The pop culture phenomena that followed the release of Twilight is something that can’t be forgotten, but what many don’t know is that Stephanie Meyers’ work inspired another popular book/film franchise – 50 Shades of Grey. Author EL James began writing her novels as fanfiction based on the popular vampire love story, but ultimately garnered enough attention that the cinematic universe of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele built a fanbase of its own. British filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson had the responsibility of directing the 2015 film based on James’ book, and she took a few creative liberties when bringing the story to life. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan were tapped to play the movie’s leads, the former a billionaire businessman and the latter an undergraduate student still holding onto her virginity. As a man of prestige, Christian isn’t typically one to pursue romance, but after a chance meeting with Ana, he can’t get the idea of having her as his sexual submissive out of his head.

The unlikely duo crosses paths after her roommate, Kate, falls ill, leaving Anastasia to head to Christian’s office and ask him some questions. Once she and him take note of the undeniable chemistry between them, it’s not long before Christian goes above and beyond to woo the latest object of his affection. Still, with minimal sexual experience under her belt, Johnson’s character wants to move cautiously with Christian, who gives her a contract to research full of information about BDSM dynamics.

Before she’s even agreed to his terms and conditions, the male lead begins treating his love interest like a submissive. She eventually gives in to his desires at her graduation ceremony, agreeing to let him dominate her, though it should be noted that he’s guilty of pushing her to make a decision and love-bombing her to seemingly influence her into saying yes. Many in the kink community don’t take kindly to this, and they didn’t hesitate to make it known after 50 Shades of Grey arrived in theatres in 2015. Keep reading to better understand the NSFW movie’s emotional ending and what we can learn about BDSM from Christian and Ana’s complicated relationship.

Does the ‘50 Shades of Grey’ Movie End Differently Than the Book?

The 50 Shades of Grey ending we see from Taylor-Johnson isn’t entirely different from what James originally wrote, though it is substantially more empowering for Anastasia. Having taken the worst of what Christian had to give in his “Red Room of Pain,” she’s no longer willing to continue in a relationship as his submissive. Onscreen, Johnson’s body language mimics that of an abuse victim after her partner goes particularly hard on her during a punishment session. He tries to convince her to stay in their complicated dynamic, but something is telling the young woman to run in the opposite direction.

Earlier on in the movie he sold her beloved Volkswagon Beetle to buy her a safer vehicle. Ever independent, Ana asks for the money Christian got from selling her car while returning the vehicle he nonconsensually purchased for her as a replacement. After their awkward exchange, he follows the brunette beauty to his private elevator and attempts to follow her in. At this moment, Taylor-Johnson fought for Ana to say “red,” her safeword in the bedroom with Christian, to prevent him from coming any closer. Interestingly, James refused this change and insisted the female lead say “stop” instead. This marks a long-awaited moment of strength for Anastasia, proving her mind is far away from the incessant games of pain and pleasure he wants her to engage in.

In the film’s final moments, he says “Anastasia” and she replies, “Christian,” mirroring their first-ever goodbye after she interviewed him for Kate. It’s abrupt, no doubt, but still preferable to reading about Anastasia’s return to her apartment where she’s overcome with emotion after parting ways with her toxic lover. What viewers love about the 50 Shades of Grey ending is how to allows Johnson’s character to feel empowered again after sacrificing her wants and needs to please a man.

What We Can Learn About BDSM and Sexual Expression From Christian and Ana

'50 Shades of Grey' Ending Explained pictured: Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan
(PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Christian Grey is a complex character, and he only becomes more so after we learn about his past with Mrs. Robinson, who began grooming the billionaire when he was just a teenage boy. She was his domme for six years, and he claims to have enjoyed the freedom he felt during this time in her control. After growing into manhood, he became a dominant figure for others, giving them the same cruel treatment and scars (physical and emotional) that were inflicted on him by his mother’s friend.

Because Christian has more sexual experience than Ana, he seems to see himself as wiser and more aligned with the “right” perspective on BDSM and kink. As a virgin, his lover is painted as a woman who’s ignorant due to sexual inexperience, but in reality, she’s the only character within 50 Shades of Grey that can recognize abuse for what it is. By invalidating her worries, Dornan’s character proves that he sees Anastasia as little more than a prize to be won, and certainly not someone capable of making sound decisions for herself.

There’s been debate around whether Chrisitan and Ana’s is a union worth glamorizing, but what most viewers and readers agree with is the villainization of Mrs. Robinson. We get to know her better in the next two movies, 50 Shades Darker (2017) and 50 Shades Freed (2018), but as Screen Rant points out, James’ franchise never addresses the inherent assumption that “only people with abusive pasts – whether a victim, perpetrator, or both – enjoy participating in BDSM.”

50 Shades of Grey is currently streaming on Netflix for your viewing pleasure; check it out if you haven’t already, and tell us your thoughts on the film in the comments!