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Whether you like it or hate it, you have to admit that America’s popular culture and sexual fantasy have been recently revolving around “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The three-part book series published by Random House has sold 100 million copies internationally, as of 2012. The book has become so popular, in fact, that is has recently been turned into a major motion picture directed by Sam-Taylor Johnson and set to debut this Valentine’s Day. The movie’s trailer has over 50 million views on YouTube, and it is estimated to make over at least $60 million in just it’s opening weekend.

The story is similar to any conventional love story. Anastasia Steele, a senior studying journalism at Washington State University Vancouver, is introduced to Christian Grey, an attractive, young multi-millionaire. They become infatuated with one another quickly and passionately. And they eventually live out the quintessential American Dream: getting married and raising a family together. However, unlike most love stories, Christian is hiding a dark secret: he is preoccupied with BDSM.

BDSM is an acronym for bondage, dominance, submission, and masochism. Christian’s preoccupation serves as the primary conflict of the book and movie. Ana has romantic feelings for Christian, but she does not want to be his submissive. Christian also cares for Ana, but he is driven by violent sex. As a result, Ana finds herself reluctantly doing what Christian asks of her, as she does not want the relationship to end.

While the world is eagerly anticipating the movie’s release, there has also been much controversy surrounding the movie, particularly in the way it portrays women and BDSM. Some would argue that the movie is offensive because it perpetuates the notion that women can be taken advantage of and can be submissive. It also hints to sexual assault, a topic which should not be taken lightly because one in five women according to the CDC, will be raped within their lifetime. Even more disturbing is how society is casting such frivolous and casual regards toward the situation. In fact, a study conducted in 2010 among Ivy League-educated men found that many feel no shame in shouting the words “no means yes, yes means anal” on school grounds.

Although these points are valid and very true, there are also enough evidence to prove that the movie is not meant to be offensive. Rather it is intended to bolster female empowerment. Director Sam-Taylor Johnson, a female herself, said in an interview with HuffPost Live that she wants the audience to take a step back and really consider the character from her own perspective. Hopefully by doing so, they would see that the movie is centered on strength, not on abuse.

“My goal with this movie [was] to take this girl who seemingly could be a victim to something, and actually by the end of it, turns the tables and becomes the one with all the power, and he becomes the vulnerable one,” said Johnson.

Johnson also defended the production’s choice of who to portray Anastasia.

“[Dakota was cast as Anastasia Steele] because she has a sweetness and a vulnerability, but she’s strong. She’s a strong woman as a person, and all of that we need as an arc for Anastasia and her journey,” she said. “We feel that as she goes through [her relationship with Christian Grey], she becomes more and more empowered; not weaker, but stronger.”

 

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