Counter Culture

The website of moral theologian Christopher Klofft

Shades of Black, part one

Hey, everyone! The first trailer for 50 Shades of Gray is out! How exciting!

No.  In fact, the reality that so many people are eagerly anticipating this film shows what a sad state of affairs human relationships are in right now. Honestly, I have a lot to say about these books and film, but we’re going to be inundated with more crap about this movie as its release draws closer, so I’m going to pace myself here.

If you haven’t seen the trailer, go ahead and do so.  It really tells you all that you need to know.  This is a supposed romance (scheduled for release hilariously on Valentine’s Day) in which a naïve young woman is seduced by a handsome, powerful, but also thoroughly broken, man.  The portrayal of the woman in the trailer borders on the unbelievable, while everything that is supposedly enchanting and romantic about the man is at best surface level – he is wealthy and willing to spend extravagantly to make a gesture – and at worst sociopathic, such as his desire for control in all things.

This all leads to the climax of the trailer (yeah, yeah, that one was too easy) where we see our bound and blindfolded heroine in ecstasy as any sense of her own agency is stripped away from her.  And that’s all the story has to offer.  If you knew nothing of the book and only saw this trailer, you don’t get any sense of story: in fact, you get the impression that you are being walked through the first half hour of the film, and then…what? Explicit dominant-submissive scenes disguised as romance? (And yes, I know she leaves him at the end, but there are still two more books to turn into films, in which they – spoiler alert – ultimately get married and have children.)  Does this even count as a plot?

No, it doesn’t.  It is an excuse to be visually titillated in a different way than the word on the page did for those who read the book.  The book’s audience was overwhelmingly women, and presumably that is the intended audience for the film also.  But here there is a potential difficulty: women do not react the same way to a frank visual depiction of sexual acts as they do in a narrative description that fires up their imagination and allows them to remain safely in control (enjoy the irony there).  I wonder (and frankly, I pray) that the visual depiction of scenes from the book will not arouse women, but rather make them realize the horror of what they previously thought they enjoyed in the book.  I hope that they see the situation for what it is: the brutal manipulation and degradation of a young woman by a powerful man who is only using her to sooth the scars of his own victimization at the hands of others.

Here is a simple objective truth: deliberately inflicting pain or humiliation on another, especially in the context of what is supposed to be shared intimacy, is never a loving act.  It is always the sinful using of another.  “Limits” have nothing to do with it.  “Consent” has nothing to do with it.  It is never a loving act.  Ever.

In the midst of a cultural discourse that has so many defenders clamoring for the sexual freedom of women, one of the most anticipated films is about literally nothing more than a woman being denied her sexual freedom by a powerful man.  The idea that this is somehow not the most laughable contradiction ever is actually the evidence for a most successful Satanic seduction.

I’ll have more on this over the next seven months, I’m sure.  But to tide you over, read this article about how the book is actually just a thinly veiled description of pedophiliac abuse.

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