Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My 50 Favorite Pop Culture Artifacts of 2013

My annual list of the pop culture stuff I dug the most over the last calendar.

50. Grumpy Cat!
It seems like a tradition now that I have a celebrity cat up every year. I wasn't sure I would have one this year, and then, well, Tarder Sauce hung out on Sesame Street.

49. "ISS Transit Over the Moon"
Maximilian Teodorescu captured an amazing photograph this year that made us all feel like we were living in a bit more science fiction-y future. This is just a detail of the International Space Station crossing the moon; here's the whole thing if you missed it.

48. The year in James Franco.
One of my favorite actors, but, damn, my wife just freaking loves this guy. And he was everywhere, in every movie, on every TV show, writing actually insightful movie reviews, filming lots of YouTube videos (every day, for a while, making my wife laugh each morning), and, of course, that video. Hell, Newsweek even has a write-up of 2013 in Franco.

The thing about this entry is, well, my wife has real problems letting go of all her stresses and just enjoying things and being in the moment, and every time Franco had a new movie out or a new video up, that was an amount of time, however small, that my wife could enjoy something without guilt or stress getting to her. So thanks for it all, Franco. [gif via]

47. The Post-Punk/New Wave Super Friends
This year I celebrated a lot of fan art, then got kind of tired of the whole endeavor. Not that there isn't a place for it, and not like it can't be good, but I am a bit tired of the "Here are characters from X thing re-designed as characters from Y thing and also here is Doctor Who somehow" aesthetic. Now, of course, I'm about to contradict myself, because I totally love this series of art based around DC superheroes and post-punk/new wave singer by Butcher Billy. Here's the page for them.

46. Defiance
I'm not in love with it yet, but this new series from Farscape's Rockne S. O'Bannon is one of the few times I've genuinely been wrapped up in a science fiction since that series went off the air a decade ago.

45. The finale of The Office
I finally sat and watched the final two seasons of the show this year, and though they varied in quality (better suited to a binge-watch than the time investment of an entire season), I ultimately really enjoyed last May's final episode. The finale reminded me why I had once loved the show as much as I did, gave me a nod to all of the show's long-running storylines, and wrapped everything up nicely. I still think it went on years too long, but that was a nice ending.

44. This picture. I just like to think it means that, somewhere out there, Bea Arthur's been reincarnated.

43. "Follow Me"
Photographer Murad Osman took a wonderful series of photographs with his girlfriend Nataly Zakharova and posted them to Instagram. Each photo keeps this theme; her leading him through the world. It's a special travel diary that I still can't forget, months after seeing it. You can check it out here.

42. Star Trek Into Darkness
What sucks about this entry is that I don't even want to talk about why I enjoyed this space adventure, because no one really cares. The internet decided they were really mad at this movie that wasn't exactly the same enough but also somehow wasn't different enough to the point where the criticisms all blended together into one rush of wind. I don't know, I'm really sick today, my wife is sick, my rabbit is sick, and literally every thing I own is broken. I'm so fucking beside myself with anger and annoyance and my inability to sleep or relax that not liking a movie is way, way far down on the list of things that are worth getting upset over.

41. Pacific Rim
I like movies that know how inherently silly they are. I seem to be ever-more-increasingly alone in that view, but I don't like the grim seriousness and near-nihilism of, say, The Dark Knight. I like movies that know they have a premise that's hard to take seriously, and that they can only go so far with it. The characters need to take it seriously--if the characters don't find it believable, why do I care?--but I prefer it when movies have an idea of when to break tension and blow off steam. Pacific Rim knows all of that, and it's a shame that the promotional materials for the film made it look gritty and dull and self-important. This one almost got away from me, which would have been a shame, because it's just so damn fun.

40. Blurred Sanford
This mash-up is the best thing that come out of 2013's rape anthem.

39. The Ex-Men
I haven't watched The Pete Holmes Show--I don't watch much late night television--but I do love the recurring sketches where Holmes, as Professor X, fires individual X-Men for being so lame. It's especially refreshing to me because the X-Men were my favorites as a kid, and Marvel proceeded to get rid of Chris Claremont and make their mutant books confusing. And yes, I know how that sounds, because that 20-year soap opera had its moments of being overwrought, but without Claremont, things just went off the rails. You can see the sketches here.

38. A couple of DC family books
It's nice that, even with all of the crap DC is putting out now, they still had a couple of uncomplicated, beautifully done all-ages books that I could really enjoy: Dustin Nguyen's Batman: Li'l Gotham and Art Baltazar & Franco's Superman Family Adventures. They were a real treat every month. Of course, DC canceled them both... but hey, Scooby Doo Team-Up looks like it might be fun.

37. Patrick Stewart on Instagram
Always funny and cute, but particularly now that he and Ian McKellen are working together in New York. I'm never going to stop dreaming of Patrick Stewart being the Doctor. Not ever. It'll never happen, but I've been imagining it since 1996, and I'm not about to stop.

36. 47 Ronin
This year, Mike Richardson finally got to realize his dream of telling the story of the 47 Ronin in comic book form at Dark Horse. With art by Stan Sakai (who is unfortunately not having a good holiday season), this was one of the most beautiful and unfaltering comic book stories this year.

35. Lots of animals loved having their bellies rubbed this year.
Whether it was micro pigs, wombats, or even a platypus, animals just dug getting some cuddles this year. Every once in a while you just need some cute animal videos to brighten your day, and those three were some of my go-to's this year.

34. Elle Fanning
Not that you're surprised, because every year with her. What I'm trying to decide now is whether my Elle Fanning ballet film with Henson creatures should use Genesis music or Jim Steinman songs...

33. Batman '66
As far as I know right now, this web original is the only comic DC is publishing that's worth a damn. It's in the style of the classic TV series, which is seeing quite the revival right now; there are also the great action figures that have been coming out, which include a surfing Batman figure (though sadly not a surfing Joker) from my single favorite episode of the show, "Surf's Up! Joker's Down!" This comic is just impeccably good, and makes such good use of the web comic format that I kind of feel like this should be the future of graphic storytelling.

32. The Art Deco Emerald City
I love the Art Deco style, and even though The Wonderful Wizard of Oz pre-dates the style, I've always felt this is what the Emerald City should look like. So it was pretty amazing to see it on a big screen in 3D in Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful. I don't usually get to see my "fan-favorite" choices make it into the movies, so to see the Emerald City depicted pretty much as I'd always imagined it was pretty amazing.

31. The final issue of Roger Langridge's Popeye
A lot of stuff I loved ended this year, and IDW's great Roger Langridge-written Popeye ended its run with a fantastic final issue, which featured Barney Google and Wimpy in a race with Castor Oyl and Popeye. It was a fantastic note to go out on, even as it made me wish for more.

30. Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld on DC Nation
I haven't been keeping up with a lot of the DC Nation shorts, but this series was my favorite this year. This is the kind of thing I look at and think is wonderful and then Warner Bros. natters on about how it's just so impossible to make a good Wonder Woman movie, you guys, when what they really mean is that it's hard to make a Wonder Woman movie for boys. This series was pretty incredible.

29. Man of Steel
Another sci-fi adventure I liked this year that got excoriated for not being all things to all people. I wonder if the fan reaction to this is the kind of thing that makes it obvious that Superman has become so much of a symbol that it's impossible to make him a character anymore. Worth thinking about. Anyway, I loved it.

28. TV, TV, TV
I said last year that 2012 was the year I felt out of love with the movies and felt much more rewarded by television. This year continued that trend, with great programs like Masters of Sex, Vikings, Top of the Lake, American Horror Story, The Borgias (and Sean Harris' amazing performance in its final season), Luther, Game of Thrones, Orange Is the New Black, Mad Men (which I just started watching this year), Homeland, House of Lies, VeepBoardwalk Empire, The Americans, and even network fare like Parks and Recreation, Parenthood, and Bob's Burgers.

27. Miley Cyrus' new sound
I like Miley Cyrus, but her new album, Bangerz, is the first thing she's done musically that I've really, really liked since her "Party in the USA" single in 2009. And I love this video with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots. I think 2013 is the year that--thanks to videos like this and his continued appearances with the Muppets and that great SNL episode (with the Barry Gibb cameo that made me very, very happy)--I finally cast off any lingering irritation with Fallon, to the point where I might actually check out his Tonight Show. We'll see.

26. The finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars
It's yet another thing I love that ended this year, but the finale of The Clone Wars--which saw Ahsoka Tano accused of a terrorist bombing and helped cement Anakin's disillusion with the Jedi Order--was an excellent story to go out on. The Clone Wars has become my favorite ancillary to the Star Wars universe, and Ahsoka became one of my favorite of all Star Wars characters. I'm happy I got to experience this series for as long as I did, and if it had to end, it sure did go out with a fantastic finale.

25. Behind the Candelabra
Remember how everyone thought this was going to be some kind of goof? Movies that are made for HBO tend to be forgettable to me--even the enjoyable ones, with very few exceptions--but not only have I been unable to forget this one, I think it's one of the best movies of the year. Too bad Michael Douglas won't get an Oscar nomination for it, because his performance as Liberace is surprising. If Steven Soderbergh is really retiring--and I never believe a filmmaker who says they are--this was a great culmination of an interesting career.

24. "Pair of Wings"
This hidden track on Justin Timberlake's new album brings the grand total of Justin Timberlake songs I really love up to three. It's just so pretty, and a lovely live performance on SNL just cemented it for me.

23. Jinkx Monsoon
This year's cycle of RuPaul's Drag Race introduced me to Jinkx Monsoon, my favorite contestant in the show's history. A special drag performer and a very funny one, whose Little Edie Beale impression was one of the best things I've ever seen on that show.

22. Spring Breakers
One of my favorite little media furors of 2013 was the reaction to Spring Breakers, a movie that was very confrontational and uncomfortable about your expectations of a sexploitation movie. I thought that alone made it one of the best movies of the year, but the film itself is such an interesting, hallucinogenic social commentary about what you could almost call the New Entitlement--the listless-yet-desperate belief of the young that if they aren't constantly having fun, they're being oppressed.

21. Broadchurch
One of the most engaging and riveting TV series I saw this year.

20. The year of Taylor Swift
She's another of my favorites; this year I got to enjoy a lot of videos and gifs of her performing, and damn, I just like her so much. I don't even want to go into it. But she's great. She's kind of my religion right now. I know I sound like a fangirl. When it comes to her, I kind of am. [gif via]

19. Marvel NOW!
A sort-of relaunch of a large portion of the Marvel Universe, and probably a better answer to the need to streamline a fictional universe than just restarting the whole thing, New 52-style. I didn't stick with a LOT of the books I started reading as part of this whole deal, but there are a few I really dug: Thor: God of Thunder, Nova, The Guardians of the Galaxy, the much-maligned Thanos Rising, Fantastic Four, Frank Cho's all-too-brief five-issue run on Savage Wolverine, Deadpool, The Superior Spider-Man, Matt Fraction's Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, Young Avengers, and Journey Into Mystery. I'm probably never going to quite love the Marvel Universe the way I love the older stuff--you know I prefer change and growth to repetition--but I'm happy to see the line acknowledging that when practically every one of your thousands of characters are an Avenger or X-Man (or both), it's okay to have fun and stop making every threat so dire.

18. "Gypsy"
I haven't really liked a Lady Gaga song in some time, either ("Paparazzi" in 2009), but I really dig everything I've heard off this new album so far. I also enjoyed her rather self-aware, surprisingly deconstructive appearance on SNL. I don't know if I'll ever be that big a fan, but this year I dig some of what she had going on.

17. Super Boys
One of my favorite books from this year, which I expounded more on here. Not only the definitive story of the creation of Superman as both character and corporate property, the book is also a great examination of why Superman remains so relevant today.

16. The Next Day
David Bowie's first new album in a decade is an observational, innovative, dark and bold album from an elder statesman. The mood of this album is apparent from its subversive cover; the music, too, takes something familiar and subverts it, even obscures it, by being surprisingly jarring.

15. DoctorWho50
I always thought the real brilliance of Doctor Who is that you can kind of take out of it whatever you like and ignore what you don't. Rather than making every piece fit together, there's so much there that you can choose to make your own canon out of. So even if I didn't like "The Day of the Doctor"--or, for that matter, "The Time of the Doctor" or pretty much all of the Steven Moffat run thus far, except for a few episodes--I still had plenty to enjoy during this 50th anniversary celebration of Who. The airing of classic episodes on BBC America, the wonderful An Adventure in Space and Time TV movie, some fantastic fan videos (particularly this excellent animation by Richard Swarbrick), and especially Peter Davison's The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot were all joyous occasions for me. Those were my 50th anniversary, and that's why I'm not wasting my time carping on the current run, which it's no secret I don't care for: I had a lot to enjoy.

14. Hannibal
This one took me by surprise. I think this raised the bar for a lot of network TV for me. It was also an interesting example of what niche viewing has done to the networks. I spent the first eight weeks waiting for this gory, violent show to get canceled; I still remember a time when something like Family Guy would never have aired before 8:30 Central time, much less in late afternoon reruns. So I wonder if networks are taking more chances on content--and, hopefully, on original programming--because so many other viewing options are available. I was riveted to this show week after week, with its great performances and the psychological twists it took. It was one of the more engaging and active shows in a year filled with them.

13. The end of Marvel's Oz comics
Well, it had to end sometime; this winter, Marvel put out the final issue of The Emerald City of Oz, the last of Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's Baum adaptations that Marvel is going to publish. It's been a fantastic ride, with some unforgettable comics. I remember desperately hoping that they might adapt the second Oz novel; I never expected to get the first six.

12. Dance Moms
Last year at the time, I was sick with bronchitis, fading in and out of consciousness, and woke up to find my wife caught up in a Dance Moms marathon on Lifetime. It was premiering on New Year's Day then, too, and we ended up watching this show throughout the year. Even though I don't like the concept, I guess this is the kind of thing you'd think of as a guilty pleasure. I get caught up in the parts about being a teacher the most, I think, but the dancing is genuinely great. I don't see a lot of great dancing on TV. So here I am, one year later, sick with at the very least a bad flu, fading in and out of consciousness, and planning to watch tomorrow's Dance Moms marathon on Lifetime (and tomorrow night's season premiere).

11. Random Access Memories
I'm never sure what I'm going to like in modern music anymore, but after loving their score to Tron: Legacy, I thought I'd take a listen to Daft Punk's new album back when it came out in May. Now it's the last day of the year and the entire album has yet to come off my iPod. The album's perfect. It's basically an electronic disco album, but it's funky and jazzy, and it has Paul Williams on one track, which is just astoundingly wonderful.

10. "Perfume"
I'd pretty much written off Britney Spears. I had no idea that my favorite single of the year would be a Britney song, much less one that's basically a snythpop version of an 80s power ballad, but... well, here we are.

9. The Marvel Cinematic Universe
I just can't believe not only how well they're pulling this off, but how much fun this thing is. This year, we had Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, the great Agent Carter short, and the Agents of SHIELD TV series, and I've been enjoying the hell out of all of it. Not only has the MCU given me a series of films to look forward to endlessly, it's also put me back in touch with my love of Marvel Comics, something I'd never really expected to connect with again (and which led to my ongoing Marvels series on this blog).

8. Mickey Mouse
This year saw a new series of Mickey Mouse cartoons with an anarchic spirit that were a heck of a good time to watch.

7. Breaking Bad
The final season was a masterful ending to one of the finest modern televisions dramas. This is one of the series that made me feel like an active viewer, and it rewarded that attention all the way through to its final episode.

6. The Electric Lady
My favorite album this year is Janelle Monae's newest installment of her ongoing concept series. It's a psychedelic soul experiment about a messianic android. I don't know much about afrofuturism, but it's interesting here to see Monae explore themes of race and identity through a science fiction prism; it feels like one of the few genuinely new things to come out of science fiction in a long time. It's an exciting album; Monae fuses a lot of different styles together and creates something powerful that, honestly, I feel like I've been waiting to hear for a long, long time. This is the kind of album I've been dreaming about hearing for the last 20 years, right down to the guest appearance by Prince.

5. Chris Hadfield
One of my greatest heroes this year was Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who spent a couple of months all over social media documenting life aboard the International Space Station, ending it all with his own rendition of "Space Oddity." It was an amazing personal journey to just 250 miles over our heads, something that humanized life in outer space for a lot of people this year. I know it's not technically a pop culture achievement, but the way Hadfield and Expedition 35 utilized Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and YouTube is a great example of how we filter our collective consciousness today. Thank you, sir, for daring to look up and share the wonder.

4. Gravity
Boy, it really was a great year for outer space and science fiction; better, in fact, than a lot of recent years. Easily the best film of 2013 was this epic space disaster film; it was a harrowing, rewarding experience that grabbed me right from its first moment and didn't let me go for 90 minutes. So few films capture the balance of how wonderful and terrible outer space can be, but this one does, tempering both with a drama of humanity and spiritual (but not specifically religious) significance.

3. The Veronica Mars Kickstarter (and the year of Kristen Bell)
I could only kick in a buck, but I was pleased to be able to give to the Kickstarter to make a Veronica Mars movie--a movie that will be released in just a few months. It was a controversial effort--why should we pay to produce a movie that a multimedia conglomerate will reap the benefits of?--but it was also proof that people are willing to pay for the entertainment they want, and I WANT a Veronica Mars movie. Really, between this movie happening and her continued appearances on Ellen and her pregnancy and her starring role in Disney's Frozen and her excellent performance in The Lifeguard, this seemed like the year that the internet finally fell in love with Kristen Bell. And that's just dandy, because she's magic.

2. Another year in the life of a Muppet fan
Previews for a new movie. The Monster at the End of This Twitter. The Hub's Fraggle Rock-a-Thon. Ricky Gervais' videos with Pepe. Cookie Monster's "Me Want It (But Me Wait)." New Blu-Rays. Big Bird's appearance on The Colbert Report. Jimmy Fallon and the Roots with the cast of Sesame Street at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. Food Fight! with Gordon Ramsey. Even that bizarre Lady Gaga special, which gave me one of the best sights of the year, Kristen Bell dancing with Bobo the Bear. There were so, so many years that with hardly any new Muppets stuff at all, and now... now they're everywhere and everything feels right with the world. And then there was Brian Jay Jones' essential Jim Henson: The Biography, which I'm making my way through right now, and which is the biography we all wanted to read. This is the best time to be a Muppets fan in a long time.

1. FF
Of all the comics Marvel had coming out this year, FF is the best. It's probably the best Marvel comic I've read since I was a child. It just feels like it has real consequences and stake that come out of its rich characters; it's honestly the first Fantastic Four-related comic in a long time that really justifies the idea that the FF--here extended out into Reed Richards' Future Foundation--is supposed to be a family. Matt Fraction and Mike Allred have created something really special and innovative, and it's all working up to a finale that's about to come out, but there have been some touching, wonderful moments along the way; such as the reveal of Adolf Impossible as a fearful, anxious boy, and the casual--but beautiful--revelation of a transgender Moloid. This really feels like the next-generation successor to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four, and I'm so glad I got to read it.

And that's 2013. I meant to have this up yesterday, but I was much more sick than I am today. And it still took me hours, in and out, lots of breaks. I hope this doesn't happen every freaking year. But at least there was a lot of great stuff to enjoy this year. I'd much rather talk about enjoying stuff than go nuts over things I didn't like.

I hope you all enjoyed stuff, too. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Song of the Week: "For Crying Out Loud"

My wife is sick, the weather is miserable, my anxiety is out of control, and it's just generally kind of crappy day. Turns out I need some operatic rock. This dramatic number is the closing track from my other favorite album of all time, Meat Loaf's 1977 masterpiece Bat Out of Hell. Seems like a nice, big, emotional, overwrought-in-the-way-I-like way to close out Song of the Week for 2013. Why not go out big this year?

My 10 Favorite Movies of 2013 (So Far)

As usual, I haven't seen anywhere near the amount of movies I want to see this year, so here is my annual non-prestigious, completely subjective, yet unapologetic list of the 10 movies I liked the most this year (that I actually managed to see in the calendar year 2013):

1. Gravity
2. Fruitvale Station
3. The Kings of Summer
4. Spring Breakers
5. Behind the Candelabra
6. Thor: The Dark World
7. An Adventure in Space and Time
8. This Is the End
9. The World's End
10. Pacific Rim

And, since I finally did see most of what I wanted to see from last year, here is my similarly subjective list of my 25 favorite movies of 2012. (And looking at the list of movies I have seen from 2012--over 100 of them--last year wasn't really a fantastic year for movies.)

1. Life of Pi
2. The Avengers
3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
4. Amour
5. Cloud Atlas
6. 56 Up
7. The Master
8. The Impossible
9. Ginger & Rosa
10. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
11. Prometheus
12. Seven Psychopaths
13. War Witch
14. Kauwboy
15. Argo
16. John Carter
17. Safety Not Guaranteed
18. Skyfall
19. Django Unchained
20. Kon-Tiki
21. Lincoln
22. To the Wonder
23. Frances Ha
24. Magic Mike
25. A Royal Affair

Saturday, December 28, 2013

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 8

Well, I was going to take the week off from this... and then I saw that we're finally getting to the sex.

And it is... it is really fucking boring.

I guess I expected it would be hilariously bad and stupidly funny. But no. No, it's just really boring and dull. There's not even much to make fun of, because it's like watching paint dry, and pretty much exactly that funny to talk about.

But first: back to raging asshole Christian, totally angry that the girl he's known for, like, a week never explained to him that she's a virgin before. And, of course, somehow she feels guilty. This doesn't bode well. Then she's just getting all goofy inside because he thinks she's beautiful, and then he's getting over the top angry, demanding to know how she could possibly still be a virgin at the age of 21, as if that's really a rare thing. Ana being a virgin at 21--anyone being a virgin at 21--is totally believable. What isn't believable is how little she actually understands about how sex works. We'll get there.

She's worried that he's going to send her away, and he even gives her the chance to leave if this is too much for her, but she really just loves and craves approval and attention too much to leave now. She's a special snowflake; one of those girls who is uncomfortable with attention because she doesn't know how to handle it, and yet seeks it out constantly because she wants the validation. (Again, Tumblr experience talking.) She admits to us that she doesn't want to leave. And I don't think he really intends on letting her, anyway, since as she's supposed to be deciding, he's bombarding her with more of his idiot comments about how he wants to bite her lip and how distracting she is and then he says "We're going to rectify this situation right now."

The situation of her virginity.

It's not an experience. It's a situation. An obstacle for him that he needs to rectify so he can prepare her to be used as a tool in the near future.

Then we get this from him: "I want our arrangement to work, but you really need to have some idea what you’re getting yourself into. We can start your training tonight – with the basics. This doesn’t mean I’ve come over all hearts and flowers, it’s a means to an end, but one that I want, and hopefully you do too."

I love that little afterthought: Oh, er, hopefully you do, too, but I don't really care that much, after all, I'm trying to get you to sign your consent and autonomy away. But it's okay, because she's totally internalized that stereotype so many novels keep pushing about how abuse and entitlement are actually romance. (On a side note, please, please, please do not tell your young daughters that when boys push and hit them on the playground that it means the boys like them.) She doesn't realize that none of this is actually about her, it's just... well: the key line in all that is "it's a means to an end." So romantic.

Her response? "I flush... oh my... wishes do come true."

I've used this phrase so much it's lost all meaning, but I will never say it about anything else ever again: this is the worst-written piece of shit I've ever read in my life.

So, Ana has to be de-virginized before she can be his slave, and she gives her consent... and remember, if she signs the contract--and she's already told us that she will--this is going to be the last moment where her consent ever matters.

This is all so wrong.

And what makes this especially pathetic is that Ana makes literally everything Christian does romantic. She romanticizes every inhuman, abusive thing that's wrong with him. Actually, in her eyes, there's nothing wrong with him. She refers to him again as a "monster" because he likes to torture women, but she doesn't internalize that in a way that actually matters. She's just a little nervous because her [classic British literature] romantic fantasy is getting rougher than she wanted, but she's still going to go with it no matter what.

So, anyway, they go into his bedroom, where she describes his bed, which is somehow both "ultra-modern" and a four-poster, which are two things that don't exist in the same place. An ultra-modern four-poster? Jeez, what's his decorating style? Tudor Art Deco? You don't know. You don't know anything about anything.

"Finally, after all this time, I'm going to do it, with none other than Christian Grey."

Finally? I thought you said you never wanted to have sex before.

He takes off his shirt and shoes and it takes forever, because she's working up to it, and Christian's so super hot, you guys, holy hell, he is so damn hot, like we get it, alright. And he's all "Do you have any idea how much I want you" and "Do you have any idea what I'm going to do to you" and ugh, can we just get to this, please?

Let's gloss over some of this next stupidity. The sex really is just super-boring "insert tab D into slot V" kind of functional sex, written by a woman who clearly doesn't like to think about healthy sex too much and looked up a bunch of chaste online descriptions to use. It doesn't read like anything a normal person has ever felt about sex ever in their lives. It's about as exciting as watching a dog hump a cardboard box.

So, since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll intersperse some of my general reactions to what's happening.

"The muscles inside the deepest, darkest part of me clench in the most delicious fashion. The pain is so sweet and sharp I want to close my eyes, but I'm hypnotized by his eyes staring into mine."

Pain? In your pelvic muscles? If you've got pain in your pelvis, you should not be engaging in sex, you should be consulting a medical professional.

"'I like brunettes,' he murmurs, and both his hands are in my hair, grasping each side of my head."

Who gives a shit? Why would you even say that during sex?

"Seeing him on his knees in front of me, feeling his mouth on me, it's so unexpected, and hot."

Like, in what way? I can't believe I'm asking this, but could you be more descriptive about what this person is actually feeling? First-person narrative's a lot harder to get right than you thought, isn't it?

"'You smell so good,' he murmurs, and closes his eyes, a look of pure pleasure on my face, and I practically convulse."

They don't even have all of their clothes off yet, by the way.

"'You're very beautiful, Anastasia Steele. I can't wait to be inside you.' Holy shit. His words. He's so seductive."

She has no idea how to describe the sensations involved in having sex, nor the feelings it elicits. I don't understand how you bored housewives are getting off to this, because it's the worst pathetic attempt at writing sex. It's like it's written as one of those Doge memes. Such sex. So seductive. Much tingle.

She's approaching this whole thing like it's all naughty and titillating, but it's so perfunctory.

Then she says she's never masturbated, never even touched herself "there"before. He wants to watch her, and she doesn't even understand what he means by it because the concept of masturbation is wholly alien to her. Bullshit.


And then he's just all over her breasts. Paragraph after paragraph of playing with her nipples, because EL James is still working herself up to having to use words other than "there" or "deep inside in my most secret places" to discuss the vagina, and that's scary, so we spend paragraphs on her sensitive nipples.

She's so magical that she can apparently come just from having her never-before-touched-apparently-never-even-by-her-or-a-doctor-or-something nipples paid attention to. Which, you know, some women can, but it's pretty rare, and it's really only there so James doesn't have to discuss things like insertion or, you know, SEX. She's timid and trying to delay it by getting lost in the arousal, but it's just... it's so boring, you guys. It's so goddamn boring.

"His teeth close round my nipple, and his thumb and finger pull hard, and I fall apart in his hands, my body convulsing and shattering into a thousand pieces. He kisses me, deeply, his tongue in my mouth absorbing my cries."

Well, that's her orgasm, then. Her first ever, apparently. She doesn't really get much time to enjoy it, because he's babbling about how responsive she is and how he can't wait to control her and she's thinking things like "Holy cow" and how he's touching her. Can you guess where? "There."

"His hand moves down my waist, to my hips, and then cups me intimately..."

Can someone explain to me what the platonic way to cup someone's crotch is? I'm asking for a friend.

"He kneels up and pulls a condom onto his considerable length. Oh no... Will it? How?"

Don't you have the internet, dummy? You're a 21 year-old in the 21st century. A college fucking graduate.

"'Don't worry,' he breathes, his eyes on mine. 'You expand, too.'"

Her childlike naivete is doing whatever the opposite of turning me on is. Frankly, my penis has crawled inside of my lower intestine and I'm retroactively apologetic and filled with shame towards every woman who's ever had sex with me.

Also, he keeps calling her "baby" over and over again, and it's really gross. I just want it to stop. When he does it, it feels condescending and icky.

"I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity."


"And as he comes, he calls out my name, thrusting hard, then stilling as he empties into me."

Make this stop.

"Two orgasms… coming apart at the seams, like the spin cycle on a washing machine, wow."

Every time I think James has hit her worst metaphor, she keeps going.

"''You are mine,' he whispers. 'Only mine. Don’t forget it.'" Except she isn't, because she hasn't signed that contract yet, although admittedly that's probably just a formality by now. She describes his power trip as "heady," "seductive," and "intoxicating." Yeah, stripping you of your consent is so erotic. Hey, Robin Thicke wrote some lyrics about that and threw them over a Marvin Gaye track and it was literally the most popular song of 2013, so I guess... Wow, think about that. Think about the popularity of "Blurred Lines" and 50 Shades of Grey and think about what it is society is telling us about its collective sexual maturity.

"'See how you taste,' he breathes against my ear. 'Suck me, baby.' His thumb presses on my tongue, and my mouth closes around him, sucking wildly. I taste the saltiness on his thumb and the faint metallic tang of blood. Holy fuck. This is wrong, but holy hell is it erotic."

That's wrong? That's nothing. If you think that's really naughty and weird and dark, you are not cut out to be the submissive in a BDSM relationship. You just aren't. (It's also not really that erotic, either, but whatever.)

The blood is from her losing her virginity. Can we stop perpetuating that, writers of terrible fanfiction? Not all women bleed when they lose their virginity. Lots of women break their hymens before they even have sex, anyway, just from physical activities like sports, strenuous exercise, or, hell, falling on the playground. What I'm saying is, when you lose your virginity, even if it does bleed, it's generally not like the gory animal slaughter that's described here. You'd think Christian was going to have to throw out his mattress. I despise this fanfiction cliche. You can tell who knows nothing about sex, because the authors think that a hymen breaking is like the hotel hallway in The Shining and when men come they shoot directly into a woman's womb. You know nothing about anatomy. Add that to the long list of things you don't know anything about, EL James.

Then he starts thrusting into her again, saying things like "I want you sore, baby." And then it finally gets hilarious.

"'You. Are. So. Sweet,' he murmurs between each thrust. 'I. Want. You. So. Much.'


"'You. Are. Mine. Come for me, baby,' he growls."

Are you... are you really happy with that?

Am I supposed to be picturing William Shatner here?

Alright, well, then he's "spent," and then Ana falls asleep for a while, and then things get even more pathetic. She wakes up, and he's not there. Where does she find him? If you answered "Sitting at the piano in the dark, lit only by a solitary light, playing a melancholy Bach melody," then congratulations and I'm sorry, but you know your romance novel cliches. She's transfixed by his playing, seeing him as this sad, lonely figure, despondent and childlike in the darkness. She really thinks she's having this Gothic romance happen to her, instead of just being quasi-raped by a total creep who wants her to give up her free will so he can use her like a sex toy. Yeah, you are just having the best life.

He orders her to go back to bed (again, author's word, "order"), and they go back to their bloody sheets together. She reaches out to touch his chest, and he practically jumps back and puts on a shirt, because of his sexy, highly erotic terror of intimacy. Oddly, if nothing else, I feel like this should be the biggest red flag in this whole chapter. It just shows you exactly how things are going to go. Let's forget the sex, which was pretty forgettable, anyway. Let's just look at what's actually happened versus what Ana thinks has happened.

She thinks she's caught Christian in a vulnerable moment and gotten a glimpse into his beautiful, tortured soul.

In actuality, she's caught him in a sullen, despondent moment, and he's responded to being caught that way by flinching at her attempt to create an intimate bond between them.

Did you not read the contract, you idiot? He doesn't want a girlfriend.

Instead of reassessing all of this, she's merely touched by how sad he is.

Oh, jeez... you think you're in Beauty and the Beast, don't you?

Well, you're not.