Blowhard, Esq. writes:
A UK group calling itself 50 Shades Is Abuse, “the original campaign to raise awareness that the 50 Shades of Grey series romanticises domestic abuse,” isn’t too happy about the movie adaptation opening this week:
“We want to challenge the romanticization of abuse,” says Natalie Collins, the domestic violence worker who founded the campaign. “We want to give people the skills and resources to have conversations with their family and friends about these books, and use them as an opportunity to raise awareness about abuse, which could help women who are currently experiencing violence.
“For us, the most concerning bits relate to the controlling behavior that Christian exhibits outside of the bedroom,” Collins says. “He stalks her, he tracks her phone, he finds her workplace, he takes away her independence. Those things are much more concerning in terms of modeling what a healthy, romantic, sexy relationship should be—especially for young girls who will see the movie.”
Given the impending movie premiere, I guess this sort of crap resurfacing was inevitable. Back when the books were still fresh, I argued with a lot of people who made the exact same points. I found their arguments silly then and I find them silly now.
First, no author has any responsibility to “model what a healthy, romantic, sexy relationship should be.” The book is meant to entertain, to deliver a thrill, it’s not a how-to manual. But even to the extent some readers do take it as a Guide To Life, or BDSM, or anything else, that’s on them not E.L. James. Second, it was one thing when we heard these accusations lobbed at Twilight, stuff like, “Oh, the girls reading it are too young and impressionable, we need to protect them from this.” OK, maybe we do. (Though I doubt it.) I don’t have a tween girl so who knows how she’d react. But with 50 Shades the same arguments are being applied to a book meant for adult females. Excuse me, but why are we assuming grown women are so naive and unsophisticated that they can’t separate fantasy from reality? Why are so many people acting like 50 Shades readers are children who need to be protected? I know a number of women who gobbled up all three books, enjoyed them a lot, and got on with their lives. None of them have subsequently submitted themselves to violent or abusive relationships.
I tried reading 50 Shades a few years ago and didn’t get very far, which is unsurprising given that I’m not the book’s target audience, so I can’t speak to the plot particulars. But let’s assume for a moment that the book really is all about the glamorization of abuse and the female character is non-consensually, brutally, and violently abused throughout the book. My response is still: so what? Are adults not allowed to have edgy and un-PC fantasy lives? Must we act like every work of art has to further a desirable social project? Why do so many Lefties believe they need to protect people from the corrupting influence of art? I guess it’s not enough for our public lives to be policed, our private thoughts must be controlled too. Some other examples:
- Lindy West, who made a name for herself campaigning against rape jokes.
- The brouhaha over Milo Manera’s Spider-Woman cover.
- Anita Sarkeesian’s crusade against “sexism” and “misogyny” in video games.
- Articles that attempt to shame people into avoiding certain movies, like this one on Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Back in the ’90s when I was young, attacks on the content of art were largely the province of stuffy Righties. Bill Bennett’s best-selling The Book of Virtues (“A Treasury of Great Moral Tales”) attempted to show that Western literature was about instilling “uplifting” values like self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, and courage. Critiques of violent rap lyrics and video games, Tipper Gore notwithstanding, came from conservatives. Progressives at the time laughed at those who wrung their hands over “Cop Killer” or “Fuck Tha Police,” but now progs (autocorrect on my iPhone always wants to turn “progs” to “prigs”) fret over the sex in throwaway mommy porn. Just as conservatives want art to inculcate conservative values, progs want virtuous art to inculcate progressive values. The people making them may have changed, but the arguments then and now are identical. There never seems to be a dearth of finger-waggers out there to ensure we all learn the “right” lessons.
- The New Republic’s art critic Jed Perl on how liberals are killing art.
- 2014: the year when “forcing artists to be politically obedient was all the rage.”
- As I said, lots of the 50 Shades hate is a rehash of the hate doled out at Twilight. This Atlantic essay by Caitlin Flanagan is the best explanation I’ve read of why so many females love the teen vampire series.