On February 14, we’ll experience the rare confluence of Ash Wednesday — a holy day for Catholics marking the opening of Lenten season — and Valentine’s Day, a mostly secular holiday marked by love and romance.
Unfortunately, this day will also be shared with a third event in American popular culture, one that is neither spiritual nor romantic.
“Fifty Shades Freed,” the third installment of the essentially pornographic trilogy, “50 Shades,” opens in theaters on February 14 as well. The steamy, sex-drenched films are based on E.L. James’ erotic novels by the same name. This year’s film was preceded by “Fifty Shades of Grey” in 2015 and “Fifty Shades Darker” last year. (“Grey” was rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for its “strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity” — while “Darker,” also with an R rating, was described as having “strong erotic sexual content, some graphic nudity and language.”)
This year’s tagline for the new movie isn’t exactly subtle. Advertisements for the film depict a black negligee-clad Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele, and a soon-to-be-shirtless Jamie Dornan (who plays Christian Grey) in a near kiss. The tagline reads: “Don’t Miss the Climax.”
Predictably, the racy posters have begun making appearances in major cities. Some of these ads even pepper the subways — the same subways that countless children and young people use to get to school.
While Hollywood elites decry the (obviously deplorable) objectification, abuse and harassment of women in their industry, they make money hand over fist by creating films that glorify the objectification and abuse of women. Actors wearing black to awards ceremonies and legislators who may follow suit at the State of the Union address this year won’t absolve them of responsibility. The level of hypocrisy here is remains undeniably in-your-face.
Hollywood, of course, defends the creation of such films — and it will defend this one, too, once opening day gets a bit closer and conservative outlets begin sounding the alarm. And they will pull out the same tired tropes accusing conservative critics of the films of being “judgmental” and prudish.
Hollywood, if you’re truly committed to elevating women and creating a culture in which women feel safe and valued, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is.
There is a critical difference between “judgment” and “discernment” — one that Hollywood generally does not appreciate. “Judgment” is saying the creators of the films are atrocious, unredeemable human beings. That isn’t true, isn’t helpful, and doesn’t advance the discussion. “Discernment,” on the other hand, is saying that the film these folks have chosen to create is not one that is edifying for Christians — or anyone else, for that matter, to view.
Time’s up, Hollywood! If you’re truly committed to elevating women and creating a culture in which women feel safe and valued, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. These films may rake in the dollars — but they also rake women, marriage, and traditional values through the mud.
Michele Blood is a freelance writer based in Flemington, New Jersey.