If you are up on American popular culture right now, you may have seen the film Fifty Shades of Grey, but you almost certainly have heard the bad reviews. In the name of journalism, Taylor Angel and I went to see the film to give you the official Indigo Children review.
I loved Fifty Shades of Grey! But many people obviously haven’t understood it. While I’m no film critic, I did ace my Interpretation to Literature course in college. Apparently, that qualified me to understand this film better than the majority of my fellow journalists.
If the film is so bad, then why do strong, independent, conscious women love Christian Grey?
Because he’s a man. A good one. The character Christian Grey is a shining example of the divine masculine archetype.
Christian was born into an unhealthy home life and dedicated himself to becoming a healthy person. As a teenager, an older woman taught him about healthy boundaries with an intimate partner through a dominant/submissive relationship. After six years as her submissive, Christian matured into his role as a dominant. The film introduces us to Christian at a time in his life when he is maturing again and is ready for more intimacy in less controlled areas of his life.
Christian Grey is attractive because he understands his role as a man. He is fully supportive of Anastasia Steele allowing her to express and find herself in a submissive role. Their relationship is about being free and safe- as defined by Christian himself. The highly publicized quote, “I don’t do romance,” is Christian’s way of saying he doesn’t do unhealthy relationships.
Why do strong, independent, conscious women want to be the submissive Anastasia Steele?
Because she is free and safe. She is an open-minded woman being fully supported so that she can express herself as the divine feminine.
One of my favorite moments in the film is when Christian very seriously asks Ana if she has everything she needs before they are to leave the house for dinner. Stating she does, Ana beings dancing with Christian before breaking into an independent ecstatic dance. No matter how independent a woman may be, she desires to be supported and knows that, when she is, she is able to express an enormous amount of herself as love.
Ana makes her own choices using her own mind and she retains her own identity. In contrast to the Twilight series that this piece of fan-fiction grew out of, Ana is much more admirable than the character of Bella Swan who exists exclusively in her romance with Edward Cullen. In fact, Ana only falters in her character after spending time with her mother who has a history of failed relationships.
What is the plot of Fifty Shades of Grey?
It is a coming of age story about the heroine Anastasia Steele. She is faced with the choice of accepting life as she knows it or pushing herself to grow. Her inner conflict is expressed by her desire for traditional romantic behaviors with Christian despite his offering her something bigger and better that may be destroyed by such behaviors.
More simply put, Ana is growing up. She can either choose to repeat her mother’s romantic failures or explore the unknown in search of a more fulfilling life.
Is it about sexual abuse and violence against women?
Absolutely not. It is about healthy relationships. The basis of sexual abuse is controlling the other person while the basis of dominance is empowering the other person. Violence against women is done with the intent to harm in contrast to BDSM play, which is done with the intent to pleasure.
The only time Ana experiences pain is when she choses to hurt herself by commanding Christian to beat her, thus blaming him and subsequently hurting him emotionally.
As a survivor of domestic violence, I saw a lot of myself in Christian Grey’s character but none of myself in Anastasia Steele’s character. Like Christian, I have become a connoisseur of healthy relationships and am repeatedly considered cold for my rejection of everything else. Romance is often the word used to describe unhealthy, self-serving behaviors that lure women into abusive relationships. However, Christian is criticized for his healthy boundaries and the rave reviews are saved for outlandish romantic dramas.
The only hint of sexual abuse portrayed in Fifty Shades of Grey is when Jose, Ana’s friend, gets her drunk and takes advantage of the situation by trying to kiss her. In fact, if you pay attention to Jose’s dialog, he is always talking about himself and only supports Ana when it serves his own agenda- behaviors typical of abusive men.
Does Ana like Christian just because he’s rich?
In many ways, wealth makes Ana uncomfortable. She likes Christian despite his money.
Christian has a healthy relationship with money. He has built his wealth admirably by innovation in technology, communication and sustainable energy. He takes care of his staff and the communities positively affected by his business.
He offers Ana gifts as a way of supporting her needs or being polite. Support is the major theme of his wealth. Neither of them make much of a deal about his wealth.
Additionally, Christian likes Ana despite her looks. She is average in her appearance but her personality makes her beautiful. He treats Ana with respect upon first meeting her despite her unpolished appearance and considers her without assumption or judgment. The intense experience of being seen and appreciated exhilarates her in contrast to her hesitation accepting Christian’s gifts.
Would you recommend the film?
Unfortunately, no. The first thing I said to Taylor after seeing the film was that people weren’t going to understand this. It tugs at many of our common fears and judgments. Readers of the book seem to have a much clearer understanding of the controversial relationship portrayed. If you’re seeking a Hollywood style romance, I recommend its Twilight inspiration. Fifty Shades of Grey is for the Anastasia’s of the world- the open-minded who seek enlightenment, freedom and self. Perhaps it is for the Indigo Children.