain. From a filmmaking perspective this movie just
makes the previous movie all the more confusing, because it’s not like they were adapting
Fifty Shades Darker before Fifty Shades Freed was written. The books were done. You could read the whole thing and know how
it ends and work towards a conclusion instead of ending Fifty Shades Darker on the same
abrupt I-have-no-idea-where-I’m-going-with-this note that Mitchell did when she finished Master
of the Universe in 2010. I don’t know why they didn’t make that
change, why they decided to try and do a literal adaptation and then cut it for something just
as bad. The only answer I can posit is that reading
the books, the books are very defensive of Elena. So, keep in mind that Christian’s framing
of problems and conflicts is almost always taken as true or superior or justified. Christian consistently goes to bat for Elena. Whenever Ana does get to voice some criticism
of her Christian always defends Elena, and the final landing point in the book is Christian
saying that maybe a sexual relationship between a middle aged woman and a fifteen year old
boy isn’t a great idea, but they were both wrong, and they’d still be friends but Ana
doesn’t like Elena so he’s willing to let that friendship go. It’s messed up. In conclusion, Fifty Shades of Grey is a land
of contrasts, or as the natives called it: maize. It’s corny, is what I’m saying. The books are, and remain a contentious piece
of literature for the way they muddy the line between kink and abuse, replicating and reinforcing
abusive and potentially deadly relationship dynamics. The movies are a nominal thematic improvement,
but despite good changes to characterization and some light plot restructuring, the movies
ultimately hew too close to the books and in turn inherit almost all the original structural
problems. While the first movie shows a surprising amount
of creative talent and effort, the second and third are notably devoid of creative energy,
with long stretches where the lead actors seem irritated to still be there. Anyway, the movie denouements with a montage,
which is up there with dance number in the pantheon of “we didn’t know quite how
to end this one” but really the critical thing is that Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn
Part 2 ended with a little musical montage, so Fifty Shades has to end with a musical
montage. To quote fellow critic Jenny Nicholson “At least in Twilight those movies escalated
to an insane degree, so it was like “look how far they’ve come!” In this one they’re
just married now. It’s the same.” But you know what, I’m going to disagree
with that. Look at how far they’ve come. Look at how far we’ve all come. ♫ I’m his wife, not his sub ♫ ♫ Not some company he’s acquired ♫ ♫ I’m not the crack whore who was his mother ♫ ♫ You know, you’re topping from the bottom ♫ ♫ He murmurs against my lips ♫ ♫ I don’t understand what he’s talking about ♫ ♫ Charlie Tango,
she’s a Eurocopter EC135 ♫ ♫ The safest in its class ♫ ♫ Dios mio! ♫ ♫ Double crap, me and my two left feet! ♫ Now, there is one part of the whole fanfiction
and books that I’ve only incidentally mentioned up to this point, and that’s the straight
rip off of Midnight Sun, which was the version of Twilight told from Edward’s perspective
that Stephenie Meyer scrapped in 2008 after some test chapters were leaked to the internet. During the writing of Master of the Universe
Mitchell included several side chapters as bonus content on her website, including a
few that were just parallels of existing chapters told from Edward’s point of view. One of these was included at the end of Fifty
Shades Freed, and it’s basically chapters 2 and 3 of Fifty Shades of Grey, but from
Christian’s perspective. In June 2015 Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey from
Christian’s Perspective was released. Now, this actually poses as an interesting
opportunity, especially since the book was being developed in parallel to the first film,
and released only a few months afterwards. Conceptually re-telling the story from Christian’s
point of view provides an opportunity to address and incorporate criticisms, maybe even going
as far as straight up retconning elements that didn’t work. Most interestingly, since it is now Christian
doing the telling it’s potentially a chance to re-characterize Christian via his internal
monologue, maybe bring him more in-line with Jamie Dornan’s performance of the character
rather than how the character would appear from a strict reading of the originals. It’s essentially a third chance to adapt her
own story. I mean, surely it would be comical if a movie
came out and was commended for trying to make the abusive monster of Christian Grey into
someone at least conceptually likeable, and then the next book just doubled down on all
of Christian’s worst behaviours, indicating not just compulsion in his actions but malice
and forethought, right? Clearly, sensibly, Erika Mitchell is going
to seize this opportunity to paint a picture of a character who is in conflict with his
own evil, and isn’t just an abuser and rapist. “I’m not knowledgeable, Anastasia, I just
know what I like.” And I like you. “Some more?” I nod towards the bottle on the table.
“Please.” I fetch the champagne and refill her cup.
She regards me suspiciously. She knows I’m plying her with alcohol. Nope! [♫Charlie Tango♫]