Fifty Shades of Vampires and Fairytales

I never read fairytales as bedtime stories to my daughter when she was little.

 It was not a deliberate decision on my part—at least I don’t think so. I felt I quickly outgrew the princesses and damsels in distress when I found about the other girls like Wonder Woman, She-ra and years before Lara Croft was a twinkle in her developer’s eye, Scarlet in GI Joe. I didn’t know how to express it back then, but there was just something about the women that made me want to be like them. It wasn’t until the era of “girl power” that I could somehow articulate what drew me to these heroines.

 I was happy to see my daughter seemed to have a liking for such characters, enjoying movies like “Tangled” and “Brave”.

 So you can imagine the tinge of disappointment I felt when over dinner, my 11-year-old daughter told me she wanted to watchTwilight Breaking Dawn Part 2 with her friends.

 She had already watched the part 1 of the installment series when she was invited by her friend. I reluctantly agreed in the name of tween friendship solidarity.

But now, here she was, asking me for permission to watch with her friends. She actually wanted to spend a portion of her allowance and her time to see Bella and Edward on-screen.

“What?  You want to watch that movie?!” I asked incredulously.

Equally exasperated, she sighed and though I could only see her profile, I knew she was rolling her eyes at me.

“If it was (sic) really a bad movie, then why did it make millions and why do millions of people want to watch it?” she asked.

Smarting from her somewhat rational argument, I sat up straighter and steeled myself, ready to launch a tirade on Bella Swan’s insipid character. I was just about to say something about Bella not having a respectable level of self-esteem and thus, the inability to make decisions in the face of what she perceived to be love, when I stopped myself and clamped my mouth shut.

Being Bella

I couldn’t tell my 11-year-old daughter the real reason I despised the character of Bella Swan was because when I was her age, I was like Bella.  

Ddddaaaammmmnnnn.

Even writing that down is difficult. I’m cringing with each letter that I knock off my keyboard.

But it’s true. 

I distinctly remember a point in my youth when any sort of validation could only come from a boy, and yet, I would recoil at any sign of male attention, questioning “but why me?”.  I was one big bundle of insecurity and terribly envious of girls whom I thought were prettier, funnier or smarter.  This ambivalence often made me completely ignore all the tell-tale signs of a disastrous relationship just so I could be in one. Just so I didn’t have to be alone.

Besides, who was I to take on the literary critic role over a bad movie when I had just spent the entire long weekend reading and finishing the entire Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy, even though I had been warned and was fully aware that it was a fanfic based on Twilight?

Thanks to the e-books given to me by my friend, not even the dimmed lights of our bus to Baguio could keep me away from the unfolding drama that was the story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, who is incidentally nicknamed “Ana”. (And with one “n”. Not even Anna Karenina had one “n”). 

Seeing black and white, not grey

I got caught up in the mindless banter and giggled when Christian Grey said, “Laters, baby”.  I alternately blushed and bit my lip during the uh, steamy parts. I couldn’t put my tablet down, telling myself it was “research” for my work in sexual health education and even took down notes. (I even ended up writing a blog post devoted to the 6 Safe Sex Lessons I Learned from Fifty Shades of Grey.

But in equal measure, I rolled my eyes and caught myself saying out loud, “Seriously?!?” and “C’mon, no one can have that much kinky f*ckery!”

But mostly, I was just bothered—and not by all the BDSM, which for the most part was consensual--but by the controlling, possessive, emotionally abusive Christian Grey whose only excuse for his behavior was being  ‘in love’ with the naïve, accepting, compliant Anastasia Steele.

While my heart, out of its own accord, occasionally fluttered at the description of the demi-god billionaire, after more than three decades on earth, my cerebral instincts kicked in and I could see past the grandiose shows of affection and all the hot sex to see this highly romanticized relationship for what it really was: emotionally volatile, suffocating and potentially abusive.

The mere thought of a Christian Grey—or any man for that matter--earnestly whispering, “you’re mine, Ana, mine.” made me want to run away rather than turn my knees to jelly.

I knew that Christian Grey, Edward Cullen and men like them were best kept in books as the work of someone else’s imagination.

I could distinguish between black, white and grey.

***

I looked up from my reverie to see my daughter expectedly looking at me, still waiting for an answer.

“Okay, fine. You can watch Twilight.”

“Yes! Thanks, Mommy!”

She engulfed me in a tight hug – surely, the 11-year-old version of a handshake to seal the deal.

I pulled away and said, “But can I ask you one thing? After, can we discuss Bella and Edward and why their relationship is just so wrong, on so many levels?”

She agreed and I hugged her back just as tightly searing a note in my mind to keep her from reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” until she’s 30…at least 30.

 

All allusions to Fifty Shades of Grey used in this article are intentional by the writer. She asks that she not be judged.  It’s not called “mommy porn” for nothing.

 

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