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But How Gay is ‘Fifty Shades Freed’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is Fifty Shades Freed?

Like with Maze Runner: The Death Cure a few weeks ago, Freed is the wrap-up of a once-successful film franchise that’s seen much better days. Anastasia Steele is now Anastasia Grey, finally getting hitched to her whips-and-chains-addicted, wealthy-as-hell boyfriend, Christian Grey. They live in bliss except they have to deal with the reemergence of a shady figure from Ana’s past, Hyde.

How does it differ from the other Fifty Shades movies?

I confess to you that I once saw Fifty Shades of Grey, but only after getting so drunk on wine that I was impulsive enough to kiss my then-ex-boyfriend (we got back together after that! #LoveWins). So to say I’m sketchy on the details is an understatement. And, of course, I missed the whole second movie (Fifty Shades Darker). But from my understanding of the series, I thought it was mostly about BDSM and a relationship. This movie has said antagonist, Hyde, plus car chases, a kidnapping plot, and a lot of pop star Rita Ora. (She had, like, two lines in the first movie. I remember her muttering about Seattle baseball.)

Who’s in it?

Besides the surprisingly present Ora, Fifty Shades once again boasts Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as its leads. Johnson is, as ever, surprisingly funny in a dry way, at least when the script (adapted from E.L. James’ novel by Niall Leonard) allows her to be. Dornan, bless him, is extraordinarily hot, but ordinarily dull. It’s much the same dynamic as was present in Forever My Girl: talented actress with a gorgeous man.

Also, Marcia Gay Harden shows up for about two scenes as Christian’s adoptive mother. She is to this movie what Patricia Clarkson was to Maze Runner.

Why should I see it?

I mean, if you’ve seen the two others, might as well wrap up the series. If you’re a Fifty Shades virgin, you should probably stay that way. There’s not much to recommend here, aside from a couple good Johnson lines and a few eye-roll-worthy plot developments.

But how gay is it?

It’s frustratingly hetero. You’d think a movie that claims to be so experimental about sex would be a bit more flexible when it comes to sexuality. But no, no gays here. The best I can offer you is Dornan’s remarkable pecs, the mere presence of Harden, and a particularly great pantsuit Johnson wears in one scene. It’s funny, though: For as sexy as the movie wants to be, it’s also quite conservative.

Conservative? How so?

So, spoiler alert for a movie that’s adapted from a book that’s been out since 2012, but: Ana gets pregnant. It’s unplanned, and pretty directly against Christian’s expressed desires. But when the subject comes up, the idea of having an abortion is not even mentioned in passing. That would be understandable, of course, if Christian and Ana were especially religious, or if they were thrilled by the pregnancy. But Christian very much doesn’t want the child, and Ana’s counterargument is, in essence, ‘Too bad, they’re coming.’ They don’t even bring an abortion up just to shoot down the idea. It gives the feeling that, in the Fifty Shades world, choice isn’t a choice at all. It may not be noticeable for other audience members, but it really stuck out to me.

How hot is this movie?

I don’t know what exactly this says about me, but all the BDSM scenes kinda did nothing for me, while a single scene involving Ben & Jerry’s ice cream eaten off each other got me going. So I may not be the best judge. (But if you do wanna listen to me, that one scene has more spark and chemistry than the rest of the film combined.)

Do we stan Dakota Johnson?

We sure do! She’s really much sharper than the other people involved in this series, and I’m still not over her trying to see how Angelina Jolie reacted to Jennifer Aniston at the Golden Globes. That shit was gold. I want the world for Johnson.

How happy do you think Johnson and Dornan are now that this series is over?

So fucking happy.

Fifty Shades Freed is in theaters now.


Kevin O'Keeffe

Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer and 'RuPaul's Drag Race' herstorian. He covers film and TV for INTO, and writes the movie review column "But How Gay Is It?" every Friday.

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