Seattle in the Movies

Fifty Shades of Grey: Is It 50 Shades of Terrible?

Floggers, pencil skirts, and that oh-so-sexy I-5 and I-90 Interchange.

By Angela Cabotaje

Just another billionaire creeping on a college student. 

Years before Dakota Johnson became known for her Coldplay canoodling, she was literally faking it in Fifty Shades of Grey as a recent WSU Vancouver grad drawn into an emotionally confusing dominant-submissive relationship with 27-year-old Seattle billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).

Grey's mere existence in Seattle isn't even the unrealistic part, seeing as our city has its fair share of billionaires who joined the three comma club young—Bill Gates at 31 and Jeff Bezos at 35. Here's what Fifty Shades got right (and oh so wrong) about Seattle.

The Basics

English lit major Anastasia (Ana) Steele—filling in for her flu-ridden, journalism student, best-friend-slash-roommate Kate Kavanagh—interviews Christian Grey for the student paper. She's awkward; he's inexplicably taken with the way she can chew a pencil eraser and bite her lower lip. 

Then in the ultimate billionaire flex, Christian orchestrates several "chance" encounters until their chemistry bubbles over. He asks Ana to sign a nondisclosure agreement and then promptly reveals he's not looking for romance but instead wants a sexual dominant-submissive relationship. There's a contract. There's a playroom stocked with floggers, whips, and blindfolds. And there's a heck of a lot of fornication.

While Ana explores her newfound sexuality with BDSM, she falls in love with her billionaire dominant and seeks to find what's beneath his controlling exterior. Fifty Shades, for those who are at all invested in these characters' happiness and ability to copulate into the sunset, is the first in a trilogy and ends on a climax-killing cliffhanger.

What Fifty Shades of Grey Gets Right about Seattle

The Fifty Shades world bounces between Vancouver, Washington, and Seattle, but unfortunately, it's the Vancouver north of the border that seems to get more actual screen time

Sure, there are more than a few illuminated views of that I-5 and I-90 interchange at night, a casual Mariners reference, exterior glimpses of the Escala condo building, and even a quick shot of Ana driving her beat-up Volkswagen Beetle on the viaduct (RIP viaduct)...but that's pretty much all that's Seattle about this movie.

What Fifty Shades of Grey Gets Wrong about Seattle

Was the first clue when Christian goes running during the opening credits in what is clearly Stanley Park?

Or was it when Ana, flustered after her interview, walks out of Christian's office building into the Seattle rain? Half the people on the street rush by huddled under black umbrellas, nary an orange-and-white Amazon monstrosity to be found. The other half scurry about in hoodless trench coats.

Seattle Style Files

Leaning hard into the erotic side of Fifty Shades, the filmmakers seem to have dressed practically every woman in pencil skirts and stilettos (Seattle sidewalks and hills be damned). Ana at one point wears a pussy bow dress, and not ironically. Blundstones and Doc Martens appear to never have been invented in this Seattle—and let's not even get into the lack of weather-appropriate outerwear or the fact that Ana appears to wear flats on an impromptu hike. 

Is Fifty Shades of Grey a Seattle Movie?

Time to use the safe word. I mean, nope. Seattle is the mere backdrop for lots of sex in a rich guy's penthouse. Which begs the question: Why does Hollywood think Seattle's sexy?

The Grade

The sex scenes are plentiful, averaging about one every 15 minutes during the two-hours-and-change runtime. But the robotic dialogue, stoic delivery, unrealistic character development, and just plain bad depiction of Seattle handcuffs this one. Final grade: one out of fifty gray neckties.

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