Films Sex and sexuality

Trash and Fifty Shades of Grey – A Review

An extended and revised version of this article appears on the Christian Today website – here –

This week you have the opportunity of seeing both the best and the worst of humanity in your local cinema. The worst is seen in the much hyped up film version of 50 Shades of Grey. I am going to review it without having to see it because I just don’t buy the ‘unless you have seen it yourself you cannot comment on it’. It’s an illogical position. It IS usually better to have seen something you comment on. But if you know what the film is about and what its values are, then there is no need. I have not seen Dachau, does that mean that I have no right to comment on how dreadful the holocaust was?

As regards 50 shades, of course I cannot comment on the cinematography, acting etc (although the reviews already have rubbished the film) but I can comment on a film of a book which delights in sexual pornography and violence against women. The basic ‘plot’ is that a filthy rich billionaire abuses and misuses a much younger and poorer woman. The sub plot for those men who are inclined that way is that women are really looking forward to being used and abused. You don’t need to see the film to know that it is evil. Why would any human being, never mind any Christian, pay money to go and watch such trash?

Speaking of which there is a much better film called Trash.

We saw this Brazilian film last week and it is stunning. THe cinematography, the acting, the plot and the message are superb. It too is a film about pornography – but the pornography of poverty. It too is a story about the politics of corruption, abuse and the manipulation of power. The big difference (apart I suspect from the actual quality of the films) is that whereas 50 Shades glorifies violence and the abuse of power, Trash condemns it.

There is of course a clear link between the two subjects. The desacralising of sex leads to the degrading of humanity which in turn leads to more opportunities for the rich and powerful to abuse the poor, whether sexually or in other ways. As Christians we need to lift up our voices and declare that this poverty, sexual abuse and corruption is a gross sin and injustice. 50 Shades is not an opportunity for Christians to show how cool we can be about sex and how we can show a positive attitude towards sex (which we should). We should not be dancing to the devils agenda, but rather fighting against the darkness. Human beings are not ‘trash’ to be used and abused according to the whims of the powerful. We are all, from the richest to the poorest, fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. The Good News is that, tainted though that image is, God sent his son to redeem us and take us from the trash pit, to the glories of being sons and daughters of the King. 50 Shades wallows in the trash of fallen humanity. Trash offers us some hope of a way out. Christ provides that hope.

PS – As I posted this I knew that the usual atheist trolls who stalk me would jump in but even I did not anticipate the banality of the arguments used to defend sexual violence and exploitation. Apparently because millions of people have read and enjoyed the book it must be good and therefore to criticise it is wrong…to which the only answer is millions of people enjoy racist and violent that makes it ok? Is that really the level we have descended to?


  1. Actually, you have summed up well why I have no desire to jump into pop culture herd mentality and read the book or see the film. Nothing here to see…move on.

    1. Maybe because we are appalled at the increasing sexualisation of society and the way in which sexula violence against women is encouraged and condoned by some aspects of ‘popular’ culture…

  2. Well, if watching racism and violence is descending to a low level with film making and watching films then why critcise 50 shades and not Selma?

    All of what happened in the film was consensual and at the end of the film Anna was empowered by saying no and making the healthy choice to walk away and Grey was shown to be the one who was messed up and dysfunctional. Sadly the same consensuality can’t be said to be true about Selma between white people in power and African Americans with killings, beatings, bombings even and unlawful denial of the basic right to vote.

      1. Yes Selma does condemn racism. It’s your understanding that 50 shades glorifies sexual violence against women. Again in 50 shades there was noting shown that was not consensual and Anna was empowered at the end by saying no. My understanding is that 50 shades showed something that was unhealthy and a woman taking back her empowerment from a man who related dysfuntionally just as Selma showed racism and concluding with MLK saying “mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord”. with whits an blacks joining together against racism.

        You wrote “The desacralising of sex leads to the degrading of humanity which in turn leads to more opportunities for the rich and powerful to abuse the poor, whether sexually or in other ways”. Why do you consider the comparison that I have made between 50 shades and Sema to be a “strange comparison” when you have linked the desacrilating of sex to the abuse of the poor by the powerful?

      2. Selma is an anti-racist film. 50 Shades is not an anti-sexual violence film….the fact that you cannot see the difference is to say the least, disturbing!

      1. If David allows my rebuttal to your comment Matt, in the film the sexual acts were consensual. When she said no it was not in any sexual act but as she entered a lift and he followed her, to which he backed off. Yes absolutely saying no and having that ignored is not consensual but please don’t misrepresent a point being made as if to make an argument to appear to be disturbing when it is not.

        Yes he was being a “dick” as the link you provide describes. Anna’s roommate was also being a dick at times for being invasive and her mother for not turning up to her graduation. Anna is portrayed as rather naiive and passive in all her relationships. With peer pressure getting drunk after graduating from college, making herself vulnerable to the point of passing out. It is a sad story of a young naive woman who wants to love and be loved and a rich and powerful man with unresolved issues of child abuse who confesses to being “50 shades of ****** up” and doesn’t know how to love and be loved.

        I take delight in her saying no at the end of the film. I am surprised at how popular the book and I assume the film has been with women. It does raise questions as to why given the sadness of it for Anna.

        I do find it interesting to consider this in the light of Selma and David’s comments about the desacrilising of sex leading to the abuse of the poor by the powerful. Having reflected on this, it has affirmed to me what a shining and intelligent example Matin Luther King is to all who face any kind of oppression.

        “there is the more excellent way of love…Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever… If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history…In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified… Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment… But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning”

      2. Clearly you didn’t read that link. Or you can’t see the clear abuse, which is even more worrying. It sounds like you haven’t read the book either, but are basing your comments on the film. Read the book and tell me that it isn’t abuse.
        “So help me God, Anastasia, if you don’t eat, I will take you across my knee here in this restaurant and it will have nothing to do with my sexual gratification.” Or how about “”You are coming back to my apartment even if I have to drag you there by your hair.” Threats of physical abuse.
        And in one particularly striking part, Ana tells Christian that she wants to talk and doesn’t want sex. “‘No,’ I protest, kicking him off.” And he replies with….”If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet, too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you. Keep quiet.”
        She said no. He ignored it. That is abuse.

        This is not the kind of relationship I would want my daughter to be in, or to ever think is ok. In fact, if she ever confessed to anything like what is written in 50 Shades, then I can guarantee there would be police involved. This is not the kind of man I want my son to turn into, or to think that is what women want. Nothing like this should be glamorised or portrayed as attractive. Abuse is never ok.

  3. Thank you for your response David.

    I hear that you preceive my comments to be disturbing and drawing comparisons as not being like for like in the two films. In the film 50 shades, I hear your argument for it not being a like for like comparison between 50 shades and Selma with the powerful oppressing based the non-violent protests and “anti-racist” nature of Selma. In 50 shades, Grey himself is a victim having come through a childhood of being sexually abused by “Mrs Robinson”. Again at the end of the film Ann reclaims her empowerment. It is not explicitly expressed as being anti-oppression in a sexual way in the manner that the non-violent protests are anti-oppression, I will give you that. At the same time, when people talk what they say is heard. When people act, then their actions speak louder than their words.

    We see things differently David. As you wish to portray my questions as irrelevant and disturbing rather than consider them, then it does limit the amount of constructive conversation we can have doesn’t it? it’s interesting that you have allowed my comments towards the secular activist Mark Gordon recently over his approach to the removal of religious components in RO in schools without comment from you but comment as you have when there it something that is an alternative to your approach that I have taken.

    As this conversation has gone as it has with regard to 50 shades, I won’t comment further about this with you. By the way I did find your response to the recent comments made by Stephen Fry and his accusing God interesting to consider, particularly if you did away with God, what is there, what was Fry’s solution. I mean that as a compliment. Also to consider this in the light of Russell Brand’s response in believing in God as he perceived God to be and the duty each one of us have of being to address the evil that is inherent within each one of us.

    If this is the kind of face that Christianity has to offer then perhaps more people will be persuaded to consider its validity, and less to find it unattractive or even be repulsed by it.

  4. I would just affirm what I have said before about complimenting your comments towards Fry with regard to everything being created good and then if you take away God then what is the solution to bone disease or worms that burrow into childrens’ eyes. Also this in the light of Russell Brand’s response talking of the duty within each one of us firstly to address the evil that is inherent within each one of us.

    Yes I agree that there can be bad responses from Christians either wanting to throttle people or giving a “nice” reply which ironically represents God in a way that Stephen Fry represents God to be affirming his views!

    So then challenges and opportunities on both sides of the argument?

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