Tuesday, August 12, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 22

This is it, friends! The end of the line.

Well. The end of one line. So you do have to get off the train here, but there are other trains you can transfer onto but those are different lines. Sorry. Just didn't want my metaphor to sound too dramatic because if you're reading this you probably don't enjoy things that are too dramatic. Again: this is sort of like when you watched The Two Towers and you were like, "Oh man. I can't wait a whole nother year to watch The Return of the King! I really need to watch that third movie to make sure that this trilogy rights itself after the second entry's slight decline in quality!"

(Editor's note: we're talking about the fall-off in blog quality, which we may be able to correct for Book 3. We're assuming that Book 3 itself is even worse.)

Anyway. Before we get to the last chapter--one of the really great things about writing this blog is that everyone I know considers me basically a clearinghouse for everything 50 Shades-related. Cool, right? V. cool. But anyway this is a pretty interesting read courtesy of someone on reddit. The highlighted comment was sent my way and while it doesn't contain any surprises, it did tell me a lot I didn't know about the particulars of Twilight fanfic and how EL used fanfic boards to build up popularity for her terrible book. The commenter also argues, quite persuasively, that EL will never write anything again. I assumed the same, but more because why should she even bother now that she has all the money in the world. The commenter's point is that EL is a product of a fanfic culture in which lots of writers are working through similar ideas simultaneously. Meaning there's nothing to indicate that EL even could sit by herself and write a book without a fanfic community to help generate all the ideas with her.

Glad I'm so clever and original! I never rely on anyone for anything! Oh except for how I rely on the existence of these books as a launching pad for my cheap jokes. But otherwise I'm practically my own island I swear.

Anyway where were we?

Our story thus far:

Ana is a naive college student who dated a billionaire for a couple weeks but broke things off with him because he spanked her too hard.
  1. Ana starts her new job at a publishing company and agrees to let Christian give her a ride to José’s art show. It turns out they both miss each other or whatever.
  2. Ana and Christian eat steaks at a restaurant. They rekindle their “romance” and Christian says that they won’t have to have rules anymore and he won’t punish Ana. They drive back to Seattle and Christian gives Ana back the expensive gifts that she'd returned to him when they broke up, along with a new iPad.
  3. Ana goes to work. She is confronted by one of Christian's ex lovers on her way out for drinks with her coworkers. Christian picks up Ana from the bar, and then they venture to a grocery store so that they can cook dinner at Ana's house. But then they get too horny to cook so they have sex.
  4. Ana and Christian eat dinner and then have ice cream sex and then in the middle of the night Ana has a dream about Christian's ex lover Leila, which worries Christian. Later, Ana and Christian fight about money, eat breakfast, and then go to a hair salon where the woman who introduced Christian to BDSM works.
  5. Ana is upset by the sight of Christian's ex-lover, Elena, and storms out of the salon. Christian insists that Ana come to his house because his other ex-lover Leila may be armed. Christian picks up Ana bodily when she disagrees with him. Ana and Christian retire to Christian's house and Christian allows Ana to draw on him with lipstick so that she knows which parts of his body he is comfortable having touched and which parts are off limits. 
  6. Ana and Christian have sex and get ready for a fancy charity auction at Christian's parents' house. Then they go to the fancy charity auction, and Ana bids $24,000 on a weekend getaway at Christian's Aspen condo. 
  7. Ana gets auctioned off to Christian for the first dance of the evening, but before the dance, the couple retreat to Christian's childhood room for sex. Christian's ex, Elena, threatens to hurt Ana if she mistreats Christian. After the party, Ana and Christian drive home, where they are informed by Christian's security staff that someone, most likely Leila, has vandalized Ana's car and may have broken into the apartment.
  8. Christian's security goons conclude that Leila is not in the apartment, but soon she sneaks into Ana's room while she sleeps so Christian and Ana go to a hotel because Leila may be dangerous. Ana has another of her famous Sunday morning home appointments with her gynecologist. 
  9. Ana and Christian buy a car and ride on a boat. 
  10. Ana and Christian eat dinner and play pool.
  11. Ana returns to work and Christian follows every little thing she does from afar.
  12. Ana returns to her apartment to meet Kate's brother Ethan, but instead finds Leila, who holds a gun.
  13. Christian disarms Leila and Ana has drinks with Ethan. 
  14. Nothing happens in Chapter 14. 
  15. Ana's boss confronts her in the break room after work. 
  16. Ana thwarts her boss's attack. 
  17. Ana is promoted to her boss's job and talks to CG's psychiatrist. 
  18. Ana and Christian visit a mansion he wants to buy and then eat dinner. Ana goes to work the next day and after work she learns that CG's helicopter is missing.
  19. Christian shows up again and he's fine and then Ana says that yes, she'll marry him. 
  20. Ana and Christian decide to have sex.
  21. They have sex and then head out for Christian's birthday party, where Kate confronts them with evidence of their complicated sex lives. 

Oh, right. Somehow Kate has a printout of an email from Ana to CG wherein they discuss their sex contract. The whole first book was about whether or not Ana would sign a sex contract, but what they eventually decided was that Ana would just do whatever CG wanted all the time no matter what but that there wouldn't be a "contract." Oh except for now they're going to enter into a marriage contract which I expect CG and EL and probably Ana all expect means that Ana will just do whatever CG wants all the time so same diff I guess.

So is Kate a hax0r? How'd she get the email?

“It was in the pocket of a jacket—which I assume is yours—that I found on the back of Ana’s bedroom door.” 
Yours = CG's. Ugh. So Kate didn't hack anybody's email, but she did snoop through somebody's jacket, see a piece of paper in it, read said piece of paper, and then confront Ana and CG about it. The only consolation for me here is the fact that CG must have been the juggalo who printed out an email like a goddamn barbarian. I mean srsly. The man uses his Blackberry all goddamn day and yet he prints out an email? Just another one of those details that remind us that the author of this book is older than the combined ages of her two protagonists. Printing emails! I can forgive a lot of stupidity, EL, but this is a bridge too far.

Oh in case you're wondering, it looks like nobody is ever going to call Kate out on this shit. The snoopery, I mean. Oh and of course nobody except for me is appropriately angry about CG printing out emails. Everybody else somehow just accepts that as the behavior of an adult human without question. Outrageous.

This is the weird jumble of ideas that one grows accustomed to when one reads EL:

She’s a beacon of hostility in a slinky, bright red dress. She looks magnificent. But what the hell is she going through my clothes for? It’s usually the other way round. 
In a way, Ana's being logical. "I always go through her shit, so I guess I can't be too mad at her for going through my shit for once." Note that we've not introduced some ambiguity into the question of who's jacket we were talking about. When Kate talks about the jacket, she says, "yours" and "Ana's" which you'd think makes it clear that she's talking to CG about Ana, and hence, it's CG's jacket and CG's email printout. But then a few lines later, Ana thinks "my clothes" and so now we have to concede that only Ana knows whether this was her jacket or CG's jacket. You know what? Hell with it. I'm going to say that this was Ana's dumb jacket. CG was only in Ana's apartment after their "breakup" and so there's just no way that he'd have an email about their contract in a jacket pocket. It also seems out of character for him to have left a coat somewhere.

So let's look at that line from Kate again:

“It was in the pocket of a jacket—which I assume is yours—that I found on the back of Ana’s bedroom door.” 
The only way to make sense of this is to assume that Kate is changing her attention mid-sentence. It's the sort of thing that people certainly do. But you've got to spell it out! This is such terrible writing. I'm reading this mess and I can barely figure out what's happening. Did Ana print out this email earlier? Hell she might've. Is that a thing that happened in the first book that I forgot about? Have I already used my signature rant about idiots who print emails? What is even happening?

Oh here's what's happening: CG burns up the email, because that makes sense. And Ana says that she's ok and that she and CG are getting married. She repeats that she's ok several times and Kate accepts this, or at least says that she does. Kate, despite her snooping, is the only person besides all of us reading this book who understand what a piece of shit CG is, so I'm disappointed that she's assuaged so easily. But she is! This whole sequence, then, was just to create a tiny bit of tension at the end of Chapter 21. But 1.5 pages into Chapter 22, this bullshit is resolved again and everyone is getting along fine and it's time for CG's birthday party. FTB.

I really hate this description of the party guests:

I scan the room quickly: all the Greys, Ethan with Mia, Dr. Flynn and his wife, I assume. There’s Mac from the boat, a tall, handsome African American—I remember seeing him in Christian’s office the first time I met Christian—Mia’s bitchy friend Lily, two women I don’t recognize at all, and . . . Oh no. My heart sinks. That woman . . . Mrs. Robinson.

Gretchen materializes with a tray of champagne. She’s in a low-cut black dress, no pigtails but an updo, flushing and fluttering her eyelashes at Christian.  
Right? Everything is wrong with this mess. Everything. First, what, CG doesn't have any friends? I mean he's a huge asshole, sure. But none? What a depressing party. It's just his family, his gf, some ex lovers, and the people he pays to do stuff for him. I think it's gross that poor Lily, who's barely even a character in this terrible book, is reduced to "Mia's bitchy friend." I'm sorry, Lily. I bet you're not so bad.

There's something cringe-inducing about "a tall, handsome African American" too. The sentence construction itself is super sloppy. Like, is Mac from the boat tall, handsome, and African American? I don't remember. Maybe, but I think not. So who is that guy? This is the most obnoxious kind of white-author tokenism. "Don't worry guys! Somebody black is at the party somewhere. Not sure who he is, or why he's there. But he is black and thus this novel reflects the diversity of America or whatever." Right? That's the purpose here, isn't it? Probably. But the thing is that this dude doesn't have a name, or a job, or dialogue, or motivation. He's just a tall, handsome African American whom Ana remembers from CG's office a few weeks prior. Great.

I assume that the two women Ana doesn't recognize are ex-lovers, just like Elena / Mrs. Robinson. Oh and of course CG's parents have a staff drinks-carrier available for all parties and of course she has it super bad for CG ands is making sexy faces at him or whatever. Of course! That is how all women react around this guy because all women find the same sorts of men attractive and all women are incapable of being chill when they see a guy they think is hot.

Anyway CG announces that he and Ana are getting married and all the single ladies look pissy. Even Elena, and she's married, I think. Or maybe not. Maybe I made that up. But anyways. All the ladies are super angry at Ana now. Yawn.

CG's therapist is there and EL spends a baffling amount of time educating us RE: his wife. CG's therapist is, at best, a tertiary character. But now I know all about his wife, Rhian, and their kids or whatever because I don't know why. Because this dumb long book wasn't dumb and long enough? I guess. Probably. Whatever.

Also, CG's therapist provides just a super inappropriate update about Leila and her progress in the psychiatric hospital. Just criminal that he would share this information about her with anyone, let alone Christian, who's arguably to blame for much of her trouble. But hey. Who's keeping track? I mean other than us.

Oh! And I was wrong about the two women Ana didn't recognize. They aren't ex-lovers. One is his personal assistant or whatever, named Ros.

 She’s one of the few women I’ve met who isn’t dazzled by him . . . well, the reason is obvious. 
The reason? Ros is in attendance with her partner. That's right folks! Ros is an honest-to-goodness lesbian, and that's the reason CG doesn't give her the vapors. Ooh! Plot twist! Lesbian assassin hellbent on taking down Grey Holdings Limited Liability Incorporated ESQ from the inside! The only woman immune to his charms! I'm genuinely sad that that is not going to happen. Where is this chapter headed? Nowhere? Oh, right. Nowhere.

Next Mia asks Ana for relationship advice RE: her new crush, Kate's bro Ethan. Here's my advice to Mia: Mia, don't be an idiot. Ana has only been in one relationship ever in her life, and it's with your brother, and he's a terrible, horrible person. She's the dumbest, least reliable person in this book. Talk to literally anyone else. Or! Just do the opposite of whatever dumb thing Ana suggests because of how she's super dumb.

Next Elena shows up to yell at Ana for marrying CG. It's awful. It's just this big, dumb confrontation. Elena doesn't display any tactical sense. I mean we get that Ana and Elena are in conflict RE: CG. But what's Elena trying to accomplish by confronting Ana in this moment? Making her feel bad? I guess. But it's not like Ana is going to change her mind on their marriage. Or, if Ana were to change her mind, it wouldn't be on the basis of this little fight. As a result, this bit of drama just feels pointless. Elena isn't a real character. She's just a one-note argument machine. Pointless.

Also, EL has this weird quirk where she keeps using variations of the verb "to consent" in relationship to this marriage proposal.

Elena: "What on earth do you think you're doing, consenting to marry Christian?"
Ana: "What I'm consenting to do with Christian is none of your concern."

Ana's usage is semi-justified in that it's a repeat of Elena's word choice. Almost makes Ana sound clever. Almost. But in any event it's just another one of those instances in which EL sounds like some sort of prose-robot who learned American speech conventions by, what, I don't know. Maybe talking to a dumber robot? Sorry. This analogy fell apart on me. All I'm saying is that EL is terrible at writing dialogue that sounds like a thing people would say.

Anyway. They yell at each other for a while and then Ana throws her drink at Elena and then CG enters the mix. Elena then aims her appeal at him. Doesn't work. Here's a funny part tho:

“I was the best thing that ever happened to you,” she hisses arrogantly at him. “Look
at you now. One of the richest, most successful, entrepreneurs in the US—controlled, driven—you need nothing. You are master of your universe.” 
I love the part in the shitty fanfic where one of the characters says a variation of the title of the fanfic. The original title of this dumpster fire was "Master of the Universe." So now that's a thing that you know. I mean if you didn't already. Ugh what a waste.

OMG CG has come so far tho!

“You taught me how to fuck, Elena. But it’s empty, like you. No wonder Linc left.” 
Bile rises in my mouth. I should not be here. But I’m frozen to the spot, morbidly fas- cinated as they eviscerate each other. 
“You never once held me,” Christian whispers.“You never once said you loved me.” 
She narrows her eyes. “Love is for fools, Christian.” 
Mwhahahhaha. Groan. Ok. So CG once again reverses himself from the first book where he says, "I don't make love. I fuck." Or something that's basically that. He's already done this once and now he's doing it again and why isn't this book over? But anyways the cool part is where the "villain" comes out against love. And then we, as the reader, are like, "Ew she must be terrible! She hates love and I love love! So I'm not on her side! Because we disagree on the love issue!"

She literally might as well just haul off and kick a puppy. That would be an equally sophisticated character choice for EL to make in this moment.

I'm going to have to just kind of bust through to the end here because I can't take much more of this bullshit. CG's mom shows up and slaps Elena, who eventually leaves. And then Mama Grey and CG have a chat together about all the sex CG had when he was 15 with Elena. But Ana isn't really around for that. She's chilling in CG's childhood bedroom. Whatever.

CG finds here there, and shames her about not eating enough. Ana capitulates to his food-shaming and allows as she'll go eat something. Her willingness to accept his bullying is, I guess, proof that they're made for each other or whatever. CG reminds her of being at the Heathman Hotel in the previous book, because the main message of this book is, "Remember that other book that you liked? This book also remembers that book, and so the two of you would probably get along because you share that in common.)

The bullshit is flying pretty fast and furious right now. It's kind of like that movie where everything is so fast and furious. I think it's called Need for Speed. Anyway. Ana says she wants to go to church because she prayed that CG would come back safe after his helicopter crash. That's what this book needs! More religion. I hope that this goes full-on BDSM for Jesus in Book 3. That would be horrible, but in a way that intrigues me, right? You know the idea of pornography with deliberate, non-ironic evangelical elements is hard to resist, right? I mean, I'm not going to lie. I would totally check that out, because that sounds weird as hell.

Then CG says that he bought the house that they looked at a few chapters back or whenever that was. Seems like a cool move on his part. They're going to spend their life together or whatever, but why should Ana have any say on where they live, right? That seems more like a boy decision, doesn't it? Why would he bother soliciting her opinion or talking it through with her at all before signing the papers? Whatever.

Next CG and Ana reminisce about having sex in the boathouse during the previous book. They're like, "Hey remember that time in Fifty Shades of Me where we had sex in the boathouse? And it seemed kind of semi-consensual? That's the type of shit we're going to do all the time when we're married because I believe that you are my property, and that God thinks I should do whatever, sex-wise, where you are concerned, so long as nobody but the two of us is involved and you quit birth control." He doesn't quite say that; I'm adding in some subtext.

Then, he shows her a room and there are lots of flowers in it and he gives her a ring even though earlier they didn't have a ring. So it's kind of like he proposes all over again, except that would be stupid so of course that doesn't happen. Let me put it a different way: the climax of this chapter, which begins with the announcement that CG and Ana are getting married, ends with CG asking Ana to marry him.

Ok it still doesn't make sense but it makes as much sense as anything.

And that's the end.

OR IS IT!?!?!??!


We switch to third person for one last page. I'm not going to lie: it weirds me out to shift from first to third. I guess it kind of can work when you have lots of different points of view, or I guess it can kind of work when you have equal parts third and first. But here, we have 99% first and this tiny bit of third. It just feels like a cheat. Like EL couldn't figure out how to do her job properly, so she has to resort to this extra trick.

Anyway, this other person. He's smoking, so we know he's a bad person because only bad people do that. He drinks some cheap bourbon and we know that he's extra bad because it's cheap and it's wrapped in a "shabby" paper bag and that means that he is himself a shabby person because good people don't smoke, and if they drink, they drink expensive bourbon and not cheap bourbon and they drink it from nice paper bags and not shabby ones.

This mystery man admits to sabotaging the helicopter. That's neat I guess.

Then the mystery man makes it clear that he's none other than JACK HYDE OMG. And he's outside CG's party for some reason.

And that's the end of this terrible, terrible book.

I think that I'll write another piece next week, maybe to sort of sum up this mess. But it's late and I legit cannot take any more of this. I need to put it away. I need to be done with it, lest it do me more serious damage than it already has.

But yeah. That's how it ends. They get engaged, but Elena is mad and so is Jack so maybe they'll do some villainous shit eventually maybe.

It's bad, my friends. It's very, very bad. This is a bad book.

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