50 Shades of Grey will be in the cinemas on Valentine’s Day 2015. The trailer, released just seven days ago, has been seen 36.4 million times in its opening week. This is an all-time record. To put things into perspective, ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ both notched up 26 million views in their first weeks. See what I meant by all-time record?
Just in case you have been in a cave with no TV, no internet and absolutely no human interaction, 50 Shades of Grey movie is an adaptation of the famous book that hit the market in 2011. Again, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, this is a book that has topped best-seller lists around the world sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages. With such serious numbers you’d think it’s a book with solutions to world peace but no, it is all about BDSM – No clue? Google it.
I have not read the books, not because I don’t have money to buy them. Actually, a colleague gave me the first two books with the suggestion that it would spice up my sex life. Sigh. Anyway, I didn’t get past Chapter Two for 3 reasons; the writing is poor and awfully shallow, worse than the compositions we wrote in primary school and two, my husband saw it on my laptop and asked me why I was reading porn (that taught me to research and review a book before going out to get it). This leads me to reason number 3: I am a Christian. This isn’t a grey area of conviction for me. This is a black and white issue.
But not everyone is like me. Going by the 36.4 million views on the trailer, lots of people think I’m naive and old fashioned. Maybe I am. But these numbers have brought to mind a couple of questions we all should ask ourselves.
What does this say about our entertainment culture? I’m sure Universal Pictures did their research. They knew this movie would hit, otherwise they would not invest in it. We can argue that Hollywood keeps feeding us crappy entertainment because of the movies they keep producing but the truth of the matter is they wouldn’t produce it if they knew no one would watch. This is a reflection of our entertainment standards, not just Hollywood standards. Our entertainment culture has taken a nose dive over the years; even here in Kenya. It’s a pity when someone produces beautiful artistic work it doesn’t get much attention, when musicians feel they have to produce erotic videos with no lyrical base because they know that is what sells. It’s a pity how an insulting song like ‘These hoes aint loyal’ is such a hit. Same with this movie, let’s not kid ourselves; we were kinky long before this book, Hollywood is just capitalizing on it.
Parental guidance means nothing nowadays. Have you noticed how on TV when a program is coming on and its rated PG they say “Parental guidance is advised for children under the age of 10”? Ten years! That time it’s a soap opera with steamy sex scenes. To put this into perspective again, The 50 shades of Grey trailer was premiered on NBC Today early in the morning. Now, when I was young, The Bold and Beautiful was PG 18 and showed after 9 pm news and just in case I was awake (which was rare) my mother would send me to bed before the theme song was over.
What message are we sending with this movie?
We are telling women that they can ‘fix’ violent, controlling men by being obedient and loving. We are telling our young girls that having a billionaire boyfriend is all that matters even if he is a depraved, controlling man who takes advantage of women. After all, he’s exciting and takes you out in his yacht or private jet. Complete shallowness. Then we act surprised when our girls put looks and money over character. Then we call them gold diggers while all along we are the ones who have been feeding them this crap since they were kids.
Do you know how long women empowerment has taken? As a country we have not fully beaten FGM. And now we’re advocating BDSM? There is nothing empowering about whips and chains or humiliation and torture. You know what ticks me off the most? This book is popular among women. The same women advocating for empowerment and respect from men. Really? This is the epitome of shooting yourself in the foot if you ask me.
We are telling our boys that girls are here primarily for your pleasure and that it is OK to treat them as sexual objects. Then we get shocked when a group of boys rape a 16 year girl and post her photos on the internet (#IamJada). Where do you think they picked that from? We are telling our sons to become Christian Greys. That when you have money, anything goes and you’re excused for bad behavior. We are teaching them that masculinity has something to do with violence. We are teaching them that women need (or want) to be dominated, and violence is a good way to do this.
You think I’m taking this thing too seriously? I am not. We say children are very impressionable but what we forget is that adults are equally impressionable. We think we can watch, read and listen to anything and it will not affect our behavior. But the rape, porn, violence and animal abuse statistics cannot all be wrong. We need to do something. We need to go back to the drawing board, back to the cross roads and see where we went wrong and hopefully take a different road.
I am not here to tell you not to go watch this ridiculous movie. I know many of you will still go watch it anyway. I’m just here to open your eyes, cause you to re-evaluate. And make you realize that once you watch it, you lose all right to complain about how Hollywood is spoiling our morals, why we are not winning the fight against violence against women, why women are still not respected in our society. And don’t you even complain about people watching porn, because you my dear, are leading the pack.
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.