The fervour surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey reached fever pitch with the Valentine’s eve release of one of the raciest storylines ever likely to achieve blockbuster status.
Yet it has not all been roses for the producers.
The film has its detractors – ranging from religious leaders and domestic abuse campaigners to anti-porn activists. And they are making their voices heard.
For instance, a creative social media campaign has been launched with a hashtag urging movie-goers to skip the film and instead donate their money to shelters and agencies that support abused women. (#50DollarsNot50Shades).
Some religious spokespersons share those concerns, as well as expressing further qualms.
“Watching sadomasochism will never revive or ‘spice up’ an unhealthy marriage. Beauty is never the result of dysfunction,” insists Paul Cole, president of the Christian Men’s Network.
And today a friend posted a link on my Facebook page to an article pinpointing some troubling lessons Fifty Shades of Grey teaches.
1. If you’re good looking, rich, or successful, you can develop a violent sexual appetite and people will be okay with it.
2. Sex is completely for pleasure and all love/romance should be removed from the situation.
3. Girls: If you hang around long enough and put up with a guy’s “issues”, eventually he might love you and change.
4. Guys: You can do whatever you want to a girl and she’ll just take it…because she’s a girl.
5. If you put a lot of highly explicit sexual material into a story, people will make it a best seller and it will even be turned into a big budget Hollywood film.
The list – along with explanations of these concerns – has already earned an impressive half a million Facebook shares for Fight The New Drug, the website hosting it, which takes a “scientific, fact-based” approach to detailing “the harm pornography can do”.
So, to view or not to view Fifty Shades of Grey? That is the question. But is it just a moral or scientific question? Or could there be other reasons to pause before paying to enter the world of billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson)?
For instance, doesn’t the very mainstreaming of a sensual gratification that once seemed extreme tell us something about the insatiable nature of materially based pleasure-seeking? Doesn’t it point to a pattern we might recognise from our own lives, in which yesterday’s buzz soon becomes today’s bland, tempting us to embark on a downward spiral of seeking “more and better” yet finding mostly frustration and disappointment instead?
If so, then before going to see such a movie, it might be wise to ask: “Is this really the stuff of true happiness?”
A direct answer to that question appeared on my Facebook wall just above the Fight The New Drug posting. It was a quote shared by a friend.
“Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul,” it states. (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)
This might seem appealing simply because most of us would love our happiness to be secure and readily attainable.
But what does it actually mean to seek happiness in Soul?
In her “Christian Science textbook”, author Mary Baker Eddy capitalises words like Soul to indicate they are being used as synonyms for the Divine. So a message I have taken to heart from this idea is that there’s a better, diviner path by which to pursue pleasure – one that leads from self-centredness to Soul-centredness. That is, it takes us from believing happiness is something sought outside of ourselves to understanding it is a spiritual quality we’re divinely imbued with. And the key to uncovering this inherent joy is meekness, a quality of which Jesus once said: “How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”
My experience has shown me that this kingdom of heaven isn’t just a vague promise of a better afterlife for believers. Rather, it describes the constant capacity everyone already has to experience a deeper joy by reaching beyond the limiting scope of what we physically see, hear, touch, taste and smell to the discernment of a divine Love that is ever present and active.
The good news is that this spiritual sense is not fragile. It’s an unwavering part of who we really are. The bad news is it can still seem to be obscured by what we allow to influence our thinking.
So should we see the movie or not?
That is, of course, for everyone to decide for themselves.
But I, for one, am truly grateful to have discovered that beyond a material life’s many shades of grey lie the infinite hues of an unselfed spiritual joy that we can all tap into.