Nomad takes a look at the rather ridiculous hysteria surrounding a recent film, dealing with S&M and sexual submission.
It was pretty predictable that some heads would explode as soon as British author E. L. James' 2011 erotic romance novel came out as a film. The subject matter was just a little too hot for some people.
A thoughtful depiction of a consensual S&M relationship was, for many tightly wound conservatives apparently pushing the envelop too far.
It was just a matter of good taste either.
Sin with a Mainstream Appeal
According to the Catholic Dioceseof El Paso, Texas, it's is a sin to watch the film "Fifty Shades of Grey." At least, that's what El Paso Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz has written on in a post in his website.
"I’m not going to tell you that you may not go to see the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m just going to tell you to do so would be a sin."
Seitz says he considers the film to be little more than "pornography with a dangerous and degrading mainstream appeal." That hasn't stopped the newly-debuted film from having a phenomenal opening weekend. In fact, with a heap of juicy publicity like that Sietz should be on somebody's payroll.
The bishop takes the long standing view that there can be no passive participation in pornography. Just being a viewer is an act of endorsement and form of approval.
That right there is a sin.
It would not by any means the first time that the Catholic church has weighed in on films
Among other sin-inducing films:
"Taxi Driver," for example, was iled by critics and moviegoers alike but the Legion of Decency condemned the film and reasoned the the film’s violence was “irrational” and “lacks a distancing objectivity.” Critics would say that very quality was the artful part of the film.
The Church also took umbrage with the sex scenes in the film "Last Tango in Paris." It characterized the scenes as “needlessly extended and explicit.” The Clint Eastwood Western "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly" got a thumbs down as well. "A ClockworkOrange," "Fight Club" and "Requiem For A Dream" all came under fire for slightly different reasons.
A Dangerous Message
It's not just the Church. Conservatives have also taken arms against the sexually explicit film. The trailer alone riled up a lot of people.One non-profit organization Morality in Media issued a statement, when the trailer was released (prior to the film).
The group claimed that the preview “deceives the public” by romanticizing and normalizing sexual violence.
Don't ask any questions about this subject to a conservative or you might just hear another discussion about legitimate rape and "the other kind"
Variety gives us more details on the complaints:
According to the release from the organization, which opposes pornography, “Fifty Shades of Grey” sends a dangerous message to men that the sort of relationship is what women really want, and to women that they can fix violent and controlling men by being obedient.
Despite the criticisms of the film's imagined message, that didn't stop people from actually seeing the film. Take a look at the most conservative and most religious state in the union, Mississippi. According to sources, film goers- presumably wayward sinners each and all- have swarmed the cinemas to see "Fifty Shades of Grey."
What could explain this strange twist?
"Maybe we need to redefine conservatism."
Meaning perhaps, we must redefine the word to mean the opposite than it has always meant until this film came out.
Friedeman points out something that also bothers feminists:
Every nine seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten and so now we ave a movie that deals with two people getting together out of wedlock, and one wants to beat another or use handcuff, hitting whips as a sexual act so I hardly think that's very helpful."
Of course, what so many religious leaders- and conservative politicians for that matter- seem to overlook or ignore is the idea of consenting adults. It always seem to be a concept that so many on the Far Right simply cannot grasp.
The Liberal Stretch
On the other hand, liberals see the main characters obsession with sado-masochistic dominance as some kind of message about the power-hungry ruling class.
L.A. Times columnist David Horsey attempted to use the film to find an insight into the minds of people like the Koch Brothers. He wrote:
"Billionaires want what they want and believe they deserve to get it because they are rich. Grey wants a young woman to tie up and slap around in his secret room. The Kochs want to buy compliant politicians with their secret donations. Social critics slam “50 Shades of Grey” for encouraging abuse of women. Political observers criticize the Kochs for abusing the political system."
He also noted that while the main character Christian Grey has his "secret room where he hides his array of intimidating sex toys and bondage tools," the Koch Brothers
have their secret donations that are nearly impossible to track, thanks to flaccid campaign finance laws made even more limp by rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.
It's a bit of a stretch, admittedly.
Nobody seemed to even notice the same social commentary in the film of "American Psycho" which was a much more horrific and graphic film.
To Horsey's premise, conservatives commentators, like the lady dudes at the folksy but slick site called Chicks on the Right, took one look at that and said "Nay!"
They wrote off Horsey's thesis as an example of the usual "creepy obession" we liberals have with the Koch brothers. Because, you know, trying to buy a presidential election and successfully corrupting the Supreme Court and bribing politicians to deny climate change isn't really that a big deal.
We liberals are such a bunch of wimpy fraidy-cats.
Sign of the (End) Times
On our tour of American hysteria, we return to Texas.
In Dallas, Pastor Robert James Jeffress ("Gay Is Not OK“) warned of a far greater concern than mere passive sinning.
Jeffress is the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, which, at a cost of $128 million, boasts the most expensive church construction projects in modern American history. Yeee-haw!
He told Alan Colmes that "50 Shades of Grey" could be a sign of the Apocalypse as predicted in the Book of Revelations. Jeffress said:
"I just think this movie may represent a new low in popular entertainment. That's all I'm saying. And I'm just saying the Bible prophesized that in the End Times, there will be a lack of moral restraint, and I think we're seeing that manifested in so many different ways."
That's a pretty ironic thing for him to say.
In the past Pastor Jeffress took other evangelists to task for making the same kind of End of the World predictions. Such Bible prophecy inherently attracts fanatics, he said. It also harms Christianity.
My hunch is that the date God ultimately has chosen is one that will not be plastered on billboards around the country.
He would choose cinemas to make an big announcement like that.
Jeffress also added that predictions about the end of the world always lead some people to make foolish decisions. Yes well, it is nice of him to give us a demonstration of that.
But much more likely, given the American public, they will stagger away feeling nothing at all.