The British tea company Twinings has bowed to pressure from activists and customers and pulled a promotion linked to the R-rated movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
The Universal Pictures film, based on the best-selling erotic romance novel by E.L. James, is coming under fire from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and other groups that contend it glamorizes sexual and domestic violence. They’ve called for a boycott when it opens next Friday, the day before Valentine’s Day.
Twinings said it was responding to feedback from customers. A unit of Associated British Foods Plc that has supplied every British monarch since Queen Victoria, the company had said it would be “tea-sing” buyers with limited-edition boxes designed to incorporate a man’s tie, reminiscent of the novel’s cover. “We’re stopping this promotion and apologize for the upset we have caused -- this was not our intention,” the company said in a post on its Twitter account.
The movie stars Jamie Dornan as Seattle billionaire Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, a college student, and follows their sado-masochistic sexual relationship. The online ticket seller Fandango has said it’s the fastest-selling R-rated movie in its 15 years in business.
Critics, including the U.S. group Stop Porn Culture, have launched campaigns that characterize the movie as dangerously romanticizing sexual humiliation and abuse of power.
A spokeswoman for Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, Kori Bernards, declined to comment on the protests
Women who bought the book began reading it thinking “‘it’s a bit of kinky sex, this will be interesting,” and actually what they’ve found is it has mirrored their experiences and the trauma of their relationships with an ex-partner who has been abusive,’’ said Natalie Collins, one of the founders of the 50 Shades of Abuse campaign, in an interview Thursday on the BBC television program Newsnight.
A 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades campaign on social networking sites asks people to boycott the film and instead donate $50 to shelters that help women in crisis. “Hollywood doesn’t need your money; abused women do,” the group says on its Facebook page. In Welwyn Garden City in the U.K., a banner for the movie that showed Johnson blindfolded was removed by the local council after complaints from the public, according to the Welwyn Hatfield Times.
Dozens of companies are trying to capitalize on the interest in “Fifty Shades of Grey” -- the book has sold more than 100 million copies -- by using imagery from the novel and movie to promote their products.
Condom-maker Trojan posted a parody called “50 Shades of Pleasure” on its YouTube page, while Unilever Plc has been marketing its Surf brand of laundry detergent under a “Flirty Shades of Surf” tag -- with a handcuff hanging off the “s” in limited-edition packaging.
At the Heathman Hotel in Portland, Oregon, a $2,750 “Charlie Tango No Limits” package that includes dinner and a helicopter tour; Charlie Tango is the name of Grey’s private chopper and parts of the story took place at the hotel. A spokeswoman for the Heathman, Nancy Uber, said that “a fictional story” inspired the hotel’s promotion and that “the Heathman does not support abuse of any kind.”
In Seattle, guests who book a “No Grey Area” room at Edgewater Hotel -- for $14,169 -- receive a copy of the Kama Sutra, a helicopter tour and use of an Audi for the day.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Alycia Rea, a spokeswoman with the Zimmerman Agency, which represents the Edgewater. She declined to comment on the criticism of the movie but said of the hotel’s package, “It is just for fun.”
“Fifty Shades of Grey” is forecast to earn $61 million over its opening weekend, according to Boxoffice.com.