By Ian Sullivan
The Fifty Shades of Grey film, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, was released this past Friday, just hours before Valentine’s Day, and went on to see massive commercial success over the weekend. Clearly, the release date was meant to coincide with a day celebrating feelings of love, romance, and sexuality, but both the book and the film need to stop being heralded for these things and taken for what they are: works of misogyny and misandry, as well as just completely uninteresting and stale. Despite the big box office numbers, the film is receiving less than favorable reviews, and it’s refreshing that people aren’t giving in to the romanticized images of the protagonists’ relationship, and understanding it for what is really is. Still, there are many who are misled; this romanticizing needs to end, and awareness of the harm this book/film franchise is doing needs to increase. With that said, it’s hardly surprising that most of the criticism towards Fifty Shades of Grey comes from a feminist viewpoint. But I would like to enumerate a few things wrong with it, and the negative stereotypes it perpetuates, from a man’s perspective.
I remember browsing social media a couple years back, and seeing the utmost excitement amongst many female friends when it was rumored that Charlie Hunnam would be cast in the lead role of Fifty Shades of Grey. I will admit that I was intrigued when I heard this rumor; Hunnam starred in my favorite television show to date (Sons of Anarchy), although I knew he was being recruited more for his sex appeal than his acting abilities. This alone made me wary of the film, when even at the time I knew little-to-nothing of the book. I had the general knowledge, however, that it had a lot to do with sex, so there were a number of dots I was able to connect, and alarms went off. Back then, I wasn’t as invested in the issue as I am today, but I did get the sense that there’s something wrong with a film if its lead role is being cast based on the actor’s status as a sex symbol rather than his acting ability. Regardless of the fact that Hunnam wasn’t actually cast, this problem still remains with its star, Jamie Dornan.
In Fifty Shades of Grey, the antagonist, Christian Grey, is a whole lot of what most men want to be, but can’t. And the only reason so many men want to be this way, is because books and movies and other aspects of pop culture are perpetuating the same bullshit stereotypes–that this is what gets money and women. It’s almost laughable, and seems satirical just how seemingly incredible Christian Grey is portrayed to be: he’s insanely rich, breathtakingly handsome, smart, and is good at everything including, flying aircraft. He also has that dark mysterious side that all women are supposed to crave. Very few men, if any, are actually like this. All men have flaws, and most of these flaws should be accepted and maybe even celebrated for love’s sake. Christian Grey is literally too good to be true, and men shouldn’t even begin to consider him as a viable role model.
Let’s also take a brief moment to consider just how messed up the relationship between Christian Grey and his female love interest, Anastasia Steele, is. He stalks her, harasses her, and causes actual physical harm to her, which all literally fall under definition of domestic abuse, yet Christian is never really held accountable for his actions and just gets away with it by showering Anastasia with lavish gestures. The book and movie utterly glorify bondage and submission. What does this tell society? That poor and disrespectful treatment of women is okay as long as you have the financial means or the physical appearance to get away with it? That women should just give in to these injustices? So with this considered, Christian Grey’s financial and physical statuses taken as attainable and realistic aspirations are wrong in their own right, but what is more outrageous and disgusting is the depiction that his vile treatment of women is in fact acceptable and even encouraged. This is not okay and this is not what masculinity is all about, despite what Fifty Shades of Grey attempts to sell. Men should be just as outraged as women at the absurdities this franchise is peddling as it makes a mockery of how men should properly treat women.
Fifty Shades of Grey is laughably unbearable in its poor storyline and subject matter, but it also needs to be taken seriously for what it is trying to sell us. This romanticized version of a submissive sexual relationship is highly disturbing and will leave all those who believe in its validity and attempt to live up to it disappointed. The mistreatment and objectification of women is never okay; BDSM is rarely acceptable and is for only the utmost serious consideration. Fifty Shades of Grey desensitizes and glorifies these acts, and that is scary as it perpetuates a harmful aggressive image of how men should treat the opposite sex. While most of the criticism for Fifty Shades of Grey is for its anti-feminist subject matter (if not because it just sucks) and rightfully so, this franchise is harmful to both sexes. This needs to be understood and shared and any attempts at true equality for both genders are immediately compromised by any who buy in to the hype.