Fifty Shades of Grey: Representations and Merchandising

Abigail Reed


This article interrogates the ideological messages concerning alternative sexuality furthered through Fifty Shades of Grey merchandise. Using critical political economy of media and feminist political economy of media as frameworks, the analysis is framed within a discussion regarding women’s empowerment and sexual wellbeing. The corporate interests producing both the Fifty Shades of Grey film trilogy, the narrative’s representation of BDSM relationships, and the official merchandise are examined to determine how the franchise reflects corporate interests and ideological goals. Next, exemplary merchandise is analysed to question how the products may or may not support the ideological and financial goals of corporate interests. The conclusion finds that the merchandise, working in tandem with the texts themselves and corporate intentions, spreads potentially dangerous misinformation about alternative sexualities (e.g. BDSM), reifies consumption as the avenue toward empowerment and sexual satisfaction, and highlights dangerous heteronormative ideologies which marginalize non-normative sexualities and romance.

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