Watching the Fifty Shades of Grey spot during the Super Bowl, I saw a shy, disheveled but fresh-faced girl fall into a predictable yet completely implausible relationship with a young, symmetrically-featured and impossibly rich tycoon.
Nothing new there. That’s the trailer for just about any romantic movie ever made.
But after the onscreen couple moved from handshake to sex in about, oh, four seconds (again, no surprise), the spot promised more. Cute Guy led Clueless Girl toward a door, telling her that just beyond is his “playroom.” Meanwhile, I was asked via onscreen text, “Are you curious?”
I mean, who doesn’t want to see behind a locked door? And since I already know enough about this franchise to anticipate where this was going, I kinda wanted to see how it played out.
Yeah, I was curious. I was also embarrassed that I was curious. As I willed myself to look away, the trailer stopped. These film marketers aren’t dummies. They’ve built an industry on making potential moviegoers want more.
And they’re succeeding. Fifty Shades of Grey is selling out via presales in theaters around the country. The books have sold more than 100 million copies. And on Saturday — Valentine’s Day, no less — women around the country will travel in packs to sit in a darkened theater and watch Christian Grey intrigue, tempt, woo and win Anastasia Steele. And then he’ll intimidate, humiliate, entrap and torture her. Grab the popcorn.
Let’s not play dumb. Christian women are planning to see this film. They’re organizing girls’ nights to make it happen. They’ve already read the books and want to relive all the craziness, but this time in big-screen, high-def living color. Some of these women I know personally. Many of them are single like me, and here’s what they’re saying:
“Lisa, it’s not that bad. It’s just harmless fluff.”
“It’s not like I’m getting sex in real life; maybe a little fantasy is good.”
“This is really a romance at its core. The other stuff is just thrown in.”
Why are we single women tempted by Fifty Shades? I can think of a few reasons:
1. It’s like the hundredth version of Pride and Prejudice. Boy, do we love us some P&P. “Plain and poor girl uses spunk and smarts to attract attention of distant, brooding but devastatingly handsome dude with a chip on his shoulder and possibly a few daddy issues.” He’s a challenge, a true project. She’s the only one who can reach him. And she does. Never mind that this version’s Elizabeth (Anastasia) has to put up with some fear, domination and abuse to get there. Her eventual “rescue” of Christian makes it all worth it.
2. We feel left out. We’re single. We’re committed to sexual purity (or know we should be). We signed our pledges and donned our purity rings, but God hasn’t made good on His end of the bargain. Where’s our hot (and necessarily godly) husband? Where’s our fairytale? The alternative while we not-so-patiently wait is to escape using what is basically female porn. No, it’s not clicking on links and viewing explicit images, though there’s no guarantee what the full film will depict (studio decision-makers refuse to spill the beans). At the very least, it sets up an idolatrous substitute for real intimacy, especially on a sexual level. Like any of us need help doing that.
3. We’re lazy. Most of my Christian friends truly love Jesus and want to please Him. They want to obey God’s Word and think only on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable a la Philippians 4:8. But when they’re standing in line at the theater with their four closest friends and the decision is made to see Fifty Shades, they’ll cave. Because they haven’t thought through why they shouldn’t. No biggie. This stuff doesn’t affect me. It’s just a movie. Um, I’ll use it as a springboard for discussion with my non-Christian friends.
Fans of the franchise say my concerns are overblown, that the (kinky) sex is consensual, and Anastasia’s longsuffering nature actually leads to Christian straightening his life out.
Tell that to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which has started on its Facebook page a campaign to encourage folks to forgo the movie and give instead to victims of domestic abuse. The Center studies the far-reaching effects of abuse and says stories of real women rarely play out like Anastasia’s.
Single ladies, we can’t save the world, nor can we singlehandedly end abuse and exploitation. But here’s an opportunity to draw a line in the sand. Let’s take a stand together. Let’s stop settling for scraps. Let’s stop being naïve. And lukewarm. And a bunch of Bible-spouting, Francis-Chan-tweeting, praise-and-worship listening two-faced fools.
Decide today that enough is enough. Decide that you won’t cave — on Saturday or next week or when the movie hits Netflix in a few months. Say with your voice and wallet that sex and sexual violence as entertainment is not acceptable.
The Super Bowl spot was enough of a warning for me. I don’t need to satisfy my curiosity. I don’t need to know what I’m missing. I need to honor God and do what’s right. Won’t you join me?
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