Yes, this is about 50 Shades of Grey. A movie I’ve never seen based on a book I’ve never read.
Hear me out, please.
Don’t dismiss this as a hypocritical rant about things I have no direct experience with, because it isn’t directly about the content of the book or the movie. I am not a conservative person, nor have I ever been. I am a firm supporter of free speech, and artistic expression, and if nothing else, 50 Shades of Grey opens the door for a lot of different conversations we probably should all be having anyway.
What I’m writing this about isn’t necessarily the content of the book or the movie. It’s the mainstream coverage it’s gotten, and the portrayal of it in commercial media.
First: I get it. I get that it’s fantasy. I get that this never happens, in much the same way I understand that a porn where the leading man meets a beautiful, voluptuous blonde who immediately drops her skirt and panties with no real formal introduction is pure fantasy. Because it never happens that way in real life.
But as for the above: let’s write a book, and make a movie out of it. In this movie, the lead character is a charismatic, sexual, powerful and voluptuous woman who knows what she wants – to dominate a man. She wants to tie him up, bind him, gag him, and have her sexual way with him. The man submits and is treated to his wildest dreams. It sounds like a porn, right? It is.
It is, and so, by the descriptions and portrayals, is 50 Shades of Grey, for the same exact reason. It’s just that the roles are reversed.
In fact, it’s darker, and worse than that. It represents a VERY dangerous fantasy in which women believe they can change even the worst of men. In my example above, there’s no misgivings that the man involved wants to change the woman involved. He just wants to be sexed.
In real life, for every Anastasia, there are probably a thousand women who are psychologically terrorized, or flat out abused. Organizations that assist women who are victims of this are always busy; and those are just the ones who have actively sought help. So many more have not.
What’s even worse is this movie only has an ‘R’ rating. If, as I noted above, this movie were about a domineering woman and a submissive man, regardless of how much actual sex or skin was shown, it would be slapped with an NC-17 rating, and probably never would see a movie theater, much less mainstream publicity.
Yet this movie, which portrays the fantasy of a young girl who signs up willingly to be sexually exploited, not to mention stalked and possessed (at least from everything I’ve read and heard from people who have read it), gets an ‘R’ rating and more publicity than any other movie currently out. The Today Show, which airs every morning, did not just a day, but multiple days featuring this movie. Imagine if the Today Show did a multiple day feature on a porn? What would the outcry be? Nothing, I suppose, because they did it, and there was no outcry that I have heard about. Oh, but this movie, this is pure fantasy, everyone knows it isn’t real.
Except they don’t. If teen boys are impressionable, and shouldn’t be subjected to porn and video game violence because they can’t separate it, then what teen girls, who in many ways are MORE vulnerable to mass media? THIS is the message being sent here, in clear terms: “It’s good for you to fantasize about a controlling, possessive billionaire who starts off only wanting you sexually, but eventually he’ll fall in love with you and you’ll change him for the better and make him into a husband.” Wow. And we thought Disney was bad for suggesting women should be peasants who marry princes to rescue them? Somehow suddenly Cinderella’s stock just rose significantly.
This is NOT about a woman being portrayed as the strong one. This is about confusing passion for a domestic abuse situation. This is sending the message that, as fantasy, it’s OK to let yourself be sexually exploited, and possessed, because it might eventually lead to love.
It does NOT.
Again. I am NOT saying “don’t write this book, don’t make this movie.” I’m asking, why as a society, it’s getting the attention and publicity it’s getting. I’m not a woman, but if I were, I’d be angry about it. I’d feel like it somehow sets the entire women’s rights movement back years. I’d feel like it has the potential to raise an entire generation of young women who think that it’s ok to be sexually exploited and abused, and that that equals “passion” at best or “normal” at worst. In the movie, supposedly Anastasia signs a contract that allows all this to happen, and is told she can get out of it at any time. In real life, it doesn’t work like that. Women can’t just simply walk out of an exploitative relationship. If they could, things would be drastically different.
It doesn’t work like that when a woman says no to an abusive man’s advances. The way it REALLY works is he hits her. Or beats her. Or worse. The way it REALLY works is she says no, and she is raped, humiliated, terrorized, and shamed. The way it REALLY works is she is isolated from friends and family, loses self confidence, loses any identity she may have had, and becomes a broken shell of a woman convincing herself that the man she’s with is really a decent, kind, wonderful person just trapped underneath hatred that isn’t his fault, and if she just hangs on a little longer, the inner good will surface.
If it worked like that, I wouldn’t, for the past 9 years, have been involved in fundraisers for The Unity House of Troy, an organization that, among other things, offers all sorts of services for victims of domestic violence. If it worked like that, there wouldn’t be a need for domestic violence services for women, because they could all just break the contract when things get too intense. Yet every day, stories of abused, raped, violated, and unfortunately, even murdered women surface. Stories where they felt like they could just hang on a little longer, because “everyone can change,” or they just plain felt too trapped to try to do anything about it. Where could they go? Who could they turn to?
And along comes a movie which portrays this as possible, even “good.”
Again, I’m not saying don’t write the book, or don’t make the movie. But why in the world has there been millions of dollars, daytime airtime, and countless other avenues of publicity been granted to marketing this thing? Besides the obvious of corporate exploitation of moviegoers everywhere.It’s good, though, because now we can have a conversation about the drastic difference between being “passionate” and being “controlling.” There’s a HUGE difference between a man making a woman feel attractive and desirable, and making her a sexual possession; everything I’m reading is that this movie is confusing that line, especially among younger women.
I, personally, never want to have to try to explain to my daughter why a man who demands sex from her on his terms isn’t “passionate,” he’s “exploitative” or “possessive,” at best, or “abusive” at worst. That’s a conversation I hope to God never to have to have. I will have my hands full trying to teach my daughter to avoid potentially dangerous and abusive situations as it is, because despite the fact that it’s 2015, they are still everywhere for women, and then this comes along and glorifies it, making it that much harder.In the end, this movie receiving only an ‘R’ rating and being publicized so heavily tells me a few things. First, it tells me that the MPAA ratings is a complete and utter joke. Actually, it doesn’t tell me that, it just reaffirms what I already knew about that. Second, it tells me that corporate America doesn’t care one iota about women or young people, they care more about making money. Third, it tells me that now we can all just admit how depraved, sick, twisted, and erotic our society really is, and forget about being so repressed, because at this point, that’s our only chance: to make stuff like this no big deal, an everyday occurrence, so that people don’t think it’s fantastical and desirable any more. If it’s everywhere, it no longer rare and alluring, and so it becomes boring and mundane. And fourth, it tells me that we need to renew the effort for awareness of just how bad things can be for women, even in the year 2015 with all the advances that have been made for equality. It just highlights what Hollywood and the masses apparently think women should want: male mates who, sure, may be possessive, jealous, controlling, and even abusive, but who come around, fall in love, and turn into fairy tale husbands in the end.God help my daughter. I sincerely hope she defies the 50 Shades fairy tale in every way.