By John Myer
Fifty Shades of Grey comes out on Valentine’s Day weekend.
The gist of the story: a billionaire playboy with a fetish for control lures a young girl into his web of sexual deviance.
Forms of bondage/domination/sadomasochism have been around for a long time. BDSM has worn a lot of faces from its most celebrated figure, the dark Marquis De Sade, all the way over to the two most recent fresh-faced actors who now lend it mainstream approval.
I haven’t seen the movie or read the books, and I won’t. Instead, I did my homework for this blog post by reading production notes and synopses, watching movie trailers, and listening to interviews from the actors.
While I was at it, I paid attention to the comment sections—the gushing remarks of women who read the books and now look forward to the film release. In the middle of them, I found a lone enthusiastic male. He wrote, “Great, now I can take my girl to a porn flick for our Valentine’s Day date!”
This irreverent poster simply said what a lot of people have been saying since the Fifty Shades book debut in 2011—that the trilogy is simply pornography for women. The Fifty Shades fan base on the other hand, calls it harmless fun.
Not everybody sees the fun in it.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation said, “Hollywood is advertising the Fifty Shades story as an erotic love affair, but it is really about sexual abuse and violence against women. The porn industry has poised men and women to receive the message that sexual violence is enjoyable. Fifty Shades models this porn message and Hollywood cashes the check.”
Man. What does all this have to do with romance? Well, nothing, really. At least according to the movie’s main character, Christian Grey, who says in the film trailer: “I don’t do romance.”
Pretty easy to guess what that means. No excitement of true love. No commitment between two people. No trust. No lifelong connection. No sweet talk or promises. No vulnerability or mutual self-sacrifice. Just “games” of physical stimulation—in effect, soulless sensuality.
I already know what people are going to say. I’ve heard it for decades from guys addicted to pornography. It doesn’t hurt to watch. It’s only fantasy. Fifty fans would also add their movie is only rated R, not XXX. No actual intercourse is shown. Just graphic nudity. Simulation. Imitation. Suggestion. Role play. Innuendo. Mind games.
Really, after all that, does anybody need to see intercourse?
Maybe you could blame my attitude on being old school. But this isn’t just about conservative values. I’m certain that a lot of self-confessed moral conservatives will line up for tickets on opening night and bring all their friends.
Seems a bit inconsistent.
But an even weirder moral dissonance comes out of the whole thing. There has never been a greater outcry against domestic violence than of late (with the NFL, Hollywood celebs, and the President of the United States weighing in on it, no less). How does this new “awareness” gel with the overwhelming female popularity given a tale about a man manipulating, abusing, and sexually dominating a woman? And then describing her as empowered!
I’m seriously not getting it.
From a theological angle, there’s something hopelessly broken inside every human being. It can be so dark that it leads even a godly person like the Apostle Paul to confess, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18). What’s worse, we all get stimulated by the darkness in one another and revel in it. It’s kind of gross, really—like getting thrills by wearing somebody else’s dirty underwear. Art that devotes itself to gratuitous explorations of torture, serial murder, or illicit sex always starts off as the product of one person’s lurid fantasy—their sin. Call me neurotic, but my sin is bad enough, thank you. I don’t need to “enjoy” anybody else’s.
This is not a suggestion to “cheesify” every piece of literature or film and transform it into Christian Pollyanna. I’ll be very honest. Sex and violence are part of the human story.
Even the Bible doesn’t skirt these issues. You can find them in the pages of Scripture.
On the other hand, we don’t get them in graphic detail. We don’t know the minutiae of what went on between a naked husband and wife during those long days in the Garden of Eden. We don’t know the particulars of David’s torrid hook-up up with Bathsheba. Even the Song of Solomon which suggests a long and sustained intimate encounter masks itself in poetic metaphor. And rightfully so. Anything further would only serve to gratify prurient interests.
Yet the entire premise of the Fifty Shades package is exactly that—sensual. It doesn’t contain brief risqué moments that advance an overarching story line. The risqué content is the story line. Take away the BDSM theme and the whole thing turns into a can of flat soda.
I’m not under the illusion that this blog article is actually going to stop folks from doing what they’re already dying to do—that is, see the movie. I just wish we’d stop and think about it. Better yet, I wish we’d bring our Bibles and our relationship with God into the choices of daily life. That includes the books we feed our minds, and the screens we sit in front of.
We say something is okay if it’s entertaining. It’s okay if it’s funny. It’s okay if it turns us on. But fellow Christian, when is something not okay?
Maybe this movie will tank, but given the fact that there are another two books left to adapt, the franchise doesn’t look like it’s going to go away. At any rate, I’ll make a prediction about the folks who may not enjoy it:
- Any woman who has escaped the sexual slave trade.
- Any woman who has ever tried to hook up with a fetish-driven mustang.
- Any woman who has ever made the fatal mistake of marrying one of those mustangs.
- Any man who honestly sees himself and his gender as being servant, protector, and lover, not taker.
Wow. A whole movie that tells a woman it’s fun to be used by a guy in his play room, no strings attached.
That makes me want to turn fifty shades of boiling mad.