Well, I would say the first shade of strange hit me at a neighborhood Christmas party almost two years ago. Matt and I look forward to this annual event. There are some couples there that we hardly get to see throughout the year, and it is always fun catching up. One neighbor I haven’t seen in a while asked me what I had been getting into over the year, and I had the opportunity to tell her about the book I had been writing. I explained to her that it was about how our knowledge of God shapes our everyday living.
Now you never know what kind of reaction you are going to get when you tell people you write Christian books. But I wasn’t prepared for this one. She was thrilled because she loves to read, and as a matter of fact, she was currently devouring 50 Shades of Grey. I think I my facial expression matched that of Ralphie when he decoded his first Little Orphan Annie message in his bathroom. Next thing you know, she calls her husband over to tell him about my writing. And she starts chatting away about 50 Shades. Her husband is smiling like it was so cute that his wife was “into” a book like that.
It was all very strange and uncomfortable for me. This is a conservative looking woman, a mom of two boys, in her 40’s. If her husband was bragging at the party that he was reading a porn novel, I would think she’d feel very disrespected and ashamed.
Of course, there were many shades of strange like this when 50 Shades grew in popularity. Since it was one of the fastest-selling book series ever, I had already looked up the reviews. One thing that bothered me terrible was that discerning readers (who had no problem with the “erotica” genre) were complaining about how poorly the book was written. They point out the many overused phrases, the juvenile plot, lack of character development, and even how bad the sex scenes are described. One reviewer said it is clearly written for bored housewives (may I add, who must not ever read good books) and hormonal teenagers. So I usually ask about the actual quality of the writing, since it is a book and all…
Now the trailer is out for the movie. And just this week, I am encountering more shades of strange for a movie that isn’t even releasing until February. I am shocked by some of my mom friends that have posted the trailer on Facebook, tagging some of my other mom friends about the “Mom’s Night Out” they look forward to having in February. Some of these women profess to be Christians. They all have daughters in middle or high school. And sons.
My first reaction was, “This is 50 shades of hypocrisy!” Would they want their husbands to be bragging about the porn they were looking forward to watching together? Wouldn’t they be humiliated? Of course, it’s a double standard: it’s somehow sexy for women to watch porn. And if these husbands are counting on a movie to make their sex lives with their wives better, well, that’s a little humiliating too. And sad.
My daughters are old enough to pick up on the 50 shades of strange that will no doubt be happening around them. I’m sure it will be talked about in the high school. And worse, they may find some of their friends’ moms going. I assume that the movie is going to follow the same BDSM so-called plotline as the book. In which case, Christians and non-Christians alike should be joining forces in outrage over the thought that women are portrayed as getting off on abuse.
I suspect a lot more men and teenage boys will be going to the movie than have bothered to read the book. How are they going to react when unwanted beatings are glorified in sex? Is the message going to be “this is what women really want”? I think that in the months building up to this movie, we need to be engaging this 50 shades of strange, asking good questions. This is an opportunity for believers to reach out to our unbelieving friends and ask if this is really the road that we want to go down.
Do we really want to be encouragers of promiscuity and abuse? Do we really believe that this is good sex? Do we want our sons and daughters to think women want to be dehumanized and beaten to be aroused? This movie is a wake up call. And to think, it all started with bad writing…
*Originally published on July 25, 2014.