Problem Of Aging In Book Club Movie: Reading Fifty Shades Of Grey

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Aging is a part of life and something everyone experiences from the moment they are created to the moment they die. It is inevitable. However, despite the commonality and inevitability of getting older, there continues to be a lot of anxiety and stress that is associated with aging as well as many stereotypes and stigmas involving aging and those who are classified as senior citizens (ages 65+). In attempts to alleviate some of the anxiety and to fact check some of the more common stereotypes, researchers have conducted many studies and created a few theories to further explain what happens to us as we get older.

A movie about four friends in their 60’s who have met every month for four decades for a book club, takes a stab at some of the main stereotypes surrounding aging in the United States. When one of the women decides to choose the infamously raunchy Fifty Shades of Grey as the monthly read it results in the reassessment of their individual ideologies involving relationships and sex. During the book club meeting, the women discuss not only the book but a multitude of relationship problems they are encountering – issues such as independence in older age, boredom within marriage, experiencing frustration due to being “parented” by adult children, and whether having sex is more significant than having an emotional connection. Throughout this paper the thoughts and feelings discussed by characters in the movie will be examined in correlation with the different studies and theories involving aging.

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The Activity Theory suggests that for individuals to enjoy old age and feel satisfied they must maintain activities and find a replacement for the statuses and associated roles they have left behind as they aged. Vivian, the first character introduced is a single, extremely successful hotel owner and businesswoman. She has worked hard her entire life while maintaining a healthy sex-life but never letting anyone get too close. She dresses in sexy clothing and mentions that she has undergone plastic surgery to maintain a youthful figure. To her, age is only a number not a guideline to the way someone is supposed to behave or dress (Theoretical Perspectives on Aging, 2012).

Carol is a happily married wife and restaurant owner. As she continues to read Fifty Shades of Grey, she begins to realize that she and her husband have not had sex in six months. There is a stigma around marriage and aging that as one ages the spark between partners begins to fade and sex becomes less and less frequent. However, recent studies have shown that a considerable proportion of midlife and older women continue to be sexually active if they have a partner available. Among midlife and older women psychosocial factors such as communication with a romantic partner, relationship satisfaction, and importance of sex matter more to sexual satisfaction than aging (Thomas, Hess & Thurston, 2015). Carol, after a few failed attempts to get something started with her husband, reverts to spiking his drink with Viagra. This plan ends up backfiring leading to a genuine conversation about her husband’s retirement and why their sex-life has declined. After retiring, her husband admits to experiencing a loss of self from working for so many years. While trying to figure out who he was again sex was put on the backburner as he pursued former hobbies to fill the void. Research studies have found that, even though many are excited to retire, some experience fear from the possible loss of mental stimulation one gets while working and experience anxiety about the possibility of experiencing boredom (Knoll, 2019).

To infantilize means to treat an adult as a child or in a way which denies their maturity in age or experience (‘Infantilize | Definition of Infantilize by Lexico’, 2019). Book Club introduces Diane as a widow and mother to two middle aged daughters. After the death of her husband, her daughters are very insistent that she relocate states and move into their basement so they can keep an eye on her. Throughout the movie, the daughters continue to insert their opinions about their mother’s living alone, “being frail,” and her overall incapability due to her old age. While visiting her daughters, Diane ends up meeting a pilot and they start a relationship. As Diane gets closer to the man, her daughters become more suspicious of her disappearances and end up catching her in a lie. They end up insisting she move-in with them and she agrees. According to the Exchange Theory, as people age they begin to experience an increased dependence and must increasingly submit to the will of others because there are fewer ways of compelling others to submit to them (Theoretical Perspectives on Aging, 2012).

Sharon is a divorced federal judge. At first, she is very hesitant about reading Fifty Shades of Grey but as she sees the other women change their attitudes about sex and relationships, she decides to try online dating. Very nervous after not having sex in 18 years, she was at first adhering to the stereotypes thrown at senior citizens. The main stereotype being that after a certain age you are just “too old” and that there is simply no point in beginning a romantic relationship with someone. As she begins to go on more dates, she starts to feel more comfortable with herself until she is interrupted by her ex-husband while on a date. She decides to deactivate her account. Different generations experience different feelings about online dating and the stereotype about online dating in your 60’s is typically that you are desperate or dangerous. (Fisher & With the Assistance of G. Oscar Anderson, 2019).

The women all go through ups and downs throughout the movie but, in the end, all end up finding their inner confidence and what they value in life. Vivian ends up finding love. Diane finds her voice and tells her daughters she can no longer stay with them to pursue a relationship with the pilot. Sharon continues to date and gets over her ex-husband. Carol ends up finding a middle ground with her husband which leads to them being closer than ever. Overall, the movie does a good job of hitting on the many different aspects of aging.


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