Saturday, April 05, 2014

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 22

Here's an important question: is Ana supposed to be a pretentious asshole, or does she just come across that way because she's written by a pretentious asshole?

Do you remember back in Twilight how Bella was always casually judging everyone she met, even though we were apparently supposed to find her likable? I remember being especially annoyed by that, because it made Bella kind of a sociopath who--even though she was always putting herself down--was also basically waiting for someone who was special enough to be deserving of her. Ana is the same way. She is always looking down on everyone in such a casual way. Of course she loves Christian and she always will, no matter what he does to her: because he's so wealthy and omg hawt and so far removed and above it all. He's literally like Jean Marais in Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. And he's all tortured and she gets to fix it. What pretentious asshole could resist that?

Even at the top of the chapter, she's taking this moment to try and make Christian jealous by emailing him about how she got a massage in the first class lounge, but tells us of her masseur "He was a very nice young man, in a blonde, perma-tanned way--honestly, who has a tan in Seattle? It’s just so wrong. I think he was gay--but I’ll just keep that detail to myself." Yes, because every gay man conforms to this stereotype in your head. She later refers to him as "very gay" in a needless upgrade of her bitchiness. Why is it that every time Ana thinks someone is gay, it seems to carry a negative connotation? Or, even worse, this sort of connotation of "the other," like a gay person is a different species? Remember how angry Christian got when Ana asked if he was gay? Jesus, has EL James ever met a gay person? It's not like making first contact with an alien, you cretin.

She also mentions for us that the flight attendant wears too much make-up. Yes, judge people you know nothing about, it's not like you think of them as people. Obviously, you're an excellent judge of character, right, dumbass?

You know, I didn't even mention it last week because I wanted to get through it (and I was more struck by her idiotic description of the woman with "Pre-Raphaelite hair"), but she was totally running an internal judgement diagnostic on "Jack Hyde" simply because he said he preferred modern literature to her beloved classics, as though it's bizarre that someone would want to read something reflective of their own time period. Look, I'm not saying this to be a judgy Ana about it, but EL James never went to college, right? Because if she had, she'd know that an English major can't get away with only reading "the classics," whatever that means. "The classics" is not a genre of literature... it's a pretty wide range, and it goes at least through the 1950s or later. And it also goes back much further. I assume that when Ana says she loves the classics, she's not referring to actual Classical literature, because she doesn't strike me as much for Homer, Aristotle, Euripides, or Thucydides. (Her loss.) She seems rather narrowly focused on basically 18th and 19th century English literature, which is fine... unless you're actually an English student. Read something from this century. Or, you know, the last one. How did you get through high school without reading To Kill a Mockingbird?

I'm asking as someone with an actual English degree who read a lot of 20th century literature in college. And Dante. And Milton. And on and on through the whole history of literature.

I know, I know, someone who has tastes that differ from yours is beneath you.

It's that attitude that makes it unbelievable that she'd never used the internet before. That's all it is.



I have a headache now.

A few points in this chapter:

:: Ana is way too thrilled with herself for trying to torment Christian by telling him about the massage. "I almost hug myself with mischievous glee." Yeah, it's a real roller coaster. If you delight in tormenting your significant other about their insecurities, you are not in a healthy relationship.

:: A flight attendant handing you a blanket and a pillow is not mollycoddling you, idiot. This is like when she thought it was shockingly inappropriate for the doctor to pay her a compliment. You have serious problems with narcissism if someone merely fulfilling the basic functions of their job reads as paying you special attention. What do you call it when someone double-bags your bottle of milk at the grocery store? Cosseting?

:: For a moment, Ana is actually frightened that Christian might just show up to take the empty seat next to her. If you're afraid of your significant other showing up out of the blue, you are not in a healthy relationship.

:: You're not supposed to be using your MacBook or your BlackBerry on the plane, you dolt. You're not supposed to use the internet on a flight. Oh, wait, you're special. Sorry, I forgot.

Ana sends Christian this whole stupid email about how she's afraid of him and afraid of getting hurt both emotionally and physically, and also uses the word "envisaged" again unnecessarily, and still basically says that she loves him and wants to be with him but she doesn't like the bondage and it scares her but, you know, she'll try to do it, etc. You're just handing him the whole map to your damaged psyche, aren't you? She's reiterated this in every chapter now: I love him but I don't love bondage and pain but I'll just grit my teeth and try to like it if it's the only way to be with him. Fucking why? You can find someone else to love.

I keep thinking that she just doesn't think she deserves better, but the fact is, she feeds on this. It's special and different and removed from everyone else, and it's hers. She keeps talking about how Christian is fucked up, but so is she. She comes from a broken home, and she's very withdrawn, and she doesn't stand up for herself very much, and now she's fixated on someone who's clearly wrong for her, probably because she somehow thinks she's going to end up like her once-widowed, twice-divorced mother. Ana has this deep need to make this work because she has to be special enough to overcome all of her doubts. But that's no way to be happy. You will never be happy that way.

Selena Gomez should be playing Ana in the movie.

:: We get to Georgia to meet Ana's mother and Ana's stepfather Bob. Bob thinks her bag with the MacBook in it is very heavy. You're not cut out for golf if you can't lift a simple laptop, Bob.

:: Georgia is very hot. I know, I've been there, and that was the worst humidity I've ever experienced in my life. It's like you're swimming through the air everywhere you go. Humidity, by the way, is the word James is looking for when she describes Georgia's "wet heat." She can pull out "envisaged," but not "humidity." Maybe because "humidity" would have actually fit.

:: In case you desperately needed to know, Bob drives a Tahoe SUV. How many more brand names can she drop in, do you think?

:: For someone who wanted to go hide at mommy's house in order to have space to think about her relationship, Ana sure does flip out when anyone asks her questions about it. She's the same way with her mom that she is with Kate. Personal questions? Oh, shit! Minor freak-out! Why are you so terrified that someone has taken a personal interest in you?

Also, she frets about what she can tell her mother because of the (legally nonbinding) NDA she signed without reading. LOL at her describing Christian as someone who had a "grim upbringing," though.

:: Ana's mother's advice: "Men aren't really complicated, Ana, honey. They are very simple, literal creatures. They usually mean what they say. And we spend hours trying to analyze what they've said, when really it's obvious." As a man who has been in therapy for a year and who has ruined a lot of the good things in his life because of mental disorders, I would like to invite Ana's mother to go fuck herself. I'm so sick of this cliche of how simple and literal men are. Fuck you, bitch, I've got deep recesses. Parts of me are complicated. You not having testosterone and a penis doesn't give you some kind of proprietary insight into the existential dilemma. I have mysteries, bitch. The only thing simple here is your attempt to give your daughter relationship advice. Ana, maybe don't take relationship advice from someone on her fourth husband, alright?

:: Ana thinks about her deceased biological father for literally a second. "My real dad, this mythical man I never knew, snatched so cruelly from us in a combat training accident when he was a marine." No back story on that? No insight? Okay, it's not like it matters, I guess. Let's gloss over the things that make Ana damaged and obsess over the things that make Christian in need of love's redemption, or whatever.

This is like the constant mention of Darfur: appropriation of real life traumas without giving them any depth or explanation just to make a character seem more tragic or something. Blech.

:: For some reason, I'm really annoyed by the way Ana constantly refers to her MacBook as "the mean machine." Maybe it's because no 22 year-old today would ever think to say that. It's just so poorly written. She never turns it on, either. She always "fires it up." It just irritates me. Word choice matters.

:: Christian writes a very long email in response to Ana. He does say something useful, which is that she's only ever completely honest with him over email and never in person. But, honestly, he's never that honest, either. All in all, this email of his--which is all about how he doesn't want to lose her but he does want to address the things she's having doubts about--is really only honest enough to be emotionally manipulative.

First, he tackles the thing about money, basically by saying that he's not paying her for sex, just that he wants to do nice things for her since he can afford to and that he doesn't know how to make her feel like that's okay. Here's what you do: you meet in the middle. If she's uncomfortable with accepting gifts, stop surprising her with them. Talk to her about things you'd like to do for her. If you want to buy her a car, don't just do it and tell her to live with it. Make her a part of the decision and a part of the process. Make her aware of why it's important to you to be able to give her things. The real issue here is that it feels like you're making decisions for her. It's a respect issue.

Then he talks about the whole sub thing. He says the sub is the one with all the power in the Dom/sub dynamic, which is an oversimplification, but isn't entirely inaccurate. If a sub says no or uses a safeword, you have to respect that. It's partially about finding the sub's limits, and when you hit one, you be respectful and stop. But there's also trust built into that; the sub trusts the Dom not to just keep pushing. Christian points to his not spanking Ana in the boathouse because she said no as a model of his willingness to restrain himself from going too far... but he did fuck her anyway, and made her withhold her orgasm, so, it's not like he restrained himself at all, really. Again, it's about respect, trust, and boundaries. The money thing is about boundaries.

He says that "I have to earn your trust, but by the same token, you have to communicate with me when I am failing to do this." Which is true, but hollow. How has Christian been earning her trust? By constantly overstepping? By not respecting her boundaries, ever? By getting her drunk when she tries to negotiate her boundaries in good faith? By stalking her and trying to control her behavior? Give me a break.

Also, remember his stupid contract that he wants her to sign? By the terms of that contract, she's not allowed to refuse anything he wants to do to her. Signing the contract is automatic consent to anything he wants to do to her, remember? So all of this bullshit about trust and communication is pretty disingenuous.

(Aside: I want this to end with Ana taking Christian to court and see him try to defend it. To Judge Judy. That would be amazing.)

Then we get this: "[...] the only time you do assume the correct demeanor for a sub is in the playroom. It seems that’s the one place where you let me exercise proper control over you, and the only place you do as you’re told." Well, what does that tell you, pal? Look, she's meeting you halfway for some reason. She's trying with the bondage. She's a sub in the playroom. Why does she need to be totally submissive and under your control in every other aspect of life?

Rather than see this email for the emotional manipulation it is--Christian has basically set up a pattern of "Don't be sad, I'm so sorry I upset you, I will be very nice and tender with you" followed by "I OWN YOU AND THIS PAIN IS FOR YOUR OWN PLEASURE STOP CRYING ABOUT IT ABUSE IS LOVE YOU AGREED TO THIS SO THIS IS YOUR FAULT"--Ana feels her love all renewed and just wants to be with Christian all the time because she's terrifyingly co-dependent.

:: Ana is actually scared when her mother asks her about who she's talking to online. If you're afraid to tell people you're talking to your significant other, you are not in a healthy relationship.

:: Another stupid, boring, long, faux-flirty email exchange follows. Honestly, email sex? What is this, 2002? Don't you have instant messaging on that BlackBerry?

She calls his "epistle" "verbose" and "loquacious." She later accuses Christian of looking in the thesaurus when he uses "concupiscent." All of these words, and EL James can't pull out "humid"?

:: Ana freaks out internally when she points out to her mother that she's wearing Kate's dress (the same one she wore to her graduation) and her mother asks why she's wearing Kate's clothes. Why are you so scared of personal questions? It's getting really weird.

:: Ana finds out that Christian went out to dinner with "Mrs. Robinson," whom he has said is still a friend, and she goes into a rage over it, asking questions like "Why can't he see her for what she is--a child molester?" and "How dare she? How dare she pick on a vulnerable adolescent?" Good questions. I guess part of the answer is that abuse is really complicated, as you are yourself discovering by being abused by this same guy.

It's striking me as false the way Ana keeps getting so indignant and angry about Christian being abused when he was younger, but is constantly being abused by him now and EL James is celebrating it as though it were real romantic love. Her abusive relationship is apparently romance, and her abuser can be redeemed through her love, but his abuser is a monster. It's just... sad. It's so sad to read about.

Ana is so immediately dependent on Christian, so lost and adrift when he's not around, so apparently worthless without a man to love... she feels so sad for Christian that he was abused... and then she suddenly turns around and feels betrayed by him because "I am away for two days, and he runs off to that evil bitch."

I feel like we're running through a whole lot of neuroses very quickly in this moment, and it's so, so sad. He's really done a number on her, and we're supposed to accept it as romance?

Well, at least Christian cares about her boundaries. He cares about them so much that in the very last email he sends, he lets her know he's watching her. Yes, he's followed her down to Georgia because he cares so goddamn much about respecting her boundaries.

Four chapters left.

Four fucking chapters.

1 comment:

Kelly Sedinger said...

Four more?! So four more weekly reminders that this shit got FUCKING PUBLISHED.

I'd go open a vein, but I have writing to do....