by Carissa Ainslie
“Fifty Shades of fucked up” is not just one way to describe the film Fifty Shades of Grey — it’s actually a line from the movie, which made it so easy for a bunch of feminists to destroy it on Wednesday night at the Revue Cinema in Toronto.
Drunk Feminist Films began as a web series that recorded its founders — Shaunna, Gillian, Amy and Steph — playing feminist themed drinking games that critiqued big Hollywood films. This time, they went public with a live screening of Fifty Shades of Grey that sold out the 200+ seat Revue in less than 24 hours.
The screening kicked off with an intro from the collective, who announced that they are officially partnering with Revue Theatre to make Drunk Feminist Films a bi-monthly occurrence.
They were followed by a “resident BDSM expert” — game designer/artist/writer/badass Soha Kareem (who also wrote our Issue 67 cover story on Twine, read it here!). Kareem gave the audience the low down on what a healthy BDSM relationship looks like (communication, checking in, aftercare!) and explained that this is a far cry from the relationship depicted in the film we were all about to watch. “I want to stress that the tactics in this film are downright abusive,” she said, to cheers from the audience. “If you meet someone like Christian Grey, run the fuck away!”
With that, the film began, and the hooting, hollering and tampon-swinging commenced. The behaviour encouraged by the hosts was the exact opposite of what is expected in the traditional theatre going experience – audience members talked back, groaned at the movie’s most cringe-worthy lines (and there are many, including the utterly excerable “Laters, baby”) and cheered (and swung tampons like lassos) when the film’s female protagonist Anastasia Steele showed agency.
The event program also contained a list of prompts for the audience to shout during certain moments of the film – for example, we yelled “Broformance” every time a man in the film committed a feat of strength to demonstrate his manliness, “My Hero” every time a male character “saved” Anastasia, and “Lip Slip” – denoting every time Anastasia bit her lip, touched her lip or chewed on a pencil.
Most importantly, we really appreciated the literature that accompanied the program, including a glossary that defined “BDSM” and “consent”, and the obvious care that was taken by Kareem and the organizers to stress: BDSM isn’t bad, or evil, or unhealthy. It’s the emotional abuse that surrounds Christian Grey’s interactions with Anastasia – the mind games, the lack of checking in, the lack of aftercare and support – that makes this movie an inaccurate – and harmful – depiction of a BDSM relationship.
The audience was told to live tweet their comments and communicate their disgust at what can only be described as the worst movie ever, and the event ended up trending third in Canada. The format of deconstructing films by a room full of feminists works, especially if a bit of booze is thrown in to loosen the tongue. Catch the next event when Drunk Feminist Films screens Bridesmaids on June 17th.