50 Shades of Lent – a movie review

[They’re already working on the script for a sequel to 50 Shades of Grey. I’m not waiting for the next movie to come out. Here’s my review, and I bet it’s spot on for accuracy.]

***

50 Shades of Lent explores the relationship between a man-with-a-religious-sounding-name and a woman-who-refuses-to-use-the-brains-God-gave-her.

As the Lenten season approaches, the man talks the woman into signing a contract that gives him total power over her decisions for the next 6 weeks. She soon discovers that when it comes to deciding what to give up for Lent the only thing she’s given up is the ability to decide what to give up for Lent.

The man acts arbitrarily, capriciously and maliciously. One day he tells her she has to give up all dairy, the next she hears that milk is back on the menu but all non-dairy products are anathema.

He subjects her to ridicule by declaring all her outfits must comprise plaids, stripes and polka dots, all at once. She starts to breathe easy when he relents the next day, only to find that now all colors except mauve are off limits for her clothing choices.

Then comes the worst day of all, the day she’s suspected would arrive but dreaded all along: he tells her she’s not to use any words with the letter Y in them. The fiend has found the perfect way to shut down any attempts she might have dared to ask “whY”.

The man is a master manipulator.

Most movie goers would suspect that the filmmakers made a glaring error in calling this 50 Shades of Lent. After all, Lent isn’t fifty days long.

This is where – Oh the humanity! – this is where the script takes its most devious turn: the contract allows him to change what she’s giving up for Lent more than once per day.

The maximum number of restrictions under the contract is fifty, but she doesn’t know when he’ll hit her with the old switcheroo next. Will it affect her diet, her wardrobe, her vocabulary?

This movie will have you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the opportunity to leave the theater without making too much of a disturbance.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss ten bucks goodbye.

You’ll laugh at yourself for ever buying a ticket, you’ll cry at the thought of never getting back those 90 minutes of your life, and you’ll kiss … well, you’ll still kiss ten bucks goodbye no matter what.

See you at the movies! (But not that one.)

***

[You might think that this isn’t how real faith in God is expressed, that no one would subject themselves to the whims of another person when it comes to as important a matter as exercising faith. I think they might.

After all, is it that much of a stretch from allowing another person to manipulate your feelings and dictate what you wear, where you live, what car you drive and how brutally you have sex? That’s not love; that’s a power trip. Just as some people fall prey to people in relationships, others fall prey to those who seek to manipulate them in their faith, another power trip.

Which do you think is worse?]

***

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17 Responses to 50 Shades of Lent – a movie review

  1. Laura Droege says:

    Ooooo…I wish i had time to write a decent comment on this one! As I was reading, I was thinking about how this scenario will sound familiar to anyone who’s escape a cult or a “Christian” church with cult-like power. Some of the whiplash feeling of being jerked around, told one thing that is then contradicted the next day, feels familiar to me, though I’ve never been in a church quite that controlling. I’ll come back and re-read later. I’m sure the comments will be interesting on this one!

    • Tim says:

      I remember a church situation where it was not the leadership that pulled this stuff but one individual who tied to influence a small group of people. They fell under his influence for a while, but the pastor and elders stepped in and put a stop to it. I’m interested in hearing more from you (and other commenters) on how this might play out.

      • Laura Droege says:

        I was thinking about this earlier tonight, and I think the start of the religious abuse can be quite innocuous-looking: a teacher who spoon-feeds the people under his/her teaching. The teacher wouldn’t have to insist on doing this, not at first, and may even feel that he’s “helping” them understand Scripture properly. They allow him to do this because they’re desperate for affirmation (from a person in power or a parent-figure, etc.); insecure in their own abilities (to understand the Bible, to interpret it rightly, etc.); and fear conflict (possibly out of a misguided idea that peacekeeping and peacemaking are the same thing, or possibly because they’re too accustomed to being polite and nice. That’s a huge problem for many women.)

        Questioning the teacher, even at this relatively low level of control and manipulation, can seem akin to questioning God. And of course, for conflict-shy, insecure, desperate-for-love people (like I was at earlier points in my life), questioning God can feel like denying one’s personal faith.

        I’ve had teachers or others in certain churches who tried to make me ashamed of my tendency to ask questions and want intellectually-satisfying answers on certain theological issues. Sometimes they succeeded in cowing me; sometimes they just got me riled up, frustrated, and prone to grabbing C.S. Lewis’s books off the shelf. Sometimes they were on a power trip, and other times they were intellectually weak people who thought I was in spiritual danger with all my questions.

        Anyway, this comment is turning into a looooong one, so I’ll knock off. But at the lowest level, religious abuse can seem very innocent, like a desire to protect someone from spiritual danger. But if left unchecked, this kind of influence and power can quickly turn ugly.

        • Tim says:

          Ugly is right, and it sounds like you’ve experienced it in many of its ugly varieties too. Glad you are away from those people now, Laura.

        • Laura Droege says:

          Me, too. On the bright side, it’s been helpful in writing fiction; I think my characters are deeper and more complex because of this.

  2. Erica M. says:

    “After all, Lent isn’t fifty days long.” Says the non-Orthodox. 😛

    I’ve luckily never attended a “whiplash” church, but my in-laws have, and they practically ran out the door once the nonsense started.

  3. Tim, this is one of my favorite posts of yours. Very well done. It is ironic that some of the conservative people making the biggest stink about 50 Shades are those who also buy into the whole shaming/modesty culture, which sets up some pretty arbitrary rules in which victims are blamed and shamed for the bad choices of other people. Very thought-provoking way to talk about that!

    • Tim says:

      Thank you so much, Keri. When I first came up with the idea for the post I thought it was just going to be a silly riff on 50 Shades, but the more I dealt with it in the writing and revising I realized there was a very dark side to this that went to matters of spiritual. eternal importance. I’m pleased as all get-out that you think it came across well.

  4. Jeannie says:

    Tim, when you put it this way it’s really easy to see how this manipulation in matters of faith can and does happen. God offers freedom; and 50 Shades, whether of Grey or of Lent, is the opposite of freedom.

    I won’t be watching this movie right to the end (or at all), but I hope she asks him “How come?”, thereby nicely avoiding the “no Y” prohibition, and kicks him to the curb!

    • Tim says:

      I considered her options too, Jeannie. I’m hoping she gets the gumption to give him the eye (think Katherine Hepburn, as a model) and quietly demands in a low but powerful voice, “Explain yourself, sir. I’m waiting.”

  5. Pastor Bob says:

    Sadly satire is not one of my strong points. However i do recognize the creativity. Is this a parallel (parody) to a movie that shall be acknowledged but not seen?

    • Tim says:

      “be acknowledged but not seen?” – I hesitated even to acknowledge it so much as to mention it in this post, PB, but there are a lot of people in the church who are being manipulated in their spiritual lives so I thought it important to write it out here.

  6. I oppose the film, support Lent, and endorse this fine post.

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