Romance or abuse? 50 Shades Darker movie blurs the line

Romance or abuse? 50 Shades Darker movie blurs the line

The popularity surrounding the 50 Shades Darker movie underscores how controlling, abusive behavior can be viewed as seductive when it’s mingled with money, fame, power and unauthentic acts of love.

The 50 Shades of Grey trilogy showcases a relationship between a business magnate and a young woman. Christian Grey becomes obsessed with Anastasia Steele, tracks her whereabouts, buys her place of employment, dictates who she can spend time with and even controls her food intake. In addition to these textbook signs of controlling abuse, he introduces Anastasia to bondage, dominance/submission and sadism/masochism (BDSM) in which she is also controlled and coerced.

My concern with this film is that it romanticizes money, power and abusive behaviors. Women and teenagers may romanticize this film thinking that this type of relationship is a form of love instead of abuse.

Stories of this nature appeal to the archetype in many women who fantasize about taming a powerful/dark/bad man and turning him into a loving and adoring partner. This is similar to the childhood tale of Beauty and the Beast. If the woman is pretty enough, kind enough and good enough, she can change the beast (or abuser) into a prince and good partner.

Viewers should be reminded that healthy relationships entail both partners feeling supported, valued and connected. Equal partnerships show kindness, consideration and attunement to each other’s needs.

That being said, for those who understand that this movie is mere fantasy and not a depiction of a solid, supportive relationship, then go enjoy yourself. But I would advise viewers to watch with a discerning eye.

If Christian’s controlling nature and stalking behaviors feels familiar, you are not alone. Because one in four women are abused at some point in their lifetime, it is plausible that this film will trigger an emotional response that may need further attention.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for such a helpful post! You rightly observe that our culture is intoxicated with money, fame, and power — to the point that we excuse (or even glamorize, as in the case of this movie) hurtful behavior and attitudes by those who possess them. I have not seen either movie or read the books, but I suspect that people would feel differently about them if Mr. Grey was a working class man who lived in a small rural town.

About the Author

Sarah Katula
Sarah Katula

Sarah Katula, RN, APN, Ph.D., who has been a clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry for more than 20 years and is on staff at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. Her clinical work has focused in the specialty areas of children and adolescents, eating disorders and adult mental health. Katula is passionate about women's issues and has worked extensively with issues surrounding intimate partner violence and the empowerment of women and girls. She is a tenured professor in the nursing department at Elmhurst College.