Actress Dakota Johnson, star of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Why, you may be wondering, is The Answer Sheet publishing anything at all about the racy film “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which is now descending on U.S. theaters. Well, this isn’t about the film, but about something unfortunate one of its stars, Dakota Johnson, who plays a literature student in “Fifty Shades,” said about English majors, whose reputation seems worthy of defending.

It’s hard now to escape publicity about the film, the book on which it was based, and its stars. Making the rounds on social media is a video released in February 2014 by Vanity Fair when Johnson, the daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, was the subject of a photo shoot for the magazine.

In the video, an unidentified woman begins to interview Johnson about the film and asks  Johnson how she got ready for the role of Anastasia Steele, a college student who gets involved with a wealthy businessman with unusual sexual proclivities. She said that she did “a lot of getting of getting into the character’s head …. so it’s a lot of reading, which I love, but you know she’s an English major. So that’s kinda boring.”  Between the “so” and “that’s kinda boring,” she looks at the camera and giggles.

It turns out that that isn’t all she found boring.  In an interview published in Elle Magazine in March 2014, she explained that her early schooling had been done through homeschooling and tutoring while she was on movie and television sets with her parents. She was sent to a Catholic boarding high school in California, which she hated — “It was a great school, but girls in that concentration are so horrific, just horrific,” she said — and persuaded her father to let her leave. Then she attended what the Elle story calls an”artsy” school in Santa Monica, “where Johnson whiled away high school sketching.” The story quoted her as saying, “I would get so bored after a while. There’s only so many ways you can draw a naked woman or man.”

English majors are commonly seen by people who aren’t English majors as boring, as shown in a list of five myths about English majors posted on the Web site of Niagara University in New York. Here’s the No. 3 myth:

English courses are all about reading boring books that have no relevance to your life!
Well, if you find books boring, English is probably not the major for you. However, our literature courses are designed to help you understand how other people saw our world through literature and to acquire a variety of critical and theoretical perspectives. Our writing courses teach you about the theoretical, rhetorical, and practical aspects of producing different types of writing such as science writing, ethnography and travel writing, classical rhetoric, editing and publishing and writing for the Web.

A writer named Michael Bettendorf wrote about the misconceptions people have of English majors on his Web page under the title: “Things English Majors Hate Hearing,” and here is one of them:

“English classes are boring.”

Well, you’re boring!

Wait. I’m sorry about that.

Telling us that English classes are boring is one more trigger to pull if you want to be peppered with examples telling you otherwise. I mean, go for it, but if you don’t want to sit for a half hour while your friend drinks coffee or tea or whatever then you might want to keep that thought to yourself.

We hate hearing this because you’re essentially calling us boring. Not all of us, but a lot of us would think that math is boring. Or economics or biology or whatever and I’m sure you’d defend your field of study too. The thing is, English classes are amongst some of the most diverse once you dive further into the degree.


Here’s the Vanity Fair video of Johnson if you want to watch it yourself: