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Opinion: ‘Fifty Shades’ takes the easy way out in relationships

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Xanadu Boutique, an erotica shop in South Florida, has seen an increase in sales of adult toys and leather clothing since the rise in popularity of the book "50 Shades of Grey." Xanadu now sells trilogy with a gift set, which includes items (pictured) such as a leather mask, handcuffs, the climax kit, a leather outfit and Ben Wa balls on a string. (Sarah Dussault/Sun Sentinel/MCT)

Xanadu Boutique, an erotica shop in South Florida, has seen an increase in sales of adult toys and leather clothing since the rise in popularity of the book “50 Shades of Grey.” Xanadu now sells trilogy with a gift set, which includes items (pictured) such as a leather mask, handcuffs, the climax kit, a leather outfit and Ben Wa balls on a string.
Credit: Courtesy of TNS.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. The series has sold more than 100 million copies (that’s more than every Nicholas Sparks book combined) and the movie made $81.7 million on its first weekend (that’s more than Avatar). 

I’m not a fan of the whole thing, but I’m clearly outnumbered. People were undoubtedly attracted to the book because of the sex; that’s just human nature, but there has to be more to explain the wild popularity.

The actor who plays Christian Grey, Jamie Dornan, is an attractive man, but surely he’s widely admired for more than just his looks (Grey started off as a literary character, after all).

Grey has ambition, money and power, and he therefore looks great on paper. However, let’s not forget that he has a serious dark side and likes to borderline torture his sexual partners. How is this guy getting as much or more attention than, say, Noah from “The Notebook” did in his prime? I can see swooning over a man writing 365 letters to you, but one who is obsessed with making you his victim? Not so much.

Maybe it’s the idea of a relationship outlined by a contract that is so appealing. We would all like to know what a person’s intentions are up front without having to actually get to know them. In this instance, though, the contract outlines an all-sex-no-romance relationship in which he can control how much she sleeps, eats, works out and wears. Remind me of what’s appealing about this?

It’s not about care; it’s about control. This type of relationship, while based on dominance, is cowardly. It’s a lot easier to hit someone and refuse to build a relationship with them than to be gentle and open.

Be it bad past relationships or rejections, it’s easy to become jaded toward love, making the first instinct to push the other person away. This kind of behavior is always glorified in films and books as beautifully tragic, but there’s nothing poetic about it. Everyone has the capacity to care about another person and to express it, no matter what their past experience: Christian Grey included.

It takes guts and a willingness to be vulnerable to show someone you care about them without knowing if they will reciprocate, but it’s a completely necessary step. It’s not always easy to act in a loving way toward a significant other, but relationships are all about making that effort. ​

Maybe that’s what everyone is attracted to, the idea that you don’t have to partake in any emotional vulnerability to have a relationship. Spoiler alert: Even the characters in the book find out eventually that it’s not that simple.

Has romanticism died out? Nicholas Sparks’ latest book adapted to a movie, “The Best of Me,” was his lowest opening to date, and his most successful movie, “The Notebook,” is more than 10 years old now. The concept of all-encompassing love seems too far-fetched in the modern age.

The idea of two people building an emotional relationship is more intimidating than an unhealthy, unequal, abusive relationship.

If a relationship like Ana and Christian in “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the new ideal, the new ideal for love isn’t love at all.

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