Why Christian Grey is more dangerous than Jax Teller
Jax Teller is a murderer. Christian Grey is an abuser portrayed to millions of women as the romantic ideal. Only one of these characters scares me.
Charlie Hunnam is hot. That fact is already in evidence. He’s also a talented and charismatic actor. So casting him as the lead in the film adaptation of one of the most popular book series of all time seems like a win for Charlie Hunnam fans, and by extension, humanity (especially since he’s bound to get naked). However, when I heard the news that Hunnam was cast as Christian Grey in the 50 Shades of Grey adaptation, I wasn’t pleased. In fact, My reaction was more on par with this:
Why wasn’t I pleased that one of my favorite actors from one of my favorite television shows got this huge break? Because even though Jax Teller, Hunnam’s character on Sons of Anarchy, is an adulturing, drug-running, arms-dealing murderer, he’s less dangerous as a character than Christian Grey. Grey’s crimes are more insidious, smaller: Emotional abuse. Taking away a woman’s autonomy. Physical abuse. But even though Grey isn’t murdering people in cold blood, the key difference is this: Teller’s actions aren’t excused. Grey’s actions are sold as romance.
Sons of Anarchy is a show about criminals making fucked up decisions that hurt people. They constantly pay for their actions, either with physical pain, emotional pain, or sometimes with their lives. What they do, while sometimes justified in the universe of the show, is never presented as a how-to guide to life. 50 Shades of Grey, on the other hand, is presented as just that: “Women, this is how your man should be.” Let me unequivocally state one thing:
Your man should not be like Christian Grey. If he is, get out of that relationship. Now.
Why? Because Christian Grey is a manipulative, abusive piece of shit. Now, before everyone gets all riled up about their favorite fictional sex god, I am not saying that Christian Grey is abusive because of his “Red Room of Pain,” or the fact that he is into BDSM. If two consenting adults enjoy getting tied up, whipped, spanked, or anything else, I say that’s great. In fact, whatever two consenting adults want to do in their bedroom (or kitchen, or dining room, as the case may be), is totally a-okay by me.
My problem with 50 Shades is that Ana, while technically an adult, doesn’t consent to a lot of what happens to her, and instead of BDSM being portrayed as sexy fun times, it is portrayed as an actual punishment for non-bedroom activities and something that only “broken” people are into. After they get married, how many times does Christian tell Ana, “You’re my wife, not my sub?” Dude. In a healthy BDSM relationship, she can be both! But instead, because he puts a ring on it, she is somehow elevated to a higher level? One in which he doesn’t have to beat her? Except he still does? Look, the whole thing is fucked, is my point.
Jenny Trout is an author of erotic fiction, among many other things. She spent a great deal of time on her blog excellently recapping the 50 Shades series and ripping it apart, piece by piece. Besides the fact that it’s Twilight fan fiction and written terribly, she often brings up the ways in which it glorifies domestic abuse and disguises it as romance. Most pointedly, she wrote a post titled, “50 Shades and Abusive Relationships,” in which she takes a list of “red flags” for abusive relationships and shows how all of them apply to Anastasia and Christian.
Personally, the part that sends me into a rage blackout comes in Chapter 3 of the final book in the trilogy, 50 Shades Freed. Ana and Christian are honeymooning in France. They’re on a nude beach, and Ana dares to take her top off, which infuriates Christian. Later that night, he covers her body in hickeys. Not as a natural byproduct of sex, but as a punishment. An act meant to temporarily disfigure her and ensure her modesty throughout the rest of their vacation.
“Look at me!” I pull down my camisole to reveal the top of my breasts. Christian gazes at me, his eyes not leaving my face, his expression wary and uncertain. He’s not used to seeing me this mad. Can’t he see what he’s done? Can’t he see how ridiculous he is? I want to shout at him, but I refrain – I don’t want to push him too far. Heaven knows what he’d do.
So they’re on their honeymoon, he covers her in hickeys, she’s furious, but she doesn’t want to “go too far,” because she’s afraid of him. Lord knows I’m not a relationship expert, but you guys, that doesn’t seem like a great start to a healthy marriage.
Jax Teller, on the other hand, is certainly more obviously violent. He beats the shit out of people on a regular basis, has done time in prison, orders murders, frames people for murders, and, you know, actually murders people. He is not a good dude. However, he doesn’t bother me nearly as much as Christian Grey. Why? Because Jax Teller is not being sold to the public as the romantic ideal.
Yes, many people who watch Sons of Anarchy want to bone Jax Teller. But come on, have you seen him? I direct you to this lovely image, sent to me by our own Katie Schenkel:
It’s oddly mesmerizing, right?
But while Jax is sometimes portrayed as sympathetic, he is never portrayed as someone women should actively seek out or mould their man into. We have just started season 6, and at no point, have I heard women saying, “Man, I wish my husband would be more like Jax. There’s simply not nearly enough gun running and cheating in our relationship. And our children haven’t been kidnapped even once!”
Jax is a fucked up character who is portrayed as just that. Christian is portrayed as a fucked up character who just needs a good woman to fix him … at the expense of her own health and well-being. As happy as I am that Hunnam got this huge opportunity, my only hope is that Kelly Marcel, who wrote the screenplay, does a better job of making this a fun, sexy, healthy story than E.L. James did. Because everyone needs the opportunity to see Charlie Hunnam naked without feeling guilty about it.