'50 Shades' Fans Urged to Boycott Film for Glamorizing Domestic Violence

50 shades of grey movieA domestic violence campaign called #50Dollarsnot50Shades is asking fans to boycott the movie Fifty Shades of Grey and send $50 to a women's shelter or domestic abuse organization instead. It's a bold challenge to the film's many passionate fans. What's this all about?


Critics are concerned that the movie distorts the reality of abusive relationships. “People are really upset about this movie and its potential for glamorizing stalking and abusive behavior," a representative of the campaign told the Washington Times. "So they’re happy to have the chance to do something positive to help offset the damage.”

The campaign's Facebook page has nearly 5,000 likes so far and is sponsored by London Abused Women's Centre, National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and Stop Porn Culture, among other organizations.

We've expressed worry over signs of abuse in the novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, here at The Stir. Staffer Maressa Brown pointed out:

Although Christian is ultimately a three-dimensional, sympathetic character, he's also described repetitively as mercurial. Ana can't keep up with his ever-changing moods that blow breathtakingly hot to bone-chillingly cold. At least through most of the first book, Fifty's mysterious nature and hair-trigger mood swings have Anastasia walking on eggshells, petrified that he's going to snap. And this is somehow supposed to be ... sexy as hell?

So we get it. The emotional manipulation and the mind games are at best deeply unhealthy in real life. And even if you believe BDSM can be safe, mutually pleasurable, and consensual, its practitioners thrive when the practice is supported with trust and a strong emotional bond. Those are either withheld or resisted by Mr. Grey.

That said, I do have some misgivings about the campaign, however well-intentioned.

First, what I think would be more helpful would be if we could have specific examples of abuse from the book and the movie pointed out. And I don't mean the red room BDSM stuff. I mean the stalking and the emotional abuse, things we typically don't recognize as abusive until things escalate into something worse.

It takes resolve and a strong opinion to boycott. The people this campaign wants to reach to don't necessarily have a strong opinion on these issues. Maybe it's better to appeal to their curiosity instead. Curiosity is what got Anastasia into that red room in the first place, after all. And curiosity will lure viewers into the movie. Better to arm the curious with helpful information than to warn them not to look.

But ... do we really take Ana and Christian's relationship that seriously in the first place? Don't we know the difference between that fantasy and the reality of relationships? Writing a "romance" novel about a BDSM relationship is already quite a leap. Getting human beings to act out that drama on film in a way we can relate to is an even bigger leap. From what I've heard, the director and the actors have struggled to make this movie even remotely believable. That should tell us something.

I think we know, deep in our souls, what a healthy relationship should look like. It's been hard to twist the Fifty Shades story into a romantic relationship anyone would actually aspire to, and I think putting it on film will underscore its improbability and flaws. You will have to face your own cognitive dissonance when you watch this film in a way you may not have to when reading the book. That's my hope, anyway.

Of course, all of this could be moot. Fifty Shades could flop for reasons that have nothing to do with glorifying abuse. People may boycott it because it fails to entertain. But the movie is already enjoying record sales ahead of its release.

Regardless of how you feel about the Fifty Shades boycott, I think sending $50 to a women's shelter is an excellent thing to do. So for that reason alone, I'm glad they're getting the word out.

What do you think of the #50Dollarsnot50Shades campaign?


Image via Fifty Shades of Grey/Facebook

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