Yet another film has caused a stir across the world. This time it’s the controversial Fifty Shades of Grey. After reading a number of opinions of the film adaptation I couldn’t help but recognize a lot of debate around whether it’s valuable or simply romanticising the destructive and dangerous culture of sadomasochism and the violence against women. Being a passionate egalitarian and feminist (yes, the two can co-exist, but we’ll save that discussion for another day), I understand these concerns however; I defend the film and I’ll explain why.
So far I have gathered three main arguments against Fifty Shades:
- This is a film straight out of the porn culture and has been banned in Malaysia for displaying unnatural sexual acts (read: pornography basically)
- Gail Dines, the anti-pornography activist and author who launched the #50dollarsnot50shades campaign described it saying, “It tells the lie that if you get this sadistic predator — which is what Christian Grey is — and if you just love him enough out of this, then in fact you will love him into being a good man, a good father and you’ll have a happy ever after ending in a beautiful house with a couple of kids. It is a complete lie.”
- The 50 dollar Campaign is a better cause to fund http://www.torontosun.com/2015/02/09/50dollarsnot50shades-womens-shelters-call-for-fifty-shades-boycott
I think it’s great that we have a film of this sort out there. I believe film, music, art, literature, comedy are all reflections of our own society. The content of our music sends a message about the type of society we live in and these are great media to attract the attention of people.
As much as we would like to think that the whole world still heeds to traditional ideas about sex, the reality is that it doesn’t. Some men and women like to be tied up and slapped around during sex. That’s their choice and preference. Banning the film won’t change these people’s attitudes and sexual preferences. I mean, S&M isn’t even something that can be openly spoken about without judgment and stereotypes and condemnation. This is a cultural phenomenon which obviously can have very harmful effects in many instances but sweeping it under the carpet because “it’s dirty” does not do justice to the millions of women (or men) who end up being victims of this new, “Grey type o’ love”. We should screen it, talk about it, argue and identify the potential harms in it, otherwise people continue to believe that they can love their violent or abusive partner out of his damaged state, as the film suggests.
What’s particularly striking to me is the fact that so many people didn’t even know that S&M was an actual thing. How does one suggest we fix a problem that people aren’t even aware exists? Pop culture icon, Rihanna, is still singing about how “chains and whips” excite her. Millions of teens and adults around the world have popularized the trend of sexting which has been found by researchers to have strong sadomasochism elements and undertones in it. Christian Grey quotes almost broke Tumblr with the millions of fantasies that were created with the Fifty Shades novels. Isn’t is obvious that we NEED to be speaking about these issues rather than ignoring and shunning them? The problem here isn’t that Christian Grey is depicted as this irresistible, sex-god around the world. The problem is that millions of young girls and women already find his type irresistible and not just because of the novels, but because of our own society and the things we continue to romanticize. Many of them are probably searching for these Mr Greys already.
I do agree with Gail Dines on the big lie notion that’s being portrayed in the film that women who stick around long enough and love an abusive man long enough when clearly the sexual pleasure isn’t reciprocated; that they can “love him out it”. I must add that sadly, it is a lie that’s true for many people. This is a widespread lie and its inclusion in the film shouldn’t simply be accepted or ignored by boycotting the film. That would be a great injustice. I say we should all watch the film. Let’s be uncomfortable, skeptical, and then, let’s talk about it and challenge it. We need to confront the issues that prey on societies because of stigma and prejudice. Film is never simply for entertainment; at least we should never view it as just that.