Anyone else noticed a disturbing new trend in recent Hollywood films? Consider ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and ‘The Boy Next Door.’ The female protagonists of both of these movies are intelligent women who like to read and are seduced by Ken-doll cut outs who gift books.

In ‘Fifty Shades’ Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is an English lit major on the brink of graduating when she encounters billionaire tycoon bachelor Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). During the course of his disturbingly relentless pursuit of Anastasia, Christian presents her with a gift of first editions of Thomas Hardy novels – the author that she claims inspired her passion for literature.

           In ‘The Boy Next Door’ Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) is a single mother who teaches literature and loves nothing more than snuggling up with a good book until hunky boy toy Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door. While trying to charm his way into her household, Noah oh-so-casually offers Claire a first edition of The Iliad – never mind how utterly illogical this is. Watch this video clip to see the absurdity of this scene. Also, this movie has hilariously caused “The Iliad, first edition” to top the search terms at AbeBooks.

The message seems to be that well-read ladies can be wooed into dangerous affairs with men as long as those men have six packs and rare editions of books. I'm not saying a good body and books aren't attractive qualities, but it's the consequences as played out in these films which are alarming. Obviously these movies are trash (highly lucrative trash) and most people go to see them for fun. Of course, the content is laughable. The body images presented can only make everyone feel that they shouldn’t waste a minute reading because they should be on the cross trainer at the gym. The stories pretend to contain dramatic moral issues as an excuse for soft-core sex scenes.

What’s annoying is that Hollywood producers/executives are presenting a world where seemingly unapproachable smart women can be goaded into raunchy seduction with a whiff of musty old books. Do they really think women are that gullible? Are they really saying that a woman’s engagement with literature is just filler till the masculine totty next door comes knocking on her door? That rather than thinking about job prospects or a post-graduate degree after graduation a bookish girl will spend all her time making notations on a sexual contract from a business magnate?

It’s an insult to suggest that every woman, no matter how book smart, is really just a fool without good sense. More disturbingly they insinuate that when spinsterish women (Anastasia is a virgin and divorced Claire shuns dating) capitulate to passion, the story dictates that they must be punished. And why oh why do they have to use books as lubricant in their icky plots about seduction?

AuthorEric Karl Anderson