The last trailer for Fifty Shades Freed dropped a bombshell: Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) discovers she’s pregnant. Of course, this is old news for anyone who read E.L. James’s trilogy of erotic novels, which concludes with Ana and kinky billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) starting a family. Those who read the books might also remember that Ana’s pregnancy inspires some of the series’ most cringe-worthy passages. And if those moments make it intact to the big screen, it could turn a frothy erotic drama into a highly unpleasant viewing experience.
The third book, published in 2012, begins with Christian and Ana on their honeymoon. At this point, Ana has come to enjoy Christian’s passion for sexual domination, which (as anyone who saw Fifty Shades of Grey will recall) was a dealbreaker at first. However, she’s still bristling at his hyper-controlling nature. Her new husband insists that she change her name, travel with a security detail, tell him her whereabouts at all times, and use his preferred form of birth control, the Depo-Provera shot.
Unfortunately, that particular birth control method works only if the woman remembers to get the injections every couple of months. Ana forgetfully puts off her doctor’s appointment for a couple of weeks and, boom, she’s pregnant. (“Looks like the shot ran out early. Oh well, that happens sometimes,” says her doctor, the world’s least tactful OB.) Ana’s reaction to the pregnancy news is typical for her, in that it involves the phrase “Holy cow!” From that moment on, she refers to the unborn baby as “Little Blip,” in reference to how the heartbeat looked on the ultrasound.
Naming the fetus “Blip” is far from the worst thing James does with this storyline. When Ana gets up the courage to tell Christian about the pregnancy over dinner, her dream man reacts by banging his fist on the table and screaming at her. “I don’t f***ing believe it. How could you be so stupid?” he asks. He accuses her of getting pregnant on purpose. And then he walks out.
There’s a lot of justification for this behavior in the book. Christian has mommy issues. (He literally refers to his mother as “the crack whore.”) Christian is afraid to have children of his own. Christian doesn’t like surprises. But still — this reaction is actually horrifying. Does anyone going to Fifty Shades Freed for some Valentine’s Day escapism want to see the leading man yell at his terrified pregnant wife?
To James’s credit, Anastasia decides to leave Christian. Then some convoluted plot turns put their lives in danger and make them realize they were meant to be together, love will see them through, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, etc. Even then, Christian regards Ana’s pregnancy with outright hostility. “We have an invader,” he tells her. And then: “You’ll choose him over me.”
Ana patiently explains that babies are nice and good and generally well-liked. Eventually, Christian realizes that fatherhood might suit a newly married guy with all the money in the world. His decision to embrace the pregnancy is confirmed by an epilogue, in which he runs a leather flogger over Ana’s “swollen belly” before spanking her with it. And, yes, that is another image that the film could do without. (Get the whips away from the pregnant lady!)
James has a powerful producer position on the Fifty Shades films, so the first two films were ridiculously faithful to the books, and the third is likely to be the same. Hopefully director James Foley is smart enough to dial down Christian’s violent reactions and baby-hatred to a reasonable level. It would be a shame if audiences hated Dornan’s character too much to ogle him.
Fifty Shades Freed opens in theaters Friday.