Charlie Hunnam, an actor best known for his roles in "Pacific Rim" and "Sons of Anarchy," has forfeited his role as the lead in the film adaptation of E.L. James' 2011 erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. While Hunnam cited a busy TV acting schedule as the reason for turning down the role, Christian film and literature experts offered other reasons for him walking away.
"It's a big risk for an unknown actor to do a role that is so highly sexualized," Lisa Swain, associate professor of Cinema and Media Arts at Biola University and a 15-year veteran of the entertainment industry, told The Christian Post in an interview on Tuesday. "We can only speculate as to what Charlie was actually thinking," but he may have been cautious to star in the film due to its sexual content, she said.
Swain compared the forthcoming "Fifty Shades" film to "Showgirls," a film which allegedly ruined the career of actress Elizabeth Berkeley. Showgirls, too, "was a very sexy movie," the professor explained.
"Anyone who might be a fan of him might be pleased that he made a good decision for the long term quality of his career," Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English at Liberty University, added. "From what I understand about the book, it seems to me that the film made of that book would be pornographic, so I don't know how a Christian would justify acting in a film like that," she said.
In addition to discussing Hunnam's acting move, Swain explained the reason why Fifty Shades of Grey resonates with so many people that it outstripped the Harry Potter series and became the fastest selling paperback of all time.
"Speaking as a woman, sexuality in church is only discussed in terms of how it affects men," Swain argued. "There's really no discussion about what it means to be a sexual woman." While Fifty Shades of Grey comes from a non-Christian perspective, it may serve as a catalyst to discuss women's desires in the church, Swain offered.
What aspect of women's sexuality does an erotic novel about bondage and domination capture? "As much as women are known for talking more than men, there's also a desire for men to just know what will work and what will not," Swain explained. The male character Christian Grey understands the main character Anastasia Steele and satisfies her sexual desires before she even articulates them.
"It's more than just sex – it's a hunger to be known," Jonalyn Fincher, co-founder and president of Soulation and author of Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home, told The Christian Post in an interview on Thursday. Fincher mentioned the verse in Genesis where "Adam knew his wife," as an illustration of the deep connection women crave. "Sex is more than genitals colliding, it's a meeting of souls, it's a making of love, it's a practice of community."
Fifty Shades promises many women this love in the way that Christian Grey understands and knows Anastasia Steele intimately without words, but it fails to fulfill the expectations of its audience. The book fails in two different ways, Fincher argued.
In the books, "you find out that Anna doesn't even have a self to be known," Fincher said. The author explained that while it may be alright for the main character – a college student – it is a mark of immaturity for most of the middle-aged women who devour Fifty Shades. Further, it means the novel's romance fails to capture true intimacy.
"Intimacy can only happen when you have two separate selves that decide to know each other," Fincher noted. Some people think "you can ride into intimacy on sex alone," but that isn't true.
But the book is fundamentally a lie – "a beautifully wrapped sexy lie" – in another way, she argued. She claimed that most married people don't talk during sex unless something is wrong. "That means there are incredibly low amounts of communication," she explained.
Christian "seems to know everything Anna wants sexually before she opens her mouth," but fully satisfying sex requires communication, Fincher asserted. "You can't have good sex if you don't talk." Only by sharing one another's desires can a husband and wife really satisfy each other.
Fincher would not say whether or not Christians should read the book, but she did emphasize the importance of knowing the lies going in, so as not to be blown away by the "S&M fairy tale." Nevertheless, she agreed with Swain that the book may prove a great catalyst for much-needed discussions about sexual communication.