Saturday, April 12, 2014

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 23

Well, turns out Kate's mother (Clara Adams; I'm not sure why we're only learning her name now) is also an asshole.

Christian's there in town and comes up and dazzles Clara with how amazingly, stunningly gorgeous he is, and you can see where Ana gets her cartoonish overreacting from. It's actually embarrassing to read about Clara simpering and staring and her jaw dropping. It's supposed to be embarrassing, but it's not embarrassing in the narrative way EL James thinks it is. Ana is embarrassed by her mom acting like as big a dipshit as she always does. But it's really more embarrassing because at this point, you know, we get how attractive he supposedly is, and having yet another character get all flustered by his knowledge of wines on page 419 is just overkill.

The worst thing about Clara Adams is that she's not even a character. She literally only exists so that she can push Ana at Christian some more. Clara gives Ana just one good piece of advice: talk to him. That's the only good takeaway. Everything else is just pushing Ana to go talk to Christian, go give him a chance, go be with him, he obviously loves you, and you obviously love him, you should go to him and tell him how you feel and just be with him because love and blah blah blah fucking blah. It makes me want to vomit. Look, there's obviously an infatuation going on, but everyone in this book needs to stop telling her that this is what love is and she should just be with Christian, because infatuation =/= love, and what matters more are Ana's feelings. Stop pressuring her to just suck it up and give herself to Christian just because he has feelings and stalks her all the time. Stop reinforcing this idea that how a man feels and what he wants somehow takes primacy over how the woman feels.

What makes this so cringe-inducing is that she is clearly having second thoughts. See, for a moment, when Clara's in the bathroom or whatever plot device James needs to get her out of the way for a page or two, Ana and Christian have been having a fight about Mrs. Robinson. Ana says in no uncertain terms that Mrs. Robinson abused and molested Christian, which is not how he feels and he doesn't react well to it. This is complicated; far too complicated for a hack like EL James to parse out, and it's embarrassing that she's trying to do this, because she doesn't seem to realize just how in over her head she is. Yes, Mrs. Robinson did abuse Christian. But Christian doesn't feel that's what happened, and just yelling at him that he was is not going to just make him come around. Christian defends his abuser, and Ana pushing him on it just makes him defend her even more. Ana: you are not a mental health specialist. Stop doing this.

The irony that Ana and James both seem to be missing is that Christian has been abusing her, and she's always defending him to everyone and rationalizing his behavior for herself and for others. We just don't understand the situation, she keeps protesting. That's the part that really makes me angry. She's angry on behalf of Christian that these things happened to him when he was a kid, and I understand that. That's empathy. But she internalizes the exact same behavior from him. And then James invites us, probably unconsciously, to consider this idea of different levels of abuse. See, when Mrs. Robinson does it, it's bad, because Christian was underage. When Christian does it, it's because it's the only way he knows how to show affection, I guess, and we should all feel sympathetic to him because, I don't know, he rapes her out of love or something? It's sickening.

Look, everyone deserves help. Everyone. I don't care who they are. But being in obvious need of help does not excuse hurting other people.

So we end up in the bar, with Clara pushing and pushing and pushing Ana to just go up to Christian's room and get this relationship sorted out. And Ana keeps protesting, but Clara keeps pushing. And I don't have time for a mother who can't see just how obviously her daughter is afraid and is having second thoughts. And it's even worse because we know from Ana's narration that she's been worried this whole time about whether Christian is mad at her for what she's said, because she's always so afraid of making him angry.

No, no, go be with him, he flew all the way here and he's so hot, he clearly loves you.


Fuck this book.

So then there's more boring IKEA sex between the two, because their every attempt to interact with the truth must be preceded by fucking or these two will crumble and fall under the sheer weight of their ridiculousness. She doesn't even do anything; she keeps making Christian undress her and touch her places and all kinds of shit, because "I'm lost without him," because she's so co-dependent and so sold on this bullshit idea that you need a man to make you feel good sexually that she now apparently just needs him to direct her even when they're having sex. And then there's the ridiculous scene with a tampon.

Apparently, to look online, this is something really notorious and naughty, but he just pulls out her tampon and throws it in the toilet, then fucks her. While she has her period. WHO. CARES? GROW. UP. Is that really the existential transgression that people keep saying it is? Women menstruate: process it. I was more annoyed that he threw the tampon in the toilet. Please don't throw your tampons or pads in the toilet. It just clogs the thing, and the people who get paid to clean hotel bathrooms don't get paid enough to deal with it.

So blah blah blah, they fuck for a few very boring pages, and then they talk seriously for a little while. Ana can tell from his scars that someone stubbed out cigarettes on Christian's chest when he was little, and she thinks it's Mrs. Robinson, but it was actually his birth mother. We're always seeing these ways Christian was abused at a very early age as though it somehow excuses the way he acts now. Ana has some kind of savior complex, or something.

There's a weird attempt during these conversational passages (which are punctuated by still more sex, because intimacy is hard and scary, you guys) to try and make the way Christian acts okay by saying that being controlling is a form of therapy for him. I get that, but there are a couple of things here. First, Ana's not a therapist. And second, he wants to control her every second of the day, and not just as, being too charitable, a therapeutic exercise.

The thing is, Christian does see a therapist. And he also sees Mrs. Robinson and apparently talks to her to try and understand his confusing infatuation with Ana. This is all wrong. And hypocritical. Remember, Ana can't talk to anyone about their relationship or seek advice by the terms of both her NDA and her contract. So he gets to talk to professionals and friends who understand, but she has to remain isolated? That's bullshit.

He keeps saying he's making the effort to meet her halfway, but I still see her making more concessions than he is. At least he's realized she's not a good sub at all. She's willing to go back to the playroom, but doesn't think she could do it for a whole weekend the way he wants. This should be totally acceptable. Jesus, why do you even need this dumbass contract?

You know what these two should be doing? If he's serious about making an effort to have a "vanilla" relationship with her and be a couple, they should be seeing his therapist together. And she can meet him halfway by doing the Dom/sub thing one day a week. Make Saturday play day. But you have to let her talk to people who don't have an interest in just reinforcing that Christian is god and abuse is love and her feelings don't matter, and you have to help her process the stuff she finds so confusing about it.

But she's realized she's irreversibly in love with him: "I love this man. I love his passion, the effect I have on him. I love that he's flown so far to see me. I love that he cares about me... he cares. It's so unexpected, so fulfilling. He is mine and I am his."

So... I guess her agreeing to go back to "the Red Room of Pain" is enough? We're done talking about Mrs. Robinson and therapy and our feelings and our serious issues with boundaries?

Alright, then.

Three more chapters.

Just three.




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