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

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

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?

Friday, May 27, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 19

Ana is pregnant. ZOMG.

Guys I just read this chapter and I don't know. I don't know. So EL is getting increasingly desperate here in the home stretch. Less and less likely things are happening. And um. Yeah. I mean you read that top part. The spoiler. I mean, to the extent that this thing can be spoiled. Like, I want to get through this. I totally totally do. But um. It's not easy. It's really just not easy. This thing is non-non-non-non-non-non-heinous.

But before we get carried away--where were we again?

Friday, May 20, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 18

It's Ana's birthday and it seems like Ray is going to be ok.

This is a short and bad one. I'm honestly not sure if I just care less, or what, but I think I didn't write much about this chapter because nothing happens at all and it's hard to find much to write about when nothing much happens at all. You can totally read this whole thing during a single commercial break, even if you DVRed the show and you're watching commercials on fast mode. That's how short this is.

Wait where were we?

Monday, May 16, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 17

Hospital stuff

I think I'm going to stop thinking of this trilogy as a trilogy, because it just doesn't behave like one. Ooh unless we're thinking about movie trilogies, in which case it totally does. And not like the rare trilogy that was planned as a trilogy. The sort of accidental trilogy where the producers are like, "Well, they keep buying tickets, so yeah I guess let's keep making these movies." Like, not with any plan or anything. Not one long story that needs to be told over multiple hours. Just like, "Uh I dunno. Maybe let's do this one in space?"

That's what's going on here. See, the core contradiction in this novel is never going to be resolved. The conflict in this book is either between Ana and Christian, or, thought of in a bit of a different way--each has their own personal conflict, which is that neither can just kinda relax and accept the other's love and not be a jealousy monster all the time.

But here's something annoying: EL is always offering her characters excuses to follow their worst impulses. CG is a hideous control-monster, yes, but he and Ana are being stalked by some kind of downmarket super-villain, so events basically justify his paranoid thinking. Ana is staggeringly jealous and insecure, but why shouldn't she be? Her husband's exes are always showing up and trying to get back into his life, and literally every woman who crosses his path displays a Tex Avery-style overreaction to his good looks and basically begs for a trip to his sex dungeon. That's absolutely everyone besides his lesbian personal assistant. Only the people interested in bedding zero men are not trying to bed Christian Grey. So maybe Ana should be jealous! I don't know!

But anyway--maybe at the end of this book, CG will be like, "I'm relaxed! We caught that one super villain so we no longer need to worry!" And Ana will be like, "I'm ok with the shockingly high proportion of humanity that wants to have sex with you!" But even if EL tries to force through a late-game arc like this, I just don't think I'll believe it. I expect I'll feel exactly the same about both of these characters: not mature enough to be in an adult relationship.

But hey. While we're waiting around in vain for all that, let's check in on the car collision that we're all so worried about!

So where were we? 

Monday, May 9, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 16

That thing with Leila ends up fine but then I guess Ray is hurt or something. 

So Leila's return means that this book is in full-on wrap-up mode. So that's something! Makes me feel like the end is near! Cool. V important for my dwindling motivation.

Have we talked about Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans before? Probs. Let's again tho! So the thing with that movie is that it's kind of gleefully hostile to the idea of plotting. Toward the end, there's this scene where Nic Cage is back at police HQ and there's almost a literal line of minor characters just waiting to come up to him and say, "Oh hey remember our subplot from earlier in the film? It's all taken care of so don't worry about it! Thanks!"

After spending several chapters eschewing any dramatic tension, EL now ends two in a row with out-of-left-field cliffhangers involving tertiary characters that are impossible to worry about. I think it's because EL just doesn't succeed in making me feel like many of the characters are real people. More like little puppets that EL moves around as needed. Does that make sense? I mean, I know that everyone in this is a caricature character. But I feel a bit like there's a hierarchy. Some of the characters, like Ana and CG, have some kind of motivations and wants and needs and so on. But that's pretty much just Ana, CG, and Kate to a lesser extent. All the other characters are just so underdeveloped that they don't feel like people. Just devices. So that's not a great sign, obvs. But that's what we've got going on.

Meaning that when Leila--a lady who threatened Ana with a gun!--shows up, I'm quite unconcerned. I know that Ana isn't going to get murdered. And I know that Leila is probably just here to wrap up her little thing and will, in all likelihood, just be on her way in no time.

And when I read this chapter, and got to the next cliffhanger, I just kinda roll my eyes. Because it's another bit of pointlessness with a side character. Looks like EL is just trying to wring one last little bit of business out of everyone in this. Means José will be back soon enough, for instance.

But anyway! Let's catch up with Leila.

So where were we? 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 15

Leila shows up at the very end after nothing happens.

So here's a thing I don't get, blogger: how come I type these things in Times but they end up in I don't know, probably Helvetica? [Editor's note: Arial.] That's fine. But I don't get it. I always use the "default font" and then I publish and it's something else. These are the mysteries that plague me! Like an actual plague!

Anyway. This book. I still kinda have this fantasy wherein I'd take these books and pare them each down to about a hundred pages. Wouldn't be hard--just time-consuming. Basically EL left in this whole Aspen chunk that legit never should've made it past her editor's first glance. It's all pointless, and it's just so comically padded. You know the phrase "gilding the lily"? This is like the opposite of that. Greasing the fat. EL is taking this stuff that ought to have been trimmed and just packing it with extra lard.

Seriously, throughout the series, there must be a hundred pages of Ana waking up. Nothing happening. No new information. Just Ana waking up. And she always wakes up in this weird way that, I expect, has little in common with anyone else's morning. Granted, when I'm going to sleep, I do tend to take stock of my whole life, my position in the universe, and all the terrible choices I've made throughout the day. So if she did that, I'd buy it. But something close to 10% of this book is just Ana waking up, describing how the bed feels, thinking about Christian, and kind of being surprised by everything. It's as though she didn't so much go to bed the night before, but instead just passed out somewhere and has to be like, "Ok I'm awake. Now to figure out where I am, and how I got here, and whether or not I'm in immediate danger." Just has nothing at all to do with the mental routine of any other human being ever, I'm rather sure.

And yet, it get such a prominent position in this book. I should do a Harper's index of this thing. Do a final count of just how many chapters end with Ana going to bed and how many start with Ana waking up.

This one starts with Ana waking up.

So where were we? 

Friday, April 22, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 14

I'm a little bit like a shark with this, I think. Got to keep moving. If I don't, I'll probably stop again, and if I stop again, who knows how long it will take me to start again? Or if I'd even be able to start again?

Basically all of my regular readers noticed my last post, even without me telling anyone to, and I am pleased. Just goes to show that my numbers are great in the venn-diagram overlap between "my friends" and "people who use RSS readers." In hollywood, they talk about "quadrants" of popularity. Pretty much just different kinds of white guys. "This blockbuster is huge with all four quadrants! Young white guys, middle-aged white guys, old white guys, and 'other'!" I think that's how they do it anyway. Friends with RSS readers is not a quadrant. Something much smaller than a quadrant. That's ok.

So yeah Chapter 14!

So where were we? 

Friday, April 15, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 13

Ok so here's the thing:

I kinda quit this, obviously. And part of me is sorry, of course, because there were literally several of you reading it. But also I kinda couldn't take any more of this book, and a lot of that is about how this chapter here that I'm going to write about just kinda breaks the informal contract that a book has with its readers. The contract goes something like this: "Ok so I might not be a good book but I am going to kinda like keep talking about the same stuff and totally not go off on any dumb tangents for no reason."

Yeah so this chapter is just a dumb tangent for no reason. Let's talk more about it!

But seriously tho: this all started as a procrastination project, and yeah, I'm procrastinating again. I was doing this to procrastinate from writing fiction and then at a certain point I somehow ended up in a band and started writing songs as an even more involved act of procrastination, and I still do that, but in the meantime I've put certain efforts into writing fiction again, and that has been a rough process, so I say, "Hey let's do this again! Maybe catching up with 50 Shades will be like catching up with an old friend! Or at the very least, like catching up with a weird kid you kinda sorta remember from elementary school, who's now a billionaire but used to eat glue. And maybe still eats glue."

The thing about being in a band is this: if I write a song, my band has to listen to it! And even help me with it! You just cannot buy that type of gratification! It's basically unpossible! Blogging is solitary work that you just kinda shove out into the aether and hope that maybe someone notices other than Russian spam bots but you know that probably it's only going to be the spam bots. And even this is far, far more rewarding than trying to write fiction when you don't have anything established. When you're basically unpublished and you're seeing your peers get book deals and do stuff and things and you're like, "I could do that, maybe, if I could." But I don't know how and I don't know how anyone knows how so then I'm like, "Maybe I'll try to figure out that song about how drivers are jerks, because at least my friends in my band will have to listen!"

Here are the songs I'm working on:

  1. This one is about cars and the only lyric I know so far is, "Honk your horn and we'll all go faster." That's a joke because obvs honking your horn doesn't make anyone go faster. IRONY!
  2. Here's this one about how the internet is full of garbage monsters: "Don't read the comments! If you read the comments, you'll vomit!" That's a great rhyme and you know it! Hey and if any of you Russian spam bots have bands? Well. If you do, you're probably working in some super obscure sub-genre of EDM, I expect. But if any of you are in any kind of band that has lyrics don't you steal my sweet rhyme! It's a good rhyme, and worthy of being stolen. But don't!
Ok. Let's do this thing. 


Shit I dunno. I think Aspen? I think this is like a side-quest or something?