“Fifty Shades of Grey:” SWOT Analysis

'Fifty Shades of Grey' still (E!Online)

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ still (E!Online)

This week, we’re examining different aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in preparation for the upcoming movie, opening on Feb. 13th. 

We’re only a few days away from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie opening, so let’s look at the movie via a SWOT analysis. Used in strategic planning in business, SWOT analysis evaluates nuances of a project (specifically, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and how they play into how a team approaches the project.

I wanted to see what the film could accomplish, especially aspects that the book couldn’t, and how sex education could play a role.



By now, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a household name. Even if you haven’t read it, you’ve heard about it to the point that you could tell the storyline in a sentence or two. (Bland virgin meets billionaire into BDSM. Lots of sex and bad writing ensue.)

It has the power of name-brand recognition behind it. Since it’s female-driven (and written) erotica, women will more likely go see the movie more than men.

Another point in the movie’s favor is that women are gracing the director’s and screenwriter’s chairs: This will be Sam Taylor-Johnson’s (formerly Taylor-Wood) second feature, after her directorial debut “Nowhere Boy” was released in 2009. Screenwriter Kelly Marcel has previously written “Saving Mr. Banks” and the “Terra Nova” pilot.

But will the movie do what the book didn’t: educate movie-goers on how BDSM really works?



The book took some serious liberties with portraying BDSM and its practitioners (represented as a monolith by Christian Grey). Chief concern among them was depicting BDSM enthusiasts as victims of sexual trauma, and that they cannot have “normal” relationships. Audiences might assume that the movie will also falter in addressing these issues.

There’s also the point of the writing. The terrible, terrible writing. Marcel might be able to only do so much in her adaptation, and that may very well show onscreen.



The movie has the potential to do some good. It could clear up the aforementioned misconceptions about The Lifestyle that the book puts forth, and therefore could be a learning opportunity for audiences who previously had no experience and/or knowledge of BDSM. But, again, the operative word is “could.”

The upcoming movie also has the opportunity to be a mainstream erotic film with a strong female presence behind the camera (noted above in “Strengths”). This could point to a more sensitive handling of the subject matter. Considering the book has been derided for being “mommy porn,” the movie could potentially aid in leveling the playing field in depicting womens’ sexuality onscreen. If it goes well, it could open the door for more erotic films with a more-female friendly bent, as well as more mainstream erotic films.



As mentioned above in “Weaknesses,” the books have already given readers an inaccurate impression of BDSM’s nuances and practitioners. The movie could continue to give audiences the wrong information, and come off as a Did Not Do The Research cautionary tale as much as the book has.

Given the source material, this movie could be really, laughably bad. And that would be really troubling. This would be harmful to the status of mainstream erotic films, particularly those covering BDSM. The last one was “Secretary” in 2002. It’s bad enough that we’ve had to wait 13 years for another one. But if “Fifty Shades of Grey” doesn’t deliver, we may be looking at another 13 years or even longer.

There’s also the issue that there are women in prominent behind-the-camera positions on this movie (see “Strengths”). Much has been made recently about the dearth of women directors, and behind the camera in general. But if the movie fails, then there might be less of a chance for women behind the camera.


Heavy stuff here. Let’s hope “Fifty Shades of Grey” doesn’t screw it up, not just for itself (and us), but for the future of women in film and mainstream erotic movies.


One thought on ““Fifty Shades of Grey:” SWOT Analysis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s