Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 5: Hope and love)

Dan Stevens and Emma Watson dancing with lyrics from 'Evermore'

My greatest criticisms of both Fifty Shades and the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast come down to how they frame hope.

In Fifty Shades, Christian’s hope is vested in Ana, and the fear of losing her drives him to control her. In the 2017 Beauty and the Beast, Beast fares a bit better; he vests his hope in Belle’s intangible presence, which means he’s less controlling. But in the 1991 version we see something fundamentally different: Belle is Beast’s symbol of hope. When Beast surrenders to uncertainty he dies inwardly, only to be reborn into a new hope when Belle returns.

In these respects, I’d say Fifty Shades presents a hope that is Mormon, the 2017 Beauty and the Beast presents a hope that is Platonist, but the 1991 Beauty and the Beast presents a hope that is consistent with traditional Christianity.

Now you might say that’s over-analysing, but hey – I’m coming to the end of twenty-six blog posts that look into Beauty and the Beast in some form, so I think I’ve kind of already opened myself up to that accusation. I may as well keep going until I’ve said everything that I think is worth saying.

This is a long post, even by my standards (4,000 words), but if reading the above whets your appetite – keep going.

This is your spoiler warning. Continue reading Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 5: Hope and love)

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)

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?

The Honest 50 Shades trailer: oh so true!

For those who haven’t seen an Honest trailer before, they’re a series of satirical trailers on YouTube that (as the name suggests) are honest about a film’s or TV series’ faults. The 100th Honest trailer was – you guessed it! – 50 Shades of Grey. The humour in Honest trailers won’t be to everyone’s taste (not all of it is to mine) but for anyone with an axe of bugbears to grind, the 50 Shades trailer makes satisfying viewing. Here it is, along with 10 thoughts I had after watching it:

Continue reading The Honest 50 Shades trailer: oh so true!

A message to Muslim teens on 50 Shades

As I consider myself to be a person of faith, I’m often interested in how other people apply their beliefs to sex. I recently read a post by a Muslim writer and mother who says:

I cannot discuss all the points in the book thoroughly in just one article. However, to highlight some major issues, I want to tell my dear teenage daughters…

My only caveat on this article is that the author criticises a particular practice that labels itself “Christian” in the Christianity sense. Her criticism of the practice is justifiable in my view, though it seems strange to me that her single reference to a religion other than her own picks this out – particularly when a great many Christians, including me, would describe the practice as anything but Christian. [Edit: you can read her response to this below]

That said, what she makes a number of excellent and concise points. You can read them here: What Muslim teens need to know

Did you find this post by clicking on a pingback on the MuslimMatters site? You might be interested in this review of the film of 50 Shades of Grey from a Christian(ity) angle.

It started as fan-fiction

So this is my first post looking at 50 Shades from the literature angle, and I think the first thing that needs to be said is that 50 Shades is Twilight fan-fiction. This article on crushable.com goes into more detail.

I’m not going to say that a piece of writing necessarily lacks merit when it’s fan-fiction, but this is something that needs to be understood when putting that writing into context, and there are arguments (mentioned in the article above) that say that fan-fiction can never stand on its own merit alone. That said, I wonder whether any piece of good literature can truly be said to be standalone.