I struggled with whether to write this. It seems like a foregone conclusion at this point that “Fifty Shades of Grey” will be a massive hit at the box office. There’s probably nothing anyone can say to change that; the hand wringing only serves to promote the film even more.
The thing exists, after all, purely to make money and engender controversy because it’s making money and then make more money off of the controversy it engendered. It has us cornered. If we complain about it, we’re doing exactly what they want us to do.
It’s not like anyone involved in producing this smoldering pile of cinematic sewage would necessarily disagree with the criticisms anyway. They know what they’ve done. It’s not as though they thought the story was remotely compelling or substantive. It wasn’t like when Francis Ford Copolla first read “The Godfather” and knew it was an epic tale destined to become one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time.
I imagine whoever first cooked up the idea to make a “Fifty Shades” movie probably didn’t even read it. They kind of got the gist and thought, “eh, it’s garbage but it’ll probably make a billion dollars because we can vomit just about anything into the trough and Americans will come in droves to devour it.”
So before we even get to the content itself — rancid as it is — we already know that the film is cynical and worthless, and, as I’ve previously discussed, born purely out of a desire to bilk sexually frustrated suburban soccer moms out of their disposable income. It has no other purpose. It serves no other function. It is an empty vessel (well, a vessel filled with leather whips and ball gags, but empty besides that). It’s not art, and anyone who pays to see it is degrading themselves — and I’m not even talking about the bondage and the glamorized rape yet.
It’s a marketing ploy disguised as a film, which is something you could admittedly say about most Hollywood blockbusters. The difference is that, whereas something like “The Avengers” is a vapid and silly yet relatively harmless 120 minute commercial for Marvel merchandise, “Fifty Shades” is anything but harmless. It is actively poisonous. Toxic. A spiritual carcinogen. A putrid lump of nothingness.
[sharequote align=”center”]”Fifty Shades” isn’t harmless. It is actively poisonous. Toxic. A putrid lump of nothingness.[/sharequote]
Still, if we go overboard and start launching boycotts and other similar campaigns, we risk becoming advertisements for the very thing we don’t want people to watch.
Besides, what in the world is the point of a movie boycott? The people who boycott are the people who wouldn’t have seen it anyway. I could “boycott” gay nightclubs, but it wouldn’t achieve much considering I’m not a member of their customer base to begin with. Boycotts are only effective when you boycott a good or service you would otherwise use.
And on top of all of this, “Fifty Shades of Grey” was and is a fantastically stupid book. So colossally moronic that it was actually originally written as “Twilight” fan fiction. I had to double and triple check that to make sure it was true, because it just sounds too perfect. But, yes, the faux-author responsible for this “novel” originally wrote it as a plagiarized BDSM version of another idiotic book. It’s as if one person drew a very bad picture with purple crayon, and then another person copied it using wet dog poop. That’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” for you.
I don’t say any of this as an insult; I say it as a conclusion based on a hypothesis and verified through the scientific method. I’ve done my research. Seriously, look at these Actual Lines from the Actual Book:
“I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious – she’s doing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his.”
“He smiles, then strides with renewed purpose out of the store, slinging the plastic bag over his shoulder, leaving me a quivering mass of raging female hormones.”
“And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain – probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells – comes the thought: He’s here to see you.”
Wow. I mean, somebody wrote that — on purpose. It reads like a short story from a German junior college creative writing class, converted into English through Google Translate. It’s barely coherent, let alone accurate from a neurology perspective.
My fear is that being too outraged by this is like being outraged by a sixth grader scribbling the word “sex” on his binder. It’s almost too puerile to be provocative. Too hamfisted to be disturbing. Too brainless to be worthy of the title “Offensive.” It’s cinematic graffiti. It’s a doodle of a penis on a bathroom stall. It’s as subtle as a hammer to your skull, and it will have the same effect.
It’s beneath us, in other words. Before you reject the movie and the book for being depraved, you should reject them because they insult your intelligence. Indeed, pornography is many things — and this movie is pornography, no matter how much or how little nudity is on display — but we should never forget that it’s always dumb and exceedingly dull.
Hollywood throws sex in our face because it wants to be smart and bold, but it really succeeds in being dim witted and boring. It turns out that when you remove sex from its proper context — from love, self-sacrifice, and marriage — you get something entirely bland, lifeless, depressed.
That’s precisely why people descend into these absurd and deviant fetishes like BDSM. They’re tired of sex. They can’t enjoy it without turning it into some elaborate game, and the game has nothing at all to do with the sexual act. For them, it’s about power, control, and submission. It’s about dominating or being dominated. Raping or being raped. They turn sex into violence because they’re too tired or obtuse to see the true beauty of the act; a beauty that can only be attained when the sex is a physical manifestation of love and devotion.
That is powerful. That is exciting. And that is sex as it’s meant to be, and it’s precisely what many people in our society are desperate to avoid.
And that’s why — despite my reservations about raising a stink over an insipid and vacuous little film that is so completely undeserving of any kind of attention at all — we have to treat the movie with some measure of seriousness. If it just existed out there on the fringes where random weirdos and perverts indulged in it, I’d say pay it no mind. But this is something that millions and millions of women found pleasure in. This is something that millions and millions of women wanted to read, and now want to see, and will see, and will enjoy.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” is symptomatic of a deeper problem, and the problem most definitely deserves our attention. I can tell you this: if my wife expressed any desire whatsoever to go see it, I would be very troubled about the state of our marriage and the condition of her soul (for the record, she hasn’t expressed any interest, and never would, and if she found the book in the house she would probably throw it into the fireplace and laugh maniacally while she danced around its burning carcass).
Many other men will feel these reservations deep down, but still accompany their wives and girlfriends to the movie theater this weekend where, like henpecked schoolboys, they will sit by while their women fantasize about being molested at the hands of a handsome billionaire. Or they will stay home and their spouses and significant others will go with their girlfriends, and come home excited by the thought of being manhandled by a psychopath. Hopefully these men have the guts to make their true feelings abundantly clear.
It’s a sad situation. Sadder, still, for the hypocrisy of it. Most women, no matter how progressive they think they are, would be outraged if their boyfriends or husbands went out to a strip club or an adult movie theater. And if the men in their lives became obsessed with reading about other people’s rape fantasies, I imagine a portion of these women would respond with divorce papers and restraining orders. What’s the difference? Only that the culture has declared a man’s piggish behavior repulsive (which it is), but a woman’s charming and liberating.
That’s not really the point, though. Double standards, marketing ploys, bad literature — these are all peripheral issues. We need to consider, or more specifically fans of “Fifty Shades” need to consider, why anyone would find this kind of story entertaining or enjoyable. If you’ve already Fandangoed your tickets and are eagerly anticipating spending your Friday night wrapped up in a twisted fairy tale of fetishism and sexual abuse, ask yourself: why?
This isn’t a neutral thing. It’s not “just a movie.” It is a movie, sure, but it’s a movie with a very particular plot that could only appeal to you for very particular reasons.
If you go and see a documentary about penguins, it tells me that you like penguins, and you probably like penguins because everyone knows they’re fascinating and delightful. If you go and see a “romance” about a wealthy sadist who leads a young woman into a sex dungeon and rapes her repeatedly, it tells me that you like stories about young women being raped repeatedly by wealthy sadists in sex dungeons. That is not just a matter of taste. It’s a sign of something profound and depraved.
Many of us, men and women alike, are walking around with a void in our souls. Maybe it’s because we come from broken homes; maybe it’s because our fathers didn’t love us; maybe it’s because we weren’t raised with a strong faith; maybe it’s because our moral sensibilities have been numbed by the nonstop consumption of violence and sex; maybe it’s because our porn habits have fundamentally altered our sexual proclivities and caused us to crave that which is disordered and perverted. Maybe it’s a combination of all of these, but it’s definitely something.
What I’m trying to say is that you’re watching”Fifty Shades of Grey” to fill some void or find a temporary reprieve from the loneliness and confusion that generally plagues you. I imagine some well adjusted and emotionally fulfilled women read the book, or part of it, a while ago just out of morbid curiosity, but now that everyone knows the story, only people genuinely interested in and attracted to it will be buying tickets to see it.
I wish those people would seek answers elsewhere. I wish they really would talk to a counselor or their pastor. I wish the movie was never produced. I wish Hollywood wasn’t a moral wasteland populated by gutter-dwelling satanists. I wish the author had revealed her torture fetish to her psychiatrist rather than writing it down in a book for 50 million people to read. I wish many things, but it’s all for nothing.
Fans of the book will call me a prude, and the movie will be a hit, and the sequels will be a hit, and 15 years from now they’ll be making romantic films about cannibalism (Fifty Servings of Grey), and we’ll again be told it’s all a bit of naughty fun.
Collectively, our culture is in free fall. Today’s rock bottom is tomorrow’s good old days. I have no delusions about any of this. But individually, we are not slaves to our society. We do not have to float with the cultural current. We can hold ourselves to a higher standard, and I hope you do. Millions of people will see “Fifty Shades” this weekend. You don’t have to be one of them. You’re smarter than that. You’re better than that. Now prove it.
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