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 scene 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.

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)

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

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

How 50 Shades reflects real-life abuse in BDSM (part 3)

This post is the third of three that lists some of the ways a rant I read about an abusing big-shot dominant in the BDSM scene reminded me of Christian Grey (part one is here and part two is here). You can read the original rant (in its uncut strong language) here. If phrases like “BDSM,” “s-type” and “d-type” are unfamiliar for you, you might want to check out my Dictionary page. I’ve also written separately about why I write about BDSM and why I write about 50 Shades.

Content note: This post talks about abusive behaviour. I try not to be graphic but it’s generally not nice to read about and I do repeat some of the creepy things Christian says and does to Ana in the 50 Shades books.

Lesson 8: There are NEVER “no limits”

Let’s start with a quote from the rant:

No one has “no limits”, and to say you don’t (especially as a new person to the lifestyle) is simply foolish because a new person has no idea what to expect.

And anyone remotely informed about BDSM knows this. Anyone who remotely cares about consent will challenge anyone and everyone who says they have “no limits,” because people who say they have “no limits” do not know what they are saying. Instead, their idea of what a BDSM scene could involve has limits.

Continue reading How 50 Shades reflects real-life abuse in BDSM (part 3)

How 50 Shades reflects real-life abuse in BDSM (part 2)

This post is the second of three that lists some of the ways a rant I read about an abusing big-shot dominant in the BDSM scene reminded me of Christian Grey (part one is here).

If phrases like “BDSM,” “s-type” and “d-type” are unfamiliar for you, you might want to check out my Dictionary page. I’ve also written separately about why I write about BDSM and why I write about 50 Shades.

Content note: This post talks about abusive behaviour. I try not to be graphic but it’s generally not nice to read about and I do repeat some of the creepy things Christian says and does to Ana in the 50 Shades books.

Lesson 4: Pre-negotiation must be neutral and pressure-free

The ranter talks about limits:

There is no excuse for a D/M to be unable or unwilling to discuss these things openly and in a non-threatening, non-intimidating fashion in a neutral setting (emphasis on the “nons” and “neutral”). This allows for open communication and allows the s-type to express where they are with a particular limit.

Continue reading How 50 Shades reflects real-life abuse in BDSM (part 2)

How 50 Shades reflects real-life abuse in BDSM (part 1)

One of the biggest myths spoken about 50 Shades of Grey is “It’s not abuse, it’s BDSM.” I recently read a rant from a guy in the BDSM scene calling out abusive behaviour from a big-shot d-type who was using his reputation to silence his critics and the people he was abusing. Unlike 50 Shades, the rant is not fictional, which is why the strong parallels it has with 50 Shades are so serious. You can read the rant (in all its anger and uncut strong language) here. In the meantime, this post is the first of three that lists some of ways the big-shot dominant the ranter described reminded me of Christian Grey.

If phrases like “BDSM,” “s-type” and “d-type” are unfamiliar for you, you might want to check out my Dictionary page. I’ve also written separately about why I write about BDSM and why I write about 50 Shades.

Content note: This post talks about abusive behaviour. I try not to be graphic but it’s generally not nice to read about and I do repeat some of the creepy things Christian says and does to Ana in the 50 Shades books.

Lesson 1: Abuse can happen – even in a BDSM setting

“It’s BDSM” is never enough. There should always be a discussion about consent, risk and appropriateness: that’s what distinguishes abuse from what gets called “safe, sane and consensual BDSM” and “risk-aware consensual kink”.

Continue reading How 50 Shades reflects real-life abuse in BDSM (part 1)