Fifty Shades of Depravity: Box Office Numbers Shine a Light On a Centuries-Old Dilemma
By Steve Pauwels
No denying it, this past Valentine’s Day weekend Fifty Shades of Grey (FSoG) ravished the box office. The chick-flick/soft-core-porn mash-up, based on the first installment of E.L. James’ “erotic romance” novels trilogy, mustered an astonishing $85 million over the three-day stretch, ironically eclipsing Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (TPotC) for the richest February opening ever. Pervasively abysmal reviews, moreover — one Australian critic called it “the worst movie” she had ever seen — couldn’t keep FSoG from, additionally, shouldering aside Gibson’s 2004 biblical drama to claim the slot for the fourth highest-opening R-rated film ever.
Comments on an atheist website were smirking over the S&M-fixated flick’s money-making triumph over Passion, but the God-haters’ snottiness actually stumbled onto something. The earnings reports for these wildly dissimilar films are lavishly revelatory on a number of fronts: Fifty Shades of Grey versus The Passion of the Christ reflects a primeval, existential situation: mankind’s noxious debauchery jostling against his undying yearning for something greater, something better.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s blockbuster, for those not in the loop, combines what have become our licentious day’s twin causes célèbres: an obsession with sex and the mainstreaming of perversion. Stroll through a shopping mall in 2015, watch an hour of prime time television, listen to any contemporary smattering on the FM dial, spend an evening at the local movie theater — you’ll have a tough time sidestepping Western Civilization’s addiction to all things libidinous. For those who take their personal cues chiefly from today’s pop culture, the orgasmic experience is the summa of existence — worth living for and, evidently — as the AIDS and STD plagues illustrate — worth dying for.
Couple that preoccupation with the more recent mania for transgressive sexual activity — the more bizarre and aberrant the better! What Chesterton crystallized as, “the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal” — and you’ve got quite the trendy brew percolating. Having brusquely eased God out of vast swatches of 21st-century existence, not a few of this era’s movers-and-shakers have replaced His way of doing things with an appetite-centered approach; an ersatz religion dripping with bodily fluids.
Maybe Irish singer-songwriter Hozier is one of their prophets? His ubiquitous radio single “Take Me to Church” implies as much with its pilfering of spiritual language to elevate lust for his “lover”: “I should’ve worshiped her sooner/ If the heavens ever did speak/She’s the last true mouthpiece …My Church offers no absolutes/ She tells me, ‘Worship in the bedroom.’/ The only heaven I’ll be sent to/ Is when I’m alone with you.”
Perhaps to keep from giving any impression the song is flacking anything as pedestrian as a heterosexual union, its accompanying music video graphically transforms “Take Me to Church” into an anthem to homosexual relationships. It’s rather inexplicable, really, since in the composition’s actual lyrics Hozier plainly is crooning about a woman.
But never-mind. Whatever orifice is your preference, used in whatever manner you like! — that’s this generation’s ringing slogan.
When it comes to what people choose to do with their genitals, society still permits us to crinkle our noses at a few options — but, as Hozier, Fifty Shades of Grey and so much else graphically attest, that list is shrinking.
One thing at which lots of fashionable people did ostentatiously crinkle their noses a few years back was The Passion of the Christ – a movie, after all, which startlingly focused on One who roundly condemned so much esteemed by this squalid age. That’s right, Jesus wouldn’t be a fan of “Take Me to Church”. He’d doubtless frown even more disapprovingly on its sodomy-endorsing video.
And Fifty Shades of Grey? Definitely, two big thumbs down from the Son of God on that one, as well.
Not that He’d be surprised human beings have dredged up such cinematic effluence.
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