By now, everybody knows that Fifty Shades of Grey (FSG) is a fan–fiction derivative of the Twilight series. Instead of teenagers and vampires, the stories are retold with adults and sadomasochists. Edward’s attraction to Bella and his desire to hurt her (fangs for the memories) are mirrored by Christian’s attraction to Anastasia and his desire to hurt her (by violent sex). Popular with women of a certain age, FSG is being called “mommie porn.”
Just a few years ago, a movie like FSG would be confined to the back streets in XXX-rated theaters. But this past weekend -there it was! – full frontal and center right next to SpongeBob.
The movie brought in $94.4 million dollars over the 4-day holiday weekend and $158 million overseas. Not bad for a Twilight knock-off.
So much has been written about the glorification of violence and sexual abuse that I won’t add to that here.
What is important to ask is why is FSG getting such traction now? What is there about the spirit of our times that make a badly written, poorly made, prurient movie the center of attention?
The scenes of sexual aberrations clearly make it titillating for the curious. However, the fact that such deviations are presented as legitimate theater make it somewhat ground-breaking in ways that Eyes Wide Shut and other sexually eccentric films of the past did not.
Hollywood’s usual knee-jerk reaction to any film that stirs up a buzz and makes money should result in more films focusing on similar violent sexual content.
A New Audience
What is lost in all of this is the coming of age of a new generation of young adult movie-goers. Until recently, photos and videos of nudity and sexual acts were relegated to adult bookstores. Adults only! Of course, some kids found a way to steal from their father’s or older brother’s stash of magazines but it was more the exception than a regular occurrence.
For the past ten years, however, children have been feeding on easily accessible on-line pornography. The average age for a child to first view pornography is 11 years old. That means that about half are still in the single-digit age group when they see their first salacious photo or video.
And the children are acting on what they see. Incidents of oral sex among grade school children are growing; while it is epidemic in middle school. By the time they are seventeen, eighty per cent of them have viewed hardcore pornography. Now, eighty-five per cent of young adult men view pornography regularly.
The pornography industry will surpass 1 trillion dollars this year; an amount that is even more staggering when we consider that most on-line porn is free.
The reality of diminishing returns guarantees that more sex – and kinkier sex – will be needed to make romantic films “interesting.” The release of FSG promises to expand the audience and revenues for the sex-film trade into traditional movie theaters.
Pornographers are ecstatic. One leader said enthusiastically,” I would say it’s a new day for the industry.”
Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Fifty Shades of Grey is not really the issue. It merely points to the symptoms of a society that is turning in on itself. If freedom is merely sexual pleasure, then we are swallowing a nihilistic worldview and all that it promises – which is nothing.
But the craving of more and varied sexual pleasure is really a gasping for something to fill the whole in his soul. To paraphrase Chesterton, “When someone searches for pornography, he is really looking for God.”
As Christians, we can help turn hearts toward the One for whom they are really searching. In the process, we must pull out all the stops to protect our children from the destructive effects of pornography as well as the vile child pornography industry.
The genuine joy of knowing Christ and serving others is more than enough to reveal the utter boredom of pornography. Even more, our hearts break for those whose lives and bodies are sold at such a low bid. God has paid a much higher price for them.
Paul tells us:
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints (Ephesians 5:3).
That fact that we are called “saints” should be enough to give us pause about how we live. But Paul’s admonition is not a negative slam on sex. Quite the opposite. The Scriptures encourage sex – in fact, a lot of sex – but in the marriage relationship. A covenant act in a loving, committed relationship.
Pornography has no target audience. Everyone is a client – even a child. Maybe FSG will flounder on its own shallow story and incompetent production.
There’s hope. SpongeBob’s film made more than FSG did at the theaters yesterday.