Saturday, March 08, 2014

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 18

The last couple of chapters, with their depressing, horrific rape trauma, were real bummers. They were depressing and hard to get through, and doing this turned into something less fun and more like being forced to witness violations. So it's kind of a relief that most of this chapter is just fucking. Boring, badly written fucking.

Before that, though, one Dr. Greene examines Ana and puts her on birth control mini-pills, which is kind of pointless to dramatize, except that EL James dramatizes everything that happens to these two. Ana tells us that the woman is another one of Hitchcock's ice blondes, like the women who work in his office, and once again Ana is real condescending about it. Dr. Greene advises Christian to "Look after her; she's a beautiful, bright young woman." It speaks volumes about EL James that both Ana and Christian are taken aback, and Ana characterizes this minor compliment as "an inappropriate thing for a doctor to say."

It also speaks volumes that Dr. Greene is just the next in a long line of women that Ana is condescending towards, because other women only exist to be fascinated by the amazing mystery that is Christian Grey, a secret that only Ana and, like, 20 other people know. Ana has a narcissistic tendency to act like this not only makes her more interesting than other women, but just generally a better human being. It's getting close to that thing I see all the time on Tumblr, where girls think famous people are just somehow better than everyone else.

:: There's a dinner scene that's everything that's wrong with James' writing. She can't write cute conversations. It's annoying watching Ana muse on and on about how sexy and mysterious Christian is. They eat chicken caesar salad and somehow it turns them on, despite being one of the most unerotic meals I can think of. And then they're all over each other and, yeesh, not with your chicken caesar breath, please. These kids are just so horny they can't stop themselves from giving each other passionate, parmesan-and-anchovy-flavored kisses. Keep that in mind through this chapter.

:: Also, keep in mind that Ana still hasn't signed the contract. She even brings it up.

:: Look, in most of this chapter, it's just a little light bondage in the Red Room of Pain, as she keeps calling it, so mainly I'm just going to pick apart some of the bad writing/phrasing and talk about why Christian Grey isn't even a good Dom.

:: "One of the reasons people like me do this is because we either like to give or receive pain. It's very simple." What's very simple is this explanation. Overly so. There is a control issue here. It's about control, and pain can only be a part of that control. Did you know that you can dominate another person during BDSM without inflicting any pain at all? EL James doesn't.

:: "He wants to hurt me… how do I deal with this? I can’t hide the horror on my face."  Dude, not the response you want from your partner. You can't just convince her she's into pain if she's not.

:: "My blood is running heated and scared through my system – adrenaline mixed with lust and longing. It’s a heady, potent cocktail." "Lust" and "longing" mean the same thing in this context.

:: "Christian's stance has changed completely, subtly altered, harder and meaner." He completely subtly changed?

:: "It's the same, the smell of leather, citrus-scented polish, and dark wood, all very sensual." Well, if you say so. I mean, why describe what's so sensual about it when you can just say it is?

:: Christian disrobing Ana is very boring. Everything is so clinical and detached. That's a big problem with EL James: the detachment. She doesn't really commit to it, to this experience that she's imagining, because she keeps interjecting stupid phrases like "beyond erotic" and "Holy Moses" that make her sound like a Midwest spinster, or just terrible attempts to be flowery like "at a most unhurried pace," which are just stupid. Why do idiots get so faux-flowery when they're describing sex, like it's this mystical thing? Can't you just relate to it like a human being? But the detachment those phrases indicate is really telling. She's not in this experience, she's observing this experience and trying to describe it back like an alien intern on her first day at the nature observatory. It's not at all erotic, is what I'm saying. Even the sex in this book is boring as shit. Penthouse Letters is hotter than this garbage.

:: Christian wants Ana to always have her hair braided in the Room. She doesn't know why. Um, so he can pull you, like he just did a second ago, use your powers of observation.

:: "He smells of body wash and Christian, an inebriating mix, and that drags me back into the now." EL James always loves to talk about how he smells. My wife says Christian probably smells like sweat and Old Spice, which, yeah, come on.

:: "And suddenly he's back--and all at once I'm calmer and more excited in the same breath. Could I be more excited?" Did you hear that in Chandler Bing's voice, too?

:: What's happening now is that Christian has stripped her down to her panties and she's on her knees. He's got a riding crop out and he's teasing her with it with some light smacks.

Before we go on, I'm going to interject with some of the stuff Christian is doing wrong as a Dom. This is all courtesy of my wife, so here is Becca's Bondage School Guide to Everything Christian Is Doing Wrong, Part One:

* Don't say 'You can sit back on your heels' like she has a choice in the matter. Be firm.
* Don't say 'Look down at the floor.' Direct her. Tell her 'Don't look at me.'
* Don't ask her 'Will you remember this position, Anastasia?' It's not her choice. Order her to remember it. You're a Dom--dominate.
* Why the fuck did you change into ratty old jeans? That doesn't fit the Dominant character you're trying to affect. This isn't Casual Sunday. Take this seriously.
* Don't tell her you're going to chain her up, just do it. She's your sub, treat her like one.
* Don't tell her what you're going to do to her at all or how, just tell her to do it or just do it. This is not D/s. He doesn't understand that the element of fear and the loss of control is a very important part of this. She should have faith that he won't go too far, and he should have faith that she'll stop him if he does. It's about control, not making sure that she knows what's happening every step of the way. I know Ana's not a real sub, but a real sub would know this going in and would be very impatient that he's stopping before each step to explain what's going to happen. It totally takes away some of the elements essential to it.

:: "He steps back and gazes at me, his expression hooded, salacious, carnal [...]" Salacious is a terrible word for this. It's just an attempt to sound fancy, like a fancy word for lecherous, because she probably feels she's used lustful too many times already in this chapter. It doesn't make you sound clever, and there's a sort of connotation to the word salacious--at least in my opinion--that makes him sound sleazier. I'm picturing Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave right now, which is probably not what you should be making me think of.

Also, she keeps using this word hooded to describe his expressions, and I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. Hooded like a cobra? Or just leering down and shadowy, like a villain on a movie poster?

:: "Not taking his eyes off mine, he scrunches my panties in his hand, holds them up to his nose, and inhales deeply. Holy fuck. Did he just do that? He grins wickedly at me and tucks them into the pocket of his jeans."

You know, some things that turn you on in the moment don't really make sense to other people when you try to describe it. They don't have to. I have no idea why panty-sniffing would be so utterly captivating, and "Holy fuck" doesn't really do it for me. People do lots of weird shit when they're fucking, but that doesn't mean it's all a rich tapestry to hear about. You don't have to react to everything for our benefit.

Also, this shit where he's always grinning at her when he does stupid shit like that... stop it. It's like a child. A very stupid, cruel child. You know how a child will knock something over on purpose, just to see what it's like, and then they grin at you with that moron grin that says "Isn't what I just did very cute and very clever?" It's like that. I cannot take this kid seriously. He's just written like this overgrown child, and it just sort of makes me queasy. Again, not erotic. Nothing erotic about this novel.

:: "The shock runs through me, and it's the sweetest, strangest, hedonistic feeling." Incorrect usage. Hedonistic is not descriptive of feelings. Hedonism is a philosophy; it's an ethical doctrine about behavior. You do not feel like a hedonist just because you enjoyed getting smacked in the pussy with a riding crop. Hedonism is a lifestyle, not a feeling. Would you say that being very prudent and moderating your pleasure gave you an Epicurean feeling? Probably not.

:: Bonus hilarity for referring to your vagina as "my sex," like this is some Victorian porn novel.

:: "My nipples harden and elongate from the assault [...]" Like snakes, I guess. Seriously, just say your nipples got hard and stiff, but don't use the word elongate, that is an incredibly unsexy word. Also stop using the word buttocks. She uses it a LOT. Picture a man or a woman whispering in your eye "I'm going to spank your buttocks" and tell me it's not giggle-worthy.

::  Becca's Bondage School Guide to Everything Christian Is Doing Wrong, Part Two:

* Don't ask her if something feels good, assume it does if she doesn't tell you otherwise. Stop with the constant reassurance, you're doing it wrong.
* Don't kiss her! You're making her feel safe, when the excitement of being a sub is the thrill of being on a roller coaster--you know in the back of your mind you're safe, but the thrill is going right up to that limit.
* Don't ask her if she wants to come, make her come!
* Don't ask her if it hurts, let it hurt. She'll use her safeword if it hurts too much.
* Don't show her that you have scissors to cut the zip tie around her wrists; she has a safeword for this. Stop reassuring her! She should be afraid! You're so bad at this!
* Don't tell her you want more--take it!
* Don't tell her you'll make this quick. You're removing the essential emotional intensity of the whole thing.
* 'After this, I'll let you sleep.' What is this, a reward system?
* Quit being so gentle.
* Don't tell her what you'd like to do to her. She's yours! Just do it!
* Don't call her by her name, ever. Not in session.

:: It's hilarious that the zip tie he uses to clasp her hands together is--he points out, grinning his idiot child grin--one of the ones he bought from her way back at Clayton's, where she used to work. It's another of James' ridiculous Shucks, ain't I cute? moments. She thinks it's so dark and romantic or whatever her fucking psychosis is, but it's just really, really dumb. Hee hee, so naughty. Ugh. Barf.

:: "Jeez, it's deep this way." Painting a picture with words, this one. Always committing to those serious, erotic moods.

:: It's funny how the sex is always supposed to be such a big deal, but the actual sex itself is always over in a quick, single paragraph. It's so arbitrary, like EL James doesn't really want to talk about it too much.

:: There's some aftercare here, which is an important component of D/s relationships, and he's rambling about how great it is when she giggles. "'Tis a wonder and joy to behold," he says in a way that makes me want to take EL James' laptop away from her.

He's also all about convincing Ana how wrong she is to have reservations about his surprisingly boring BDSM lifestyle that he thinks he has, and he's basically belittling her right to chose.

:: Ana notices "a few random and faint small, round scars dotted around his chest," which I guess is supposed to be another hint at Christian's traumatic childhood which apparently justifies what a fucking asshole he is as an adult. Except it doesn't. At all. I'm sick of this shit.

:: Christian hands Ana a waffle robe. What the fuck is a waffle robe? I know it's not a robe made of waffles, because that would be too beautiful for this world.

The chapter ends with Christian and Anastasia going to sleep together, which... what the fuck? I thought he didn't "do" just sleeping with a woman, but he's done this with her constantly. Seriously, make your mind up about this guy. Don't tell me he doesn't like to just sleep with a woman, and then have him doing nothing but that. Also, I thought he didn't do romantic sex, but they've done that a lot, too. You can't start with romantic sex and then build up to a kinky business transaction.

This is all just supposed to be about how he's falling in love with her and her love is saving him from his dark trauma with an added side of, Hey, ladies, if a guy is controlling and shows up at your house and beats you and rapes you, it's just because he really loves you and doesn't know how to show it yet, because of some childhood thing that makes him think the only way you can love someone is to sign them to a contract that says you own them.


1 comment:

Carl said...

I was watching Kate's expressions as she read this. When she got to the part about the sniffing, I thought she was going to vomit.

And now I want waffles.

Not sure if you've seen this: