‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’: Ratings Down, Sales Up — Making Erotica Mainstream

Fifty Shades Of Grey has made erotica acceptable

Fifty Shades Of Grey continues to bring in large audiences — and terrible reviews. Across social media, it seems that almost everyone is either explaining why the movie should be boycotted or announcing that they’ve bought tickets. What exactly is it about this movie, and the book it’s based on, that makes it simultaneously so popular and so intensely disliked?

According to USA Today, Fifty Shades has topped the box office for a second weekend, and has recorded over $400 million in ticket sales worldwide.

Yet reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, and MetaCritic have given it terrible ratings — as of this writing, they list it at 1.5, 2, and 2.5 stars, respectively.

Reviews of Fifty Shades include such statements as this, from Josh Kupeki of the Austin Chronicle.

“It’s a bondage movie without much perversion, a love story without much passion, and ultimately, a film burdened with expectations it could never fulfill.”

There are calls to boycott Fifty Shades over its sexual content, calls to boycott it because it misrepresents bondage and sub/dom relationships, and more calls to boycott from people who say it depicts rape, rather than a consensual relationship, or that it portrays domestic abuse as loving and sexy.

So, why is Fifty Shades Of Grey still such a success, with so many terrible reviews, and so many people calling to avoid it for a wide array of moral concerns?

Fifty Shades Of Grey has done something that is new and different: it’s made erotica mainstream. There have been porn movies for perhaps as long as there have been movies, and there have always been romance novels that straddled the line, as well as outright erotica. There have always been purchasers of all of this material.

However, Fifty Shades might represent the first open erotica (not disguised as a romance novel, with sex scenes relegated to a handful of pages at the 3/4 mark) that’s been socially acceptable to read on the bus, and to pass on to friends.

Theaters that show pornographic movies have been around, but Fifty Shades may represent the first time that women have been able to openly buy tickets and attend, and talk about on Facebook, without shame or fear of social consequences.

While critics decry the writing in the Fifty Shades novels, and the content of its covers, there’s one thing the S&M sensation has going for it without a doubt: timing. Fifty Shades Of Grey is the first erotic novel and movie to be this level of mainstream — and whatever you think of it, it’s propped the door open for the next one, and the one after that.

[Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images]