We’re Reviewing Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s Why.

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A few days ago, Plugged In received an email from a concerned reader, asking us not to review Fifty Shades of Grey. “I’m fairly confident anyone who visits this website will not be interested in seeing the film,” the man’s note said, “and I am troubled at the thought of sending one of your employees to go see it.”

I love this email. I so appreciate that he, and many other readers, worry about us over here. And pray for us, too. The sentiment and supplication both mean a lot.

But you can still expect to see my Plugged In review of Fifty Shades of Grey. And so I wanted to walk with you through the process of why we decided to review it.

There are nine little words at the top of our site: “Shining a light on the world of popular entertainment.” They’ve been there ever since I’ve been here. In fact, they’ve been the central premise of our mission from the very beginning. And Fifty Shades of Grey is, without question, one of the most “popular” elements of popular entertainment right now—a movie at the center of conversation in countless break rooms and living rooms and even churches across the country.

Religion News Service reports that advance tickets are selling particularly briskly in “the Bible Belt and the Midwest,” statistically the two most heavily churched parts of the country. Pastors and faith-based experts are weighing in. Focus on the Family has aired broadcasts pegged to the Fifty Shades book and other forms of erotica, and a Feb. 4 post on the Focus Facebook page promoting the broadcast has triggered more than 8,500 comments and shares. Two days ago, our own Adam Holz posted a blog discussing some of the cultural hubbub surrounding the upcoming movie, and traffic on that one post has been about 10 times what we see on most of our posts.

Lots of Christians, of course, are speaking out against Fifty Shades. The American Family Association is asking theaters to not show the movie, saying it “glorifies abusive relationships and glamorizes abusive tendencies such as stalking, bondage sex, intimidation and isolation.” Others say the film is as antithetical to a healthy Christian marriage as can be imagined. Then, as Adam mentioned, several secular organizations have been equally appalled. Even the film’s star, Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), told Today that the film’s sex scenes are so extreme she doesn’t want her “parents to see it.”

But the culture, including Christian culture, is deeply curious about Fifty Shades—not necessarily a prurient interest, but a deep-seated desire to understand why this book and now movie, which would seem to cater to a small subset, has become such a phenomenon.

People will read our review, no question. Which means my prayer is that I can craft something that, while not necessarily revolutionary, will help all of us, myself included, think through the issues that swirl around the film. I feel a sense of purpose here in that—a calling, if you will. I don’t believe our primary mission at Plugged In is to say nice things about nice movies: It’s to shine that light in a sometimes murky world. To examine the stories told in dark theaters and see what should be condemned and what might be redeemed. To encourage others sometimes, but to warn them as well.

Some have compared what we do at Plugged In to Isaiah’s “watchmen on the walls” (Isaiah 62:6). And it seems to me that watchmen aren’t needed when things are quiet outside their walls. It’s when things get hairy that they become pretty important.

I worked for several years as a daily newspaper journalist. And as a journalist, I knew that part of my job was to go into potentially uncomfortable places. It’s in those places where, I’d argue, journalists are needed the most. The same could be said for missionaries, who sometimes risk even their lives to bring God’s light to a people or culture in need of it. It’s not safe work. We all know that going in. But it’s important work, anointed by God as part of the Great Commission.

Reviewing movies may not be the same kind of challenge as those faced by the Apostle Paul or Nate Saint. But I still feel that sense of calling—the duty to people who want to know what this movie’s about—not from an aesthetic point of view, primarily, but a spiritual one.

So how did I prepare? I’ve read about and researched the movie enough to know what I’m getting into. I’ve talked extensively with my wife (of 25 years) about my role related to it. I’ve spent time talking with God about it as well. And I know that He’s heard lots of other prayers on my behalf—from my family, my co-workers, perhaps many of you. I’m going into it with, I hope, the right mindset.

And I go in, as I always do, with my little pen flashlight—so I can scribble down pages of semi-legible notes. It’s not very bright, this little light of mine. But in the darkness, every little bit helps. And I hope that my tiny light of a movie review (available now on this site) might lead others to a better, brighter one. Even in some pretty grey places.

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.

Claire Baire 10 months ago
I can honestly say, "I was with someone very similar to Grey, for 2 years. It was a nightmare for me. The guy took my virginity from me my past birthday, and since then he was an absolute control freak. I couldn't see my family or friends when he was off. I felt very trapped and helpless for the remaining 4 months. My family and I relocated and I was able to leave. Not only has the book helped me recognize the signs I was in an unhealthy relationship...but has inspired me to help other women recognize and end a toxic relationship before it becomes deadly. A man doesn't have to be physical, while mine was or threatened to be, but emotionally blackmail too." Prayers for my sisters living in fear or feel they have no choice. There is always a choice and hope. Especially in Jesus! Healing will come and you will find the right man God means for you to be with
Becca Hamby More than 1 year ago
I read the review earlier today before reading this blog post and I thought as I was reading how beautiful of a testimony it was in the midst of such a torrid topic. You truly shined a light into the darkness surrounding this series and film.
Tiexiera Hyacinth More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the review. My co-workers have been talking about the books and movie and I haven't had much to say. My knowledge of Fifty Shades is entirely superficial; I didn't know what the story was about, just that there was bad stuff in it. I want to be able to reach my co-workers where they are and to say more than 'this is wrong'. I would never watch the movie myself and so your insight was very helpful. Still not sure exactly what I'll say, but at least I understand a bit more some of the appeal and the problems. Never thought of praying for you guys before, but I will now. Thanks.
oAssassinXo More than 1 year ago
I have to say I am new to this site and am sad about two things.

1. So many comments regarding the fact this movie was reviewed are full anger. While we as christians should know not to see this movie, it doesn't mean every single christian knows to avoid the movie. Plenty of christians I know have already seen it thinking it was ok to do so. So reviews like this certainly would have helped them see exactly why its no ok to see. 

2. This leads to my second point about judgment. Many say the reviewer is a bad person for seeing this movie. Or that he should not call himself christian if he seen it...etc. Problem is it seems many are forcing their own spiritual battles onto the reviewer. What I mean by that is we all have struggles. 

For example we all know swearing is bad. So for some if they watch a movie with swearing it may not affect how they think. Where as for others it may affect how they think and they may swear now. I am a person who tries to avoid movies with swearing if possible because I know sometimes they rub off on me. But this doesn't mean I will tell a friend "Hey, you cannot see that one movie because theres swearing in it. If you do your a bad person!".

Because for them they may be spiritually strong enough to handle a movie with swearing. It may not even affect them. We all have our battles and sins to deal with. We can't force our battles onto others as if its theirs too. Does this mean its ok to see a movie with swearing? Well biblicaly not really. But I see it as a issue of spiritual maturity. If someone doesn't feel the holy spirit convicting them about it then I have no place to force them to not do something. Although sometimes obviously we have to decide if the holy spirit is telling us "Its ok to see this, your mature enough!" or if its the devil saying "Go see this, you'll be fine!".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As someone who was once sucked so deep in an addiction with pornography this really makes me sad.  I know the power of images like this.  I was literally controlled by them for so many years!  God has helped me over come this but i wont easily forgot the immense power of this type of entertainment.  Its nothing to be messing with at all!  Not even for the sake of others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just want to say thank you Paul for giving this movie a very fair and very Christ-like apraisal. What you said in your final remarks, about the number six and how man fails when we try to solve our problems with things of this world, was incredible. As a Christian who has both read and seen the movie, both with my husband, I knew it would be torn apart by the Christian media and I understand why. My husband and I have both found some connection to the two main characters and as we fully recognize and understand why the relationship is far from a godly one, their struggles and attempts to help each other have been topics of discussion between us. We both have checkered pasts and low points in our marriage, but at a time when our marriage seems to be strengthening this highly faulted story has played a small part in that growth. I would NEVER recommend it to anyone because it is filled with slippery slopes for any Christian to get into. I just appreciate your fairness in your review and how you basically summed up a concept that my husband and I have tried to pinpoint during our discussions about the character of Christian Grey. As always I enjoy your website and dedication to quality reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I do use this site often for movie reviews and it comes in handy when movies are questionable... 50 Shades of Grey, along with several other movies the Plugged in employees subject themselves to are not "questionable" movies, they are obviously ones to be avoided... To liken yourselves to "watchmen on the walls" is twisting scripture! Watchmen on the walls look for threats that are coming, yes... But they don't subject themselves to nudity, porn and all kinds of profanity. Many times I have talked to my husband and wondered why you even go review certain movies that are obviously against what Christians should even consider viewing.  You don't have to always experience something to say that it is wrong & that you or others shouldn't go watch it, the Bible has standards set for us and movies have generalized descriptions but usually cover wether it has nudity, strong language and so on. You said you prayed and others prayed for you inorder to go see this movie? .. As Bible believing Christians, the word has standards we are to live by... We can't look at those standards and then say "well, the bible says I should live like this... But my job has me doing this, so I will just pray that God protects me from what He has already told me NOT to do through His word" ...also, it is very untrue to liken yourself to Missionaries that go into the missionary field knowing it's dangerous... missionaries are risking their lives at times witnessing to people around the world, you however are going to watch a movie!  Movies are designed for entertainment purposes....and as I said ealrier, these are movies that already contain basic warnings that show us we shouldn't be watching them.. 50 Shades of Grey is without question, a movie that any true Christian should NOT watch.   
Payton Spohn More than 1 year ago
Any true Christian also shouldn't lie, or cheat, or steal. For you to say that he can't be a true Christian if he watches a movie is absolute trash. God has called you to not do those things and yet you still do, we all do them. Please don't bring people down like that
Becky White-Frechette More than 1 year ago
There is a difference between intentionally sinning (CHOOSING to see a movie) in a weak moment, where repentance would hopefully follow. 
Becky White-Frechette More than 1 year ago
Amen! There are PLENTY of secular reviews that give detailed reviews, a count of how much nudity, how much profanity, etc... Just because you pray a prayer, "Dear God, please protect me while I put this filth, that you tell me to GUARD myself from, before my eyes." Please. This isn't a "noble" cause. We are to be set apart, not entering the theater to join others in subjecting ourselves to sin. We are human, and as good as our intentions are, we are not immune from stumbling. It doesn't matter what you THINK your weakness is, we are told to flee from sexual immorality. 
Mary Lewellyn 25 days ago
WELL SAID! AMEN
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I do use this site often for movie reviews and it comes in handy when movies are questionable... 50 Shades of Grey, along with several other movies the Plugged in employees subject themselves to are not "questionable" movies, they are obviously ones to be avoided... To liken yourselves to "watchmen on the walls" is twisting scripture! Watchmen on the walls look for threats that are coming, yes... But they don't subject themselves to nudity, porn and all kinds of profanity. Many times I have talked to my husband and wondered why you even go review certain movies that are obviously against what Christians should even consider viewing.  You don't have to always experience something to say that it is wrong & that you or others shouldn't go watch it, the Bible has standards set for us and movies have generalized descriptions but usually cover wether it has nudity, strong language and so on. You said you prayed and others prayed for you inorder to go see this movie? .. As Bible believing Christians, the word has standards we are to live by... We can't look at those standards and then say "well, the bible says I should live like this... But my job has me doing this, so I will just pray that God protects me from what He has already told me NOT to do through His word" ...also, it is very untrue to liken yourself to Missionaries that go into the missionary field knowing it's dangerous... missionaries are risking their lives at times witnessing to people around the world, you however are going to watch a movie!  Movies are designed for entertainment purposes....and as I said ealrier, these are movies that already contain basic warnings that show us we shouldn't be watching them.. 50 Shades of Grey is without question, a movie that any true Christian should NOT watch.   
jama More than 1 year ago
Personally I will not see this movie and so I would not be able to review it. If it was my job I think I would ask to be removed from reviewing this particular movie. But personally I would ask to be removed from pretty much every PG-13 and R rated film as well. Paul has reviewed movies with graphic violence and sexual content for us in the past and no one has said a word about that. I find that curious. I think this is between God and Paul and while we may have our opinions in regard to our own selves, I think we need not judge Paul. Maybe a good Christian review should not exist so that Paul and others don't have to watch any of the movies they have reviewed for us. Most Christians watch whatever they want anyway without any thought of content. I'm thankful for Paul and others who will inform us as to the content in movies and shows because ads are always misleading. I do think it would be a good idea to have a couple female reviewers for cases such as this. Thank you FOTF for your continued good work.
Leslie Ann Howard-Redweik More than 1 year ago
Females... good idea.
Kate Cee More than 1 year ago
To say "this little light of mine" completely discredits the power of Christ in us and the influence/authority we have in this world.  "..the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 1 John 4:4. Please don't say we have a little bit of light -- He died for us so we could move mountains and do more than He did in this world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I so appreciate your ministry it has been a huge blessing to our family. It also has been a great resource to refer our friends, family, and students we minister to. It has kept us from viewing trash that is out there. I pray the Holy Spirit will give you strength and wash over your mind as you watch some of these awful movies in order to give all of us much needed information.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
  I do not see why it would be necessary for Plugged In to review 50 Shades of Grey when the contents of the movie has already been widely publicized. But if your website feels some sort of "moral" obligation to critique this "trash" then you could have considered sending a woman rather than a man to review it. It is widely known that men are aroused by sight. Doesn't it concern you that one of your own just might be tempted?  Satan is a master deceiver, make no mistake. I really can't imagine most Christians being considered so naive that they can't figure out from the mass media coverage of the movie, that it is not for them. It saddens me so, that instead of graciously declining to expose any of your staff to such garbage and taking the high road, you may have needlessly compromised the integrity of one of your own. Remember, the eyes are the window to the soul. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Amen. Psalm 101:3

"I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me."

Ronald Radford More than 1 year ago
What is next for our "Christian Leaders" to try? Shall we now have our children test the dangers of premarital sex only to pass along their findings and warnings to generations of "would be Christians" after them? Excessive alcohol consumption, street drugs, strip clubs, etc. Was not the warnings from loving parents good enough to deter us or must we simply rely on good old trial and error?.......Let's WAKE UP CHURCH!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perhaps it is best to let scripture do the talking.
Abstain from all appearance of evil. 1 Thes.5:22
FLEE from sexual immorality. 1 Cor.6:18a (emphasis added)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of GOOD REPUTE, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Phil.4:8 (emphasis added)
Becky White-Frechette More than 1 year ago
Best comment in this thread!
Amy Kinsella More than 1 year ago

I've always been anti 50 shades for many reasons but what troubled me was that - no matter how difficult, no matter how out of our comfort zone it is - I somehow realised that the Christian response to it couldn't be to just ignore it or simply dismiss it as porn.
I think Jesus would have gone head to head with it - as He had that knack of doing in all difficult situations - and engage with it on some level that glorified God's love over the 'love' portrayed in the series. I had no idea how to do this though and I like that Christian blogs and writers have tried to do so. The problem was always that - non believers - had no interest in this standpoint and I didn't have the skill to get over that wall.
I tweeted a lot about my opposition to it and someone sent me a link to a Christian fiction response that takes the original format of the book and then 'mirrors' it with a story about God's love taking in concepts like 'doulos' and salvation along the way. I've given it to some friends - the same ones that had no interest in Christian blog posts - and they've really been engaged and informed by it and have gone on to engage in real talks about faith underpinned by it. One is (tentatively) attending church.
For me that underpins that the key in the debate is - not to preach to one another about it - but to use it as a chance to outreach. The link - should anyone be interested is
amzn.to/1Ac2x9c

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Was it really necessary to watch it in order to review it? Isn’t there enough information out about this movie to comment on it? Suppose ten years from now hard core porn is shown on the screen would you still go to see it to warn others about it?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people" (Eph. 5:3, NIV).

There is absolutely no excuse for a Christian to watch any kind of pornography.  Thanks, but no thanks, Paul.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Paul,

Thank you for your review.  As a pastor I knew I wouldn't see the movie or even think of doing so.  However, I'm sure there are people in the congregation who did see it or at the very least know someone who did see it.  Perhaps I'm the only person on the earth who didn't know this, but I didn't know that there was the whipping, beating, etc. associated with the story.  The fact that I found that out actually led to some very deep discussions with a couple men.

I was able to ask them what they thought of the recent domestic abuse cases of sports figures and then was able to progress into a deep discussion of whether those cases could be any different than what 50 Shades of Grey is promoting.  It actually led to some great discussion and helped these men begin to see the harm in books and movie.  So thank you again for your review.  I continue to pray for your ministry as well and thank you for your dedication to giving us informed reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not disagree more with your logic.  The Bible does not call us to pollute our minds in the name of helping others.  Just the opposite.   Prov. 4:23 "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life."  or  Romans 12:2 talks about not conforming to this world... Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect..    You are putting your heart in harms ways... Col. 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.   God made men, especially, to be stimulated visually.  You are allowing your mind to be infiltrated by filth.  That is sinful, regardless of your desire to protect others from seeing it.  I would prefer a review that is based on a Christian keeping a pure heart.... to do all things for the glory of God.  Going to see this movie with the label of doing it for others.... will not glorify God.  It is sin.  It is wrong.  And I am calling you out on it.
Robert Reece More than 1 year ago
Thank you for your sober minded comments. It seems as if the logic is "We cannot judge unless we engage" by the same logic plugged in should review porn.  God bless you. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful article.  I've always been interested in the reasons you write for us to read.  Thank you for doing what you do........pluggedin is my go-to for any movie before my sister and i see it (we're 18&16)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The movies will probably only continue to get worse.  At what point will you stop going to see them?  My former Pastor said it best, "You don't have to stick you head in the sewer to know it stinks".  
Matt Yoder More than 1 year ago
I have NO desire to see the movie, but at work, I may talk to some people - even Christians - who may be considering it, or who may not grasp its depravity even if they are not personally planning to see it. I'll be able to show them Plugged In's review to help inform them or get them thinking deeper. A review from those who actually watched it will be far more effective than an article from someone bloviating without having seen it.
Matt Yoder More than 1 year ago
THANK YOU for reviewing this movie, and thank you for the work you do! I appreciate hearing about the preparation you put into it. I will pray for you.

The review itself was very well written, and the conclusion was powerful. This is why the movie needed to be reviewed. A condemnation of the movie without a review could not have nearly this power and none of the "they know what they're talking about" persuasiveness that comes from having seen it. In Paul's review, the movie condemns itself. 
Josh Kellogg More than 1 year ago
Mr. Assay, 

Perhaps you did call this movie pornographic in your movie review. You also did not call your movie watching efforts mandated by part of the Great Commission. My apologies. Unfortunately, I still disagree with those who laud your movie review efforts regarding this movie. I don't think it is necessary to watch this movie to tell others it is pornography. Reference Albert Mohler's blog. I don't think it is necessary for FOTF to review anything rated R. What possible benefit could we attain from such foolishness? I think you are the one who will suffer from watching this movie the most, even if your intent was to shed light on this movie's sinful content. Albert Mohler did this without viewing it.

Thanks. 

v/r Josh
Josh Kellogg More than 1 year ago
Mr. Asay,

This movie is pornography. Do we really have to see a pornographic movie to call it pornography, which your "movie review" does not even do? Albert Mohler did not have to watch this movie to call it pornography. What's FOF's excuse? Conveniently, a lot of Christians cite the Great Commission for justifying numerous seemingly "good" activities. Which Great Commission are you referring, by the way? 

The Great Commission in Luke 24:46,47 says, and said to them, '"Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."' [Luk 24:46-47 ESV]

If the Great Commission is your excuse for watching this movie, then when are you going to proclaim the Gospel of Repentance? Should we wait for another posting or another pornographic film?

If you're talking about either the Great Commission in Matthew or Acts, then what are you teaching other believers to do? Did Jesus say anything about upholding pornography in His ministry? As one blogger already notes, Jesus said, "if you look upon someone to lust after her, then you've committed adultery with her already in your heart." (Paraphrase Matthew 5:28) Again, Jesus said, "If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell." [Mat 18:9 NASB] The soul is priceless. Yet, we can glean a principle here too. I don't have to look at a woman to know I shouldn't look at her in lust. 

Hence, I don't have to look at a naked woman to know she should put on some clothes. I should simply look away and box my flesh into submission. As Paul writes, 26 "Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." [1Co 9:26-27 NASB] The Call of the Gospel is a call to self-denial not unto "fleshy" self-fulfillment, which your confusing efforts have produced, perhaps in others.

Three times, Jesus mentioned this unmistakable call to self-denial:

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." [Mat 16:24 NASB] 

"And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." [Mar 8:34 NASB] 

"And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." [Luk 9:23 NASB]

Should we also watch Rated "R" and pornographic movies for "God's Glory"? I notice that is not a claim you are willing to make either. Knowing the terror of the Lord, do you think you can claim watching this movie for the glory of God? (2 Cor 5:10,11; 1 Cor 10:31)

Rather, why don't we judge with righteous judgment (i.e. discernment): "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." [Jhn 7:24 NASB]. 

Again, Al Mohler didn't need to watch this pornography to call it by name, even though you are unwilling to do the same. Mohler writes, "But biblically speaking, there can be no question about the fact that the Fifty Shades phenomenon is explicitly pornographic — defined in the New Testament by the Greek word porneia — which refers directly to any illicit sexual impulse or act. Pornography, whatever its form, is intended to produce that wrongful sexual impulse." (Albert Mohler, "Fifty Shades of Shame: the Evolution of Pornography).


You said you prayed about watching this movie. Did you read your Bible before seeing it instead? Here are some verses which you failed to consider:


"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. [Mar 9:42 NASB] 


Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble. [1Co 8:13 NASB]


Again Mohler writes, "Going to see Fifty Shades of Grey, or reading the book series, is an exercise in pornographic intent and effect. It is also an act of defiance against the goodness of the gift of sex as granted to humanity by God. Furthermore, the series is an assault upon the dignity of every human being" (Albert Mohler, "Fifty Shades of Shame: the Evolution of Pornography).


All of those seeing this movie, under the name of Christ, should examine themselves whether they be in the faith. (2 Cor 13:5)


You can read the whole blog by Mohler here: http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/02/13/fifty-shades-of-shame-the-evolution-of-pornography/

Thanks.

v/r

Josh
Sherry Curington More than 1 year ago
No thanks!