Let’s have some happy news this time, about Fifty Shades of Grey-related movies, rather than the actual tragedy that will undoubtedly be the second movie.
First up, Marlon Wayans has given Fifty Shades the Scary Movie treatment. His parody, Fifty Shades of Black, will be out in January 2016, just a month before Fifty Shades Darker was supposed to have hit the screen. Knowing Wayans, the movie will probably be raunchy and in very poor taste, which is like, the #1 reason I like his movies in the first place. I feel like I should send him flowers and a thank you card for making my dreams come true with this one.
Also? Fifty Shades of Grey star and my imaginary girlfriend, a.k.a. most adorable woman alive, Dakota Johnson, has a new movie coming out soon with two of my other lady crushes, Leslie Mann and Rebel Wilson, called How To Be Single. Does it look like the most feminist and diverse thing that’s ever happened to cinema? Not at all. But it isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey, for which we can all be thankful.
Now, let’s plunge ourselves into something far more ridiculous. Let’s get into this recap of part three of the chapter that will probably never end.
Today’s recap is part three of a chapter that spans numerous chapters in Fifty Shades of Grey. So if you want to read this recap in tandem with the original recap, you’re going to want chapter seven.
This day in history: Iceland’s Grímsvöten volcano erupted.
So, Chedward has just shown Ana into his “playroom” a.k.a. his “safe space” a.k.a. the only place where he’s truly himself.
Ana stands in the middle of the room, studying all the paraphernalia that is so much a part of my life: the floggers, the canes, the bed, the bench… She’s silent, drinking it in, and all I hear is the deafening pounding of my heart as the blood rushes past my eardrums.
You know how I keep saying over and over that this book is written in a way that assumes everyone reading it has already read 50 Shades of Grey? Here’s yet another example. Here’s the description of the room from the Writer’s Coffee Shop version of 50 Shades of Grey:
The first thing I notice is the smell; leather, wood, polish with a faint citrus scent. It’s very pleasant, and the lighting is soft, subtle. In fact, I can’t see the source, but it’s around the cornice in the room, emitting an ambient glow. The walls and ceiling are a deep, dark burgundy, giving a womb-like effect to the spacious room, and the floor is old, old varnished wood. There is a large wooden cross like an X fastened to the wall facing the door. It’s made of high-polished mahogany, and there are restraining cuffs on each corner.
One could argue that since it’s Christian’s room, in Christian’s house, he’s not going to notice shit like the smell of wood polish. But he’s watching Ana looking at everything, giving E.L. the opportunity to cover at least some of this shit for the reader. But again, the assumption is that people should have already read the first book.
As a reader, I’m a fan of getting description of this stuff in books. Sometimes, if you’re reading a series, it gets tedious to hear the same thing described over and over, so I’m okay with descriptions sort of gently waning as the books stack up. But this isn’t part of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. It’s a separate novel. We need some description.
It would also be a really good place to explain to us why the room is red (which, so far as I’ve seen in this section, is never mentioned).
Ana wanders around, taking her time as she looks at everything:
Her silence is unbearable. I need to know if she’s going to run.
“Do you do this to people or do they do it to you?”
As always, underlines indicate italics.
Remember how E.L. James can’t understand why anyone thought Christian was abusive in her books, and how everyone was like, “Look at all these hallmarks of an abuser he displays”? This shit right here is a red flag we’re getting in his head. He shows something to Ana that he believes is shocking. He doesn’t care about her emotional reaction to his actions, he’s concerned about whether or not her physical reaction will be to leave, which would displease him. And when he finally gets the response he’s entitled to, it wasn’t immediate enough, which exasperates him.
In case it’s not already clear enough that Christian does not see Ana as a person deserving of her own thoughts, feelings, and actions, he let’s her (and us) know in his response:
“People?” I want to snort. “I do this to women who want me to.”
Women who want to submit in a BDSM relationship aren’t people to Christian. They’re objects, and hearing them compared to people inspires his derision.
Look, none of this is subtle. None of this is hidden. So I’m not sure why so many readers (and the author) defend Christian Grey as the most romantic hero ever written.
She frowns. “If you have willing volunteers, why am I here?”
Her phrasing here should give Chedward pause. She’s not categorizing herself as a willing volunteer. But that doesn’t even cross his mind:
“Because I want to do this with you, very much.” Visions of her tied up in various positions around the room overwhelm my imagination; on the cross, on the bed, over the bench…
The first-time reader doesn’t know there’s a St. Andrew’s cross in the room, so they’re probably picturing something like this:
“You’re a sadist?” she says startling me.
Fuck. She sees me.
Okay, like all this time for the entire whole book all of it he’s wanted to show her who he really is, so she knows what he’s like and she can melt into the arms of his abusive truth or whatever. Now he doesn’t want her to know what he’s into?
“I’m a Dominant,” I say quickly, hoping to move the conversation on.
GAME SHOW BUZZER NOISE. I’m sorry, but “sadist” and “Dominant” are not mutually exclusive. Christian gets off on control, but he also says later that he gets off on causing women pain. That makes him both a (shitty) Dominant and a sadist. You can be one without being the other, but Christian Grey is both.
Chedward tells Ana that he wants her to willingly submit to him. She asks why she should do that, and he says:
“To please me,” I whisper. This is what I need from you. In very simple terms, I want you to want to please me.”
What she actually wants is of terrifically little importance here. His needs are paramount.
He goes on to explain what he expects of her, and honestly, when I first read 50 Shades of Grey, I was too distracted by the shock of how bad the writing was that I totally missed how creepy this line was:
“I have rules, and I want you to comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn.”
First of all, I highly recommend, when writing American characters, that you use “shall” as much as possible. We say “shall” all the time.
Just kidding. An American would say: I’ll reward you. If you don’t, I’ll punish you, and you’ll learn.”
Without Ana’s internal monologue telling us that she’s actually pretty curious and kind of into the idea–even though she’s into it for really bad reasons, a.k.a, she wants a relationship despite his near constant reminders that he doesn’t date–without those thoughts, it’s even clearer that he’s already exerting his control over her. It’s not, “There WOULD be rules, and I WOULD want you to comply with them,” it’s just, “I want, I want I want,” as though she’s already agreed.
And why, exactly, are the rules for her benefit? Yes, a lot of the rules have to do with Ana eating well and taking care of herself, but his assumption is that she doesn’t do any of these things already, and he’s doing her some kind of favor by forcing her to do them. He even refers to this as an “incentive package.”
“It’s about gaining your trust and your respect, so you’ll let me exert my will over you.” I need your permission, baby.
I actually laughed out loud when I read that, because for most of their actions, the consent is either dubious, coerced, or just plain not given at all.
“Okay, what do I get out of this?”
“Me.” I shrug. That’s it, baby. Just me. All of me. And you’ll find pleasure, too…
I love this phrasing. “You get me, but don’t worry, there’s other stuff. It’s not all a bum deal.” Also, “all of me”…uh, excuse me, Mr. Proud Of Withholding, you might want to rethink that. Because at the moment, and through basically this entire book, the only thing you’re actually willing to give her is a sexual relationship. Unless sex is “all of you”, in which case I now understand why you’re so damned boring.
Her eyes widen fractionally as she stares at me, saying nothing. It’s exasperating. “You’re not giving anything away, Anastasia. Let’s go back downstairs where I can concentrate better. It’s very distracting having you in here.”
There’s always a subtle blaming of Ana when she “affects” him. He brought her into the room, and when she’s not responding exactly as he wants her to, he’s exasperated.
I hold out my hand to her and for the first time she looks from my hand to my face, undecided.
I’ve frightened her. “I’m not going to hurt you, Anastasia.”
Whenever a guy says “I’m not going to hurt you,” I’m 100% certain that he’ll probably hurt me. And I’ know I’m not the only woman who hears alarm bells at that phrase.
Christian takes her to see the bedroom she’ll stay in on weekends if she enters into his agreement, which he’ll negotiate with her. He tells her to come downstairs because she “must” be hungry.
“Weirdly, I seem to have lost my appetite,” she declares, with her familiar stubborn expression.
Heads up, if a woman says she’s lost her appetite after you talk about potentially banging, that’s not a great sign.
“You must eat, Anastasia.” Her eating habits will be one of the first issues I’ll work on if she agrees to be mine…that, and her fidgeting.
Looking past the obvious question of why Chedward would want to be with Ana in the first place if she’s such a fixer-upper, I want to circle back around to the eating thing. I not only beat this horse to death in my first set of recaps, but I kept on beating it long after it died, and when nothing was left but flies and bones and a harsh desert wind, I tracked down the horse’s family and I beat them, too. On this topic, my horse murdering spree is unchallenged in the face of human history.
Well, welcome back to my Red Room of Horse Pain, my pony friend, because I’m once again furious with Christian Grey. If Ana was overweight, and Christian thought to himself, “Her eating habits will be one of the first issues I’ll work on”, it would be outrageous. Maybe not to 88.88888% of readers, as the view that fat people universally need guidance from other, non-fat people in order to become less fat than they are, but more conversations would have occurred on the subject. There would be all sorts of discussions about how reading something like that would hurt girls’ self-esteem, there would be think pieces and hashtags and the whole nine yards. But since this is the fantasy of a woman who’s just too darn thin all the time, not because of illness or just because she works out a lot, Christian’s fixation on how much she eats not only strikes a certain type of reader as reasonable, but desirable. For all of our lives, no matter our weight, women have been trained to look for permission to eat. Having a sexy, mysterious billionaire that every woman wants telling you to eat? What greater level of permission could you be blessed to attain? And when you do eat, this paragon of sensuality still respects you as a person? That’s almost more appealing than any of the BDSM.
And let’s take that one step further, now that we’re in Chedward’s head. Women, raise your hand if you’ve ever been on a date with a man, and he’s commented on the food you order. “I’m so glad you’re not the kind of girl who orders a salad.” “How do you stay so skinny and eat so much?” “What are you, on a diet?” It’s a guessing game where there’s no right answer; no matter what you do, he’s going to judge you. How much simpler is it to just have a man tell you what you have to eat to make him happy? There’s part two of the demented, harmful “fantasy” this book weaves.
“I’m fully aware that this is a dark path I’m leading you down, Anastasia, which is why I really want you to think about this.”
No, you don’t want her to think about it. Because if she thought about it, she might start getting some crazy idea about having a choice or autonomy. I mean, you already have to wear her down and weave an intricate psychological trap to get her to submit to you full-time, anyway.
If this is going to work, she’s going to have to communicate.
What he means is, if this is going to work, she’s going to have communicate in the way I expect her to. Because Ana has already communicated that she’s not into this. She said she lost her appetite discussing the subject with him. She’s communicated that she doesn’t want anything to eat. But these are not the things he wants to hear, so that makes her uncommunicative.
Christian looks around the kitchen for food to feed Ana, because her tiny female brain can’t possibly know whether or not she wants to eat.
Gail wasn’t expecting me to have company, and this is not enough…I wonder if I should order some takeout. Or perhaps take her out?
There are two ways one can interpret this. Either he wants to take Gail out for a lovely dinner, or he wants to have Gail “taken out” because she didn’t leave enough food at the house. Either way, this all applies to Gail and not Ana. But why the hell doesn’t Gail know that Ana is coming over for dinner? Christian invited Ana over for dinner, and there’s no dinner? Why doesn’t she immediately suspect that he’s a serial killer?
Christian doesn’t want Ana to get the idea that he’ll date her, because “the thought is irritating.”
Bread and cheese will have to do. Besides, she says she’s not hungry.
So, he acknowledges that she’s not hungry. Then the matter is settled, I assume.
Ana brings up the paperwork he mentioned before, and Christian explains that there’s going to be a sex contract that will keep things totally consensual. Because telling the reader that something is consensual makes it so, even when it isn’t depicted that way.
“And if I don’t want to do this?”
“That’s fine,” I lie.
“But we won’t have any sort of relationship?”
“This is the only sort of relationship I’m interested in.”
If Chedward was truly willing to say, no, I’m not interested in a relationship with you, that would be one thing. But Ana is clearly sitting here saying, hey, do I have a choice to have a relationship with you without the BDSM element, and he’s saying no, and he’s not willing to walk away. He wants to wear her down, or dazzle her into accepting his “incentive package.”
Then we reach the portion of the book that was paid for by the Wisconsin Dairy Council:
“Why is anyone the way they are? That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese?[…]”
Ana asks him about the rules, and he says they’ll look at them once they’ve eaten.
“I’m not really hungry,” she whispers.
“You will eat.”
She gives him a “defiant” look, because it’s somehow “defiant” to decline food when you’re not hungry.
“Would you like another glass of wine?” I ask, as a peace offering.
As a peace offering, guys. See, from Ana’s POV, it only looked like he was trying to get her drunk to bypass consent. It was really because he’s a great guy. I’m so relieved.
I pour wine into her glass and sit down beside her. “Help yourself to food, Anastasia.”
She takes a few grapes.
That’s it? That’s all you’re eating?
Is it striking anyone else as hilarious that he’s upset that she’s only eating grapes, but he pours her another glass of wine? If he’s so hell bent on the cheese thing, he should have given her a glass of milk.
Ana asks Christian how long he’s “been like this” and earlier she asks how he became “this way.” These are all questions that would be totally appropriate if you were dating Bruce Wayne, and he’d just shown you the Bat Cave–the real one, not a euphemistic one. But BDSM doesn’t need a superhero origin story. “Have you been like this for a while?” Like what? Like having a sexuality? Probably since he was born, Ana. It’s kind of something you either have or you don’t. The question you’re looking for is probably, “How long have you been interested in this? How did you get involved?” that sort of thing.
Ana asks why, if there are women who are willing to do this, would he want to have this relationship with her. There’s another P.S., guys: if a woman is asking why you don’t just find someone else, she’s not swooning with lust for you.
Baby, you’re beautiful. Why wouldn’t I want to do this with you?
“Anastasia, I’ve told you. There’s something about you. I can’t leave you alone. I’m like a moth to a flame. I want you very badly, especially now, when you’re biting your lip again.”
You know how when a woman gets murdered, and they interview her husband on TV and he’s like, “She was so beautiful, she had such an amazing smile,” and that’s like, all he seems to be able to come up with about her, then he ends up convicted of her murder? Christian Grey doesn’t want to just sleep with Ana because she’s beautiful or he’s attracted to something about her personality (he actually wants to completely overhaul that), he’s into her because she’s an object she likes. We learn later, with the introduction of Leila, that these objects are disposable. The more time we spend in Christian Grey’s head, the more we see how deep his vile, misogynistic streak runs, to the point that it can no longer be chalked up as inept writing or the occasional poor phrase. The character we saw in Fifty Shades of Grey is exactly the character E.L. James meant to write, and perceived as the ultimate romantic hero.
“I think you have that cliché the wrong way around,” she says softly, and it’s a disturbing confession.
It’s okay for him to want her, but it clearly spoils the fun if she wants him.
“Eat!” I order, to change the subject.
“No. I haven’t signed anything yet, so I think I’ll hang on to my free will for a bit longer, if that’s okay with you.”
But of course, what does Ana do immediately after her next line of dialogue? She eats.
He tells her that he’s had fifteen past relationships like this. She asks if he ever hurt anyone, and he admits that he did, but not badly.
Dawn was fine, if a little shaken by the experience. And if I’m honest, so was I.
That’s it. That’s where it ends. Not a thought of remorse or an indication that he’s learned not to do that. Just a line to make him the victim, too.
Ana asks him if he’ll hurt her.
“I will punish you when you require it, and it will be painful.”
For example, when you get drunk and put yourself at risk.
We should have started a victim blaming tally at the beginning of these recaps. I fucked up.
Her lack of appetite is irritating and is affecting mine.
Yet again, he’s complaining that Ana isn’t having the reaction he wants her to have, and it’s victimizing him in some way.
He takes Ana to his study to show her the contract.
It’s a blessing that she’s curious–she hasn’t run yet.
Okay, we get it, you hobbled her so she can’t run away. You are clearly a superior horseman. Stop bragging.
Her eyes scan the page. “Hard limits?” she asks.
“Yes. What you won’t do, what I won’t do, we need to specify in our agreement.”
“I’m not sure about accepting money for clothes. It feels wrong.”
“I want to lavish money on you. Let me buy you some clothes. I may need you to accompany me to functions.”
In case you’re a reader who never experienced the joy of the original trilogy, this isn’t the first time Ana will say, “This is a hard limit” only to have Christian argue with her that it’s not a limit she gets to set. This is just the inaugural event in what becomes a solid tradition.
“And I want you dressed well. I’m sure your salary, when you do get a job, won’t cover the kind of clothes I’d like you to wear.”
It’s really inspiring how the Detroit-born, college drop-out, son of a crack addict has risen to such great heights that’s he’s able to perfectly imitate the bourgeoisie disdain for the proles.
Ana also says:
“Okay. I don’t want to exercise four times a week.”
“Anastasia, I need you supple, strong, and with stamina. Trust me, you need to exercise.”
This is super laughable, considering the most physically arduous thing Ana does in this entire book is move from one apartment to the other. During the sex scenes, she just lays there while he does stuff to her. But yet again, here she’s setting a limit and he’s telling her that she can’t.
Christian asks Ana if she wants to intern at his company, and she says no.
Of course she’s right. And it’s my number-one rule: never fuck the staff.
Dude, you’re the one who just asked her if she wants to intern at your company while she’s fucking you. Suddenly, Ana’s rejection of his offer is his deeply held principle that of course he would never go against.
He then gives her his list of limits, which of course she’s going to have to respect, and respect is not a two-way street.
This is it, shit-or-bust time.
That is not an American saying. So much so that I had to look it up to make sure it was an actual saying at all. And it is. A quick google gave me results pinning the phrase to Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. In case you’re looking for the actual, American equivalent, it’s “shit or get off the pot,” or “fish or cut bait.” Those are how we would say “shit or bust.”
Christian is worried that his limits will scare Ana away:
How can I persuade her to give this a try? I should reassure her, show her that I’m capable of caring.
“Is there anything you’d like to add?”
Deep down I hope she won’t add anything. I want carte blanche with her. She stares at me, still at a loss for words. It’s irritating. I’m not used to waiting for answers. “Is there anything you won’t do?” I prompt.
It’s irritating that she won’t immediately answer him. It’s irritating that she won’t give him exactly what he wants as quickly as he wants it.
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
Well, here’s the deal, pal. You tell her you want to discuss something with her. You invite her to dinner, but there is no dinner. You showed her your sex room and told her you want to have a D/s relationship with her despite the fact that you know nothing about her apart from the fact that she doesn’t want a relationship with you. And now you’re wondering why she might not have an answer at the ready, instantly, when you hand her a sex contract that you’re pressuring her to sign. While he does think:
Patience, Grey. For fuck’s sake. You’ve thrown a great deal of information at her. I continue my gentle approach. It’s novel.
Wheedling until he gets a woman to fuck him is “gentle,” and that gentleness is “novel”. Be still my flooding panties.
Christian notes that Ana can’t even talk about sex, because she’s so innocent, which suggests to me that maybe she’s not the person to plunge into a 24/7 submissive relationship with?
“Well, I’ve not had sex before, so I don’t know,” she whispers.
The earth stops spinning.
I don’t fucking believe it.
to the random
This reaction is probably the most realistic one in the whole book, to be honest. People react like that–often out loud–when adult virgins say they’re virgins. But hopefully only a small number react like this:
Anger lances through me. What can I do with a virgin? I glare at her as fury surges through my body.
“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” I growl, and start pacing my study. What do I want with a virgin?
And we’ll leave that there. Until next time, remember those paragraphs and remember that this man is the fantasy you should be longing for.