I know what you’re thinking.
“Another author jumping on the bandwagon to dump hatred on this book and upcoming movie? Really? What do you have to say about it that someone hasn’t already said?”
And that’s a fair statement. I’m not the only one who is discussing the upcoming 50 Shades movie. Plenty of authors have gotten into it already, whether for or against it. I won’t try to convince you to listen to me. Instead, I will just speak my piece and let you do whatever you want to do afterward.
The reason that I have a burning hatred for 50 Shades of Grey is not simply because it’s poorly written, because it’s popular, or because it’s erotica. It is because it is a book and movie about glorifying an incredibly abusive relationship and it is the first time in recent memory that the general populace just seems to be okay with it.
“But Kyoko,” you say. “Isn’t that why you disliked Twilight?”
Yes and no. The reason I hate Twilight is also because it’s poorly written and it glorifies an unhealthy relationship, but let me explain why Twilight pales in comparison to 50 Shades.
First of all, Bella Swan is a teenager. Teenagers are illogical, emotional beings. Their hormones make the calls. I was one not too long ago and the way you feel dictates every single thing you do and you can’t really help yourself most of the time. I’m not making excuses for Bella because she is still a dull, stupid, wet blanket of a character and she shouldn’t have put her life in danger just for a booty call with someone who put his needs above hers constantly. However, that’s the very reason the books were popular. Teenagers don’t know any better. They read about some tall, dark, and handsome dangerous vampire obsessed with one below average girl and they think, “Oh wow, wouldn’t it be so cool if I had a hot guy who wanted me this badly?” Edward Cullen is not and never should be a teen idol because he’s an overpowering, pretentious, selfish prick but it’s not like we don’t have fictional characters who are popular in spite of being absolutely awful. (Read: Loki)
To me, Twilight is less offensive because it deals with an unhealthy psychological relationship. As far as I know, Edward never physically abuses Bella. He forces his opinions on her, sure and let’s not even talk about his actions in Breaking Dawn. He’s a douchebag and she’s too much of a sea cucumber to stand up for herself because she’s a teenager and she has never known better. She isn’t an adult. She doesn’t know how to respond to the way he treats her and she doesn’t realize yet that she had better options.
At the end of the day, Twilight is a fad. Its “charm” has already significantly faded in the last couple years. Twenty years from now, it’ll be like N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys. Some girls will look back on it and giggle like, “Wow, what was I thinking back then? Hormones are powerful things, huh?” Jump ahead another 50 years and we might not even remember it at all except for the box office records.
50 Shades, however, is just straight up glorifying one adult abusing another adult, and the reason this pisses me off so much is that it’s going to corrupt a lot of teens and women who just don’t know any better.
With Twilight, the odds that girls got into bad relationships because they were looking for some creepy stalker were high, but probably not attainable. I’m sure men preyed on those impressionable girls for a while, but most men were repulsed by the franchise and didn’t bother to try to imitate Edward Cullen because no one on earth can possibly be that bizarre mix of brutish disdain and boring lack of personality.
With 50 Shades, the reading world who made this the fastest selling book of all time is staunchly saying to these women, “This is what you should want. This is hot. This is what BDSM is like and you should want that kind of relationship. This made so much money because all these women want this kind of sex and this kind of boyfriend.”
And women have it hard enough.
Every day, women are subjected to advertisements, television shows, movies, video games and anime that enforce what the “ideal woman” is on us. She’s this height, this weight, she has these proportions, she has this hair color, she wears these clothes, she sounds like this, she goes to this place, and you’re never going to be loved if you’re not like her. The media lovingly whittles down our confidence with onslaughts of unfair and unrealistic stereotypes that make us feel worthless in comparison, and there are few of us who are strong enough to ignore it and take our beautiful asses elsewhere.
50 Shades of Grey is the ultimate inaccurate portrayal of something to aspire to. It is not real BDSM, it is something that E.L. James imagined while furiously masturbating. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Look up actual S & M culture, and they will straight up tell you that what Christian Grey is doing to Ana is NOT the proper protocol for BDSM. He is abusing her. He is performing unwanted sexual acts on her, and just because she gets off on it later doesn’t mean it’s not abuse. That is the single biggest reason why I detest this book and film. It is a blatant disregard for one woman’s personal and sexual desires and it sends the ugliest message out into the world that I’ve ever seen in my life.
Because for every decent, loving, mature man out there, there are fifty immature douchebags who are going to see this movie and have every ass backward thought in their head reaffirmed. These guys are going to see 50 Shades make $100 million dollars and say, “Oh, so it’s okay to ignore what women want and force my views and my sexuality onto them. They obviously bought these books and saw this movie ten times, so it’s okay. I can be an asshole and still get laid.” And that is exactly what decent women have been fighting against their entire lives.
Think I’m exaggerating? Do you remember the #YesAllWomen event on Twitter last year? All women have at least one street harassment story. Most have several. We have to deal with unwanted male aggressions, micro or otherwise, all the time. It may not be frequent, but there are always men who think it’s okay to badger women out of some misplaced sense of entitlement.
And 50 Shades of Grey is unconsciously saying that these guys aren’t the minority. I will have nothing to do with a book or a film that helps these pricks continue to treat my sisters like they are nothing less than meat. Never.
“But Kyoko,” you say. “You’re a fangirl. Aren’t fans notorious for glorifying unhealthy relationships?”
Yes and no. I’m a fangirl alright, but I’m actually pretty conservative in certain terms. Yes, I write about an abusive relationship between my protagonist Jordan and the villain Belial, but the difference is that I make it 100% clear that what Belial does to Jordan is wrong and should not be the way anyone treats another person. Belial himself fully admits he’s an evil piece of shit and he wants to bring Jordan down to his level. Jordan fully admits that being attracted to Belial is the worst part of her personality and she is ashamed of her carnal desires for him. Furthermore, while Belial treats her badly, he does actually have something to offer her: money, status, power, and sexual fulfillment.
Furthermore, yes, fans often glorify abusive or even illegal fictional relationships. It’s sad, but it happens constantly in certain circles. I’ve seen them try to justify rape, incest, bestiality, abuse, child molestation, and all kinds of foul things, and they do it with the same emphatic enthusiasm and denial as the women who claim that 50 Shades isn’t about abuse. And guess what? It’s not okay either. They will argue until they are blue in the face for me saying so, but no, I think certain things that fans promote are despicable and should not be done even if it’s just fictional.
However, the difference here is that this is fandom. What does the word “fan” stand for when used in this context? Fan is short for fanatic. That is actually a much smaller demographic than Tumblr would lead you to believe is the norm. These are a very specific subset of people who actively search for this kind of thing. They are not the average woman or girl who would just happen to stumble across these sorts of things.
50 Shades of Grey has been promoted and plastered on every available surface, whereas the unhealthy things that fans like are in a much smaller, more concentrated setting. Sure, some girls who don’t know better might see the things that the fandom insists is okay, but it’s far less likely. 50 Shades is widespread and it’s going to mess with so many impressionable women who don’t know that what they are seeing is an exaggeration and misrepresentation of BDSM and all the things that are associated with an interest in kinky sex or a relationship based mostly on the physical aspects. I am all for women taking charge of their sexuality and exploring what they desire, but I am not for a pigeonholed version that is mostly nonsense of some woman who managed to trick people into thinking her fantasies were anything near what actual BDSM and actual well-written erotica are like.
I condemn this book and movie not because it places sex on a pedestal, but because it makes it clear that Christian Grey’s wants and needs are more important than Ana’s, and that at the end of the day, the man is still the one who dictates the relationship and the woman is his plaything. I condemn this book and movie because there are so many women with abuse stories that will feel a centimeter tall when people advocate such an obvious monster of a man taking advantage of an ignorant girl. I condemn this movie because it was written by a woman, and yet it enforces nearly every single unhealthy stereotype that lousy men embody.
You have every right to like what you want to like. No one will ever stop you. But I think it bears repeating that just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good and doesn’t mean it’s something people should ever take to heart.
*climbs back down off of soapbox*
Kyoko M is an author, a fangirl, and an avid book reader. Her debut novel, The Black Parade, made it through the first round of Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. She participated and completed the 2011 National Novel Writing Month competition. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit degree from the University of Georgia, which gave her every valid excuse to devour book after book with a concentration in Greek mythology and Christian mythology. When not working feverishly on a manuscript (or two), she can be found buried under her Dashboard on Tumblr, or chatting with fellow nerds on Twitter, or curled up with a good Harry Dresden novel on a warm central Florida night. Like any author, she wants nothing more than to contribute something great to the best profession in the world, no matter how small.