Friday, February 20, 2015

Fifty Shades and a Confused Idea of Romance

I watched it. Late night in the movie theater, young people and old people alike in attendance, nervous giggling all around, gasps of air at the intense moments, frustration as the movie ended on a cliffhanger. I'm not the prude that many might believe me to be, nor am I a sex-crazed 30 something desperate to see "wild" acts on film. I'm just a person; a curious person like everyone else out there, especially the folks who vehemently protest such material (Hamlet said it best when he claimed "The lady doth protest too much.") Did I like it? Some of it. Do I want someone to beat me with a leather strap in a "play room" after I coyly sign a contract agreeing to various forms of abuse? Um, a bit too much if you ask me.

So here's my unsolicited take on Christian Grey and his confused idea of romance:

The story of a man with emotional and sexual problems due to years as a submissive and former abuse by a dominant is really no different than stories people read about serial killers or kidnappers, rich business men or mobsters. This story just happens to take something considered normal (sex) in a relationship, and it contorts and distorts in a way that skews the lines of romance and sadism. Christian Grey is a relatively normal guy who uses sex and dominance as a way to deal with his abusive past. Am I saying this is acceptable? No. But I am making note that many of the same people who claim Fifty Shades is an abomination sat through two hours of Leonardo DiCaprio saying "fuck" over 500 times, bumping cocaine on his lunch hour, and having sex with anything that moved in Wolf of Wall Street, and it seems I missed the crazy Facebook outrage that Mr. Grey has garnered in the last week. 

Now, let's make it clear that not much offends me. I'm an English teacher, and words are words until placed into (or taken out of) context and misused; therein lies the problem with much of what society might consider inappropriate. I teach Shakespeare. The first page of Romeo and Juliet sees two servants joking about taking maids' virginity. Facebook isn't blowing up about that because it's Shakespeare...and because most people read right over that part. We teach Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and it says "goddamn" throughout the story because that's how men doing manual labor talked to one another. No Facebook rants about that. One John Green's Looking for Alaska discusses oral sex, and everyone flips out and tells us we can't teach the book or encourage students to read it. Why is it that sex is so taboo? Why is it that we have this confused idea of what it means to discuss, educate, exploit even, something that is so natural and normal and commonplace? 

Don't get me wrong: I'm not defending foul language and sexual exploits in movies and/or literature or in every day life, but I am defending the idea that we need to reevaluate, as a society, why we view sex as so repugnant in some forms but acceptable in others. If Christian Grey can't get written legal consent from a grown woman who knows almost exactly what she's getting into after much questioning and exploring, then why can Leonardo DiCaprio be nominated for awards for doing the exact same thing without the whips and cuffs? What's the difference? 

The moral of this story:
I don't need to read the Fifty Shades trilogy, and after having a few days to process the movie, I don't want to. The intrigue lies in wondering and making up in my head what happened after the credits began to roll. The other moral is that ya'll can save the Facebook rants for things that have more importance in society. Acting appalled by Mr. Grey and voicing your strict distaste for the books and movie is more a testament to your curiosity. Maybe we should all be proclaiming, "Out, out damned spot..." as opposed to judging the world for mentally entertaining the lasciviousness that existed long before Mr. Grey took his feather duster off the wall. 

"Laters, baby."

1 comment: