The release of 50 Shades of Grey is causing quite a hullabaloo on my Facebook feed. People are crying for boycotts and lamenting the false portrayal of love, the abusive relationship and the sexual violence. I have not seen the movie, but I have read the books (twice, if I'm being honest) and the points are hard to argue with. In fact, while I am not exactly boycotting 50 Shades of Grey, I will never see it because I know I can't stomach scenes of forceful and violent sex. Yet, I don't understand the outrage. It is the story of a relationship between two consenting adults — consenting adults in a relationship where expectations were clearly laid out in a contract. Not only that but this movie, like the books, is intended for an adult audience and is marketed as such. It is not a wolf in sheep's clothing and I don't have to do much to make sure my children are not exposed to it.
There is, however, a book series with nearly the exact same message that is marketed to teens and tweens that does concern me. In fact, when I first read the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, I felt outrage. If you don't think it's fair to compare Twilight to 50 Shades of Grey, think again.
And when you think about it, the two series have all the same elements:
- In both stories (spoiler alert), a rich, older, violent man is inexplicably drawn to a naive girl who thinks it a sign of love that he follows her around and buys her expensive, inappropriate gifts.
- The girl in both stories forgives him when he hurts her as they have violent sex.
Not exactly the definition of love that I want my teenage daughter dreaming about.
But (and this is where my outrage really ramps up) Twilight takes the vision of self-destructive love even further by portraying suicide as a way to demonstrate true love. For example, Bella, the main character in Twilight, spends most of the second book in the series attempting to hurt herself so that she can "feel Edward's presence." When Edward thinks Bella is dead (big spoiler), he decides to kill himself rather than live without her.
Teen suicide is the last thing YA fiction should glorify, especially given the stats: Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10–24.
Twilight is a book series that people are going to recommend to my daughter at the stage in her life when her perceptions about love and romance are still budding. Twilight is a book series that will be in her school library. She will watch the movies at slumber parties and debate whether she is “Team Jacob” or “Team Edward.” I will not be able to protect her from that with a Net Nanny.
50 Shades of Grey targets adults; Twilight is aimed right at my child. Where's the outrage about that?