Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chasing "Me"

What does it mean to experience iconic figures who influenced you indirectly earlier in life but you don't acquaint yourself with their contribution to the world until after they've left this earth?! Well, I find myself in that space recently.



A few weeks ago, I saw All Eyes On Me (2017), a biopic on the (very short) life of TuPac Shakur.  This past Wednesday, I saw the documentary, Chasing Trane (2016), on yet another short lived but prolific life - that of saxophonist and jazz composer, John Coltrane.  I was shocked, and sad, to learn that both men died fairly young - Shakur at 25 and Coltrane at 40.  I should have been well aware of the age of Shakur's departure since I remember, to the day, of hearing about the time he was shot in Las Vegas.  But given that I was so young at the time, I have vague recollection of the fine details around the tragic event.  And Coltrane, I didn't find out the exact age until towards the end of the film when they revealed this fact.

As the constant self-reflexive person I am, I found myself wondering what have I accomplished in my life by the time I reached (or will reach) these ages.  By the time I was 25, I was in my first year of my M.F.A. program.  I'll soon be turning 40 and there's so much I have yet to accomplish but really want to.  Both Shakur and Coltrane had these massive bodies of work and have each recently been inaugurated into their respective industries' equivalent of a Hall of Fame.

How many people are familiar with the "Jesus Year?!"  This term refers to the age that Jesus was crucified and loosely a time when people experience some sort of rebirth.  For me, my "Jesus Year(s)" are 25 and 40...especially 40 since it's creeping up faster than what I wish to acknowledge.  What can I and have I accomplished by 2019?! I just gave my age away but I'm a woman who is proud of getting older, especially since my mom died at a young age (57 will be another "Jesus Year" for me as that is the age that she passed - I, of course, hope to make it further).

I look up to both Coltrane and Shakur for their discipline when it came to being able to generate their musical catalogs and also the pride and love they showed for their families and communities.  Both humble in their own way, they never forgot their origins and those who helped them accomplish dreams and goals.  I especially look up to Coltrane for his spiritual discipline and his connection to this realm.  This is something that I've struggled with for all of my life and I want to find a way to marry my religious and spiritual connection with what I think is best for me, lifestyle wise.  Growing up Christian but finding myself aligning more with Eastern spiritual practices, all of these things clash in dangerous ways....some alienating me from those I grew up with and others from my past.  This is very hard for me as I'm someone who believes that the past plays a huge part in forming one's identity (it's not the sole thing but one that informs who we are - whether it's trauma inducing and making us wanting to completely divorce these painful experiences or the proud sum of the whole).

While Coltrane has exhibited some form of musical talent and genius for most of his life, it wasn't until he sobered up from drug use earlier in his career and found a spiritual practice that he began to produce his most important and influential work.  I've always thought to myself what would and could happen with my writing if I found this for myself.  I've been sober, from alcohol and not by choice, since October.  And, while I haven't found the sort of clarity gifted to Coltrane, I haven't experienced a panic attack since late October.  I had to stop drinking due to medication that I'm on to curb these attacks and I'm very happy that I haven't had one in a while.  For those who haven't had one, panic attacks (literally) feel like you're dying.  Though I miss my mother dearly, I'm not ready to join her quite yet.

I've always participated in some form of artistic practice.  Whether it was singing in my church's choir from age 6 to 14, studying African dance, flamenco, and modern throughout most of my life in some form, playing the clarinet starting at 8 years old, writing my first poem in 2nd grade and winning a statewide competition with this piece, or photographing the beauty that surrounds me on a daily basis, I've always been a "creative."  The issue has been what is the genre/discipline that I can dedicate my time to the most and one (or multiple) that would bring me the most joy and fulfillment.  Every time I've worked hard towards something and haven't yielded my desired results, I quit it immediately and put it in the back of my mind like it never happened.  This is what happened with playing the clarinet and classical music, acting, and dancing.  Dropping the clarinet is accompanied by so much trauma as no matter how hard I practiced, I never made it past third chair in orchestra or band, I didn't get to solo often in orchestra (there's an infamous story of me losing the bass clarinet solo for Pines of Rome despite being assigned this instrument in orchestra), and I had so many private instructors and conductors tell me that black people don't do classical music and that my lips were too big to form the embouchure that would produce the standard classical sound.  The last time I seriously practiced and played was at 22 years old and I've since played a lot of money to get my instrument overhauled - and, I experienced some trauma around this as the instrument repair company did a poor job and wanted to blame me for the issue.  I got it repaired in a different state and it was shipped back to me.  Upon opening the delivery package, I found keys and screws bent.  So now, my instrument is sitting in its case on the kitchen floor because I just don't have the energy or motivation to find someone to make the final repairs (this is also after already spending more than $500 on the initial rebuild).

I've spent most of this morning listening to Coltrane's A Love Supreme (1965), an homage to his spiritual relationship with God.  It is one of the most important works in his canon and in the jazz world.  The documentary goes into some detail behind what it took for him to be able to compose and play this masterpiece.  Sadly, he died of liver cancer only a few years after the release of this album.  It's not really ironic that I'm listening to this work on a Sunday morning, the time that many of the Christian faith traditionally find themselves in their homes of worship.  My Sundays tend to be my time with a Higher being as I spend most of the time journaling, reflecting on the past week and the week ahead, along with disconnecting from most media.  I also light a candle on the altar I built in honor of my mom after her passing.  Given my current lack of a spiritual connection and a routine artistic practice, will I ever find myself being able to produce the equivalent to A Love Supreme? Honestly, I really hope so.


All of this is to say that these films and the lives they each depict have given me so much to think about and reflect on.  What is it that I want my life to be remembered for?  What is the thing - or are the things - I wish to leave behind? Do I really want to be a Mozart or Shakespeare, artists whose works weren't really celebrated until centuries after each of their deaths?!  What is it I'm doing with my life?!  What do I want others to say about me once I've reached my Coltrane "Year"?!  Readers, how many of you stopped to ponder these questions? What would you like to accomplish before your "year"? What have you accomplished by your "year" and is it what you wanted and hoped for? Whose milestone would you make your "year" and why?  As always, I like to leave you all with multiple questions because these are the questions that I have for myself and I hope that everyone is thinking along these same lines as these are the things that make us "us."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#MediaInColor: Representation Matters in the Age of Trump(iness)




Prior to beginning this post, I'd like to take this moment to let you know that I proudly stand firmly in who I am!  I'd like to dedicate this "return" to my mom, Wanda Marie Young, who departed this life on March 6, 2015.  Thank you for encouraging me at a very young age to read and write all that I can, for gifting me with loads of magazine subscriptions in my teen years and for teaching me the importance of allowing history to guide rather then hinder your way.  You've always respected me as a writer and I'll continue to pen the lives of those who are absent and silent until my time to join you has come.

The past 21 months have been one helluva rollercoaster for me.  Hard to believe but this is my first blog post since April of 2015.  A laundry list of things happened to me over the past (almost) two years including the sudden passing of my mother, the lost of other loved ones (including saying "goodbye" to some long-cherished friendships), a hard-hitting mental illness diagnosis, a reevaluation of my own career and educational choices, celebrating friends' academic, career and personal accomplishments, the end of a long-term romantic relationship, accepting an adjunct faculty position (yup, I have two jobs, one part-time and one full-time - I'm trying to save up for a car), financial pitfalls and triumphs, and haulting all forms of art-making.  Pretty much, I had a midlife crisis at the sheer age of 35.  Other than a reintroduction to the "blogosphere", I felt the need to start off this post in this manner due to the fact that while I've been absent, the presence of people of color in the media has endured and exploded in a unique way.

Within one month, I got to see the following films:  Moana, Moonlight (saw it twice), Fences, and Hidden Figures.  The last few months of 2016 were filled with lots of screen time with people of color including The Queen of Katwe and Miss Sharon Jones! (may this SiSTAR rest in beautiful peace).  I also binged watched the series Insecure (I actually cried after the last episode because I felt like I lost a best friend...Season One is only 8 episodes and I can't wait until Season Two arrives) over the holidays and have plans to do the same for Atlanta.  I'm so excited for tonight's season premiere of Being Mary Jane and can never miss an original airing of any episodes of Black-ish!

I purposely went to see Hidden Figures opening weekend (and I brought friends) because I want to see this film not only make it's money back tenfold, I want it to be in theatres for a long time for it tells an important untold story from American history.  Honestly, I feel like the book should be incorporated into high school curricula.  I beg of my readership to please find these films at theatres near you (please do not obtain bootlegged copies because the wrong hands will get hold of your money) as we need to support those of our community telling our stories.  While I understand that taking a family out for a movie outing could cost around $50-60 (which I suggest going to enjoy a lunch or coffee/tea afterwards to discuss what you've seen and save the money on concessions - for your money can be better spent on a more fulfilling meal and experience - I'm also suggesting attending a matinee screening which can save you a few bucks), you're helping to keep these artists and producers employed.

While I was hoping for big wins during Sunday's Golden Globe Awards, I'm more depending on ticket sales to prove to the world that these stories are necessary.  If we don't see these films ourselves, then what's the point?!  Do we really need accolades to inform our decisions to support media? I really hope not because we'll be in deep trouble as I'm afraid that films like La La Land are going to sweep every category it's nominated for.  BTW, I don't want to spend too much time hating on La La Land but what I will say is that I saw it and didn't necessarily enjoy it because I find it hard to connect to someone else's nostalgia especially while mine is absent.  I want to applaud the film's cinematography and art direction for those elements were beautiful.  Also, I thought Ryan Gosling gave a stunning performance.

For a long time, even now, it was rare to see "myself" on screen.  While I saw other African-Americans and women, I saw them from the front row of a time machine.  It was always from a historical perspective.  I'll never forget one of the last conversations I had with my mom prior to becoming my ancestor.  We talked about the time when I went to see the film Selma; I actually went to see it on MLK Day in 2015.  She told me a lot about existing during that time, seeing the world through the eyes of a young child (her and my dad were born in the late 1950s).  I've always imagined seeing historical events from the perspective of a younger version of myself in real time.  What a way to define your identity.  This actually might explain why my parents, their parents, THEIR parents and others from my upbringing are so proud of their blackness as they were surrounded by it everyday, whether exposed through troupes or empowering images.

In recalling watching Selma, it took me back to the field trip I took in middle school to see Spike Lee's Malcolm X.  School was closed that day and they rented out an entire movie theatre (it was the Mercury Theatre back in Detroit, which has since closed...it was a two-screen house and we took up every seat).  I remember seeing the (seems like) endless sea of black faces on the bus and also seeing a prominent African-American figure's life take shape on screen.  I was so moved by Malcolm X's story to where I had to do more research on his life afterwards.  Back then, that took the form of going to the library and paging through encyclopedias rather than the quick form of Google, which is available in a millisecond via the cell phones and tablets of today.  I remember being so proud to be BLACK!  You would think that I would have been able to embrace many more of these experiences given that information is within reach via the ever-evolving technology that I possess within my hands (I always have my iPhone and iPad handy).  But alas, it took a film adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly's book to expose me to the stories of Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson and to pay for subscriptions to HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix to get caught up on The Mindy Project, Insecure and other series featuring heroines of color.  I am also happy that August Wilson adapted his play Fences for the screen prior to his death.  So many people thought that Fences has always been a film, when in fact it's won Tony Awards and continues to be produced in theatres across the country.  I've talked breathlessly about the importance of marrying "multicultural theatre" (I actually teach Fences in my Theatre and Social Change course) and audiences of color and I'm glad that this relationship is taking shape through this film.

In summary, I couldn't find it deep in my soul to connect with La La Land because it tells a story that I've heard quite often as whiteness and white history is so much a part of the daily milieu to where many people disbelieve the existence of a white race.  And, nostalgia is painful for me because of the absence of the many comforts of my formative years.  There's stores and schools that are closed (all but one school that I attended is now closed; and that school, I only attended for a year and a half), people that have passed on, homes I once lived in are no more (each home that I lived in as a child has been vacated and torn down for several years) and memories lost because no one thought to put them to pen and paper. People of privilege don't have to fight hard to access these things as it surrounds all of us constantly, even without permission.

And some may say that I can't come to terms with watching anything mainstream because I'm an "artist."  If you give me a good story, I can always find a way to relate to it.  One of my favorite films of 2016 happens to be Bridget Jones's Baby, which stars Renee Zellweger playing an almost middle-aged woman living in the U.K.

Now, you may wonder why I titled this post in the matter that I did.  I strongly believe that if it were up to Trump, he'd either ship us all back to (what he thinks are) our origin countries or just re institute slavery.  I'll let you know RIGHT NOW that I'd make a horrible slave because I rarely did chores as a kid and I fight back!  Him and his "followers" have plans to erase everything that has made our country already great.  And for those who know me well know that I'm a HUGE fan of Stephen Colbert, "trumpiness" (2015) is a take on his coined term "truthiness" (2005) where trumpiness does not even have to feel "true."  We need to prove that WE are all "true" and that we will TRUMP all over the incoming Presidential Administration!

In the age of "Trump," I ask all of you, every single person in a marginalized community (which is practically everyone I know...even if they cease to acknowledge that) to please make the most of the next four years and live in your truths.  Don't be ashamed of who you are.  Be as quirky as you wanna be.  Don't apologize for yearning more and for embracing your cultural heritage - those bestowed upon you by your "families", birth and chosen.  Be who you are because no one else can do the job better than you! Educate others while enriching your own experiences.  Expose yourself and your friends to new things - movies, food, languages, and places.  I trust that our world will be given to us before we know it!  The media of our people is creating a new universe and we must be prepared to exist in it tenaciously.

BTW, two of the films that I mention in this post were produced and distributed by Disney.  Thank you Disney for believing that we (women of color) can be chiefs, princesses, and conquerors of our own destinies.  And, please read more about the renaissance in African-American media.




Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Pick (of the Litter): Negotiating the Mysogyny in Online Dating

***To the men who are thinking of suing me for eluding to your story and identity in this blog post, I should sue you for malpractice and using a false identity.  Think twice before delivering the side swipe and casting the first stone.



Though on exclusively different topics, when outlining the sketch for this blog post, the song "The Charade" by D'Angelo and the Vanguard came to mind. Throughout reading this post, think of the following lyrics from the song's chorus:


"All we wanted was a chance to talk
'Stead we only got outlined in chalk
Feet have bled a million miles we've walked
Revealing at the end of the day, the charade"
-D'Angelo and The Vanguard's "The Charade" (2014) from the album "Black Messiah"

Despite speaking out against the countless acts of police brutality committed against Black people in this country in recent years, this song, for me, resonates deeply with the subject matter covered in this post.

Recently, opposed to severe apprehension, I trusted impulse and went on a date with someone I met online.  This, for me, is extremely out of character but I allowed my physical attraction for this "someone" to rule out over my checklist of things I look for in a guy.  We went out and had an amazing time, so I thought based on his reactions and responses to everything happening around us that night.  I truly thought that I connected with this guy.  He even did something for me that I've always wanted but was afraid to ask for or have been steered away from wanting it:  he paid for everything!  Usually when I go out on a date, the guy either expects us to go "dutch" or if he pays, he expects a Nobel prize winner's set of lifelong accolades.  The evening ended with him confessing to me the following:  he wants a relationship, he wants to pursue me, he really likes me and that he would see me in a couple of days.  Though plans were not solidified, he inquired about my schedule for a particular day and said that if he wasn't able to come up on that day, he could come up later in the week.  We then chatted for the rest of the night as he was on the road headed home.  The last I heard from him was about a week ago via a "Good Morning" text message.

A true chameleon, he went from Casanova to Houdini!  If anyone is looking for actors, you should cast this guy because he can play a series of roles.  And how great of a performance he gave on the night of our date and the numerous text message conversations and phone calls prior, I am confident that he can produce some EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) award-winning performances. And believe me, I really didn't need this performance - as it was a first date.  I blame the disappearing act on his lack of maturity and his fear of being honest with me and stating that he's not interested.  For those who are looking for a man who can pull off mid-to-late 30s (he says that he's in his late 30s but after doing the math and adding up his years in the area and when he attended college and graduate school, he comes across as much older), he'll be worth every penny invested.

I went in with zero expectations - - again, wasn't sure about going on this date because I don't like to explore anything with anyone solely on physical appearance because, for me, there's usually nothing more there.  Honestly, I'm more turned on by intellect and personality for looks can fade quickly and if you've had my experience with online dating, those looks could possibly belong to someone other than the person you've been communicating with.

So many times in the past, and I can blame myself for this a little bit because I'm bad at weeding out damaged "goods" or troublemakers, I've gone out with guys whom I met online who either 1) lied about their age by like 15+ years, 2) looked NOTHING like their profile photo or other pictures they've posted (one guy who I met years ago looked so different from the photo he posted, when we met up in person, I wondered if he was even related to the guy in the picture, for, compared to him in the flesh and him in cyberspace, it looked like he went to Walmart, picked out a cheap frame and scanned the stock photo that was in the frame to use it as his profile photo), 3) barely disclosed any information on themselves, 4) pretty much lied about everything in their profile.  I remember reading several articles a while back that stated that men are expected to lie about their age and their physical appearance (i.e., Ask Men, The Huffington Post, Jezebel) and that women who lie about their physical appearance, whether posting a photo that has her at 5 or 10 pounds lighter or anything that may be only slightly different from what she looks like at the time of the first date, should be branded with a scarlet "P" ("P" is for "Poser") for life.  Why the disparity?!

If I were to hire Patty Stranger from Bravo's "The Millionaire Matchmaker", she would tell me my picker is all wrong.  I would have to strongly disagree with her because 1) according to society, I should be married by now and I have to marry the first thing that falls onto my lap or I'll be a spinster for the rest of my life and 2) by going off the portrayal this guy gave me, he would have been the perfect match for me.  Because I usually go by what guys give me, which tends to be stellar performances of the type of man I'd like to marry and bury (for I believe in the wedding vow "till death do us part"), if I were to date the guy in the online profile, he would be a catch!

I come across profiles of men who look nothing in comparison to the women they describe that they want to be with.  For men who say they want a "white/Caucasian," "slender or athletic," long hair, light eyed, well-kept, attractive, petite princess, I see Shrek in the profile picture - someone who looks like they haven't seen a bath since bathe as a child (or even their first baptism), someone who, according to societal standards, would not be deemed "attractive," or someone who looks straight up like a beast!  Though I'm not attractive by societal standards (being a Black woman with natural hair and full-figured, I'm okay with that), I have higher expectations for a guy who feels comfortable with publicly proclaiming that these physical attributes are what they look for.  Whereas with me and some women whom I talked with about dating online, I feel like we do look for our equivalent in education, socio-economic status and an all-around good guy who is looking to treat his woman like a queen, which, for me, does not even account for physical appearance. Along with my physical stature, I try to be up front as possible about who I am (education and job industry) without giving away too much (stalkers or identity thefts, anyone?!) because I've been told that other than what I look like, my intelligence, goals and aspirations make me intimidating to most men. Again, why the disparity?!

I've always also wondered why respect and communication skills get tossed to the waste side with online dating as well.  From my personal experience, men go from "hello" to here's a picture of my erect penis, let me see your "tits" in a millisecond.  And, some of the men's first lines to me, I don't even feel comfortable quoting them here because they might get me banned from the internet for an eternity because they're just that foul.  Why do we treat the other person on the end of our form of communication as an avatar or an object?!  Isn't that what having access to pornography is for?!  No need for engagement - one can easily get off sans expectations from the other person.  Since I've never attempted to date women online, I'm curious as to if women resort to similar modes of communication with men online.

Returning back to "The Charade," think about the many things that we're coached about on a daily basis from the numerous sources inundated in our lives including media, family, friends, and ourselves.  From in the womb via gender norms as they are introduced through clothered clothing, gender assigned toys and behaviors, we're taught to "be" certain ways in order to be accepted by others.  I've been told many times that I'm not married at the ripe ol' age of mid-30s because I fight against society's expectations of me.  I may be deemed as overeducated, overweight not a desirable race and ethnicity (think about which ones are assumed by choice) but I'm pretty happy with who I am, what I've become and who I will continue to become.  I strongly believe that the culture of online dating, even beyond old fashioned dating rules, is dictated by how we're expected to exist.  If we do not conform to what mainstream culture deems as desirable, we're to expect subpar treatment.  This leads me to believe that this is why men, even if they are not attractive and have every trait women are taught to want, will fight tooth and nail to get what they've been taught to want (well, in many cases, some are told that they need it) and women should wait for their white horse with perfect prince on top - translation:  men will get what they want by any means necessary and women, well...you will have to cope with maybe not getting anything you're expected to want or need as I've been told numerous times (settle with life if you don't get married, even though that is something that you really want).  The costumes and personas we wear on a daily basis, whether it be for work, for entertainment, or even for ourselves keep us from living lives to our fullest potential and for allowing what's right and healthy to emerge into our lives.  So, Mr. "Houdini" and other men who deemed me unfit for mating, I wish you adieu and I do hope that you find what you're looking for.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Romanticizing Fantasy and Our 'Relationship' with "50 Shades of Grey"


A still of Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) from the film, 50 Shades of Grey

While there continues to be a running tab of disputes as to whether or not 50 Shades of Grey is great literature and how it handles its subject matter, we can all agree that E.L. James' book sparked necessary conversations in popular culture.  The purpose of this blog post is for me to work out my angst around the question:  "why 50 Shades?"

I am extremely interested in how cultural products become iconic empires, especially one like 50 Shades of Grey - a book that covers some pretty controversial material and one that some have deemed poorly written.  Billed as erotica, E.L. James' novel explores BDSM (which many have argued that its depiction marginalizes those in this community even more) and straight female sexuality (orgasms and all).  I had to point out that it specifically highlights "straight female sexuality" because it still remains a taboo topic in today's society.  I've read the book and saw the film opening weekend in order to get a better understanding as to why this franchise blew up even beyond itself.  50 Shades of Grey has taken off so much and so fast to where Target is carrying a line of merchandise inspired by the book and film!

50 Shades of Grey is the first piece of fiction that I finished reading in a little under 2 weeks.  For those who know me well, this is a huge accomplishment because not only being a fan of mostly memoir and biographies, it takes me a long time to read anything!  And, the edition of the book that I was reading was 514 pages!!!  The dialogue, the "holy cows" and all of those "inner goddesses" made it a challenging read.  I'm not going to publicly bash the book and say that it was the worse thing I've ever read.  What I will say is that I've read much better erotica, with great dialogue and very hot sex scenes, which made reading 50 Shades of Grey even more difficult to read.  While many people I've talked to and the numerous articles I've read slam the book as being bad overall and recommending that people avoid it because of the explicit sex scenes and the issues it raises around consent, it was hard for me to read simply due to the dialogue and scenes being so badly written to where I couldn't visualize for myself what was going on.  Given my investment in the story, I owed it to myself to see the film adaptation, especially during opening weekend.

I arrived to the theatre about 30 minutes prior to the film's scheduled start time.  This was the first time that I experienced a movie theatre this quiet and so packed!  This was the 11:30 a.m. Saturday showing!  Even before the trailers, people were sitting quietly in their seats like they would before an Episcopalian or Catholic church service - Anastasia and Christian were put up on a shrine!  Taking in this whole experience was very much surprising. This is the reason I love going to the movies.

My theory behind the fandom of 50 Shades of Grey is pretty simple.  Though I could relate only slightly, I see pieces of myself in Anastasia.  A naive, inexperienced young woman allowing her first "everything" - first boyfriend and first sexual experience - to sweep her away from the realities of the world even if she knew he was the wrong man for her is definitely the way I am connected to Ana.  50 Shades of Grey forces me to recall my "firsts."  Though my first boyfriend and my first sexual experience were not with the same man nor at the same stage of my life (one came while a teenager in high school and the other in my mid-20s - have fun guessing which one happened at which time in my life), I risked my vulnerability and tore down multiple walls for these men.  I explored and experienced a range of emotional and physical intimacy in these situations because they were new to me, very exciting and very fresh.  I didn't want to believe that both men were the "spawns of Satan." Dismissing the realities hurt me in the end as these men, at this time in their lives, were very bad people.  But, I was willing to look beyond all of that because I was desperate for love and affection, something that my peers had access to for what seemed like a very long time.  Believing that many women are able to see themselves in Ana is what led over a million readers to the pages of E.L. James' 50 Shades collection.

The idea that infuriates me about this empire is how protective 50 Shades' fans are of the content of the book, so much so to where they're willing to dismiss all of its associated issues.  I've been a part of various conversations about this book including those that identify Anastasia as an iconic feminist character, as illustrated in this recent Huffington Post article, that Christian is not exhibiting abusive behavior, and that 50 Shades of Grey features an accurate representation of BDSM.  I'm sorry but I would have to disagree on all of these issues.  I do not believe that the Ana character is a feminist as she is rendered in the book and I do believe that some of the behavior Christian is exhibiting in both the book and the film could be categorized within the realms of abuse (i.e., the monitoring of her eating habits, Christian's dictatorship over Ana's birth control regiment, and the fact that, to me, it seems like Christian is only able to have sex with Ana - after she loses her virginity - when he's angry).  I understand fans wanting to defend what they love.  However, I take issue with people who are trying to make 50 Shades of Grey something it's not.

I'm one to argue that genre of fiction needs to remain as such.  It does not need to necessarily all be political.  However, when a cultural product is exposed to the masses like 50 Shades of Grey has been, one needs to have the capacity to critically engage.  My fear is that young women will see this film and take it as the gospel on how they should pursue and be pursued in relationships and what the ideal is. Unfortunately, we participate in a very impressionable society, one that allows the media to dictate how we should portray our identities, shape our lifestyles and regulate the lives of others, especially those that mainstream culture deems "unfit."  For me, 50 Shades of Grey was okay as a stand alone book.  The issues within the book didn't raise issues for me until it was adapted into a film and the emergence of its associated merchandise.

Though I have issues with 50 Shades of Grey, I'm not one to call for protests against fiction unless it is clear that it's audiences/readers will be harmed by the material.  I completely disagree with those who say that others should boycott the film for I think that the reasons behind the boycott are misogynistic.  I applaud E.L. James for doing something that should have happened a long time ago: putting erotica, a genre I find liberating for women as they are able to explore sexuality and fantasy on their own terms, this entrenched into the dominant discourse.  I do understand why erotica's foremothers, like Zane and Megan Hart (whose books I've read and LOVE), were not given similar exposure as the worlds they render are not complete 'escapes' as they deal with trauma and real-life situations in a way that E.L. James seems to avoid.  While I won't judge anyone for "canonizing" 50 Shades of Grey, I do request that you allow it to be what it is, ask some deep questions about it, i.e., why did E.L. James write a character, Ana, who refuses to explore masturbation (a serious discussion about women having full control of their bodies and sexual pleasure), and that you expose yourself to other writers within the genre - for raising your consciousness in this way will open your worlds up to so much more!  BTW, I highly recommend reading Megan Hart's Broken:  there are some extremely steamy (and more realistic) sex scenes in this book!


The trailer for the film, Addicted (2014).


*** While researching for this blog post, I stumbled across a trailer for the film, Addicted, which is based on Zane's novel of the same title.  Up until this point, I've NEVER heard of it yet it was "released to theatres" as it says in posts that I'm reading online.  I really need to find this film, watch it and then write about it!