I will not be one of the many people standing in line to see 50 Shades of Grey this weekend. And, before there is a ton of backlash, I’m not judging individuals in loving, caring respectful relationships nor what they enjoy in their own private time together. However, I am deeply concerned about the messages this movie is sending all impressionable men and women as well as the impact it’s having on our global culture.
It has taken us years to break down the stigma of the airbrushed fantasy and educate the men who think those images are natural and normal, as well as heal the damage caused to generations of women striving for the impossible because they’ve been taught anything less is unlovable. In this movie we are visually capturing and romanticizing behaviors that set both men and women up for failure. I know this material has been in steamy books, but there is something really powerful for humans when the visual cortex is stimulated the way soft porn does. Compounding the influence is that we take away the limits of one persons imagination, which is applied when reading a book, and make another persons imagination a reality for thousands when we put it on film. Lastly, we all know that this movie is fantasy, but history has taught us that all forms of media are highly influential, highly suggestive, and when absorbed by those with immature mental and/or emotional capacity or by those who have been hurt, wounded or compromised to a point where their self-esteem is damaged, it becomes one more tool by which an individual measures and weighs themselves or worse. The worse? A culture that accepts these behaviors as a standard for a new cultural norm.
I’m not just worried about the girls who will think that doing anything a man wants will earn them love or those who will use substances in order to be OK with the behaviors that they think will make them lovable — because those are the messages this movie sends. But also the boys and men who will feel as though the elements of power presented in this story are the measures of success that they must apply against themselves. That to get the girl and get the high-powered roles in life this is who you have to be and how you have to behave, and that anything less is failure. These are horrible messages that we are perpetuating through this film, and sadly, through many others.
I am aware that there have been other movies equally as graphic in nature, so why are so many people concerned about this movie? Because there are movies, books, television shows and personalities that in one moment in time cause a cultural shift. Their attitude, power, or influence are so enticing or provocative that their messages became the new normal. I’m not worried that every household globally will have a secret S&M room, I’m more concerned that we are adding to the culture of unrealistic expectations and undoing decades of work around equality and respect. It keeps me up at night that we continue to bombard humanity with messages that highlight an unbalanced perspective of human nature and we feed on those messages because they satisfy the most basic and instinctual parts of our brains. It’s not just thumbs that set humans apart in the animal kingdom, but the ability to cultivate reason and emotional capacity. When we support messages of violence, disrespect and degradation, are we catering to our highest capacity as humans?
In an age where we are still losing the fight against domestic violence, human trafficking and rape, and in which high suicide rates among our young people are prevalent, why do we participate in ANYTHING that perpetuates dominance over women or which sends messages to our men that this kind of behavior is not only acceptable but desired and OK?
It’s important to state again that I’m not judging anyone who sees the movie nor the actions any two people lovingly and mutually respectfully undertake together. But neither of those messages are sent through this and so many other movies.