50 shades of grey

50 Shades of Hazel- A Male Power Fantasy in 730 Words

Andy Hazel is an untalented student journalist from Melbourne, who wrote this bad article about the film 50 Shades of Grey. Sleazy liberal male Andy sent a message to the Radical Alliance of Women’s facebook page the other day asking if we could answer a few questions about our protest against the film, to help him write his bad article for the University of Melbourne publication Farrago. ‘Liberal male student journalist’ is probably the shortest horror story ever written after ‘Joe Hockey’s budget’, but since this blogger has nothing better to do on a Thursday night, I’ve decided to write a review of his review.

The article starts with a single-sentence paragraph in the word-salad writing style that characterises the rest of the piece. Andy refers to the film as a “pristine adaptation” of a “trashy novel”. Now, I’ve laboured over this sentence for some time as, though so short, creates a disproportionate amount of confusion. Is he saying that the film is true to the trashy novel? It doesn’t seem so, because Andy doesn’t seem to think the film is trashy at all. In fact, he later describes it as “artful”. A glance at the film’s 3 minute trailer demonstrates that this film contains less art than the contents of my menstrual cup. But this doesn’t stop Andy, who attended the premier at Crown Casino last night, as he continues to gush over this B-grade film and delightfully linger on the point that though it shows some creepy-ass stuff, he really doesn’t care.

Sitting in his bedroom, presumably decked out with Superman pajamas and a cute little fedora with the “press” card tucked into the brim, Andy was probably so frantic in trying to detail the “agency” and “complete control” Ana had that he forgot to make any actual argument. Or perhaps, he was trying to expand “don’t question anything that gives me a boner” into 730 words. Who knows exactly what was going through his fedorable little head, or what he was trying to convey with this piece at all, because its fundamental flaw is that it makes absolutely no fucking sense. The piece is riddled with contradictions, some subtle and in reference to the questions I answered (not a lot of use to your “argument” when you’ve provided no context), or just back-and-forth soundbytes about the film. He cites a line from one of R.A.W’s ’50 Shades of Abuse’ flyers, which states that “[50 Shades of Grey] depicts controlling and manipulative relationships as romantic” and argues that the film does no such thing. He argues that Christian’s tendencies are “sadistic”, and shown as such. But in the paragraph directly previous, he croons tearfully over Christian’s constant “need of reassurance” that Ana is “consensual”. How sweet. I know it gets my heart strings a’ pluckin’ when my sex life so closely resembles violent assault that my partner has to keep stopping to check if he’s raping me or not. Swoon. This point seems pretty contrary to the tagline on our flyers- “Violence against women has no grey area”, that Andy insists is “unquestionable”. I’m pretty sure needing reassurance that you haven’t accidentally raped your girlfriend is a “grey area” (or, more accurately, a big red fuckin’ flag area). Unless you got lost in the dictionary reading all those words that being with “un-“, you’re unquestionably questioning our point. Moving on.

The thing that really strikes me about Andy’s little adventure in journalism is his frequent referral to 50 Shades as a “modern-day fairytale”. Perhaps those professional writing courses don’t teach you about different literary styles anymore, since he either interprets a fairy tale as “any fictional story” or maybe “a fictional story about a girl who is validated by the love of a powerful man”. In the case of the latter, young Mr. Hazel might be onto something. A fairy tale is a type of allegoric narrative that uses symbolism and cultural reference to tell a story with some kind of moral message. For example, Snow White teaches us a valuable lesson about how modesty and kindness are the truest forms of beauty (or how old ugly women are evil power-hungry witches, you pick). Little Red Riding Hood teaches young girls what happens when you talk to strange men (or anthropomorphic wolves) in the woods. 50 Shades of Grey teaches us that a) despite all the work those evil feminists have done to convince you otherwise, male power fantasies are totes sexy and empowering, b) if you don’t think you’re being abused, you’re not, and c) the surest path to sexual liberation is being tied up and humiliated. Hey, we didn’t say that fairy tales had to send positive messages, just ones reflective of the culture that creates them. So,  if we give young Andy the benefit of the doubt and assume he took the latter definition of what a fairy tale is, then he’s made exactly one legitimate point in the entire collection of words he randomly pieced into sentences for this article. Meaning that he has inadvertently made a very poignant argument against the way mainstream media reinforces the status quo by creating a specific cultural consciousness. If you didn’t expect such profundity from Mr. Hazel, you were right. But, just as Andy’s parents probably told him numerous times in his life, there are such things as “happy accidents”.

Before I can conclude this review I need to draw focus to the most tragic aspect of Andy’s interaction with R.A.W, and his article in Farrago. A huge amount of women all over the world have spoken up against a piece of cultural media that directly harms them, through the reinforcement of our global and systematic oppression by men as a class, and the direct consequences of media that fetishises male violence- that is, murder, rape, kidnapping and torture, pornography, and a decrease in women reporting male violence. We’re raising our voices about the harm that has been and is being done to us, about how survivors and victims need to be listened to and cared for, how we actually don’t care about the opinions of some privileged few who can re-enact this abuse and find it sexy. And in response, bourgeois men write articles about how all us silly women are wrong about our lived experiences and should shut up and let the “good girls” fulfill men’s power fantasies if they want to. The smugness of these men- not just Andy here- who dismiss women’s real and honest opinions with a hand-wave and a few buzzwords like “sexuality” and “agency” can be rage-inducing at times. But our interactions with these men are microcosmic. They are the same class, the same culture as the men making films, and promoting literature that harms women. They pay us lip service and then remind us that we are not human by turning our trauma, our oppression, our pain into billion-dollar industries. They robotically obey the social hierarchy, either by crushing the spirits of women who have survived abuse, or by shouting over those of us who raise our voices against it. Andy Hazel’s article is the ultimate in mansplaining, and utter crap- what person in their right minds would expect a man who has just sat through two hours of Hollywood pornography to write a review that doesn’t sound like the excited ramblings of a 14 year-old boy telling his friends he found his dad’s Playboy collection? But it makes a point. A very strong point. But not the one he was trying to make, which is “living up to patriarchy’s expectation of you is liberating”, bless his soul. The point is what we’ve been saying all along: 50 Shades, along with the sexual dynamics it advertises, is patriarchy-approved. It gets the Liberal Male (TM) Seal of Approval.

You sure showed us, Andy.

Pictured: Anastasia’s symbolic liberation from male-defined sexuality. Or something.

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