There’s been a lot of uproar over some of the overt snubs by this year’s Academy. If you’ve been on social media in the past two weeks at all, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one #OscarsSoWhite article, if not dozens (Or perhaps I’m just seeing more of them because, as an Oscar fanatic, the Facebook Algorithm Gargoyles like to feed my addictions). While we’re on the subject, I will say that last year I thought the Selma snubs were pretty messed up and this year…yeah. I have not much to say on the subject that hasn’t already been said, but if this is something that angers you as it does me and you haven’t seen it yet, you should totally watch the SNL sketch that takes the issue on in a way only good satire can.
But this post is not to express my anger over one of the snubs. This post directs my fury right at one of the nominations itself. Usually, when I’m mad about something that’s happening in pop culture, a lot of other people are, too. And so I feel vindicated when it pops up in my feed (or on late night talk shows) over and over again. Like Palin endorsing Trump. Or Sean Penn talking about farts in his El Chapo interview. Or the overuse of the term “Bye, Felicia.” God, I hate that shit. But on this issue, the airwaves seem expressly mute. And so, the gauntlet is laid at my feet and I can no longer remain silent.
You guys. Fifty Shades of Grey was nominated for an Oscar.
Granted, it’s just for Best Original Song. But it’s the WORST song from the soundtrack! The nomination is for The Weeknd’s Earned It. If you haven’t heard it yet (or didn’t really pay attention), I invite you to have a gander. With lyrics. I’ll wait.
When I say this is the worst song from the soundtrack, I’m not even really saying I dislike the song. I kind of enjoy The Weeknd. His backbeats are dramatically bombastic and, in The Hills, he worked the words “gated residential” into the lyrics. I’m a fan. But I hate. I hate. I hate that this song is attached to Fifty Shades of Grey. And to explain that hatred, I don’t really even need to delve too deeply into the lyrics (though I could). All I have to say is: Earned WHAT, exactly?
There’s been plenty of sturm and drung voiced against Fifty and I’ll try not to get redundant. Yes, it depicts an abusive relationship. Yes, it gives a skewed expectation on the nature of modern BDSM. Yes, the prose is its own special breed of pathetic. (It’s been well documented that Fifty started out as Twilight fan fiction, which makes it literary bottom feeding). As a somewhat enthusiastic erotica reader (or, as one friend calls it, “smut”), I think that there’s something more insidious at play. I think that, because it plays on one of the most guilty pleasures in the undercurrent of the feminine psyche, Fifty Shades of Grey is Lolita for chicks.
Let me explain. We all know that there a lot of men out there with a thing for young girls. It’s one of the reasons Lolita is the classic that it is (though, I must say, its structure and language is vastly superior to E.L. James’ sloppy shipping). In fact, if you read Diablo Cody’s Candy Girl , her memoir of the year she spent in the sex industry, she discusses her brief stint as a phone sex operator. When her employer provided her with various “scripts” for identities to play out on the phone (i.e. “The Mommy,” or “The Cougar”) the only one men ever really requested was “The Barely Legal.” So, ok…this is a thing.
And women have their own version of it. I call it the Elizabeth Bennett Syndrome, but most dudes refer to it as the Golddigger. Or, if you prefer Bill Burr, an “epidemic of golddigging whores.” If the prevalent, underlying male fantasy is the barely legal young blonde girl, then I can say with great certainty that, especially since Fifty hit the scene, the big trend in erotica has been the Handsome Billionaire. If you do a search on Amazon Kindle Ebooks for “Billionaire Erotica” about twenty thousand listings come up. TWENTY THOUSAND. This trend is reversing feminism and I can’t not say something anymore.
I know what you’re thinking. Did she just call Pride & Prejudice the story of a golddigger? In fact, you probably didn’t read the rest of that paragraph, so I should address this. It’s my theory that Pride & Prejudice has remained such a classic (passionately so), because of the character of rich, handsome Mr. Darcy. (Kindle store search for “Darcy” returns over 2,000 options). You see, yes, Elizabeth rejects Mr. Darcy’s advances early on…until she comes to visit his big, fancy house. Then, somehow, her opinion of him shifts.
Do I think Austen wrote Elizabeth as a golddigger? Absolutely not. (I ain’t sayin’ she a golddigger. Couldn’t resist). But she has become the archetype for the kind of dance that the fantasy golddigger now plays. The woman whose ultimate motives may be for the man’s pockets knows that, if she plays it like Elizabeth Bennett, she’ll not get labeled a golddigger. Not sure what I mean? I give you Fifty. Anastasia patently refuses Mr. Grey’s lavish gifts in the early chapters of the books, so that you, the reader, can see she’s clearly not interested in him for the money. But then the rest of the book goes into great detail about the car he gives her, the house he lives in, the plane he takes her around in, her room, with a fully stocked closet full of expensive clothes, just for her. It’s golddigger porn; and the same formula is present in, I would venture to say, every single one of those 20,000 Billionaire romance knock-offs (Yes, I’ve read a few). They all go on and on about the lap of their true love’s luxuries, only they have to pretend it’s not about the money because that makes them horrible people, right?
Yes. Yes, it does.
“Girl, you’re perfect, you’re always worth it and you deserve it, the way you work it.”
Ladies, we’re better than this. Our mothers did not burn their bras so that we could make seventy-some-odd cents on every dollar our male counterparts make. But if we want that to change, we have to be part of the change. We must stop sending the message to our young girls that a man is a paycheck.
It’s a long hard road to hoe, though, hoes. Submission is deeply ingrained into our feminine DNA. In the Human Sexuality class I took in undergrad, I learned that one of the most prevalent female fantasies is to be raped. ?!? Couple that with the 20,000 Billionaire fantasies on Amazon, and how could E.L. James NOT have had a recipe for success? Far be it from me to tell anyone what they should be fantasizing about; some people really get off on latex, others on feet…the heart wants what the heart wants. But is it possible to just take money out of the bedroom? It really has no place there.
So, if bondage is what you’re into, may I offer Secretary? Or Venus in Fur? Throw out your copies of Fifty Shades, and trust me, there’s no need in looking at any of those knock-offs. Wouldn’t it be thrilling if the next hot, sexy trend was about a Female Billionaire? Why not fantasize about being the one that has it all, not the one that has to get it all from her man.
Cause, girl…you earned that.