Okay so earlier this week I posted this imagine on my personal Facebook page after reading a blog that picked apart 50 scenes of straight up abuse in 50 Shades of Grey.
I have to admit to my stomach turning horribly as I read the blog and found myself SO thankful I haven’t read the book series. Yes, confession time (for those who don’t regularly follow my blog): I haven’t read the book… but PLEASE stay with me here, I have something to say that I haven’t seen on the millions of blogs about the topic.
Let’s rehash the discussions about abuse, reality vs. fantasy, & the marketing machine behind 50 Shades of Grey. AND how both sides in this great literary debate can be right – for ALL THE RIGHT REASONS.
So – click that “read more” because Mrs. Ross will see you now. 😉
Fantasy vs. Reality
When I started taking part in role-playing games in college, and in particular LARPs, I had to fiercely defend my hobby to my more conservative religious friends. In fact, I usually leave my hobby out of discussions with employers and church officials because I’m tired of having to defend these facts: I am a mature and mentally stable adult. I do not ACTUALLY think I’m a vampire, elf, or any other character I’ve ever portrayed. That I no more think those games are real than I think a book I read is real, a movie I watch is real, or that I believe I can murder someone simply because I played Clue last night.
Defending adults ability to know reality from fantasy has been a big part of my life for almost two decades now and so you’d THINK I’d be up in arms defending 50 Shades and it’s fans. After all, it would be almost insane to believe that there is anyone out there who REALLY wants to be stalked, emotionally abused, controlled, and eventually raped – or any of the other things that Christian allegedly does to Ana in the books.
More over, it seems mad to think that anyone out there is living under the delusion that they should seek out a childhood abuse victim who has now turned abuser & claim as a boyfriend so they can “fix him.” It’s a sound argument that most women KNOW that it isn’t wise to remain in an abusive relationship hoping you can “fix” your partner. YES, people can escape the cycle of abuse and recover from the wounds of their past… but it’s not easily done and usually requires much more realistic tools than just “the power of love” alone.
Look, I love a good romance with a happy ending as much as the next gal… but living in some fantasies is just dangerous. And for the most part, women DO stand up to help each other out of those situations which are described in 50 Shades. And, for that, I’m grateful.
However, unlike vampires and elves, women who think they can “heal” their abusers do exist. They ARE real. Troubled women who, for a variety of reasons, are living the reality of 50 Shades right now and think they can’t leave… or worse, wouldn’t leave because they think what they are enduring is a form of love.
Abuse & Censorship VS. Defending Logic & Fandom = Smart Marketing
At the moment I’ve seen two types of blogs out there … the first goes on and on about how horrible 50 Shades is. It talks about what they perceive as a threat to women and to society. Many of these blogs advocate boycotting the movie and books or (and I can’t agree with this) censorship.
The second stands in defense of 50 Shades and it’s fans. Most of these blogs acknowledge the flawed characters (maybe even writing style of the author) and that it’s not an accurate depiction of the BDSM lifestyle (which ironically I’ve seen NO ONE say that it is so I think we all get that point.) They also defend the idea that fans know the difference between fiction and reality and that it’s just that…a guilty pleasure to read. An enjoyable look at a flawed character, one who suffered abuse in his childhood, and the story of his redemption at the hands of a woman who loves him.
Which is right?
Maybe both. Maybe neither. However, the obvious people benefiting from our debate is EL James and those who published her books and made her movie.
A friend of mine & fellow romance author stated on Facebook that she (and I’m paraphrasing here) would have been okay with 50 Shades if it had been billed as a non-consent erotica novel and NOT a romance. That’s all well and good, and I tend to agree with her based on what I’ve read about the book… but that wouldn’t have gained it the audience it’s gotten. And, at the end of the day, publishers are in this to make money.
That’s right folks… the publishers WANTED us to debate this because every blog out there about one side or the other = $$$ it means more people talking about the property. More people giving them free advertising time. More potential readers/movie goers being tempted into seeing what all the fuss is about.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the teaser image for the movie.
And guess what? It works because it’s exactly what we’ve been talking about for how long now? Congrats 50 Shades Marketing Team… your decision to controversially label this story a “romance” has made you serious bank. But what’s the mean for the rest of us?
The Real Impact.
So, do I think the next generation of women are going to be a bunch of victims waiting to happen and our men (who have seen how hot this book makes so many of us) a bunch abusive assholes waiting to happen?
In short, no. I think the discussion we’re having is an important one which is helping prevent a dangerous message from being widely accepted as truth (the message being that the majority of women want to be treated as Ana was in the books and that men, to be desirable, need to act as Christian did) and while the debate is heated on both sides… it shouldn’t be. Look, fans of 50 Shades are within their rights to love whatever books they want and, as with the Harry Potter crazy of not so long ago, anything that gets folks reading is a good thing (in my opinion.)
However, I would like to think that fans of 50 Shades can and DO recognize the real problem & effects of abuse in our society. That a REAL Christian Grey from the end of the book might seem like a romantic and tragic character you’d like to hook up with… but the guy in the majority of the story would be a NIGHTMARE to live with daily. AND that many women in the world are currently enduring just that… and sadly, many of them think that it is their fault or worse… that it’s “love.”
Do I think that’s happening BECAUSE of 50 Shades. Lord God in Heaven, I’d hope not… just as I don’t think vampires are real, I’d hope no one would go seeking an unhealthy relationship like that! BUT… here’s the truth (and it’s rather sad) those kinds of relationships have been around a VERY long time. Abuse is rampant in our society and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Now, 50 Shades may not have started that fire… but it can deliver an unrealistic message to those who are in those situations or who may one day be in those situations.
OR, maybe 50 Shades can do something else… maybe it can do something really amazing and good.
Wealthy Enough to Make a Positive Impact
EL James has a powerful platform and she’s rich enough now (I would think – I mean, I’m not her banker or anything) that she (and her fans) can stand on that platform and use it for good. The story may be a great yarn and if you want to tell everyone you see that … DO IT! However, why not also support the positive messages being stated by the other side?
Curious thought, eh? That one could use a book they love to share a message about what’s WRONG with some relationships and with our society. That YES, you may love Christian because of the man who he becomes (or who he is deep down as Ana reveals) but that his actions throughout the book are dangerous, cruel and if done to someone in real life should send women running.
EL James surely must know the debate raging on the net… but she need not pick one side or the other (nor should she remain silent on the topic if she is doing so!) I pose another option to EL and her fans: Perhaps you can be a 50 Shades fan as well as a supporter of abusers getting help and victims getting out.
Just something to think about.