Fifty Shades of Grey

“Today, there is no day or night
Today, there is no dark or light
Today, there is no black or white
Only shades of gray”
– The Monkees, “Shades of Gray”

Fifty Shades of Grey focuses on two consenting adults who are about to enter into a contractual agreement to get their rocks off.

Naturally, the loud crowd that claims to be so concerned with women’s rights and moral salvation can’t stand the idea that rather than it being a movie where people suffer and die, it’s about how two people choose to enjoy themselves.

And in light of this controversy, the irony is that E.L. James’ book is a tale of volition and free will, which constitutes the basis for ALL rights and morality.

I remember the ad campaign for Roman Polanski’s Tess, based on the Thomas Hardy story of a young girl foisted on polite society, with its tag line, “…at a time when rape was called seduction…”!

In Fifty Shades of Grey, its lead character, Anastasia, is an English Lit major who cites Tess of the D’Urbervilles as her inspiration for pursuing a college degree. Despite a 4.0 GPA, she sees herself on the sidelines. Anastasia Steele – her very name conjures up czarist Russia. She drives a Volkswagen, aka “the people’s car.” She represents Old World values in manner, dress and approach to life.

The other player in the story is Christian Grey, a name that’s self-explanatory: he lives amongst the clouds. As a kid he managed to survive a crack-addicted mom to amass a great fortune. He’s capitalism personified. He’s sure of himself and demands to be rewarded for his success, expecting things to be done on his own terms according to his values.

So where do we get our values? Or, to put it differently, how does one learn right from wrong?

Through the sensations of pleasure and pain!

It’s the Pavlovian concept of being rewarded with something desirable for making the right choice, or being punished for making the wrong choice. Thinking that this movie is about slapping a woman on her fanny is like continuing to believe that Fight Club is about scuffles.

In the Old World sense, marriage was established as a triad between two people and God! And let that settle in because according to God’s law, if you cheated on your spouse, you were cheating on God! Today, marriage is a contract between two people for their mutual benefit. For the most part, the romantic has been cast aside. Romantic films have been deconstructed into the “romantic comedy,” which hinges on petty jealousies, fraudulent circumstances and competitive relationships to bind people together.

Fifty Shades of Grey suggests a different way to bind people.

In a world of half-truths and moral turpitude, the contract Grey presents to Anastasia for her approval is black and white. What is one of the most often cited complaints about men in relationships? They avoid commitment. Here, Grey is completely committed.

But if you are one who insists that this movie is nothing more than a male fantasy of dominance over women, then consider Grey and how his responses play into the contract.

Far from displaying caddish behavior, Grey fights to keep his passion from being extinguished by what’s considered proper or convenient or expected. But neither is he interested in sharing Anastasia with the world, which is why he shoves her friend who’s trying to kiss her, and why upon hearing of her unannounced plans to return home, he declares, “you are mine.” This from a guy who refuses to sleep over or spend the night after sex because that would play into the intangible, accidental vagueness of today’s casual sex climate which is more powerplay than mutually beneficial. Grey is the man unaffected by the pitfalls of feminism or moral tradition.

In a similar movie years ago, The Story of O, there is no contract, only the whim of the dominant male who uses affection as his means of coercing obedience from his girlfriend to the point that she has no alternative but to submit, even when he ships her off to be the mistress of his aged mentor. Nothing in Fifty Shades of Grey remotely suggests such imbalance between Grey and Steele.

Anastasia holds the power of veto over the contents of the contract. A contract using specific language which establishes boundaries of her own volition that she agrees to. The certainty of romance is that to work it must be in black and white!

This cult of moral grayness is certain of nothing!