I figured if I was going to write about “Fifty Shades of Grey” I should read the book first. And I tried. I got exactly 74 pages when I realized my brain had smuggled in a spoon and was attempting to tunnel its way out of my skull. This is the only book I have opened that is so pathetically written my intelligence actually tried to Shawshank me.
It reads as though it were written by a team of lobotomized squirrels. Nonetheless, I skimmed the rest of the book, with the assurance that I will never put myself through this torture again. Poor writing aside, there is a much more pressing problem with this, for lack of a better word, book. More precisely, the popularity of this book (and movie).
The marketing alone makes me cringe. It is presented as a love story, and the movie premiered on Valentine’s Day. The fact that so many women see it as a love story is what truly alarms me. Imagine this same story being relayed to you by the object of Grey’s ‘affection’ only this time, it’s your daughter.
She is a senior in college, has just completed her finals, goes out with friends, and for the first time in her life, gets drunk. She drunk dials a man she just met, and he proceeds to track her down, hold her hair while she vomits in the parking lot (which seems to be the most affectionate thing he does for her), and have his brother distract her roommate while he takes her back to, not her apartment, but his hotel room.
The next day, he tells her “If you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday.” There are so many things wrong with that statement, not least of which is that he threatens to beat her so badly she can’t sit down. Because she got drunk. I don’t care if she burned down your house and shot your dog, you don’t EVER threaten to beat anyone. Isn’t that what we teach our kids?
Does your daughter grab her belongings and run like hell? No, she coyly bites her lip and, in her mind, “she’s doing a happy dance in a bright red hula skirt.” I’m not making this up. Later, she says she feels like Tess Durbeyfield looking at Alec d’Uberville’s home, and “the thought makes me smile.” Alec is the man who rapes Tess in “Tess of the d’Ubervilles.”
As a literature major, she more than once muses that she has never been interested in a man because of her avid reading and the literary heroes she expects a man to be. In all the world of literature, she doesn’t crave a Mr. Darby, a Mr. Rochester, or even a Heathcliff, but a rapist.
In fact, when Grey says he could see her as a beautiful heroine, or “debase you completely” she responds “I’ll take the debasement.” At this point, you’re probably wondering where you went so terribly wrong in raising your daughter. At least, I hope you are.
Many women have pointed out that the girl signs a contract agreeing to be abused. So it’s all OK. No, no, no! It is so indescribably NOT OK! The contract she signs dictates that she must get at least 7 hours of sleep when she’s not with him, eat exclusively from a list of foods he gives her, and only wear clothing he approves, among other things. In bold letters are the words “Failure to comply with any of the above will result in immediate punishment.”
In the course of the story, he beats her, stalks her, even when she visits her parents, beats her some more, buys companies where she works just so he can fire her, and beats her some more. And of course, she falls madly in love with him, because he is an irresistible psychopath.
If you read the books, saw the movie, or both, ask yourself: What is the message you’re sending to your kids? Hopefully, you have taught them, sons and daughters both, that abuse is never acceptable, that being controlled or controlling in a relationship is damaged and wrong, and that sex is supposed to be predicated on mutual affection and respect.
And then you go to lose yourself in a story that undermines all of that. If the girl in this story is your daughter, hopefully it fills your heart, not with love, but with disgust and dread. I know it does mine.