In defense of Dakota Johnson

Dakota-Johnson-picturedI haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, nor am I necessarily planning on it. All that I know about E.L. James’ series is there are whips and chains and it’s awfully written. I only recently learned that the series stems from naughty Twilight fan-fiction. I was aware it was going to be a movie trilogy before the news broke of the actors cast as the two main characters.

When James so modernly tweeted the results of the long casting period, I didn’t really expect the amount of backlash to equal that thrown Ben Affleck’s way a week ago when he was named Batman. As a matter of fact, what would people have said if James announced Affleck (instead of Charlie Hunnam) as the lead for Christian Grey?

But the unfortunate backlash happened (is happening?). Fake online petitions are there waiting for your fake signature to recast the leads to Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls) and Matt Bomer (Chuck). 

Those petitions will not be getting my signature, even though I’m curious how my virtual signature would look because no two real signatures of mine look the same.

Batman fans had a beef to argue against Affleck, although I’m sure he’ll be satisfying when all is said and done. There was a history to uphold, which isn’t the case for Fifty Shades. This book series, soon-to-be movie trilogy is fresh to create anything it wants and the author (James) and director Sam Taylor-Wood wanted to bring the book to life with Dakota Johnson, as Anastasia, and Hunnam, as Christian — although, rumor has it multiple men turned down Hunnam’s role, while Johnson was Taylor-Wood’s top choice.

I’m not here to defend Hunnam, because I don’t know enough about his work to do so, but I don’t understand fans’ arguments against Johnson. Bus loads of news sites are doing the typical Who Is This Person article for Johnson, although I knew her for Ben & Kate and before, and in most cases I thoroughly enjoyed her.

Johnson may not be who people wanted (cough Emma Watson cough), but that’s probably because their sites were set too high and they thought too highly of what this trilogy would turn into. You’re joking if you think Watson would sign on for this project — and she joked about it on Twitter — or an actor like Ryan Gosling or Robert Pattinson for the male lead. For actors like those, Fifty Shades is a risk that isn’t worth taking. Watson and Pattinson have made their stamp on other movie franchises (Score: Watson 8, Pattinson 4) and done so with great success. Asking for Gosling is something the horny fans did given the content of the book, but I assure you there are other places to watch nude videos and the moviemakers don’t want Fifty Shades to turn into A-List pornography.

The risk on Johnson’s behalf could pay off. Ben & Kate was sadly canceled half way through its first season, just as it was getting good. She’s played fun, little roles in The Social Network and 21 Jump Street and is probably ready to make the leap to a franchise like Fifty Shades, hoping that it’ll change her career the way Harry Potter did for Watson and Twilight did for Kristen Stewart.

I’ve also noticed that the criticisms are coming almost exclusively from fans, sitting at home behind their Twitter accounts. I haven’t seen even 1/500th of the media criticism that was out there after the Affleck news. There’s a reason for that: Critics want to give it a chance. It’s only fair; after all, most of the Affleck criticism ended with the idea that he’s a good actor and he’s capable of playing Batman.

Fans shouldn’t get down in the dumps on the series because their eyes were bigger than their stomachs. That’s their own fault, and it’s naive to think Fifty Shades was going to have its pick of A-Listers, when the jury is still out on whether or not these will actually be good movies or not. So what if you’re picking from the B- or C-list? Fifty Shades isn’t Twilight; in fact, it’s a poorer copy of Twilight. But the Twilight stars were B-listers once, too, and last I checked everyone got over that quickly.

The same applies here.

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