Mallory Dobry ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Since its publication in 2011, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James has gone on to sell over 100 million copies worldwide, and has, without a doubt, become one of the most talked about books in years. Fifty Shades of Grey—the first book of the Fifty Shades trilogy—follows Anastasia Steele, a young college student who becomes involved in an intense BDSM relationship with successful entrepreneur, Christian Grey.
The book has been frequently banned and challenged for its explicit sexual content, poor depiction of BDSM relationships, and its glorification of abusive relationships. Universal Pictures and Focus Features obtained the rights to the book in 2012, with the film adaptation hitting theaters this Valentine’s Day weekend.
Ticket selling website Fandago has reported that Fifty Shades of Grey is the highest selling R-rated movie in their fifteen year history, and box office estimates the film is on track to gross about sixty-million dollars opening weekend (D’Alessandro). With promotion and marketing for the film in full swing prior to the release, a new campaign arose to bring awareness to the problematic aspects of the film. Launched by domestic abuse prevention advocates, the 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades grassroots campaign began as a Facebook page, and has quickly garnered widespread media attention.
The campaign urges moviegoers to donate fifty dollars to a domestic violence shelter or agency to support women trying to escape abusive relationships. The page states “The money you would have spent on movie tickets and a babysitter or movie tickets, popcorn and drinks will go towards serving victims of abusive relationships like the one glamorized in the Fifty Shades series. Hollywood doesn’t need your money; abused women do” (Dwyer). The campaign has also spawned an active Twitter hashtag, where women have shared their thoughts and stories of domestic abuse.
50 Dollars Not 50 Shades highlights the fact that real life women in the same position as Anastasia Steele do not find abusive, manipulative, and destructive actions to be romantic or endearing. Throughout just the first Fifty Shades novel, Christian Grey stalks Anastasia multiple times, attempts – and succeeds – to control nearly every aspect of her life, coerces Ana into sex, and even worse, blatantly ignores the concept of sexual consent on several occasions. The first book of the trilogy ends with Anastasia being beaten and running away to escape Christian’s abusive relationship. Yet, the following two books in the trilogy bring the pair back together, and the abuse in those books makes the first novel seem mild.
The campaign and women who have spoken out about the upcoming film also worry that seeing a romanticized depiction of an abusive relationship will lead women to believe actions such as stalking, manipulation, and physical abuse are romantic or sexy. The film could also very well lead abusers to believe their partners enjoy and give into such behavior and abuse.
Challengers of the 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades campaign and fans of the books argue that the campaign frowns upon BDSM lifestyles, but advocate Natalie Collins, and founder of the 50 Shades Is Abuse campaign argues, “We’re not saying there is. But people within the BDSM community are outraged by how the book portrays their lifestyle. This book romanticizes a perpetrator of abuse” (Dwyer). The BDSM community has frequently argued that the depictions of BDSM in Fifty Shades of Grey are inaccurate and those engaging in those relationships based off the book are instead, partaking in an abusive relationship.
No matter the amount of money that Fifty Shades of Grey makes at the box office opening weekend, there is no grey area in the matter that real life women are suffering the same abuses glamorized on the big screen. The sad truth is that women in abusive relationships do not end up like Anastasia Steele, married, wealthy, and in love with their abusers. Their relationships can take them to dark places and even cost them their lives, and these women need help and the ability to build themselves a safe living environment more than Universal Pictures or E.L. James needs another fifteen dollars spent on a movie ticket.
D’Alessandro, Anthony. “‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Tracking $60M Bow; Strong Ticket Sales In The South & Midwest.” Deadline. Penske Business Media, LLC, 04 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 Feb. 2015.
Dwyer, Liz. “Activists Say Skip ‘Fifty Shades’ and Give Ticket Money to a Women’s Shelter.” TakePart. Participant Media, 4 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 Feb. 2015.