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?

Ana Steele is married 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. 

  1. Ana takes her top off on a beach while reminiscing about the wedding and Christian gets mad.
  2. They ride a jet-ski back to their honeymoon yacht and riding jet-skis cheers up Christian a bit. Then they have sex. 
  3. Ana discovers that Christian gave her a bunch of hickies and she is angry. But then she gets over it and they look at art together and CG learns that there was a fire in his server room. 
  4. Ana buys a camera.
  5. Ana and Christian return to Seattle. After visiting Christian's parents, they become embroiled in a medium-speed chase on the interstate. After eluding their pursuers, they have sex in a parking lot. 
  6. Ana figures out that Jack Hyde was the arsonist.
  7. Christian bullies Ana until she agrees to go by "Ana Grey" in her professional life. 
  8. Ana is extremely jealous of the architect hired to remodel the new home she will share with Christian. Ana cuts Christian's hair.
  9. Ana discovers that Christian keeps an unlicensed gun in his office. While Christian is away on business, Ana has a few drinks with Kate. When Ana returns home, Jack Hyde has been apprehended during an apparent home invasion. 
  10. Christian spends a whole chapter pouting because Ana went out with Kate without telling him. 
  11. Christian pouts some more and reveals that he and Jack Hyde both used to live in Detroit. 
  12. I don't remember. So probably nothing I guess.
  13. Oh I guess in twelve everyone left for Aspen. And then in thirteen, Elliot asks Kate to marry him. 
  14. Kate says yes and someone touches Ana's butt and she slaps him and then CG hits him.
  15. They go home and nothing happens but Leila shows up at the end.
  16. That Leila thing is NBD but at the end Ana learns that her dad has been injured in a car wreck.
  17. Ana goes to Portland to be closer to Ray while he recovers.
  18. It's Ana's birthday and Ray is recovering. 
  19. Back to Seattle. Ana learns she's totally pregnant. 
I bet this one goes pretty quick because I bet there's nothing in this chapter other than Ana being bummed about being pregnant. And maybe it'll end with a little bit of Jack Hyde stuff to keep EL's cliffhanger thing going. 

Speaking of which--I've never read a book that did such a good job of explaining the author's writing process and mood. You can totally tell the chapters where EL didn't really know what to do and so ended up just kind of poking around at different things for a while until she figured out where to turn next. And you can tell that now, in the home stretch, EL has gone full soap-opera and is taking her pacing cues from tv. It's not at all unreasonable to think of all these recent chapters as an hour in some long-running tv drama. All these little "shock" endings to chapters seem ridiculous in the context of an arc over the course of three novels, but in a tv show they'd make a lot of sense. It feels like a move to keep you tuned in next week, rather than the plotting you would expect in a novel. 

Honestly? I wish that EL had figured this out much earlier. I'm totally rolling my eyes at everything going on, but like, shit is happening! The thing that makes the first book so hard to read is that the main characters reach a certain spot in their relationship and just enter this holding pattern that lasts forever. And they're totally isolated from any external events. Their relationship might as well be the only thing that exists. 

But now weird things are happening all the time! (Editor's note: it's not really that weird for a married couple who bone down all the time to have a baby. It's an event, though, and the earlier books were quite short on events.) And more people are getting involved. And now I'm having a pretty easy time imagining this as basically a twisty, turny soap opera but with a bunch of kinky sex and I'm like, "Huh. Yeah maybe." That's like, legit not a bad idea at all. It's just way too late in the game for it to work. 

Anyway. Enough of that. Back to the book!

I gape at Dr. Greene, my world collapsing around me. A baby. A baby. I don’t want a baby . . . not yet. Fuck. And I know deep down that Christian is going to freak. 
 I like how she says she knows "deep down that Christian is going to freak" because we know he's going to freak not just deep down, but in every part of the pool. The deep end. The shallow end. The steps leading into the shallow end. The lounge chairs that aren't even in the pool. Everywhere. It's completely obvious that he's going to freak.

Ok so continuing on some of our themes from last chapter, Dr. Greene is happy to immediately perform a transvaginal ultrasound on Ana. This is not a scene that I enjoyed reading. When I was young I quite liked reading Michael Crichton and it's too bad that he ended up being a global warming denialist kook and all that, but I really did like a lot of his books. I mention him because he was always cramming in unnecessarily long bits of explanation about different technology things. These explanations often seemed a bit labored since they were for the reader, not for the characters, but they made perfect sense thematically because the books were basically an excuse for the author to muse about some science thing he thought was interesting.

EL does a similar thing, but not as often and with less clear intentions. When Ana put a condom onto CG way back in the first book, it really did kinda feel like, "Hey kids! Time to learn about condoms!" And all of the scenes with Doc Greene feel like they're from some weird alternate universe book where like, the Berenstain bears didn't just explain things to four year olds but had a series for like, middle school sex ed. "The Berenstain Bears Go to the Gynecologist!" "The Berenstain Bears Practice Safe Sex!"

I guess it makes sense that the parts where Ana is learning about CG's various kinks and their accessories tend toward didacticism. She's new to this, and EL's intended audience is new to this too. And I hope I'm not just being a dummy. I hope I'm not just being like, "Ew! Girl stuff!" But I just feel like there are all these scenes where somebody has to tell Ana about her body and it keeps happening and I'm kinda like, "Can't she have just a little privacy now and then?"

I guess not! I'm going to apologize for this one in advance, but I feel like it might help make my case. I'm sorry.

“If you could lift and bend your knees, then part them wide,” she says matter-of-factly. 
I frown warily. 
“This is a transvaginal ultrasound. If you’re only just pregnant, we should be able to find the baby with this.” She holds up a long white probe. 
Oh, you have got to be kidding! 
“Okay,” I mutter, mortified, and do as she says. Greene pulls a condom over the wand and lubricates it with clear gel. 
“Mrs. Grey, if you could relax.” 
Relax? I’m pregnant, damn it! How do you expect me to relax? I blush, and endeavor to find my happy place . . . which has relocated somewhere near the lost Island of Atlantis. 

Right? Geez. Does Doc Greene seem kinda bad at her job to you? She does to me. Like, doesn't even really give any warning about the procedure? Doesn't even, like, give any real explanation. Basically no warning. Unimpressive bedside manner. But more important--I just don't know that we need all these details, right? These details about the mechanics of transvaginal ultrasound are not helping us follow the story better. EL is mostly happy to be totally inaccurate, but then gets to these moments and is like, "Ooh! Gotta get this one exactly right!" And I just don't get it because she could do away with it so quickly. EL could easily skip ahead to the part where Ana tells CG that she's pregnant, because that's what's relevant--the effect of the news on characters. But no. EL has decided that these details matter, and so, we get them.

Doc Greene finishes up quickly and gives Ana a copy of "The Berenstain Bears Get Pregnant!" so that she'll know what to do and everything and of course Doc Greene never asks Ana whether or not she wants to have a baby. Considering that the entire basis for their relationship is Ana's desire to not have a baby, this seems like a pretty gross oversight on Doc Greene's part. But oh well! Shrug.gif

Ana drives back to work.

Perhaps I . . . perhaps I should end this. I halt my thoughts on that dark path, alarmed at the direction they’re taking. Instinctively my hand sweeps down to rest protectively over my belly. No. My little Blip. Tears spring to my eyes. What am I going to do? 
Hey EL: srsly fuck off. Unless you're just bad at writing, and "dark path" means that Ana is thinking about killing herself, not ending her pregnancy. Because sure, that would be v dark as far as paths go, and I would be against it. Deciding that this is not the right time in your life for a baby is not a dark path. It's a thing that millions of women do. It's a thing that millions of women want to do and then end up not doing for a variety of reasons even though they wanted to because this country is pretty unreasonable about most things, but unreasonable about pregnancy in particular.

Let's take a second to remind ourselves about how this book series seems to be all about like, people doing what they want with their bodies. Just kidding! It's about men doing what they want with their bodies and what they want with women's bodies, too. And that's why the quite sensible idea of Ana ending her very-recent pregnancy is not going to be considered seriously. I mean I guess it'll probably happen in the unlikely event that CG doesn't want to have kids yet, because all this stuff is basically up to him, not her. After all, he was the one who chose Doc Green for Ana and insisted that she be in charge of their birth control regimen because he was tired of having to wear condoms.

Let's all have a brief moment of quiet introspection for poor Christian Grey who had to wear a condom like, three times or whatever it was. Strike that. Let's have a long moment of mourning for every man who ever had to wear a condom ever because obviously that's the very very worst and literally worse than being dead or never having sex ever. And that is why birth control must be a lady's job and not something that men ever have to think about because, ew, ew, gross, cooties, ew. tinyviolin.gif

Ana gets back to work and mentally blames her assistant for making her pregnant because her assistant is in charge of her schedule I guess. Whatever. “If you move any appointments, will you make sure I know? I don’t always check my calendar.” Ana carefully locks her barn now that the horse has run away. 

Our heroes exchange a few emails, like contemporary twenty-somethings love to do. You know how millennials are about emails! Always on their desktop PCs, sending emails. Not to mention posting photos on Friendster! Not to mention the fees they run up at Western Union, sending all those telegrams! fistshake.gif

CG can already tell something is up. He picks Ana up after work and their conversation is a lot of him being like, "Hey so what's up?" and Ana being like, "Ugh nothing dad geez!"

Quick visit to the hospital.

Then dinner at home. It's chicken chasseur, whatever the hell that is. I imagine it's French for doing a shot and then chasing it with a chicken wing. Weird that Ana is doing this since she is pregnant. CG succeeds in getting Ana to divulge her news, and he flips out as predicted: 

His brow furrows with incomprehension. “How?” 
How . . . how? What sort of ridiculous question is that? I blush, and give him a quizzical how-do-you-think look. 
His stance changes immediately, his eyes hardening to flint. “Your shot?” he snarls. 
Oh shit. 
“Did you forget your shot?” 
I just gaze at him unable to speak. Jeez, he’s mad—really mad. 
“Christ, Ana!” He bangs his fist on the table, making me jump, and stands so abruptly he almost knocks the dining chair over. “You have one thing, one thing to remember. Shit! I don’t fucking believe it. How could you be so stupid?” 
Soooooo yeah. Yeah. This goes down precisely the way Ana predicted it would. He's sooper pissed. Basically acting like yeah, maybe he's going to hit her a bunch. And don't you love that last part? Not the part where he calls her stupid--we don't even have to get into how bad that is.

This part: "You have one thing, one thing to remember." That's probably literally how Christian feels, right? Like, Ana's whole duty in life or whatever is just to be available for his sexual pleasure. Her being pregnant--his main concern is probably just the possibility of some delays to his orgasm schedule. Now obvs Ana is an adult human with a job and a family. Granted, I would say that her list of responsibilities is shorter than that of many people, mostly because she's so rich that she can remove all financial considerations from her life, and finances are most people's main stress. But still. Pretty sure Ana as more than one thing, one thing to remember.

So Ana was mildly hostile to the idea of being a mother at this juncture of her life, and more worried about what her husband would have to say about it. CG has lots to say about it, and it's all bad. Angry at Ana. Disgusted by the idea of having to deal with a baby, I guess forgetting that he's a bazillionaire. They're easily at that level of rich where they could have kids who accidentally call the nanny "mom" and have to be reminded who their real parents are. I'm pretty sure you'll be ok dude! Pretty sure you will literally never change a diaper unless you specifically say, "Hey why don't you go on a quick vape break, governess? Let dad handle this one!"

So um. Everything he says is totally inappropriate in every way, and also he never is like, "Hey so um. Do you want to do this now or nah? Because I can find the absolute best abortion provider in the entire world, and we could fly you to wherever her practice is, and I got that fuck-you money, you know? The amount of money where you're allowed to say 'fuck you' to literally anyone without consequence? So I'm pretty sure that doc would find a spot for you in her schedule, even if she works in Sweden or whatever and we wake her up in the middle of the night to make her pencil you in. So what're you thinking, Ana?"

Nope! Jumps immediately to his life being absolutely ruined by a baby. Anyway he keeps yelling for a long time and then storms out and Ana's like, "Well that was quite a bit worse than I expected!"

Omigod guys. Ana legit needs that Berenstain Bears pregnancy book. Mrs. Jones asks if Ana would like anything.

 “I’d like a glass of white wine.”
Mrs. Jones pauses for a fraction of a second, and I remember Blip. Now I can’t drink alcohol. Can I? I must study the dos and don’ts Dr. Greene gave me. “I’ll get you a glass.” 
“Actually, I’ll have a cup of tea, please.” 
Right? Like just when I get mad at this book for mansplaining everything to Ana like she's an idiot all the time, the book turns around and is like, "Wait you gotta remember than Ana is an idiot all the time." FTB. C'mon Ana. You're embarrassing all of us a whole whole bunch.

Anyway. Ana keeps referring to her v new fetus as Blip and that's fine I guess but I'm not in love with it. And also now the housekeeper is telling Ana to eat because now Ana's eatin' for two! or whatever so I guess we have lots more of that to get v excited about! Cool. We're never going to be done with people telling Ana she ought to eat more. That's a permanent part of our book now.

Ana falls asleep. Wakes up. Is disoriented, so that's quite normal, at least for her basic deal. Texts CG. Takes a bath.

CG shows up. He's drunk. He's drunk like a character in a silent film--way more drunk than a real drunk person just so the audience can be absolutely sure that he's drunk. Stumbling. Slurring words. Ana seems unconcerned, pretty much. Even she says she prefers the drunk version of him to the angry version of him. I guess if I were in our shoes I'd be worried that the drunk and angry version of him might be waiting to spring out and really cause trouble but she's not too bothered so I guess I'll just trust her because why not? Nobody in her life trusts her so I guess as a reader it's the least I can offer her.

CG's asleep and snoring and whatever in short order.

Are you ready for our cliffhanger tho? Ok here goes!

Turns out I was wrong earlier, when I guessed it would be related to Hyde. Very wrong! Instead we're bringing back a different mischief maker! Elena! CG's first lover, and the only one of his exes who was probably breaking the law when she started in with him. I'm not going to look it up because who cares. Whether it was illegal age-of-consent-wise or not, I dunno, but it was pretty messed up of her to start something with her friend's son, which is what Elena did.

When Ana is putting CG's clothes away once he's asleep she looks at his phone in that accidental way that a person might do on purpose and sees a text from Elena, which EL brackets in asterisks for reasons that are entirely unclear to me: "*It was good to see you. I understand now. Don't fret. You'll make a wonderful father.*"

And this is how we bring balance to the force! CG flips out into a blind rage about his wife being pregnant ahead of his schedule or whatever. Gets drinks with an ex. Ana flips out into a blind rage about the drinks and the ex. These two are "perfect" for each other in a certain sense, but in a different, more accurate sense, they are the absolute worst for each other and should move to opposite sides of the planet probably.

Here's a thought: these people seem exactly like the sort of people who'd be like, "Hey this isn't working. Let's bring a baby into it and see if that fixes us!" And that's how this is going to work, right? The trilogy ends with CG and Ana looking forward to having a family and stuff, and the reader is like, "Oh cool! Pregnancy fixed everything!"

This is a really terrible book.

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