Tuesday, June 4, 2013

50 Shades of the Complainist: Chapter 6

Ana and Christian take a helicopter to Seattle and Ana sees Christians sex dungeon for the first time. 

Warnings: Besides the fact that this chapter ends with Ana stepping into a sex dungeon, it's actually pretty bland. 

50 Shades is kind of like the novel-version of that time you had to stretch a term paper out from five pages to ten, so you adjusted the margins, added an extra space between each sentence, and then basically just typed in extra filler. Chapter 4 was a contrived excuse to get CG and Ana back in the same place at the same time; they wanted to be in the same place at the same time, only they had contrived reasons for not doing so, which resulted in a need for a second contrived reason to overcome the first contrivance so that the novel could move along again.

Chapter 5 is a bunch of foot-shuffling and throat-clearing, and in the end, CG is all, "Okay, I'll tell you my weird secrets, but I have to do it in Seattle." Chapter 6 is mostly waiting around for them to get to Seattle. Chapter 7 is all weird secrets, and Chapters 8 and 9 are just sex. Astoundingly inefficient! And, I expect, part of why you'll hear so many people talk about how they read the whole thing in a night. These readers may express genuine enthusiasm for the book, and state that they read it so fast because they enjoyed it so much. But, on some level, I expect plenty of people are reading this book quickly because there are just so many long stretches in which nothing of any importance is happening. Those stretches are quite easy to skim.

Like basically all of Chapter 6, for example!

(Editor's note: we did not skim. You know--for science!)

So where were we?

  1. Ana meets Christian, the dreamy billionaire, for an awkward interview. 
  2. She then encounters him a few days later when he buys supplies for his sex dungeon at the hardware store where she works. Ana gets his phone number and decides to help her friend Kate set up a photo shoot with CG because that somehow makes more sense than just seeing if he wants to hang out like a regular person. 
  3. Ana's admirer José joins Ana and Kate to photograph Christian, after which Christian takes Ana to a cafe, where they both act awkward. Christian starts to push Ana away, for reasons she does not understand. Then, Ana is nearly hit by a bike, but Christian yanks her out of harm's way.
  4. Christian tells Ana that they're incompatible and she gets sad. Ana drunk-dials Christian and he freaks out and traces her phone Batman-style, just in time to chase off José, who's acting rape-y. Ana passes out at the bar.
  5. Ana awakes in Christian's hotel room. Christian explains that he brought her there because he didn't want her to puke in his car. He says that they can't take things further until he's explained his secrets, so they arrange a helicopter ride together to Seattle and make out in an elevator.
Part of this inefficiency is thanks to Ana's failure to comprehend outside stimuli, which is exacerbated by her failure to ask questions when she is confused. In CG's black Audi SUV, Ana muses to herself: "Should we talk about it or pretend that it didn't happen?" The "it" is the elevator kiss. This is a silly sentence. These people have known each other for a week, and their third meeting together involved a coffee date, and we all know that you don't invite anyone for coffee if you aren't planning on sexing them. You know who pretends nothing happened? Frat bros who reluctantly agree to a threeway and then notice that the F in their MFM slipped away at some point and oh my god what just happened if you tell anyone I'll kill you. 

And what is there to talk about? Everyone reading the book knows that the two of them will be doing weird stuff (with paddles probably) in no time, and that we'll be putting up with their obnoxious relationship for the rest of the book, and two more books after that if we can manage it. So what is there to talk about? Nothing that interests me. 

They head toward Ana's apartment. CG plays opera on his car stereo, because he's the sort of insufferable prick who needs people to know that he appreciates opera. "My taste is eclectic, Anastasia, everything from Thomas Tallis to the Kings of Leon. It depends on my mood. You?" This is a fun sentence, because Thomas Tallis is obviously just CG bragging some more, and Kings of Leon is just poorly chosen. Not so big to be an obvious reference, but also lacking any particular cachet, and not the sort of band that fits with CG's vibe. Whatever. EL just thought "Sex on Fire" was a cool name for a song for them to listen to, so they listen to it.

CG takes two unbelievably stupid phone calls on speaker, so that we know how important he is at business. "Mr. Grey, it's Welch here. I have the information you require." "Good. E-mail it to me. Anything to add?" I hate this exchange so much. So whoever Welch is, he was supposed to get some information to CG. Great. So why does he call? He's not going to read CG some long report over the phone. And why does CG ask if Welch has anything to add? What's Welch going to say? "Oh, good thing you asked, since I left all the important shit out of the report I was about to email you."

And here's a dumber one: "The NDA has been e-mailed to you, Mr. Grey." CG gets a phone call so that he knows what's in his email. Ana has this thought: "He's just too controlling and cold with his employees." Well, if people were wasting my time with a bunch of bullshit phone calls, I'd be pretty cold too. 

(Editor's note: He won't admit this, but Alden probably really would enjoy receiving a call from you.)

Then he gets a pointless call from his brother Elliot, during which CG agrees to go to the place he's already going. (Ana and Kate's house, where Elliot and Kate probably had a bunch of sex and are probably having a pleasant time together, but Ana and CG don't do pleasant times so let's not compare them too carefully.) I already like Elliot because he starts their pointless call like this: "Hi, Christian, d'you get laid?" I really don't know what to do with that mysterious d' but at least Elliot says something that a human being might ask his human-being brother. Also maybe Elliot has a sense of humor! This phone call, at least, is not enough to prove conclusively that Elliot lacks a sense of humor. Maybe he can be my new favorite!

(Editor's note: this pro-Elliott sentiment does not last the entire chapter, even. It's kind of like when a presidential candidate announces a running mate. The running mate always seems exciting for a little while because that person is a new outsider we don't hate yet. It always takes a little bit for our hatred to catch up.)

Adventures in "Christian knows Ana better than Ana knows Ana!"

Here's a conversation toward the end of their car ride:

"Why do you insist on calling me Anastasia?"
"Because it's your name."
"I prefer Ana."
"Do you now?"

"Do you now?" Fuck this guy. "Do you now?" is what a tired parent says to a child when the child says, "I want to eat ten cookies!" This is not how adults conduct themselves in conversations with other adults. Well, unless the adult in question is Christian Grey, who knows what's best for Ana. What she should eat, what colors she should wear, when she should breathe, and now, what she ought to be called. Maybe just make up a new name for her, Christian! Ugh.

Hey here's a tip if you wanna seem like a real asshole: use people's names way too often when you're talking to them. Not like, to get their attention. Just in conversation. Well, James, did you have a nice day? Edward, how are you? I was thinking, Bella, that it might be a nice evening to go for a walk. Note: Make sure that you use the most formal version of the person's name. Don't use any nicknames, because you know better! Try out this game, and you'll simply shed extra friends in no time. 

"What happened in the elevator--it won't happen again, well, not unless it's premeditated." EL likes to string clauses together with commas in less-than-appropriate ways, so you'll forgive me if I don't point it out every single time. I do like this declaration, though. "Hey, you know when two people are really attracted to each other, and they just start kinda feeling it at an unexpected time and place, and they just can't wait? Kind of like you might expect to happen to people in a romance novel? That shit is not going to happen to us! No way. I've got a lot of bullshit phone calls to take, so any sexing that we're going to be is going to have to be scheduled with Welch. Don't even ask me about it, actually. Talk to Welch. And then he'll get back to you once we've figured something out. Understood?"

They get to the apartment. Kate and Elliot are chilling, and Ana tells us that Kate uses a tone that is "a little hostile" with CG, and I'm all like, seriously? That's all you can muster, Kate? A little hostility toward the sociopath who kidnapped your drunk friend? Maybe she's just trying to be nice to CG now that she's doing it with Elliot. I bet Kate and Elliot have way better sex than Ana and CG, but that's just because when I hate someone, I like to reassure myself that they're probably really bad at sex, and I desperately hate Ana and CG.

"'Elliot, we'd better go,' Christian says mildly." Anyone care to offer me any advice on how to interpret the word "mildly" in this sentence? As opposed to spicily? Based on the CG's word selection, I would assume this sentence to be spoken in a tone that suggests the smallest amount of impatience. But when EL throws "mildly" onto the end, I don't know what to think. EL is always adding this descriptors that just make things more confusing to me, rather than adding helpful information.

Oh! It turns out a hate Elliot, too, because as the brothers get ready to depart, Elliot says "Laters, baby," to Kate, and that is literally the dumbest thing I can imagine him saying to anyone. And then CG feels jealous or something so he says this same dumb thing to Ana, and it's even worse the second time around. Even worse!

Here's a google image search for the phrase "Laters, baby," and it's maybe the most depressing thing I've ever seen.

I'm not alone on this one, am I? This is super depressing, right?

The brothers leave, and Kate is all happy, and Ana isn't as happy, but they're both more or less happy, and they both fail to mention how weird it is that they had separate sleepovers with a set of brothers. I wonder if they'll ever have a chat about how strange this is. Because it is strange. Imagine, for a moment, how awkward it would be if you and your BFF were dating siblings. You'd basically be in a sort of implied relationship suicide pact.

Can we talk about Elliot and Kate for a moment? In Chapter 4, when CG shows up, he tells Ana that Elliot came with him, and that Elliot is talking to Kate. How? Is my question. Elliot and Kate don't know each other. Did CG slip past Ana into the bar with Elliot, introduce Elliot to Kate, and then go looking for Ana? It's not weird to me that Kate and Elliot sleep with each other the first night they meet. It's weird to me that they seem to decide to sleep together the first moment that they meet, and that CG has some sort of telepathic link to Elliot so he knows all about it. Whatever.

Kate declares that she's going to get Ana ready for her date with CG that evening, and we get this:

Under Kate's tireless and frankly intrusive instruction, my legs and underarms are shaved to perfection, my eyebrows plucked, and I am buffed all over. It has been a most unpleasant experience. But she assures me that this is what men expect these days. 

I adore the idea of a twenty-one year-old using the phrase "these days." Men these days! It's a changing world! Fifteen years ago, none of the boys I knew cared about hairy pits! You know- back when I was in the first grade and incapable of growing underarm hair. How the times they are a changin'!

Now, obviously, I don't care in the slightest what Ana does or doesn't do with her body. Both because I hate her, and also because it's her right. Oh, and also because she's a fictional character. But the idea that she needed Kate to explain to her that American men in the 21st century are broadly hostile to armpit hair is absurd. It's just so, so implausible. Perhaps Kate could have assured Ana of some different bit of grooming that Kate is sure CG will expect? Something that, conceivably, Ana might not have noticed in everyday life? No? Me neither. Alternately, EL could have just deleted this dumb paragraph and we never would've missed it.

Or, why not take it one step further? Why not have Kate explain sex to Ana, too, just to be safe? Maybe Ana has also never heard of sex. "Now, you know, Ana, boys and girls are different. And Christian might want to put his man parts in your lady parts. You mustn't let him, unless you sign his weird sex contract. In that case, you have to."

(Editor's note: this book is soon going to be about CG's weird sex contract. I know this sounds like a fake thing we made up, but it's completely true.)

CONFESSION: this whole Kate / Ana / My Fair Lady sequence is basically the only thing that happens in this entire book that I think I'd actually enjoy reading. Think about it! Ana has already been calling Kate "Mistress" and associating her with bossiness. So they're home alone. Kate's bossing Ana around. Eyebrows are getting plucked. Buffing is happening. There's some tireless and frankly intrusive instruction. No? Nobody else? Really?

I seriously can't believe that nobody will back me up on this. Also, I can't believe that I've been unable to find any Ana / Kate fanfiction. It must be out there. It must be. Am I going to have to write this myself?

Kate offers Ana all sorts of pre-date advice, even though, "For some strange reason, she doesn't trust [CG], maybe because he's so stiff and formal." For some strange reason! Maybe the kidnapping? Is Ana supposed to be an unreliable narrator? Am I reading this whole thing incorrectly? Is CG actually just Ana's imaginary friend? I'm just making up theories now on the spot, but OMG! This book will TOTALLY redeem itself if CG is an imaginary friend. I promise to take back every single complaint if it turns out that CG was a myth. Or else a ghost. Yeah. Ghost is fine. I'll take it all back if this thing ends with a crazy twist ending of any kind. PROMISE.

Moving right along: "The day drags at Clayton's even though we're busy. We've hit the summer season, so I have to spend two hours restocking the shelves once the shop is closed." 1) That is really not how retail works. 2) She's scheduled a date with CG for eight, so what the hell are the hours at this dumb store? Totally variable, based on Ana's needs, I presume? This doesn't matter at all, because this hardware store doesn't matter. It was just an invention of EL's so that we could watch CG buy shit for his sex-dungeon, and once it served that purpose, it stuck around like an inflamed appendix. I'm still angry from Chapter 2, in which Ana managed to work a couple hours at the hardware store after driving back to Portland from Seattle, meaning that she really couldn't have gotten to the store earlier than 5:30 at the absolute earliest. So, whatever. Sometimes the store closes at six but people stay and do restock for two more hours. Sometimes it's open until 7:30. No big deal! It's a mom and pop store! It keeps whatever hours it wants, right? It has a sign on the front that says "Clayton's Hardware. Open whenever the hell." Doesn't matter.

As Ana awaits her date with CG we get, I think, the first appearance of Ana's inner goddess, further proof of her struggles with dissociative identity disorder: "My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently. She's been ready for this for years, and she's ready for anything with Christian Grey. . . "

Curious. Let's put aside the fact that this is completely dumb and terrible and consider it more carefully. First, let's compare this sorry excuse for a sentence with one from good ol' Chapter 4: "Stop! Stop now! my subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg, and tapping her foot in frustration." So! Inner goddess and subconscious. Both a couple of foot tappers! How interesting! Just kidding; that is not interesting.

What is interesting is that inner goddess and subconscious do all of Ana's thinking for her. Inner goddess is ready to sex CG right in his helicopter, but subconscious is much more likely to be the voice of reason. Remarkable! Just when we thought that EL had run out of ways to remove agency from Ana, she comes up with this one--giving Ana little voices in her head that she does not herself seem to control. That's right: Ana not only lacks control over her own muscles (she falls down) and her own respiration (she forgets to breathe). She lacks control over her own thoughts. So, um. What's left? What remains of Ana's personhood? Anything? I'm not sure, but not much.

CG picks up Ana directly from work. Really? She allows this to happen? Knock-knock! Hi, EL? Little advice here. Yeah you know Chapter 6? The one where Ana gets all primped with Kate? And then goes to work? And then goes on her helicopter date? Little suggestion. I mean, and I'm just brainstorming here--what if we went work, primping, date, instead of primping, work, date? I'm just suggesting this slight bit of reorganization, because your way is dumb and unlikely, and this other way is less dumb and way more likely. So think it over, okay? Hey, and question: don't take this the wrong way, but have you read your book at all, EL?

They go to where CG's helicopter is waiting, and there are some terrible sentences that I won't make you think about. That's kind of the whole purpose of this project: I save you from the terrible sentences and only make you read the really, really horrific stuff. Which, when you think about it, isn't really that much of a service but oh well.

CG straps in Ana all tight, and at this point, Ana is the only one who doesn't understand that this is foreshadowing. We all get it! Harness! Tied up! Seatbelt. We get it! If Ana had a clue, this could actually be a hot sequence, but she's not keen on having clues, so it's dull. I mean, c'mon:

"I like this harness," he whispers.

Not sure that he could make this any more clear. Maybe Ana needs to use the ol' fortune cookie trick, and add the phrase "in bed" to the end of everything that CG says. Actually, this is a solid idea. I encourage you to do the same. Also, he tells her to breathe again, and things just get real unsexy for me whenever CG tells Ana to breathe.

EL learned the international phonetic alphabet! That shows some real dedication to research! "Okay, tower. PDX, this is Charlie Tango Golf-Golf Echo Hotel, cleared for take-off. Please confirm, over."

Christian T-Something Grey, Grey Enterprise Holdings. Whatever.

"Portland disappears in front of us as we head into U.S. airspace, though my stomach remains firmly in Oregon." I don't know how this works and also I don't care at all, but like, it seems pretty dumb to talk about US airspace on a flight between Portland and Seattle. But away we go! The flight takes several pages and it's probably the biggest waste of time in the whole book so far, which is really quite impressive once you consider what a waste of time the whole thing is.

They land, and EL shares with us again her gift for metaphor. I mean, her gift for making a lazy metaphor and explaining it to us, as though we were as immune to the obvious as Ana: "His look is so intense, half in shadow and half in the bright white light from the landing lights. Dark knight and white knight, it's a fitting metaphor for Christian." The first sentence is kind of not really a sentence, though it would be fine if the comma were traded for a dash. The second sentence is just an irredeemable run-on, and it upsets me.

Also, look how many times we get the sound "ite" in just clauses. Seven! Here, let's see if this isn't another example of a place where we can clean up EL's prose without even trying. Here goes: "His look is so intense--half in shadow and half illuminated by the landing lights." And I'm fixing the second sentence by removing it entirely because seriously. The dark knight part makes it sound like she's describing Two-Face.

Breathe, Anastasia
Then we get some dialogue that makes us all be like, "Really? Seriously?"

"You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. You know that, don't you?"

"I'd never do anything I didn't want to, Christian." 

At least Ana admits to us that she's full of shit. CG, on the other hand, is just lying to himself. Ana is so far out of her depth that she's likely to say "yes" to anything. She knows it, and Christian ought to know it, too. It's another moment where his desire for clear consent just seems like a desire for plausible deniability. 

They go inside and CG's place is all huge and decorated all fancy and yawn. Oh, sorry! I dozed off during another one of Ana's interior design monologues. 

CG then gives Ana a non-disclosure agreement to sign, so she does. I don't care to do any research because who cares? but I'm pretty sure this is total nonsense. I don't think that a person can sign away one's right to talk about another person outside of the context of some manner of business arrangement. I don't think that Ana has actually lost any rights in signing this nonsense agreement, but I hate her for signing anyway, because there's no way anything good will come of it. I hate that she doesn't say, "Oh, hey. So I've never had a boyfriend before, so I was thinking maybe I should start out with like, a regular boyfriend, and not whatever this shit is. Thanks for the fun helicopter ride! Please don't kidnap me again!"

"Does this mean you're going to make love to me tonight, Christian?"

"No, Anastasia, it doesn't. First, I don't make love. I fuck . . . hard. Second, there's a lot more paperwork to do. And third, you don't yet know what you're in for. You could still run for the hills. Come, I want to show you my playroom." 

Let's go through this point by point, shall we? Grab a snack! We'll be here a while. 

Re: Ana's inquiry: In the world of this book, sex is a thing that happens to people. Not a thing that women enjoy in any kind of active way, nor even really choose. She might as well have asked, "Is sex going to happen to me tonight, Christian?"

What a weird speech. CG flips back and forth between hot and cold several times within one set of quotation marks. Starts cold, with a big ol' "no" but then immediately turns on the sexy. Or, at least, what passes for sexy in this book. So after the second sentence, we're like, "Oh, I get it. They are finally gonna do it!" And then our inner goddesses are all happy and our subconsciouses are all "Why are we still reading this shit?" But then we have the least sexy thing of all: "Second, there's a lot more paperwork to do."

Paperwork. Again, with the paperwork. Well, he did delay it last chapter so maybe it's inevitable! Going to have to get it done somehow! Would you believe if I told you that the next chapter actually involves paperwork? And would you believe that we don't get to see the all of that sexy, sexy paperwork until Chapter 11? I KNOW RIGHT?!? We're here, spending page after page, being all like, "C'mon, Christian. Give her that good stuff. That sweet, sweet paperwork. Those sexy legal documents. Stick 'em right there, on her desk, where her signing pen is." But we don't get the thing we want--paperwork--until Chapter 11.

Pretty outrageous. But seriously, this is now a book about paperwork. It's a book about a contract that CG wants Ana to sign, that requires her to submit to his every whim, which asks that he do nothing at all in return. We'll talk about the paperwork at length, but for now, let's just note what a pathetically thin  plot device this is. OMG! Will she sign? Or will she not sign? I'm enthralled by how boring this is.

CG gives Ana this sexy paperwork update, and then shows her the sex dungeon, and she thinks "Holy fuck" and you know that things are getting serious because she thinks in italics and then the chapter ends.

Next week! Our shortest chapter to date. We see a little bit of sex dungeon, and get our first sweet, sweet taste of paperwork.


Bridget said...

LOLing at the fortune cookie thing. Seriously.

Lazygal said...

Seriously - the paperwork's in Chapter 11? I know EL's a Brit and all, but even they know what it means here in the US!