The “Fifty Shades of Grey” novels, already “mainstream” in their appeal, had readied conditions across the cultural landscape for a perfect storm of the cinematic kind. The film adaptation of the initial “Grey” book has just broken box-office records. It has also severely chipped away at society’s common conscience and established a deeply disturbing baseline for societal norms.
The books themselves are bestsellers, so it may have been anticipated that the movie would be met with some degree of success. However, it was not that long ago that participation in a film project of this type would have created a serious stigma for the involved actors, directors, and studios.
Undoubtedly, a movie-going public would have shied away from attending local theater showings, so as to avoid having to endure fifty shades of shame. With the advent of new forms of media delivery, however, participating in viewing sexually explicit fare became more commonplace, although admitting that one had engaged in such experience may not have.
With regard to media entertainment, the digital age truly changed circumstances across the societal board. Not only has the technology that provides access to media entertainment transformed our cultural viewing habits, it seems to have simultaneously altered our ethical essence. The accelerated pace at which things now occur, coupled with non-judgmental attitudes that have reached a level of absurdity, have put us in a virtual moral free-fall.
This is evidenced by the fact that many in the print and broadcast media are taking a cavalier approach to the “Grey” film, referring to it as an “erotic romance,” such a benign characterization for something that is so potentially deleterious if allowed to enter the mind and imagination.
Narrative fiction has the innate capacity to intensely influence a reader and/or viewer. Professor and Chairperson of Michigan State University’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies Amy Bonomi has shed some light on the dark truths that surround the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books and movie. The professor’s work has found that the “Grey” media contributions are vehicles that promote and glorify abusive relationships.
While the movie was in production in 2013, Prof. Bonomi was the lead author of a study, published in the Journal of Women's Health, in which a group of professionals analyzed the content of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books using the standards for emotional abuse and sexual violence promulgated by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine whether the characters were exhibiting characteristics of intimate partner violence.
According to the study, almost all of the interactions between story protagonists Christian and Anastasia were emotionally abusive in nature, when applying the CDC standards.
Christian, the accomplished and affluent businessman character, employs threats, places blame, wields disparaging remarks, and is verbally abusive to Anastasia. He stalks the young woman by buying the company that employs her and by tracking her locations via an app placed within her cell phone.
Christian exercises meticulous control over which foods Anastasia is allowed to eat and with whom she is able to associate, all the while sequestering her away from family and friends. As a consequence of Christian's abuse, Anastasia is rendered insecure, afraid, and alone. As things go from bad to worse, she is coerced into having sexual relations without her consent.
“The book is a glaring glamorization of violence against women,” Prof. Bonomi explained.
The researcher and her team conducted an additional study, which further indicated that women who engage in the reading of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” story were more likely to exhibit signs of eating disorders, have relationships with verbally abusive partners, and possess an increased risk of routine binge drinking.
“Grey” has been marketed in a deceptive and misleading manner. It has been misrepresented as a romantic love story suitable for a couple’s night out.
The stars of the film have been instructive in the comments they have shared about the movie.
“[My wife] hasn’t seen the film and I don’t think she will, to be honest,” Jamie Dornan, who portrays Christian in the movie, told the U.K. London Evening Standard.
Dornan also revealed to Britain's Notebook magazine that he felt the need to apologize to his co-star who played Anastasia, Dakota Johnson, for the scenes in which they acted together.
“If I was about to be doing something particularly heinous to Dakota, I would apologize in advance and say, ‘I'm probably not going to derive a huge amount of pleasure out of this. I want you to know that,’” Dornan said.
For her part, Johnson told her mother, Melanie Griffith, not to see the film under any circumstances. Griffith incidentally confirmed to TMZ that Johnson had warned her not to watch the movie.
“No I will not [watch the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie]. Because my daughter doesn’t want me to. And I don’t think it will be appropriate,” Griffith said.
Johnson responded to a question that inquired as to whether she had any doubts about taking the starring role in the movie. She told The Sunday Telegraph, “Absolutely. The whole time. Even now there are moments when I think, 'What the [expletive] have I done?”
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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