This Valentine’s weekend, we have the opportunity to choose a good thing and, in doing so, help eliminate evil as far as we can. I can promise you that our sons, daughters, and grandchildren will be better for it.
Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the book trilogy, will be showing this weekend in theaters across the country. But, in my hometown (and perhaps in yours), so will the movie Old Fashioned. The contrast between the two is black and white. The one slides into evil. The other strives for what is good.
The contrast, I think, is best illustrated by the leading man in each story. Men fascinate me, perhaps because I believe that God has created them to be the defenders of life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve carefully listened to men and watched what they do. Do they lead women and children to the edge of the abyss or keep them far from it? In Fifty Shades, Christian Grey uses manipulation, jealousy, intimidation and violence to control Ana. In Old Fashioned, Clay Walsh gives up his reckless carousing of college days to practice the patient and self-disciplined love of God and, in so doing, honor Amber Hewson.
Ideologies and behaviors are in contrast all the time. This weekend, ticket sales may tell us a lot about the ideology we claim and the behavior we choose to mentor. Choices have consequences. In this case, Hollywood is glamorizing violence and abuse, then tacking on an unrealistic fairy-tale ending. There is evidence to prove that real life is different.
A study published last year in the Journal of Women’s Health shows the relationships between health risks and reading popular fiction depicting violence against women. Researchers from Michigan State University studied more than 650 women aged 18-24. Compared to participants who didn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, those who did were 25 percent more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them; 34 percent more likely to have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies; and more than 75 percent more likely to have used diet aids or fasted for more than 24 hours. Those who read all of the books in the Fifty Shades trilogy were 65 percent more likely than nonreaders to binge drink—or drink five or more drinks on a single occasion on six or more days per month—and 63 percent more likely to have five or more intercourse partners during their lifetime. (Excerpted from “Reading Fifty Shades linked to unhealthy behaviors,” by Carolyn Moynihan, http://www.mercatornet.com, 3 February 2015)
Society pays a price when we teach men to inflict pain and sexualize violence. It pays a price when women are taught that abusive sex is “normal.” Remove the glamour and deception from Christian and Ana’s relationship. What is left but hopelessness?
The price is too high, especially for children and grandchildren. It is a price that does not have to be paid. I wonder. With its aggressive marketing campaign and unashamed attempt to romanticize sexual violence, has Hollywood unintentionally challenged parents to do the right thing? To help their child resist evil and seek what is good? Miriam Grossman, M.D., thinks so.
“Don’t underestimate [Hollywood’s] hard sell on your kids,” writes Dr. Grossman. “Even if they don’t see the film, they are absorbing its toxic message, and need your wisdom and guidance.” She explains that even with the darkest of clouds, there can be a silver lining. “While the ideas promoted by Fifty Shades of Grey are vile,” she observes, “they present a precious opportunity: to explain truths your children must know, but won’t hear anywhere else. Every image of those handcuffs and each TV trailer hold that chance.”
Dr. Grossman is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. She considers it her professional responsibility to help parents deal with the implications of Fifty Shades. I encourage you to visit her website where you will find a series of blogs exposing what might become a blockbuster film. Dr. Grossman includes talking points for every mom and dad who wants to keep their child from harm. She notes that parents talk to their children about junk food, cigarettes, and bullies. Parents, she says, need to warn children about dangerous ideas, too.
Dr. Grossman guarantees “you will have a significant influence on your child. What you believe matters. Your expectations matter. This is so regardless of any poor choices you may have made through the years. Even if your teen shrugs off everything you say with a roll of her eyes, I promise you, she hears every word.”
There is nothing grey about physical or emotional abuse. It is never ok. “A relationship that includes violence is disturbed,” explains Dr. Grossman. “The people involved have emotional problems. A psychologically healthy woman avoids pain. She seeks a relationship that is safe, supportive, and trusting; she wants to feel cared for and appreciated. If there is any hint of danger, she runs.”
There are those who consider Fifty Shades a “romantic love story.” But, “when Ana agreed to be abused, she made a terrible, self-destructive decision,” says Dr. Grossman. “Only in fiction would such a ‘romance’ end happily. In the real world, Ana would pay for her poor choice of a partner.”
It doesn’t have to begin—or end—this way. There are, well, old fashioned thoughts and behaviors that have always led to a much safer and more hope-filled life.
This Valentine’s weekend, some people are daring to bring these old fashioned ideas to the polling place of a theater near you. You have the opportunity—as parents, high school and college students, dating couples, and newlyweds—to “vote” with your ticket in favor of patient, kind, and selfless love (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).
Will it matter? I think so. Good is opposed to evil in such a way that even choosing Old Fashioned can be the good thing that helps eliminate evil as far as it can.