Film buff duo comments on ‘cliche’ Christian response to “Fifty Shades”

by Louis Johnson & Andy Weston
johnsonlo@mnstate.edu & westonan@mnstate.edu

Louie Johnson and Andy Weston are two film buffs who, over the weekend, made what they deem the regrettable decision to see the Christian response to “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Here are their thoughts on the movie.
A: Louie, today we saw a film that opened my eyes and my heart to the lord. The film, of course, was “Old Fashioned.”
L: “Old Fashioned” is a 2015 Christian romance film reminiscent of others like “God’s Not Dead.” It’s one of those films that’s really more an advertisement for religion than a movie. Its official synopsis is, “A former frat boy and a free-spirited woman together attempt the impossible: an ‘old-fashioned’ courtship in contemporary America.”
A: It’s the vapid love story of Clay and Amber. Clay is a former porn hound who helped shoot “Girls Gone Wild”-esque movies, who’s now trying to better himself by shutting out women altogether. Amber’s car just happens to run out of gas in the small town Clay lives in and ends up renting an apartment from him.
L: The movie’s idea of “free-spirited,” by the way, is a Christian gal who isn’t a total shut-in and thinks dating is OK. The rest of the film is basically an ensuing “romance” between the two. Also, for some reason, being in a frat is a huge deal in this movie. It’s one of the most unChristian things you can do.
A: Apparently going anywhere but a Catholic seminary is giving your soul to Satan.
L: I guess if I had any interesting observation to offer about this film it’s the fact it really doesn’t shove Christianity down the viewer’s throat. It more assumes everyone in the audience is already a believer and follows a protagonist with religiously conservative views.
A: Still, I found the movie’s theme to be nothing more than a Christian fantasy of what an ideal courtship looks like that winds up incredibly anti-progressive and misogynistic.
L: So basically, the movie starts with Amber moving into town and renting an apartment from Clay.
A: Right, so after years of sleeping around with dead-eyed drunk girls, Clay decides he wants to go back to when things were “done right.” He’s under the impression a man and woman shouldn’t be in a room alone together, nor should they share their first kiss until after marriage.
Not only are Clay’s rules insanely backwards-thinking but also really undefined. Clay can’t be alone with a woman, yet he takes Amber out to a field where they have a romantic picnic. Now, I’m no sexpert, but I do believe it’s possible to have intercourse in a field. I mean, they had a blanket and everything.
L: It isn’t so much of a romance as it is a girl throwing herself at this boring, creepy man who rejects her multiple times. Clay doesn’t have much of a personality. He kind of reminds me of Padme in Star Wars Episode 1. We all know what she was like. Clay’s essentially the blank slate protagonist that’s so popular in film only because the audience can project themselves onto his lack of a character.
A: Then the movie suddenly shifts forward. Clay and Amber seek help from a minister about their relationship and are given a book called “Red, Yellow and Green.” It’s filled with questions to help couples decide if they are suited for one another. The book asks its readers things like how many sexual partners they’ve had and includes aptitude tests, apparently on how good of a mother the woman would be. To test Amber’s parenting skills, the book tasks her with feeding a child; I’m under the impression this is the type of “women’s work” writers of this film think we should go back to.
L: Yeah, it’s pretty offensive to progressive people. Despite Amber’s “free spirit,” Clay’s old-fashioned values expect Amber to be a housewife who takes care of the kids. Amber’s also characterized as someone who needs a man to complete her life rather than standing as an individual.
A: On top of a horrible plot, the movie’s filled with some of the worst characters I’ve seen in a long time. The supporting cast includes a radio DJ with an inflated ego, of course a token black guy, a misdirected young girl who loves to party, a feeble old aunt and an aging father figure. All of these characters are exactly as I described them. They are assigned no more depth than that. They’re simply vessels designed to move the plot forward.
L: Amber is pretty much this quirky, Christian girl that’s just a male fantasy of the “perfect woman.” She’s attracted to Clay for no reason and refuses to give up despite him never once showing a glimpse of personality or positive traits. And Clay constantly refuses her because of his faith or something.
A: She’s just aloof, with no concept of equality or desire to better herself. It’s indicated she just got out of an abusive relationship, but is immediately ready to jump into marriage with a guy she just met who clearly has some issues. Amber is less her own character and more a device for Clay’s story to move along.
L: Something bizarre is that the film doesn’t have much of a message. It doesn’t really urge people to be more conservative or open minded. In the end, neither character really changes the other. I don’t know if the filmmakers want the audience to root for Clay’s more conservative ideals or Amber’s more liberal attitude to things.
A: To explain any more of the plot would be a complete waste of everyone’s time, but to summarize, the two-hour torture ends with a dramatic misunderstanding and then, of course, the romantic cliché ending everyone expected when they saw the poster before even walking into the theater. And, by the way, don’t bother.

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