Are violent characters more acceptable than sexual ones?
It’s rare that an event such as World Book Day is reported in the news. Rarer still when the incident happens in a British school. Then again, it’s not every day that a student goes to school dressed as a character from erotic fiction.
On March 5, 11-year-old Liam Scholes went to Sale High School dressed as Christian Grey: the BDSM millionaire protagonist from Fifty Shades of Grey.
He arrived to class dressed in a grey suit and tie, with “bondage” cable ties and an eye mask. As reported by the BBC the next day, the student was notified that he would be “excluded from World Book Day celebrations” until his costume was altered.
According to Liam’s mother, Nicola Scholes, she was distraught at how her son was treated. In a conversation with BBC Radio on March 6, Scholes stated that she was unhappy with the school’s reaction. “Liam was advised to dress as James Bond … but [he] was a promiscuous character who kills people … Personally, I’m more offended by a murderer.”
On the school’s Facebook page characters such as Darth Vader, the Queen of Hearts, and at least one military commando are clearly visible. All of these individuals are violent.
It’s reasonable to think that students are being allowed to dress up as violent characters because they are not going to emulate this behavior. Along the same line of logic, Liam would not emulate Grey’s sexual behavior at school.
Although Ms. Scholes raises an interesting argument, this simplifies the nature of these characters. Most of the violent characters present are villains, and therefore not those the audience is intended to root for. Those who are protagonists, such as James Bond, use violent means to overcome a villain who usually wants to rule or destroy the world. On the other hand, Christian Grey has no noble reason behind his actions.
For those who have been under a particularly soundproof rock, Fifty Shades of Grey presents the relationship between its protagonists in a very particular way. Over the course of the first book Christian Grey stalks, manipulates, and abuses his love interest. It should be noted that his actions are not in keeping with the ideals of BDSM—or of any sane person in society.
Although there is sexual tension, Christian Grey has no valid reason to engage in such behaviour. This places Grey in a separate category from Bond.
The only thing these characters have in common is the debate questioning whether they should be allowed to be represented by the students who know them. World Book Day, as the name suggests, exists to promote the reading of books among students for fun.
It’s doubtful that students would have read Ian Fleming’s James Bond books. Rather, it is more likely that the character is known through the movies and their promotional material.
Similarly, Christian Grey is known by the recent movie promotion. During her interview with the BBC, Scholes stressed that her son has not read the book. As the goal of World Book Day is to get children to read, Liam’s costume was not appropriate.
Events such as these invite the opportunity to discuss what should and shouldn’t be appropriate for children of various ages. Unfortunately, this will probably do the rounds of social media and disappear into the night.
There is, perhaps, only one question that we should be asking: why doesn’t Concordia celebrate World Book Day?
Surely we all have costume ideas.