By Marcia Love
“Friends don’t let friends read Fifty Shades of Grey.”
This was a comment made by a former journalism school classmate of mine following the release of E.L. James’ novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, back in 2012. At the time, she was referring to the book’s lack of an actual storyline, plot and character development, and other literary failures.
Now, three years later, after a record-breaking opening weekend, I would like to reiterate her plea and say, “Friends don’t let friends subject themselves to sadistic movies such as Fifty Shades of Grey.”
The R-rated film adaptation of the best-selling explicitly erotic novel raked in $85 million on opening weekend in the U.S. To put this into perspective, other actual romance movies of recent years such as Valentine’s Day and The Vow – both hits that were also released just in time for Valentine’s weekend – grossed $56 million and $41 million respectively when they opened in theatres. Fifty Shades is now the highest-earning 18-rated film of all time in the U.K.
Aside from the fact this is essentially the most extreme form of pornography you could find on the big screen, Fifty Shades is getting just as much attention from those who are disgusted by the disrespect to women it displays, and for good reason. It’s not “just a book” or “just a movie.” It’s a book and a movie that depicts violence against women as alluring, and also encourages the lie that if a woman sticks around and keeps trying, eventually she can change the man who abuses her – a falsity many women can attest to who have gone through similar nightmares in relationships.
What I find astounding is that so many people who were repulsed by the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi are willing to pay good money to witness the same kinds of acts the disgraced radio host is being accused of.
For the record, I was one of many women (and men) who took a stand against watching the movie. Call me a prude, but I have a problem with watching that and calling it entertainment.
There is no way I would ever want to see the kind of film that portrays violence against women as enticing. And considering the major push to put an end to violence against women – particularly on college and university campuses – it’s strange to see women flocking to theatres for the movie. Nearly 70 per cent of the audience on opening weekend was female.
The fact the movie hit theatres on Valentine’s Day weekend is a twisted irony.
Since it’s opening, I’ve heard only two different viewpoints on the film. There are those who are not bothered by it in the least and those who are incredibly bothered by it. Apparently Fifty Shades leaves no grey area as far as opinions go.
The truth is, the movies and TV shows we watch and books we read have a bigger impact on our minds than we realize. Don’t believe me? How many of us pretended we were princesses or WWF wrestlers on the school playground with our friends or in our backyards with our siblings when we were younger? Thinking back, almost all of the make-believe fun I had with my childhood friends was influenced by a favourite cartoon, TV show or musical group – which isn’t a problem, until it is. One day the guidance counselor at my elementary school had to have a talk with students about the roughhousing that was occurring during recess while kids were pretending to be Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (my brother once gave me a black eye after we finished watching an episode).
And what we watch and read has just as much of an impact on us as adults, too – it’s just not as obvious.