Saturday, January 11, 2014

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 10

Note: Sorry to be so late with this one today; about mid-morning my internet shut off and wouldn't come back on. By the time I finally got it back in the early evening, after hours of dealing with tech support, I had a pounding headache. But now we're back on the air, as it were, so here's this week's awfulness.

So: Christian's mom shows up.

He gets up quickly and puts on his jeans--"no underwear!" which weirdly shocks Ana like it's the naughtiest and strangest thing she's ever seen anyone do, because apparently she lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with only [classic British literature] for company.

She's seriously having a panic attack about meeting his mother, and can't concentrate because Christian is just so very, very hot. "His beauty is derailing." Ugh, fuck off. She's worried about her clothes, and he tells her "Anastasia, you could be wearing a sack and you'd look lovely," which I'm surprised to see from a woman author, because in my experience, women don't find that to be the grand compliment that men seem to think it is. Christian then straight up threatens her with "I will expect you in that room in five minutes, otherwise I'll come and drag you out of here myself in whatever you're wearing." Which is what a controlling, abusive ass says, but come on, in front of his mother? Bull fucking shit. Tough talk, little man.

"Holy shit. Christian's mother. This is so much more than I bargained for." THIS IS?

Then there's a lot of blah blah blurgh about Ana's hair and trying to dress up and look presentable but, you know, she's such an ugly goblin, but hey, at least her shirt survived the night without any creases, you guys, and seriously, these are two paragraphs you could just lop right out of it.

Christian's mother Esme Grace Trevelyan-Grey is "impeccably attired" and "groomed" and "elegant" and the usual EL James vagaries because good descriptive writing is really hard, you guys. Grace is happy to meet Ana and actually quite warm towards her, but soon Ana has to answer the phone because Jose is calling. Remember Jose?

"Dios mio! Ana!" he says, because he's the only non-white character, and non-white people say shit like "Dios mio!" all the time, I guess. I've known a number of Latino people in my life, and exactly one of them said things like that in casual conversation, and EL James is only doing it to just shove in your face that he's the one non-white character in the book, in that way that bad authors do when their only contact with Latinos is in old Speedy Gonzales cartoons. It's just... trite.

Jose again: "Where are you? I've been trying to contact you. I need to see you, to apologize for my behavior on Friday. Why haven't you returned my calls?" Well, let's figure that out, asshole. How about because you tried to sexually assault me outside a club when we were both drunk? Maybe that has something to do with it. Ugh. I hate Christian Grey for a lot of reasons that have to do with bad, boring writing, but to be fair to James, I despise Jose because he's exactly like other guys I've known. You don't have to see her to apologize to her; you can apologize to her now. You're not entitled to her presence just because you want her in front of you when you apologize for being a drunken sexual predator. In fact, I would argue that that's the reason she shouldn't be alone with you. He's one of those Nice Guys who feels entitled to her attention because he's been so nice to her and patient with her and assumed he would eventually get to sleep with her as a reward for being so nice. Fuck you, Jose.

(Also, does it bother anyone else that the only person of color in the book is not only whiny and entitled, but also characterized as a sexual predator? Why are all the men in Ana's life so far sexual predators?)

"Are you with him?" Jose demands, and Ana ends the call, but the damage is already done as far as Christian is concerned. His mother leaves, and then Christian--angry that she was even talking to Jose at all--ignores her and takes more vague business calls where he says things like "shipment" and "Darfur" and "Charlie Tango" and "air-drop" because they sound kind of important-ish, but EL James is clearly uninterested and incapable of writing about them with any verisimilitude. And now Christian is just angry, cold and distant, where before he had been boyish, charming and warm, and he's still making her feel like it was her fault that she was nearly raped by her friend and making her feel bad for being drunk in the first place, like it reflects badly on him or something. And apparently he decides this is the perfect time to go and get her the contract and tells her to read it over and research it on the internet... but get this: Ana is a college student in 2011 and apparently doesn't actually own a computer.

How... how are you even alive? How much of a shut-in are we supposed to believe future cat lady is? How the fuck does she even write her papers for class? She says she has access to Kate's laptop, but two girls sharing one laptop... and one's a journalism major... wha?

Then she wants to call Kate, but he's all pissy because he thinks she wants to call "the photographer" back. "'I don’t like to share, Miss Steele. Remember that.' His quiet, chilling tone is a warning, and with one long, cold look at me, he heads back to the bedroom." Wow, he's so sexy in his aloof cruelty. How romantically cold and distant of him. And we're back to this part of the abuse cycle, where he's got to make her scrape for his approval again.

This behavior is so manipulative. He's displeased by her simply having contact with the outside world, and he's going to make her feel like shit for displeasing him. It's just creepy and a bunch of bored housewives are romanticizing it. Controlling who your partner talks to is not okay. This is another in a series of red flags, but every time there is the promise of possible violence and the presence of emotional abuse, then Christian does something charming and Ana feels like she's so lucky that he's even interested in her and she just melts because occasionally he does something nice or wears a leather jacket and looks all hawt. Seriously, that's what happens here: he wears a leather jacket to drive her home, and she thinks "He looks like a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, maybe a badly behaved rock star or a catwalk model. I sigh inwardly, wishing I had a tenth of his poise."

Fuck you, Anastasia Rose Steele. Just... fuck you.

Then he tells her to stop biting her bottom lip "or I will fuck you in the elevator," because behavior modification disguised as romantic bullshit is his thing. (He seriously has a hard-on for making her feel like everything that happens is her fault, like a typical abuser.) And then she says that she needs to be able to talk about sex with Kate while not divulging too many details because she just has no frame of reference, and he actually rolls his eyes at her concerns. Seriously, this guy does not care about you as a person. He begrudgingly gives her permission to talk about her questions about sex with her best friend, but says that he doesn't want his brother Emmett Elliot finding out what they do in bed, and then we get this little exchange:

"The sooner I have your submission the better, and we can stop all this." "Stop all what?" "You, defying me."

Are you fucking kidding me?

This is not how relationships work, even relationships that involve BDSM. Because he's not talking about her being submissive in bed, he's talking about having control over her in every single aspect of her life. He is literally talking about how much better it's going to be when he has total control over her and doesn't have to be bothered with her petty human curiosity and feelings. This is not romance. But it's not like she has time to give it any real thought, even though she should be fucking horrified by what he's saying, because omg he loves his Audi R8 Spyder, so cute, boys and their toys, "it warms my heart."

Then they drive along for a while, and it's all very boring. He plays Bruce Springsteen ("Gotta love Bruce," he says, something which I find weirdly unbelievable for this character; I mean, Patrick Bateman loved Genesis and Huey Lewis, although Bruce, like Christian, is a rich guy with pretensions to blue collar humility, so what do I know?) and "Boy, this car can move," she thinks, like she's in a product placement deal or something.

Then he's all "You must eat, Anastasia," because he has that weird thing about eating, and they pull into this "rustic" chalet in the woods where they're served whatever the proprietors hunted and gathered that day, because this is all so interesting and we have to spend every moment with these two fucks. Oh, and he makes her drink Pinot Grigio; when she says she wants Diet Coke, he's actually very short and annoyed with her, but then he cocks his head and smiles, and omg so cute, you guys.

Oh, and Christian explains that Mama Grace was so happy to see him with a young lady because she's never seen him with a woman before and was worried he was gay.

Because gay people are incapable of happiness, I guess.

Seriously, what is with this author and her weird fixation on the possibility of a man being gay as somehow being weird and dark? This is the hundredth fucking time it's been brought up that Christian might possibly be gay, but only the first time when he hasn't been angrily offended by the suggestion. Now he's just amused at how his mother was apparently very worried that he might be gay, because apparently that's like not even having a soul or something.

But then he's gushing about how this is a weekend of firsts for him--first woman to meet his mother, first time having "vanilla sex," first time sleeping with a woman, first time having sex in his own bed, first time flying a girl in his fucking helicopter, and "What are you doing to me?" Christ, this just seems like a manipulative act.

The big revelation at this boring and unnecessarily detailed luncheon is that Christian was apparently seduced at age 15 by one of his mother's friends, and then was secretly her submissive for six years. And I'm not sure how I feel about this revelation.

See, this is obviously statutory rape and sexual abuse. It's a crime. It's illegal. And it's an adult using their position of authority over a teenager to take sexual advantage of them. That's not a relationship. It's wrong. It's not a romantic thing, okay? It's abuse. Taking advantage of someone by manipulating your position of authority is about the shittiest thing I can think of to do to someone, especially when that person literally cannot give legal consent to it.

But where I have mixed feelings is in the way EL James is using this piece of information. Since she's incapable of imagining a healthy relationship that utilizes BDSM and roleplaying--she thinks this kind of thing is just irretrievably dark and the domain of people with severe, even monstrous, psychological issues--this bit of Christian's past is used to show that he's continuing a cycle of abuse that he learned when he was younger.

Ana even recognizes that what happened to Christian was wrong and abusive, and that this experience is where Christian gets his ideas of what constitutes a relationship. He equates wanting to order her around and control her with romance, and it makes her uncomfortable. But that says to me that EL James sees BDSM on its own as inherently abusive and wrong; she doesn't make a distinction--because she apparently can't imagine that there is one--between abuse and consensual play. So she's made it very clear that Christian gets his fucked up ideas of romance from being abused as a teenager, and that what he wants to do to Ana is abuse. I'm also worried that what this is supposed to do is just make Christian more tragic, to excuse some of his controlling behavior because he just doesn't know any better, and that just makes me sick. I don't have any sympathy for this devil. And I don't know if I have sympathy for Ana because she's still mulling over the possibility of being his knowing full well that this is what their relationship will be like: abusive, controlling, one-sided, and cut off from talking about it with the outside world.

And then Christian goes back to his abusive asshole self, getting angry with her for not eating enough, and then refusing to go up to her apartment when he drops her off because, hello, he's not interested in the relationship part, Ana, figure it the fuck out. For her part, you'd think someone was ripping an organ out of her body, she's so sad at having to leave him, even for a few days. And oh, tee hee, I'm wearing your underwear, I'm so naughty, and Christian is shocked she has on a pair of his boxer briefs, because a guy who engages in the most elaborate SM not imagined by de Sade is going to be shocked by a girl wearing men's underwear, I guess. Ooh, you so naughty, Anastasia.

Then Ana has to "deal with" Kate's concern, and even though Ana wants to talk to Kate about sex, she's still so combative and cagey about it. I fucking hate the way Ana treats her best friend like this annoyance she has to get around. She acts like talking to Kate is such a fucking chore. Now, granted, Kate has a tendency to act like she's Ana's keeper and is solely responsible for making sure Ana doesn't open her mouth in a rainstorm and die like a turkey, but Ana, through her almost Muppet-like naivete, has sort of put Kate in that position by leaving her in charge of everything. Being combative towards Kate's genuine concern for her friend is just beyond bitchy.

Then they talk about sex and how apparently rare it is for females to ever have an orgasm during sex and there's a strong, uncomfortable implication that only men can give you an orgasm, ladies, so don't go touching yourselves or anything like that. Apparently Kate had a "horrid" first time in high school with some "dickless jock" (which, if he was dickless, no wonder the sex was so bad) whom she calls "the gutless wonder" and is so glad that Ana found someone "who knows his ass from his elbow" because EL James has a great ear for how college girls really talk in the 21st century.

Another telling moment about how Ana sees Kate: Ana is thrilled to get interviews for internships at the two publishing houses she applied to, and Kate says, with supportive congratulation, "I told you your GPA would open doors, Ana." Then Ana tells us that Kate already has an internship lined up at a newspaper because "Her father knows someone who knows someone." That's just the kind of irredeemably catty bitch Ana is, and she's just so casual and earnest about it, too. Yes, Ana; things happen for you because you worked hard, but Kate just has the right connections and doesn't even have to be good at anything, I guess. Fuck. You.

Then Ana calls Jose, who begs for her forgiveness, which she readily gives with a "Just don't do it again" and a reminder that he's like a brother to her and she doesn't feel that way about him. Then he immediately starts badgering her about her relationship with Christian. "'So you're with him now?' His tone is full of disdain." Jesus Christ. He even asks her if she wants to be with Christian because he's rich, and he gets all whiny (author's word) and full of "petty jealousy" which Ana doesn't want to deal with. But he still is very hopeful about still being friends with her, which says to me he still thinks there's a chance for romance, which she should just shut down right now, because you two are just not going to make it as friends. This is one of those situations where he's eager to remain your friend because he still thinks that one night, when you're drunk again, he's going to be able to kiss you and you'll just magically be in love with him, too. This is not someone you should be hanging around with, because the awkward will get out of control, and then it's just going to be a lot of hurt feelings and stalking and awfulness. Shut it down, Ana. It's okay to shut this down, because you're under no obligation to respond to his advances just because he really, really likes you.

I also don't like that when Ana tells Kate that Jose "made a pass at me on Friday," Kate's response is "Jose? And Christian Grey? Ana, your pheromones must be working overtime." Way to blame the victim, Kate.

And then it's just a lot of dry talk and eating lasagna and Ana wondering how Christian can be so boyish and cute and soulful and irresistible but also so broken and tragic and cold and she's so sad because he was abused by this woman as a kid and does she really want to walk away from him because holy shit orgasms are so awesome, you guys.

The next chapter promises to be a doozy, because we're going to get to read the contract. Whatever happens, I feel like I can guarantee that it's going to be long and terrible. And hopefully hilarious. But definitely exhausting.


Autumn said...

C'mon, he's a sexy, tragic beast in a castle and if she tries hard enough,she'll save him and he'll end up being a handsome prince and they will live happily ever after riding in helicopters, drinking wine, and setting her panties afire with lust.


I would draw you a picture, but I'm not sure what anything looks like....

Carl said...

My problem with E.L. James is that she leaves so many things unresolved. Like, How was the lasagna?

Kelly Sedinger said...

How much longer IS this goddamn book, anyway? Please tell me you're more than halfway through. And please tell me you're not f***ing around with the sequels.

Carl said...

I hope to Hell he's not... I ain't buying him the other three.

Out of curiosity (i.e. my wife made me read them) I read the plot summaries of the other two, so I know how they end.

I won't spoil it for everybody reading this, but I read those plot summaries with a dwindling sense of optimism about the human race.

All I can say is, in response to Time Magazine naming E.L. James one of the 100 most influential people, is, "Fuck you, Time Magazine."

Roger Owen Green said...

Carl - Actually, I don't think TIME is wrong, unfortunately. Now, if that's the case, we're REALLY in trouble.

SamuraiFrog said...

Kelly, I'm on page 165 out of 514.

Carl said...

Kelly - I didn't think Time was WRONG per se. Just... well, fuck 'em.

Aaron - I read the plot summary for this thing on Wikipedia. Based on what I read there, you're almost done... so WTF did they leave out, or how freaking fluffed is the rest?