The Right Wing

Guess Who's Boycotting '50 Shades of Grey' Ahead of the Film's Release?

You can bet that American Family Association will not be in the front row when the movie premieres.

Welcome to Fifty Shades of Grey week in America. With the controversial movie – based on the mega-bestselling novel of E.L. James -- set for release on February 12 at 8 p.m., in time for Valentines Weekend, several Christian Right organizations are putting on one last burst of boycott. And Deborah Hamilton, of Hamilton Strategies, is knocking out press releases like Barry Bonds hitting home runs after using PEDs.

According to the Washington Posts Cecilia Kang, pre-release “ticket sales” for the R rated film are “booming – particularly in the South.” Kang recently reported that the movie’s ticket sales “accounted for 60 percent of all Fandango ticket sales this week and has become the highest-grossing R-rated movie in prerelease sales on the movie ticket Web site.” The top ten states for pre-release sales are Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Iowa and Tennessee. As of this writing (Monday, February 9) the trailer has been viewed more than 50 million times on YouTube.

A Press Release issued by the Mississippi-based American Family Association (AFA) “is calling on movie theaters around the country not to show the film.” Since its founding in 1977 by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, the AFA has in its own words, “been on the frontlines of America’s culture war.” You can bet that AFA folk will not be in the front row, or in any row, when Fifty Shades of Grey begins its run.

“Nothing in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ builds up society, respects or empowers women or demonstrates healthy relationships,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “Rather, the film glorifies abusive relationships and glamorizes abusive tendencies such as stalking, bondage sex, intimidation and isolation. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control’s standards of emotional abuse and sexual violence include nearly every one of the interactions between the two main characters. Both movie theaters and moviegoers can stand up to this kind of disgusting content that’s touted as ‘entertainment’ and choose not to show or pay to see the film.”

Wildman added: “The irony is not lost that the film’s main character is named, ‘Christian,’ while this film presents anything but a ‘Christian’ view of intimacy. The idea that anyone would think this film is in any way appropriate demonstrates an incredibly unhealthy view of relationships and sexuality. A more apt title for the movie would be ‘Fifty Shades of Evil.’ Without question, this film will have a corrosive effect on cultural views of what normative sexuality ought to be. Healthy relationships seek to safeguard the emotional and physical well-being of another; this film promotes inflicting emotional, physical and psychological harm on another for the sole purpose of self-serving sexual gratification. It is the epitome of elevating abuse, and we call on all theaters to reject promoting such abuse on their screens.”

Another anti-Fifty Shades of Grey Hamilton Strategies-issued press release titled “What’s Love Got to Do with It? In ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ Nothing,” features the thoughts of “religion and culture expert,” Dr. Alex McFarland.

Not to be outdone by Brother Wildmon, McFarland said: “Few things are as unthinkable as promoting violent sex and psychological abuse in the name of ‘romance.’ But it’s hardly surprising that our culture has come to this point when we recognize that for years, sex has been glorified as the ultimate standard of love. And not sex within the God-ordained protection of marriage between one man and one woman, but sex that is simply a means of taking what we want from someone else to gratify ourselves. Fifty Shades of Grey goes beyond even this twisted view of sex and love and elevates sexual abuse as acceptable. This is not only a tragic and dangerous depiction of love but also one of the reasons young people today are growing up with little understanding of real love, mistaking emotions for the sacrificial and often-inconvenient commitment love calls for.”

To paraphrase the Oscar-winning song from Hustle & Flow, it’s “hard out here for a boycotter.” But, it appears that Wildmon and McFarland will have several more opportunities to unleash their rage and raise money. The Verge’s Lizzie Plaugic recently reported that Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson is planning to turn the two other books in the E.L. James trilogy – “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” – into full-length feature films. This has not yet been confirmed by Universal Pictures. pointed out that James’ “trilogy has been translated in over 50 languages worldwide since its release” and has sold “over 70 million copies worldwide in e-book and print, making it one of the fastest-selling book series ever.”

You can view the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer here, and the fun-filled Lego version Fifty Shades of Bricks here.

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Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement.