I had begun the outline of this project with a mighty head of venom and steam. I was eager to tear in to the uncomfortably horrible writing, painting the entire trilogy as a poorly researched character assassination of the Seattle area as a whole, and the BDSM subculture in particular. But its success has long past its zenith, despite the slavering crowd NBC Universal has managed to drum up for the film’s Manhattan premiere. Its monetary success arguably mirrors the Tulip Crash of the 17th century – as we have digested the series to discover that, beyond its immediate ability to titillate, the story is devoid of any substance or redeeming value. As such, on the precipice of its box office debut, I view the premiere not with nauseated loathing, but a sort of tired, embarrassed pity.
Indeed, as an observer of the social sciences, I’m in a position to appreciate the story as a chilling psychological suspense series about an unbalanced, unhealthy relationship between a damaged man whose self-mollification borders on the sociopathic, and a young, inexperienced woman whose will and sense of self are eroded by his horrifying volley of emotional and physical abuse.
As any academic would, I researched for sources to cite, and discovered that my opinion was shared, and it was there that my pity was born. For my distaste been voiced and voiced again from numerous sources and angles. One entire blog is dedicated to offering a chapter by chapter critical review of the abusive relationship being portrayed (and a blog ring has been organized to show the sheer mass distaste for the novels). US News outlines what’s wrong with the series, pointing out how Ana becomes “disempowered and trapped” by her relationship.
Still others, as the press tour presses forward, have taken delight in pointing out how little chemistry the leads have. One report suggests that the actors don’t even like each other. Still another gives a blow by blow of the awkward, disinterested event the press tour has become, offering a view of a stiff, stilted leading man and a bored leading actress eager to leave a creative project behind her.
After all the bad press, my pity for the project had not quite transformed itself into empathy. No one had said anything about how brutally culturally inaccurate the story is – though January Jones pointed out how the preliminary posters were basically stolen from Mad Men, and Seattle is not New York.
As one alert viewer points out…
An English woman with no understanding of the Seattle area outside of the Twilight novels (themselves a carnival of cultural inaccuracy) has done a hell of a job telling a story that is emotionally and socially set in Manhattan, and dumping it on the West Coast for the sake of exoticism. In the end, you have a project that is playing well in New England and Florida and proving that neither spot knows anything about the other side of the country.
My autism doesn’t do well with inaccuracy of this variety. Numerous issues have riled me regarding this project, and despite the serious problem of domestic abuse, the things that have truly rankled me all seem to be tied to geography, culture, and my proprietary emotions about Seattle.
- I have gone into a sneering tirade over the exclusivity of the Escala (a building across the street from my work) and happily enumerated occasions upon which the homeless have used the eaves of the building as a hostel/toilet. Mostly a toilet.
- I have gone into screeching anxiety fits over the fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE to get into an 80mph car chase on I-5 south between the SR 520 interchange and the exits for downtown and Denny Way that Christian and Ana would need to take to get to their 4th Avenue condo in Belltown – the ridiculous nature of the route notwithstanding, traffic would never allow it, and there’s not even enough *road* for that chase to take place.
- And, having graduated from Washington State University in 2011, I have rolled my eyes to straining at Ana’s attendance of WSU – Vancouver, a satellite campus with minimal agricultural interests. Were Christian interested in farming and world hunger, he would have vested his interests in the main campus in Pullman, an agricultural and veterinary school of some renown. This also would have justified the helicopter ride from Seattle much more so than a quick jaunt down to Portland, though there are hardly any 5 star hotels to frequent in the Moscow/Pullman area, making some dramatic/erotic contrivances rather problematic.
One can see how the whole story is digested by the average Seattleite as a literary slap in the face. For a city that loves its books as Seattle does, to be internationally represented by a trio of such terribly bad ones is nauseating at best. As unrealistic as the whole thing is, James might have done well to have left the vampires and werewolves in the story.
Is there something else to watch?
Edited: this is a work in progress. I keep finding sources too good to ignore and I add them periodically. My inner goddess is such a bitch.