I believe all art is an expression of the artist's belief. What you see on the page, canvas, or screen, or hear from a piece of music, is a piece of the artist's inner self coming through in a form that they have crafted to enlighten, educate, or entertain.
So when I see certain behaviour rewarded in a book, I often wonder if this means the author believes such behaviour should be rewarded in real life. In other words, is there a moral agenda that the author is, intentionally or subconsciously, promoting?
An article posted by the Chicago Tribune the other day confirms that the relationship portrayed in 50 Shades of Grey is indeed that of an emotionally-abusive man and his victim. Anastacia Steele conforms to the expected behaviour of a woman who is afraid of her partner, changing her behaviour, lying to him about her whereabouts and who she sees, in order to avoid making him angry at her.
So that makes me wonder, was EL James aware of the behaviour she was depicting? Did she realise that her heroine was displaying signs of an abuse victim, rather than acting like a woman in a passionate romance?
This issue has been on my mind, because in the new series I've begun writing, I am using a female protagonist for the first time, and intentionally dealing with issues such as sexism and patriarchy. Because this is a departure from Nathan Shepherd, who was an easy character to write, I'm conscious of my need to be aware of how I present my heroine. How I challenge her. How I reward her.
Should an author be expected to acknowledge when their characters are rewarded for negative behaviour? Should they condemn their characters for it? Are they responsible, even if unaware of the negative behaviour they're promoting, and should they make an effort to be aware of all the possible interpretations of their work?