Monday, June 20, 2016

50 Shad3s: The Last Bits

There are nearly fifty pages of bullshit after Chapter 25. I know right? It's like, srsly? For reals? That's just really a whole lot.

Here's maybe a more fair way of talking about the plot of this trilogy: I've said a few times that Ana isn't really the protagonist, and I'm more or less going to stand by that. It's not that Ana is completely passive. It's more that her activity is limited to the early part of the series, the will-they-or-won't-they part. So at some point--and I'm not going to go back and decide when this was, precisely, the will-the-or-won't-they is thoroughly resolved and Ana ceases her role as an active participant in the story. She does make the rather bold choice to step out on her own to save Mia, and that's neat and everything. But it's still really Christian's story by that point. I think the shift happens gradually, but it's complete by somewhere in the second book. Eventually, the story, to the extent we can say it's about anything, is about Christian confronting his past, as represented by Jack Hyde.

What's even more of a bummer is that the sex gets kind of boring as the story becomes more about Christian's arc. I mean, I guess if I were to go through and pick my "favorite" sex scenes in this mess, I certainly would have to say that I enjoy them more in the last two books than in the first one, just because Ana develops quite a bit more agency. But EL runs out of kinks in the very first book. Even though CG had that big ol' list of kinks that he wanted to kink, our heroes never get very far into it.

In that first book, there's a feeling that CG is raising the stakes with every encounter--introducing new surprises every time they do it. Even though these scenes often feel gimmicky or even gross, CG's little surprises bring significant variety to the proceedings. It's much less fun once we're no longer wondering, "Hey so what're they gonna do this time?" And you can only read that same basic thing so many times without being prettttttttttttty bored IMO.

I bring this up because I think that Ana kinda runs out of story once CG has tried out all his sexual tricks. She's seen him at his kinkiest or whatever, and didn't run away, so pretty much once Ana takes CG back at the beginning of the second book, she's pretty much done. Right? Yeah for sure.

But then there's like, a book and a half left just for Christian and it's boring, particularly since they go on all these pointless fetch-quests, like their trip to Aspen for absolutely no reason whatsoever. This third book is just so, so padded. The whole first section--the honeymoon section--is worthless. The Ray's car accident section is worthless. And the Aspen section is worthless. That's literally about half of this book. What an absolute waste! These three books really should've just been two. Or zero, I guess, really.

Wait so what happened?






50 Shad3s: Chapter 25! THE LAST CHAPTER!* *not really the end tho

Hey you know how at the end of Lord of the Rings there's like ten different endings? And then after that there's all those appendixes and whatever? And you read about how Gimli and Legolas sailed off to the Gray Havens together? To the west? Meaning they literally sail off into the sunset together and therefore your Gimli / Legolas fanfic is totally supported by the text and anyone who says otherwise should maybe crack open their copy of Lord of the Rings and like, you know, read it?

Anyway EL does pretty much the same thing here. There's just all this assorted stuff at the end and I mean, this thing is done, right? There's nothing else to happen. Ana threw the one ring into the lava and that totally destroyed Christian and then she and Kate rode on the back of an eagle. But then there's so much stuff after! SO MUCH. After this chapter, there's an epilogue, and a Christmas special, and a ludicrous "Author's note" and also the opening of what would eventually be released as just Grey--the first of these dumb books, only from CG's perspective only. I won't talk about that. I'm just now remembering that, oh shit, I think I read that. Right? Yeah I totally did! Goddamn. It's pretty bad!

But anyway. What I'm saying is that we're not quite up the mountain yet. I'm going to bash on through this chapter, and then do one final post on all the shit that comes after the last chapter. Pretty unfair, I think.

But we're close! We're very close.

I know I sound miserable when I'm doing this. Part of that is just for fun; I sound miserable most of the time. All my friends will attest to this fact. FACT! But anyway. There are parts of each chapter that I really enjoy writing about, or at least that are fun springboards for me to do whatever nonsense joke I want to do.

But yeah. This is a bad book. A thing I mentioned last chapter is that this shit would go a lot faster if I wrote more in line with how I'd normally read a book like this. So here's a confession: like if I'm reading a book, and there's a whole big section in italics? I'm basically not going to read it. Or if a character in a book has a dream? I'm skipping ahead to when they wake up, even if that character is having a green dream. Just can't really be bothered. Or if some character is like, "Oh here let me sing you the song about the maiden and the bear, because that's like Westeros's 'Stairway to Heaven' basically," yeah. I'm totally skipping it. So if I were somehow reading this book for my own amusement, I'd give the emails the most cursory glance and move on. And I basically would've skipped Chapter 23 entirely because it's like, I get it. I get it. She's in the hospital. I get it.

But instead, I'm a completist, so I go through all these little things that have no right to be in this book and there's no reason at all for you to know about them because they don't matter, but somehow I'm like, I SWOAR AN OATH! and I tell you all this shit that doesn't matter. I don't know why either, really!

But hey. We're almost done. We're almost done! There will be much rejoicing!

Oh but where were we?





Saturday, June 18, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 24

Did you even see that shit? When I dropped TWO mutterflushing chapters on your head in the Same Day? Ridic. Shit was ridic.

AND NOW this third one like a day later? I'm putting you on notice, book from ten years ago that nobody cares about anymore. I'm like some kind of sports team that started out hot and then lost for like several years but is now looking like maybe, maybe, maybe it's going to put together a little bit of a comeback maybe.

We only have two chapters left. You're going to want to go slow. Savor it. JK let's hurry through this together. There's nothing left. This is the end of the party and there's nothing to drink but the stuff no one likes like "melon liqueur" and nothing to eat except for crackers and not even any cheese. You should've come earlier. No. You should've left earlier. Only the dregs remain. We're deep into the mop-up stage and there's not really anything left to mop up but EL is still swishing that same dirty mop water all over the floor again and again. 

Oh but where were we?





Friday, June 17, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 23

TLDNR
Ana recovers in the hospital and everything is fine. 

Seriously tho: we're almost done. Almost done with this whole thing. We can do this, friends. We can do this. And in order to move shit along, I'm no longer on any type of schedule. I'm just making this happen. I'm getting that last burst of energy you get when you're real close to the finish line and you're just so, so sick of the marathon you're running because it's repetitive and clichéd and sexist and my metaphor may have broken down there somewhere.


Oh but where were we?




50 Shad3s: Chapter 22

So this thing really ends with a whimper.

I've kind of scanned ahead a little? And it's a real bummer.

I'm going to make some plot complaints. I know I've made them before but I've been doing this for so long that I end up just reminding myself of certain things and I'm sorry but you kind of brought this on yourself by reading.

So like, usually what you try to do is try to have your character go on a journey or whatever? With an external obstacle and some kind of like, inner sitch that the character is trying to conquer. Right? So you see her improve herself as she overcomes an obstacle. Very satisfying!

Very. But see, in this book, we've got these characters and they've both got significant inner conflicts. Mainly talking about how they're both huge jealousy monsters who don't really trust each other or themselves. Bummer! And on top of that they're having a big fight about having a baby. I think it's fair to think of those things as the internal conflicts since even their fights with each other are, to a significant extent, the result of their own personal shortcomings.

And then we've got the external conflicts, which have never been significant, and have never been effectively tied to the internal ones. For a satisfying resolution, most writers would try to establish some kind of harmony between the external and internal obstacles. EL, though, does something rather odd. She connects all the external obstacles to Christian and not to Ana, even though seems fair to think of Ana as the protagonist.

Leila, who nearly shot Ana, was Christian's ex lover. And although Jack Hyde enters the picture because he starts out as Ana's boss, Hyde seems to see Ana as an avatar for Christian. His hostility to Ana, his threats to Ana--these don't really have anything to do with Ana. They have a bit to do with his general misogyny but mostly they're just collateral damage. It's Christian he cares about.

The Leila situation we've already seen resolved. Leila seems happy enough, because CG threw some money in her direction and money fixes everything. Christian didn't overcome anything. He just gave her money. I guess we could say that CG moved from a disposable relationship to a more serious one but in this book this dude is twenty-six so like. I dunno. Am I supposed to cheer about this? I'm not going to.

And we're about to see the Jack Hyde situation resolved too, and after that, we're going to sort of pretend that everything else worked out nicely too, despite the fact that Ana and CG have been going back and forth with the same problems for three books with no signs of improvement. It's the end of the book, and a baby is on the way, so EL is just going to sort of wave her hands and say, "There! Happily ever after! Print it before anyone asks any followup questions!"

Last point before we go watch the sausage get made:

Ana isn't really the protagonist of this thing. We're in her head, yes, but the protagonist is not necessarily the person from whose point of view the story is told. Ana's contributions to the plot are basically insignificant. She never does anything on her own--even her most impressive acts, like beating up Jack Hyde, are only possible because boys swoop in to provide support at the last minute.

And, as we'll see with one more reveal: Jack Hyde is a figure from CG's pre-billionaire past, and vanquishing him lets CG vanquish some old demons.

Hence, Ana tells the story, but if we want to argue that anyone goes on a journey or overcomes any internal conflicts, we have to say that that person is Christian. Not Ana.

Why bring this up? Well. No good reason I suppose, since there's not really a good reason for any of this. But, I think it's worth noting that this is another way in which Fifty Shades conforms to the most boring, patriarchal conventions of storytelling. Men do plots. Women. . . have babies? I guess so, yeah. I guess so.


Oh but where were we?


Monday, June 6, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 21

TLDNR
Ana is mad at CG for seeing Elena and Jack Hyde is back.

We're getting like, rill close you guys. Rill close. I can like, totally see the end from here and it's great! Not the ending--the feeling of being able to see the ending. That's great. The ending isn't that good. It's just like, they catch Jack Hyde and CG decides he's ok being a dad and doing dad stuff and he remembers that he's a billionaire and won't have to do anything unpleasant because he can pay people for that.  And that's the end. Our sexual renegades will conclude their journey by deciding that really, the thing they want is the most conventional lady&man relationship, like from fifties TV or whatever. Radical! Yay. Everyone lives happily ever after by conforming to outdated gender roles! How inventive!

I could be wrong, but I'm going to hypothesize that most people don't read beyond the first book. Curiosity could get you through the first one, I'm sure, because it's an easy read. But I can't imagine reading past that unless you really love these books or are on some kind of mission ala me. If you're just kinda like, "Eh. It was ok I guess," diminishing returns would've set in a long time ago. Same for this blog probably, too--guessing you quit after the first book and that is very fair and I don't blame you. Not even a little! Ok maybe a little. But not much.


Oh but where were we?


Monday, May 30, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 20

TLDNR: Christian is mad at Ana for being pregnant. Christian gets drunk with an ex.

Guys I'm still kinda upset about the end of the previous chapter.

I guess in a way I shouldn't be? I mean, it is terribly believable. If I were Ana, I too would be v upset about the notion of creating a human person using a mix of my DNA and the DNA of Christian Grey. I guess the cool part for her is that she won't have to do any parenting; they'll assuredly have at least one live-in nanny. Maybe a backup, too. But still! And plus being pregnant seems like it would be a rill drag in general, whether CG is involved or not.

So I get what she's feeling. It makes perfect sense. But it's pretty hard to square Ana's feelings with the notion that a) this is a romance we're reading and b) the idea that we're supposed to want these people together and c) the idea that Christian is not some kind of super-dangerous sociopath.

So what am I even supposed to think here as the reader? Am I seriously supposed to be rooting against the romantic leads having a kid together? I mean, I am doing that, sure. But EL is not what we might call "cliché-averse" and so I'm having a hard time accepting the idea that she's like, subverting a trope or whatever. Because usually you've kind of got two ratings-grabs for your tv show: 1) They get married. 2) They have a baby. All of my pop-culture training as a consumer of entertainment tells me that I'm supposed to want this. But I don't, and neither does Ana.

And why doesn't Ana want this? Oh because her husband is probably going to flip out and be all shitty, because he's a real shit. Her feelings are entirely understandable.

But we're in the context of this big trilogy, and so now I'm just like, how is this going to end? Well, I guess it ends with Jack Hyde behind bars and Christian being like, "Oh now I'm v cool with babies." So this trilogy is going to hinge on two things. 1) the capture of a villain who makes the briefest of cameos in the first book--a villain so minor that he was completely excised from the movie adaptation! And 2) one of the heroes not flipping out too much about the idea of becoming a dad. That's pretty weak, right? That's like, not the sort of story you really need to stretch into a three-book cycle.

Oh and let's bring up one other thing, though:

Just a reminder about how this series is fallowing the tropes of cis-hetero-whitebread-Dick&Jane blandness with extreme care. This is basically like, "What if, on Leave it to Beaver, Ward and June had tons of kinky sex before they started having kids?" This thing was teasing us with the notion of some transgressive stuff, but we're on a collision course with suburbia.

And that's fine I guess. You do you! But there must be plenty of readers who were drawn into this by the prospect of sexiness and so on who are more than a bit bummed out about how boring-ass the end of this is going to be. I mean, you and I totally saw this ending coming, other than the baby part, which I didn't see coming but I guess should have, considering how obsessively EL documented Ana's birth control sitch. Shoulda been a real give away.

But we did see that suburbia, metaphorically or literally, was exactly where this story was headed, and we were completely right.

Oh but where were we?