Many years ago, a Traddie friend of mine was round at my place when they let out a squeak of shock, “Mary, what is this book?!” It was Judith Rossner’s Looking for Mr Goodbar. It had a book-cover of a dead girl in a bed. After all, it is a novel based on the real-life murder of Roseanne Quinn, a school-teacher who was a lonely singleton in New York City.
In 1973 Roseanne was a 28 year-old Catholic girl who haunted single bars to pick up men for one-night-stands. It is said that Roseanne became addicted to the ‘high’ that she got from having increasingly abusive sex with violent men.
‘Why are you reading it?’ asked my friend. They began to understand when I explained that it was an honest portrayal of an insecure woman who sought out sadomasochistic sex, until she was slain. Putting it into today’s disgusting language, she wanted to be ‘sexually dominated’.
Looking for Mr Goodbar has themes in common with Fifty Shades of Grey. Yet while I recommendLooking for Mr Goodbar, I avoid the filthy flick Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s the difference: Rossner’s novel serves as a truthful story (and cautionary tale) as to what ensues when self-doubting women look to cruel, vicious men to validate their sense of self-worth. Ahem, Fifty Shades of Grey is a deceitful, glamorised fantasy. The nasty truth is that it will pack cinemas because an audience can ‘get off’ on the scenes of a young woman being gladly and gratefully sexually abused.
Even if I wanted to see Fifty Shades of Grey, I’d have to refuse because I hold that watching it is a sin. It entails looking at impure images which inevitably give rise to impure thoughts. That said, while I slam the film, it doesn’t mean that I’m entitled to denounce people who will watch it. Looking down our noses and treating them as if we are better than they are – will alienate them from us. We need to have more compassion than reviling them as consumers of filth.
For one thing the film is released on St Valentine’s Day (poor St Valentine – his feast day is being used as a sordid marketing tool). This means that a lot of young women will be forced to decide between going on a date to see Fifty Shades or sitting home alone.
If you have a friend who is an avid fan of Fifty Shades of Grey, consider ordering them a copy of Looking for Mr Goodbar. It’s the work of a brilliant Jewish novelist, a page-turner and will de-glamorise abusive sexual relationships. I wrote this post for The Catholic Herald, do visit the magazine for breaking news and lively debate and discussion.