A Word to the Guys
With violent, abusive sex in the public eye right now thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, there seems to be a lot of bewilderment among the male half of the population. What exactly do women want from men, anyway? Jerry, a thirty-something single man expressed it to me in an email this way:
I think the real danger here is the message that the popularity of this kind of thing sends to thoughtful young men. We’re told by women that we’re supposed to be kind, attentive, good listeners, sensitive and all that stuff, but then women indulge themselves in Fifty Shades of Grey because it offers an excitement and danger that they seem to crave on some level. …
And then mix this with the whole “rape culture” hysteria and any other women “gender” griping. I think women have always been confusing to men, but these days it’s way out of control! Men like to try to figure things out, and that especially goes for trying to figure out women. But with the Fifty Shades of Grey thing, they will come to dangerous conclusions.
I think he’s right. Fifty Shades of Grey can lead men to dangerous conclusions. So it is a pleasure for me to be able to present a supremely superior film which offers much better Valentine’s Day fare, Old Fashioned, opening in theaters nationwide today. To see the trailer, click here. For theaters and showtimes, click here.
The tone and feel of this story is kind and gentle. In fact, the two movies could not make a more stark contrast for how to go about relationships if they tried. Fifty Shades of Grey is black, silver, and steel. Old Fashioned is forest greens, ambers, and sienna. Fifty Shades is silver ties and black stilettos. Old Fashioned is soft jeans and cotton sweaters. If Fifty Shades were a chrome and glass uptown bar, Old Fashioned would be a comfortably appointed family room somewhere along Main Street, USA.
While the relationship between Christian and Ana (Fifty Shades) is racy, salacious, and hides its central connection behind locked doors, the relationship between Clay and Amber (Old Fashioned) is relaxed; it unfolds at a more measured pace, and is open and authentic. For viewers who can manage a more adult-length attention span and who don’t require an adrenaline rush with their Coke and popcorn, the crescendo of chemistry between Clay and Amber becomes a dance of honest-to-goodness romance of heart and soul.
I won’t tell the story, but I will, attempt to clear up some of the confusion wrought by Fifty Shades on men, because there are some things very right about what Clay does, and they can be drawn out especially in contrast to Christian.
First, whereas Christian literally, physically binds Ana, Clay binds himself, not physically but metaphorically, practically. He has misused women before, so he sets rules and boundaries that he will not cross with a woman until he has married her. This is for her protection. It leads to some sweet, comic situations, and not a few raised eyebrow hints that’s he’s a dinosaur or maybe a little off in the head. He just shrugs these things off, his self-esteem not dependent on other people’s opinions of him. The important thing to note is that he binds himself in order that the girl may be free and safe. By contrast, Christian binds the girl in order that his passions may have free reign.
And this: Clay is disciplined with himself and longsuffering (an old word for patient). Whereas Christian goes for the immediate sensory experience time and again, usually meaning sexual gratification, Clay takes a longer, more holistic view. He is willing to delay gratification in favor of lifelong relational satisfaction.
But don’t get the idea that this is squeaky clean, too-good-to-be-true tripe. Clay and Amber both have scars and baggage. Clay has some serious sexual sin in his past and issues to work on in the present. He’s by no means a super-hero, and he very much needs what the women in his life, including Amber, have to offer him. As for Amber, she’s been mistreated in the past, and her woundedness and vulnerability lie not too far beneath the surface of her beautiful, free spirit.
Which highlights something else very different with the two male characters. Clay sees Amber’s vulnerability and moves to be a protector of her, a servant. Christian, by contrast, exploits Ana’s vulnerability. Yes, he does in a way act as a protector, but his kind of protection is controlling to the point that it becomes confining, even stalking at times.
To sum this up, men, if, as the Apostle Paul famously wrote, love is patient, kind, not envious, boastful, or proud; if love is not self-seeking, easily angered, nor given to keeping score or taking delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth, then I’d say Clay is your example to follow.
Given the potential personal and relational disasters that could follow Fifty Shades of Grey, I cannot recommend Old Fashioned highly enough. Sadly, Christian-made films have not always been especially well-done. But this one is, Go see it. And then, go and do likewise.