Back in July of 2012 I wrote a post called "50 Shades of Magic Who?" So far, it has been my most popular post. It has double the pageviews of any other post on this blog. I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this post, considering the movie is coming out next week (ironically, on my birthday). There is so much hype about this movie. It seems like every blogger on the internet has posted something about the phenomenon. I found one blog that is dedicated simply to posting clips, teasers, and a countdown to the movie. I've found even more blogs criticizing the franchise. I hate to beat a dead horse, but my feelings on 50 Shades of Grey have not changed in the last 2 years. In fact, I would almost say I'm more critical of it now that I'm married.
I know a lot of people will read this who disagree. I'm alright with that. It doesn't bother me if you're one of those people who loved the book and can't wait to see the movie. I'm not judging you, and what you enjoy is what you enjoy regardless of my opinions. My biggest problem is simply that I don't understand the hype. What would I gain by joining the 50 Shades of Grey fandom? All I see are negatives.
It amazes me that the feminist movement is growing at the same time as this franchise. Those two ideologies seem contradictory to me. If you support the feminist movement, how is the idea of a wealthy, attractive playboy physically dominating a young woman considered appropriate? It's hypocritical.
Women have made such huge strides in the last several decades. Emma Watson's #HeForShe campaign has gained millions of supporters. And yet how many of those women who demand equal pay and treatment are also supporting the idea of complete sadism and misogyny?
I wrote a post a while back called "The Beauty in Submission" that was about how the bible calls for wives to submit to their husbands. I pointed out that this doesn't mean a marriage isn't equal and decisions aren't to be made together. I pointed out that this doesn't trump the idea that marriage is a partnership. Biblical submission in a marriage is a bit of a paradox. Men are called to be the head of the family, but in the image of Christ. They are called to lay down their lives for their wives the way Christ laid down his life for the church. The bible never condones men treating women any way other than purely and lovingly. In spite of this, I still received some negative feedback about how women are equal and men aren't meant to always be in control. I don't bring this up to say that the feedback was bad; I appreciate the good and the bad feedback and I try to use it to improve my writing. My point is this, the same women who scoff at the word "submission" are the women who become giddy and excited at the thought of Christian Grey.
Do we not realize that the main character's obsession with domination completely contradicts our insistence that women deserved to be treated equally; that we deserve to be in charge and in control of our own lives, careers, and relationships? We trick ourselves into thinking the novel supports feminism because it refers to a woman's "inner goddess," but the truth is that the themes of the novel couldn't be more sexist. It is about a woman who is completely controlled by a man who has more power and influence than she has. He controls what she does, where she goes, who she sees, what she is allowed to say, what she eats.
I don't know about you, but the last boyfriend I had who tried to tell me how to eat got dumped. (But not until after I, very gracefully, shoved an entire handful of Ritz Bitz with cheese in my mouth out of defiance. It was very ladylike. Mom would be proud.)
If we take things back to the biblical perspective, Ephesians 5:21-33 calls husbands and wives to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (v. 1). Paul tells wives to "submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord" and he tells husbands to "love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy . . . and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." (v. 21-28). A man who loves his wife as Christ loved the church and who desires to view his wife as holy and blameless is not a man who gets off on dominating and abusing her. A man who loves his wife as he loves himself is not a man who desires complete control and compliance to his every whim.
The issue I have with Christian and Ana isn't necessarily the sex, it's the fact that their relationship and sex life are abusive. The language in the novel doesn't even do a good job of hiding this. Intentionally or not, James has created a entourage that not only condones, but celebrates this abusive and domineering relationship. To me, this sounds like a novel about socially acceptable domestic abuse, which is highly anti-feminist.
In addition to all of this. . .
I'm an English teacher, so I have a great appreciation for literature and the written word. I am absolutely against censorship and banning books. This post isn't about eradicating 50 Shades of Grey, it's about why I dislike it. Obviously, as a lover of literature, I also have opinions about literature.
I haven't read the books, but I've read quotes, excerpts, and reviews. So, I feel like I can say this with at least a modicum of knowledge to support my opinion.
These novels are not written well.
50 Shades of Grey makes Twilight look like college-level literature. Seriously. I found one blog that stated it so much better than I can, "This is some very, very stupid material. It reads like a thesaurus procreated with a script from a soft core porn and then the baby fell into a vat of Lifetime Channel DVDs" (http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/07/25/women-america-4-reasons-hate-50-shades-grey/2/#KjCKJtUbGmrmEo4g.99).
I have a friend who recently posted on Facebook that she was going to give in and finally read the book before the movie came out. Most of the comments on her post said exactly the same thing; one even compared the novel to a bad Lifetime original movie.
I've never claimed to be an incredibly intelligent person, but I do believe it would be an insult to what little intelligence I have to claim these novels as decent literature.
And finally, Philippians 4:8
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
There is nothing true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable about 50 Shades of Grey.