I have written 50 Shades of Grey fanfiction. I know, I know. But it’s for a good cause. Cosmopolitan is running a contest on Wattpad.com. They’re looking for the very best 50SoG fanfic Wattpad writers can supply for their “Fifty Days of Fifty Shades” celebration, and I feel like, you know, we have a lot of really talented people here in Trout Nation. Surely, surely we can help Cosmo out.
Here’s the deal: you write a Fifty Shades of Grey inspired fanfic, you post it on Wattpad and you tag it CosmoFiftyShades. It’s that easy.
Here’s my offering. Why not write your own little drabble, use Cosmo’s handy tag, and let your righteous fury shine? When you’re done, post a link in the comment, so you can share with the rest of the class. You have until February 3rd to enter the contest, though I’m pretty sure none of us can provide what Cosmo is looking for.
So, here we are. I think this is going to be the last recap. I know there’s “bonus” material, like the first chapter written from Christian’s POV and a story with him as a child, but after this epilogue, I’m honestly defeated. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I fear for women. I fear for the women who embrace this book. I fear for the women who will raise their Greybies to be “gentlemen” like Christian and “strong women” like Ana. I fear for the lives of domestic violence victims to be, the woman who seek out their own Christian Grey and find him. I fear for the women who see their abuse experience reflected in this book, and who find no solace from people they used to trust, because they know that they’ll never be understood so long as 50 Shades is the greatest romance of our time. I fear for the children who will be born to dangerously flawed fathers because their mothers believe, from the example set in these books, that abusive men can change through the shared miracle of unwanted pregnancy.
I’ve seen comments from people out there on the internet saying that they felt the tone of my recaps moved from funny to tragic, and that they could tell that the subject matter had begun to depress me. That assessment couldn’t be more on point. I used to find it fun to mock this book, thinking that surely, at some point in its meteoric rise, people would begin to see how ridiculous it is. But that hasn’t happened. To every person who staunchly believes it is going to happen, that movie will flop, that people will suddenly get what we’ve been saying all along: I understand why you’re clinging to that delusion. It’s easier to live in a world with hope. But there is no hope here. The movie will be a box office success. More fans will be introduced. The cycle will start all over again.
I’ve tried to refrain from too many vicious personal attacks on E.L. James. I’ve said some snarky stuff and left it there. But I’m done with that. This woman is a danger to women and to society in general. She is an ignorant, arrogant, self-important wannabe who accidentally made it, and now believes her own hype. She will never acknowledge that her book is a piece of abuse glorifying trash. She will never do anything to set right the horrible things she’s put into motion. She is, if not the literal devil, certainly a very close approximation of that kind of evil. She is Sarah Palin. She is Michelle Bachman. She is every woman who betrays other women, on a bloated, disgusting scale. Maybe I would have pitied her once, but I have no doubt that she knows what she is doing, and that it will sell and line her already swollen bank account. Perhaps whatever book she is crafting out of unsubtle plagiarism for her next release won’t reach such an impressive height. I can only hope that comes true. But there will never be any consequence for the way she’s endangered the lives of women who want to live this “fantasy” she finds so romantic, or portrayed sexual ignorance, lack of consent, and outright abuse as not only desirable, but utterly necessary for a woman to be worthy of love. No matter how much you want to believe there will be, there never will be and justice .
This is it. The last chapter of the entire 50 Shades of Grey series. I mean, there’s an epilogue, and a vignette, and the first part of the first book rewritten from Christian’s POV– OMG YOU GUISE THIS IS TOTALLY NOT LIKE TWILIGHT LIKE AT ALL–, but the chapters, the main part of the story, the horrible, crushing legacy of “love him ’til he’s well” is over. It’s… it’s over.
If you come here just for my amazing recaps, you might not be aware that I’m a beauty blogger on the side. I try out DIY beauty remedies for Collective310, and this month YOU get to decide what I slather all over a random body part. If you’d like to vote, you can do so here.
*Rolls up sleeves*
We last left Ana in the hospital, about to eat breakfast. Not hospital issue poor people food, of course. Ana starts eating her oatmeal and realizes that hey, the baby she’s growing could be a girl.
“You know,” I mutter between mouthfuls, “Blip might be a girl.”
Christian runs his hand through his hair. “Two women, eh?” Alarm flashes across his face, and his dark look vanishes.
Oh crap. “Do you have a preference?”
What are you going to do if he does, Ana? Worry yourself to death until you get the sonogram? Wait, right, that’s exactly what you’ll do. And pardon me while I’m incredibly grossed out at the thought of how Christian Grey would treat a daughter, and how funny Ana would find it when the poor woman was still locked in a steel-and-glass-and-sandstone-and-steel-and-glass tower when she’s twenty-five, with no friends and a “proscribed list” of people she can never have contact with.
Social workers, for example.
Christian tells Ana he just wants a healthy baby, and then he tells her to keep eating, because we can’t go a page without Christian having some kind of control over a bodily function of Ana’s.
Christian starts reading The Seattle Times:
“You made the papers again, Mrs. Grey.” His tone is bitter.
“The hacks are just rehashing yesterday’s story, but it seems factually accurate. You want to read it?”
I wonder how it is that Christian feels journalism with accurate facts is somehow hackish. Also, as this series has gone on, Christian has had nothing but contempt for all forms of press, even going so far as to force Ana to sign a non-disclosure agreement in the first book… so why did he grant an interview to Kate? I know, he donates huge amounts of money to the university… but why does he do that? He didn’t go to college there. So, the only reason Chedward agreed to Kate’s interview in the first book was so Ana could meet him and the book could happen at all. Ah, character consistency.
Ana asks Christian to read the article to her:
He smirks and proceeds to read the article aloud. It’s a report on Jack and Elizabeth, depicting them as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. It briefly covers Mia’s kidnapping, my involvement in Mia’s rescue, and the fact that both Jack and I are in the same hospital. How does the press get all this information? I must ask Kate.
They ask, Ana. Asking is like, the biggest part of journalism. You roomed with a journalism student through college and you don’t know that?
Here’s something interesting: this is one of the very few times that it makes sense for Ana to be in the press. They’re always talking about paparazzi following her around and stuff, and it’s never made any sense to me. It makes sense that they would have had their engagement and wedding announcements in a lot of different magazines and newspapers, but Christian isn’t Richard Branson. He’s very private. He’s not out there trying to be the rock star billionaire. So why would people care about him? I mean, if we want to do a comparison of famous and successful business people here…without googling, what’s Mark Zuckerberg’s wife’s name?
But this is really one of the only times it makes sense for Ana to be in the press. She’s been involved in a dramatic kidnapping. If that happened to Bill Gates’s wife, whose name I also don’t know off the top of my head but which I sort of murkily recall as being similar to “Mindy,” we’d hear about it.
When Christian finishes, I say, “Please read something else. I like listening to you.”
So he gets out a copy of Twilight.
It’s actually Breaking Dawn.
Just kidding again. He reads to her from the papers while she eats breakfast and thinks about Little Blip and how scary parenting is going to be for Christian. Oh, um, her, as well, but obviously her main concern is how it will affect Christian, because have you been reading these books at all?
What puzzles me is that he hasn’t lacked for positive role models as parents. Both Grace and Carrick are exemplary parents, or so they seem.
What we know of Grace and Kerrick’s Parenting:
They adopted a severely traumatized child and apparently ignored or weren’t overly concerned by his emotional issues, because they think he’s just fine at the beginning of the series.
They’re relieved that an outside influence (Ana) came in and fixed the son that they don’t admit was broken until like, the third book.
When his mom found out that he’d been molested by one of her friends, she blamed him.
His mom snoops other people’s private information– so we know where Christian gets it from.
What Ana doesn’t understand is that having money, giving your kids a fancy house and gifts and elegant table manners? That’s not parenting. That’s just a lifestyle. Parenting is, you know, just a for example, shaping a young mind so that it understands that imprisoning another human being with guards and proscribed lists and spying and manipulation isn’t great.
Maybe it was the Bitch Troll’s interference that damaged him so badly. I’d like to think so. But in truth I think it goes back to his birth mom, though I’m sure Mrs. Robinson didn’t help.
Yet again, we’re treated to the theme of “child molesters are better than negligent addict mothers.” Can we just do a comparison here? I think we need to.
The Crack Whore vs. The Bitch Troll
Let’s get ready to be illlllllllllogicaaaaaaaaaaal
The Crack Whore
Was addicted to drugs
Did not stop her abuser from abusing her son
Prostituted herself for survival and the survival of her child due to hardships the reader is not privy to
The Bitch Troll
Was sexually attracted to her best friend’s minor child
Knew Christian’s history of abuse and subsequent mental and emotional issues
Used this history of abuse and abandonment issues to manipulate minor child into a sexual relationship lasting years
Put the minor child in danger from her violent husband’s wrath pending discovery
Selected Christian’s sexual partners when their relationship ended
No, you’re right, Ana. It’s probably all to do with his mother. She had no business being a prostitute addicted to crack! That’s a choice she made! Hellooooo? She lived in Detroit. In the 80’s. She could have gotten a job and pulled herself up by her bootstraps, in a thriving economic boomtown like early 1980’s Detroit! Instead, she liked drugs and getting hit so much, she moved herself straight into that shitty apartment where she died and she did it all because she clearly hated her son. Just because Elena sexually manipulated Christian throughout his teen years and early adulthood, causing damage that has resulted in Christian being unable to trust or love another human being, she probably has nothing to do with it compared to Christian’s skeevy slut of a mom.
Ana is thinking about all of this stuff when there’s a knock at the door.
Detective Clark makes an apologetic entry into the room. He’s right to be apologetic– my heart sinks when I see him.
Yeah, he should apologize to you for doing his job and trying to keep you safe from the guy who tried to rape you more than once, who kidnapped your sister-in-law and tried to kidnap you, who set fire to your husband’s business, invaded your home, extorted a ransom from you, and beat you so bad you were hospitalized. Like, I’m really sure Detective Clark is thrilled that he’s staring in Law & Order: Grey Family Crimes Unit.
“Mr. Grey, Mrs. Grey. Am I interrupting?”
“Yes,” snaps Christian.
Clark ignores him. “Glad to see you’re awake, Mrs. Grey. I need to ask you a few questions about Thursday afternoon. Just routine. Is now a convenient time?”
“Sure,” I mumble, but I do not want to relive Thursday’s events.
“My wife should be resting,” Christian bristles.
Remember how every other time Christian has met with this detective, he’s been surly and uncooperative? At some point, wouldn’t Detective Clark start thinking, “Why is this guy so hostile and constantly trying to get rid of me without anyone giving me any information?” Well, of courseDetective Clark won’t, because he’s in 50 Shades of Grey. But I guarantee Olivia Benson would have picked up on this shit, if she weren’t on a different spin-off. The difference is that this time, Christian is negatively impacting Ana, not himself. Ana just withdrew five million dollars from the bank, then shot somebody. Yeah, on the surface it’s going to look like a kidnapping/ransom thing that went wrong, but with Christian wanting to constantly chase away any police involvement, maybe Detective Clark is going to wonder if that five million was being extorted to cover something seriously up.
Don’t worry, that doesn’t happen here.
There’s a section break where we thankfully don’t have to hear all the details of the most improbable ransom drop in history being repeated again, and Detective Clark tells Ana she would have done “womankind” a service if she’d killed Jack Hyde. He also tells them that he’s pretty sure Jack won’t make bail this time. Excuse me, but how the hell did he make bail the last time? Christian wants to know who posted bail for Jack, but it’s confidential. Ana suspects Christian has someone in mind, but obviously he’s not going to tell her because communication is the anti-sexy.
After another section break, Ana is being discharged from the hospital:
I nod, trying to contain my delight at going home.
The staff of the entire hospital are probably struggling to do the same thing.
As Dr Singh leaves, Christian asks her for a quick word in the corridor. He keeps the door ajar as he asks her a question She smiles.
“Yes, Mr. Grey, that’s fine.”
He grins and returns to the room a happier man.
“What was that all about?”
“Sex,” he says, flashing a wicked grin.
You know what? Let’s have an imagination time.
Let’s imagine, shall we, what that conversation with Dr Singh would have been like in a real world, not a 50 Shades of Improbability world:
Christian: “Dr. Singh, when can my wife have sex again?”
Dr. Singh: “Mr. Grey, your wife has been through a very traumatic experience. Not only does her head injury still pose the risk of possible lasting side effects, the emotional toll of being taken hostage, beaten, and extorted cannot be taken lightly. I would advise Mrs. Grey to bring up the topic of sexual intimacy with whichever mental health professional she engages for therapy. She can get a referral from her family doctor, whom she should see within the next few days.”
Obviously, there will always be medical professionals who still act like women are property who should start spreading again as soon as possible after surgery or birth or hospitalization, but seriously? Dr. Singh thinks it’s funny that Ana has been the victim of a violent crime– a violent crime at the hands of a man who’d already threatened to rape her on multiple occasions– and her husband wants to start banging her right away? Fuck you, Dr. Singh. You suck so much balls.
Ana’s reaction to all of this is to crack a joke about her head injury:
“I have a headache,” I smirk right back.
“I know. You’ll be off limits for a while. I was just checking.”
If you weren’t going to have sex with her, then why did you need to know? Well, dear reader, here is why he needed to know: because Christian Grey manipulates Ana with sex, and he needs to know if his manipulation tool can feasibly be put back into use. See, what he’s done here is plant the seed of the possibility of sex in Ana’s mind. For the rest of the chapter, she’s drooling and panting like Pavlov’s dog at a handbell choir concert, because Christian brought it up. And for the rest of the chapter, Christian makes it a point to remind her that he’s going to deny her sex, for her own safety. He’s just protecting her.
Isn’t it funny how often Christian’s protection of Ana looks like deeply calculated psychological manipulation?
Before they leave the hospital, Ana wants to go see Ray. Jesus, is that guy still there? It feels like he’s been in there for fucking ever, but it’s only been like five or six days at this point, right? So really wrap your head around what an average week for Ana Steele is. In one week:
Her father nearly dies.
She finds out she’s pregnant.
Her husband explodes in a rage over the pregnancy and goes to his ex lover.
Her sister-in-law gets kidnapped.
She gets beaten unconscious during a ransom drop.
She shoots a man.
She spends some time in a coma.
Seriously, every week seems to be like this for these people. There’s always some kind of bullshit drama happening. I’m starting to imagine Christian and Ana becoming aged before their time by the stress of just getting through a full calendar month without anybody dying.
Christian tells Ana that he hasn’t told Ray or Carla about the baby:
“Thank you.” I smile, grateful that he hasn’t stolen my thunder.
Or, you know. Disclosed personal information about you without consulting you. THAT TOO.
Christian warns Ana that Ray is mad at her:
“I should warn you, he’s mad as hell. Said I should spank you.”
What? Christian laughs at my appalled expression. “I told him I’d be only too willing to oblige.”
Christian tells Ana that Taylor brought her some clothes– because even after everything they’ve been through, Christian apparently can’t do anything to take care of Ana that involves him doing literally any other action than giving another person orders to do it for him– and then there’s a section break and we get:
As Christian predicted, Ray is furious. I don’t ever remember him being this mad. Christian has wisely decided to leave us alone. For such a taciturn man, Ray fills his hospital room with his invective, berating me for my irresponsible behavior.
Keep in mind, my friends, that the sole reason Ana went on this ransom drop was to save the life of another human being. She was trying to save Mia. But nobody cares about that. It seems like every character in this book would have been totally fine with Mia getting murdered.
“And poor Christian! I’ve never seen him like that. He’s aged. We’ve both aged over the last couple of days.”
I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure if anything is aging Christian, it’s the heroic amounts of alcohol and stress he and his wife consume like life giving oxygen in this fucking series. At least Ray didn’t say he died a thousand deaths, though.
In the car on the way home, Ana calls her mom, but it’s not as long a scene as the one with Ray, because the only thing that really matters in this narrative is how many male characters are concerned over Ana’s safety and continued existence. This is made even more clear when, after three whole sentences glossing over Ana’s conversation with her mother, she notices that Christian is concerned about something:
“What’s wrong?” I ask when I’m finally free from my mother.
Finally free. She just woke up from a coma. She’s speaking to her mother for the first time since cheating death, and it’s this big imposition, but we’re also supposed to believe she’s got a good relationship with her mom? Verily, I calleth bullshit.
Anyway, Christian is concerned because Welch has uncovered some information about Jack Hyde in Detroit, and he didn’t want to share it on the phone. Ana and Christian get back to their building, and being in a familiar environment reminds Ana that, hey, some pretty fucking horrible shit just happened to her. Christian is all like, don’t worry, because you’re home now and you’re safe, but haven’t they had like, two home invasions in the past, what, like a month or three months or some shit? It seems like statistically speaking, the least safe place for Ana to be would be in their apartment.
When the doors of the elevator slide open, Christian picks me up like a child and carries me into the foyer.
I’m noticing a theme here. When Ana’s father is scolding her at the hospital, she thinks she feels like she’s twelve again. Her dad tells Christian to spank her. She’s being carried like a child. She isn’t terribly close to her mother or even her “best friend” Kate, two women who treat her like an adult woman. In fact, Ana seems to have a lot of contempt for anyone who does treat her like an adult woman, and she reveres the two men who treat her like a child.
I have a theory. I thought that somehow, some way, Ana developed this hole in her, this longing for male attention. I thought it was due to her discomfort with sexuality, because of her tendency to refer to herself as childlike or her childlike thoughts during sex scenes. But I’m starting to get a different sense here. It’s not that Ana is uncomfortable with sex, and therefore reverts to these childish tendencies. Ana is uncomfortable with autonomy. She was perfectly happy living with Kate during college, when they were both crazy kids having fun. But they graduate, and Kate is getting into a serious relationship with a guy, and suddenly Ana is completely grossed out by this (despite being in a relationship herself). Kate is moving into adulthood, while Ana clings to a man who wants to treat her like a child. Her mother makes the mistake of referring to her as a woman during a few scattered conversations, and suddenly a mother’s love is a burden Ana needs to be freed from. Now the only thing I can’t figure out is if this is a symptom of Grey’s abuse, or a character trait that has enabled him to abuse her without her recognizing it. Either way, his abuse is allowing her to stay in a static state in which she will never have to actually become a self-sufficient human being if she doesn’t want to. Is this really a fantasy that women are looking for? A man to come sweep them off their feet and psychologically abuse them until they don’t have to live their own lives?
Christian takes Ana into the bathroom, because his solution to like, every problem a woman could possibly have is to get her wet, in either physical sense.
“Bath?” he asks.
I shake my head. No… no… not like Leila.
“Shower?” His voice is choked with concern.
I’m sure Leila has probably taken showers before, too.
“Hey,” Christian croons. Kneeling in front of me, he pulls my hands away from my tearstained cheeks and cups my face in his hands. I gaze at him, blinking away my tears.
“You’re safe. You both are,” he whispers.
Blip and me. My eyes brim with tears again.
“Stop, now. I can’t bear it when you cry.” His voice is hoarse. His thumbs wipe my cheeks, but my tears still flow.
“I’m sorry, Christian. Just sorry for everything. For making you worry, for risking everything– for the things I said.”
I wish I would have kept a running tally of the times Ana has apologized to Christian, compared to the times Christian has apologized to Ana. She just went through an insanely traumatic event trying to save his sister’s life. She risked her life for his benefit and for the benefit of his family. And he’s not even allowing her to cry, because it’s an inconvenience to him. Then she apologizes for saving his sister! She apologizes to him, for the things she said… okay, but didn’t she say them the day after he became violently enraged over the fact that she got pregnant? And then he went to his ex-lover? And yet Ana still risked her life and the life of her wanted fetus because she didn’t want him to feel the emotional pain of losing his sister. And she’s apologizing.
At least this time, Christian steps up and takes responsibility for his own misdeeds:
“Hush, baby, please.” He kisses my forehead. “I’m sorry. It takes two to tango, Ana.” He gives me a crooked smile. “Well, that’s what my mom always says. I said things and did things I’m not proud of.”
Wait, what?! “It takes two to tango?” What the shit is that? Ana didn’t do anything wrong! In fact, for the first time in the entire series, she FINALLY did something that wasn’t selfish! How was she tangoing? And he’s not sorry he hurt her, he’s sorry he did things he’s not proud of. His only regret is that he can’t be proud of himself?
This guy. This fucking guy.
To feel his skin against my cheek… this man I love, this self-doubting, beautiful man, the man I could have lost through my own recklessness.
Dear reader. The only reason, and I mean the ONLY reason I am still doing these recaps is because I promised I would do them. And because I don’t want this book to defeat me. But I’m going to have to talk to my therapist for a WHILE after I’m done with these things. I feel like I’ll continually wake up from nightmares that I’m still reading these books.
Ana decides that if she’s going to hang on to Christian, she can’t be so needy about stuff like wanting to know why he’s treating her like absolute garbage:
He has some explaining to do, but right now I want to revel in the feel of his comforting, protective arms around me. And in that moment it occurs to me; any explanations on his part have to come from him. I can’t force him– he’s got to want to tell me. I won’t be cast as the nagging wife, constantly trying to wheedle information out of her husband. It’s just exhausting. I know he loves me. I know he loves me more than he’s ever loved anyone, and for now, that’s enough. The realization is liberating.
I know E.L. misuses a lot of words, but Christ, you’d think she’d know what “liberating” means. HINT: it’s the exact opposite of surrendering total autonomy without question. Note that in Ana’s mind, the problem here isn’t that Christian is secretive and manipulative, but that she simply wants to know more than she’s entitled to know about situations that directly concern her.
This is the take away, ladies: If you want a true and perfect love, you’ll stop worrying your pretty little head off about things that are better left to the menfolk. As long as he says he loves you and showers you with expensive things, you don’t need to worry about shit like respect and your inalienable human rights. He never has to actually display any kind of tender feeling toward you that can’t immediately be reflected back onto him in a way that makes him feel good about himself. It’s enough that he says the words and you convince yourself to believe them.
Goddamn these books are fucking stupid.
So, after they’re done crying in the shower, Christian washes Ana and makes a big deal about her bruises and how he wanted to kill Hyde, because apparently the only person allowed to put bruises on Ana without her consent is him.
I love how we hear all the time about how Christian would have totally kicked this guy’s ass, or this dude should be glad that Christian wasn’t around, but the only time we’ve seen anyone actually defend Ana from the advances of a creepo have been when Taylor beat up Hyde and Ana decked that guy on the dance floor. But ooooh, if Christian had been around, because he’s such a tough guy…
No, wait, he was “around” both of those times. He just didn’t do anything.
Ana tries to get sexy with Christian, but he’s not having it, because she needs to “get clean.” You know they routinely bathe you in the hospital, right Christian? After they get out, he makes a crack about her “enjoying the view” and of course she’s embarrassed to be caught looking at him naked because gasp and double crap, he’s her husband:
“How do you know?” I ask, trying to ignore that I’ve been caught staring at my own husband.
Would it have been better if you’d been caught staring at somebody else’s husband?
Ana isn’t asking how Christian knew she was looking at him, but how he knew Elizabeth was involved in the thing with Hyde. As it turns out, Hyde kept blackmail video of all his PAs, because he slept with all his PAs and was apparently trying to amass some kind of army made out of women he’d fucked and then fucked over? At what point did he think, “That could never collapse and destroy me?”
“Exactly. Blackmail material. He likes it rough.” Christian frowns, and I watch confusion followed by disgust cross his face. He pales as his disgust turns to self-loathing. Of course– Christian likes it rough, too.
“Don’t.” THe word is out of my mouth before I can stop it.
His frown deepens. “Don’t what?” He stills and regards me with apprehension.
“You aren’t anything like him.”
What do you mean? They both get off on overt, non-consensual violence.
Sometimes I run into spots in these chapters where two or three lines are just like, so, so wrong, and I struggle to figure out the order in which to pick this shit apart. Let’s start on this thing about blackmail. This is the second time in this series that it becomes obvious that the author, editors, and readers of these books have no idea what blackmail is or how it works. The first time was when Christian decided to keep photos of all of his subs in sexual situations so that he could use them for blackmail if they ever told on him for his kinky ways. Which makes no sense, because the photos would only confirm the allegations, allegations that are being made by a woman who’s already admitting to having kinking sex with him. So she’s got nothing to lose. This time, the way the “blackmail” was supposed to work is apparently, “If you ever accuse me of anything, I’m going to hand over proof to Santa and everybody that I not only had sex with an employee, but I was into some shit people might find really sick and overreact to if they saw it, thus branding me as a pervert and revealing all the ways I victimized you as your employer.” Yeah. That’ll sure show ’em, Jack. Good thinking.
Now, let’s move on to how fucked up it is that Christian is grossed out by the fact that Hyde likes rough sex. I get it, he’s supposed to be thinking, “My god, is that how I’ve been treating Ana? I’m such a fool! Tender and quiet lovemaking with a minimum of bodily contact from now on!” But it’s so, so stupid. The thing that makes Jack Hyde evil isn’t that he likes rough sex. It’s that he likes rough sex specifically to humiliate and manipulate women into doing what he wants them to do for him, without caring about obtaining enthusiastic consent, and that’s nothing like what Christian…
Ohhhhhhh, now I see it.
Ana tells Christian that she could hear some conversations when she was in the coma, and he mentions Kate had stopped by. And of course, Ana didn’t know that, or it would have made her coma sooooo much worse.
“Kate was there?”
“Briefly, yes. She’s mad at you, too.”
I turn in his lap. “Stop with the everyone is mad at Ana crap, okay?”
FUCKING THANK YOU! Ana finally points out that, hey, Dickfart McGee, your sister was in danger, but of course, that isn’t good enough for Christian:
“Thank you,” he says, surprising me. “But no more recklessness. Because next time, I will spank the living shit out of you.”
You know, if it SURPRISES you when your husband thanks you for risking your own life to save a member of his family, as in, you didn’t expect him to THANK YOU for doing so? Then you shouldn’t be with that person. Ditto if your husband threatens to spank you as a punishment, when you’ve repeatedly objected to punishment spankings in the past, irregardless of your D/s relationship.
You know what I think? I think E.L. James doesn’t know that BDSM can exist without punishments. Did anyone watch her when she was interviewed by Barbara Walters this year? Barbara asked her about research, and E.L. like, wouldn’t answer the question. Barbara asked her if she’d done any of the stuff in the book, and she said, “What do you think?” Well, I think no. I think you did zero research, dude. I think you went off stuff you’ve read in other misinformed fanfics (The Office, cough cough) and got a bad idea about what BDSM is, and now you won’t admit that you didn’t know anything about it.
He’s serious. Holy cow. Deadly serious. “I have your stepfather’s permission.” He smirks. He’s teasing me! Or is he?
If you can’t tell whether or not your partner is seriously threatening to use corporal punishment on you when you’ve told him many times that you don’t want him to, and you’re using adverbs like “deadly” to describe his mood/tone? You should not be with this person. This person shouldn’t be with anyone.
Then Christian tenderly caresses her belly and talks about how it’s not just her anymore, and he trails his fingers along the top of her sweatpants in a sexy way, so that when she gets all hot, he can tell her no, he’s not going to have sex with her because he’s so worried about her health and shit. Or whatever. When he’s just threatened to spank her because he has a male relative’s permission. TENDERNESS!
Christian gives Ana some chicken soup, and he tells her she needs to rest. He decides to facilitate this rest by bringing his work into the bedroom, presumably so that he can stare at Ana while she sleeps. I know I do all my best recuperating while being intensely stared at.
So, of course when Ana wakes up:
Christian is sitting in the armchair, watching me, gray eyes luminous in the ambient light.
Christian is obviously traumatized by some news he’s received from Welch. Apparently, Christian and Jack Hyde lived together… wait, like, in college?
“After I was found with the crack whore, before I went to live with Carrick and Grace, I was in the care of Michigan State. […]”
See, ’round these parts, if a kid is in foster care– as Christian was– we call that being in the care of the state. But you’d say it like, “I was in the care of the State of Michigan,” not “I was in the care of Michigan State,” because Michigan State is a university. Unless Sparty is taking in homeless children.
Christian shows Ana a photo of himself with his foster family– including Jack. And of course, Jack’s evil personality is apparent from a photo of him as a child, because that is how this book works:
I gaze at each of the children: two boys– identical twins, about twelve– both with sandy blond hair, grinning broadly at the camera; there’s another boy, who’s smaller, with reddish blond hair, scowling; and hiding behind him, a copper-haired grey-eyed little boy. Wide-eyed and scared, dressed in mismatched clothes and clutching a child’s dirty blanket.
So, they were in foster care together. That’s the connection. Jack is jealous of Christian because Christian got adopted and he didn’t. That’s the impetus for all of these shenanigans.
No, for real.
Ana is so full of herself that she’s pretty sure Jack only hired her to seduce her to get back at Christian, and he’s all:
“I don’t think so,” Christian mutters, his eyes now open. “The searches he did on my family didn’t start until a week or so after you began your job at SIP. Barney knows the exact dates. And, Ana, he fucked all his assistants and taped them.”
Thanks for the recap, but we already discussed him taping his assistants once in this chapter. You know, back when you didn’t understand how blackmail works, Christian.
Ana thinks about all the contact she’d had with Jack and what could have happened to her:
I knew deep down he was bad news, yet I ignored all my instincts. Christian’s right– I have no regard for my own safety. I remember the fight we had about me going to New York with Jack. Jeez– I could have ended up on some sordid sex tape.
UGH THIS BOOK IS SO FRUSTRATING. Okay, Ana? You thought Jack was a little overly friendly. You didn’t know he was “bad news.” You didn’t seem to know that until he attacked you in the break room. Also? Christian had no idea about any of this, he didn’t know Jack was “bad news.” All he was doing was jealously keeping you home from a business trip that your job may have relied on, because he didn’t want you going somewhere with another man. Not because he was worried about what that man might do, but because he’s terrified that you’re going to just lay down in the airport and invite everyone to take a crack at your v. Possessive and protective are different, and once again we have Ana and the author misunderstanding this and making bullshit retroactive justifications for Christian’s abusive behavior.
And in that moment I recall the photographs Christian kept of his submissives.
Oh shit. “We’re cut from the same cloth.” No, Christian, you’re not, you’re nothing like him.
Right? Jack was keeping tapes of all of his PAs because he wanted to use them to control them on pain of humiliation, while Christian kept pictures of all of his subs because he wanted to use them to control them on pain of humiliation. Totally different.
You know what’s kind of funny? Both of those “blackmail” scenarios assume that all the women who had sex with Christian and Jack would be embarrassed to admit that they had engaged in BDSM. Then you go and watch E.L. James in her Barbara Walters interview, and she can’t admit to ever having done anything in the book, she gets all flustered. E.L. James is uncomfortable with BDSM, and her assumption is that everyone who does it is, as well. Christian and Jack are apparently experienced Doms who don’t realize that literally any photo or video they could possibly take of any activity they’re into has already been photographed or filmed a thousand times and put up on Fetlife by people who realize that, hey, sex isn’t that big a deal, and neither is kink.
Ana tells Christian to call his parents, he does, Ana realizes that Christian just told her personal stuff– thus validating her “I shouldn’t ask my romantic partner any questions about any subject” decision– and after a section break they are arriving at Carrick and Grace’s house.
“Ana, Ana, darling Ana,” she whispers. “Saving two of my children. How can I ever thank you?”
Then Mia thanks Ana, but of course since Mia is a female character of child-bearing age, she must do something wrong that Ana can notice while she’s doing it:
Then Mia grabs me, squashing my ribs. I wince and gasp, but she doesn’t notice. “Thank you for saving me from those assholes.”
Remember in the Twilight series, how Alice would hug Bella too enthusiastically? Do you have any idea how hard it was to type that sentence? I don’t remember what anybody’s names actually were in Twilight now.
After a section break, Ana sees Kate, who, you know, is also mad. Because everyone hates Mia.
“What were you thinking, Ana?” she shouts as she confronts me in the kitchen, causing all eyes in the room to turn and stare.
“Kate, please. I’ve had the same lecture from everyone!” I snap back.
Wouldn’t it be funny if, in the movie, Mia is standing in the background and she just looks really hurt and silently mouths, “Everyone?”
She glares at me, and for one minute I think I’m going to be subjected to a Katherine Kavanagh how-not-to-succumb-to-kidnappers lecture, but instead she folds me in her arms.
“Jeez– sometimes you don’t have the brains you were born with, Steele,” she whispers.
You misspelled “weren’t” there, Kate.
Elliot and Kate have set a date for their wedding, but it’s really close to Ana and Christian’s due date, so Ana is worried. In reality, Kate should be worried, because her wedding is going to be overshadowed by Christian climbing astride the bridal party’s table and raising his infant son aloft, just moments after Ana has smeared a fistful of wedding cake over the kids forehead and whispered, “Siiiiiiiiiiiiimba.”
Ana is having a baby, Kate. You don’t ever get to be the center of attention, ever again.
Elliot hands Ana some champagne and uh-oh, nobody knows she’s pregnant, and Christian is unhappy that she’s even holding the damn glass:
“Your meds, Mrs. Grey.” He eyes the glass in my hand.
I narrow my eyes. Damnit. I want a drink. Grace smiles as she joins me in the kitchen, collecting a glass from Elliot on the way.
“A sip will be fine,” she whispers with a conspiratorial wink at me, and lifts her glass to clink mine.
Or she could have just gone along with Christian’s line about being on pills. Even though she didn’t take her pain pills after leaving the hospital, she could have easily just said, “Nope, I’m not drinking because I have a head injury and I’m on medication.” I know that in some parts of the world, drinking during pregnancy isn’t a huge deal, but in America it’s a giant taboo, to the point that when I got pregnant the first time, by accident, my OB shamed me for having had anything to drink ON THE NIGHT OF PROBABLE CONCEPTION. Ana will have grown up in a culture paranoid about fetal alcohol syndrome and that treats pregnant women like livestock. She started out the first book having never had a drink, and now she’s longing for booze not a day out of the hospital for a serious head injury.
What I’m saying is, I think Ana might be developing a substance abuse problem.
Back at home, Ana and Christian get into bed, and they’re talking a little bit about his life in the foster home, including a book his foster mother read him. Guys. It’s Are You My Mother? WHO THE FUCK READS THAT BOOK TO A KID WHOSE MOM JUST DIED RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM?! No fucking wonder Jack Hyde is all messed up. Jesus Christ.
Anyway, somehow this all leads to Christian starting to talk about Mrs. Robinson:
He begins in a soft voice. “Picture this,
an adolescent boy looking to earn some extra money so he can continue his secret drinking habit.”
And then Ana is all like, I can’t believe he’s communicating with me, and the chapter is over.
Yesterday, after I posted my ode to all that is wonderful in chapter four of 50 Shades of Grey, news broke that Ian Somerhalder, aka Damon on The Vampire Diaries, would be interested in playing Christian Grey on the big screen. Yeah, that’s a great idea, Ian. Go from a fucking terrible show about vampires to a fucking terrible movie ripped-off from fucking terrible books about vampires. That’s a great lateral move. At least The Vampire Diaries had awesome source material (even if the screen writers ignore it). You and your rescue cats will be in kitty kibble and toy mice for ages, but how will your soul feel, Ian? Cheap. Used. Poorly written. That’s how it will feel.
What seems really bizarre to me is how people are like, “How are they going to make this into a movie? It would have to be rated NC-17.” Well, certainly not for the language, but seriously? Is there any sex in this thing? Everyone keeps telling me there’s all this hot sex that’s going to save my marriage, whether it needs saving or not (and likely I’ll realize how much saving it needed when I read this book that shines holy sexual light from its pages, and then I’ll take back every bad thing I ever said about it in between giving blow jobs so enthusiastic I’ll have a neck like a fucking line backer), but I have yet to see anything sexy happen. I mean, Ana seems to think there’s a lot of sex going on, but I’m just not seeing it.
So, with that I bring you chapter five of 50 Shades of Grey, also known as The Search For The Sex That Never Was.
Ana wakes up in Christian Grey’s bed at the hotel. Holy crap. She remembers drinking, drunk dialing him, nearly getting date raped, and vomiting. She doesn’t remember how she got to his room. Now she’s in his bed with no pants or socks on. This ups the ante from “holy crap” to “holy shit”. Christian has left orange juice and two pills, Advil, beside the bed. You better be damn sure that’s Advil, because this guy is weird.
I’m not saying this will happen. I’m just saying it could happen.
Ana drinks the orange juice:
It’s thirst quenching and refreshing. Nothing beats freshly squeezed orange juice for reviving an arid mouth.
This message brought to you by the California Citrus Grower’s Association.
There’s a knock on the door. My heart leaps into my mouth, and I can’t seem to find my voice. He opens the door anyway and strolls in.
Since it is customary to mark the first appearance of a character in a scene by referring to them by name, and since E.L. James has chosen not to do so here, I must assume that we are now referring to Christian Grey as capital H “He”, as is befitting of God Himself.
Holy hell, he’s been working out. He’s in gray sweat pants that hang, in that way, off his hips and gray singlet, which is dark with sweat, like his hair. Christian Grey’s sweat, the notion does odd things to me. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I feel like a two-year-old, if I close my eyes then I’m not really here.
His pants are hanging off his hips in that way. You know, in that way. Which way? Because every person wearing a pair of pants right now are wearing them hanging from their hips. Unless they are very old men who don’t like to wear their pants below their bellies, so they jack them up over their moobs. And two-year-old? Again with the proximity of children to sexuality. Oy.
Christian explains (“Phlegmatically”, which can either mean “having to do with phlegm” or “calm and unemotional”, but I’m going to go with “having to do with phlegm”) that since he didn’t want her puking in his car the night before, he brought her to the hotel rather than driving her home. She asks if he undressed her, which leads to the requisite blushing and questioning whether or not they had sex.
“Anastasia, you were comatose. Necrophilia is not my thing. I like my women sentient and receptive,” he says dryly.
“I like my women like I like my coffee… bound with cable ties and screaming in the trunk of my car.” So, Christian actually did the decent thing (after not doing the decent thing at all by tracking her phone and coming to pick her up when she didn’t want him to) for her after the puke-a-thon in the parking lot, but the moment he tries to lightly tease her about the events of the evening, she complains internally about being “made to feel like the villain of the piece.” When he defends himself, she teases him, and of course, his icy demeanor is melted again. Because if there is one rule that does not apply to Ana, ever, it is “treat others the way you would like to be treated”. It’s okay for her to tease him, but not for him to tease her.
In one of my very favorite twists of awesome fate ever, Ana says Christian talks “like a courtly knight.” And Christian responds with, “Dark knight, maybe.” Which means I get to use this picture again:
It’s also kind of funny that he calls himself a “Dark knight” and he just tracked her location via cell phone. Remember when Batman did that? Morgan Freeman was pissed, yo.
Christian and Ana have some back and forth over whether or not she’s eaten, and she accuses him of scolding her, and then this happens:
“Well, if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday. You didn’t eat, you got drunk, you put yourself at risk.” He closes his eyes, dread etched on his lovely face, and he shudders slightly. When he opens his eyes, he glares at me. “I hate to think what could have happened to you.” I scowl back at him. What is his problem? What’s it to him? If I was his… well I’m not. Though maybe, part of me would like to be. The thought pierces through the irritation I feel at his high-handed words. I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious – she’s doing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his.
So, in other words, the hero of this story is saying he would beat the heroine if she had the audacity to go out with her friends to celebrate graduating from college. He’s also subtly blaming her for nearly getting raped. Let me reiterate for you, gentle reader, this is the man women of America are falling in love with. There was a particularly gross article on The Huffington Post the other day where a woman lamented the fact that her husband isn’t more like Christian Grey. No, there isn’t a slow gas leak in your house, this is happening. Women across the country are feeling somehow cheated by life because their husbands won’t beat them if they want to exercise their right as a human being to go out and get drunk with their friends. Because their husbands won’t blame them if they get raped. Seriously, if any one of my friends dares to complain like that in front of me, I will drown her for the good of the female species. This I vow.
Christian goes to take a shower, so of course, Ana sits there on the bed in a puddle of girl goo because he’s so sexy. Victim blaming gets her so wet, you have no idea.
One minute he rebuffs me, the next he sends me fourteen-thousand-dollar books, then he tracks me like a stalker.
And for all that, I have spent the night in his hotel suite, and I feel safe. Protected. He cares enough to come and rescue me from some mistakenly perceived danger.He’s not dark knight at all, but a white knight in shining, dazzling armor – a classic romantic hero – Sir Gawain or Lancelot.
They should print this out and just stick it in the pamphlets for women’s crisis centers hidden in the bathroom at the gynecologist’s office. “Is this how you feel about your partner? Call this confidential help line.” There’s nothing romantic or noble about “rescuing” a woman from her friends. Okay, yes, she was being assaulted when he showed up at the bar, but (and this is an important ‘but’) she wasn’t being assaulted when she called him. He had no reason to believe she was in any danger, and every reason to believe she was just out having a good time. This isn’t romance. This is an abusive relationship in the making.
Christian comes out of the shower in just a towel, and she’s there in just her t-shirt, and the sexual tension is palpable:
“If you’re looking for your jeans, I’ve sent them to the laundry.” His gaze is a dark obsidian. “They were spattered with your vomit.”
Swoon. Then, Ana flushes scarlet. I’m wondering what other colors she thinks people flush. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone flush azure. The good news is, Christian’s bodyguard has bought Ana some new pants. She goes to take a shower and while she’s in there, she realizes that for the first time in her life, she’s sexually attracted to someone. But he hasn’t made a pass at her, like Paul and Jose have. I like how this book not only tries to justify Christian’s abusive behavior as romantic, but seems to also caution against normal human interaction as some kind of future warning. Jose asked her out like normal guys do, but then he kisses her without her consent. Paul asks her out, but then turns into a jerk when she says no. See, ladies? You don’t want a guy to just ask you out. He needs to stalk you and buy scary items at your work.
In the shower, the smell of Christian’s body wash get Ana all hot and horny, and she’s pretty invested in a solo heavy petting session when he knocks on the door to tell her breakfast is ready. Ana gets out of the shower and finds that along with jeans and new shoes, Christian’s bodyguard has also picked up matching, lacy blue bra and panties for her. Ana flushes when she thinks of the bodyguard buying them for her, but I like to think that he considers shopping for ladies underwear is a perk of his job, and maybe he picked up something frilly for himself, too. Everything fits perfectly, because this is a fantasy, and everyone knows that women ultimately fantasize about clothes that fit perfectly, so good on you for this one, E.L. James. Ana also struggles with her just plain awful hair, but not for as long as the opening scene in the book, thank God. She takes a deep breath and goes out to the bedroom, but Christian is gone, so she takes another deep breath. This is a throwback to her time on the space station and her fear that the room beyond the next airlock would have been compromised and without oxygen.
Taking another deep breath, I enter the living area of the suite. It’s huge. There’s an opulent, plush seating area, all overstuffed couches and soft cushions, an elaborate coffee table with a stack of large glossy books, a study area with a top-of-the-range Mac, an enormous plasma screen TV on the wall, and Christian is sitting at a dining table on the other side of the room reading a newspaper. It’s the size of a tennis court or something, not that I play tennis, though I have watched Kate a few times.
That’s a big newspaper. Thinking of Kate’s privileged life reminds Ana that her friend exists. Crap! Christian explains that Kate knows where she is, because he texted his brother.
Oh no. I remember her fervent dancing of the night before. All her patented moves used with maximum effort to seduce Christian’s brother no less! What’s she going to think about me being here? I’ve never stayed out before. She’s still with Elliot. She’s only done this twice before, and both times I’ve had to endure the hideous pink PJs for a week from the fallout. She’s going to think I’ve had a one-night stand too.
I’ve been having a hell of a time imagining these seductive, yet fervent, dance moves since they were mentioned in the last chapter. The way they’re described in the prose gives the impression that these are some fast, sweaty dance moves, but they’re somehow seductive. Is Kate a cabaret belly dancer? I like how Ana automatically assumes that Elliot is just using Kate for sex (like Ana is using her for cheap rent), and that her concern isn’t necessarily for her friend’s emotional well-being, but that she might have to see the bunny pajamas again for as long as a week. I hate when the rich friends I live with for practically no rent have the gall to wear pajamas I don’t like. Ana’s most immediate concern after that is, naturally, also a selfish one. Kate is going to think Ana has slept with Christian Grey, and as every adult woman knows, sleeping with a man is the worst thing you can do.
Christian doesn’t know what Ana likes for breakfast, so he’s ordered a little of everything on the menu. It’s a scene that steals from Pretty Woman more than from Twilight, and it’s a nice change. You’d think that after a wicked black-out drunk, pancakes and eggs would be welcomed, but as we have already learned, Ana is horrible and she likes absolutely nothing in life:
“I didn’t know what you liked, so I ordered a selection from the breakfast menu.” He gives me a crooked, apologetic smile.
“That’s very profligate of you,” I murmur, bewildered by the choice, though I am hungry.
Profligate? I would have called it “considerate”, but by all means, criticize the guy who was trying to give you a nice breakfast. But also, maybe be aware of the consequences of eating that breakfast. It could be drugged.
Although this would improve the book, drastically.
Christian remembers how she likes her tea (“Jeez!”) and “scolds” her for having damp hair. After a shower. What does this guy do, just glare and act churlish toward his hair until it dries perfectly, just moments after a wash? Ana thanks him for the clothes and offers to pay for them, and he’s offended at her offer, saying that he bought the clothes and the extremely expensive first edition books for her “because I can,” which is basically open intimidation. He’s rich, he’s going to do what he wants. And what he wants right now is to be Edward Cullen:
“Well, when you were nearly run over by the cyclist – and I was holding you and you were looking up at me – all kiss me, kiss me, Christian,” he pauses and shrugs slightly, “I felt I owed you an apology and a warning.” He runs his hand through his hair. “Anastasia, I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of man, I don’t do romance. My tastes are very singular. You should steer clear from me.” He closes his eyes as if in defeat. “There’s something about you, though, and I’m finding it impossible to stay away. But I think you’ve figured that out already.”
Christian, please to elaborate on the “something” about Ana that you can’t stay away from. Is it the way she loathes her friends and mentally belittles them at every opportunity? What about the way she has barely mastered the fine art of walking? All we’ve really seen by way of interaction between the two of them is Ana insulting him half the time and mumbling the other half. Where is the connection? It makes no sense for a rich, powerful man to want to put up with Ana’s teenage angst bullshit. But since this fanfic would be sunk if Edward and Bella didn’t get together, I as the reader must bend over and accept that this romantic connection exists. I’ll get the lube.
Anabella suggests that if Chedward can’t stay away from her, maybe he shouldn’t. Then she asks him if he’s celibate. He’s not, and he wants to know what she’s doing for the next few days. Chedward is direct. She’s working, and packing, since she’s going to be moving to Seattle next week. He asks her a few questions about this upcoming move, and you know how Ana likes being asked questions born of genuine interest:
The Christian Grey Inquisition is almost as irritating as the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
Here are Jennifer Armintrout’s helpful tips on how to be a good friend to Anastasia Rose Steele:
Never make fun of her name.
Give her things of monetary value. Jeans, Converse sneakers, or something intangible, like low rent.
Don’t ask her questions.
Don’t wear pajamas she doesn’t like.
Put her at the center of the universe when she wants you to, fade into the background the rest of the time
There isn’t a lot of pay off to this plan, because she’s horrible, but it will be so worth it, because she’s the heroine of the book and therefore you have to like knowing her. Christian again offers Ana a job, which she doesn’t want, because being a college graduate with a paying job is so 1996.
“I’d like to bite that lip,” he whispers darkly.
Oh my. I am completely unaware that I am chewing my bottom lip. My mouth pops open as I gasp and swallow at the same time. That has to be the sexiest thing anybody has ever said to me.
And gasping and swallowing at the same time has to be the sexiest noise anybody has ever made. Rather than assuming Ana is choking and immediately leaping up to give her the Heimlich Maneuver (please note that I spelled “Heimlich” correct on the first try, but it took three times to get “Maneuver” right), Christian explains that he’s not going to touch Ana without written consent. And, I would assume, some sort of extra hazard insurance. He wants to explain everything to her over dinner in Seattle, and he’s pretty sure she’s not going to want to see him again once he does explain it all.
Holy shit. What does that mean? Does he white-slave small children to some God-forsaken part of the planet? Is he part of some underworld crime syndicate? It would explain why he’s so rich. Is he deeply religious? Is he impotent? Surely not, he could prove that to me right now. Oh my. I flush scarlet thinking about the possibilities.
So, she thinks he would whip out his cock and beat it to tumescence right at the breakfast table to prove he’s not impotent? Okay, we’ll go with that. Christian arranges a helicopter ride from Portland to Seattle for after Ana’s shift. I don’t get why she doesn’t just call in. She’s not going to keep working in Portland when she’s living in Seattle, right? And she has these expensive books she doesn’t want to keep, she could live off the money from those for a while. (This is why I have been unable to keep any job that wasn’t writing, by the way. This line of reasoning right here). Christian commands, literally commands Ana to eat, because he has an issue with wasted food. He wants her to clean her plate, and he really does expect her to listen to him. When she’d done, he rewards her with a “Good girl” and sends her to dry her hair because he doesn’t want her to get sick, going outside with wet hair. There is absolutely nothing sexier than a guy who gives the same advice as my grandma, let me tell you. Christian also reveals that he’s never slept with someone and not had sex, which means he’s either never been to scout camp, or he has some really bad memories from scout camp.
What in heaven’s name does that mean? He’s never slept with anyone? He’s a virgin? Somehow I doubt that. I stand staring at him in disbelief. He is the most mystifying person I’ve ever met. And it dawns on me that I have slept with Christian Grey, and I kick myself – what would I have given to be conscious to watch him sleep. See him vulnerable.
Okay, 1) you know he’s not a virgin, he said he wasn’t celibate. Words mean things. Didn’t you just graduate with a degree in English? 2) You’re missing a question mark. 3) That’s creepy, and you’re doing this all wrong. Bella sleeps, Edward watches. Get your shit together.
Ana goes back to the bathroom to dry her hair, and while she’s in there she encounters the most erotic, the most thrilling, the most positively tantalizing of all temptations:
I want to clean my teeth. I eye Christian’s toothbrush. It would be like having him in my mouth.
[Note: the following section should be read in the voice of Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption.] I wish I could tell you that Ana did not use Chedward’s toothbrush. I wish I could tell you that she respects personal boundaries and would never do something so incredibly gross as put another person’s toothbrush in her mouth.
Hmm… Glancing guiltily over my shoulder at the door, I feel the bristles on the toothbrush. They are damp. He must have used it already. Grabbing it quickly, I squirt toothpaste on it and brush my teeth in double quick time. I feel so naughty. It’s such a thrill.
This is a real book, is all I’m saying.
Back in the living area, Christian is on the phone. You can tell it’s something important about business, because he’s name dropping far-off locations like he’s trying to prove that the Earth is his BFF and he’s been on its yacht. Suez, Ben Sudan, Darfur, he’s an important guy and he spends Earth day in the VIP room, with the cake and bottles of Grey Goose. Then they leave, while Ana thinks how weird it is that even after she was a drunken mess the night before, he’s still there. Well, it is his hotel room. They get on the elevator, which apparently emits super horny rays, because the second the doors close, Christian Grey is all over her.
“Oh, fuck the paperwork,” he growls. He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in one of his in a vice-like grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his hips. Holy shit. His other hand grabs my ponytail and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine. It’s only just not painful. I moan into his mouth, giving his tongue an opening. He takes full advantage, his tongue expertly exploring my mouth. I have never been kissed like this.
I’m going to assume Ana has never been kissed, ever, at all, since until the morning she went for coffee with Grey, she hadn’t even held hands with anyone. She goes from first kiss to wanting to have public sex in one paragraph. And then, we have the first appearance (and I have been assured there will be many) of Ana’s “inner goddess.” Christian notices that she’s brushed her teeth (so… he was going to kiss her with all of this morning’s breakfast and last night’s vomit still clinging in a film to her teeth? Hot.), and she fesses up to using his toothbrush. Instead of recoiling in horror and asking her what the fuck she thought she was doing, he’s amused, and they leave the hotel together.
And that’s it for chapter five. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go brush my teeth. With my own toothbrush, thank you very much.
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.
Is Ana like, Glen Close in Fatal Attraction? Or Laura Flynn-Boyle in Wayne’s World? There is no reason at all for her to be so emotionally destroyed by a casual acquaintance not wanting to kiss her. She acknowledges that it’s “nonsensical pain” and “ridiculous”, so of course she gets up off the parking garage concrete and deals with it like a big girl. Nope, she doesn’t. She sits there, in a vertical fetal position, and mourns her “dashed hopes, dashed dreams, and my soured expectations.”
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.
Abed doesn’t like it. And Abed is Batman now.
Ana is, of course, surly about the fact that someone is trying to care about her. Kate even goes so far as to get up and hug Ana, because it’s obvious that she’s been crying. That bitch. Ana explains that she was almost hit by a cyclist, and tells Kate that Christian Grey isn’t interested in her, at all, because there’s nothing worth being interested in. St. Katherine of Kavanagh tries to bolster her confidence, telling her that she’s “a total babe,” you know, the kind of thing you say to your miserable friend when you know they’re miserable and lonely, but you also know that it’s not physical deformity, but a deeply flawed psyche, that’s making people hold them at arm’s length. And how does Ana respond to her friend trying to comfort her with compliments?
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?
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.
Some people say that Jose is to blame… but I know it’s Ana’s own damn fault.
The bar is packed, so they have to shout to Jose about how they’re moving to Seattle to live in the awesome condo Kate’s parents bought her. I wonder if the books didn’t come from Kate’s moneybag parents. Like, maybe Kate was talking to them and she was all, “Hey, I think that Christian Grey guy is into Ana,” and they were like, “Christian Grey? Wasn’t he a suspect in that string of coed murders a few years ago?” and then they sent the books thinking Ana would totally get the message. Well, she didn’t, because Jose starts to get handsy and keeps plying her with drink. She decides it’s safer to move onto beer, because there’s no alcohol in that, right? First, though, she has to comment on how hot Kate is compared to her:
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:
“Dios mio, man.”
Grey holds her hair back while she horks up all those margaritas in a flower bed in the parking lot. Then, she dry heaves. Finally, some romance! When she’s done being a one woman water feature, Christian lends her his monogrammed hanky to daintily wipe the vomit from her lips. She’s embarrassed. She wants to bitch out Jose (rightly so, since apparently the only thing stopping him from sexually assaulting her was an aversion to partially digested margarita mix). She drops the big double c-word: “Double crap,” when she realizes that she doesn’t know how to navigate this situation. This comes as no surprise to the reader, because so far, Ana has been unable to navigate totally normal social situations, ones that don’t involve vomit. I’m kind of hoping for a patented Bella Swan face plant right into her own vomit, but alas, it’s time for her to apologize to Christian for being sick in front of him. For a self-centered prick, he’s actually cool about it, throwing out the usual, “Hey, we’ve all been there, am I right”-type comments. He offers to take Ana home, and when she suggests telling her friends where she’s gone, he says that his brother can explain it all to Kate, since he’s talking to her. At some point, unspecified to the reader because, as you may have noticed, any character who is not Ana or Christian are unimportant nuisances that should stand off stage and wait to be called, Christian’s brother Elliot has come with him to the bar to retrieve Ana, and now that same brother is talking to Kate inside the bar. How Christian can see into the crowded, loud bar to discern this information, I have no clue. But there is still that little detail of how he knew where to find Ana.
“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.
Ana tells Kate about the photo shoot she’s arranged with Christian Dexter Rpattz Grey, III. Kate is psyched. She calls Ana on the bullshit excuse she’s buying from Grey:
I think that is one huge coincidence, Ana. You don’t think he was there to see you?” she speculates. My heart lurches at the prospect, but it’s a short-lived joy. The dull, disappointing reality is that he was here on business.
Murdering business, hence the zip ties, rope, masking tape, and coveralls. And Ana is definitely not special enough to murder, she’s made that clear from the first paragraph. Kate bickers with Ana over whether or not Christian Grey wants to bone her, and Kate sounds, for the most part, like she really wants to convince Ana of her self worth and maybe see her end up getting boned by said murderer. In fact, throughout the book so far, Kate has tried to get Ana to say she thinks Christian Grey is a hottie, and Ana won’t do it. Remember this, we’re going to touch on this subject again. Not because of any particularly clever plotting or anything, so don’t get too excited. Just keep it in mind. Kate is shocked that Christian gave Ana his cell number, and Ana says that he could have just given it to her to be nice. Because rich, famous people always give their private cell numbers out all willy-nilly. I think that if Ana were a real person, every time she opened her mouth to speak, it would just make a sad trombone noise. Every time.
It’s like you could show her a picture of herself next to pictures of elderly burn victims with facial cancers, and she’d still find some way to believe she was the ugliest. She probably read Mein Kampf and said, “What a nice guy… compared to me.” If any of this stuff had happened to any other woman on the planet, she would have gone, “Huh. Maybe he does think I’m cute,” and be flattered by it. Okay, no. No matter how rich or hot the guy is, I think any female hardware store employee, when faced by evidence that they’re being stalked by the Red Dragon, would get a restraining order and take some time off work. But in the world of 50 Shades, where shit like that is apparently not creepy at all, a woman would be able to take pleasure in the idea of a hot, rich guy finding them attractive and move on. It wouldn’t have to mean anything. And therein, I think, lies the second biggest fault in Ana’s character. There is no gray area (that is not a pun. I will not sully puns by using them in this discussion. I love puns too much), anywhere, with her. Christian Grey can’t be attracted to her, because she’s not exactly, perfectly what she imagines a person like Christian Grey would want. She can’t even give her friend Jose the courtesy of considering him as boyfriend material, not because he’s not attractive, but because he’s not a literary hero. Nothing is good enough for Ana, therefore, Ana is not good enough for the world. Speaking of Jose, they need a photographer for this gig. Kate suggests that since Jose will “do anything for you,” Ana should call him. Anna feels Kate is “irritatingly cavalier about Jose”. I’m not sure what Ana is irritated at, though. Is she irritated that Kate is cavalier about his participation, taking it as a given? Is she cavalier about the fact that he likes Ana, and that makes her uncomfortable? We don’t know. And the reason we don’t know is because if any of the other characters in this story were developed, that might take a little of the bloom off Ana’s rose. Kate suggests that Ana call Grey because she has a “relationship” with him. Ana takes offense to that description, and Kate hangs up on Ana, forever securing herself a place in my black, shriveled little heart. Ana is calling Jose when Paul, the old friend from the end of chapter two, enters the stock room. He wants to take Ana out on a date, and he’s got a lot of questions about Christian Grey. Because the chemistry between Christian and Ana is like a boomerang: it’s hitting everything but her, including innocent bystanders. Ana thinks:
Paul is cute in a wholesome all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero. Not by any any stretch of the imagination. Is Grey? My subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised.
Yes, Ana. He is a literary hero. He’s Edward Cullen. Granted, literary might be a stretch, but I’m not here to criticize Twilight. I am impressed, though, that you know that the subconscious can only figuratively raise its eyebrows, but that the notion that conscious thought doesn’t flow from the subconscious has somehow escaped you. Ana. Everything you pretend to believe about yourself is right. You’re horrible. Jose doesn’t want to do the photo shoot, because “I do places, Ana, not people.” Remember that lady that married the Berlin Wall? She and Jose should friend each other on Facebook. Kate gets on the phone and threatens Jose, saying the newspaper won’t cover his gallery opening if he doesn’t do this favor for her. Ana sees this as “awesomely tough”. It’s awesome when Kate openly bullies someone else into doing something for her, but when she asks Ana to do something and follows up by thanking her profusely, that bitch has crossed a line! Like a few moments later, when Kate asks her to call Grey. Ana is super nervous to call Christian Grey. I feel like I should make fun of the scene somehow, but honestly, I’m at a loss as to where to start. It’s like the buffet at the casino over in Battle Creek. They have pizza, they have Chinese, they have seafood, they have prime rib, but there are too many choices, so many directions you could go in, and then suddenly you’re sitting back at your table with a plate full of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese because everything got too overwhelming and sad for you.
I scowl at her and reach into my back pocket for his business card. I take a deep, steadying breath, and with shaking fingers, I dial the number.
Is anyone else imagining bomb-defusing music and then a cut to commercial? At the very least, the tension here is on the same level as when Ryan Seacrest says we’ll find out who’s going home after the break.
He answers on the second ring. His tone is clipped, calm, and cold. “Grey.” “Err… Mr. Grey? It’s Anastasia Steele.” I don’t recognize my own voice, I’m so nervous. There’s a brief pause. Inside, I’m quaking.
“Err… Mr. Grey?” I love it. Dude gave you his cell phone number. He answered by saying only his name. Who else would it be? They have a short conversation in which the details of the photo shoot are established, and Ana has all sorts of reactions listening to him on the phone. If there were a commercial for Christian Grey, in the middle an announcer with a deceptively soothing voice would say, “Ask your doctor if Christian Grey is right for you. Side effects include, but are not limited to, shaking fingers, inability to recognize your own voice, nervousness, quaking, hitching breath, flushing, sudden awareness of roommates watching you, hasty breath, being able to see facial expressions over the phone, and whatever the hell this is supposed to mean-”
I am all gushing and breathy – like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the State of Washington.
Just because an election is coming up, I’d like to remind you all that while you might be able to vote and drink legally, doing them at the same time is probably not such a great plan. Also, if you’re ever writing an erotic novel, you probably shouldn’t use the words “child” and “gushing” in the same sentence. Kate is stunned by her friend’s reaction to the short phone conversation. So stunned, she has to use Ana’s full, fully ridiculous, name:
“Anastasia Rose Steele. You like him! I’ve never seen you or heard you so, so… affected by anyone before. You’re actually blushing.”
First of all, I’m only on chapter three, and I haven’t been keeping a running total or anything, but I estimate that Ana has blushed about a hundred and fifty-seven times already. Everything seems to “affect” her. Her entire life that we have seen thus far has been nothing but a series of various, seemingly negative, emotional highs. Kate lives with her, and she’s never noticed? Second, excuse me, but what the fuck do you think you’re doing, walking around with a name like that? Anastasia Rose Steele is not a heroine in a contemporary novel. Anastasia Rose Steele is the name of Jack and Rose’s rebellious teenage daughter in a Titanic fanfic. Anastasia Rose Steele is the name of a literal rose that doesn’t flourish very well, even in ideal conditions, thus making it a sought after bloom by master rose gardeners. Anastasia Rose Steele wins the Triple Crown. This is no kind of name for a contemporary heroine. That night, Ana has difficulty sleeping, dreaming of “smokey gray eyes, coveralls, long legs, long fingers, and dark, dark, unexplored places.” So, she’s either dreaming of spelunking, or Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” video. In my interpretation, the dark, dark unexplored places are deep in the recesses of Billy Joe’s hair. The next morning, Ana, Jose, and Travis (a friend of Jose and probably also a Quileute) are travelling to Portland in Ana’s car. Kate drives separately, because they can’t all fit in Ana’s quirky car. They’re going to the Heathman hotel in Portland to take pictures of Christian Grey.
The rooms are elegant, understated, and opulently furnished.
There’s that logic disconnect in the prose again. How is something understated and opulent at the same time? “Opulently” suggests excessively. “Understated” suggests subtlety. Ana, if I may remind you, is an English major about to graduate. They set up for the shoot (Ana gets irritated at Kate, but as she’s in a constant state of irritation with her, you probably already anticipated that) and Christian Grey arrives, to the strains of Ana’s strongest profanity:
Holy Crap! He’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar, and grey flannel pants that hang from his hips. His unruly hair is still damp from a shower. My mouth goes dry looking at him. He’s so freaking hot.
Grey is accompanied by a body-guard type of guy. Ana marvels at the way Kate can remain calm under Grey’s onslaught of hotness. It is at this point that I’d like to remind you that this is a Twilight fanfic, so for all intents and purposes, this is the gentleman that makes Ana positively squirt upon catching a glimpse of him:
Introductions are made:
“This is Jose Rodriguez, our photographer,” I say, grinning at Jose who smiles with affection back at me. His eyes cool when he looks from me to Grey.
Fire and Ice, y’all! I think Jose dislikes this Christian Grey guy. He better keep his hunting party off the rez. They take his picture for a while, in various poses, and Ana, from what I can gather, stands there and stares dopey-eyed at him the entire time.
Twice our eyes lock, and I have to tear myself away from his cloudy gaze.
Grey asks Ana to walk with him. To where? Just around the hotel? Does he need to go get ice? It doesn’t matter to Jose, who is not pleased to see Ana leave with the young tycoon. Grey invites Ana to coffee. Considering she thinks shaking his hand is like having live current arcing through her, and just talking to him on the phone makes her gush, I’m surprised she doesn’t faint in the hallway.
“I wondered if you would join me for coffee this morning.” My heart slams into my mouth. A date? Christian Grey is asking me on a date. He’s asking if you want a coffee. Maybe he thinks you haven’t woken up yet, my subconscious whines at me in a sneering mood again.
I love that he’s sending out every signal on the face of the earth and she is still so beaten down and victimized- by herself, remember- that she refuses to receive any of them. I’m going to lay money down right now that he’s going to be inside her and she’s still going to be thinking, “He couldn’t possibly want to have sex with me.” Because the story is flimsy and needs to be padded out, there is discussion regarding how everyone and the equipment is going to get home if Ana doesn’t take them. Thank god for Taylor the bodyguard, who has a 4×4 he can take everyone home in. This is going to be the biggest nitpick I make in this entire book (no, it’s really not), but what does four wheel drive have to do with the number of people a car can carry? 4×4 isn’t a type of car, it’s a class of drive train. I’m going to go ahead and imagine that Ana dumps her friends for coffee and they all have to squeeze into a pickup truck. Also, Ana, you don’t have to drive everyone home, just Travis and Jose. Kate drove her Mercedes CLK, which should have rear seats. Taylor doesn’t have to drive anyone home. The entire exchange about who is going to drive who where reads like listening to my husband and my mother-in-law trying to coordinate transportation arrangements while I stand by, repeating the best solution over and over, only to be ultimately ignored in favor of whatever jackassery the two of them dream up. Once Grey commands his manservant to drive the group home, he’s easily manipulated the situation- by virtue of his money and status- so that Ana cannot continue to refuse his offer of coffee. This guy is a charmer. Nothing is sexier than a man who wants to isolate you from your main group and is aggressive in his approach when doing so. They work it out so that Ana will swap vehicles with Kate. Remember, at the beginning of the chapter, when Kate is practically demanding that Ana have a crush on Grey? Well, this happens:
“Ana, there’s something about him.” Her tone is full of warning. “He’s gorgeous, I agree, but I think he’s dangerous. Especially to someone like you.”
I think Kate saw his receipt from the hardware store. Jose glares, completely un-Jacob-like, while Kate scolds Ana for wanting to go for coffee with Christian, but she relents, and Bella and Edward go for coffee.
I make my way down the corridor, my knees shaky, my stomach full of butterflies, and my heart in my mouth thumping a dramatic uneven beat. I am going to have coffee with Christian Grey… and I hate coffee.
Of course you hate coffee, Ana. You hate everything. Because you’re horrible. Grey holds her hand as they walk to the coffee place, and it is revealed that Ana has never held hands. With anyone. Ever. She’s twenty-one and she’s never held anyone’s hand. We are privy to the many mundane steps involved in going to get coffee with someone, including such classics as: walking four blocks. Waiting for a light to change. Explaining that you don’t care for coffee because you prefer tea. How you take tea. Waiting for someone who is waiting in line. It’s like no one ever told E.L. James that as an author, you can handily skip over those bits by compressing them into a single line. I understand that she’s trying to spin out the tension here. Even waiting for Grey to return to the table, she’s looking at him, admiring the way “those pants hang from his hips…” (and really, where else do pants hang from? Does everyone in Portland wear their pants around their knees or up around their nipples? This is the second time Ana has noticed how awesome it is that Grey’s pants go around his hips.) and daydreaming about running her fingers through his hair. But at this point, with all the flushing, looking up from beneath her lashes (where else are you going to look from? Above your lashes? beside your lashes?), biting her lip, and generally going all weak and gushy when he’s around, we get the point. We understand that she finds him sexy. What I, as a reader, do not understand, is how I’m approximately forty pages into what’s supposed to be this life-changing, erotic work of fiction that’s revitalizing sexless marriages and nothing, absolutely nothing sexual has happened yet. If you don’t count the part where they titter like fifth-graders over Grey’s suggestion that he would do home improvement projects in the nude to avoid spoiling his clothing. Ana flushes way too much. I’m going to throw this out there right now. At the end of one paragraph, her face flames. There is a line of dialogue, and then the beginning of the next paragraph, she goes crimson. I get the distinct impression that she’s a Humboldt Squid in a dress, flashing red like a broken neon sign. Ana doesn’t know what to talk about, because she’s just so lowly and beneath Grey, in her own estimation.
“I like my tea black and weak,” I mutter as an explanation. “I see. Is he your boyfriend?” Whoa…What?
Thank you, Ana, for coming along in my confusion. Is who her boyfriend? The tea? A weak black guy? Neither. See, he asks Ana what she’s thinking about, and the moment, the very instant she answers, he changes the subject to ask if Jose is her boyfriend. Then, he asks about Paul, from the hardware store. Is he Ana’s boyfriend? He only asks because Ana seems “nervous around men.” That is the creepiest, most date-rapey line I have ever read in a romance novel, and I have read some pretty questionable old school rapemances in my time. But he gets so much better!
“You should find me intimidating,” he nods. “You’re very honest. Please don’t look down. I like to see your face.”
I can see why the women of America are falling for this guy. Who doesn’t want a dude who doesn’t want you at ease, so he can more easily manipulate you, and who treats you like an object that should be displayed for his enjoyment at all times? Grey describes Ana as “self-contained,” much in the way an environmental disaster might be described as “self-contained”, I guess.
“Except when you blush, of course, which is often. I just wish I knew what you were blushing about.” He pops a small piece of muffin into his mouth and starts to chew it slowly, not taking his eyes off me. And as if on cue, I blush. Crap!
From here out, I’m going to imagine that every time Ana says “Crap,” she’s referring to the quality of the writing. Christian explains that he doesn’t want her to call him by his first name because he only allows certain people in his life to do that, and apparently Ana hasn’t earned that right. But Ana has a very low opinion of herself, so she just sort of accepts it, and refocuses her anger on Kate, lamenting internally about how beautiful her friend is and how she should be the one having coffee with Christian. Ana doesn’t realize that a guy like Christian isn’t going to be interested in a woman who can’t be controlled through her low self-esteem. Because this book is what it is, Christian decides to interview Ana, as she interviewed him. The problem with this section is that it doesn’t reveal anything new to the reader. We already know about Ana’s parents, but at least we learn a little more about the enigmatic Mr. Grey. I would be more interested in him if he wasn’t such a first-class twat, so I’ll admit, I mostly skimmed the bits about what his parents do for a living and how many siblings he has. I was surprised to find that they don’t all live together in a big steel and glass and white sandstone and steel and glass and steel house somewhere. As they leave, Ana feels like she has totally blown it with Christian. She still thinks he wants some worldly, self-possessed woman, and she feels like she’s not good enough. Little does she know that her feelings of being “not good enough” are exactly what Christian Grey finds attractive. He offers to walk her back to the hotel, and on the way, absolutely nothing happens that in any way resembles anything like something that happened between Bella and Edward in the parking lot of Forks high school. At all.
“Shit, Ana!” Grey cries. He tugs the hand that he’s holding so hard that I fall back against him just as a cyclist whips past, narrowly missing me, heading the wrong way up this one-way street.It all happens so fast – one minute I’m falling, the next I’m in his arms, and he’s holding me tightly against his chest. I inhale his clean, vital scent. He smells of fresh laundered linen and some expensive body-wash. Oh my, it’s intoxicating. I inhale deeply.
It’s not a car. See, if Ana were about to be hit by a car, it would be suspect. This is just a cyclist. And while in Twilight, Edward saving Bella from being crushed by a car is a crucial moment, a turning point in which Bella realizes that something unnatural is up with the Cullen family, in 50 Shades of Grey, it’s a turning point in which usually asexual Ana realizes for the very first time that she wants to kiss someone. That’s the entire purpose of the near-miss bike accident scene. Being almost hit by a bicycle awakens the sleeping bear, and that bear is powerfully horny. Lost in his gaze, she realizes, “for the first time in twenty-one years, I want to be kissed. I want to feel his mouth on me.” When I read the third book in the Twilight series (I thought the first two were actually not all that bad… I recognize that this is an unpopular opinion, and many of my readers want me to lash out against all things Twilight with the fury of a thousand newborn stars), I said to myself, “There will never be another writer as bad as Stephenie Meyer. It won’t happen.” I feel almost responsible for 50 Shades, like I damned us all to the existence of this book by thinking that. I looked the universe in the face and, laughing, dared it to do its worst. And this is what we have. A twenty-one year old heroine who has never been attracted to any man, simply because he didn’t treat her badly enough, whose sexual awakening comes from nearly being run down by a bike messenger. Because I have busy, important, non-vomit inducing things to do with my time this weekend, there won’t be another recap until Monday. I have to write my own books, you see. Right now, I’m working on a scathing indictment of the institutionalized homophobia in professional sports. Ha! No. I’m actually writing a book about two major league baseball players who get it on together. A lot. There are no bicycle collisions, and very little flushing, but I’ll try to muster up some level of enthusiasm for the task.
First of all, I want to thank everyone who has cheered me on in this endeavor. Please know that this is going to be like a marathon. No. It’s going to be like an ultra-marathon, through a mine field covered in hardening hot glue. Your support is like unto Gatorade, replenishing my parched brain as I slog ever further.
Oh, shit. I’m only two chapters in.
Before I share the glorious recap, I have to give a shout-out to @Scarimonious, who I just started following on Twitter yesterday and who has already proven that I’ve made a really, really good choice in doing so. Remember my wish for a picture of the tie described in the first chapter?
Wish granted, bitches
You have @Scarimonious to thank for that. I don’t know about you, but the above picture is exactly how I’m going to imagine Christian Grey for the rest of the book.
All right, onto the pain. We last left Ana in the elevator, leaving Christian’s office. Chapter two begins with her heart pounding, the doors opening, and then there’s some scrambling and stumbling that doesn’t end with a classic Bella Swan Anastasia Steele pratfall. I don’t know, Ana, maybe you wouldn’t fall down so damn much if you had more speeds than a cheap lawn mower. Seriously, she’s either walking like a normal human or bouncing around like a pinball with a very bad concept of gravity.
I race for the wide glass doors, and I’m free in the bracing, cleansing, damp air of Seattle.
I know that the first adjective that comes to mind when I think clean and bracing is “damp”. And wait, wasn’t she driving to Portland in the first chapter? Now she’s in Seattle… oh, who the fuck cares, it’s all one big, rainy, Forks to E.L. James, right?
No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why.
I can’t, either, AnaBella. Just a minute ago in his office he was an arrogant prick that you seemed like you couldn’t stand. Now, reader, let me assure you, I’m not misunderstanding the classic Sam-and-Diane rules of attraction and loathing. I get loving to hate someone, and hating that you love them. This came off more like a middle schooler with an embarrassing crush; I don’t like you, but I like you, so I’m going to think a lot of mean things about you while doodling your name in my notebook.
Ana goes outside and leans against a (steel) pillar in the rain because she needs a moment to recover from the sheer sexual intimidation that is Christian Grey. If you don’t understand by now that she is really, really affected by him, well, there’s no hope for you, because she’s beating you over the head with it. She even throws in a “holy crap” for good measure. You know Ana is serious when that kind of language starts.
She drives away from Seattle/Portland, still playing over this highly erotic experience of interviewing someone. Seriously, from the way she’s going on, I’m thinking Barbra Walters must have to wear waterproof undies to work, because interviews are that sexually exciting. Okay, not every interview. Just every interview with a man who wears ties that have shrewd gazes.
Okay, so he’s very attractive, confident, commanding, at ease with himself – but on the flip side, he’s arrogant, and for all his impeccable manners, he’s autocratic and cold. Well, on the surface.
As everyone who watches Downton Abbey knows, impeccable manners usually go hand in hand with deep expressions of feeling to total strangers. This is the kind of thing that’s going to kill me in this book. It doesn’t follow that having impeccable manners would mean you’re a warm person. In the next line, “An involuntary shiver” runs down Ana’s spine. Who shivers on purpose? Seriously, who controls whether or not they shiver? Especially after standing in the rain, leaning on a steel pillar? This is exactly what is going to wear me down, all this little bullshit.
So, Ana is thinking about Christian has a right to be arrogant, then she says “He doesn’t suffer fools gladly,” and I spit out my gum. Bish, please. You just did a header into his office rug and couldn’t work a recorder, then insulted him to his face and he still cancelled his next meeting to make sure you didn’t secure yourself a handicapped parking spot leaving the building. On second thought, maybe that last part had to do with the insurance nightmare having someone like Ana on your property is going to inevitably lead to. But still. He suffered a fool today, and he was very polite about it. Because of his impeccable manners.
And Kate’s questions – ugh! The adoption and asking him if he was gay! I shudder. I can’t believe I said that. Ground, swallow me up now! Every time I think of that question in the future, I will cringe with embarrassment. Damn Katherine Kavanagh!
She’s super embarrassed, not because she Bella Swan-dived into the office, not because she called him a control freak to his face and was openly hostile throughout the interview, not because she stood outside his building in the rain like she was auditioning for a Michael Bolton video in 1989, but because of Katherine. Katherine forced her to read those questions, which Ana apparently hadn’t bothered to look at before showing up to the interview. She’s mad that Kate didn’t give her a biography before she went, but if she didn’t bother to look at the questions, would she have bothered to read the bio?
Deciding that she’s had enough of ruminating how impossibly hot Christian Grey is, she flouts his order to drive safely, because this is New Moon, and she’s going to be damned if he’ll run off to Italy to immolate himself and leave her behind! No, sorry. I keep getting confused, but can you really blame me? She turns on “thumping indie rock music” and tears down the highway. Ten to one, she’s listening to Muse’s “Black Holes and Revelations”. Because, as you may not have picked up from the subtle hints I’m laying down, this is Twilight.
We get a description of Ana’s living situation, in a small community of duplex apartments near the WSU campus. Apparently Kate’s parents bought the place for her. The apartment? The whole duplex? The whole community? Who knows, because subject/verb agreement is for pussies, and E.L. James is no pussy. Ana realizes that Kate is going to want to know what happened at the interview. I’m guessing that Kate is going to listen to the disc, hear the way Ana was talking to the most important entrepreneur in Washington and/or Oregon and be absolutely thrilled. Ana, meanwhile, isn’t thrilled. Her friend is wearing horrible pink bunny pjs that she wears only during moments of absolute weakness. Kate hugs Ana, expresses that she was worried because she expected her home earlier, and thanks her profusely before asking questions about the interview. How does Ana’s internal narrative respond to this?
Oh no – here we go, the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
Seriously, Ana? Seriously? You were expecting that she wasn’t going to ask you about the interview that will make or break her as editor of the WSU school newspaper? When I was reading Twilight, I had this horrible feeling that if it were a memoir, and Bella’s friends read what she had said about them, they would have Javelinaed her ass before she could say, “What’s up with all the mud?” I’m beginning to feel a lot more sympathy toward the wretched Kate than toward Ana. Sure, Ana made her soup to make her feel better, but she probably bitched about it internally the entire time it was simmering on the stove.
“Don’t you look so innocent. Why didn’t you give me a biography? He made me feel like such an idiot for skimping on basic research.” Kate clamps a hand to her mouth.
“Jeez, Ana, I’m sorry – I didn’t think.”
“Mostly he was courteous, formal, slightly stuffy – like he’s old before his time. He doesn’t talk like a man of twenty-something. How old is he anyway?”
“Twenty-seven. Jeez, Ana, I’m sorry. I should have briefed you, but I was in such a panic.
Maybe he’s a vampire. Maybe that’s why he sounds like he’s old before his time. And while we’re flinging wild accusations around, Ana, maybe you’re a vampire, too, since you talk all sorts of stuffy, yourself. “A man of twenty-something.” Who talks like that? No one. Absolutely no one. This is why you should always read your dialogue aloud, kids. And the clean cussing is another thing. Crap? Jeez? Were “Oh brother” and “golly” too strong for print? I’m seriously expecting “Great Honk!” and “Jeepers” to pop up, and for the Mayor from The Music Man to start lecturing everyone about watching their phraseology. If we were to make a drinking game out of every time someone says an impossibly clean curse word, do you know what would happen?
This would happen.
But let’s not gloss over something that is so incredibly irritating to me at this point in the chapter. Look at how much Kate is apologizing to Ana. And what is she apologizing for, really? What was stopping Ana from looking any of this information up on her phone while she waited outside Christian’s office? Not a damn thing. Ana knew she was going to go interview the guy. It’s not like Kate had commandos bust into Ana’s room in the middle of night, hit her with the stun gun a few times, then bag her head and drop her off in Christian’s office with a recorder and a list of questions. She could have prepared better for the experience, she didn’t, but because this is Ana’s story, we’re supposed to be just as annoyed with Kate as Ana is? No, E.L. James. I am not buying what you are selling today.
Because Ana is nothing if not a martyr, she leaves immediately for her job at the hardware store. It’s ironic, you see, that she works in a hardware store, because she’s hopeless with anything DIY. She actually says she’s “crap” at DIY, but I hesitated to type that at first because of the whole drinking game thing. I don’t want to be responsible for your alcohol poisoning. Ana would rather curl up with a book than build anything with her hands, and that’s probably stemming from a real solid sense of self preservation in the saws vs. fingers department, based on what we’ve seen of her coordination so far. But she knows a lot about hardware, and she’s happy to go to work because it will take her mind of Christian Grey.
After absolutely nothing happens at her job, but we’re forced to come along for a few paragraphs anyway, Ana comes home to find Kate working on the story. Once again, Ana reminds us of all the studying she couldn’t do because she spent all day interviewing Christian Grey. Except, when Ana showed up for work, her boss said she didn’t expect Ana that day. So, wait a second. Ana could have stayed home from work, gotten this impossibly huge amount of studying done, but she went in anyway and we all tagged along why? For further proof that she is bound and determined to be miserable and irritated at her roommate who, by all accounts, seems like a really nice person? I’m liking you more and more, AnaBella SteeleSwan.
Kate suggests that the reason Christian offered to show Ana around the office was because he was interested in spending more time with her. Ana mentally blows this off, thinking that he just wanted to show off how powerful he is. Because Ana is clearly someone a rich, handsome guy would need to impress. I don’t understand how this character can be so incredibly full of herself, and yet so incredibly down on herself, at the same time.
“That’s fine. I can still make a fine article with this. Shame we don’t have some original stills. Good-looking son of a bitch, isn’t he?” I flush.
Here is another problem I have with this book, since I’m so obviously short on things to critique. See that line of dialogue? Looks like Ana is saying it, right? Nope. Those words are coming out of Kate’s mouth, tagged with Ana’s actions. And it happens all the time in this. It makes it difficult to read, because you’re always trying to figure out who said what. I had the same issue, by the by, with The Time Traveler’s Wife. And I’m sure there is a special place in hell just for me for comparing that book to this one.
Kate wants to talk some more about how good looking Christian Grey is, and Ana is just interested in complaining about the trial of a thousand cuts that was having to interview someone for a college newspaper. I guess Ana is just as tired as I am of hearing about how good-looking, fascinating, commanding, arrogant, mysterious, etc. Christian is. Still, that night, Ana dreams about “dark places, bleak white cold floors, and gray eyes.”
Now is the time on Sprockets where we get the rest of the week wrap up, and some suspiciously Twilight-ish exposition. Oh, but not before Ana gets another dig in about Kate and her pjs. We learn that Ana’s mom lives in Georgia. I wonder if she ever drives across the state line to chat with Bella’s mom in Florida, because they’re both flaky and on new marriages, so they have a lot in common. Also, they’re the same person. Also, just like Bella’s mom, Ana’s mom asks right off the bat about boys. There is one aspect that differs between the two of them. Bella’s mom has a name. After calling her mom, Ana calls her stepdad, Ray. She considers Ray her father, despite the fact that he only communicates in grunts and she basically prefers him over her biological father because “he’s still alive”.
This brings us to Friday night, when Ana’s friend Jose comes over. Jose is a completely new and original character, completely unlike any character in Twilight. He’s got dark eyes, his dad and Ana’s stepdad are BFFs, and although he really likes Ana and wishes she would date him, she’s got him locked firmly in the friend zone. I challenge you, reader, to find any character in Twilight with any similarity at all to Jose. I mean, these allegations of plagiarism are totally preposterous. Jacob likes motorcycles. Jose likes photography. Absolutely nothing about the two of them are the same in any way.
I watch Jose open the bottle of champagne. He’s tall, and in his jeans and t-shirt he’s all shoulders and muscles, tanned skin, dark hair and burning dark eyes. Yes, Jose’s pretty hot, but I think he’s finally getting the message. We’re just friends.
In the interest of transparency, it’s not E.L. James’s fault that there aren’t accent marks on Jose’s name. It’s mine, I’m just way too drunk to do them after all those craps and jeezes.
Ana can’t date anyone because no man in the history of ever has come close to ringing her bell the way the heroes of classic literature can. Well, you know, except Christian Grey, but she won’t even let herself consider such a thing. It’s days later, and she’s still brutally mortified that she was forced at gun point by those commandos to ask him if he was gay. Yeah, she’s been dreaming of him nonstop, but that’s only because everything about him and the entire interview debacle were so unthinkably bad.
Saturday at the hardware store, Ana is doing something inventory-ish and who walks in and creepily stares at her until she looks up from what she’s doing? Christian. Motherfucking. Grey. Looking all casual and fine (he left the anthropomorphic tie at home today), he tries to pull off this whole, “I was in the area,” shtick. I guess when you’re a millionaire, you have the luxury of driving from Seattle to Portland to go to a hardware store. But just a heads up, dude, that whole, “I was in the neighborhood” line seems sketch when you just drove three hours to creep on some chick who works at the hardware store. Then, we are treated to what is, without doubt, the finest metaphor ever crafted in the history of the written language:
His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.
See that? Remember that mean thing I said about the Pulitzer in my intro post? I take it back. The reason they did not award the Pulitzer for fiction this year is because none of the entrants lived up to that metaphor, but to give the Pulitzer to 50 Shades would be to insult the mastery of its prose. They were caught in an impossible situation.
Ana does a lot of weak-kneed, heart-poundy, blushy-flushy escorting of Christian around the hardware store. He’s looking for some pretty specific stuff. Cable ties, for example, that he selects so erotically that Ana has to look away while he does it. Masking tape. Rope. They chat about her interests, while the store owner calls the cops because this dude is obviously stocking up for a kidnapping. Just kidding! But to make his receipt look even more incriminating, Ana suggests he buys coveralls. In my mind, Christian Grey has gone from RPattz to Dexter in 3.2 seconds.
The dialogue between the two characters is so absurdly childish, I can’t even fathom why this is considered erotic:
“You wouldn’t want to ruin your clothing,” I gesture vaguely in the direction of his jeans.
“I could always take them off.” He smirks.
“Um.” I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of the communist manifesto. Stop talking. Stop talking NOW. “I’ll take some coveralls. Heaven forbid I should ruin any clothing,” he says dryly.
OMG LOL, do you get it? I so get it. If he takes off his clothes (omg) he will be NAKED. Swoon. Sploosh. Scene.
Ana asks Christian if he’s willing to have some pictures taken to accompany the article Kate is writing, and he’s totally down for that. He gives Ana his cell number, which is apparently a contract, because when an old friend of Ana’s shows up and acts “over-familiar”, he glares at them and starts acting all strange.
“Just these items.” His tone is clipped and cool. Damn… have I offended him? Taking a deep breath, I turn and head for the till. What is his problem? I ring up the rope, coveralls, masking tape, and cable ties at the till.
His problem is that the guy in the trunk of his car isn’t going to stay alive long enough to torture to death if you don’t ring up those supplies, sweet cheeks.
One of the challenges of writing erotica is injecting sensuality into mundane situations. This ramps up the tension between the characters who will later do it (that’s a technical term). For example:
“Would you like a bag?” I ask as I take his credit card.
“Please, Anastasia.” His tongue caresses my name, and my heart once again is frantic.
Okay, that’s not the best example.
Finally, after their hyper-sexy murder kit shopping spree, she admits she might, maybe, a little bit, be attracted to Christian:
Okay – I like him. There, I’ve admitted it to myself. I cannot hide from my feelings anymore. I’ve never felt like this before. I find him attractive, very attractive. But it’s a lost cause, I know, and I sigh with bittersweet regret. It was just a coincidence, his coming here. But still, I can admire him from afar, surely? No harm can come of that. And if I find a photographer, I can do some serious admiring tomorrow.
Yeah, he’s probably not interested in you. He only drove three hours out of the way on a flimsy excuse (visiting the university) and showed up to buy incriminating supplies at the hardware store you work at. Ana would be so easy to kidnap and cut up, for real. “I was just in the neighborhood, and I decided to drop buy to buy zip ties and rope and glare jealously at you when you talk to another man.” And what do you want to bet the hapless schmuck who has to photograph Dexter Rpattz Grey, esq. is going to be Jose, the guy who’s been permanently friend zoned by Miss “Only Mr. Darcy can give me a tickle in my pants” Steele?
The sick thing is, I can barely wait to read more. I’m starting to understand why this became a huge hit. Sadly, I’m also starting to think that the plot of Idiocracy is actually a dire prophecy, and this book might be the keystone in the foundation of the downfall of the human race.
So, as I announced in a delirium of hatred last night, I have begun reading 50 Shades of Grey, and I’m going to share the experience with you. This will accomplish two things.
It will provide me with an important emotional outlet, thus lowering my blood pressure.
It will give you the experience of reading the book without really having to read it. Much like videotaping a friend getting stitches gives you the experience, but not the pain and hassle of, cutting your own finger with a razor blade because you’re too lazy to get up and get the scissors to open that USB drive packaging.
We have a lot to cover. Let’s get started.
Our story begins with our heroine, Ana, looking in the mirror. She doesn’t like what she sees. Her hair is uncooperative. Also, she has huge blue eyes and pale skin, in our American culture which does not value these things as traditional hallmarks of beauty or anything. She’s pissed off at her roommate, Kate. Why? Because Kate has lined up an interview with the most powerful entrepreneur in the country, Christian Grey, but she got the flu and now she can’t go. Even though Ana is having a bad hair day, has exams coming up, and has to work, her selfish friend is trying to manipulate her into going to do the interview herself:
Therefore, she cannot attend the interview she’d arranged to do, with some mega-industrialist tycoon I’ve never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for, one essay to finish, and I’m supposed to be working this afternoon, but no – today I have to drive a hundred and sixty-five miles to downtown Seattle in order to meet the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. As an exceptional entrepreneur and major benefactor of our University, his time is extraordinarily precious.
She’s never heard of this guy, except that she knows the extremely unwieldy name of his company, that he’s an entrepreneur, that he gives tons of money to the school she attends, and that he’s super busy? This is the kind of logical error that I’m finding over and over in this book, and I’ve only read three chapters so far. But putting that aside for a minute, doesn’t this sound like an amazing opportunity for her friend? I bet Ana feels really bad that Kate is going to miss out on the interview of a lifetime, right?
“Ana, I’m sorry. It took me nine months to get this interview. It will take another six to reschedule, and we’ll both have graduated by then. As the editor, I can’t blow this off. Please,” Kate begs me in her rasping, sore throat voice. How does she do it? Even ill she looks gamine and gorgeous, strawberry blonde hair in place and green eyes bight, although now red-rimmed and runny. I ignore my pang of unwelcome sympathy.
Of course Ana doesn’t feel bad! Why should she? She’s the heroine! We have to like her. Because she’s the heroine. So, when her friend is saying, “Please, for me, blow off work and classes and go meet this famous person, so you can put this interview on your resume when it could have been on mine had I not contracted a horrible respiratory illness,” Ana can only think, “Ugh, it is soooo not fair that she is prettier than me. I will absolutely not feel sympathetic toward you,” and the reader better know whose side to be on, damnit!
As Ana complains more in the narration about how good Kate is at manipulating people, and how awful it’s going to be to meet this rich, successful guy, she outwardly acts like it’s not a big deal. This gives me the distinct impression that Ana is one of those people who will agree, or even offer, do a favor for you like it doesn’t inconvenience them at all, then immediately phones up a friend and bitches about you and all the boundaries you’re overstepping. And then, exactly like one of those people, Ana attempts to tell the reader how great Kate is, and that she’s her very best friend, after complaining about her for like two pages solid. At this point, do I actually have to say that Ana is Bella Swan?
So, Ana sets off from Vancouver, heading toward Portland. Wait a second, didn’t she say she had to go to Seattle to meet this Grey guy? I can never tell where I am in this serious. Just in the nebulous Pacific Northwest, I guess, where:
The miles slip away as I floor the pedal to the metal.
Dear Non-American Author trying to write in Americanisms: It’s either “floor it” or “put the pedal to the metal”. And actually, no one says the latter anymore. By the way, she’s flooring it to the pedal in a Mercedes loaned to her by Kate. A Mercedes, and she’s still bitching? Her car, a quirky, old vehicle (but not a quirky, old truck) is unreliable, like a quirky, old truck. But it’s a VW Bug, so she’s definitely not Bella Swan. Still, there is something endearing about reading an non-American author trying to capture the slang of my people.
When she gets to Christian Grey’s steel and glass office building with the building name in steel letters over the glass doors to the steel and glass and sandstone (c-c-c-combo breaker!) lobby, we learn that Ana’s name is really Anastasia Steele, because that’s totally not a pornstar name and the word “steel” had to be used in some form or another in every single sentence in this scene. Ana runs through a succession of blonde receptionists, each one making her feel more and more like Anne Hathaway in the interview scene in The Devil Wears Prada. In fact, her outfit sounds kind of familiar…
I am beginning to wish I’d borrowed one of Kate’s formal blazers rather than wear my navy blue jacket. I have made an effort and worn my one and only skirt, my sensible brown knee-length boots and a blue sweater. For me, this is smart.
Where have I seen this before?
So, at least now we have some kind of visual inspiration for sad-sack Ana.
Anyway, there are a lot of blondes working in the office, and as Ana appears to hate blondes more than Anita Blake does, she’s absolutely certain she doesn’t fit in. She signs in, gets a visitor’s pass, and heads upstairs to the second steel and glass and sandstone and steel and more glass and mahogany and red and yellow and pink and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and violet and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and gray and purple and white and pink and orange and blue lobby. I wish I could tell you that I just used more adjectives and words than James did to describe this sequence of events. I am many things, but I am not a liar.
This is one of the biggest problems with 50 Shades of Grey. It’s like a team of cameras is following Ana everywhere she goes, every second of the day, and it’s being transcribed for the reader into the book, no matter how inane the details:
“Mr. Grey will see you in a moment. May I take your jacket?”
“Oh please.” I struggle out of the jacket.
“Have you been offered any refreshment?”
“Um – no.” Oh dear, is Blonde Number one in trouble?
Blonde Number Two frowns and eyes the young woman at the desk.
“Would you like tea, coffee, water?” she asks, turning her attention back to me.
“A glass of water. Thank you,” I murmur.
“Olivia, please fetch Miss Steele a glass of water.” Her voice is stern. Olivia scoots up immediately and scurries to a door on the other side of the foyer.
“My apologies, Miss Steele, Olivia is our new intern. Please be seated. Mr. Grey will be another five minutes.”
Oliva returns with a glass of iced water.
“Here you go, Miss Steele.”
Let’s do a little writing exercise, shall we? Let’s see if we can make that chunk of pointless dialogue into something more manageable, to move the story along to literally anything else in literally a tenth of the time. I’l go first:
One of the blonde receptionists took my coat and offered me a glass of water.
I’m no Nora Roberts, but I think I can safely say that the book would not have been ruined without the unnecessary interplay Ana witnesses between the two receptionists, and the odd focus on the “iced water” and who is in possession of said water at which time.
Because Ana still doesn’t know a single thing about Christian Grey (besides his name, his mother’s maiden name, his place of birth, the name of his first pet, the security code on the back of his Visa card, his blood type, and whether or not he’s circumcised), she doesn’t know how old he is or what he looks like. She figures he’s probably blonde, too, and wonders if he requires his employees to be blonde. She’s “wondering idly if that’s legal” while I’m wondering if this isn’t some Neo-Nazi thing. But it’s totally cool, because then a black guy comes out of his office, talking about golf. So Christian Grey is definitely not an Aryan Nationalist.
The blondes send Ana into Mr. Grey’s office, and wouldn’t you know it, like a dope, she falls right through the doors and winds up on her hands and knees in front of Christian Grey. Foreshadowing. She is so embarrassed that she says all kinds of strong curse-words like “Holy cow,” and “Double crap”. No single craps for Ana, oh no. She’s a rebel and a potty mouth of the highest caliber.
Immediately, she realizes that Christian Grey is not some ancient forty-year old dude, practically crumbling to dust atop his icy blonde empire, but a very hot young man:
So young – and attractive, very attractive. He’s tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly.
That… is one hell of a tie. I’m going to have to ask someone, please, look into the kindness and the goodness of your soul and photoshop me a picture of a black tie with Robert Pattinson’s hair and eyes stuck on it, gazing at me shrewdly.
When she shakes his hand, Ana has some kind of short circuit situation that makes her blink like a malfunctioning Furby. She explains that she’s there on behalf of her sick roommate, then makes a stunningly astute comment about some paintings in his office. Of course, he agrees with her, and this puts Ana immediately at ease, knowing that they are on the same level, intellectually. Just kidding! Instead, she’s building him up in her head, calling him an Adonis and being too embarrassed by his really, really good-looking-ness to operate the recorder. He’s amused by her uncertainty, she can tell. Because tycoons often find it amusing to have their time stolen by inept student non-reporters. Then she asks him if she can record his answers. Which is the most bizarre sentence I think a person can ask another person they are interviewing. “Do you mind if I make some kind of permanent record of the answers you give me, or would you rather this all become a pointless exercise in time wasting?”
Once they launch into the interview, things really pick up. Ha, just kidding again! We’ve finally got the hero and heroine of what is touted as the hottest, sexiest, most toe-curlingest naughty erotic novel since the Marquis de Sade was branded a lunatic, together in the same room and what’s going to happen? Pages upon pages of clumsy exposition. Why show, when Christian himself can tell, in a series of incredibly banal interview questions, everything we as the reader are going to need to know to have a clear impression of his character for the rest of the book? And let’s also see Ana insult him, over and over again, from suggesting his success is based on luck to outright calling him a control freak. For someone who was so insecure just moments ago, Ana begins to verbally spar with this powerful guy while representing her sick roommate whose reputation as editor of the college newspaper is riding on this interview.
Still, even though he is, by her own description, an arrogant control freak who does weird things with his fingers while looking at her, Ana is completely, sexually paralyzed by his stunning physical appearance, which, as far as I can tell from the numerous superlatives Ana breathlessly recounts, is like looking directly at the face of God if God were an orgasm dipped in chocolate and the perfect pair of jeans. So, while Christian Grey is rattling off incredibly intimate details of his life to a rude, awkward, mousy college student who just spilled her ass through his office doors, Ana is practically writing odes to his teeth and wondering what’s so wrong with her that she would be distracted by someone who is just the physical manifestation of the very soul of perfect beauty.
The scene goes on so long, Christian actually has to cancel his next meeting. When it comes time for Ana to leave, he teases her about her earlier fall, helps her put on her jacket, and walks her to the elevator. But only after this passage:
“Well, you’d better drive carefuly.” His tone is stern, authoritative. Why should he care?
Because he’s Edward Cullen, reader. Because he’s Edward Cullen.