I saw Fifty Shades of Grey last week and contributed to a weekend box office record of $94.4 million in ticket sales. Since then, I’ve read impassioned pleas from mothers, advocates and well-intentioned citizens who are convinced this movie will lead to the moral decay of future generations.
And while I am the first to speak up against domestic violence and intimate partner abuse, let me set your mind at ease. Blaming this movie for the demise of healthy relationships in America is like blaming Fruit Loops for obesity.
Let’s start at the beginning. I didn’t read any of the E.L. James’s series, which apparently features bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM) as one of the main characters, and has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. This wasn’t because I’m a prude, mind you. It was because so many of my writer friends warned me that the poor quality of sentences and paragraphs would send me into an emotional tailspin. Who would want that?
So when I went to the movie, my expectations were extremely low. I merely wanted to giggle with my girlfriend and consume champagne. In the dark and with popcorn.
And when it was all over, what did I think? There’s just no other way to say it: this movie stinks. The plot is similar to the Dick and Jane books (no pun intended). But Dick, in this case, is Christian Grey. And Jane is Anastasia Steele. See Anastasia pout. See Christian stare. See them text. See them take their clothes off.
If it weren’t for the beautiful cinematography, I might have spent the entire time rolling on the floor with laughter. There was no depth, no meaning … no “umph.” And I didn’t expect any.
I also didn’t expect so much outrage. One mother (whose movie review went viral), is really, really afraid what this incredibly shallow movie will do to her children. She wrote:
Tonight, I walked out of the cinema feeling terrified and a little sad for your generation. If this is the movie that you base your ideals of love and romance on, then I need to make some things very clear and I hope you’re listening.
Seriously, if your daughter sees this movie and immediately runs out to shack up with an abuser, you got bigger problems. If your son is basing his ideals of love and romance on this book or movie, perhaps you should monitor what he’s reading and watching.
Studies suggest that up to 10% of the U.S. population participates in some form of BDSM. And while I am not attracted to this lifestyle, I don’t judge those who are – as long as encounters are between consenting adults. This is the key distinction that separates it from abuse. I have no idea if this movie accurately portrays real-life BDSM. I have a feeling it doesn’t accurately portray much of anything.
Here’s what I would suggest: rely on something other than poorly-crafted fiction to dictate your code of conduct. Rage against reality, and real-life abusers who manipulate, beat, maim and kill other humans. Rage against organizations and systems who harbor abusers and blame victims. Rage against parents who don’t parent and legal systems that often punish first-time drug offenders harsher than repeat rapists.
Funnel your energy where it matters. Become an advocate, speak out and get involved. But not against a movie that doesn’t even really deserve the title. Focus on your community, family and local organizations trying to make a difference. Take the fear that bubbles up from the rows in a movie theater, and redirect it where it makes sense … where you can actually do something about it.
Ready? Set? Action.
©2015 Michelle Freed