Fifty Shades’ Marcia Gay Harden Opens Up ‘Sexual Unleashing’ In Fandom And Why Being In The Thick Of It Was ‘Fascinating’

Marcia Gay Harden in Fifty Shades franchise
(Image credit: Focus Features)

Marcia Gay Harden is still known for her role in the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, in which she played the adopted mother of Christian Grey. The trilogy is, of course, notorious for the BDSM scenes that took place between Christian (Jamie Dornan) and his lover Anastasia (Dakota Johnson). Those scenes had an interesting effect on fans, and Harden apparently took notice at the time. Now, the 63-year-old actress is speaking out about the “sexual unleashing” she noticed within the fandom and why being in the midst of that was “fascinating” to her.

The Fifty Shades of Grey films didn't receive the hard NC-17 ratings that readers of E.L. James' series thought they would get. Though the series still attracted a more mature crowd compared to the tweens that made up Twilight's fandom. While promoting Confess, Fletch during an interview with Metro, Marcia Gay Harden explained that she found it especially “fascinating” to watch how some women responded to the erotic films:

It was fascinating to watch women of a certain age… their rabid involvement in this ‘sexual unleashing’, if you will. And to really realize that with the divorce rate at 50%, there’s a lot of single women out there, happy or unhappily single, but who were mentally curious about exploration.

According to Elite Daily, there are a number of scientific reasons why the Fifty Shades of Grey book series is so popular with women. The character of Dorian Grey was written to be the man that all women wish they could have in their life. And when reading about the fictional character, women apparently have an outlet in which they can “unleash” their fantasies. The books just have a way of pulling fans into its world desire and sexual liberation. That's why so many fans were excited when it was confirmed years ago that the franchise would be adapted for the screen. 

Fifty Shades of Grey provided audiences with BDSM practices that included blindfolds, handcuffs, riding crops, and more. Amid all of that, there was also graphic nudity that was tailored for an R-rating. Marcia Gay Harden doesn't think all of that is the sole reason for the popularity of the movies, though she does acknowledge that it's a significant part of their success:

And while BDSM is not necessarily the answer to the curiosity, women giving themselves permission to have toys and fiery lubes and have fantasy experiences was interesting to observe from afar. I was single – and I’m still single! I had nobody to play around with… at that time, or at this time! But observing this curiosity and this kind of demand for their freedom to explore, was interesting.

If anything, this is all a true testament to the power of literature and how a compelling book can stoke up specific feelings in a person, particularly of the sexually explicit movie variety. Given its groundbreaking subject matter, it's no wonder that the series of books remains relevant today. However, the reception to the big-screen adaptations has varied. The first Fifty Shades movie shattered box office records in 2015, becoming the fourth-highest-grossing R-rated film of all time at $569.7 million. But ultimately, the series would see fewer returns with each sequel. The final installment ended the franchise with a whimper by claiming only $373 million.

Marcia Gay Harden’s fascination with the Fifty Shades of Grey fandom is warranted, and chances are they'll continue to entrance the masses as more people discover the novels in the years to come. Those who want to watch the movies can rent or buy them using an Amazon Prime subscription. You can watch Harden in the comedy-crime movie Confess, Fletch using a Paramount+ subscription.

Carly Levy
Entertainment Writer

Just your average South Floridian cinephile who believes the pen is mightier than the sword.