50 Shades? I have seen racier episodes of Pingu

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Comment - Liz Jones

IATTENDED the pre­miere of Fifty Shades Darker on Thurs­day night. The star, Dakota John­son, who plays sub­mis­sive Ana Steele, said be­fore she went into the Odeon: ‘It’s a sex­ier film.’ Well, that wouldn’t be hard. The first film was as vanilla as one of Mary Berry’s Vic­to­ria sponges. The se­cond one’s bill­board prom­ises ‘no more rules’. That may ex­plain why mid­dleaged women wag­gling copies of E.L. James’s books were 15 deep in a sleety Le­icester Square.

Never un­der­es­ti­mate the li­bido of the post-menopausal woman. Prob­lem is, that’s ex­actly what the film­mak­ers have done.

In the movie, I was treated to Dakota’s nip­ples on seven oc­ca­sions, but I didn’t spot Jamie’s ap­pendage once. My com­pan­ion said it was there, in sil­hou­ette, fleet­ingly, but I must have been do­ing my on­line Sains­bury’s or­der at the time: the film is very, very long (no snig­ger­ing, please) and very bor­ing. There was no sex un­til about an hour in, a grop­ing scene in an el­e­va­tor that was so badly lit, I thought all the child­hood warn­ings were true: I’d gone blind.

While Dakota re­minds me more and more of Julie Burchill, Jamie’s heart just wasn’t in it. Out­side the theatre, sport­ing a full beard as if to dis­tance him­self from the role of Chris­tian Grey, he kept telling the women who fan­ta­sise about him that he and his wife live in the coun­try­side with their two chil­dren.

Don’t tell us that! Your fans are try­ing to shore them­selves up against hus­bands who’ve reached 60 with­out know­ing the lo­ca­tion of the G-spot or the stop­cock (men are now both im­po­tent and use­less) and hav­ing noth­ing to look for­ward to but poverty and de­men­tia. We sat through 18 episodes of you in The Fall – twice – just to make it, alive and vaguely sane, to this se­cond cin­e­matic in­stal­ment. At least keep up the pre­tence of ruth­less de­sir­abil­ity for five min­utes.

I felt pa­tro­n­ised by the film, treated as though I’m a lit­tle girl. The film is a par­ody from a male screen­writer and male di­rec­tor of what they think fe­male sex­u­al­ity should be rather than what it is: dirty, and de­mand­ing.

PLUS I felt I’d been trans­ported back to the 1970s: the ma­tri­archs (what has hap­pened to Kim Basinger, who plays the Mrs Robin­son char­ac­ter? She seems to have bought more teeth) are so car­toon­ish they are like some­thing out of Dal­las, the act­ing as wooden as… well, we’ll never find out, will we?

I’m sure this film will still get ham­mered by fem­i­nists, keen to see Anas­ta­sia es­cape her shack­les and grow some balls of her own. But I’m shred­ding it for pre­cisely the op­po­site rea­son: there is AB­SO­LUTELY NO SEX in the film: no chem­istry, no bi­ol­ogy. Why it’s cer­tifi­cate 18, I’ve no idea; I’ve been more aroused by Pingu. The books sold in their millions be­cause E.L. James recog­nises women are in­tel­li­gent enough to sep­a­rate fan­tasy from re­al­ity. We have needs not sat­is­fied by Waitrose, Poldark, De­li­ciously Ella and all the other ‘good’ things we’re sup­posed to fill our time with.

Ana en­joys the rough sex in the books, but in the film all she does is coo over an en­gage­ment ring, like a char­ac­ter in a Woman’s Realm se­rial.

We might make men take pa­ter­nity leave and learn which re­cy­cling bin is which, but in our heads we want them to flip us, like a pan­cake. Be­cause men have been re­duced to mere guests in our homes, emas­cu­lated lumps to be tol­er­ated, bossed around in a way our mums never dreamed of boss­ing our dads around, we need some­thing like Fifty Shades to fill the yawn­ing gap.

But like any woman with an in­ter­est in sex, we’re be­ing pun­ished for it. The hero­ine of the afore­men­tioned The Fall got her come­up­pance for dar­ing to have a vo­ra­cious sex­ual ap­petite in her late 40s by end­ing the se­ries with only a glass of red for com­pany. In Ap­ple Tree Yard, the 52-year-old Emily Watson was raped, then threat­ened with jail for dar­ing to have an af­fair.

And the core fans of Fifty Shades, older women like me who are sex starved in real life, end­lessly dis­ap­pointed by real men, have been thor­oughly shafted by a movie that’s meant to be on our side. If I’d paid to see this trav­esty, I’d be de­mand­ing my money back.

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