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In Praise of Slow Opinions
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in That Movie

I don't know if you know this, but there's a movie hitting theaters that has the Internet in a fresh tizzy. Hint: its name has a color and a number in the name. If my Twitter feed is any indication, then most every magazine, website, and blog that generally weighs in on the tizzy of the week is duly weighing in on this one, too. Should people see it? Should people care?

The more morally-bound the magazine—for religious, political, or ideological reasons—the more grave the admonition. (And the less likely that the writer has watched or listened to the item in question.)

Surely there are interesting points to be made about things like gender, sexuality, violence, abuse, preference, consent, ideology, religion, and more—not to mention literature and film. So don't see what I'm about to say as a de facto criticism of the film or those who have written about it. I haven't read the books or seen the movie, and probably never will do either. I want to make a broader point here.

Point of order: no, we won't be running a review, as the film has no real cogent moral or cultural point buried within. Other people have written about most of the larger cultural issues for a long time, so I believe there's nothing to be gained by rehashing them. And by most reports, it's a terribly written book made into a mediocre film, and look: frankly, life is too short.

I've grown increasingly irritated with the topic's treatment—especially, unfortunately, in Christian publications—over the past few weeks. As a film critic working in a religious context, I'm not easily ruffled by the Internet anymore, so I stepped back for a while today to figure out why I was irritated. I've come to some opinions, and critics are paid to write down their opinions, so here you go.

The “hot take” has become a genre unto itself in the last few years, as technology makes quickly publishing one's opinion easier. Alyssa Rosenberg, who blogs on politics and pop culture at The Washington Post, tweeted about this earlier today, asking what makes for a hot take. I don't know what Alyssa thinks (yet), and I don't think of her as a hot-taker at all, but most of her respondents, including me, characterized it as having two elements: (1) a weak, quickly-made argument that is (2) written basically to garner lots of traffic. (Traffic, if you don't know, is how a lot of us who write for the Internet pay our rent, or in my case, about a sixth of our rent.)

The latter part almost makes sense—after all, I'm blogging about this right now, and most of you know what movie I'm writing about, and it doesn't even come out till right now, this Friday, and a girl's gotta pay the rent somehow. (You'll note the nod to this fact in the image that heads this article.)

But the former part is what disturbs me: hastily-made arguments. In my reading, I've seen a few of these—arguments that fall prey to what seem like obvious fallacies. For instance, I've seen arguments against seeing the movies that posture as contrarian because “everyone is saying” that people, even Christians, ought to see the film (I've yet to see someone suggest that), or that “everyone thinks it is fine” (demonstrably untrue, across the ideological spectrum), or “does nobody see the problem here” (actually lots of people do, from religious folks to feminists to people who like carefully-made books and movies).

Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
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