It is a truth universally acknowledged that, since the days of Austen and Bronte, there have been various tropes – overused themes, weaving their way through our favorite works of cinema and literature. The Fifty Shades trilogy is no exception.
With great anticipation for the third installment While biding my time, waiting for act three I watched Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker this weekend.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day as well as Fifty Shades Freed now being out in theatres, what could be more fun than examining the Love Tropes infecting the Fifty Shades Franchise, and to help you, dear reader, avoid passion’s pitfalls along the way?
Christian Grey is the quintessential Hurting Hero.
With each tidbit of information that Ana wrests from him about his troubled past, we, the viewers, are subliminally instructed to forgive his crimes and snuggle (hey–this is G-rated post) the sociopath out of him.
We can overlook all manner of misdeeds, like having his love interest followed, accessing banking information without permission, and pouring seemingly endless glasses of expensive wine without ever touching a drop (did anyone else notice that, or was it just me?).
There is a tremendous romantic slippery slope going on here.
It’s one thing to be understanding toward a partner who acknowledges his or her difficulties and is actively trying to work on them. It is wholly another story to forgive all manner of mistreatment because of your belief that it comes from a valid place.
So why does our anti-hero pledge to give up his BDSM ways, let Ana into his American Psycho-esque world, and pledge his undying love to her?
I Love You Because I Can’t Control You
Let’s visit our second, well-worn like a comfy slipper, trope of the day – I Love You Because I Can’t Control You.
Ana has the audacity to say things like “maybe,” “I have to think about it,” and “I’ll have the quinoa salad.” Obviously bowled over by her independence and affinity for grains, our Hurting Hero has found an untamable equal and happily settles into the life he’d sworn off. This can set off a host of distorted beliefs about how relationships operate.
If you’re only attracted to people who reject you, it’s time to take a look at your core beliefs to determine what might be getting in the way of forming a more lasting, fulfilling romantic attachment.
Brooding Boy/Gentle Girl
Of course, this would never have happened without a large dollop of Brooding Boy/Gentle Girl thrown into the mix. Ana doesn’t yell or stomp her feet, she is so unwaveringly kind and patient with Christian’s 50 Shades of Defensiveness that at one point, actual kittens riding atop unicorns began to spring forth from my television.
While mutual support is important in all relationships, romantic or otherwise, mutual is the key word here.
Not only does Ana not get any sort of emotional support from her relationship, this trope requires that she not need any either. All of the emotional energy in this relationship is funneled in one direction, and in the world outside of the silver screen, this would likely lead to disastrous consequences.
There’s a slightly different spin on the Deconfirmed Bachelor trope running throughout this trilogy.
Instead of a string of discarded extras, our Deconfirmed Bachelor, or DB, has a string of former submissives, contractually bound to keep quiet. They pop up from time to time, whether Ana conjures their images while looking at her new, creeptastic bedroom, or visiting a salon to be paraded before Mrs. Robinson.
Evidently, even though I’d committed to several hours of sub-soft core porn, towards the end of Fifty Shades Darker, one of those subs returns, and our DB and Gentle Girl find themselves in the middle of a thriller.
This trope has long been instructing women (and a few men!) that if we can just be cool enough, smart enough, eat enough quinoa salad, and learn to enjoy the occasional riding crop across the rear, that our frogs will turn into Prince Charmings to offer us our happily ever after. So, you subvert yourself, and when your frog hops away, you blame yourself. You forget that there are many princes out there who will love you, metaphorical warts and all.
Just like any good Austen heroine, Ms. Steele sticks true to form and concludes Darker by accepting a marriage proposal. But wait, there’s more!
Since Fifty Shades Freed was not yet in theaters as of the writing of this piece, I did what any intrepid author would do and read the Wikipedia synopsis of the third book. Our tour of trope land would not be complete without…
A Surprise Pregnancy!
Naturally, Christian is livid; how dare Ana to have the audacity to ovulate – it was clearly outside of the parameters of their contract. However, in the grand old tradition of Babies Make Everything Better, the arrival of mini Grey solidifies their now, vanilla union, and I suppose they live happily ever after.
If you’re involved in an already unhappy union, it’s not likely (read: impossible) that the addition of a tiny human who is incontinent, restless, and does not speak your language will somehow improve the status of your relationship. If this is something that you’re considering, it’s important to build a solid foundation first.
Whether you’re single or partnered, and whether you intend to spend February 14th indulging in chocolate or vanilla, it’s my hope that Christian and Ana have demonstrated how you can avoid the pitfalls and pain of romantic tropes.