Man has three lives: one shared with the world, another known to the inner ring, and a third between himself and his maker. The first is the politically correct being, one that turns away censure, judgment and all things vile; the second is reserved for those we trust, whose lives intersect with ours by virtue of mutual interest and trust; while the third isn’t very agreeable. It’s our secrets hidden in the darkest part of our hearts. It’s our fantasies, our love, our shame, basal desires attracting retribution.
When a friend asked what I thought of the Fifty Shades Trilogy my mind raced back to every review I had read on the web. Distasteful reviews of bad sex, terrible plot and the media’s desire to turn something sick into romance. I read the Puritan’s angst about glorifying Sadomasochism, the book lovers’ review of an unrewarding story and the romantics’ sigh over the triumph of the feminine touch in healing the broken wolf. It’s all so funny. At one time I shared similar sentiments, but now I think that perhaps while E.L James’ purpose might have been to write something appealing to the senses—and sell herself a hundred million copies while at it—there may be something more sinister we are overlooking: the human emotion and our relationship with Art. In what is often known as the Paradox of Fiction, one is forced to wonder why we pursue and are so affected by characters whose lives we know to be false and created, when in fact we would naturally stay away from such affective situations in the real world. It is quite clear then to say that our response to works of fiction in a significant way may be directed towards some object or another. For instance one’s sadness at seeing a major character die is at the very least directed at the character himself or a real-life analogue of this character. As Gregory Currie summarizes what is sometimes called the ‘counterpart theory’,
…we experience genuine emotions when we encounter fiction, but their relation to the story is casual rather than intentional; the story provokes thoughts about real people and situations, and these are the intentional objects of our emotions.
In essence even though our emotions are caused by fictional entities, they are not directed at them.
But let’s think about extremities, the fine line between good and evil, love and hate, socially acceptable and everything frowned upon. Let’s cast a glance on our third lives, our fantasies. We all have our dark sides, a shadow of our very nature we cage. It plays out in works of fiction, music, fine arts, and a part of us resonate with these stories too because we feel a connection with what’s been portrayed. The very nature of man is one of duplicity and so while I feel that no one was born inherently good, but that goodness is a decision we make every day, there also comes the awareness of the darkness that lies in man and a reverse nature. When I think about the 50 Shades Trilogy, I do not see the story of a man twisted from a dark past, nor a woman who through love conquered this darkness. I see one character with an unacceptable sexual preference and another portraying an image of virginal purity and awkwardness who thought this perverse nature appealing enough to give it a shot. I see women and fans all over the world living out their fantasies and their idea of a relationship through literature.
I wonder though if we shed our current skin for a moment; if for a day the line between our conflicting natures were erased, or say, we are allowed to cross over, judgment withheld, just what would we be, what will we see: Less understanding, an embraced sensuality, kind, more vulnerable, bold, gun-wielding psychopaths (ha-ha I know)? When next we pick up a book, watch a movie, listen to the strums of the beats, or acknowledge art so beautiful it pierces our souls, let’s ask what exactly it is that leaves us tingling: entertainment or the excitement of crossing the line through art.
Further Reading Art and Emotion http://www.iep.utm.edu/art-emot/
Quotes by Anais Nin