An Open Letter to Dakota Johnson

by thethreepennyguignol

This week, when she was asked about the critics who saw abuse in Fifty Shades of Grey, Dakota Johnson- the star of the recently-released movie adaptation- replied “I think that is an uneducated opinion…..Maybe because I know more about the BDSM world, so it makes sense to me, but everything that these characters do, they make the decision to do it.”.

And Dakota, we need to talk. Because you are a pretty talented young actress, the best thing about that train wreck of a movie, and you’ve spoken out a couple of times to say that you vehemently don’t believe the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy promotes abuse. I’m not surprised to hear this opinion from you, because you’re the star of this film which is being sold as a romance flick, so you can’t very well come out and announce that you think the whole thing is pretty questionable, actually. The last thing anyone involved with this film needs is for it’s star to turn around and say yes, the relationship depicted in the book and the film is extremely troublesome and not something to aspire to at all. It’s in everyone’s best interests to keep you blinkered about the critics of the series, lest you agree with them- and that might sound patronising, but if you seriously believe people are conflating abuse and BDSM and that’s where the critics are finding the abusive elements of the story, you clearly haven’t had a proper look at why people are so against the series. Add to that the inevitable amount of time you’ve probably spent with EL James and her utterly blinkered views of the criticism of her masterwork, and I’m even less surprised to hear the “BDSM isn’t abuse, and those criticising the books are just confusing the two because they don’t know any better”. I feel like it’s important we let you know that it’s nothing to do with that, and here’s a link to a post someone in the BDSM community wrote about why Fifty Shades is a hideous representation of that kink. Shall we consider this study, wherein a bunch of uneducated trolls with nothing better to do at the University of Ohio analysed the book from a scientific standpoint and found abuse present in nearly every single interaction? Shall we take a look at some testimonies from the survivors of abuse who are watching with horror as their own experiences are repackaged and sold back to them as a love story, who are being implicitly told that if they’d been as “strong” as Ana they could have fixed their abusive partner and lived happily ever after? Shall we look at the scene in the movie where Christian hefts Ana over his shoulder, before any boundaries have been formally established, and hits her on the backside because he’s furious that he planned a trip away without consulting him? As a BDSM expert yourself, I’d hope you know that hitting someone outside of an established, thoroughly-discussed, mutually-agreed upon scenario is abuse, and hitting your partner to take out your anger is always abuse no matter what the situation. Whenever you start defending it as just a movie, or just a book, you’re removing the right of critics- who include DV survivors, DV experts, and actual members of the BDSM community- to shine a light on some of the bloody dangerous things the book (and yes, the movie too) propogates. You’d think, in between all those hours spent becoming an expert in BDSM, you might have bothered looking up why people consider this story abusive.

(proper Friday post coming later today, just had to get this off my chest)