The response to this ongoing recap has been overwhelming. You know what else is overwhelming? Reading the damned book. This weekend, author DJ DeSmyter sat next to me at an event for the Kent District Public Library. Either he or I brought up 50 Shades (probably me, because my every waking moment is consumed in it) and it was like opening up an abscessed wound. All my anger poured out like so much pus. I’m sure he regretted being seated next to me. Sorry, DJ, and I hope someone clicks that link and buys your book to make up for it.
The event went pretty well, but a few of the authors there brought up a terrifying truth: it is now easier than ever to be a published author. Does that mean we’ll end up with more fanfic-with-the-names-changed plagiarism? Will someone put a stop to it? Will it end fanfic forever? I sure as hell hope not. At least, not before the Les Miserables movie comes out in December and I get to indulge in a fresh wave of Valjean/Javert slash.
With that ethical quandary firmly in mind, let’s continue our journey through 50 Shades of Grey.
When we left off, Miss Steele (not Ms. Steele, Miss Steele), was nearly run down by a bicycle. Christian Grey, who has better peripheral vision (and who wasn’t busy flushing and looking up from beneath his lashes), saw the calamity about to happen, and rescued her from peril by pulling her against his gorgeous, gorgeous body. It was in that moment that Miss Steele decided that she has a sex drive, after all, and she wants to be kissed. So badly, in fact, that she uses some uncharacteristically strong cursing:
Kiss me damn it! I implore him, but I can’t move. I’m paralyzed with a strange, unfamiliar need, completely captivated by him. I’m staring at Christian Grey’s exquisitely sculptured mouth, mesmerized, and he’s looking down at me, his gaze hooded, his eyes darkening.
He’s breathing harder than usual, and I’ve stopped breathing altogether. I’m in your arms.
Can we all hear the soundtrack of swelling orchestration? She’s in his arms. Both of them. His arms. I love that he’s “breathing harder than usual”. She’s so keyed into him that she knows what his usual resting respiration is? I’ve been with my husband for ten years, and the only way I notice his breathing is if he’s snoring or having an asthma attack. I guess we’re just not that into each other.
Because he’s a telepath or something, Christian shakes his head in denial of her silent pleas, and closes his eyes. Because he’s Edward Cullen, he immediately crushes the moment between them by insisting that Ana should stay away from him, he’s bad for her.
What? Where is this coming from?
It’s coming from Twilight, Ana. Try to keep up. Ana has apparently been holding her breath so long that Christian has to remind her to breathe before setting her on her feet. Ana is devastated at the loss of contact, and keyed up from having touched him in the first place. She feels she’s made it “pretty damn obvious” that she wants to be kissed. So, did she step off the curb into the path of the cyclist on purpose? Because she’s done nothing that seems like a come on. She gets almost hit by a bike, causing her to fall, he catches her, and she apparently dies from asphyxiation. If those are romantic signals, then I’m even more glad than ever that I am not a dude. Of course, she blames herself for his rejection. After all, it’s not like he’s some manipulative control freak who could be using her low self-esteem as a weapon against her, right?
She thanks him, in a whisper, for “saving” her. Look, I’m not going to downplay the dangers of pedestrian/cyclist accidents. Your shit can get seriously fucked up if you get hit by a cyclist. But he didn’t slay a dragon. He didn’t even keep you from being hit by a bus. Why are you dramatically whispering about it? The entire book so far, Ana has been trying to make mountains out of the smallest possible mole hills. Christian Grey is handsome, oh my god, it’s the end of the world. I embarrassed myself in front of a stranger I will probably never see again, I better be surly about it forever. It’s like she’s deliberately trying to make the bike near-miss as dramatic and important to him as it is to her. So, basically, these crazy kids have the communications skills to make a relationship last a lifetime.
“Anastasia… I…” He stops, and the anguish in his voice demands my attention, so I peer unwillingly up at him.
Anguish? Is that the word choice we’re going with here? I thought anguish was like, when your child died, or you find out your spouse is cheating on you. Anguish is for when you’ve been rejected, not when you’ve rejected somebody. But okay, whatever. Let’s just get through this. Ana acts like brat because Christian didn’t propose to her or something, and when they say goodbye at the hotel, she literally falls on the ground, balls up and cries in the parking garage. Let’s look over the deep emotional connection they’ve made so far that would cause her to feel this “anguish”:
- She went to his office to interview him, fell down, talked about art, and insulted him to his face.
- He came to her work and bought some stuff.
- She watched him get his picture taken.
- They went out for coffee/tea.
I’m too pale, too skinny, too scruffy, uncoordinated, my long list of faults goes on. So I have always been the one to rebuff any would be admirers. There was that guy in my chemistry class who liked me, but no one has ever sparked my interest – no one except Christian damn Grey. Maybe I should be kinder to the likes of Paul Clayton and Jose Rodriguez, though I’m sure neither of them have been found sobbing alone in dark places.
This paragraph sums up all that is wrong and infuriating about Ana. She thinks, “Maybe I should be nicer to all the guys I’m rejecting left and right,” and then in the next moment goes, “Nah, because their pain isn’t possibly as beautiful and tragic as mine is.” Real talk time. I once knew a woman who operated under this exact set of principles. She could not feel empathy, because she was certain no one felt as keenly as she did. Do you know what happened to her? I don’t, because when she finally dropped out of my life, I was super happy to see her go. She was an exhausting psychopath. She once demanded to be driven to the house of a guy who didn’t offer to have sex with her after know her for one day, so she could scream at him for rejecting her. Everyone who came in contact with this person ended up hating her. And yet, women of America are desperate to be that kind of person, because they want to be Ana Steele, she of the short-circuited empathy switch.
Stop! Stop Now! – My subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg and tapping her foot in frustration.
Ana’s subconscious and I have a lot in common. We both can’t stand Ana. Vowing to never think of Christian Grey, ever again, even though it is too much to hope for at this point, Ana goes home. Kate, you may remember, was worried about Ana going out with Grey in the first place. I felt you needed this reminder, because you might have forgotten about the moment Kate’s enthusiasm for the apparently budding romance made a one-eighty.
Kate is sitting at the dining table at her laptop when I arrive. Her welcoming smile fades when she sees me.
“Ana what’s wrong?”
Oh no… no the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition. I shake my head at her in a back-off now Kavanagh way – but I might as well be dealing with a blind deaf mute.
I’m pretty sure Ana has Asperger’s or some other spectrum disorder. She walks into a room after crying her eyes out on the ground in a parking garage, and someone rightly is concerned for her. When they express that concern, it’s an annoyance to her. Did anyone see Community last week? That’s a stupid question, of course no one did, it’s the least watched show on television. Anyway, last week, Annie and Abed were in the Dreamatorium (a sort of low-tech Holodeck), and Annie forced Abed to feel empathy. When she did this, it caused Abed to have a mental breakdown. The only difference between Ana and Abed? I actually like Abed and wouldn’t want to see him fall into a thresher. (note: I’ve received a lot of email for this paragraph. It seems a lot of people have taken “I’m pretty sure Ana has Asperger’s” to be another crack at Ana, that Asperger’s is being used as a pejorative. Or that my only experience of Autism comes from a television show. None of this is the case. In this chapter, Ana exhibits behaviors indicative of a high-functioning level of spectrum disorder–swinging from meltdown to shutdown–, so I mentioned it, because she’s written that way. I realize that I spend most of the time talking about what a horrible, shitty person Ana is, but I didn’t point out the similarity of her emotional pattern to that of someone on the spectrum because I think it’s what causes her to be horrible and shitty. I pointed it out because it’s yet another case of E.L. James unintentionally capturing something fairly realistic that she didn’t mean to portray. Ana is a horrible and shitty character, neurological profile aside.)
On a very serious note: If you are a writer… hell, no, wait, if you’re a person who isn’t Ana and has feelings and empathy for others, do not describe the non-speaking Deaf as “deaf mute”. A lot of people are going to get pissed off/hurt feelings if you do. I don’t know how the deaf-blind community feels about the term, but seriously. No “deaf mute”, unless it’s being used in dialogue in your historical set in the 1800′s.
Oh no. She’s off on this tirade again.
Never, in the history of ever, have I wanted to reach into a book and smack the shit out of a character with the passion and vigor that I want to smack the shit out of Ana. Kate asks if Ana wants to see the article that she’s just finished. Looking at the pictures Jacob Jose took, Ana realizes why Christian Grey isn’t the man for her. He’s too good looking.
He’s too gloriously good-looking. We are poles apart and from two very different worlds. I have a vision of myself as Icarus flying too close to the sun and crashing and burning as a result.
With respect to Icarus, Ana, if you had been Icarus, you wouldn’t have made it to the sun. You would have tripped over your own feet leaving your house. I know Icarus, and you, Sir, are no Icarus. (This is a lie. I only know Icarus from that album cover). So, she has this sudden realization that he’s too beautiful and she’s not beautiful. I don’t know how this counts as sudden, since this is a thought that she’s had literally every time she’s been near him. She goes to study (after not reading the article her friend has been slaving over… no, instead of reading it, she just stares at the picture and says, “Very good,” to Kate). She has dreams with imagery relating to the last chapter, because her subconscious is super subtle like that. Then, without any kind of transition from her dream, she’s suddenly finished her exam. As thrown as I am by a paragraph on her dream being followed immediately by “I put my pen down,” I’m very, very glad we didn’t have to sit through the entire exam with her. I imagine it would have gone something like: “Where x is -9, find the value of… Oh… -9 is the exact number of times Christian kissed me when I wanted him to. Woe is me. My skin is so pale! And I’m so damnably thin! No one will ever love me. Verily, crap and jeez!”
With her exam finished, Ana is thinking about going out and getting drunk. She’s never been drunk before (quelle suprise!), but she wants to do something to celebrate the fact that she’s never going to be in college ever again. In case you were wondering, Ana finished her exam before Kate did. She made sure to note that for the reader. When they get home they find a package waiting at the door. When Ana opens it, she finds three volumes of Tess of The d’Urbervilles waiting for her. There’s a card, too, that reads “Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me? Ladies know what to guard against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks…” The books are all priceless first editions, so she knows immediately who sent them.
So, let’s just examine that quote again. If you’ve read Tess of The d’Urbervilles, and I have not, but if you’ve read the SparkNotes for Tess of The d’Urbervilles, you might recall that the quotation on the card comes after Tess’s child, born out of wedlock, has died, and she has to make a choice to either marry the father (whom she does not love), or linger in disgrace. This is not the most romantic quotation to be putting on a card. It becomes even less so when we remember that Christian Grey has already acted like a psychopath to her. He stalked her at her job. He bought kidnapping supplies. He took her out for coffee, and then immediately turned cold to her. He views using his first name as a privilege to bestow upon others. This guy is a weirdo, and he’s just spent a fortune on a present for Ana, so that he could include a quotation about men being dangerous in the present.
So, of course Ana calls the police immediately. Of course she doesn’t! Instead, she plans to send the books back, with “an equally baffling quote from some obscure part of the book.” That shouldn’t be difficult, actually. It’s Thomas Hardy, it’s all baffling and obscure.
“The bit where Angel Clare says fuck off?” Kate asks with a completely straight face.
“Yes, that bit.” I giggle. I love Kate, she’s so loyal and supportive.
What, pray tell, in the actual fuck, are you talking about? Whenever Kate has shown any kind of concern for Ana or sympathy thus far, Ana has rejected it as an annoyance and a sign that Kate is overbearing. Oh, but now that Kate is in step with her opinion on Christian Grey, she’s loyal and supportive?
Let me just leave this link right here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_personality_disorder
Kate and Ana toast to their new lives in Seattle, where they’re moving now that they’re college graduates. They go out to the bar with Jose, who is not graduating and whose name I still can’t figure out how to put an accent over in blogger. Mea culpa. Jose buys a pitcher of margaritas, and Ana, the non-drinker who has never been drunk before, has five. That’s right. She drinks champagne, then goes to the bar and has five margaritas. Now, maybe Ana has an iron liver to go with her two left feet. But I’m thinking that a non-drinker would have been on the floor after a bottle of champagne. Let’s say they didn’t finish the bottle, they just had a glass. Five margaritas and still vertical pushes my suspension of disbelief a little bit too far.
She’s all tiny camisole, tight jeans, and high heels, hair piled high with tendrils hanging down softly around her face, her usual stunning self. Me, I’m more of a Converse and t-shirt kind of girl, but I’m wearing my most flattering jeans.
I can tell right here that this was written by a non-American author who probably doesn’t go out much in America. College girls do not dress the way Kate is dressed, even when going out. The key to college girl hotness is looking like you’re not trying. Oh, they might wear a tank-top and jeans, but they’re not going to wear heels with it. No one in the United States has worn heels with jeans since 1994, and if they have, they shouldn’t have been doing that, because it’s ridiculous. In any case, Ana is so super drunk, she drunk dials Grey while she’s waiting in line for the bathroom. He can tell right away she’s drunk, and demands to know exactly where she is, probably so he can swing by and murder her. She won’t tell him, and ends up hanging up on him. He calls her back to say he’s coming to get her. Just like that. “I’m coming to get you.” That’s just about as creepy as, “The call is coming from inside the house.”
Well, Christian, what if she doesn’t want to go with you? She’s a grown ass woman. She went out with her friends and got drunk. Big deal. You do not need to come storming in like John Goodman in Coyote Ugly, fucking up your daughter’s good time. Ladies of America, this behavior is not chivalrous. It’s creepy and domineering. It’s stalker behavior. It’s gross. STOP WANTING CHRISTIAN GREY RIGHT NOW YOU ARE EMBARRASSING THE REST OF US!
Ana realizes how drunk she is and staggers outside, where Jose comes to check up on her. Or feel up on her, which is what he ends up doing, and aggressively so. Ana is struggling with him when Christian Grey walks up, and Ana tosses her cookies all over the ground. This causes Jose to say “Dios mio” for the second time in the chapter. This causes me to now and forever imagine that Jose is really The Jesus:
“I tracked your cell phone Anastasia.”
Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind.
And thus began every abusive relationship ever. “I don’t mind if he’s acting creepy, because it’s him.” They go inside and Ana has to put her mouth very close to his ear to tell him something. When she does this, she realizes how good he smells, and “deep, deep down my muscles clench deliciously”. Okay, Ana, but on the flip side of all that sexiness, you just sent a warm, puke-scented cascade of your own breath right over his face, so don’t get your hopes up, is all I’m saying here. He forces her to drink ice water, then takes her onto the dance floor. See, he doesn’t know her as well as we do. We know that, when Ana Steele is involved, “He moves us through the crowded throng of dancers to the other side of the dance floor,” will be followed immediately by, “and there were no survivors.” But somehow, they manage to make it to Kate and Elliot, who are, by all accounts, getting it on vertically out there. Luckily, before anyone can be hurt by what will undoubtedly be the worst dance disaster of all time, and before we can be forced to read about said disaster, Ana passes out, thus ending the chapter.