Well, we’re back.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
So, now we’re on 50 Shades Freed. Since we’re turning over a new leaf, so close to the new year, I’m going to try to remember to like, actually label these posts and link them to the main recap page in a more timely fashion. Let’s see how long that lasts, shall we?
Many of you have sent me the link to George Takei reading 50 Shades of Grey.
Which was hilarious, but I’m sure you’ve all seen it, so instead I’ll post this link, from Mandi Rei Serra, to a show call The Factuary. In this episode
they deconstruct the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey
and compare it to Valley of The Dolls.
What’s weird is that in another episode, they deconstruct the popularity of George Takei… which brings us neatly full circle.
To the recap mobile!
I can’t believe there is actually an acknowledgements page in which E.L. thanks people for helping her with research. I can come up with two scenarios to how this went down. The first one is, she wanted knowledge from a professional, but all the ones who knew what they were talking about were booked. The second is, these people gave her their advice, and E.L. pretended to be listening and then went and wrote whatever the hell she wanted. Both of those fly in the face of logic when you consider that despite an acknowledgements page arguing the contrary, E.L. James obviously couldn’t have been bothered to research a damn thing. I’m going to just go forward assuming all of these thank yous are directed at fandom friends who are indeed PhDs, but not in the subjects she’s thanking them for helping in.
I hope you enjoy vague, deconstructed dream sequences, readers, because that is what the prologue and chapter one are all about.
The prologue is written in pseudo-child head pov:
My tummy hurts. It is hungry. He isn’t here. I am thirsty. In the kitchen I pull a chair to the sink and I have a drink. The water splashes over my blue sweater. Mommy is still asleep. Mommy wake up! She lies still. She is cold.
Can anyone else see a really pretentious theatre major acting this out in a workshop? Like, maybe the one who has an obvious crush on the professor, who is happily married and not interested? I can see that. I can see that with a clarity like unto the states of spiritual consciousness obtained by mountaintop gurus of yore.
Do children actually think that literally? “My tummy hurts. It is hungry.” “I am thirsty.” I get that he’s going through a traumatizing experience here, but I also remember being a kid. I don’t remember consciously walking through my day to day like a running monologue in my head. I said all that shit out loud, in a constant verbal barrage I unthinkingly unloaded onto anyone, even people slightly out of normal conversation distance. Maybe that’s why this is throwing me. He’s not narrating all this to himself aloud.
Anyway, you know how this goes down, Chedward is having a bad dream and Ana wakes him:
“Hush, I’m here.” She curls around him, her limbs cocooning him, her warmth leeching into his body, forcing back the shadows, forcing back the fear. She is sunshine, she is light… she is his.
Is this a vampire book?
It is revealed that Christian and Ana fought about putting “obey” in their wedding vows. Oh, I really hope we get to see the fight where Ana gives in because of course she’s obeying him because this book was written by Don Draper.
And then she stopped being so fussy about the damn vows, or she got slapped.
Ana promises Christian that they’re going to find a way together, and then it’s on to chapter one. Chapter one takes us directly from “disturbingly graphic first hand account of a child left alone with his mother’s corpse,” to “Yay, romantic honeymoon!” Can I just say that if you’re writing a novel right now, pick a tone and go with it? You can’t be both a searing portrayal of child neglect and a book for people to jack off to. It’s not going to work.
Anyway, Ana is staring up at the sky. I wish I could tell you what color it is, but she’s not terribly clear about it:
I stare up through gaps in the sea-grass parasol at the bluest of skies, summer blue, Mediterranean blue, with a contented sigh.
Oh, some other douche is there with her, too:
My husband – my hot, beautiful husband, shirtless and in cut-off jeans – is reading a book predicting the collapse of the Western banking system.
Yeah. He’s reading that on the beach on their honeymoon. How is that for some serious romance. “Oh baby, reading about how the world economy is in the shitter gets me so hot. Let’s go spit on poor people!”
Ana and Christian are hanging out on a hotel beach in Monte Carlo, but Ana is quick to point out that they aren’t staying in some plebeian hotel:
I open my eyes and gaze out at the Fair Lady anchored in the harbor. We are staying, of course, on board a luxury motor yacht. Built in 1928, she floats majestically on the water, queen of all the yachts in the harbor. She looks like a child’s wind-up toy. Christian loves her – I suspect he’s tempted to buy her. Honestly, boys and their toys.
Looks like she got over that “uncomfortable with money” thing pretty quick. “Of course we’re not staying at some chintzy beachside Monte Carlo hotel! What are we? Paupers?”
Also, let me point out that this is the beginning of a book that, while it is a sequel, should probably provide a little background story for someone who picked this one up first. A reader who begins this with no prior knowledge of the other books is going to, after a thoroughly confusing prologue about child neglect, know more about the yacht the characters are vacationing on than the characters themselves.
Sitting back, I listen to the Christian Grey mix on my new iPod and doze in the late afternoon sun, idly remembering his proposal. Oh, his dreamy proposal in the boathouse… I can almost smell the scent of the meadow flowers…
Which new iPod? The new one that your husband got you when you first started dating? Does everyone get what I’m saying there? Because I don’t know if I can be any more sarcastic without straining a muscle.
A section break sends us back in time, to when Ana and Christian have just finished having sex in his parent’s boathouse. Again. For the second time. As they lay entwined in a bliss more perfect than anything you’ll ever know, a love deeper than you will ever be capable of surrendering to, they talk about where they want to have the wedding. Christian suggests eloping to Vegas, but Ana wants an actual wedding. Christian figures Carlisle and Esme will let them have it at their place.
Hey, serious request here, can anyone who has retained more knowledge of Breaking Dawn or Twilight in general compare page 6 of 50 Shades Freed to the wedding nonsense in Twilight? It’s that page in particular that felt strongly ripped off, but I can’t put my finger on specific instances. Can someone either confirm my suspicion or tell me I’m crazy?
Christian tells Ana that he’ll agree to a one month engagement. Let’s try to do the math here. They knew each other for… two weeks? Three? And then they broke up for five days. And now they’ve been together… another two weeks? At most, these people will have known each other for NINE WEEKS before their WEDDING.
I cannot stress enough how fucked up I find this. In a completely judgmental way. People are going to leave comments saying, “How dare you, I got married to my SOUL MATE after NINE HOURS and we live in ETERNAL PARADISE!” and I’m going to say, “Yeah, well you made a chump bet that actually paid off. Congratulations, your marriage is successful, but it was still STUPID.”
Unless you needed to get married for a green card. In which case, 1990’s Gerard Depardieu was hot.
Flash forward, because E.L. James got her book confused with the narrative timeline from Pulp Fiction, and Christian is smoothing sunscreen over Ana’s magnificent body:
“You’ll burn,” Christian whispers in my ear, startling me from my doze.
“Only for you.”
Oh god, is this the vacation version of “I’m hungry but not for food?” Because I’ll drown myself if it is.
Smiling, I roll over, and he undoes the back strap of my hideously expensive bikini.
Oh my god, stahp. We get it. I promise, we all get it. You married a rich guy. You have the most expensive everything and you won. You are the Highlander of women.
The Highlander reference was just an excuse to work in this picture of me and Sidney Ayers with Adrian Paul.
Regarding the bikini, which Christian probably picked out himself because he seems to have a real hard-on for buying her clothes he later tells her she can’t wear, Christian tells her he wishes she was wearing more. Is she supposed to wear full fucking sleeves to the beach or something? He tells her she’s for his eyes only, and takes a business call.
My inner goddess purs. Maybe tonight we could do some kind of floor show for his eyes only. She smirks knowingly, arching a brow. I grin at the thought and drift back into my afternoon siesta.
Siesta is always in the afternoon, moron. Also, in my copy of the book, “siesta” is crossed out and replaced with “hallucination.”
Ana wakes to Christian speaking “fluent French.” How does E.L. demonstrate this fluency? What fascinating subject could Christian be talking about now?
“Mam’selle? un Perrier pour moi, un Coca-Cola light pour ma femme, s’il vous plait. Et quelque chose a manger… laissez-moi voir la carte.”
Wait, he ordered a Perrier, a Diet Coke, and asked for a menu? That’s not fluency. Anyone could do that. You get a cd or something right before you go on your trip, and you can manage that. You want fluency? Fluency is what Ana will need after she gets that sunburn, and then has to go to the pharmacy, and then when she draws the woman at the counter a picture like this:
the woman at the counter jumps to all sorts of crazy fucking conclusions and decides the American girl delirious from her sunburn is trying to score some weed, THAT is where you demonstrate fluency, if you have it. When you’re trying to talk your way out of the back of a French police car, that’s when.
Not that I know anyone who has had that or any similar circumstance happen to them in Nice in 1998.
His shorts fall a little and hang… in that way so his swim trunks are visible beneath.
You know, this is the third book and just another in a line of countless hours I have spent trying to deal with this nonsense, and I still have no idea what pants look like when they hang “in that way.” I’m going to strive to be that vague in my writing, because apparently that’s where all the profit is.
Christian wants Ana to come swimming with him, but she’s still sleepy and doesn’t immediately spring up from her lounge to join him. Obviously, he has to throw her over his shoulder and march her into that fucking ocean, because that’s how you show a woman who’s boss.
Several sunbathers on the beach watch with that bemused disinterest so typical, I now realize, of the French, as Christian carries me to the sea, laughing, and wades in.
Ana is alleging that French people are typically confused, but they don’t really give a shit? Is that what I’m grasping from that description?
“I know your game,” he whispers and slowly sinks into the cool, clear water, taking me with him as his lips find mine once more. The chill of the Mediterranean is soon forgotten as I wrap myself around my husband.
You guys remember that you’re on a hotel beach, right? People can see you. Also, what’s up with the cool water in the chill Mediterranean? They met in May, judging from the fact that Ana graduated the same week. Even being totally cautious with my estimate and giving them a generous three months instead of nine weeks, that would still put them in Monte Carlo in August. The water temps in Monte Carlo and August of this year were between 22 and 27 degrees celsius. For my fahrenheit friends, that means it’s between 70 and 80 degrees.
Research! That took me two entire minutes of my life.
Christian asks Ana, “‘Shall I take you in the sea?'” and I laughed out loud, because 1. He already took her in the sea, when he carried her into the water, and 2. who the fuck talks like that? Christian doesn’t want to do her in front of all the bemused Frenchies, so they just swim. My theory is that E.L. couldn’t write the part where they have sex in the drink because that scene faded to black in Twilight, thus obscuring her rip-off roadmap.
Ana swims to shore and wonders how to get Christian to come pay attention to her:
I shield my eyes from the sun as I watch him go. He’s such a tease… what can I do to get him back? While I swim to the shore, I contemplate my options. At the lounges our drinks have arrived, and I take a quick sip of Diet Coke. Christian is a faint speck in the distance.
I hope he gets decapitated by a passing jet ski.
Hmm… I lie down on my front and, fumbling with the straps, take my bikini top off and toss it casually onto Christian’s sun lounge. There… see how brazen I can be, Mr. Grey. Put this in your pipe and smoke it. I shut my eyes and let the sun warm my skin… warm my bones, and I drift away under its heat, my thoughts turning to my wedding day.
And the award for most artless flashback transition goes to…
There is nothing worse in real life than going to the wedding of someone you actually care about. Weddings are terrible. They are the worst, but you suffer through hot churches in uncomfortable clothes and weird food you can’t take reasonable portions of because you’re super conscious of heaping more debt on the happy couple, because you recognize that this is the most important day of this couple’s life so far and they invited you because they wanted you to be a part of it and that means something. But I don’t have even a casual fondness for the jerks in this book, so why am I being forced to go to their stupid, boring wedding?
“You may kiss the bride,” Reverend Walsh announces.
I beam at my husband.
“Finally, you’re mine,” he whispers and pulls me into his arms and kisses me chastely on the lips.
I know this is going to come as a shock to you, after we read the last two books and saw their super positive view of equality within relationships, but in this one, a wedding ring = contract of ownership.
“You look beautiful, Ana,” he murmurs and smiles, his eyes glowing with love… and something darker, something hot. “Don’t let anyone take that dress off but me, understand?” His smile heats a hundred degrees as his fingertips trail down my cheek, igniting my blood.
He just said all of that literally at the altar. In front of all his friends and family, who probably don’t care to hear it.
Jeez, I hope no one can hear us. Luckily Reverend Walsh has discreetly stepped back. I glance at the throng gathered in their wedding finery… My mom, Ray, Bob, and the Greys are all applauding – even Kate, my maid of honor, who looks stunning in pale pink as she stands beside Christian’s best man, his brother Elliot.
Every time the Greys throw a party (with the exception of the big, fancy fundraising ball), Ana is all, “There is a THRONG there, for real, y’all.” And then she describes maybe a dozen people. Also, check out the fact that Kate is wearing a pink dress and Ana isn’t complaining about it. Ana hated on Kate hardcore for wearing pink in the first book, but now it’s one of Ana’s wedding colors? What a pink-hating hypocrite.
I like pink. Hating pink doesn’t make you cool. Hating pink makes you a jerk, if those Pinkalicious books are accurate.
Fuck those haters, Pinkalicious. You do you.
The text skips us mercifully ahead to the end of the reception, which is being held in this huge marquee on the Grey’s lawn. Ana watches Ray and her mother dancing and her thoughts turn to divorce, like so many happy wedding day thoughts do:
I hope Christian and I last longer. I don’t know what I’d do if he left me. Marry in haste, repent at leisure. The saying haunts me.
You don’t know what you’d do if he left you? Clean up in divorce court, for one thing. “He psychologically manipulated me into marrying him, your honor.”
Kate comes over and notices Ana’s doubts, so she offers some words of wisdom:
“Ana, it’s obvious he adores you. I know you had an unconventional start to your relationship, but I can see how happy you’ve both been over the past month.” She grasps my hands, squeezing them. “Besides, it’s too late now,” she adds with a grin.
“I know you guys went really fast, but the good news is, you’re never going to get away from him now, even if you wanted to. Happy wedding!”
Christian comes over, probably because someone is talking to his property and he needs to shut that down. Ana observes that Christian is “still cool toward [Kate] even after six weeks.” Is anyone else getting the idea that time moves differently for E.L. James than it does for everyone else? Like, a day in E.L. Standard Time is a week in Earth time?
Christian tells Ana that he doesn’t want to share her with people anymore. Ana doesn’t want to leave, because “‘This is the first party I’ve been to where I don’t mind being the center of attention.'” I think she got “first” confused with “every,” because Ana has proven over and over that she thrives on attention. Even though she doesn’t want to go, she’s going to leave, because Christian told her to. But then his grandmother intercepts them and forces Christian to dance with her, leaving Ana time for the obligatory Jose moment of awkwardness.
“I won’t ask you for another dance. I think I monopolized too much of your time on the dance floor as it is… I’m happy to see you happy, but I’m serious, Ana. I’ll be here… if you need me.”
Then Ana gave him a plastic bracelet and Jose led her out of the Labyrinth.
Ana wants to go change, but Christian, either not realizing or not caring that wedding dresses are super uncomfortable, has different ideas:
He gives me a lascivious grin. “But I’m not undressing you here. We wouldn’t leave until… I don’t know…” He waves his long-fingered hand, leaving his sentence unfinished but his meaning quite clear.
Christian tells her to pack her going away clothes, and we learn that Christian won’t tell Ana where they’re going for their honeymoon. I’ll be straight up, I’ve known couples who have done this, and I thought it was super romantic. But coming from Chedward, it just seems like another creepy control bullshit thing. Also, she really shouldn’t go with him to a second location.
“I’m not changing.”
“What?” my mother says.
“Christian doesn’t want me to.” I shrug as if this should explain everything. Her brow furrows briefly.
“You didn’t promise to obey,” she reminds me tactfully. Kate tries to disguise her snort as a cough. I narrow my eyes at her. Neither she nor my mother have any idea of the fight Christian and I had about that. I don’t want to rehash that argument. Jeez, can my Fifty Shades sulk… and have nightmares. The memory is sobering.
We haven’t even read the “obey” fight, and I can tell you right now how it went down. Christian wants “obey” in the vows, Ana doesn’t, they fight, and Christian fakes a night terror to try and get his own way. But apparently he didn’t on this one.
It’s a good thing Ana has all these strong women around her to help her when she’s making bad choices, like just blindly doing whatever her husband tells her because he’s her husband and she thinks that’s the way it should be:
Carla gently tugs at a loose tendril of my hair and strokes my chin. “I am so proud of you, honey. You’re going to make Christian a very happy man.”
Oh. Well, I would have taken that in a different direction.
Ray comes in, and he and Carla have a big cry fest over their daughter. It’s a scene you’ve seen countless times in movies and books, so I won’t bore you with it, even though E.L. does. They do the traditional “run away from our guests” thing, Mia catches the bouquet, and Taylor whisks the couple away to an airfield, where a company jet is waiting. I love seeing happy couples mismanaging company funds for personal vacations.
Taylor halts the Audi at the foot of the steps leading up to the plane and leaps out to open Christian’s door. They have a brief discussion, then Christian opens my door – and rather than stepping back to give me room to climb out, he leans in and lifts me.
Whoa! “What are you doing?” I squeak.
“Carrying you over the threshold,” he says.
“Oh.” Isn’t that supposed to be at home?
He carries me effortlessly up the steps,
BULLSHIT! People can’t even walk effortlessly up those steps. If you’ve ever walked up a staircase to a plane, you know what I’m talking about. And it would have been hilarious if Christian was like, “This is home. Bad news. The company folded this morning. We’re paupers now. This plane is all we have left and we have to live in it.”
Because literally every character in this mess must have a name, no matter how small the role, we meet Stephan the pilot and First Officer Beighly, a homewrecker:
She blushes as Christian introduces her and blinks rapidly. I want to roll my eyes. Another female completely captivated by my too-handsome-for-his-own-good husband.
“Delighted to meet you,” gushes Beighly. I smile kindly at her. After all – he is mine.
Pack it up ladies, the game is over. Ana won the prize, we can all go home. At least she’ll deign to talk to us all from her lofty new position as supreme winner of all womanness.
Christian chats with the pilot, and Boston and Shannon both are mentioned, which makes Ana insane with curiosity. Since there is no other conflict in these books at all, the suspense gets dragged out a little longer while Ana gives us a description of the cabin:
The interior is all pale maple and pale cream leather. It’s lovely. Another young woman in uniform stands at the other end of the cabin – a very pretty brunette.
This is why I’m totally grossed out when people call this book a romance. Romance is a very specific genre, with very specific rules. No romance novel should ever allude to the heroine wondering if her new husband, the hero, has fucked this girl on the honeymoon getaway plane. Moments later, Christian glances at the pretty flight attendant and frowns, which is even more telling.
Taking my hand, he leads me to one of the sumptuous leather seats. There must be about twelve of them in total.
Have you guys noticed that in these books, the larger a number is, the more precise it is, but the smaller it is, the more often it’s estimated? Most adults could easily count that number of seats at a glance, so why does Ana have to guess at it?
Ana and Christian sip Bollinger champagne and reminisce about the time they drank it at Ana’s half-packed up apartment, oh so many, many, many days ago. Christian reveals that they’re going on a European honeymoon, since Ana has always wanted to go to there. They also get a wedding feast, courtesy of the ever present, constantly mentioned Natalia. Gosh, I wonder if Natalia will be a plot point later:
“Dessert, Mr. Grey?” she asks.
He shakes his head and runs his finger across his bottom lip as he looks questioningly at me, his expression dark and unreadable.
I can read it. He’s wondering if he can get a wedding night threesome out of his easily manipulated wife.
Ana finds out there’s a bedroom on the plane, because Christian wants dessert, just not food. It doesn’t actually say “Just not food” in there, but the sentiment was too close to pass it up.
“I thought we’d spend our wedding night at thirty-five thousand feet. It’s something I’ve never done before.”
Of course it isn’t. You’ve never been married before, nimrod.
On page twenty we start a sex scene that lasts five pages and in which Christian refers to his ownership of Ana ten times.
“I love you so much.” Trailing kisses from the nape of my neck to the edge of my shoulder. Between each kiss he murmurs, “I. Want. You. So. Much. I. Want. To. Be. Inside. You. You. Are. Mine.”
When people write dialogue like that, I always imagine a malfunctioning robot.
“Whoever directed this is a master of suspense!”
A few “I. Love. You. So. Much.”s are fine. I don’t mind those. But I keep seeing these books that have long, unbroken strings of them and I think the character is either having an asthma attack or experiencing a severe stammer. And check out that nifty sentence fragment in the last excerpt. Trailing kisses down from the nape of her neck to the edge of her shoulder, he did what? Because “Trailing kisses down from the nape of my neck to the edge of my shoulder.” isn’t a sentence.
Now let’s pause a minute and revisit this whole “mine” thing, okay?
There are some authors of romance who routinely use the, “Mine” thing during sex scenes. Some carry it off well, and I don’t care so much. Such as, in historical romances. I give the hero a pass, because until recently, men really did own women. It would be difficult to believe that the heroes didn’t have some kind of legal possession of their brides, or that they objected to the concept. Same goes for vampires, because they’re usually centuries old and used to that type of thing, and I don’t mind hearing them say, “You are mine,” if they treat the heroine as a human individual of equal worth the rest of the time. People say weird shit in bed.
But Christian is saying it in creepy ways:
Gently he cups my breasts, toying with them, while his thumbs circle over my nipples so that they strain against the fabric of my corset.
“Mine,” he whispers.
“Mine,” he breathes as his hands spread across my backside, the tips of his fingers brushing my sex.
And even more disturbingly given the time of year I’m presenting this to you:
“This is like unwrapping my Christmas presents.”
When the hero of a romance novel tells the heroine, “You are mine,” it’s often followed up by, “body and soul,” or some other declaration of how their souls are bonded together in passion for all eternity. While that kind of behavior would be creepily intense in real life, it tells the reader that this man is so consumed by his desire for every single facet of the heroine that he’s reverting to preschool possessiveness. He wants the heroine to love him, and only him, and he’s driven desperate with that need.
When Christian Grey does it, it’s like he’s cataloging all the stuff he just bought by getting married. “I own your bewbs. I own your hooey. Gee, this is fun, and literally, physically, owning a woman fulfills an emotional need in me.”
That’s gross. And did I mention it happens ten times in five pages?
The foreplay is so intense, Ana forgets a whole continent:
Oh my… I’d forgotten. Europe.
You know, I sometimes forget Europe, too. But not generally when I’m on a plane that’s actually going there.
The scene ends with Christian sinking into Ana and starting to move, so you know, basically copy/paste from every other sex scene in this series. Then there’s a section break, and we’re back in the present… or the future… or something. It’s like a fucking time travel story.
No shit, you and your past-future-present wife had a less confusing wedding.
Remember what Ana was doing right before we Quantum Leap-ed back to the start of the honeymoon? That’s right, she was sunbathing topless, so she wakes up to…
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Christian shouts, waking me from my very pleasant dream. He’s standing all wet and beautiful at the end of my sun lounge and glaring down at me.
What have I done? Oh no… I’m lying on my back… Crap, crap, crap, and he’s mad. Shit. He’s really mad.
So… the honeymoon is over, then?
Expect recapping delays as Christmas barrels down upon us, but I’ll try to get another one in this year.