Fifty Shades of Vulnerability
By Tammy Hilderbrand
So a group of friends and I went out last night to see “Fifty Shades of Grey” before it leaves the theatre.
I’ve read the trilogy of books by E.L James, and I’ve heard and read the reviews, which generally have not been good. And of course I’ve heard and read all the discussion as to whether or not the story “glamourizes” domestic violence.
I actually thought the film was better than I anticipated. I liked the theme of the books, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with the writing. I thought it could have been better.
The film was much the same way. It could have been better, but it was by no means what I would consider a bad film. I have certainly seen much worse.
For those not familiar with the plot, the trilogy traces the relationship of a college graduate, Anastesia Steele and Christian Grey, a young business tycoon. This movie was based on the first book of the trilogy, so more will come.
All the attention has been about their sexual relationship. Grey is into sexual domination.
And that is where all the controversy comes in. I find the controversy itself interesting, because it says a lot about the evolution of sex and sexual roles, and a lot about society’s confusion about those roles.
When you think about it, in the course of human history, it is actually a very new idea that women are not to be dominated by men, sexually, or in any other way. For millions of years, women have not been treated as equals, in the bedroom, or anywhere else.
But suddenly, women are expected to reject any idea of domination, in any form.
The problem is, this story is not really about domination. It is not even really about sex. This story is about human vulnerability, and the fear of vulnerability.
Women, especially, have fears of vulnerability because it is a very real problem for them.
In any intimate relationship, there is vulnerability on both sides, but especially so with women. It is always tempting to “be taken care of”. In my mother’s generation, that was really the standard of a good marriage. If the man could “take care of” his wife and family, he was considered a good marital match.
But that idea breeds dependence, and dependence means vulnerability. Take the husband out of the picture, for whatever reason, and the woman and her children are left extremely vulnerable financially. So, the reality was that many women stayed in bad relationships, even violent relationships, because they felt they had no choice.
As any woman who has been in a real domestic violence relationship can tell you, this story is not about domestic violence. Domestic violence is about control.
If you look at these two primary characters closely, Ana is actually the one in control. She is the one determining the boundaries of the relationship through their contract. She is, in fact, working at Grey’s own vulnerabilities, which are all emotional in nature, not physical. It’s obvious all of Grey’s very particular desires are really an attempt to protect himself emotionally.
The truth is, relationships cannot maintain that kind of sexual heat. They are bound to burn out. That is what Grey has been betting on, until he meets Ana. I am sure he is attracted to her innocence, because she is in fact, still a virgin when they meet.
If I feel sorry for anyone in this story, it is Ana, but not because of the way Christian treats her, but because she will have a heck of a time figuring out her own sexual future. This relationship was way too much for someone that young. She’s thrown into a situation of figuring out her sexual boundaries in a matter of weeks rather than through years as most women do. I think women need to test their own sexual boundaries because that helps them know themselves better, and increases their personal power and confidence. But that is a lot for a young woman to handle.
So was this a story about sex? Only on one level. Was it a story about domestic violence? No, but I think it’s good to discuss domestic violence to get a clear idea of what it is.
To me, the two most powerful scenes in the movie were not at all what most people would consider as powerful.
One was the scene where the two were riding in a glider. That was the perfect metaphor for love. The two are floating on something they cannot see. No engine. No visible sign of power, yet they remain aloft. But, that glider is going to eventually come down, hopefully with a soft landing.
That is love. It will go up, and it will come down, hopefully with a soft landing.
The other powerful scene was the two of them in a bathtub together. He had drawn that bath for her, and he was trying to make her feel taken care of.
I actually cried in that scene.
Because that is the paradox. To be taken care of is to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable can lead to disaster.
It’s not a Cinderalla story.