Thursday, December 25, 2014

50 Shad3s: Prologue


So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
Here's another 50 Shades book
And it's pretty dumb

Oh geez. 

So, here we are. Counting down to the end of the year. Counting down to Valentine's Day and the release of the 50 Shades movie [!]. And now, counting down to the end of our ongoing investigation. 

That's right! There's one book left, and we're going to read it! I mean, you aren't. At least, I hope you aren't. But I am. And I'm going to tell you all about it and you'll be, well, not impressed exactly but you'll be amused, maybe? Or maybe you'll just respect my perseverance. "Well," you'll say, "He sure did do that thing he said he was going to do!" That's right. I am a man of my stupid word.

We're starting this again. I didn't write anything this fall although I did play a lot of music and I think I'm not bragging when I say I went from "total incompetence" to what we might call "regular incompetence" and so I feel pretty good about my sabbatical. But it must end and I hope to write quite a bit more in 2015 than I did in 2014. I'm choosing not to put any of my specific goals into print because sometimes, the more you talk about doing something, the more people you tell you're going to do something, the less of it you end up actually doing. So let's just agree that I have schemes and leave it at that. (Editor's note: Alden actually did write quite a bit in 2014, even if he basically took off the last quarter of the year for reasons of laziness and of being tired of a certain book series.)

The only thing that did kind of stall out was my planned James Bond project. I liked doing it well enough but kept getting interrupted whenever I felt ready to work on a new entry. I have a copy of From Russia With Love sitting right on my desk so what I'd like to do is allow myself to stagger these final 50 Shad3s essays out a little. Take the occasional week off in order to mix in JB or something else. 

One last bit of bizness and then we'll get to the Prologu3 you've been waiting so many months for! 

As you know, there is some type of 50 Shades movie coming out in like, six weeks or something. Here's a harsh truth: I'm going to have to see the mutterblushing thing. I mean, aren't I? It would be ridiculous of me to not watch it. It would be criminal of me to not watch it. I would be letting both of my fans down if I were to somehow not watch this movie and talk about it. 

So, I will watch it. Let me know if you want to watch it with me. I'll go opening weekend in Seattle and we can all buy tickets for something else if you want but I'm doing it. I'm fully committed to this dumb thing I'm doing and that requires that I see the movie. But I wouldn't mind your moral support. 

Here's a funny little news item: word on the street is that they had to do a buncha reshoots for the movie on account of it being not sexy enough. [Link is to a short article at The Mary Sue which just basically says the thing that I just said in slightly more words but seems more credible because it's not just me saying it.]

In particular, an anonymous source blames the movie's Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) for not bringing enough hotness. 

I'm laughing about this for two reasons. 

1. Hollywood always blames ladies whenever anything goes wrong. The ratio of men to women with credited roles in a contemporary American movie is something like 10:1. 

To pick a movie at random based purely on the fact that it's #1 at the box office as I'm writing this, let's look at The Hobbit: Seven Nation Army. According to our friends at IMDB, there are 51 credited actors in this joint. Seven (!) are women! 

"But wait!" I hear you say. "That's unfair. That movie is set in a fantasy realm and features species which reproduce asexually. Hence, you can't expect that sort of flick to star more than seven women. Be reasonable. Take a look at the movie in second place!"

Ok sure. Let's. #2 is Night at the Museum: Secret of the Ooze. Stats? 72 actors listed. My count is 17 women, with men taking up a disproportionate share of the top spots. The top fifteen names include two women and one ape. And even the lady ape is passing as a man ape! Even lady apes have to deal with this shit. That's how bad it is. 

Years ago I watched the movie version of The Golden Compass and those books are wonderful? But that movie was a real dumpster fire and audiences reacted accordingly. I remember reading a dumb article on some entertainment blog that basically said, "Huh everybody hated that movie. Must've been Nicole Kidman's fault." Ha! Yeah must've been, sure. 

2. But on the other hand, Anastasia is an unsexy character. 

So yeah. 50 Shades isn't sexy enough? Must be Dakota Johnson's fault. Right? Because that makes sense. You see, this is a movie written by a straight woman for an audience of other straight women so if test audiences feel insufficiently titillated, I can really imagine them saying, "Yeah Anastasia just wasn't hot enough for me." 

Right? That makes pretty much no sense at all at all.

But also? The Anastasia character isn't sexy. She just isn't. Since she's the narrator of the book, EL can (kind of) get away with things happening to her. It's like a first-person video game. Maybe Ana just has to see and feel sexy things happening. She doesn't haver to be sexy herself, necessarily. And that's a good thing, too! Because she isn't sexy. She just lies around like a corpse whenever any sex happens. To her credit, her boyf always insists that she lie around like a corpse so yeah. Even that we can't totally blame her for. 

But still. Oh, the Anastasia character doesn't seem sexy in this movie? I'll tell you one guy who could've predicted that. And that guy is me. Oh and also anyone who has any sense at all yet somehow read the book. 

It's just not going to be that hot. I wish it were going to be hot, since I've committed to seeing it. And let's be real: the only possible way I would've enjoyed the movie would've been if it were hot. But it's not going to be hot. No way. 

Speaking of things that aren't hot: The Prologu3!

Hey do y'all remember what happened in the other books? I don't really. Let's look at the summary I used to explain Book 1 while writing about Book 2:

"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."

Hm. Well, that's not relevant anymore. Their breakup was so temporary that it isn't even worth mentioning. 

So what did happen that matters? Well. They fought a bunch of times but I guess at the end they were basically ok with each other. Oh and Ana agreed to marry Christian so that's something. 

Here's a detailed summary from book 2:

  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. 
  22. Christian tells off Elena at the party. Jack Hyde spies on the party from outside.

Let's just clean that up a little and we'll have our summary:

Ana Steele is engaged to billionaire / kink-enthusiast / child-abuse survivor Christian Grey. He is domineering and they are usually upset with each other except for when they're having sex. 

And that's pretty much it. Other things happened in the first book, but not really anything of much import. They're engaged by the end of the book but the core of their relationship is still unstable and unpleasant, so that's nothing new. Leila seemed for a while like she posed a threat but then she ended up in a fancy mental hospital so she's out for now. And Elena seemed sinister but CG yelled at her in the last chapter, so that doesn't really seem like an issue yet.

Jack Hyde is almost something, but not quite, because only the reader knows that he's scheming. Since CG and Ana don't know about Jack Hyde yet, Jack hasn't really entered into the plot just yet.

Which means that a person could easily pick up 50 Shad3s and have absolutely no trouble figuring out what's going on, because so very little is going on. So if you're reading this now and you don't feel like slogging through all my earlier essays since that's like, a couple hundred thousand words? Don't worry about it. Don't even worry about it. I mean, really, you should go back and read the whole thing because of my #jokes but you don't need to read any of the earlier essays to understand what's going on because nothing goes on. Just a bunch of sex and Christian telling Ana what to do and her not liking it but doing it anyway. 

So now that we're up to speed: The Prologu3

Hey remember when, for no reason, EL started Book 2 with a Christian flashback? Yeah me neither. 
But, that's how it went, and that's how EL chooses to start this one too. 

I'm going to make you read a bit of it because my job here is not to sugar-coat any of this. I'm not here to hide the truth from you. In case you haven't caught on, I'm not making this easier for you. I'm not testing the food first to make sure it hasn't been poisoned. No, I'm tasting the food and I'm figuring out exactly where the poison is and then cutting out that poison part and spooning it onto a plate for you and saying, "Oh hey. Have some poison."

This is literally how the book starts:

Mommy! Mommy! Mommy is asleep on the floor. She has been asleep for a long time. I brush her hair because she likes that. She doesn’t wake up. I shake her. Mommy! My tummy hurts. It is hungry. He isn’t here. I am thirsty. In the kitchen I pull a chair to the sink, and I have a drink. The water splashes over my blue sweater. Mommy is still asleep. Mommy wake up! She lies still. She is cold. I fetch my blankie, and I cover Mommy, and I lie down on the sticky green rug beside her. Mommy is still asleep. I have two toy cars. They race by the floor where Mommy is sleeping. I think Mommy is sick. I search for something to eat. In the freezer I find peas. They are cold. I eat them slowly. They make my tummy hurt. 
I am sorry to share the story of a young boy trying to make sense of his mother's death with you on this, the most Christmasy of all days. (Editor's note: this essay was first published on Christmas for reasons totally arbitrary.) But that's where we're starting. We start with EL's idea of a four-year-old's inner monologue and while it is terrible what gets me more is how pointless it is. 

Basically, I guess EL just wants to remind us that CG lived through some really shitty shit when he was a kid? Ok! I get it! CG lived through some real shitty shit when he was a kid. So where are we going with this? Nowhere?

But wait! Turns out it was all a nightmare! You know how dreams work- most dreams are just like, you, asleep, remembering exactly how something happened a long time ago, right? They're kind of like summer reruns for your brain? Ooh let me update that dated analogy. Dreams are kind of like tivo for your brain, right? Right.

CG awakens from his dream and is comforted by Ana for a few paragraphs.

Couple things worth noting about this prologu3:

  1. It's basically the exact same way that EL started Book 2. One of her themes is just doing the same thing over and over because why not? Nobody is reading this book for the writing! Nobody is reading this book to enjoy the words that are written in it! I'm not sure why anyone is reading this book but it has nothing to do with the words obviously. 
  2. Strange point of view shift. This books is 99% first person, narrated by Ana. But on occasion EL gets kinda lazy-like (Editor's note: lazier than usual, we mean.) and runs into some bit of fluff that Ana can't narrate. So for instance, Ana can't narrate CG's dream, so we get CG narrating his dream as tho he's a toddler, even tho he's an adult dreaming a dream. WHOA! INCEPTION! Or something. But the next little bit of the prologu3, after the dream, is basically omniscient narration. Third person narrator who can read both CG and Ana's mind. Why? No idea. Don't see that it serves any purpose at all. It's just a thing that happens in a book of things that happen.
  3. There are few time indicators as to the placement of this prologu3 relative to the rest of the series. I mean Ana and CG are in bed together and the end of the section sees them alluding to the exact wording of their marriage vows. But the scene is really kind of like the cold open in a contemporary TV comedy. A quick joke that's at best only tangentially connected to the rest of the episode. But in TV, a comedy cold open is funny because usually there's a joke in there somewhere, so you enjoy it because it's funny even tho it's pointless. In this context, it's just pointless.
  4. Thing that CG says at the end of the scene: “The vows. No obeying. I can do that. We’ll find a way.” So I guess they had some whole discussion about their wedding vows and CG wanted Ana to promise to obey him and she didn't want to and now he's like, "Ok fine we can remove that dumb, archaic thing from our wedding vows." Which would be cool, I guess, except for that we all know that he wants nothing more than to be obeyed all the time no matter what. So even if Ana doesn't explicitly talk about obeying CG in their wedding vows, we all know that she's going to obey him. Or at least obey him most of the time but not quite as much as he wants her to, and then they'll have a fight, and then they'll have makeup sex, and then that cycle will just keep repeating until this stupid book is over.
That's pretty much all I can say about that. CG had a scary dream wherein he relived the aftermath of his mother's death when he was a young boy. Ana comforted him after that. EL used 3rd person narration for some reason. And then it was over.

This whole thing is kind of a little appetizer I guess. Except for how an appetizer is a little thing that supposed to get you super pumped about the dinner you're about to eat. Which is silly because dinner is great and you were probably already super pumped to eat it. This instead is I guess a warning about how shitty the rest of the book is going to be. A quick little scene to be like, "Hey. It's not getting any better after this. So strap in, or read a good book instead, maybe?"

So there you have it. I'll be going through this final EL James disasterpiece one chapter at a time, right here. It's not getting any better after this. So strap in.

And hey. Merry Christmas. 


Meera said...

The 50 shades of snark continues - joy! We may now all prepare for the 50 shades of merchandising hell for the next two months.

Alden Eagle said...

Thanks for reading!

I must admit that I'll be ok if there really is a ton of merchandising for the movie, if only to help drive some more people my way and award me the sweet book deal that my editor is counting on to pay off gambling debts.