The blockbuster sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, which the marketing masterminds in the film industry release on pre-Valentines weekend, will once again deliver a colossal contradiction to our culture with such sublime subtlety that, if we are not vigilant, it will slither its way into our households, schools, churches, and places of employment, regardless of whether or not you’ve read the novels or viewed the movies.
The contradiction: an abusive, emotionally manipulative, and controlling relationship is romantic
As Christians and as parents, we need to galvanize resistance against the message that this movie will send to our daughters. Thomas Paine, who had fire in his blood and defiance in his pen,” declared a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.
With diligence and intention, we need to teach our daughters where love and happiness begin. If we remain mute, then we risk the chance of giving the appearance that dark, violent relationships like the one depicted in the Shades sequel just might be right. To remain reticent allows the contradiction to spill into our churches and leak its lie to our youth—who are the next generation looking for love.
Even if you don’t have biological daughters, you have friends who have daughters, you might have siblings and cousins who have daughters whom you could help sort out this contradiction.
In light of the influence that Hollywood and Fifth Avenue has on our culture, particularly our daughters, how do we raise our daughters to become gospel-centered, image-bearers of God, neighbor-loving, emotionally stable, and unabashedly confident women? All of which are necessary characteristics to detect and reject a potential Mr. Grey.
I have daughters so this is rather urgent. The time I have with my daughters is brief and fleeting. I feel a bit like the high school basketball coach kneeling on the sideline spewing out the plays hoping that amidst the chaos around us my daughters will catch something slam dunk worthy to take back out into the culture-court. The best you can do for your daughter is to set her up with a playbook filled with promises that she tucks deeply into her heart, so if the “Grey” type comes to call, she can pull out her playbook with resounding confidence and block his pass.
Equipping Daughters For a Dark, Grey World
1. She is an image bearer of God
This can never be emphasized enough to our daughters. Imprint it daily. She is created in the image of the One who originated womanhood; therefore, neither the political nor the entertainment culture can strip away or demean her identity.
2. She is needy…yes, but for God
Help your daughter understand her need for God. J.I. Packer offers the indisputable drop to your knees fact that “the prayer of every Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgment of helpless dependence.” This ought to be the prayer for our daughters. FSD’s Grey believed the lie that his girlfriend could heal his gaping emotional wounds. In reality, no human being could ever possibly restore deep-seeded emotional wounds nor fill the caverns of emptiness for another person better than God.
3. Healthy Relationships Thrive on Mutual Respect and Love
The Grey movies, which portrays violence as seductive, attracted women by the masses. Young girls gained access to the film from local libraries and Netflix. This February, scores of young women will, again, leave theaters across the country with a warped sense of what defines love and romance. Tim Keller tweeted, “the main human problem are often that we misidentify what will make us happy and we ask people and things to save us beyond their ability.” This is precisely what tragically unfolds between the two characters in the movie. Rather than teach our daughters to follow her heart, teach her to follow the heart of Jesus.
4. Violence Towards Women is NOT Entertainment
Talk with your daughters about the messages that movies send out about relationships. During a recent visit to the library, a handful of young teen girls deliberated over which movie to select. As the girls bantered and debated about the movie selections, the turnstile stopped at Fifty Shades of Grey. Because I have a teen daughter, this particular situation moved me to pay attention. One of the girls in the group, who maybe topped 15 years of age, boldly chimed in to report to her friends that, “no, let’s not get that I’ve already seen that movie.” My heart imploded with sadness that a young girl spoke so casually about a film that strips all dignity and respect from sex and reduces it to a malicious game of manipulation and abuse.
Activists spend countless hours forming coalitions to combat the type of violence against women that the FSG/FSD esteems. I wonder if the young girl in my library encounter misguidedly assumes that maybe Christian Grey serves as the modern day, socially acceptable version of a knight in shining armor?
5. Read Books and View Media With Muscle
Teach your daughter to build reading and media viewing muscle by reading great literature and viewing thought-provoking movies and then discuss them together. Good books won’t necessarily be the popular ones, as J.C Ryle reminds parents, “to allow them [children] to read books of a questionable sort, merely because everybody else reads them.”
The idea of discussing the books and movies helps our daughters to think through the big ideas within the narrative. Then generate a discussion about the ideas, particularly the ideas that may directly conflict with the values of your family.
Our worldview matters because it flows through the channels of every part of our life, right down to the books we read and the movies we watch. Rosaria Butterfield urges us to “reach back before the 19th century, back to the Bible itself, the Westminster divines, and the Puritans, we will limp along, defeated. Yes, the Holy Spirit gives you a heart of flesh and the mind to understand and love the Lord and his Word. But without good reading practice even this redeemed heart grows flabby, weak, shaky, and ill.”
How will you equip your daughter to thrive in a world where violence is portrayed as romantic?