ROMNEY, W.Va. — The Hampshire County Public Library recently advertised that it planned to show the movie “50 Shades of Grey” in May. The announcement brought a slew of negative and positive comments on social media as to whether the movie should be shown at the library.
Megan Shanholtz refused to comment on behalf of the library but later the library posted its own Facebook comment:
“Due to overwhelming negative feedback from a portion of the Hampshire County community, the Hampshire County Public Library will be cancelling its Movie Night program, effective April 18. We regret to have to cancel this program because we feel that we were offering something good to the community; however, to simply cancel the showing of 50 Shades of Grey would have been to allow members of the community to censor what the library is offering to its patrons, and that is not acceptable. At the same time, we were not able to function at an appropriate level while fielding the number of calls, emails, and Facebook messages that we were receiving. We would like to thank all of the members of the community who offered us support.”
The library had planned the showing as an adult movie night after regular business hours.
“There is no reason why children should be present at this event — only adults who want to see the movie;” the comment stated. “We are, however, offering twice weekly story times for children, along with other various activities — such as our upcoming Mother & Daughter Tea.”
Local preacher Don Kesner said he was very disappointed at the selection of “50 Shades” to be shown in a tax-funded facility in the small, somewhat conservative Hampshire County.
“Of all the vast selection of movies available, is this really the best we can do?” Kesner stated in a post on Facebook. “I’m not attempting to come across as being self-righteous here. If one wants to watch the movie, there is plenty of opportunity to go to a for profit venue instead of turning our local library into a place where one must check their kids at the door.”
Kesner told the Times-News he spoke with other pastors regarding the movie. Some had already talked to their parishioners about it.
Kesner also spoke with Shanholtz, who sent him a copy of the library’s mission statement.
National critics had various comments on the movie.
The New York Post said that “50 Shades of Grey” is a film that never pretends to be other than what it really is — soft-core porn for the ladies, diluted with an “R” rating.
But is soft-core porn appropriate to show in the library?
West Virginia Library Commission director Karen Goff said, “There are no state rules or regulations concerning what can be shown. The library in general has intellectual freedom.”
Library board member Priscilla Bohrer said she is adamantly opposed to the showing.
Other comments on Facebook varied.
Cindy Johnson wrote, “Even though I would not go to see it, as a retired librarian, I must support the library’s choice to show it.”
The issue is no different than fighting for the right of the library to include formally banned books, such as “Gone With the Wind,” “Huckleberry Finn,” “Tom Sawyer” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Johnson stated.
Connie Barbee-Blackburn wrote on Facebook, “I can’t voice an opinion on the movie since I’ve never seen it, but any R rated movie should be OK as long as it’s for adults, as I am sure it is. As far as taxpayer money funding the library, well as far as I know most taxpayers are adults, and with no movie theater close, I think it’s great that there is something available for them to have a night out without kids.”
Nancy Hines commented, “I’m curious to know how often do those who are protesting against this movie being shown actually visit the library daily or several times a week?”
For the library to play the movie in Romney “is porn,” said Mitch Dawson.
Following the afternoon post by the library on Facebook, Kesner said, “As much as I appreciate the fact that the library will not be showing ‘50 Shades of Grey,’ I do not appreciate the reasoning for which they are canceling their movie night. As much as I was opposed to the showing of this movie, I am not by any means in favor of censorship. And no, it is not the same here. We were not asking for censorship. The point here is that this movie should have never been selected in the first place.”