As much as I don’t like to talk about certain franchises, it’s the duty of literary and cultural critics to engage with everything, even the works we find distasteful. So here’s my analytical take on a popular movie franchise that I’m not even going to name, because even naming the movie in question just adds to the buzz, and there are no doubt other films coming in the series.
So here’s where we sit. There’s a lot of talk in the media right now about a certain blockbuster movie centered on a handsome, ruthless alpha-male billionaire whom a lot of people find pretty sexy. While I may support the consensual BDSM community, this guy comes off as a real unstable creep to me. Let’s remember that the violence he participates in is non-consensual, and that it’s a volatile expression of some really deep psychological problems:
First of all, he’s not just an unrealistically young billionaire. He’s a psychologically damaged sociopath with deep and unaddressed personal scars that date all the way back to an emotionally repressed, arms’ length surrogate upbringing after losing his biological parents as a child. The violent, premature death of his mother continues to haunt him in spite of his fabulous wealth, and he externalizes the violence of her death by abusing others. There’s a gaping hole in his shattered psyche that all his money won’t fill; and while he THINKS he can fill that hole with the usual gadgetry of BDSM (latex, black leather, ropes, belts, weird uncanny devices of all sorts), he’s wrong. The only thing that seems to trigger any emotion at all in him, and it’s not actually happiness, is inflicting fear and horrific violence on anyone who reminds him of his impotence to save his own mother.
That’s not a healthy role model for men to want to be, nor for women to be attracted to. And that is why I’m making a pledge not to pay money to see this movie, no matter how curious I am, no matter how much I kind of want to see Ben Affleck play Batman.
…Did I get’cha?
This is, at least partially, a troll post: while this is an informal personal blog, I’ve put some fairly serious criticism here at times. I think I have to admit to being a little facetious, and a little tongue-in-cheek, when comparing Christian Grey to Batman in this way.
On the other hand… do I? The tragic backstory of either protagonist, in the world of comic-book romance, would generate a badass hero we all know and love. But in a realist genre, even in one of the worst novels ever written in that genre–and unfortunately in real life, too–the traumatic past of Young Master Wayne is much more likely to result in a mentally ill abuser of Christian Grey’s ilk than a Caped Crusader for justice.
I think behind the uneasy humour and the “gotcha” moment of the post, there’s some serious questions to be asked about our heroes, and our (especially male) role models. We love it in heroic romance when the lines between the hero and the villain are drawn paper-thin. But in real life, in those situations, how sure are we that our damaged, traumatized human heroes will fall on the side of social healing rather than destruction?