When my lovely teen daughter (hereafter known as DD) got into the car this morning she automatically flipped my car radio from radio 4 (don’t judge me – I’m 49) to radio 1. Because the film of the 50 Shades book series was premiered yesterday they were talking about it and even had Jamie Dornan in the studio. After 30 seconds, totally unprompted DD turned and said ‘why do they keep saying it’s a romance when it’s about abuse?’ (we have read some of the book together, I expect, being a teen she has read more with her school friends too) And it's a good question.
Abuse of power in life and in relationships has obviously gone on for a long time, long before a mediocre set of novels and a film, portrayed damaged people in a damaging relationship, so why are we all (OK not all, but a fair few of us judging by twitter and the blogosphere) up in arms about this one? Maybe because it’s suddenly mainstream, discussed on Radio one at breakfast time, used by every marketing agency going (stop it, it’s lazy at best and vulgar at worst – have some pride). Maybe because young women like my daughter are talking about it in the playground and lots of them are not like DD, lots of them are seeing it as ‘real love’.
Look how much he loves her! He follows her! He wants her all to himself! He loves her so much she is his and his alone, she’s not allowed friends! It’s so romantic!
Last time Dd and I discussed a relationship in the media with this much hype it was the Twilight saga. Both DD and I loved the books (again, stop with the judgy looks) and we quite liked the movies (despite Kristen’s constant miserable expression). I was very Team Edward (I love vampires) and DD was Team Jacob (I believe her reasoning was ‘I like my men hot and hairy’ can’t argue with that!) so we talked about the dynamic of each relationship. We concluded that Jacob loves Bella more than Edward does. Edward is selfish, hungry and obsessed. It looks like love but it’s obsession and desire. Jacob lets Bella go because he wants her to be happy. Yes the old “If you love something let it go” is a cliché but it’s also true.
Christian Grey gets away with his obsession and desire and selfishness because he is rich, handsome and powerful. Just as Edward is.
I don’t want stories like Anastasia and Christian’s to be banned. I want them watched, but what I do want is people to stop romanticising an unbalanced relationship. To stop saying that control, stalking and violence are romantic or the fault of the victim (I can’t help it – I love you so I get angry)
Fantasy is fine, S&M is fine, it’s all fine if you know what it is. But Fifty Shades is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
And if my daughter ever dates a wolf I’d like it to be a Jacob Black style wolf, not a Christian Grey one.
What do you think? Have you read the book or seen the movie? Did you love or loathe them?