I would like to start this by saying that the issues with 50 Shades of Grey are not the black and white themes of the film. Instead the issue is in fact within the grey of it all.
My problems with it are not the BDSM, everyone’s tastes in the bedroom are very different and for those that are into that, good for you! Sexual exploration is a good thing, and when you find something that gives you pleasure it is not any one’s right to tell you whether that is wrong or right. My problems do not have anything to do with the idea of an older man getting together with a younger woman who is more vulnerable. In fact, I am a more vulnerable young woman who happens to prefer men that are older than for certain reasons. My issue is not with the black and white, in your face themes and messages. But what I do have an issue with is the underlying messages sent to women and men throughout the movie. The issue with 50 Shades of Grey, is all in the grey area.
Watch out – there will be spoilers.
I didn’t mind the movie until Grey tells Ana that she was the “only one he took in his helicopter, the only one he had sex with in his bed.”
Did the whips bother me? No.
Did the play room bother me? No.
What bothered me was the message sent to those in an abusive relationship.
The message in that line might as well have said, “Yes I treat you like dog shit, I own your body and I own your mind but it is okay because occasionally I will throw you some special treatment and make you think you can change me.”
No abusive relationship starts out abusive. That is why people stay. People stay for two reasons. Because they believe that they can change their significant other back into the person that they were when the relationship started, or because they believe that they can be the one to change that person into a different version of them completely.
I get it, Christian is a fucked up guy. He’s had it rough, we get a little bit of foreshadowing into what we may learn about his life in a sequel if there will be one. The thing with that foreshadowing is, no matter what it is we learn about him and what he has been through will make it okay for him to treat Ana the way he does.
Most serial killers have some type of untreated mental illness, most sexual predators have in fact been sexually abused as children. Does that make it okay for them to become predators and violent criminals? It doesn’t.
Let’s throw it all out there for the sake of proving a point, I myself was sexually abused as a child. I also have dealt with major depression and anxiety for the majority of my life. I am a motivated and accomplished young woman, who despite these issues is a very normal person, a very kind and loyal person. The foreshadowing to Grey’s life troubles to me said “hey, he’s a shitty guy but ya know… he’s really had it rough, this is the only way he can stay sane, to hurt people.”
That is fucking bullshit.
That is the mindset that keeps people in an abusive relationship. Excuses.
“He hurts me but it’s because of this…”
“She breaks me down because she has had to deal with this…”
There is no excuse for beating the shit out of someone you love to make you feel better. There is no special treatment that can make up for taking everything someone has, and not giving them anything in return. There is no good in compromising someone’s beliefs for your own pleasure. There is no reason to think that you can change someone who is not willing, and who does not want to change.
Because you can’t.
People can only change themselves; they are the only one who can make that decision. So to all the women who left thinking “But Ana can be the one to change him…” Ana will never change him. He has to decide to change himself. And to all the men who left thinking “Wow… she’s not into it now but I could manipulate her into it somehow…” Don’t even go there.
To all of those who keep a set of handcuffs in your bedside table, more power to you.
But to all of those who handcuff their significant other, emotionally, who bind them possessively, who dominate them with manipulation… this is not your pop culture free pass. Having this type of message sent in a mainstream manner does not make it okay. And that fact, is black and white.