By Maria D’Anselmi
There is a cultural phenomenon that has hit the big screen and while its impact is raging across all demograpgics, it seems like few people at the University of Dallas want to talk about it. Many students are understandably uncomfortable with the content of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Apart from the subject matter being in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the books have been accused of glorifying abusive relationships and the oppression of women. Yet no one can deny the prevalence of this series, though many Catholics consider it to be downright evil. Outside of the university, many young adults are more open about the “Fifty Shades” sensation.
Christopher Wallace, a 17-year-old senior in high school I met at the movie theater, said why he thought the film was such a big deal.
“It’s a taboo thing that no one’s ever dived into.” He praised author E.L James for her success but added, “I think the fact that this movie was rated anything but NC-17 is absolutely mind-boggling …we’re the generation of desensitization.”
Wallace’s friend Carol Fusaro, another high school senior who accompanied him to the movie, believes that much of the appeal of the film lies in the fact that something like that has never been in theaters and been so widely accepted.
“I think it’s just that sex sells,” Fusaro said. “And people want to see something that they’ve never seen before … I’ve never seen a movie ever like this. Especially in a movie theater.”
Fusaro sees mainstream acceptance of the movie as a positive thing for society.
“I feel like more people are comfortable with their sexuality … there’s nothing really to hide anymore. We’re such an open generation.”
When asked, both Wallace and Fusaro laughingly said they were totally fine with people knowing they watched the movie.
Among the student body at the University of Dallas, opinions on “Fifty Shades of Grey” tend to take a different slant than those in the secular world.
“Now, in our culture, we’re a lot more open to this, which is really sad,” said UD freshman Seamus McGuire.
Despite strong objections to the content of the books and film, McGuire recognizes a general hesitancy among the student body to approach the topics surrounding them.
“You have a lot of young Catholics that are coming together and learning about their faith, and we’re going to share a lot of the same ideals … but when you run into a controversial topic such as sexuality, most people are going to want to say, ‘It’s bad, leave it at that,’ but that doesn’t look into the full spectrum of what goes into it,” McGuire said.
McGuire said he thinks there is a moral benefit to discussing the relevance of “Fifty Shades” in serious conversation.
“I think part of staying on the good path is realizing what the bad path entails,” McGuire said. “When we’re stuck in the UD bubble we might not always realize what’s going on in the outside world.”
Junior Grace Zischkau noticed how there is not an open forum for mature conversation about the social implications of “Fifty Shades”’ success.
“I think it is dangerous, because as we’re taught here, you’re supposed to think independently, you’re supposed to be able to gather your own ammunition, your own evidence to be able to refute an argument,” she said. Discussion of the social implications of “Fifty Shades of Grey” could help those against or in favor of it better realize their own views and be more understanding of that of the others’.
Freshman Tori Fleharty is a fan of the book and movie. As a fan she respects the fact that some people simply don’t want to talk about it.
“People have their own opinions and don’t want to discuss some things” Fleharty said. “I think they’re very closed off on these kinds of discussions…because when you bring this type of stuff up, other things come up and you have to talk about other things … like sex in general at this school is not a good subject [to talk about].”
Freshman Shelby Waldron, another UD fan of “Fifty Shades,” commented on how many students are interested in discussing the movie in spite of their moral qualms.
“People here hold themselves to a higher standard,” Waldron said. “They kinda want to be like, ‘Oh no we don’t need to talk about that.’ But then once someone brings it up, everybody’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is my opinion, listen to this!’”
The extent of the phenomenon is impossible to ignore. With an opening weekend of over $85 million in the box office and, according to boxofficemojo.com, a current worldwide gross exceeding $323 million, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a huge commercial hit.
Senior Amir Razavi said that the book and film are not worthwhile and he does not promote them.
“If it is bad literature, don’t waste your time reading it!” Razavi said.
But he said it is time for students to be more open to healthy, serious conversation about such a relevant issue.
“This is college, this is where you’re supposed to experiment in the classroom and in discussion,” Razavi said. “We have a healthy community to talk about these things. I think it’s time.”