Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 2: Control)

So here’s the thing: you do not protect someone by faulting their behaviour and then trying to control them so as to limit it.

It took me a while to click this and I don’t have it entirely straight in my head yet, but the way I see it, if a person is vulnerable to making unhealthy choices, you protect them by limiting their surroundings, not by limiting them.

To give an example: you protect children by keeping sharp objects out of reach; you don’t protect them by telling them they must never reach, and certainly not by punishing them for trying to reach. (Though sometimes you let them discover wisdom for themselves – like when my parents let me serve myself a heaped spoonful of mustard because I kept demanding it.)

Meanwhile, as anyone who has studied domestic violence will tell you, entitlement and desire for control are the root of abuse. I’ll be the first to say that faithfulness is bigger than consent, but faithfulness is not about control – and it’s definitely not about retributive punishment.

Welcome to part 2 of comparing Fifty Shades with both the animated and live action versions of Beauty and the Beast. CONTENT NOTE: Consider this your spoiler warning. I will be talking about plot details of the live action Beauty and the Beast. I also include a few of the creepier quotes from Fifty Shades. Continue reading Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 2: Control)

Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 1: Coercion)

How does Christian Grey compare with Dan Stevens’ Beast?

I’ve already blogged at length about Beast in the 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast, but now we have a live-action version, it’s worth asking the question again.

I won’t drag this out into an 18 part series like I did last time, but I want to look at the characters of Beast and Christian, from five different angles. In particular, I want to look at how Fifty Shades and both versions of Beauty and the Beast frame the following:

  • Coercion and manipulation
  • Control and faithfulness
  • Questions of guilt and shame
  • Change and transformation
  • Hope and love.

CONTENT NOTE: Consider this your spoiler warning. I will be talking about plot details of the live action Beauty and the Beast. I also include a few of the creepier quotes from Fifty Shades. Continue reading Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 1: Coercion)

Less was more: my (spoiler-free) review of the live-action Beauty and the Beast

The live-action Beauty and the Beast isn’t a redemptive fairy-tale any more; it’s a high-fantasy romance. And I hate to say it, but it feels very muddled in places.

Last night I saw the film as part of the ‘Disney Concert Experience’ at the Odeon in Leicester Square. I’m really glad I went, and I loved the performances, but I have very mixed feelings over the film.

I’ll try and keep this post to broad comments and things that were well known in advance of the release. Even so, my definition of ‘spoiler-free’ might not be yours, so if it’s important to you to be surprised by the film, then you read this at your own risk. Continue reading Less was more: my (spoiler-free) review of the live-action Beauty and the Beast

50 Shades of Parody: Monsieur Gaston will see you now

Portrait of Gaston in tavern from Beauty and the Beast

(This is a rip-off of the opening chapter of Fifty Shades of Grey where Ana goes to interview Christian Grey at his head officeIf you wonder why it’s so badly written in places, there’s a reason for that.)

Damn my hair. It refuses to behave as I try to brush through it. Eventually I coax it into a pony-tail because I’m an animated character and pony-tails are cheaper to draw than unkempt or loose hair. Fairy-tale France has no room for Brave.

Sulkily, I make my way to Le Pub, the town’s tavern and favourite haunt of Monsieur Gaston, the most eligible bachelor in town. I push the door open, nervously. “Hello?” I ask – like an innocent encroaching on the cavernous lair of a monstrous beast.

Except that the place smells of beer and sweat because it’s that time of the evening and half the town is there. Continue reading 50 Shades of Parody: Monsieur Gaston will see you now

A summary of how redemption in BATB compares with 50 Shades

Books of the Fifty Shades trilogy with a DVD of Beauty and the Beast

When I started blogging through the plot and themes of Beauty and the Beast, making comparisons with Fifty Shades, and how they did and didn’t speak about redemption, I didn’t expect it would last for eighteen posts. But hey, it did, and if it’s too much like hard work to read all of them, here’s your too-long-didn’t-read, sparks notes, summary of the key points from each. Continue reading A summary of how redemption in BATB compares with 50 Shades

Fairy-tale vs Erotica: Brides, wives and eternities

Books of the Fifty Shades trilogy with a DVD of Beauty and the Beast

Life is never going to be boring with Christian, and I’m in this for the long haul. I love this man: my husband, my lover, father of my child, my sometimes Dominant… my Fifty Shades.
Fifty Shades Freed, p531

There is something about hope that is both now and not yet.

We see hope when people are healed and reconciled, and even when they’re comforted in times of distress. At the same time though, these are but foretastes of something more, something that will only be found fully in the beyond.

Stories of redemption are, by definition, stories of hope. Their happy endings are happy beginnings that look forward in anticipation. The questions to ask are ‘What do they say about the now?’ and ‘What do they say about the not yet?’ Continue reading Fairy-tale vs Erotica: Brides, wives and eternities

Gaston vs Jack Hyde: Monsters, mirrors and mercy

Books of the Fifty Shades trilogy with a DVD of Beauty and the Beast

Jack’s eyes flash the darkest blue, and he sneers as he casts a leering look down my body.
Fear chokes me. What is this? What does he want?
Fifty Shades Darker, p367

Let’s talk about villains.

Gaston

Handsome, popular, and successful at everything he does (except proposing to Belle), Gaston is also rude, vain and conceited. He wants only the best and thinks he deserves it. “Best” is defined by outward appearance so Gaston directs his possessiveness towards Belle. He has mood swings when he doesn’t get his own way. When Belle refuses Gaston a second time, Gaston imprisons her and sets out to kill Beast.

Jack Hyde

Editor at a publishing company and the one who hires Ana to work there. Hyde is not as successful as Christian Grey is, but feels he’s entitled to be because they were both in foster care together as boys. Hyde controls and sexually harasses all the women he works with and is possessive towards Ana. He’s secretly filmed himself having rough sex with his secretaries and uses the footage as leverage over them. He has mood swings when he doesn’t get his own way. When Christian takes over his company and he is fired, he sabotages Christian’s helicopter in an attempt to kill him. He kidnaps Christian’s sister for a $5m ransom. Continue reading Gaston vs Jack Hyde: Monsters, mirrors and mercy

Their Highnesses vs the Greys: Dreams and egos in the ballroom

Books of the Fifty Shades trilogy with a DVD of Beauty and the Beast

He strolls towards me until he’s standing in front of me. “What did you buy?” he whispers, and I know it’s to change the topic of conversation.
“A dress, some shoes, a necklace. I spent a great deal of your money.” I glance up at him guiltily.
He’s amused. “Good,” he murmurs and tucks a stray lock of hair behind my ear. “And for the billionth time, our money.”
Fifty Shades Freed, p290

I remember shifting uncomfortably in my seat as I was watching Beauty and the Beast. Belle was standing at the top of the stairs dressed in her yellow ball gown. The problem was, I couldn’t be sure that this whole scene wasn’t Beast’s way of ignoring or – worse – glamorising Belle’s captivity. And what was I to make of the strong and determined heroine? Had the prospect of a pretty dress and a candlelit dinner made her forget her dreams of adventure?

How did this iconic ballroom reconcile with the rest of the plot?

I had a similar puzzle reading Fifty Shades. Continue reading Their Highnesses vs the Greys: Dreams and egos in the ballroom

Beast vs Christian: Control or change? Fixation or surrender?

Books of the Fifty Shades trilogy with a DVD of Beauty and the Beast

Who would have thought? I grin widely, the word progress running around my brain as I drift.
Fifty Shades Freed, p310

From the early pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian displays several unsavoury characteristics, even when you completely ignore his sadism (and I will generally ignore it for the purposes of this post).

He is overly controlling of Ana, saying that he’s afraid of losing her and knows what’s best for her. He’s also very possessive of Ana, not wanting her sexuality visible to anyone else and responds aggressively to the slightest hint of male attention directed towards her.

But, as this is trying to be a redemption story, we should judge Christian more by his behaviour towards the end of the books, rather than the beginning. After all, redemption involves change on the part of the person being redeemed.

But the sad fact of the matter is that Christian doesn’t change. 

CONTENT NOTE: This post mentions some of Christian’s coercive tactics towards Ana, including sexual violence, and quotes one of his threats of violence. Continue reading Beast vs Christian: Control or change? Fixation or surrender?

Beast vs Christian: Wealthy givers of gifts and affection

Books of the Fifty Shades trilogy with a DVD of Beauty and the Beast

“I would build this for you,” he whispers. “Just to see the way the light burnishes you hair, right here, right now.” He tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. “You look like an angel.” He kisses my just below my earlobe, takes my hand in his , and murmurs, “We despots do that for the women we love.”
Fifty Shades Freed, p78

For context, Christian and Ana are in the Palace of Versailles when he says that.

I’m half-tempted to end this post right here.

But that would do Beast a disservice. Continue reading Beast vs Christian: Wealthy givers of gifts and affection

Beast vs Christian: Shame, humiliation, judgement, knowledge.

Books of the Fifty Shades trilogy with a DVD of Beauty and the Beast

“Hell, Ana, I just showed you . . .” he groans. “May God forgive me. Have you ever been kissed, apart from by me?”
Fifty Shades of Grey, p109

Shame is a weird word.

It gets used a lot, but in very different ways. And far less often do you hear someone give a definition for it. But I want to blog about shame so here’s my definition:

Shame is knowledge you have about yourself – knowledge that says you are unworthy.

Shame involves a moral judgement: you are unworthy because you are bad. It also involves exclusion: you are unworthy therefore you must be separated from worthy people. But perhaps most importantly, shame is about identity: you are unworthy.

Unsurprisingly, shame often goes hand in hand with guilt: you are unworthy because your actions were unworthy. It goes the other way round too: your actions are unworthy because you are unworthy. In this, the pairing of guilt and shame reflects the truth that who we are affects what we do, and what we do affects who we are.

But of course, sometimes shame is misplaced. Continue reading Beast vs Christian: Shame, humiliation, judgement, knowledge.

Beast vs Christian: Rescuer, stalker, or masculinity-in-action?

Yes, I was living in Germany when the special edition came out.

“Anastasia, are you okay? You sound strange.”
“I’m not the strange one, you are.” There—that told him, my courage fuelled by alcohol.
Fifty Shades of Grey, p57

It’s one of those awkward conundrums: You try to establish a personal boundary between yourself and someone else. They ignore it. However, as a result, they’re in a position to help you overcome a much bigger problem that you wouldn’t have been able to overcome had they not been there.

Question: were they right to ignore your personal boundary?

It’s easy to judge the action by its outcome. It’s much harder to say that the other person was doing the wrong thing, even if something good came out of it. And sometimes there are mixed motives. Continue reading Beast vs Christian: Rescuer, stalker, or masculinity-in-action?

The Suffering Servant vs Ana: Choice, commitment and consent (part 4)

Yes, I was living in Germany when the special edition came out.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
— Isaiah 53:7 (NIVUK)

“What has Isaiah chapter 53 got to do with Fifty Shades?” I hear you ask.

Allow me to explain.

Before I begin, some boring but important blurb:

  • I’ve written separately on why I write about Fifty Shades and why I write about BDSM.
  • I’m not trying to preach, but I am a Christian and Christianity has informed our culture’s understanding of what redemption is; in this post I’m going to talk a bit (OK, a lot) about that.
  • CONTENT NOTE: The content of this post is not graphic in its detail. However, if you’re sensitive to the idea of meaningless, non-consensual suffering, it might be not be for you.

Continue reading The Suffering Servant vs Ana: Choice, commitment and consent (part 4)

Gollum vs Christian: Choice, commitment and consent (part 3)

“He has a point, Christian. You’re very wealthy, and I’m bringing nothing to our marriage but my student loans.”
Christian gazes at me, his eyes bleak. “Anastasia, if you leave me, you might as well take everything. You left me once before. I know how that feels.”
Fifty Shades Freed, p32

For context, that’s Christian Grey explaining why refuses to sign a pre-nuptial agreement with Ana. It’s another classic Fifty Shades moment which is trying to sound romantic and affectionate – but isn’t when you stop to think about it. Christian is saying his life isn’t worth living if he doesn’t have Ana.

No pressure then.

Or pedestalling.

It’s not unsurprising that Christian is able to make all manner of promises of commitment to Ana, even though he is abusive towards her. He has, after all, no intention of losing her.

This mini-series on Choice, commitment and consent has four parts:

  • Part 1 looked at how promise is important to understanding redemption.
  • Part 2 looked at Christian’s promises in the first book of the trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey.
  • Part 3 (this one!) looks at Christian’s promises in Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.
  • Part 4 will look at Ana’s promises in the trilogy.

Continue reading Gollum vs Christian: Choice, commitment and consent (part 3)

Biedermann vs Christian: Choice, commitment and consent (part 2)

Yes, I was living in Germany when the special edition came out.

Jeez, I’m a quivering, mess, and he hasn’t even touched me. I squirm in my seat and meet his dark glare.
“Why don’t you?” I challenge quietly.
“Because I’m not going to touch you, Anastasia—not until I have your written consent to do so.” His lips hint at a smile.
Fifty Shades of Grey, p74

Four pages later, we see how good Christian is to his promise:

“Oh, f*** the paperwork,” he growls. He lunges at me pushing me against the wall of the elevator.

The plot of two halves

In Choice, Commitment and Consent (Part 1), I talked about how the idea of promise is important to understanding redemption. In that post I also raised the following objection to the plot of Fifty Shades:

Redemption is about the redeemer making a single promise to the person needing redemption. In Fifty Shades it’s Christian who keeps making promises – and breaking them. He is always shifting the boundaries of the relationship by changing the terms of his promises.

It’s important to recognise that how Christian reveals his secrets to Ana (and breaks his promises to her) shifts after the end of the first book. Up to the end of Fifty Shades of Grey the focus is on him obtaining and keeping Ana on his terms, for his ends. Afterwards, however, he recognises that’s not going to work because Ana leaves him. So he begins to take steps so that the relationship is more on Ana’s terms.

In other words – and I’m not saying I agree with the following statements – there’s a case for saying that, from a redemption perspective:

  • Fifty Shades of Grey is about Christian thrashing about wretchedly in his fallen state, trying suck Ana into his darkness and failing.
  • Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed are about Christian learning to relate in healthy ways or ‘learning to love’ as the narrator in Beauty and the Beast would say. In learning, Christian eventually reaches his complete redemption – being married, monogamous, a father of one child a father-to-be of another, and still having a great sex life with Ana.

The thing is, I don’t think either of these parts of the plot speak about redemption. So in this post I’ll talk about the first part, and in the next post I’ll talk about the second.

Continue reading Biedermann vs Christian: Choice, commitment and consent (part 2)