Far More Than Fifty Shades of Comments


On Thursday I published a blog titled “We’re Reviewing Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s Why.” The response was … interesting.

First, a shout-out to all those who let me know that they were praying for me and offered encouragement (even if you disagreed with our decision to cover the film). Much appreciated. It was a beautiful thing to read and it certainly seemed to help. Sure, I’ve trained myself to be able to shake off movies pretty quickly: It’s part of my job, after all. But even with that preparation in place, I was surprised how quickly Fifty Shades of Grey receded in my memory. Less than a week later, I can barely remember what Ana looks like.

Frankly, some of the comments I read online will stick with me far longer than the movie.

Not every response was quite so, um, chipper. “How could you?” was a recurring theme, and Plugged In’s willingness to review Fifty Shades was compared to a lot of unpleasant things, from sticking one’s head in a toilet to shooting up heroin. And the worst comments didn’t even make it past the blog’s automatic language filters.

But I got off pretty easy compared to many. I bet almost everyone who wrote to me and about me, no matter how angry, was at least trying to keep me out of hell—not wishing I would go to it. My experience with those on the negative side of this equation was one of gentle public shaming—not the virtual flogging that many others have been subjected to for sins, both real and imagined.

Brian Williams has been eviscerated online for his “misrememberings,” as you might expect. But the Twittersphere was no less furious at Renée Zellweger for getting cosmetic surgery (or not), Anne Hathaway for accepting an Oscar for her role in Les Misérables (and for being, I guess, Anne Hathaway), or any number of celebrities for gaining or losing a few pounds. Shaming Internet celebrities is so rampant that Jimmy Kimmel hosts a segment on his talk show called “Mean Tweets,” wherein celebs read aloud the awful (if sometimes funny) things said about them on Twitter. Fittingly, R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” plays in the background.

Last week, indie rocker Beck beat out Beyoncé for the Grammy Awards’ Album of the Year honors. Queen Bey’s fanbase retaliated by vandalizing his Wikipedia page: For a time, Beck’s birthplace was listed as “Hell,” his occupation as “Theif [sic], stealer, life ruiner” and his musical instrument as “probably a gun, maybe a knife, possibly a crowbar, against the grammy committee.”

The crit I received, in comparison, feels like a particularly docile Care Bears episode.

The Internet can be a mean place. That’s no revelation. When you combine the charms of anonymity with a potential bullhorn to the world, it becomes a huge temptation to unleash thoughts we’d never actually say to someone else.

I don’t think Christians are immune to that temptation. I know I’m not: I’ve written unkind things in my reviews about celebrities for no other purpose than because I thought they were funny—usually purged by my editor. Who knows what I might be tempted to say under the cover of anonymity.

And in this Fifty Shades conversation, there’s another element thrown in, too: We, as Christians, are called to not just show one another grace, but to correct a fellow believer if we think he’s going astray. I understand, then, why some of you spoke up when you felt concern over the path Plugged In had chosen here. I understand the God-given desire to help me see the “error” of my ways. Besides, we literally invite you to say your piece on our blog—whether you agree with us or not. I love healthy, challenging dialogue—and the line between iron sharpening iron and iron jabbing into the gut of a blogger is not very easy to define. In fact, we all might define it differently.

But I do think that, in our frustration over the limitations of online dialogue—its brevity, its tendency to reward over-the-top comparisons, etc.—we sometimes stop even trying to talk with people and convince them and instead try to shame them into right-minded behavior.

Which, ironically, is the crux of Fifty Shades of Grey’s most troubling scenes: Christian’s desire to punish Ana for not thinking or saying or doing just what he wanted her to do, and her palpable sense of hurt as a result.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once again Paul your words ring true and I enjoy reading what this website and you have to say on matters such as these. I am so sorry others have judged and possibly hurt you with their words. When someone earnestly prays over a matter and asks for God's guidance in it and then makes a choice based off of that time of prayer, who am I to judge that decision. Obviously there are clear exceptions to this rule, but topics such as these that are very tricky and have very ambivilent boundaries on right or wrong are difficult. If someone feels it is wrong for Plugged In to review this movie and to send you to see it, then that is their opinion and they can choose to continue to read Plugged In or not. However attacking you is not a right response for a Christ-follower. As we can see from other responses to this blog your review helped others make a more informed decision on the movie. I commented on your first blog that I really loved your review. As someone who has read the books and seen the movie it was a very fair and spiritually strong discernment of everything that is wrong with a story like this. My husband & I enjoy the story, but definitely not all the elements involved in it. As you try to point out in all your film reviews, there are strengths to the story. The books have many flaws, but as the they continue those strengths (patience, sacrifice, forgiveness, love) take more of a front seat. I'd still never recommend these books to anyone without extreme caution. There is just something about the characters and the weaknesses they continue to try to overcome. 

What gets me, and maybe I just wasn't paying attention to this before, the uproar over reviewing this rated R movie over others. I can't even imagine having to watch some of the horror films you all have reviewed on this site. I am in no way condemning you for it, I just couldn't handle that. Gore & violence is definitely my weakness to the point where some movies can literally make me sick seeing what tortures they portray. I love studying film, marketing, score, pop culture, etc... but just have a hard time condoning any of that genre (horror) as art, however I understand my extreme reaction to gore & violence could be the same for someone else watching the sex in Fifty Shades. God made us all so very different in so many ways. We all connect, react, love, dislike, and feel things differently. And now that I've written a book I will apoligize and just say thank you to this site and the service you provide as well as spiritual discernment in the matters of hollywood entertainment and popular culture.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although its unlikely that anyone checking Plugged In would be eager to see this movie, its just as likely that some of your readers are curious, and would like to be assured of the 'real deal' comments they get from Plugged In reviews.  That's why I appreciate that you sort of 'fell on this hand grenade" so that your could write about it.  Thank You. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I applaud you Paul, for reviewing this movie. Sure it's true that Christians must not expose themselves to this kind of thing. But your situation is different. You are warning others by telling them exactly how bad this movie is in a Christian perspective. I am glad you made such a sacrifice. 
John Brown More than 1 year ago
Already everyone knows 50 Shades is a stupid movie. A movie rated R  and 27% on Rotten Tomatoes and 4.1/10 on IMDB. It's already a junk. And above all else, would any Christians view any random film rated R for sexual? probably some who desire to see the film because of the above stated ^ . But looking through this whole list of good movies to see (SpongeBob, Paddington, American Sniper, etc.,) 50 Shades would just disapear into the flood of other movies. Only 2 reason would any one give the name two looks. first, people/friends recommend it (which is same for most movies). second, people talk about it. Such as "50 reason not to see 50 Shades" and other of the like. Simply, they are just popularizing 50 shades for the company. Thus, people will now give 50 shades a second look and think "Really? cool then I want to see it!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I believe you are wrong. Although I wouldn't defend such a thing as 50 Shades. I do think you are wrong. The way a movie is rated by other people (Rotten Tomatoes/IMDB) does not dictate how good it is. Take Saving Christmas. By Kirk Cameron, a great movie! But everyone hated it. The world says bad is good and good is bad. Just in this case they happened to be right with 50 Shades, but most of the time they are wrong. Very rarely is the world right about the goodness of a movie. I don't trust sites like IMDB/Rotten Tomatoes for how good a movie is. I trust web sites like Pluggedin and my own judgment. By the way. I do not think American Sniper fits in with your list of other "good" movies. It is mind-numbingly violent and based on the life story of a man who loved to kill. 
John Brown More than 1 year ago
Well that is true. But has there ever been an R movie higher than 75% on IMDB/RT and still get 3-4 stars on pluggedin?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to say thank you. The only book that outsold 50 Shades is the Bible.  Don't you think that means we should pay some attention to this, so we know what's impacting those around us?  And if we think people in the church aren't reading it, we're kidding ourselves.  I had a friend from Bible study ask me to go to this movie, this week.  It was so good that you were able to watch and review this so that OTHERS didn't have to.  I could defend my views, tell my friend why she might not want to see this, and more - based on your reviews, and not on speculation or heightened emotion.  Sometimes we have to get our feet wet and just deal with stuff.  You stepped in so we didn't have to.  Just like Juli Slattery read the book while writing Pulling Back the Shades, and Dannah didn't - it wasn't a 'fun' job.  Juli did what she really didn't want to do - so that others could have the facts and know what they're rallying against.  So thank you, for doing the job so we didn't have to.    #GraceToDoWhatGodCallsYouTo  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unless you were shipwrecked on an uninhabited island for the past few years, it was barely possible to avoid knowing all about these books and this movie even if one were to make a specific goal of doing so. This is like standing outside and pointing at the sun because you're afraid nobody will see it if you don't. We have been pickled in coverage for the last year.

The guy who said: 

"I would like to see, thru Scripture, where watching this stuff is called for to protect people??"

...hit the nail on the head. Where do we find a single syllable of biblical precept or precedent for the entire driving premise of this website? I have graciously challenged Mr. Asay to a debate, which is below on this very page. I do pray that he take me up on having that conversation. I will believe whatever that bible actually says when allowed to speak for itself. I really want to believe that it is the same with you Paul. No matter WHAT it costs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Exactly! Very well said :)
Sylvia Miller More than 1 year ago
I just wanted to tell you how much Plugged In has been helpful in making media decisions for myself and my kids. We found two great movies ("Earth to Echo" and "When the Game Stands Tall") from your reviews. When all the controversy about "How to Train Your Dragon 2" blew up, I used your site to find out exactly what and how bad was it really. We used it to remember what, exactly, got the Matrix rated R in the 90's and if it was going to be OK for our mature 10 year old (who already knows the S-word so it wasn't teaching her something new). I use it for myself because my mind doesn't hold onto crude language but I can't shake sexual images as well so have to choose my PG-13 movies carefully. Over and over again your site has helped us decide if it is an adult movie, a family movie, a movie that has good themes but needs some conversation, or is one to be skipped (because it is harmful or drivel). My husband knows that if we are going to rent a Redbox, see a movie on Netflix or (once in a blue moon) go to a movie, I'll be on Plugged In first just to know what we are getting ourselves into. And, when my daughter's friend asked, in my hearing "What's the deal with 50 Shades of Grey anyway?" I had an answer. It included how the world views pornography as no big deal and how I think God has a better plan for us. So, thanks for helping me protect my family and also allowing me to do my part in speaking Truth into popular culture.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shake off all the comments that don't lift you up (the way you shook the movie off). Some people feel the need to be the conscience for others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I stand by my calling sin, as sin in the previous blog.  I would like to see, thru Scripture, where watching this stuff is called for to protect people??   Scripture says the opposite. To guard our hearts. What makes you think that you are immune to the lusts of the flesh when it is your desire to point people away from this trash?  Its foolishness at best.  What you did was sinful.  I am not saying that... Scripture does.   If you don't agree.... it would serve you well to seek out Truth on the matter.  
Esther O'Reilly More than 1 year ago
I'm very concerned by Paul's choice, but this comment seems a little bit self-righteous. Paul obviously didn't take pleasure in the movie or watch it to feel lust in his heart. To say it was a very bad idea is one thing, but to say it was a sin is a little extreme.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just want to thank you for doing a review on Fifty Shades of Grey. As an 18 year old, I heard a lot about the movie but I had no clue how bad the content was. Thank you for all your reviews so I can have more discernment and live a more pure life. 
Ethan Ardese More than 1 year ago
*Asay, not Away. Dumb spell correction.
Ethan Ardese More than 1 year ago
Detractors aside, I'm glad that someone took a bullet so others could at least be informed. Now I can talk with people who have seen it without actually seeing it myself.

Knowledge is a good thing people. The fact that you attack Mr. Away for his sacrifice of time is... Disturbing. 

That's like criticizing a soldier for killing, or following orders.

The man is an adult, he can make his own decisions based on his knowledge of God's Word. 
Esther O'Reilly More than 1 year ago
Ethan, I don't agree with the people who insulted Paul, said he was going to Hell, etc., but I think there are good arguments for respectful disagreement with his position. The focus of your analogy is that seeing the movie was something Paul had to do, just as the soldier had to kill to perform his job. I simply don't think that's true. You say that you're glad someone saw it so others could be informed, but aren't there many places on the Internet talking about how bad this movie is? 

I don't think Paul sinned by seeing the movie, because he went into it with a good motive, but I also don't think he needed to.
Jerrilyn Strait Korth More than 1 year ago
I was one whom questioned your reasoning for the need to review the movie and I still feel that way.  If you didn't want people's opinions, then don't ask for them.  My response was respectful as it should have been for all believers whom want to respond in love. Sorry if you experienced the opposite. 

My beef with feeling the need to review the movie is this... The themes of the movie were well documented beforehand by others whom had previewed the movie or read the book.  No need for you to review it for "Plugged In" as well. Do you review x-rated movies?  No.  Why wouldn't you?  Perhaps because we can already figure out there is no redeeming value to do so.  I feel it is the same with this movie as well.

If believers can't discern what is honoring to the Lord by reading His Word, but instead need to rely on someone else to tell them, then we are in big trouble!   

JerriLyn Korth
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is an encouragement to see such a great response. I am continuously praying for you as your review the media that is in this world, especially those with violent and perverse content.
Erik Hitechew More than 1 year ago
Excellently stated.  God bless!
Greg Smith More than 1 year ago
Mr. Asay,
I say if the bible and church history is our standard, that the God who reveals Himself therein calls nobody to do what you do. Ever. I would go so far as to say that the philosophy of this site accomplishes exactly the opposite of what it claims. It is a crippling and corrupting influence on the body of Christ. As you see, I am not alone in that assessment.

What would you say to an online debate? I can be rather "assertive" sometimes, (you may even recognize me) but you have my word that it would be strictly on the issues with scripture as our guide. I also must humbly assert that you would find that I am a thoroughly informed and by God's grace, rather capable interlocutor despite my obscurity.

I have full confidence in my position as being the biblical one. I assume you do as well. We could do it right here in a pressure free, answer when you can format. I also really believe once we got moving, it would generate enormous traffic and conversation. You could have one post for us to debate and another for others to discuss it. I bet your readers would really appreciate it.

You are not busier than I am. I promise. We could both find time in this kind of format. I ask that you pray about this proposition. It would be the first debate of it's kind and could not but shed enormous light regardless of which side somebody falls on. Thank you for your consideration.
In Christ,
FishFollower More than 1 year ago
Mr. Smith,
If you truly believe that "Plugged In" is a "cropping and corrupting influence on the body of Christ" why are you on this site, or seeking to generate "enormous traffic" to this ministry through an online debate?

While God may have given you the gift of speech and knowledge, your post smacks of self-promotion.  The world, and the church, do not need more debates.  What we need are visible acts of love and grace.  It's why movies like "50 Shades of Grey" are so popular.  To quote a song lyric, "People are looking for love in all the wrong places."  Instead of spending our time pointing  our finger at the ways our culture gets it wrong, let's instead point people to Jesus, who offers a love that is kind, patient, sacrificial; all the things "50 Shades of Grey" is not.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"If you truly believe that "Plugged In" is a "drippling and corrupting influence on the body of Christ" why are you on this site, or seeking to generate "enormous traffic" to this ministry through an online debate?"

Because I want as many people as possible from this site's own audience to see it proven from God's word in a debate with the most respected and conservative representative of this mindset. This is the perfect place. If what pluggedin does is of God there should be nothing to fear.
"While God may have given you the gift of speech and knowledge, your post smacks of self-promotion."

The Lord knows my heart sir and even if true, then my unceremonious defeat would certainly expose that. Wouldn't it? May it be done to me and much more if I lie. My ONLY motivation is the truth as it is in Christ and seeing His bride portray that truth to a dying world as purely and powerfully as possible.
"The world, and the church, do not need more debates."

The fact this topic even CAN be a debate in Christ's church, shows how desperately debate is needed now more than ever.

I'll make you this promise. IF Paul were to accept, you WILL understand. Even if you disagree.
"Instead of spending our time pointing  our finger at the ways our culture gets it wrong,"

My finger is pointed squarely at the CHURCH sir. The culture is doing what it's supposed to be doing. Killing itself. There are people praying that God will grant this engagement to HIS glory alone. What if what I'm saying is true? Is that even possible to you? It is the historic view of  the reformation after all. I stand on the shoulders of giants of the faith who went before me. NONE of my ideas are my own. God forbid.
Hannah Horn More than 1 year ago
Well said. Nothing but support from me on this.
Crystal Kupper More than 1 year ago
I really appreciate this. Good work.