Mckerrow Critical Rhetoric and a Study of Fifty Shades of Grey

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

A Criticism of Fifty Shades of Grey

For my analysis of Fifty Shades of Grey, I will be using McKerrow’s Critical Rhetoric. It discusses pointing out the source of power in the book, and then identifying a way to rectify the situation. Fifty Shades of Grey is dangerous for three reasons: it’s a misrepresentation of BDSM, it promotes rape culture, and it has a heteronormative bias.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a misrepresentation of BDSM, and that is incredibly dangerous. The BDSM community has rejected Fifty Shades as a proper reference for BDSM, claiming that is a dangerous and incorrect representation of their beloved community. In a real BDSM relationship, there is a lot more knowledge and understanding between the dominant and submissive. There is more love and conversation during the sex, and both partners are fully consenting and willing to partake in whatever predetermined sex acts there are. According to Emily Sarah in an interview conducted by Anna Smith, “She didn’t even know what a butt plug was. Most people do – and if they don’t, they wouldn’t be involved with a man like him. I don’t think he’d be interested in a woman like her, either: she’s clearly not up for BDSM, and he could find someone else to do it. That makes their relationship abusive.” She also says, “I’ve met a few Christian Greys. As someone who, in the past, has experienced many unhealthy and abusive relationships, I would definitely stay away from him. They’re not capable of love; their whole way of viewing relationships is very selfish. It’s about getting a high out of the control, rather than any kind of genuine love. When Anastasia says, ‘Leave me alone’, he actually breaks into her house! That’s not consensual. He turns up unannounced when she’s with her mum.” (Smith) The book obviously does not have an accurate depiction of a functional BDSM relationship, and this is very dangerous.

Although the book is marketed to older women, ages 30-50, the books are still being read by younger people, including high school girls. I remember being 16 and seeing girls reading it during class. The fact of the matter is, impressionable minds are reading (and getting off to) very dangerous acts. Christian Grey is manipulative and possessive, and pressures Anastasia Steele into being his submissive. He uses sex as a weapon to manipulate her into thinking it is what she needs. E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades, tries to frame Ana as a girl who knows what she wants, and is smart and strong, but falls very short in making her a proper strong protagonist character. In this story, the white male has all the power. He uses powerful manipulation tactics to get everyone around him to do what he wants, and he is the “power” in the series. Ana believes that if she does not become his submissive, that he will leave her. This sends the message to the reader, “Do whatever the guy you like tells you to do, otherwise you’ll be alone!” It’s a very similar message to The Rules. This way of thinking prevents women from doing what they can to be true to themselves. It does not teach a good lesson to the inevitable young readers, and it only reaffirms the beliefs that older readers may have, as this is a very archaic way of viewing romance. This is a detriment to any progression we hope to make as a society.

The franchise promotes rape culture. There are many examples in the book when Christian forces Ana into having sex with him. He never waits to see if she is willing or wanting of the sexual advances. It is very unsettling to read. Yes, there are times when the random sex is wanted, but there are several times more when he pressures her into it. He sends her very lavish gifts in order to persuade her into having sex with him, and to me that is sickening. Because this book (and the movie) has been consumed by so many people, the type of relationship that Ana and Christian have is being normalized. Consumers take in this example of a romanticized abusive relationship and think “wow, I want that!” The author, E.L. James creates a fantasy out of a nightmare.

The franchise comes off and very homophobic, and has a very obvious heteronormative bias. The only time homosexuality is brought up is when they are referring to how Christian Grey is never seen in public with a woman. Characters will ask if he’s gay, and in the movie it is said with a derogatory tone. In the book, the lines are surrounded by “giggles.” There are not any characters in the books who are gay, and only two people of color are mentioned. The first is a black man who is seen once and doesn’t have any lines. The second is Jose, who is made to be a sexual predator, but is not favored by Ana, so he is seen as an antagonist. Everyone else in the story is white and straight.

In order to avoid the dangers of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, we must urge readers to completely disregard the books and movies. I find it disgusting that there are millions of readers who enjoy the series and get pleasure from such a dangerous and dysfunctional relationship. In the future, whenever someone brings up the series I will share my thoughts on it with them. Whereas before I would simply say, “oh I heard that book is awful” now I can tell them, “hey, that really promotes rape culture and that’s not okay.” People need to know that it is not okay to normalize the type of relationship Fifty Shades features.

In conclusion, Fifty Shades of Grey is a detriment to society. I believe we have come a long way when it comes to the acceptance of the homosexual community, people of color, and women’s activism. However, we are not where we need to be yet although we are headed in the right direction. If we, as a society, care at all about the progression of acceptance of those outside of the white, male, heteronormative sphere, we will pay no attention to the books and movies, and do our best to inform others of how awful they truly are. This franchise puts a halt to all the development we have made as a society, and that is why it is so dangerous.

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