Romance; the epitome of love, a sanctuary for bliss and a place in which we can all, quite easily, lose our heads.
That image is definitely the fairytale provocateur of love, but very far from the truth in the ever-modernising society that we live in. Sex stems from the swipe of a smartphone. Respect for the sanctity of intimacy has been lost in the hysteria of hyper-sexualised norms and values. We read about sex, we listen to music about sex, we aim to have sex. Somehow, as our species has matured, we have moved further away from that more innocent mindset of modesty and fidelity. An excellent example of this? The new film, Fifty Shades Darker and its predecessor, Fifty Shades of Grey.
Now, I went to see Fifty Shades Darker on Friday, thinking that I would, perhaps, learn a few moves to wow any judges at the future bedroom Olympics contest. After all, you would think that Mr Grey is, courtesy of a great many women, the lord of satisfaction, the beast of the boudoir, the connoisseur of copulation. I thought that I would be joined by a host of male comrades, all of which would be eager to learn the methods of this supreme sexual being — I was wrong. When the theatre had filled and the film began to roll, I noticed that I was sat amongst a number of barely-legal-looking teenage girls, a myriad of ‘cougar’ type middle-aged women, and even some who would be entitled to a discounted fish ‘n’ chips at their local! This lot took, I imagine, about 80 per cent of the seats, while the remaining 20 per cent were occupied by their male counterparts; most of whom looked decidedly miserable and had clearly been coerced into watching this film.
So, what is the attraction of Fifty Shades; what is it that modern women think they are missing out on? I’d say, nothing … in terms of tips. Mr Grey was about as good as a chocolate teapot, unless I was looking for a how-to guide on being an irredeemable misogynist. This film is essentially a novel-turned-movie series about a powerful man who grooms a vulnerable, younger woman, whilst isolating her from her family and anyone else who would support her. He stalks her, he controls her life, and he then goes on to abuse and rape her. Naturally, typical of the mental instability of certain young women in modern society, the female protagonist, Anastasia, then goes on to marry Mr Grey, regardless of his totalitarian treatment of her. What a fairytale, eh? Shame on whoever said romance is dead!
I am, therefore, going to permit myself to take a guess on the attraction of Fifty Shades on behalf of womankind and for the sake of those who really can’t get their heads around the appeal of glorified, soft-core pornography on the big screen.
Anastasia Steele, the film’s female protagonist, is incredibly ordinary. She’s mundane, lacking in any particularly interesting features — bar her desire to be a victim/sexual object — and most definitely ignorant of the better qualities of a relationship. If you looked up the word ‘ordinary’ in the dictionary, it’d be the outline of Anastasia’s head, but you’d be surprised to see that it is your face, and not hers staring back at you. And that is the reason for Fifty Shades’ mesmerising capabilities for women: Anastasia is so normal that she could well be replaced by any other woman. At this point, women get that psychological kick of being truly irresistible to wealthy, powerful, potentially godlike, and most definitely damaged men. And, above all, you get to be the one to save them — Anastasia-style — just by being, You.
Taking this a little further, all of this brings us to the true core of Fifty Shades. It is neither a ‘love story’ nor a classical romance. In reality, it is the outrageous theory of unconditional love that many women of today’s society support, or have at some point experienced towards a man (or woman). They lack the mental stamina to rid themselves of a partner who is abusive towards them because of a claim to unprejudiced love. But the sad truth is that Mr Grey’s all-consuming love for Anastasia would, many years down the line, most probably lead to a newspaper headline like: ‘Wife of wealthy CEO beaten to death “for looking the wrong way” ‘.
Could that be what women want, then? The idea of being so grossly in love with a man that any misdeeds and lack of care are instantly forgiven, resulting in a half-lived life? Or perhaps it could be the conventional wisdom that girls always put nice guys on the back-burner and go for the bad boys instead. A study from 2014, reported by Newsweek found that men find nice women attractive, whereas the converse does not hold for women and nice men. One of the researchers suggested that an emotionally responsive man can be seen as ‘less dominant’ in the eyes of some women. I can’t help but think that if this is the case, then Feminism might as well close shop and stop this futile fight for the supposed rights of women.
So maybe I did learn something from Mr Grey, after all. It may be true that women don’t need men to keep the human race alive anymore, but if the attraction to Fifty Shades is any indication, women need men to fulfil their deepest psychological needs.