Let’s get something out of the way: I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey. It didn’t capture my interest, so I never bothered.
But as a features editor, I haven’t been able to escape the fever pitch that’s accompanied the release of the film adaptation of this novel. Heck, this week I used two different reviews of the film on our website. And I can’t tell you how many emails I have received from marketing professionals trying to catch my attention with clever Fifty Shades-inspired subject lines. The thing that’s struck me though isn’t the content (no pun intended), it’s the shock and outrage over the content.
This is a novel that’s been making women blush since 2011. It’s been pretty well discussed for quite awhile. So why are we so surprised that in the film, it shows the erotic bondage and sadomasochism that somehow captivated readers for the last four years? I mean, that’s what the book is about, right?
What’s even more interesting is that the outrage isn’t only coming from cultural conservatives and Christian groups. It’s also moms in general, and even the BDSM community. Apparently, for moms the portrayal of the relationship is alarming — and they don’t want their teenage daughter to think it’s okay. For those involved in the BDSM community, the inaccurate and potentially harmful way the bondage and sadomasochism is of concern — as is its portrayal. So basically, Fifty Shades of Grey is uniting people in unprecedented ways.
Needless to say, I haven’t seen the film and probably won’t. But as a mother, I am not outraged. The film is an adaptation of an erotic fiction book … and that’s exactly what you’ll get if you go to see it. If you don’t want to see the whips, masks, handcuffs and other novelties used in the film, don’t see it.
This isn’t the first film to be released with this kind of reaction. In 1992, The Crying Game was a controversial release too. The foreign film was nominated for six Oscars, and won one. It also took home Best Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes. It was a hit abroad and in the United States. But the subject of the film, and particularly the key plot twist, outraged people. The difference? We didn’t have a novel version to devour first. When The Crying Game wove its shocking tale of nationality, gender, sexuality and race, it was a genuine surprise.
I actually haven’t seen that film either. My friend’s parents attempted to take us, but a ticket booth attendant raised a red flag about the content. They wanted us to see it for its political plot line, but didn’t realize about the gender and sexual ones. Months later, my parents, aunt and uncle banned my cousin and I from the room while they watched it.
While the film intrigued me, the allure of the forbidden wore off quickly — and I never bothered to see it once I was old enough to make that decision for myself.
The thing with films like these is that you don’t have to see them. Hell, you don’t even have to watch Debbie Does Dallas. A film’s release isn’t a mandate to see it. You have control over what you see and what you don’t. And ultimately, you have control over what your kids see too. I can say with great certainty that my 7-year-old and 9-year-old won’t see this. That would be ridiculous.
So if this isn’t for you, see something else. Or don’t see anything. It’s your choice. If you’re psyched to see it? That’s great too — have fun. I hope it lives up to your expectations.
That’s what it comes down to: choice. You get to choose for yourself and only you. Exercise it. But don’t be surprised that an erotic novel became an erotic film.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.