50 Shades of Why You Should Not See This Movie

Madison Alvarado, Staff Writer

Now before anyone freaks out, you should realize I’m not referencing any sort of disgust towards BDSM (Bondage, Discipline/Dominance, Submission/Sadism, and Masochism), erotic literature, or fanfiction. What people do in the bedroom and whatever kinks they have is none of my business. What I am referring to is the blatantly abusive, unhealthy relationship that readers and viewers of both the 50 Shades of Grey book and movie have passed off as “romantic” and even desirable. The interactions between the two main characters, Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, is anything but. The idea of 12 year old girls walking out of a movie theater saying “I want to be with someone like Christian Grey!” is absolutely horrifying to me. No, you do not.

The biggest issue with 50 Shades of Grey, which film hit theaters last Friday, is the portrayal of an abusive relationship as sexy, alluring, and even idealistic. E.L. James, the author of the bestselling 50 Shades series, glorifies abuse and other seriously concerning issues. Apparently, being stalked by someone you have just met, contracts dictating sleeping, exercise, and eating habits, as well as jealous and overbearing men are swoon-worthy.

There are several reasons why Anastasia and Christian’s relationship is unhealthy. First off, Christian is aggressive, short-tempered, and displays alarmingly stalker-like qualities. After knowing Ana (her nickname in the series) for only three days, he uses her cell phone to track her down, supposedly to keep her “safe.” When she wakes up the next morning, hungover, she finds out that while she was passed out he stripped her down to underwear and a shirt and slept next to her. This is NOT okay. Young girls, or anyone in general, should not see this as normal. What knight in shining armor undresses you when you’re knocked out from drinking too much? Christian’s intense need for control of all things around him leads him to propose a contract to Anastasia that dictates how often she needs to sleep, what she can wear and eat, where she has to shave, what birth control she must use, as well as what kinds of substances she is allowed to use. As the story continues, Christian shows his extensive knowledge of where she and some of her relatives live, despite the fact that she never revealed this information to him. Ana is unalarmed by this, but remind me again why is this is considered romantic?

Another one of Christian’s most “charming” qualities is how possessive and overprotective he is. When photos of Ana taken by her friend are put up for sale, Christian buys all of them. Not because he likes the pictures, but because he can’t stand the idea of anyone else looking at her. When Ana doesn’t reply to one of his emails, he calls and texts her several times. After realizing this, she says “With a deep dread uncurling in my stomach, I scroll down to his number and press dial. My heart is in my mouth as I wait for him to answer. He’d probably like to beat seven shades of shit out of me. The thought is depressing.” If this were a healthy relationship, Ana wouldn’t have to worry about being abused. Later on, when Anastasia gets a job at a publishing house, one of the only independent things she does in the entire series, Christian buys the entire company to keep her “safe.” 50 Shades of Grey normalizes these possessive, aggressive behaviors and displays them as “romantic.”

Christian isn’t the only character in the novel at fault. Anastasia places Christian and his needs above her own at almost every single juncture in the book. Every time he is angry, she assumes it’s something she has done. Everything she does is to please him, and she suffers through emotional and physical abuse to ensure his love for her. When discussing their boundaries for the bedroom, Ana says “‘I’d never do anything I didn’t want to, Christian.’ And as I say the words, I don’t quite feel their conviction because at this moment in time – I’d probably do anything for this man seated beside me.” Although Anastasia is incredibly uncomfortable being Christian’s submissive, she agrees to it out of fear that he’ll never love her if she doesn’t. She endangers her mental health as she repeatedly participates in BDSM encounters that terrify her. Her deep rooted insecurities allow Christian to exploit and manipulate her.

In addition to their individual issues, the co-dependant relationship between the two has a Romeo and Juliet-esque vibe to it. Not the romantic kind, but the “I will kill myself if I can’t be with you” kind. Anastasia feels as though she can’t live without him. This in itself is unhealthy, not to mention the fact that she develops serious eating disorders in the period when they are no longer together. Throughout the series, Ana is drawn to the idea that she can “fix” Christian with love alone, despite the fact he had some serious issues as a child. This is both unrealistic and unhealthy. Later on in the series, to ensure that she will never leave him, Christian proposes to Anastasia, so now they can be trapped in an abusive relationship ‘til death do them part!

Studies of the series and how it influences young women reveal some disturbing connections. A study published in the Women’s Journal of Health in Volume 23, Issue 9 showed that “In age- and race-adjusted models, compared with nonreaders, females who read at least the first novel (but not all three) were more likely than nonreaders to have had, during their lifetime, a partner who shouted, yelled, or swore at them and who delivered unwanted calls/text messages; they were also more likely to report fasting and using diet aids at some point during their lifetime. Compared with nonreaders, females who read all three novels were more likely to report binge drinking in the last month and to report using diet aids and having five or more intercourse partners during their lifetime.”

And in case you don’t believe my assertions in this article thus far, another study published in the the Journal of Women’s Health, Volume 22, on Number 9, 2013 compared the Center for the Control and Prevention of Disease’s standards for sexual violence and the abuse suffered by Anastasia in the novel found that her treatment does qualify as intimate partner violence. Their report states: “Emotional abuse is present in nearly every interaction, including: stalking; intimidation; and isolation. Sexual violence is pervasive—including using alcohol to compromise Anastasia’s consent, as well as intimidation. Anastasia experiences reactions typical of abused women, including: constant perceived threat; altered identity; and stress managing. Anastasia becomes disempowered and entrapped in the relationship as her behaviors become mechanized in response to Christian’s abuse.” They cited examples from the book as evidence.

Studies aside, the book and movie are both readily available to almost anyone who wants to see or read them. The book is available in stores and libraries as well as online. The movie, which is rated R, is playing in theaters in the US and abroad. Despite the fact that minors cannot get into R-rated movies without an adult present, many underage kids just buy tickets to a different movie and sneak into the showroom.

Ironically, trailers for the movie advertised the release date as Valentine’s Day, when in actuality it came out on Friday the 13th. Coincidence? Although it got awful reviews,  27 percent rotten tomatoes and 4.1/10 IMDb, people continue to buy tickets to see it. The film, which has already made $400 million worldwide, prompted over two million angry twitter users to begin the hashtag #50DollarsNot50Shades. Users encouraged people to boycott the 50 Shades of Grey film and instead donate $50, or simply the price of a movie ticket, to a local domestic abuse shelter. I heartily agree with them.

So please, do not go out and buy a ticket to see 50 Shades of Grey, or read any of the books in the series. It’s glorification and romantification of intimate partner violence tell people that abuse is okay—and it most definitely is not. The book has already sold over 100 million copies, been printed in 52 languages, placed on the New York Times best seller list for over 50 weeks, and become the fastest selling paperback of all time in Great Britain. It doesn’t need any more help spreading it’s messages of abuse.