Whenever anyone asks what I think of the book Fifty Shades of Grey, I reply that it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Honestly it is. Perhaps this is because I didn’t read it a quest for great literature, searching a philosophical treatise or an ideological dissertation. I wanted to read clichéd, badly written, groin warming erotica and that’s exactly what the book delivered.
Despite enjoying it, I certainly didn’t expect it to be made into a film and if it were then I expected it would star niche celebrities with names such as Titty Hore and Don Doomee.
My female friends have descended in droves upon their nearest cinemas, afterwards treating themselves with sparkling wine and chocolate - they seem quite satisfied with what they’ve seen. I think I’ll wait for Netflix.
Nonetheless feminists and other activists have been fervent in their condemnation of the film. A quick hashtag search on Twitter will tell you that Fifty Shades of Grey depicts women as submissive, glorifies abuse and celebrates inequality in relationships.
I’m sure it does.
It's about a wealthy pervert who sexually dominates an innocent young woman.
Still not worth flinching, an entire genre of women’s fiction is based upon the same scenario. So the film is about a young woman who is lured into the sordid world of DBSM with a frighteningly sexy older male.
Am I deliberately trivialising the film?
Of course I am.
Because it is trivial. Or rather, it should be trivial.
Fifty Shades of Grey is a book and a film. As with all books, it is as weak or powerful as we allow. All the fuss underscores the need to put the entertainment industry – especially the celebrity aspect – in its place. Films, music and television influence our daily lives, our personal tastes, our financial choices and even our politics. I suggest that the women who’ve enjoyed Fifty Shades are the ones who see the work for what it is – minor entertainment.
When rap music blared obscenities and violence in the 80s, we debated and discussed the consequences. When video games blared obscenities and violence in the 90s, we debated and discussed the consequences. When Miley Cyrus did something or other last year, we debated and discussed the consequences and the only outcome of our debates and discussions was that the entertainment industry made vile amounts of cash from the free publicity generated.
Currently, Fifty Shades is being talked about on Twitter, Facebook, TV - even Woman’s Hour on BBC 4. As a result, its makers are reeling in the profits. Moreover, the time and effort that is going to opposing it is perhaps the real profit. It’s opposition is making this film important, far more important than it actually is.
Fifty Shades is fantasy, judging from book and ticket sales - many women’s fantasies. We should limit its effects to the sphere of fiction and not try to look for deeper or more convoluted meaning.
We have granted the media – film and television especially, far more power than it should wield. Perhaps we accredit it with even more than it has in reality. When not enough black people are nominated for Oscars, pages upon pages are spent on berating an industry which most likely does not have any interest in black representation other than how much money it can make. When women land plum roles or are reported to make as much or more money than men we applaud and spend pages upon pages celebrating this so-called success. We insist on paying too much attention to a business that should not matter as much as it does.