Just in case this franchise hasn’t ripped of Twilight enough, there are now rumors swirling that Jamie Dornan is cheating on his wife with Dakota Johnson. I’m not including any links, because there aren’t even half-way interesting sources carrying the “story”, but it certainly reminds me of that time Bella and Edward fell in love off-screen, then infidelity became involved. Except whereas Kristen Steward actually dated Robert Pattinson and cheated on him with someone else, where as Dornan is allegedly cheating on his wife with Johnson. And there’s very little proof that’s actually happening. Once again, Fifty Shades proves itself a grasping, lukewarm imitation of a superior franchise.
So, let’s just get through this.
When we last left Ana, she wasn’t hungry, because the sole purpose of Ana’s mouth is to bite her lip. All the dead skin flakes and chapstick she consumes on a daily basis is probably enough to sustain her. But that doesn’t really matter to Christian, who takes her out to eat anyway.
“Two glasses of pinot grigio,” I order from the waitress, who’s making eyes at me from beneath blond bangs. It’s annoying.
Perhaps the greatest suspension of disbelief this series begs of the reader is accepting that a twenty-seven year old billionaire with an ego taller than the Space Needle is put-off by sexual attention from women. Of course, the problem might be that she doesn’t look exactly like his mother, as per his totally normal and healthy sexual fixation.
Because you’re supposed to say one nice thing for every three mean things you say about a book (or so a recent ridiculous email whined at me), I do want to genuinely praise the use of “blond” instead of “blonde.” In the last year or so, I’ve come to dislike the gendering of words loaned to English. We don’t gender our words with suffixes generally, and blond/blonde has really started to grate on me. It is disquieting to find that this book actually has more than one element which I find commendable (the other being the removal of menstruation taboo, and fuck this book for having a feminist element, even accidentally).
“What?” I ask, wondering if the waitress is annoying her, too.
“Say the word, my darling, and I shall have the strumpet whipped naked in the town square!”
“I wanted a Diet Coke.”
Why didn’t you say so?
Because you didn’t ask, dick.
Underlines = Italics.
Now, Christian could easily change her order. The waitress would be happy to bring a Diet Coke once she finishes wringing her drenched panties out in the slop sink. But he doesn’t get Ana the soda. He tells her that the wine will be fine:
“The pinot grigio here is a decent wine. It will go well with the meal, whatever we get.”
Okay, but she didn’t ask about the wine. She asked for a Diet Coke. Also, it’s not true that pinot grigio will go well with any meal they get. Earlier, he remarks that the menu is a single option prix fixe, so it seems like there would be a wine pairing already chosen. And on top of that, the restaurant actually is a cuisine sauvage restaurant: only wild stuff. If they’re not served fish, but wild game like venison or duck, then no, pinot grigio isn’t the right pairing, sorry. My play house as a child was a fucking rusted out car on cinderblocks in the tall grass, and I knew that, Mr. Expert-On-Classy-Junk.
And I give her my megawatt smile to make amends for not letting her order her own drink. I’m just not used to asking…
- Because you’re a dick.
- There is still a way to rectify this situation, and you’re choosing not to because you’re a dick.
At the same time, why the fuck can’t Ana just ask for it her damn self? As the series goes on, Ana is brainwashed and manipulated into not speaking up or making choices for herself, but this early in their relationship she is unable to resist even something as minor as his control over her drink choices? I know we’re supposed to view this through the romantic lens of being so caught up in new love that she can’t think for herself, but it just makes her look weak and pathetic at this point.
“My mother liked you,” I add, hoping this will please her and remembering Grace’s reaction to Ana.
“Really?” she says, looking flattered.
“Oh yes. She always thought I was gay.”
Just in case there was still doubt about Christian Grey’s overpowering manliness, he is definitely not gay. Gosh, I hope this point is reiterated in every single chapter, just so no one gets the accidental impression that Christian Grey might be into icky icky man sex.
Chedward tells Ana that his mother has never seen him with a woman, and she’s like, not even one of the fifteen:
Yes…only you, baby. The thought is unsettling.
Every thought is unsettling. Unsettling is a good word. Most writers use it. The reason it sticks out so much here is that it’s always used in the same context, sometimes with the same exact phrasing. In the ten times “unsettling” is used in this book, all ten are in regard to some unexpected feeling he has toward Ana. In the four times it’s been used already, it’s always in the same phrase: “The thought is unsettling.” I’m not generally a huge stickler for word/phrase rep (sometimes a certain word or phrase has to be reused because it’s the only way to make sentence work or convey things properly to the reader, i.e., there are few synonyms for lips/mouth, hand/fingers), but I have really hard time letting this one slide, especially considering how often “the thought is” gets used in this book, too.
Christian reiterates that he’s never flown anyone in his helicopter, never introduced anyone to his mother, never had sex with someone in his bed, etc., I guess in case the point hasn’t been driven home by the five or thirty odd times he mentioned it while those things were actually happening.
Ana asks Christian what vanilla sex is, and he tells her, and she asks him if he’s always done the kinky stuff, and he tells her about Mrs. Robinson. But obviously he doesn’t call her Mrs. Robinson, because that was in Ana’s head the whole time, not his. Ana asked him if he ever dated anyone in college:
“I didn’t want to. She was all I wanted, needed. And besides, she’d have beaten the shit out of me.”
So, this doesn’t in any way excuse Christian Grey’s actions. He’s a bastard. But if he’s really as super private about his sex life as he says he is, and Elena was his only introduction to sex and kink, is it any wonder that he believes this is how a Dom is supposed to act? He was submissive to a woman who would apparently beat him for making personal choices, so obviously he’s going to think that’s how the game works.
That doesn’t excuse his abuse, it just supports my position that Elena is an abuser and a child predator who groomed him to specifically accept her abuse as normal and healthy.
The waitress returns with the main entrée: venison. Ana takes a long sip of her wine.
Which is pinot grigio, and therefore not a good pairing, as Chedward suggested. In case you’re not from deer eating country, pinot noir, port, or sherry is what you drink with venison. Christian thinks she’s “ignoring” her food, and he commands her to eat.
“I’m not really hungry, Christian,” she says.
I narrow my eyes. “Eat.” I keep my voice low, as I try to check my temper.
“Give me a moment,” she says, her tone as quiet as mine.
What’s her problem? Elena?
You’re visibly agitated and ordering her to eat when she’s not hungry, by yeah, the problem is probably your child molester ex, not anything you did.
“Is this what our, um…relationship will be like?” she asks. “You ordering me around?” She scrutinizes the plate of food in front of her.
“I see.” She tosses her ponytail over her shoulder.
“And what’s more, you’ll want me to.”
Let’s put that, “you’ll want me to” into some real harsh context here. He’s already forced her to eat (even though she told him she wasn’t hungry before he brought her to the restaurant), denied her the agency to choose what she wanted to drink, and now he’s telling her that she will accept the contract he’s given her. None of this is for her own good or because he just never thought to ask someone else what they might want. This is all because if she gets used to going along with his demands over small things, he’ll be able to demand bigger and bigger things. Which is exactly what happens as the series goes on.
“Anastasia, you have to go with your gut. Do the research, read the contract. I’m happy to discuss any aspect. I’ll be in Portland until Friday if you want to talk about it before then. Call me–maybe we can have dinner–say, Wednesday? I really want to make this work. In fact, I’ve never wanted anything as much as I want this.”
So, he trusts her to make this decision, over something important to him, but not over whether or not she eats or what she drinks? Way to give her the illusion of control. Also, way to put a big decision on a time limit by specifying that you want to talk about it on Wednesday, and way to manipulate her by implying that if she says no, she’s denying you a hugely important thing.
“What happened to the fifteen?” she asks.
They’re all dead now, Ana. Seriously, what a weird question to ask. If he’s not with them anymore, you’d assume they broke up, right? At the same time, since we’re not in Ana’s head at the moment and we don’t realize that her every thought is, “Oh by gosh golly gee, is this man who handed me a sex contract really into little old super skinny and you-don’t-know-you’re-beautiful-that’s-what-makes-you-beautiful me?”, I can just amuse myself by assuming that Ana is asking if the other fifteen are dead.
“So, you’re not seeing any of them anymore?”
“No, Anastasia, I’m not. I am monogamous in my relationships.”
“Do the research, Ana.”
Without any internal thought to switch tracks, it sounds like he’s telling her to research his past relationships. Instead, he’s once again telling her to research BDSM. Of course, she’s signed an NDA, so she can’t actually ask anyone any questions.
She puts her knife and fork down, signaling that she’s finished her meal.
“That’s it? That’s all you’re going to eat?”
She nods, placing her hands in her lap, and her mouth sets in the mulish way she has…and I know it will be a fight to persuade her to clean her plate.
Alternately, you could just trust that she would eat if she was hungry.
No wonder she’s so slim. Her eating issues will be something to work on, if she agrees to be mine.
In the last chapter, all we heard was how beautiful and gorgeous and perfect Ana’s body is. Now she’s too skinny and she needs to eat more. What gives.
The way this book is written, Christian Grey constantly contradicts himself. Now, I could sit here and go, “Well, that’s what abusers do, they outwardly express displeasure with their partner’s appearance/mannerisms/personality/etc. to keep them a prison of self-doubt, when in reality if those flaws truly bothered the abuser so much, they just wouldn’t be with that partner in the first place.” But I honestly think E.L. James heard some of the criticisms people were making of the original series and thought that if she just changed his internal thoughts to a complete 180 from his actions, that would make him less abusive. It doesn’t work. Now he just seems abusive and bewildered.
As I continue to eat, her eyes dart to me every few seconds and a slow flush stains her cheeks.
Oh, what’s this?
“I’d give anything to know what you’re thinking right at this moment.” She’s thinking about sex.”
She might be red in the face because she’s offended by your constant comments about her eating habits. But nope, it’s probably because she’s in a constant state of arousal around you.
“I’m glad you can’t read my mind.”
If I’d read this before I read Fifty Shades Of Grey, I would have assumed she was trying to let him know that she was pissed at him without actually saying she’s pissed at him.
“Your mind, no, Anastasia, but your body–that I’ve gotten to know quite well since yesterday.” I give her a wolfish grin and ask for the check.
So, first we’ve got mulish and now we have wolfish, and the whole thing has become a hellish discarded scene from Zootopia in my mind.
I hate when guys say shit like that. I absolutely hate it. No, looking at our faces and seeing that they’re a little pink does mean we’re turned on. It could mean that, but chances are, if you were just criticizing our eating habits, we’re just annoyed. We might also be holding in a cough, or it’s just really warm in here. I assume he’s the same kind of guy who thinks the women he works with are super turned on whenever he’s around, but they’re all just really cold and that’s why they have erect nipples.
Christian drives Ana home. She asks him if he wants to come in, and he declines.
I know that if I accept her invitation I’ll be crossing a line I’m not prepared to cross. I’m not boyfriend material–and I don’t want to give her any false expectations of the kind of relationship she’ll have with me.
You know, false expectations like, “You’re the only woman I’ve ever introduced to my mother,” and “I really want to make this work” and “In fact, I’ve never wanted anything as much as I want this,” for example. If he’d said stuff like that, she could have gotten the wrong idea.
He thanks her for spending the weekend with him.
She turns shining eyes to me.
Oh my god, is she crying because he doesn’t want to come into her apartment?
“Wednesday?” I continue. “I’ll pick you up from work, from wherever?”
“Wednesday,” she says, and the hope in her voice is disconcerting.
Shit. It’s not a date.
And why would it be? You’ve made it very clear that you are not dating, nor are you interested in dating. See above, where you did literally everything people do while dating, in a single weekend. But whatever.
I kiss her hand again and climb out of the car to open her door.
I’m going to air a personal opinion here that will probably make some people argue with me, but here it is: I hate it when women wait for men to open their doors for them.
Look, I get it. If you’re on a date and your partner is offering to do it, if they’re trying to be gallant and romantic because it’s a special occasion, sure. That’s not a big deal. I don’t mind reading, hell, I wouldn’t even mind writing that, if it was cute enough. But Chedward is dropping Ana off at her apartment. Once she’s out of the car, he’s just going to drive away. Why didn’t she just get out, rather than wait for him to let her out (assuming he hasn’t disabled the locks to keep his victims from escaping)?
Granted this is influenced by a woman I used to know (who I later came to absolutely despise for other reasons, but this was one that bothered me even when we were on good terms) who would sit in her seat and wait for her husband to come open her door. And if he forgot, she would just sit there expectantly, and then he’d jog back to the car and she would be like, “tee hee, you forgot something,” or some similar bullshit “look how cute and helpless I am” nonsense because apparently her damn fingers were broken. If it were pouring rain, he had to run around and open her door. If he forgot to open the door for her when they were getting in, and he got into his seat, he had to get out and open it for her, too. That’s what Ana is doing right now. She should have just said, “I can get it myself,” and got out before he could argue, because that would be the polite thing to do.
Then again, Ana should do a lot of stuff in these books and does, so why the hell wouldn’t she just sit there like a piece of furniture instead of getting off her ass and going into her own damn house like an adult and not a five-year-old in the backseat with the child locks on.
Ana shows Christian that she’s wearing his underwear, then goes inside. It’s a wonder she doesn’t stand on the doorstep like a Sim awaiting instruction until he comes over and opens that, too.
Shaking my head, I climb back into the car, and as I start the engine I cannot help my shit-eating grin.
Oh gross! It’s back! Shit-eating grin is back! I remember how unpleasant that was in the first three books, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away! Ugh, if I could strike that phrase from the English language like Zeus with a mighty thunderbolt, I would.
After a section break, we get this:
I finish my work and take a sip of the fine Sancerre, delivered from room service by the woman with dark, dark eyes.
There is so much here we don’t need or care about. I don’t care about where the wine came from. I don’t care about who brought it. This kind of needless detail will very easily creep into your writing if you don’t watch out. Also, Chedward drinks more wine than a Facebook mom.
Christian notes that he’s tired, possibly from the FIVE HOURS OF WORK he’s done. Seriously. Mr. Billionaire runs a huge empire and does nothing but work calls it a day at FIVE HOURS because he’s exhausted. You know what moguls do when they’re tired, Chedward? Cocaine. Just piles and piles of cocaine. Get on it.
Christian can’t get his mind off Ana:
And to think it all started here on Friday…and now she’s considering my proposal.
To anyone reading this it feels like it started a thousand years ago, so the reminder that this has all happened in a single weekend is necessary.
Has she read the contract? Is she doing her homework?
I check my phone once again for a text or a missed call but, of course, there’s nothing.
Will she agree?
Five hours, guys. He’s antsy to get her answer in five hours. And actually, less than that, since he’s checking his phone once again. He’s checked it before, impatient for another person to agree to total sexual submission for three days a week, after spending a single weekend with him. And really, he’s been this impatient since they met, what, a week ago? Ten days? Something like that. He honestly thinks she should have gone home, learned a little bit about BDSM from the internet, and agreed to sub for him full time in FIVE. FUCKING. HOURS.
This fucking guy.
Because Christian has sent Ana a laptop, he’s hand one of his employees set up an email address for her. Because remember, this is 2011 and a college student has managed to make it all the way to graduation without an email address. She didn’t get on Twitter, she didn’t get on Facebook, she didn’t have a Tumblr, because you have to have an email address for all of that. I’m sorry, it still boggles my mind that this never occurred to someone writing a character in their early twenties.
And like, here’s another thing: Christian told Ana to do her research online. He even mentions it in the email he sends her. But he also says that Ana won’t receive the computer until the next day. So after five hours he’s expected her to have researched BDSM on a computer she doesn’t get until tomorrow, and to have texted him with an enthusiastic yes.
Picking up my latest read, I settle onto the sofa. It’s a book by two renown economists who examine why the poor think and behave the way they do.
He really has to research poor people? Like, this is what he does in his down time? He tries to figure out what makes poors do their poor things?
An image of a young woman brushing out her long, dark hair comes to mind; her hair shines in the light from the cracked, yellowed window, and the air is filled with dancing dust motes. She’s singing softly, like a child.
Oh my god. It’s not just Ana. He infantilizes the mother he wants to fuck, too. How does that even work? How do you have an Oedipus complex AND pedophilia at the same time?
Me too, man. Me too.