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Is Fifty Shades of Grey sending the wrong message to young people?

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I’m sure everyone has heard of the record breaking $81.7 million (£54.8 million) opener, Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, the film that glamorises sexual violence committed by an erotic sadist, but dresses him up as a suave and handsome billionaire, whom thousands of women worldwide are swooning over. It’s an adaptation of the erotic romance novel by E.L James that explores the relationship between two opposite personalities – Anastasia Steele, a shy and insecure English Literature student and the arrogant controlling business magnate Christian Grey.

This is a movie that feeds on the fantasies of thousands of women and teenage girls. It doesn’t matter if the relationship between the two characters is emotionally abusive in nature; from Christian Grey exhibiting stalker-like behaviour as well as intimidation and isolation, to Ana showing signs of an abused woman resulting in an altered identity.  As long as he is handsome, has an abundance of wealth, and they are in love, it is totally acceptable.

 

A high grosser like Fifty Shades of Grey immediately becomes part of pop culture and normalises issues that once were frowned upon by giving it societal acceptance. Bondage, Discipline and Sadomasochism (BDSM) has been around for years and it’s still very much active but it doesn’t cross the line of abuse because of the ‘safe words’ that are used to stop the activity.

People want to explore the idea of BDSM because it looks appealing on screen and in the book but there’s a difference between reel life and real life…

This is something that is shown to be ignored by the infamous character of Christian Grey.  Behaviour portrayed in this manner can answer many questions the young generation have regarding relationships in the wrong way. 18-year-old Lorna Johnson, studying graphic design at Central Saint Martins says: “ A few of my friends have experimented with bondage after watching the film and it shocked me to see how easily influenced they are.”

There are concerns that this type of romanticism of sadomasochism can give teens the wrong message about relationships, dating and sex itself. Adolescence is an impressionable time for sexual curiosity and discovery where teenagers are eager to explore their sexuality. As if pornography and video games are not bad enough, this perpetuation of sexual abuse being glamorised on screen may become part of pop culture and can have adverse effects on the youth of today.

29-year-old LCF student, Jendayi, is a fan of the trilogy, but condemns the glorification of abuse in the film. “People want to explore the idea of BDSM because it looks appealing on screen and in the book but there’s a difference between reel life and real life. Kids need to be taught the difference.”

In order to create a culture where domestic and sexual violence is not greeted with monetary rewards and admiration we must condemn the issue rather than encourage it by fawning over fantastical characters. It is acceptable to show appreciation towards a piece of art or literary work, yet executing an issue as bold as this one in a tasteful manner using striking celebrities, does not take away from the fact that they can have a negative impact on our society, especially on our youths of today.

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