Be warned this might get a little ranty … but maybe not in the way you are expecting. Because while my facebook newsfeed, twitter, and tumblr have been full of messages on why you are a terrible horrible person who hates women if you see this movie, my main reason for writing this post is to say that I think people should see the movie if they want to. I saw it last night, and here are some of my thoughts on the movie and the controversy.
I’ve written before about how I read the books and thought the media message around the “phenomenon” were pretty insulting to women. It seems to me that when something is made popular by women, people are quick to find something morally wrong with it. This is especially true for things made popular by teenage girls, but it seems like this stigma can follow women into our adult lives.
The controversy now centers around people saying that the movie and books encourage domestic violence and rape. This is a very serious accusation, which seems to me to be based on people’s opinions who never read the book and quotes taken out of context. I feel very sorry for anyone who reads the book and feels this way. I hope they don’t see the movie, and they are certainly more than justified in sharing their feelings (as is anyone) in any way they see fit.
But I get upset when I read these things, because to me the books felt like a literal PSA about consent. They talk about every thing they are going to do before they do it. There are safe words and they are respected. When Anastasia says she doesn’t like something, they never do it again. They have a contract (which is kind of creepy and controlly), but also is the basis for several productive conversations about what each does and does not want to do.
I’m not saying there aren’t problematic parts of this story. I don’t think it is a great message that Anastasia basically gets a job, money, a new more beautiful look all handed to her by an older knight in shining armor. Some of the comments about body image are potentially harmful as well. When people say that it’s not a realistic or true representation of BDSM I believe them … It’s honestly not my area of expertise.
But books – especially romance novels – aren’t just about providing positive messages. And to say that millions of women are misreading the books is insulting to millions of women, myself included.
I do understand that different people can walk away with very different responses to the same story. We all have diverse view points and personal histories. We all find different things triggering. I myself found book series, Outlander, really upsetting in terms of violence against women. When I first read the book, I could seriously pass a lie detector test that it supported a man beating a woman against her will. However, I also understand that the people who recommended the book to me couldn’t have read that scene the same way. We experienced it differently. And now the television show is being lauded as a feminist savor to fantasy television, even by ultra feminist platforms like Jezebel. My opinion isn’t necessarily wrong. That’s why it’s called an opinion, but I don’t think the opinions of the 20 million people who bought the book and loved it are wrong either.
It is much easier to hate something than to love it. You sound more righteous. You often sound more intelligent. At the very least you will almost always stir up more controversy. More views, likes, retweets.
But I’ll tell you one thing before I end my rant, and that is that I bet it was a hell of a lot more fun eating candy and giggling with my friends at the midnight showing last night. I don’t think the movie was particularly good, but I didn’t expect it to be. That wasn’t the point. It was over the top and melodramatic and lines like “I want to f*** you into next week” seemed more hilarious than sexy. But even though they took out some of the key scenes that screamed consent to me in the book (who else missed the boathouse scene?) overall I don’t think the movie celebrated violence against women.
That’s my opinion. If you have one, I’d love to hear yours.