Last night I was laughing hysterically to the “Honest Movie Trailer” version of 50 Shades of Grey, comparing it to Twilight. It was funny on so many levels, well, just watch…
While I saw many things that made me laugh, I also heard contract negotiation, a safe word discussed, requirements discussed, and while the trailer made jokes of the healthy eating demands and the like, I didn’t think those were problematic. My Dom expects me to take care of myself, whether it’s my physical, mental, or emotional health. He expects me to use my safe or slow word if necessary, to be vocal about my needs, desires, and absolute no’s. (Which I think at this point are pretty much null). He will point out if I haven’t eaten enough, and that’s a strange thing to hear because I’m not thin and was used to quite the opposite demands when I was younger. And all of these things have been consensual and made me a better, healthier, happier person.
Knowing all of this, I thought maybe some of the bad reviews of 50 Shades were based on people being unaware of how healthy and amazingly exciting these things can be under the right circumstance. So I decided that I needed to watch the movie. I’d tried to read the books since I knew I’d liked Twilight, and they weren’t right for me. But the movie, that I thought I could do. So I finally asked the hubby the dreaded question…
“Is it okay if we watch 50 Shades of Grey tonight?”
He somewhat laughed, until he realized I was serious. Then he agreed on one condition. Since the funny trailer was what spawned the desire (and at this point I wasn’t sure if I was going to laugh at the movie as much I had the trailer), he insisted we watch Twilight first, then 50 Shades right after, for comparison purposes, of course.
Though I really didn’t feel like watching any of the Twilight movies, I agreed to his terms. So in went our chosen of the Twilight series, and we sat down to watch.
It took a very short time for me to feel utterly disgusted with the movie. I had to stop and think, what the hell happened here? I used to love those movies, books too, so why was I cringing?
It began at the scene where Bella’s Dad was insisting she see friends ‘other’ than Edward, which seemed super dominating and controlling to say to a girl about to graduate, but hey, he’s the dad, so… I let it go. But then, Bella tries to leave to go see Jacob that night, and her truck wouldn’t start. And why wouldn’t it start? Because Edward took the damn thing apart!!!! All so she wouldn’t leave and go to the reservation to see Jacob, because Edward thought it was ‘dangerous’. A blood sucking, killing vampire, told her what she could and could not do because the werewolf was more dangerous than his blood-sucking self. Really?
For the fist time ever, I saw this as completely possessive, abusive, and non-consensual.
At the time those books came out, there were MANY people speaking out about how unhealthy it was for teen girls to see that stuff, and I thought they were full of shit. I thought Edward controlling Bella by ‘protecting her against her will’ was sexy. I thought his constant withholding and lying to her ‘for her protection’ was also hot, and that it made him mysterious.
Of course, this behavior continued. Rather than feel pulled in and close to the characters, I saw Bella as an abuse victim and both Edward and Jacob, abusive and controlling assholes. And like every possessive/abusive person, there has to a good side, right? “I just love you soooo much, I can’t stand the thought of you leaving and anything bad happening to you… Therefore I must control your every move.” or “Pick me, pick me!” “But I don’t want you.” “Pick me anyway!”
Okay, so I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the point. The notion of ‘I love you so much that I’m going to take your personal desires and freedoms away’ is a crock of horse shit. Or maybe pig shit, not sure which. Either way, it’s abuse. It’s putting their needs above Bella’s and that’s not okay. It’s not consensual. She did not ask to be dominated by either of them.
This is not an attack on Stephanie Meyer or E.L. James, or any author. I actually love Stephanie’s writing style. I love her voice. Her books were what inspired me to write. So to say that I disrespect her or E.L. James isn’t the case. I don’t.
I do however have questions. First for Stephanie.
Why make characters that are so controlling? So dominating? And if they are going to behave like Doms, why not have them be ‘good’ Doms? Why does Bella just take it? Why doesn’t she get mad when Edward takes parts from her truck and tell him if he doesn’t fix it and back off, she’s done? She took all the controlling behavior, all the dishonesty, jumped when he moved, made excuses for him, and I don’t think it needed to be that way. I think Bella would have been such a better role model to the youth if she’d just given both of them the finger and gone off on her own. Or had healthy boundaries around her relations with Edward. She at least punched Jacob when he forced a kiss on her, but she let Edward completely dominate her and I no longer see that kind of non-consensual behavior as sexy.
This isn’t to say that I don’t find these kinds of stories entertaining and enjoyable, but now that I see these things so clearly, I feel like one of my favorite book series has jumped from my book shelf, thus committing bookly suicide. How can I ever enjoy them again when I see so clearly the kinds of abuse that are taking place? The love aspect of two fighting parties coming together over their love for her is amazing. That’s a great aspect to the story. The monsters that don’t want to be monsters, also great. The fact that Bella knows what she wants at such a young age, great too. But did there need to be such abuse of power? Because that’s what it really is. It’s not like these two high school boys were fighting over a girl in school, they are two very powerful, dominating, and controlling males, arguing over who she will pick and which monster she’s safer with. It seems crazy that I ever thought this series was healthy for young girls. Still, not knocking the author, just the characters’ flaws.
I too have a YA novel series that while my publisher didn’t allow these kinds of things to happen, the main character’s love interest is still a controlling, dominating, withholding, kind of guy. He doesn’t freak out and pull engine parts from her car, but he does have anger issues that the main character puts up with for far too long. The more I look at my own writing from days when I did not understand what these things meant, the more I see how much I tolerated withholding and dishonesty, and disguised it as sexy and mysterious.
You know what’s sexy to me now?
Straight forward people that can speak their minds. I don’t even care if their opinion is the complete opposite of mine. As long as they are respectful and honest.
Dominant people, also super sexy. When they know ‘how’ to be dominate without being non-consensual, controlling jerks. Dominate people that know how to use that ability for good, in consensual ways, are sooooo hot.
Of course, I’m not done here, as I still haven’t covered the issue of 50 Shades of Grey. While that has gotten so much more flack than Twilight, I actually found the movie to be much better. I don’t care for fanfic, so that aspect wasn’t enjoyable for me, but when it got down to the sexual part, the BDSM part, that shifted.
Granted, I will say again, this is the movie and NOT the books I speak of. I wasn’t able to get through the books, and have been told by knowledgeable people that did read them, that they were terrible consent wise. However, I will stick to the movie comparisons only, as that is what I was doing.
First, I’ve seen a lot of complaints about drinking in the film. I have to admit, half a glass of wine does not cause anyone I know (unless they are allergic) to be sloppy drunk and therefore, no longer able to consent to sex or play. While I would never mix those things, I know some who do in a light way. I didn’t see the fact that Anastasia has a glass of wine as problematic or taking away her ability to give consent. I also didn’t see Christian’s having an occasional glass of wine affecting his ability. Common sense says this will not, in a very small amount, withdraw or negate consent. A bottle of wine, different, but half a glass? Not so much.
I also saw character flaws. Like Christian knowing what he is, but since the women he’d been involved with all knew what they wanted and liked, he came across as not knowing how to handle a situation where the girl didn’t have experience. Didn’t know.
Anastasia didn’t let him dictate things. She’d often walk out, say no, and even though she claimed to not understand his sadist side, she showed one of her own every time she fucked with is head. Smiling and messaging him to say, “It was nice knowing you,” knowing that he’d come to her, she was totally messing with him. She knew it’d bother him enough and upset him enough, to come to her. Which he did.
She also often stepped over his boundaries. Doms get to have those too. He set a boundary on many occasions, like no bed sharing, no touching him, etc… and yet, she kept touching his face. He told her it burned his skin, and she kept doing it anyway. She didn’t stop when he told her no.
Yet when she told him no, even though she didn’t even call out a safe word, he still respected her boundary. He didn’t comfort her when she said to stay away, he didn’t follow her when she told him not to, and he left the room even though he wanted to talk things over, just because she told him to.
I bring these things up because I’m not sure why so many people claimed he raped her. Or that he didn’t stop with a safe word. He did do some stalkery type stuff, and the storyline could have certainly been healthier in the BDSM arena, but it wasn’t as bad as Twilight as far as consent goes. Mostly because Christian was upfront, told Anastasia what he was and wanted, that he wouldn’t touch her without her written consent, and while she never did sign the contract, she absolutely did consent to being his submissive. She just wasn’t a very good submissive, and he wasn’t a very good Dom. I saw the problems with the movie also being character flaws, leaving room for growth, and not necessarily problems with the BDSM portion.
Sure, it was just an intro, sure the ‘worst of the worst’ was six whacks with a belt on the butt (really??? gotta agree with the honest trailer here), and yes, they didn’t get into ‘subspace’ and what that really means, though I suspect more of that may come out in future movies, but it still wasn’t as bad as Twilight. And this really surprised me.
So while I can see that books may have been different, and while there were absolutely things that were character flaws in this movie, that if confused as ‘healthy BDSM’ could cause issues, overall there was much more negotiation, communication, honesty, boundary setting, and healthy decision making than in the Twilight series.
Because of the boundaries, because there is communication, and honesty, I have to say that between the two movies, I’d pick 50 Shades of Grey over Twilight. Not only has this come as a huge surprise to me, but it shows me how much I’ve changed and grown this last year. How I’ve learned to set healthier boundaries for myself and others, how I’ve learned to communicate and speak my needs, and to accept myself and love who I am. Now I see that withholding isn’t sexy and mysterious, straightforward honesty is, and I deserve that.
I still have questions for E.L. James, like… Do you cover that Christian needs to grow as a Dom as much as Anastasia needs to grow a a sub? Have you experienced these things yourself? Do you understand that you’ve created Anastasia to be just as much of a sadist as Christian, but rather than cause physical pain, she just fucks with his head instead? While these questions differ from the ones I’d ask Stephanie, they are still things I’d like to see answered. Characters that are fictional need room for growth just as much as real people do, because real people ‘do’ need to grow. All that is fine with me, as long as authors make sure their characters are growing. Bella never really stood up to Edward. Not in any real sense. And he didn’t stop controlling her either. So I don’t feel there was sufficient growth. And it’s still too early for me to tell with the 50 Shades movies. But my views have certainly changed.
The Honest Movie Trailer still makes me laugh, and I will surely watch it again, but I’m thankful that I took the time to watch the movie rather than jump in the ‘it’s giving BDSM a horrible name’ bandwagon. I understand the books are different and that they probably do those bad things people claim, but the screenwriters seemed to get it right. Or at least, close.
Now that I’m done ranting, time for some play of my own!