Finding Newness in Being Old Fashioned
Valentine's Day 2015 saw the opening in theaters of one of the most anticipated movies in a decade. The filthy Fifty Shades of Grey opening weekend is on pace to outsell The Passion of the Christ for a February opening weekend. This sadomasochistic bondage flick about a man who abuses women for his own sexual gratification is quintessentially postmodern. Postmodernism has defined sexual torture as romantic and fulfilling. It harkens back to a time when brutality in sexuality was celebrated. Fifty Shades, however, defines its own reality. It pretends that women want to be brutalized – that a sexual deviant really cares about the women he tortures. That is fantasy. That is a lie. Any redeeming qualities in the film cannot free it from its postmodern dungeon. No wonder we have an epidemic of sexual assaults in our culture that embraces Fifty Shades.
Fifty Shades of Grey stands in stark contrast to the other film about relationships that opened on the Valentine's Day weekend: Old Fashioned. Unlike the regressivism of Fifty Shades of Grey, the film Old Fashioned is about old things passing away and all things becoming new.
This antithesis to Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't paint a picture of one, flawless, noble character and one lost soul coming together. It is about two imperfect people letting God forgive them and make old things new. Amber is a free-spirited woman who moves away from problems as far as her tank full of gas will take her. She rents an apartment from Clay. She brings her conventional wisdom baggage about relationships and dating with her. Yet, her philosophy is that there is enough greatness in the world but not enough goodness. As her budding romance with Clay hits a brick wall, her fears of abandonment are calmed when she reads "I will never leave you nor forsake you" from the new Bible she just took out of its wrapper. Strengthened by the timeless Word of God, she abandons her itinerant life and finds her home.
After leaving his hedonistic frat party days, Clay retreated to the monastery of his old fashioned relationship theories. This monastic lifestyle kept him from the dangers of hedonism, but he also let it keep him from the joys of community. Unable to form a romantic relationship with anyone in nine years, Clay's barricade of stubbornness is finally cracked by his great-aunt Zella when she demanded "Stop using God's grace as brick wall." Clay and Amber find new love within old fashioned boundaries.
Old Fashioned's Clay Walsh is not Fifty Shades's Christian Grey. A former frat-boy, he owns an antique shop where he restores antiques like new. Haunted by a debaucherous past, he is now small-town, humble, and respects women enough to establish boundaries for his interaction with them. He respects their emotions as well as their bodies. Clay reveres sex as delicate and sacred. His philosophy is to never be alone with a woman who is not his wife. He requests Amber, his tenant, step outside of her apartment as he fixes her sink. Most people see his white picket fence surrounding his honor as old fashioned. Clay sees nobility in controlling himself. He is reliable. He is…boring.
The postmodern Christian Grey is a business tycoon from Seattle, self-absorbed, and treats women as objects for his own deviant gratification. He is not a grown-up. Sex to him is not about committed love, but merely about a contractual arrangement. Christian is living the life of a narcissistic, banal, impetuous, undisciplined frat-boy. He offers women a fantasy, a lie. His self-assuredness, even his cockiness, is attractive and exciting, at least until the next morning. He is not a romantic hero. He is a selfish cad.
This Valentine's Day offered America a clear choice. The venerable, timeworn values of Old Fashioned stand in contrast to the postmodern immorality of Fifty Shades of Grey. America is at a crossroads. Would you prefer the honor of a man with boundaries who binds himself for the safety of others or would you prefer the ignominy of a man of bondage who binds others for the pleasure of himself? After watching Old Fashioned you will long for the virtuous struggles of authentic, real life love and despise the pernicious lies of pleasurable, temporary fantasies.
Culture is a collection of individual choices. I do not know what choice you will make, old fashioned or postmodern. As for me, I want to be old fashioned.