So there's a movie coming out this weekend that Nunblog readers are probably not lining up to see. But plenty of other people are, especially young women who have bought up the books by the millions (two copies a second) worldwide. And lots of bytes have already been dedicated to parsing out the unwholesomeness in the movie; if you want to learn more, follow the links below. I'd rather direct your attention to how the popularity of the books, and now the hype about the movie, points to the wisdom in Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body, even if from the opposite direction.
From what I have picked up in the Catholic press, the book's "Mr. Grey" is almost a caricature of the male archetype. From another film, American Sniper, Chris observes: "There are three kinds of men: wolves, sheep and sheepdogs who protect the sheep." Grey is no sheep. He knows what he wants, has the means (intellectual and financial) to acquire it and the strength to exercise control of everything in his radius of influence. He is a provider, too: In today's Boston Globe, one interviewee said "the shame of watching 'Fifty Shades' comes in seeing Grey buy Steele a wardrobe of clothes and handing her her ideal job. 'The bondage isn’t what attracted me to the book. It was someone making life easy for you...and there was a housekeeper'." Unfortunately, the young woman, too, is a caricature of femininity in her receptivity of treatment that violates her dignity to such an extent that the actor who played Grey in the film admitted, "I had to do stuff to her that I would never choose to do to a woman."
Shame characterizes not only the actors, but even the audience. In that same Boston Globe article, one woman joked about wearing a wig and dark glasses to the theater. A 26-year-old confessed that she is going to drive to the next town to see the movie: "“You don’t want to see anyone in town you know.”
Contrast that with today's first reading from Mass:
The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man.... the man said: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" .... The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame."Naked without shame" is one of the most important subsections of Pope John Paul's entire Theology of the Body. The comfortable nakedness of the sinless Adam and Eve reflected their perfect openness to one another in God's presence. Their "shamelessness" was from a sense of abundance: the abundant gift of God visible in each other's bodily form; the full gift of self to the other, holding nothing back. It was only after the fall that there came the felt and urgent need to protect themselves from the other's potentially possessive, objectifying gaze. But the shame itself was and remains, Pope John Paul observed, the recognition that a tremendous good was at stake.
This is what our culture is on the verge of losing. Erotic novels and films are not the cause, but they are both a symptom and an accelerant of the loss of awareness of the dignity of the human body, reduced to a tool or a toy.
None of the above means you have to give up on romantic films this weekend, though! Sister Helena's review of "Old Fashioned" will be released tomorrow; the movie will be in theaters for Valentine's Day. Meanwhile, the trailer is pretty clever:
And here's a prayer by Blessed James Alberione that seeks to offer reparation, in union with the sacrifice of the Mass, for the infection that can be spread through the world when the power of media is used to exalt evil and demean truth, goodness and beauty. We prayed it this morning; I hope you will pray it this weekend, too!
Father in union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic banquet a memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection, I offer my own self with our Lord:
- To make amends for the error spread by the misuse of the media of social communications;
- To beg your mercy for those persons who often allow themselves to be led astray by the indiscriminate use of the communications media;
- For those who knowingly reject your Son and use the media of social communication with malice;
- That men and women may hear and follow him alone whom you, heavenly Father, in your boundless love gave to the world, saying: 'This is my beloved Son, hear him.'
- That the use of the media may help men and women learn and believe that Jesus alone is the perfect teacher;
- That there may be a great increase in the number of priests, religious and lay persons who by prayer, example and professional work are devoted to the Christian apostolate of communications;
- That all those who work with the media of social communications may strive to become holy, and proficient in their efforts, for the glory of God and the salvation of humankind;
- That we may come to know our strengths and weaknesses, and your love which alone makes us worthy to call upon you as our Father, imploring your light, compassion and mercy.
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For some critical perspectives (from the standpoint of reason and faith) on the books/movie, whose title I am avoiding so as not to feed the Google machine:
- A Women's Shelter or a Graveyard: How 50 Shades Ends in Real Life (first person narrative)
- Fifty Shades of Self-Loathing
- ...when Consent Is not Enough
- 50 Things to Know... (This is a YouTube movie)
- Restraints or Self-Restraint: Old Fashioned vs. 50 Shades
- Dirty Dozen (pretty comprehensive site to counteract the "normalizing of domestic violence" represented by the movie)