Rich Lowry: Creep meets girl

  • By Rich Lowry
  • Wednesday, February 18, 2015 8:04pm
  • Opinion

Thelma and Louise should be appalled.

Almost 25 years after their epic road movie attacked “conventional patterns of chauvinist male behavior toward females” (in the words of one critic), here arrives “Fifty Shades of Grey,” perhaps the most successful anti-feminist movie ever made.

The runaway best-selling novel is now a juggernaut on the big screen, driven by overwhelmingly female audiences that accounted for its record-breaking opening weekend.

The dirty secret of “Fifty Shades” is that, underneath the kinky exterior, it’s a formulaic romantic fantasy. For all its notorious boundary-pushing, it is the distilled essence of decades’ worth of Harlequin paperbacks, with hyperstereotypical gender roles pushed to the point of perversity (figuratively and, of course, literally). “Fifty Shades” is a version of the age-old boy-meets-girl story, except the boy is a dangerous creep.

As countless millions already know, the story centers around 27-year-old businessman Christian Grey’s seduction of ingenue Anastasia Steele, a college student. He is older and wealthy. She is young and poor. He is experienced and controlling. She is naive and trusting. He’s the strong, quiet type. She’s vulnerable and wants to talk. He owns a helicopter. She drives a VW Bug.

He overawes her. When Anastasia is first in Christian’s presence, doing an interview for her college newspaper as a favor for a friend, she practically collapses into a puddle of helplessness before the sheer force of his alpha-dog personality. Later, she needs him to save her from the unwanted affection of a college friend. Her road to adventure and material plenty (glider rides, gifts of expensive cars, etc.) runs entirely through him.

All this is a bit much, before we get to the fact — and, obviously, this is what sets “Fifty Shades” apart from other romances — that Christian wants to physically and emotionally dominate her and hit her for his own pleasure.

No wonder some feminists are inveighing against the film, and this time, the sisters have a point.

As much as it can, “Fifty Shades” seeks to sanitize the S&M. Christian wants Anastasia’s consent in a written contract so elaborate it could be negotiated by high-powered lawyers, provided they had a strong stomach for graphic sexual content.

But there’s no sugarcoating what Christian is about. His seduction of Anastasia is emotionally manipulative, his drive to control her is abusive, and his pursuit of her — unexpectedly showing up at places where she is — could easily be considered stalking. If anything like this happened in remotely more realistic circumstances, the proper response to Christian’s obsessive attention would be a good kick in the groin, followed by a restraining order.

Not to mention a referral to a first-class psychiatrist. The roots of Christian’s desire to hurt women is his own abuse as a child. Anastasia, in her wide-eyed way, wants to save her Byronic romantic hero from his demons, but that would be better left to a professional with years of training and lots of time to work with an emotionally damaged client.

The lesson of “Fifty Shades” should be: Ladies, don’t try this at home. In real life, trying to reform manipulative and abusive men only ends in tears, and becoming subject to sexual humiliation only brings humiliation.

The edge is taken off “Fifty Shades” by its sheer ridiculousness — the movie is punctuated by moments of inadvertent hilarity — and its fairy-tale ending. Anastasia maintains her identity, even though Christian wants to obliterate it. And over the course of the three books in the franchise, Christian Grey is indeed reformed and tamed, and Anastasia forms a happy family with him. It’s Ward and June Cleaver, via a pleasure room that looks like something out of a Restoration Hardware catalog.

Needless to say, there are easier routes to marital bliss, and they never involve anyone like Christian Grey, who gives the patriarchy a bad name.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

More in Opinion

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.

The Final Redistricting Map approved for the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna area is seen on Nov. 9, 2021. (Map via akredistrict.org)
Alaska Voices: The Alaska Redistricting Board’s last-minute gerrymandering failed Alaska

Our Constitution outlines rules for a redistricting process designed to uphold public trust.