In case you haven't noticed, pretty much everybody out there has an opinion on "Fifty Shades of Grey." Some think it's romantic, others find it cheesy. Some credit it with sparking a much-needed discussion on kinky sex, while many think it's abusive. But for a lot of us, "Fifty Shades" is an amalgamation of all (or most) of the above. Basically, it's as chock-full of yes, grey, as its dominant male lead, Christian.
However, there's one part of "Fifty Shades" that's plainly black and white from this vantage point -- Christian's abusive behavior, which ended up being toned down just a little in the transition from page to screen, with Jamie Dornan in the principal role. Laci Green makes a solid case for why Christian's so-called sexy behavior should not be glorified (or God forbid, emulated) IRL in the latest episode of MTV's "Braless."
"Look, maybe 'I'm sorry I can’t sleep with you unless you let me hit you' isn’t like ... the best foot to start a relationship on?" Green says, before listing book-Christian's many glaring offenses.
She has a point -- many points, actually. Christian gives Anastasia a sexual ultimatum, stalks her, and even tracks her phone in the books, which probably wouldn't be considered romantic if he didn't also happen to be a handsome billionaire. He also beats her while she cries out asking for him to stop, which is why the BDSM community has largely condemned the book -- and to perhaps a lesser extent, the movie.
"Those familiar with BDSM practices know that consent and safety are top priorities," Green adds. "This includes the mandatory usage of safe words -- which Christian frequently ignores. Since safe words create the divide between a consensual pushing of someone’s limits and violence toward an unwilling participant, safe words are not optional. Yet the lines of consent are constantly blurred and disregarded in the books. While on one hand opening up the exciting world of kink, 'Fifty Shades' also manages to glorify emotional manipulation, coercion and sexual abuse."
Now, to its credit, the movie did tone down some of Christian's more extreme moments of stalkage -- and even beefed up its heroine, transforming Anastasia Steele from a meek, empty abuse vessel to a smart, funny and engaging young woman.
But there was still the very disturbing sequence in which Christian changed her clothes while she was sleeping -- before they were dating -- and even the bit where he showed up at her family outing unannounced was supposed to be romantic. It's not. How would you take it, dudes of the world, if a woman you just started dating flew across the country without telling you, then barged in on a dinner with your mom? Yeah, thought so.
Then of course, as Green says, there's the issue of that ending -- an ending that (spoiler alert!) featured Ana getting "punished" and abused by Christian.
"Ana goes along willingly -- until the end, when she has a change of heart," Green says. "She asks why he wants to hurt her, and it’s clear that she’s not into it. She ends up participating because he wants her to, not because SHE wants to. This is a subtlety of consent that’s often overlooked. People can be coerced by more than just physical force."
At the end of the day, Green says, "Fifty Shades" is "just a movie"... but it's also a movie that has become a worldwide cultural phenomenon, which perhaps says a whole lot more about us as a culture than we initially thought. One the one hand, it's opened up some valuable discussions about sexuality, but on the other ... why is the handsome leading man du jour a textbook abuser?
"I can’t help but wonder: What does it say that it’s about a rich, powerful man who has a penchant for whipping a confused, quiet and naive virgin?" Green asks in conclusion. "Does it say anything at all? Does it speak to the fact that we socialize women to be submissive and not speak up while teaching men they should be powerful sexual aggressors? Could 'Fifty Shades' be hitting a darker part of our collective sexual psyche than mere whips and chains?"
Well, given the fact that there are two sequels on the way, we'll undoubtedly be dealing with the "Fifty Shades" controversy for years to come ... but in the meantime, just know that your opinions about its content do not need to be black and white.