Saturday, February 08, 2014

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 14

Alright, look, this thing draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaags. It's a tome. It's only about 20 pages shorter than The Fellowship of the Ring. Every freaking chapter is 20 pages long where maybe 5-11 would do. So I'm going to try to just get through this boring chapter without going over yet again all of the things that I despise about this book. Wish me luck!

:: The chapter starts with Ana having a graphic wet dream, because she didn't stay and fuck Christian in the last chapter and EL James has to give those bored housewives something to imagine while they're humping their dryers. Ana is totally surprised--she talks about it for a couple of short paragraphs--because of course she doesn't know that people can even dream about sex in the first place, much less orgasm, much less whatever, Christ, will you please read one fucking book that was written after 1895? She doesn't even understand why it would happen, because, what, it's not like she's just lost her virginity and is obsessively researching, talking about, thinking about, and having sex lately, I guess.

:: Ana is a bitch friend. It must be pathetic to know her personally. Again, she's constantly characterizing her talks with an interested, concerned Kate as a trial, like she has to sneakily find ways to get around her questioning. You know, you're allowed to tell your friends when you don't want to talk about something, no matter how many times they spew cliches like "Give it up, girlfriend!"

Graduation is tomorrow and Kate is valedictorian, and Ana pats herself on the back for "listening patiently" to Kate's speech, because being a friend is such a chore, you guys, but I guess we all have to make sacrifices in order to have limited social interaction.

New thought: Kate's family is rich. So is Christian. And they both treat her like she's too stupid to make decisions for herself. So, you know, either Christian's going to take care of her or Kate is, right? Gee, Ana, if you want Kate to stop acting like your mother, maybe you should stop treating her like your mother, right down to your weird passive-aggressive impatience.

:: "Christian’s idea of a relationship is more like a job offer. It has set hours, a job description, and a rather harsh grievance procedure." That's because it is a job offer. It is literally a job offer except payment is illegal, so... it's a work order with no remuneration attached... yep, it's slavery. It's slavery.

:: "I’m a physical coward, and I will go a long way to avoid pain." That's perfectly okay. If you're uncomfortable, you're uncomfortable. No one's making you do this. I know you're intensely worried because you don't want to lose this man you've known for, like, a week, but it'll be okay.

:: There is a lot of talk, as per usual, in this chapter of what Ana's inner goddess and subconscious are telling her, and my wish for her is that she could somehow drink poison and get rid of those things, because reading those passages somehow make me feel even more embarrassed for EL James and her shitty prose. It's like this novel got published as a joke and it just went out of control. You know what improves this? Read the dialogue of her subconscious in a Gollum voice.

:: For the second time, James uses the word "envisaged," which seems clumsy when she could just say "imagined." Maybe she thinks she's saying "envisioned"? I don't know, it just seems off, like she doesn't know what she means to say.

:: Ana's stepdad Ray, the guy she thinks of as her real dad (and whose last name she shares) comes to see her for graduation, and it is boring boring boring boring boring as fuck. Reading about a fictional graduation is as tedious as going to a real one. And so many details. I don't care what row you're sitting in. No one does. It's extraneous. Cut it.

:: Christian Grey, as "a major benefactor to our university" (though I think a real chancellor might have said something like "generous" instead of "major"), is present at the graduation to give a speech and hand out diplomas. There is a LOT of boring blah blah blah in this bit... you could probably drop about two or three pages just out of the graduation scene alone. I'm serious, there is a 218-page version of this book somewhere that would be a much better read. Be succinct, writers. Read Damage by Josephine Hart or Talking It Over by Julian Barnes and you can see how brevity does not have to sacrifice character.

Anyway, Ana gets all pissy and possessive because two girls sitting next to her think Christian's hawt, and she shuts them down by saying he's gay, because yet again, gay is apparently the worst thing a man can be. Vile, abusive asshole hiding behind kink? That's a grand romance. That's Heathcliff. But gay? Ugh, no!

Christian also decides to wear that same tie he's been using to tie her up, because he's an abusive asshole who is taking a rather big milestone for her and using it to remind her that she can't escape him. Nope, contract or no, he owns her now, and he won't let her forget it, even when she should just be able to enjoy her graduation and her accomplishments. Nope. This is all about Christian.

:: In Christian's speech, he talks about his charity work in third world countries, and says that he knows what it's like to be profoundly hungry. So Ana assumes this means that he must have been starved before he was adopted as a child, and she has this whole episode where she thinks she's discovered the entire key to his character. Except she hasn't, she's just discovered why he's sensitive about the idea of wasted food and overly sensitive about Ana getting enough to eat. That's literally it. It doesn't explain everything about the man himself. It just says that he was neglected.

But she goes on and on in her favorite place in the world--her own mind--spinning around about "poor, fucked-up, kinky, philanthropic Christian," which is just making me weirdly outraged. I mean... are we saying that Christian is to be pitied because he's kinky? People aren't kinky because they've experienced abuse or hardship, and it's bullshit to keep spreading the lie that they are. And yeah, he's fucked up, but do you really pity him for that? He's a self-centered, narcissistic, misogynist asshole who gets off on mentally and physically abusing women and uses a kink he clearly doesn't understand in order to justify it. This guy needs help. He needs exhaustive therapy. He does not need to be the star of a badly-written erotic romance novel that's so simplistic in its character psychology that it makes Twilight look like a scientific case study.

Ana's doing exactly what we all knew she would do: she's looking at her abuser as a victim, and she thinks that she can fix him because all he must need is the love of a good woman who really, really cares. (Which is bizarre, because she's as big a narcissist as he is, and I have yet to see any evidence of her taking a genuine interest in anyone outside of herself; Christian is only fascinating to her because he wants her so badly.)

Can abusers be fixed? I think so. But by trained mental health professionals, not by mooning, inexperienced young ladies who are flattered to be a part of his abuse pattern. He has to face what he's done and why, and you don't do that by catering to his "needs." Part of his pattern is literally isolating and owning someone, taking their consent for granted, and preventing them from seeking help. That's not healthy. He's not healthy. And if that sounds awesome to you, you're not healthy.

:: Christian hands out the diplomas. Like a real man, he chooses the moment he's handing her a diploma to whine to her about how she hasn't answered his emails or texts. Dude, she's been busy and not everyone needs to be attached to a screen every second of every day. It later turns out that he was worried about her driving in her "deathtrap" car and then he gets really mad when she mentions that Jose regularly tunes it up for her because the car used to belong to his mother. He actually pulls her into a locker room to confront her angrily at her own graduation. Wow, what a romance.

Oh, and then he's really pissed off because Kate's brother Ethan is friendly and puts his arm around her. Wow, a controlling and possessive jerk, you're so lucky!

:: Speaking of jerks, I really don't like how Kate decides to just go ahead and introduce Christian to Ana's dad as "Ana's boyfriend" and then, when Ana gets mad, saying "I did you a favor." That's not for you to decide, bitch. That's equally as controlling and manipulative as the way Christian treats her. You're not involved in the dynamic here. I hate when your friends think they're doing you a favor when really they're just pushing you into things you're not ready for. Jeez, Kate, how did this affect you in any way? Oh, it didn't? Then shut up!

:: I do think it's funny when Ana's dad leaves (he has other plans?) and tells Ana and Christian "You kids enjoy yourselves." Because for all the ways Ana talks about this mysterious, dark, sensuous older man, he's only 28 years old. He's something like 6 or 7 years older than her. He is a kid. He is improbably young for this. He should really be 44 or something. I just don't find him believable.

:: So then, still at her graduation, they're talking about whether she'll sign the contract, because that's much more of an immediate concern, and he says "You know it's going to be good, don't you, baby?" which is just so oily and wrong and he needs to stop saying "baby." Imagine Justin Bieber calling you "baby." It's like that. It just sounds stupid. It's cute, but it's not sexy.

Ana wants romance. Christian doesn't. He says he doesn't know how. She points out that she doesn't, either. This is a "let's chart a new course together" type of moment, but he's not willing to bend even a little in her direction. So she just agrees to sign the contract. Because that's what you do in a healthy relationship; if the other person won't compromise, you just agree to everything they want.

Ana, you are so stupid. Every time I think you've done the stupidest thing you can do, you just keep doing things.

:: So, Ray drops her off at home, she answers emails, she decides she wants to see Christian tonight, so he's going to come get her because he doesn't like her driving that car, because you've got to isolate your prey quickly, right?

Let the controlling begin! Or, continue!


Nathan said...

Wait, Ana's stepdad is named Ray Steele? Isn't that a character in Left Behind?

SamuraiFrog said...

Wow, weird, it is. Also weird: doing a Google search for "Ray Steele," the first image that comes up is of Nathan Fillion, apparently someone's dream casting for the role.

Now I'm curious about what his other plans were. If this novel is taking place during the Tribulation, that makes sense. I mean, everything's pretty wretched and torturous.

(Yeesh, no pun intended.)

Carl said...

I HAVE to believe that the reason so many women like this book is that they're skipping over the plot to get to the sex. It's the only thought that keeps me grounded in reality.

Nathan said...

From what I've heard, James has an uncanny ability to make even sex sound boring. I think that can be considered pure anti-talent.