This is part of a weekly series called in which The Lantern’s Ty Anderson offers his take on the week’s pop culture news.
Countless Facebook posts and online articles have been written to urge people not to watch “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Allegedly, the film encourages abusive relationships and domestic violence against women, and it depicts an inaccurate image of what BDSM “should” be. For those of you who might not know what BDSM stands for, it stands for “bondage,” something that I can’t remember that starts with “D,” “sadism and masochism.”
Now, perhaps it’s simply because of the fact that I HATE being told what to do, but all these claims are making me very, very angry. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Every monkey with a keyboard is able to write an opinion online (myself included), but that doesn’t mean every monkey with a keyboard should write an opinion.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” might or might not be an inaccurate depiction of what BDSM “should” be — I wouldn’t know — but I think it’s unfair for anyone to mandate what that definition “should” be in the first place. This is a classic example of people preaching about topics that they don’t really understand. What I understand from my limited knowledge is that “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a story of female empowerment. Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but when has female empowerment ever been a traditional subject?
“Fifty Shades” does something that few commercially successful films have done before. It explores and de-stigmatizes the deep and uncharted waters of female sexuality. Feminine desire is a subject that has existed in a sort of hushed limbo for centuries, if not longer. Girls aren’t supposed to talk about their libidos. It’s a rule that has existed longer than anyone alive can remember, but I think society is finally ready to open up that conversation.
And I think that’s why “Fifty Shades” is so popular. It’s why women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan are so successful. Challenging old ways of thinking is exciting, and the breaking of a taboo is an almost euphoric sensation.
It feels good to do what society says is wrong.
Ask any formerly closeted gay man how he felt the first time he admitted to sharing a spiritual connection with Taylor Swift lyrics. His answer will be “euphoric.”
But don’t just take my word for it — here is what Eloise Mumford, who stars in the film, had to say: “I would never have signed on to something that I didn’t think women were being empowered. The reality is that power dynamics of relationships are complicated, and the movie deals with that complexity.”
Now, I have a feeling that the stars of the film might know a little bit more about the plot than all of those angry bloggers and Facebook status-ers urging folks to stay far, far away. I actually agree with what Eloise had to say. The power dynamics of relationships are complicated, and I think it’s great that we’re seeing that on the big screen. Love isn’t always easy and straightforward. “Fifty Shades” isn’t depicting a powerless woman’s love life, but rather, it is depicting a woman’s complicated, messy, exciting love life.
Besides, this film is about a lot more than just sex. I don’t think that the original story would have reached the popularity it did if it was just another smutty example of literary porn. There’s clearly something deeper going on here — something to which people are relating.
If you want to see the film, I urge you do to so. Why? Because you want to. It’ll likely elicit some sort of emotional response within you, and you’ll probably learn a thing or two.
And if you don’t want to see it — don’t. But please, do not discourage others from doing so. It’s not your call to make. Rather, I encourage you to grow up, get over it, and buy a more age-appropriate movie ticket. I personally suggest the new SpongeBob film — I hear it’s a riot.