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)

Redemption vs Romance: Choice, commitment and consent (part 1)

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

We’re coming near to the end of the bridge, and the road is once more bathed in the neon light of the street lamps so his face is intermittently in the light and the dark. And it’s such a fitting metaphor. This man, who I once thought of as a romantic hero, a brave shining white knight—or the dark knight, as he said. He’s not a hero; he’s a man with serious, deep emotional flaws, and he’s dragging me into the dark. Can I not guide him into the light?
“I still want more,” I whisper.
“I know,” he says. “I’ll try.”
Fifty Shades of Grey, p355

If you’ve been following this series so far, you’ll know that I’ve already posted twice about how, in a redemption story, a redeemer freely and purposefully chooses to act to save someone.

So why am I blogging about redeemer’s choice again? And why is this post a “part 1”?

The answer is that Ana’s choice in Fifty Shades and Belle’s choice in Beauty and the Beast are very different in one key respect:

Ana chooses to redeem Christian. Belle does not choose to redeem Beast.

Now, this difference isn’t a reason to disregard Fifty Shades as a redemption narrative. But it does create complications when it’s compared with Beauty and the Beast. Moreover, in this respect, the redemption narrative within Christianity appears to be closer to Fifty Shades than Beauty and the Beast. After all, Christians believe that Jesus’ choice to enter into the world and suffer and die, was a choice made for the benefit of humanity – even though it was humans who caused him to suffer and die.

This begs the question: if I think that Beauty and the Beast portrays a model of redemption that is close to Christianity’s understanding of it (and I do), how do I explain this apparent difference? And if I think that Fifty Shades is inconsistent with the Christian(ity) model, then why is that?

To answer these questions, we need to grapple even more with our understanding of choice and how it relates to redemption.

Before we begin, some blurb if you’re new to this blog:

OK, blurb over.

Continue reading Redemption vs Romance: Choice, commitment and consent (part 1)

Beast vs Christian: The dark art of grooming

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

This Valentine’s Day
Forget the past
And slip into something
A shade darker
— Fifty Shades Darker – Official Trailer 1 (Universal Pictures)

I’m starting with a slightly different quote this time. Not because I’m in any way thrilled that Fifty Shades Darker will come out in February 2017, but because it’s relevant to what I want to explore in this post.

In a redemption story, the redeemer purposefully chooses to act. In my previous post I talked about how they have privilege; this means they aren’t forced into their choice. In this post, I want to talk about how they don’t “slip into” their actions either.

In other words, I want to talk about grooming – comparing Christian’s tactics with Beast’s. Grab a cup of tea or make a bookmark, this post is longer than usual.

CONTENT NOTE: This post makes general references to parts of the plot of Fifty Shades of Grey, including non-consent and BDSM.

Continue reading Beast vs Christian: The dark art of grooming

Maurice vs Ana: Motivated by age, naiveté or love?

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

Why am I even thinking about this?
— 
Fifty Shades of Grey, p165

This is a mini-ish post in my series looking at the redemption arcs in Beauty and the Beast compared with Fifty Shades.

Reason being, I need a little more time to work on the next proper one in the series which will look in a lot more detail at Ana’s choice to try to redeem Christian. In this one though, I’ll just make a couple of observations about Ana’s motivation and Belle’s motivation.

Continue reading Maurice vs Ana: Motivated by age, naiveté or love?

Belle vs Ana: Privilege of position and identity

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

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair—it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal.
Fifty Shades of Grey, p3

Redeemer’s privilege comes in two halves

So… redemption stories involve a person who saves – a redeemer. A redeemer needs to be good (I talked about that in my last post) and they need to have privilege.

A person having privilege is often framed as them having some characteristic that means their status is advantaged (or not disadvantaged) compared to others. Redeemer’s privilege is similar, but broader, and it comes in two parts – I’ll call them “position privilege” and “identity privilege.”

Position privilege means the redeemer has power; they are not subject to constraining forces – at least so far as the redemption arc is concerned. Identity privilege is about having a secure and fulfilled sense of identity. The redeemer may experience distress at being insulted and injured, or indeed at witnessing suffering in others. But that doesn’t take away from their identity.

Because a redeemer has both position and identity privilege, this means that if they intervene for someone else, they do so because they want to. Not because they have to and not because they feel they need to.

In this post I’m going to compare Belle’s position and identity privilege with Ana’s.

If you’re unfamiliar with Fifty Shades, and need a brief introduction, try my bare basics page. If you’re new to this blog I’ve written separately on why I write about Fifty Shades and the introduction to this series explains why I think Redemption is beautiful love, not beastly suffering.

Continue reading Belle vs Ana: Privilege of position and identity

Belle vs Ana: Two embodiments of redeeming virtue?

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

“You are exquisite, honest, warm, strong, witty, beguilingly innocent; the list is endless. I’m in awe of you.”
— Christian, Fifty Shades Darker, p36

The need for outside help

In a redemption narrative, the person who is redeemed cannot redeem themselves on their own. They need a redeemer.

That isn’t to say that the person being redeemed doesn’t do anything to aid their redemption – quite the opposite. But what it does mean is that if it weren’t for the help of someone else stepping into their darkness and bringing them out of it, they would not have been saved.

In this post I want to compare Christian’s need for Ana with Beast’s need for Belle.

If you’re unfamiliar with Fifty Shades, and need a brief introduction, try my bare basics page. If you’re new to this blog I’ve written separately on why I write about Fifty Shades and you can find the introduction to this series here.

Continue reading Belle vs Ana: Two embodiments of redeeming virtue?

Beast vs Christian: The Curse of plot-serving entitlement

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

“I don’t have nightmares when you’re with me.”
— Christian, Fifty Shades Darker, p234

Living in a state of death

Redemption stories start with a fall and the Fall brings a curse. Usually the effects of this curse are so severe they represent a state of death. After all, the story is mimicking the curse(s) in the Genesis narrative where all death, sickness and destruction come into the world.

This state of ‘living death’ is one of the reasons why redemption in particular is needed. After all, redemption involves a good saviour stepping into the dark place and bringing a fallen, wretched, broken person out of it. I’ll talk more on this in my next post, but for now, let’s just note that life is meant to be pretty bad after the Fall.

Because I want to compare Christian’s state of ‘living death’ with Beast’s.

(Content note: This post makes general references to parts of the plot of Fifty Shades of Grey, including sexual violence. I’ve written separately on why I write about Fifty Shades and why I write about BDSM. If you’re unfamiliar with Fifty Shades, and need a brief introduction, try my bare basics page.)

Continue reading Beast vs Christian: The Curse of plot-serving entitlement

Beast vs Christian: The Fall that brings guilt and shame

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

“You’re a good man, Christian, a really good man. Don’t ever doubt that.”
— Ana, Fifty Shades Darker, p195

The moment when things went bad

Redemption stories tend to start with something very bad happening. After all, people don’t need saving from good things. I like to refer to this event as ‘The Fall’ – not because Jamie Dornan, the actor for Christian Grey, starred in a TV series with that name – but because that’s the phrase generally used to refer to the very bad event described near the beginning of the book of Genesis.

(Content note: This post makes general references to parts of the plot of Fifty Shades of Grey, including sexual violence and childhood trauma. I’ve written separately on why I write about Fifty Shades.)

Continue reading Beast vs Christian: The Fall that brings guilt and shame

Redemption is beautiful love, not beastly suffering

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

“I think the reason why you love Beauty and the Beast so much is because it has such a strong redemption narrative.”

My best friend was right of course. I love stories of redemption. To borrow from another saying, these stories have power, not because they tell us that there are monsters in the world, nor because they tell us that we can be monsters. But rather, because they tell us that – even in our most wretched and unlovable state – we can be saved from being monsters. We can become children of light.

In fairness, the appeal of Disney’s film when I was growing up probably also had much to do with the fact that I could identify with the heroine who didn’t quite fit in. Plus I admired her beauty, ability and courage. And then there were the songs.

Continue reading Redemption is beautiful love, not beastly suffering