“50 Shades of Grey” receives more backlash from activists

“50 Shades of Grey” receives more backlash from activists

A social media campaign, #50DollarsNot50Shades, urges people to donate $50 to domestic violence prevention efforts instead of spending money to see the blockbuster “50 Shades of Grey” film based on the wildly popular novel of the same name. Similar hashtags, including #50ShadesisAbuse,” “boycott50ShadesofGrey” and “sayNoTo50Shades,” have also been trending on Twitter.

With Tweets such as “for many women, it’s not just fiction” and “why are we romanticizing abusive relationships?”, the campaign claims the movie legitimizes abuse against women.

Sarah Katula, a nurse practitioner at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., and member of the hospital’s domestic violence task force, agreed with these sentiments after reading several chapters of the book.

“There is a belief that if we try harder, try to fix it, be kinder, love more, that the victim can change the behavior of someone who is controlling, manipulative and divisive,” says Katula. “This is a very bad message to give to young women.”

The premise of the book and movie: A college student falls in love with the older, powerful billionaire Christian Grey, who introduces her to kinky sex. Its tagline, “Are you curious?,” hints at how this cultural phenomenon has shone a light on the BDSM (bondage and discipline, sadism and masochism) community.

The movie was the number one film when it opened on Valentine’s Day weekend, scoring a $94.4 million debut. The book spawned a trilogy that sold over 100 million copies worldwide since Random House started publishing the books in 2012.

Fans include people who see the movie and the book as harmless entertainment. It’s become so popular because it follows the familiar “beauty and the beast” formula, according to Katula. Yet she thinks it’s anything but harmless.

The message of the book and movie, Katula argues, is that “if the woman is pretty enough, kind enough, ‘whatever’ enough, she will be able to change the beast into a prince and live happily ever after. This type of thinking is seen often in abuse cases.”

One in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Katula urges people not to see the movie but instead advocate on behalf of domestic violence victims.

In addition to the Twitter hashtag, there are a number of organizations offering support and resources to those looking to boycott the film. “50 Shades the Pledge,” a project of the nonprofit Minnesota Child Protection League, offers an online toolkit (#50ShadesthePledge) for parents to talk to their kids about pornography, abuse and take a pledge against domestic violence.

“I reject the lies of 50 Shades of Grey that violence, humiliation and manipulation are acceptable ways of treating other people,” the pledge states. “I reject the lie that it is OK to let others hurt me for their own pleasure. Consent does not make what is always wrong, right.”

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  1. I am glad to see an Advocate nurse speaking up against the messages in this book and film franchise. There is nothing healthy or consensual about this portrayal of “romance” and it will only intensify our cultural blindness to all the nuances of abuse.

    I worry about the state of the world for my two young daughters. The overwhelming success of this mess only deepens my worry.

  2. It’s great to see that the negative message of this film can be turned into something positive like an awareness campaign for domestic violence. I hope more people donate to the cause instead of seeing the movie.

  3. More and more charities and prevention bureaus are being exposed as schemes to capitalize on those willing to donate for a worthy cause. Is there any real gain to have people give their money away simply for the sake of saying they donated. I think if you’re going to make this campaign it would help if you employed some research into a list or what-have-you of suggested donation sites based on how much of your donation goes to the actual cause versus into their pocket, as well as their effectiveness to actually prevent domestic violence. The “50Shades Pledge” is a great concept and vehicle for realtime discussion among parents and their kids, but I don’t see the need to associate it with the film.
    Where was this campaign at the height of the book’s success? Was there less of a threat from the book, which is longer and goes more into detail than the movie?
    It just seems silly. There are countless films that have come out with difficult/threatening/violent/negative messages against men that get no consideration whatsoever.
    I don’t care if people donate or not. I hope anyone that has an actual concern about this topic will sit with those they are concerned with, or pick the phone, or whatever the case is and talk about it like an adult. The only thing to fear is those that talk loudly over social media, but cower when a time for real action is needed and sadly these types of campaigns seems to be breeding a generation of those that act by clicking buttons rather than responding to actual people. Start and home and go from there if you want to make any changes, regardless of the topic or subject matter.

  4. Donations and charity pledges aside, kudos to Lisa for writing about abusive relationships and domestic violence against women, and Sarah for explaining how the 50 Shades book and movie try to legitimize abuse against women. Abusers lie, harm, manipulate, intimidate and humiliate men and women without conscience. There should be no tolerance of domestic violence and those who are abusive, as well as any book or movie which promotes that violence, humiliation and manipulation are acceptable ways of treating other people. There is nothing entertaining about that.

    Individuals don’t have to donate money to a cause, but as Sarah mentions take a stand against abuse. Whether you make a verbal pledge to stop abusers, discuss domestic violence openly with partners and children or make a statement in some other way, let your voice be heard. Don’t stay silent against abusers.

  5. You make a good point about researching charities before donating, Matt. GiveWell and other similar sites are a great place to start, especially if you are considering making a sizeable donation or raising funds.

    It is always the right time to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence, but it was especially smart for these organizations to challenge the public at the same time that the movie is at the height of media success. Drawing attention to the “Beauty and the Beast” message, mentioned in the article, is an important facet of educating people about the cycle of abuse. Also, while it is true that some people do not actually engage in activism other than signing online petitions or donating to unresearched, unrated charities, many more people are becoming more intelligent about this…and as a result, a lot of organizations are stepping up their game.

    While it is certainly important to engage with family members about these topics, it is also important to be a responsible member of society and support the organizations that make the world a better place for all of us. Violence against women is a global issue, and perpetuating the romanticization of partner violence is something that a society that cares about all of its members should try to end.

    Just as it is important to research charities that you donate to, it is also important to stay informed about what is happening around you and how you can help to improve things. Let’s not just be a bunch of individuals and instead be a community. Being an ally to groups that face discrimination, disenfranchisement, and violence is one of the ways you can do that.

  6. Lisa Parro

    Thanks for your comments. Regardless of whether you agree with Sarah Katula’s assertion that this book and film depict violence and abuse, any opportunity to bring to light an issue that thrives in the darkness is a good thing. Abuse, coercion and manipulation are tools used to dehumanize people and that should sicken us, not entertain us.

  7. Having been a victim of domestic violence, I applaud “$50, not 50 Shades” for their clever campaign to help raise awareness (and dollars) to help domestic violence prevention.

    I’m also a filmmaker, and feel that the producers of 50 Shades may well benefit from making the announcement that a portion of the box-office proceeds will be going to the help prevent domestic violence.

    Producers of 50 Shades? Your box office has already dropped over 73% from your opening weekend, and I can’t help think it’s, at least partly, due to this negative publicity. Hey there, Producers? What do you think? You’ve already made over $400M worldwide. How about giving a little back?

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About the Author

Lisa Parro
Lisa Parro

Lisa Parro, health enews contributor, is a content manager for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. A former journalist, Lisa has been in health care public relations since 2008 and has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She and her family live in Chicago’s western suburbs.