Fifty Shades of Help Me

I have zero interest in seeing Fifty Shades of Grey. And yet this is a blog post “about” the movie … sort of. Bear with me.

My reasons for not wanting to see the movie are multiple and each one stands alone as valid. First, I rarely-to-never have time to go to the movies, and when I do, I’d much rather invest it in something I’ve really been wanting to see, not something that’s “hype.” I no more have interest in seeing this because it’s popular than I did “The Interview.” Second, the writing in the novel is so crappy, I don’t want to participate in any efforts around any products related to the book as that could be interpreted as financial support of bad writing. Third, my own personal background and knowledge about the BDSM world makes me protest about a thousand things about the relationship between the two main characters and this being some sort of “revelation” of that world to the general vanilla public, since it’s not at all a proper and safe/sane/consensual BDSM relationship.

That being said, I think it’s interesting to discuss something that is a cultural phenomenon, and why it is such. I’ve spent some time thinking about this and have discussed it with others, and have been surprised more pop culture articles about the overwhelming success have not tapped into what I think the real crux is behind the movie’s popularity. Contrary to what many men think, it isn’t all about the fact that he’s a billionaire. Sure, if the guy was in a trailer park, he’d just be a garden variety creep and worth calling the cops about. But every woman really, really does not want to hang on the arm of some uber-rich dude just because he has bank, any more than every man really wants to rescue a bubble-headed damsel in distress. But finally, today, in a NYT sidebar that would have been otherwise completely missed if not for a friend seeing it and bringing it to my attention in the wake of my related comments, is this:

“…It’s no coincidence that Christian Grey, billionaire, arrived in the midst of a recession that was often referred to as a ‘he-cession’ because men were losing their jobs, leaving a growing number of women as primary breadwinners and a large majority of families as dual-income. All this, and women are still doing the lion’s share of household work, child rearing, cooking, etc. Essentially, we live in a time when women aren’t only feeling responsible for making a home, they’re feeling responsible for keeping the house standing. ‘Fifty Shades’ strikes at the heart of the fear that comes with this responsibility — Christian takes control of everything for Ana: finances, career, food, sexual pleasure. Anyone who can’t see the value in that fantasy is deliberately looking the other way.” (emphasis added; author unknown)

I know a lot of moms. Most of them married or in a long-term committed relationship. Some separated or divorced. Probably 75% of them working at least part-time if not full-time. The reason you hear Moms talking so much about coffee and wine is we need the coffee to keep going as we are always SO FUCKING TIRED and we need the wine to de-stress because we are SO FUCKING OVERLOADED. A lot of men help out, sure, but it’s still generally in a pretty limited way. If a spouse travels, it’s much more likely to be the husband than the wife, and the wife is left to run everything and keep order and get bills paid and attend to the children and do the shopping, cooking and cleaning. Even guys who are good providers and try to do their fair share around the house are usually relegated to “honey do” fix-it lists and set rote tasks like taking out the trash. They aren’t changing the sheets and mopping the floor and scrubbing out the toilet and tub or handling getting the drapes cleaned or arranging for carpet cleaning. They get “man-caves” and get to spend oodles of time in front of the TV either watching sports or playing video games, while women are slathering Aquaphor on chapped hands, calling the cable company about an incorrect charge, washing dishes, grocery shopping, negotiating with doctors about medical bills that weren’t right, handling all the research and planning for an upcoming family vacation, etc. On the working mom vs. non-working mom thing, it’s lose-lose:  the working moms have to fit everything in and when they can and a lot of stuff simply gets dropped and doesn’t get done, and the SAHMs deal with a higher expectation that things will be “perfect” at home all the time because of the hours they spend there.

This is why, when asked, most women would select alcohol, coffee, chocolate or a nap (or even better, all four) instead of sex, if they had a bit of extra time or money for a little something for them. This is why, in my opinion, an opportunity to escape to the cinema and watch some neutrally attractive couple get it on where the guy fucking takes care of EVERY SINGLE THING and the woman is left to just do whatever he wants is somehow mentally freeing to the viewers, even if only as a fantasy.

Frankly, if you ask me, the men in committed relationships in this country are the ones who should be seeing this movie, with the understanding going in that the take-away has absolutely nothing to do with riding crops and butt plugs, but has everything to do with women who are living life, years at a time, on the brink.

Thoughts, dear readers?


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