Does Rihanna not exist in this universe?
Credit: Doane Gregory

The third movie in the Fifty Shades saga — really, this is a saga — comes out Feb. 9, just in time for ironic Valentine’s Day plans. Thus, I — an entertainment writer and self-respecting lover of terrible movies — have decided it’s high time to finally watch them, taking on Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker in the weeks before the finale comes to theaters so that I’ll be ready when things finally… climax.

If you haven’t read my questions about Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s probably in your own best interest to start here.

Fifty Shades Darker, the second film in the epic Fifty Shades trilogy, takes place a few weeks after the events of the last film, where Anastasia decided to leave Christian when she realized he gets off on hurting her. Now that she’s a college graduate, she has a job as an assistant at a publishing house. That’s where we begin. These movies are the very boring story of a girl getting a job and succeeding improbably in her career, and enjoying a consensual relationship with a man she met and goes on dates with. There’s a subplot where a jealous ex who’s still in love with Christian stalks Anastasia, and where Anastasia’s boss is actually a sexual harassing maniac but no one gets hurt, and both of those issues are pretty easily resolved by Christian being rich and powerful. Also, Christian gets in a helicopter crash but he survives.

Still, just because movies are boring doesn’t mean we don’t have questions about them. Questions like:

How would her boss ever know what sort of tea she drinks with that specificity?

When Ana shows up for her first day of work as the assistant to Jack Hyde, Jack arrives a few minutes after her, bringing tea. “Tea, right?” he says as he drops off the cup. “Weak, black?” Ana thanks him — he got her order right. It is nice for a boss to bring a new employee a hot beverage on their first day of work. It is insane to me that Jack somehow knows not only that she drinks tea, but exactly how she takes it.

In what social circumstance would that information ever be revealed? I have interviewed for several jobs, and not once has the actual person I’m interviewing with asked about my beverage preferences. It is possible she came in to interview for the job and she was offered tea, which she accepted, but it is almost a guarantee in a major publishing house that the person who would have asked her that would have been the receptionist. And why would she specify that she wants her tea weak?

Imagine being 22 and going to a job interview for a position you really want. Someone asks you if you want a cup of coffee or tea. Instead of politely declining, you say yes, and then add specifications.

How does Jack know how she takes her tea?! Maybe he was stalking her on social media, and maybe Ana has a weird thing on Instagram where she describes the strength of the tea she posts (she does seem like the type of girl who would post pictures of her tea), but then the fact that Jack regurgitates that information back at her should have been a major, and early, red flag.

Ana doesn’t even ask him how he knows how she likes her tea. She just floats through life, assuming every older rich man she ever meets knows everything about her in case they want to bring her free things.

Wow, they kept Danny Elfman?

A real question I asked out loud to myself as the opening credits appeared! Yes, Danny Elfman does the score for the Fifty Shades of Grey movies.

Why would Anastasia’s roommate send her a video message?

Ana’s roommate is on vacation with Christian’s brother, whom she’s dating, and she sent Ana a video message just to say hi (and to provide some helpful exposition for the audience as to who she is and what her purpose is in this film).

Never in my entire life have I ever emailed a video message to a friend just to say hi while I’m on vacation or something. This movie came out in 2014: maybe Ana’s roommate would have sent her a Snapchat video. It is surreal to me to imagine that Kate would think, “How best to get in touch with my best friend?” and answered to herself, “I know, a one-way video message!” If she gets internet access to send a video, she has the ability to Skype or FaceTime. Or text!

And how does Kate not know that Ana and Christian broke up? From what we’ve seen, Kate is her only friend. She is close enough with Kate to kiss her on the head, and share sandwiches. She didn’t tell her that the only major relationship in her life ended? Kate’s lack of knowledge is especially weird given she’s dating Christian’s brother. Did Christian not tell his family they broke up either? We know that isn’t true because later in the movie, his mom tells Ana how lost Christian was without her. So why is this person so keen to get in touch that she’ll send video messages but not know basic information about her best friend’s life?

Why does Christian continue to let Anastasia associate with José?

Christian has literally two personality traits: he’s into BDSM, and he’s incredibly protective. In the last movie, Anastasia got drunk at a bar, and her friend José uncomfortably tried to pressure her into kissing him. He was so aggressive that Christian had to physically force him away from her.

Yet in this movie, Christian does not say a word about Anastasia’s continued friendship with him! Christian shows up to José’s gallery opening because he (correctly) assumed he’d see Ana there, and not only does he not mention her friend’s attempted sexual assault, but he buys six of his photographs. He is financing his art career! It’s also worth mentioning that José’s “art” is just photographs of Ana that could be generic headshots, but mediocre art isn’t a crime like sexual assault is.

What does Ana think the S in S&M stands for?

In case you forgot, here is what happened at the end of the previous film: Ana asked Christian to show her “how far” the BDSM thing can go. He said he was going to spank her six times. He spanked her six times. She never said either of her safe words, and then got furious that he was turned on. She broke up with him.

Breaking up with someone because your sexual interests don’t align is valid, but it’s a little strange to me that Anastasia views getting turned on by inflicting pain as a major psychological defect. Sadism is literally what the S in S&M stands for. Does Rihanna not exist in this universe? It is a fairly common sexual fetish. “You were getting off on the pain you inflicted! That’s still in you,” Ana says, because apparently she had assumed Christian’s entire sex dungeon was for not sexually arousing him. And rather than explain the basic premise of BDSM or agree that perhaps they are too different to have a mutually satisfying relationship, Christian apologizes! “I’m working on it!” he says.

Later in the movie, Christian treats being a sadist like it’s this big, terrible revelation: “I’m not a dominant. I’m a sadist,” he says, head hung. That’s not… a worse thing in a consensual sexual context. This is a movie in which the audience is supposed to get turned on by BDSM, which also posits that getting turned on by BDSM is disgusting and terrible.

Christian buys her ANOTHER computer?

Didn’t he just get her a new computer in the last movie? How many computers does a 22 year old need? What is she doing with these computers to go through them so fast? Does she have to ride a log flume to get to work every day?

I thought Anastasia’s favorite author was Hardy?

The first time she meets Christian Grey, he asks her whether it was Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, or Thomas Hardy who made her first fall in love with literature, and she answers Hardy, which surprises Christian because he would have pegged her for a Jane Austen girl. Sure. And yet, in this movie, while they’re in bed together, Christian asks why she waited so long to lose her virginity and Ana answers, “I was reading Austen and Bronte and nobody ever measured up to that.” Okay, but those were literally the two authors you said didn’t make you fall in love with English literature in the last movie. Did the person writing this movie not see the last one? My guess is they did watch the last one but with something else going on in the background so they were a little distracted during that scene and just caught the gist.

Wasn’t Ana amazing at making breakfast?

In the last movie, after sleeping with Christian, she wakes up in his apartment and cooks an elaborate breakfast in his kitchen. This movie, they’re at her place and she says, “There’s not much for breakfast, unless you want cold stir-fry.”

What is Ana’s personality?! Is she someone who’s great at cooking, who would easily whip together pancakes and eggs in a strange kitchen, or is she a messy millennial who doesn’t stock her kitchen and would serve cold stir-fry? It’s not that not having breakfast food in your kitchen is bad or wrong, it’s that it doesn’t seem consistent with the type of person Ana is supposed to be. It’s almost like she’s not a person at all, just a floating, girl-sized blob who does and says whatever generic or funny thing is easy to fit into a script at that very moment.

Okay, how exactly is Anastasia different from the other girls?

Ana learns Christian has a private investigator file on her (creepy) and he’s had a series of submissives who look just like her. “You’re different from the other girls!” Christian proclaims.

Okay. How, exactly, is Ana different from the other girls? She is a 22-year-old English major who works as an assistant. She’s pretty, and seems smart enough, but she’s not extraordinary at anything. She and Christian went on a grand total of about three dates and they seemed to have gotten along, but nothing was amazing or boundary-pushing — exactly the opposite. She needed him to go super easy on her and didn’t want to engage as a submissive. Is that why she’s different? Because she’s not interested in BDSM?

The film wants us to believe that, no, she’s different because he’s in love with her, and her not being interested in BDSM is something he’s willing to graciously overcome because he loves her so much. And yet, it seems to me the only real difference between Ana and anyone else Christian has had a relationship with is that she’s less agreeable. Is that what he’s wanted in a partner this whole time? Someone who’s able to say, “Actually, I’m a little uncomfortable with all of this.”

This is not the basis of a healthy relationship.

Anastasia should really wear her underwear above her garter belt.

This is a comment, not a question, but it still stands.

As part of the wish-fulfillment princess makeover bonanza that is having a wealthy boyfriend, Christian buys Anastasia some nice lingerie to wear under the fancy dress he bought her. That lingerie includes stockings and a garter belt, which Anastasia puts on — over her underwear. I understand that at first blush it might seem like that’s the order that makes sense, and it could be, if you’re being photographed or something, but if you’re actually wearing lingerie, you want to keep your underwear on top so you can go to the bathroom. Now, if Ana needs to go to the bathroom, she will need to unfasten the clasps on her stockings to pull down her underwear, which is a huge hassle. Again, not a question, just a comment.

How did the lipstick not get all over Christian’s shirt?

Part of Christian being Complicated and Damaged is that he won’t let anyone touch his body. He has Ana draw a big square on his torso in red lipstick — an area where she’s not allowed to touch — and then he puts on a white shirt to go to the big gala party. Later that night, after they leave the party, Ana and Christian shower together and she wipes off the lipstick square.

How did it not smudge on his shirt? How was the shirt not stained red? How did the lipstick not bleed through the fabric? What? What? What? I do not understand.

Why doesn’t Anastasia mention to Christian that the trip to New York is for the Book Expo?

Christian is controlling and jealous, and so when Anastasia mentions that her new boss asked her to accompany him to New York, Christian says she isn’t allowed to go. First of all, bad: that’s her job, and work trips are a thing that exist in jobs. Even if Christian heard rumors about Ana’s new boss, they would definitely be staying in separate rooms in New York, because Ana, as Jack’s assistant, would book the rooms. Besides, Ana and Jack already work together in Seattle every single day.

Ana tells Christian she needs to go to New York, but she doesn’t mention that it’s for the Book Expo, which is a real thing that exists and is important in the publishing world, an event that Ana, as an aspiring editor, would no doubt be interested in attending. Christian makes it sound like Jack invited her for a sightseeing trip. “Wouldn’t you rather see New York with me?” Christian demands. And it’s like, sure, but there is this event she has to attend for her job. Eventually, Ana does give in and tells Jack she can’t go because it’s too short notice, but it seems very weird it wasn’t more important to her.

Isn’t it creepy that Christian named his boat after his mom?

The boat is named The Grace. His adoptive mom is named Grace. We know he has weird mother issues around his birth mother, but this is weird too, yes?

In what universe do editor’s meetings work that way?

Jack gets fired for sexual harassment, and for some reason, Ana gets sent to the editor’s meeting in his place. Here is how Fifty Shades thinks book editor’s meetings work: all of the editors agree that they will only publish big name authors who make a lot of money. Anastasia Steele, the lowly assistant, in a moment of 12 Angry Men-esque moral courage, says, “What if we instead…. took a chance? What if we published this book I liked from an author who has a very established platform online?” She is a Genius and everyone loves her.

Publishing companies do not work that way. Publishing companies have weekly acquisition meetings where editors can bring in presentations about manuscripts they want to acquire. The room understands that some books are riskier than others, and everyone discusses whether they should make an offer.

First of all, an assistant would not have the power to acquire a manuscript just because she is sitting in on a meeting in place of her disgraced boss especially without an actual presentation that she put together. And “publishing new voices” is not a brilliant or insightful idea: that’s the very model of publishing houses. They publish some sure things and some riskier new books to have a diverse portfolio. And this is an independent publishing house! “SIP”! The “I” stands for Independent. What independent publishing house doesn’t take on new authors?


Forgive me for shouting, it’s just I am furious. Anastasia has been working at this company for about a year or less. We know this because she graduated college, presumably in May or June, and then spent some weeks pining after Christian before starting a new job, maybe summer or early fall. She worked for Jack Hyde until the following spring, which we know because the Book Expo is usually around May. We definitely know she didn’t work for him for over a year because he’s gone before Christian’s birthday in June.

In what universe would a new employee who just graduated from college and who spent less than a year working as an assistant be promoted to executive editor because her boss gets fired? Jobs don’t transfer loyalty like the goddamn Elder Wand.

Does this company have no junior or associate editors? Or no one they want to hire from an outside company? Maybe someone with any editorial experience? And this company has people who have worked there longer than Anastasia: Hannah, the black girl who works at the nearby desk. “Am I expected to call you Ms. Steele?” Hannah politely asks the woman who just weeks before had been her subordinate.

This is secretly a film about racism. Literally imagine this scenario from Hannah’s perspective for one second. You’ve been working at this job for a while. They hire this new random white girl whose rich boyfriend buys the company. She works there for eight months, her boss is fired for sexual harassment, and she becomes the executive editor. I would sue everyone in the building. I would sue the building itself.

What information did Jack Hyde get from taking a picture of the photo of Christian’s family?

So, Jack Hyde, Ana’s former boss, is jealous and angry at Christian for dating the girl he had a crush on and then for getting him fired. He (presumably) snuck into Christian’s parent’s masked gala at their home — or he was invited, it doesn’t matter — and he takes a creepy shot on his cellphone of one of the family photographs on the wall.

Sure, it’s creepy, but why did he do that? Why did he need a photograph of the Grey family? They’re basically public figures — they’re very famous and successful. Christian has two prominent adoptive parents, and two socialite siblings. This is all information that someone could find very easily online. I get that in the context of this film it communicates that he’s creepy, but seriously, logistically, what purpose does having electronic access to that family photo serve?

Maybe it depicts their home or one of their properties in the background and he wants to be able to find it, you might think. I thought that too. Nope, no house is visible in the background. And again, these are incredibly wealthy, prominent people and it’s probably pretty easy to learn about which properties they own anyway.

At the end of the film, it becomes even more inexplicable: Jack has a printed out copy of the photograph that he stares at, and then burns a hole through Christian’s face using a cigarette. Did he print out that picture just so he could do that? Are you really telling me this adult man took the picture on his phone, emailed it to himself, downloaded the attachment, and printed the photo on his home printer just for the sole purpose of dramatically looking down at it and burning a cigarette through it? What a waste of toner for petty dramatics!

Fifty Shades Darker
  • Movie
  • 118 minutes