BY MICHAEL MCMANUS

In writing this column about the new film, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” I am breaking one of my most basic rules — not to write about a film unless I have seen it, or a book, unless I read it.

However, I am alarmed at the stunning success of a film that “teaches your daughter that pain and humiliation are erotic, and your son that girls want a guy who controls, intimidates and threatens,” as psychiatrist Miriam Grossman puts it.

In its first five days, the pornographic film grossed $237.7 million in 59 countries. It is the highest worldwide debut for an R-rated film — far ahead of “The Matrix Revolution,” which earned $117 million in 2003. Overseas sales were $156 million — unprecedented in such countries as Britain and 11 countries of the eastern bloc such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, etc.

Surprisingly, 68 percent of its audience is female and 58 percent over age 25. Why?

The film is based on an infamous novel that sold 100 million copies. Many of those readers wanted to see the film version. It is about a young woman who falls for a rich, handsome man who has “engaged in sadomasochism with a string of mistresses and wants her to become his next mistress,” as Movieguide summarized it. Time magazine says the book “put the words bondage and suburban mom in way too many of the same sentences.”

I do not need to see a film in which a man (oddly) named Christian, strikes a woman’s stomach with a whip and ties her up, or a scene where she gets drunk, vomits and faints, or he whips her naked bottom six times with a belt.

However, I do want to urge parents to have a talk with their teenagers about this film. Fifty Shades was released over Valentine’s Weekend so many will think it is a romance.

Don’t fall for it. Dr. Grossman warns, “The movie is actually about a sick, dangerous relationship filled with physical and emotional abuse. It seems glamorous, because the actors are gorgeous, have expensive cars and planes and Beyonce is singing. You might conclude that Christian and Ana are cool and their relationship is acceptable. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. Abuse is not glamorous or cool. It is never OK, under any circumstances…In the real world, this story would end badly, with Christian in jail, and Ana in a shelter — or morgue.”

Fortunately, there are many excellent alternatives to this film. According to Movieguide, 90 percent of the Top 10 Movies in the United States, overseas and home video sales in 2014 earning $5.2 billion — contained strong or very strong Christian redemptive, biblical and/or moral content.

Examples for mature audiences: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Unbroken,” “The Hunger Games,” “Belle” and “The Giver.” The Best Family Films included “God’s Not Dead,” “Bears,” “Heaven’s for Real” and “Son of God.”

In 2014, movies with very strong Christian, redemptive world views averaged $66.8 million U.S. sales compared to an average of only $20.1 million for those with very strong non-Christian views. Films with absolutely no foul language, sex, explicit nudity or substance abuse earned the most money.

My favorite was “Son of God,” which depicted who Jesus Christ really was — and is. Another I liked was “Heaven Is For Real” that is about a four-year-old boy who dreamed of visiting heaven while under surgery. It should not be confused with a similar but fraudulent film, “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven.”

“Unbroken” is the story of a real hero, Louis Zamperini, who ran in the 1936 Olympics, had his plane shot down by the Japanese, who survived weeks at sea in a raft, and then was picked up and tortured by the Japs. What this version of Zamperini’s life fails to report, however, is that after the war he became an alcoholic who came to faith in Christ at a Billy Graham crusade.

I asked Ted Baehr, chairman of Movieguide, why “Fifty Shades” was so popular with women. He replied, “We have a whole generation of women who are totally confused about what love is, who want love at any cost. While 5 million went to the movie that is a small proportion of the 140 million women in the country. Also, many movies open big and die the next weekend. This film has low audience ratings. Only 30 percent of those coming out of it approved of it.”

Fortunately, there is an alternative. To find these movies to uplift you and your family, go to Movieguide.org and click on Reviews.

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Michael J. McManus is president of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist.


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