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 Everyone lives happily ever after by conforming to outdated gender roles!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?

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. 
  20. Christian is mad at Ana for being pregnant. He goes out and gets drunk with his ex. 

So Ana sees CG's phone and she is super pissed because now she knows that CG wasn't just getting drunk. He was getting drunk with his ex.

This chapter is super annoying but it has one of those rare moments where Ana kind of gets to the heart of this whole terrible trilogy:

No, no, no—I can’t believe that it will always be this way, two steps forward and three steps back. But that’s how it’s always been with him. After each setback, we move forward, inch by inch. He will come around . . . he will. But will I? Will I recover from this . . . from this treachery?  
She's right! This thing just inches along. Just crawls. More than anything else, I think this is what depresses me about this book: it's just stuck in the same spot. The writing is bad, but hey, there's lots of bad writing in lots of books so who cares. And it's pretty misogynist but hey! Look around you. Take one second and you'll see or hear something misogynist. Nothing new there. Clichés? Yes this book is full of them! But so is everything else all the time.

But what I'm not used to is just the way this thing just absolutely treads water. Ana and CG have been at this same level of not-quite since like, Chapter 8 of the first book. Something like that. And even if a reader wanted to argue that there's some purpose for it--like maybe all the makeup sex they have all the time--I guess I don't buy it, really. Pretty much because the sex parts just aren't that good. I'm sorry but they aren't! Even the sex parts are two steps forward and three steps back because they're really just reliving their first encounter again and again and maybe that's fine for real life but I thought this was supposed to be like, pornography or whatever. [Editor's note: it's not.]

So anyway. Ana is deciding what to do. CG is drunk and asleep and she's got his phone there and is like, hey should I snoop? 

Yup! In for a penny, in for a pound! She reads the rest of his texts but doesn't see any more from his ex, Elena, which strikes me as unlikely. I mean maybe he called Elena? Maybe. I mean they didn't use telepathy to decide to get drinks together. But Ana doesn't look at her husband's call history. Instead she's just like, "Hey let's look at his email," and she goes into his email and that's just a nightmarish wasteland of spam from Uniqlo, Ello, and Monoprice. I mean, that's what I'm guessing anyway because that's all that's going on in my email. She doesn't see anything from Elena or Leila either, but IRL this would just mean that CG has multiple email addresses and she's not seeing them all. Because c'mon. CG and Elena are literally in business together at that one hair salon so yeah, they've exchanged the occasional email. 

But also? Don't read his emails, Ana. Geez. 

Or do. I don't know. I don't care either, anymore. My inclination was to be like, hey. Even married people shouldn't snoop on each other's emails, even if they don't have anything to hide. Everybody needs a certain amount of privacy. And they certainly shouldn't get an email address that's like, because that's goddamn ridiculous.

But, you see, my initial reaction to Ana reading CG's email was like, "Ick don't do that geez." But then I remembered that CG totally spies on Ana all the time and for all I know, he might be reading all hers too so I'm like, well. This is already such a goddamn mess that I can't really say that I think Ana shouldn't spy on her husband. Maybe she'll get lucky and he'll get so angry that he divorces her. That'd be neat I guess. And a weird way to end the book, but hey. That'd be fine. 

Ana reads an email from one of CG's people who's been investigating Jack Hyde and there's nothing in it of note. I think EL just wanted to remind us that Jack Hyde is in this book and will be returning shortly. Whatever. 

Ana decides to sleep in the sex dungeon instead of any of the many bedrooms available to her because she's too mad at drunk CG to sleep next to him. Here's an unpleasant sentence:

Odd that I find the smell and ambience of this room so comforting, considering I safe worded the last time we were in here.  
Oh geez. This bums me out so much. "I safe worded" is maybe the worst bit of writing in this whole thing. That is the most awkward example of verbing weirding language I've eyeballed maybe ever. But also, yeah, it is odd that this is where you chooses to sleep, Ana, but what do I care. Maybe it's because the rules are simple in the sex dungeon and she feels like things are too complicated now and doesn't know what to do. Whatever.

Ana sends a confrontational text to CG about his text from Elena and goes to sleep. And I'm like, hey. At least it wasn't another email.

The next morning she wakes up and is of course disoriented because of that sleep disorder she has where she's always disoriented whenever she wakes up. It's one of her things. We've discussed it before, like in every chapter.

CG is up and yelling at his whole staff when Ana finds him. But then of course everyone kinda runs away because they can tell there's a fight coming. Ana doesn't really talk to CG. Just takes a shower. Were you wondering what that was like? The shower? Here! I'll let you know!

Oh, it’s warm. The healing water cascades over me, cleansing the exhaustion of the night off my skin. Oh my. This feels so good.  
Were you wondering like, what temperature Ana likes for the shower? Warm, it turns out! Were you wondering if the water like, slid off of her like it does a normal person taking a shower somewhere with earth-style gravity? It does! Oh and were you wondering where Ana keeps her exhaustion? It's on her skin. It's a topical application, but not a waterproof formula. If you're going to go swimming you should think about using some kind of waterproof exhaustion. Be sure to reapply frequently! That's a common mistake. You carefully apply exhaustion in the morning, but then if you don't reapply, and then you go swimming or something, you run out of exhaustion.

Ana gets dressed, not talking to CG. "Ah, yes—my plum dress. I slide it off the hanger, choose my high black stiletto boots, and head for the bedroom." 

Ok. There are probably people paying more attention to this mess than I am. But is that maybe the plum dress she stole from Kate a long-ass time ago? Sure. Let's say yes. Whatever. And those boots tho. I'm imagining that they are the kind of shit that you'd see in The Matrix and it's amusing me a lot because who wears that to work? Like if they don't work at Hot Topic? Is that the right reference? I don't know. It feels right so I'm going with it. I don't care. 

Anyway they have a fight and it's fine, I suppose. CG deserves it. Ana makes reference to her "inner bitch" and I don't like that much but I think it's an isolated incident and not a new character we're going to have to read a lot about. Ana calls CG spineless for running off to talk to Elena and I think that's basically fair. You've just managed to combine your genetic material with your wife's genetic material, guy. Time to put on your adult pants and make adult decisions with her. Not run away and hide. That is legit pretty spineless, guy. 

Here's the end of the fight:

“Well, you were right. I do choose this defenseless baby over you. That’s what any loving parent does. That’s what your mother should have done for you. And I am sorry that she didn’t—because we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now if she had. But you’re an adult now—you need to grow up and smell the fucking coffee and stop behaving like a petulant adolescent. 

“You may not be happy about this baby. I’m not ecstatic, given the timing and your less-than-lukewarm reception to this new life, this flesh of your flesh. But you can either do this with me, or I’ll do it on my own. The decision is yours. 

“While you wallow in your pit of self-pity and self-loathing, I’m going to work. And when I return I’ll be moving my belongings to the room upstairs.” 
Let's all take a sec and admire how goddamn precious all of Ana's word choices are here. I really can't stand this dialogue. It's so "writerly." Meaning it's the sort of shit a writer might come up with but a person would never say. A phrase like "petulant adolescent" would just be so ridiculous coming out of a human mouth. But then she also has these zany phrases like "grow up and smell the fucking coffee" where it's kind of a dumb cliché but also she kind of gets it wrong and the whole thing is just pretty much ugh.

I'm also just upset about how doofy this is in the context of the trilogy. You can feel EL really trying to raise the stakes with this conflict, but we also see that this book only has a few chapters left and so we all know that it's going to wrap up soon, and tidily, so however mad Ana gets right now, we can all be confident that happily-ever-after is coming, and soon.

It feels pretty uncool of Ana to bring CG's mom into this. I keep feeling bad about CG's mom. I mean, I know she's not a real person? But like, even fictional people deserve better. Nobody stands up for CG's mom in this book, so I'm trying to. I bet you weren't so bad, CG's mom.

The one thing I do kind of like about this sequence is that Ana is taking her time getting dressed throughout pretty much just to mess with CG. It's a nice touch on her part.

But their fight doesn't really get anywhere.

His eyes narrow once more. “We haven’t resolved much, have we?” 
“I’d say not. Except that I’m moving out of this bedroom.”
HA! I love it. Because yeah. They haven't resolved much, and they don't have many chapters left in which to convince me that much has been resolved. Good luck, tho! Give it your best shot, you crazy kids!

CG doesn't apologize, it should be noted. Seems like that would be the obvious move, right? His relationship with Elena is always a bit troubling. Because even if CG and Elena were now friends--normal friend type friends--it wouldn't make sense for him to exclusively spend time with her away from Ana, would it? Like, if CG were like, "Hey she's not so bad. Let's get drinks together and you'll see maybe," then I would have more sympathy. But the fact that he's so secretive about his time with Elena makes it look super fishy, right? Not that I'm taking Ana's side here. I mean, I guess I am kind of. But this is kind of like a Clinton / Trump kind of thing so don't think that I'm not sick of Ana because I totally am.

I think the logical path here for CG is this: "Nothing is going on between Elena and me, but you're right. I should have stayed here and talked this through with you, and not been such an angry asshole. I'm sorry." But he never gets around to any kind of admission of guilt. Just stays at that first part--denying that anything is going on with his ex. Never apologizes.

Ana heads off to work. This happens while she's being driven there:

We didn’t actually discuss the baby. I have had less than twenty-four hours to assimilate the news of Little Blip. Christian has had even less time. “He doesn’t even know your name.” I caress my belly and wipe tears from my face. 
Here's my question: when Ana says "He doesn't even know your name," does she mean "Little Blip"? And is that going to be the name of a human person, and not Ana's secret nickname? Oh and also, let's note that she's saying this aloud, I guess, since there are quotation marks. So her driver is totally hearing it. I cannot imagine how awful it would be to work for these awful people. The only thing that exceeds their awfulness is their weirdness. But the weirdness just makes the awful all the more awful.

Oh and now Ana isn't eating again. I hope some academic type will write some paper on Ana's appetite because it's a fascinating / infuriating / boring topic and I've run out of thoughts on it I'm afraid so I guess someone else do that. Thanks.

Kate calls Ana once she's at work and is blunt and we get this phrase: "The Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition begins." This is Ana's way of saying, "Fuck you for worrying about me, best friend." This is EL's way of saying, "I'm bad at writing so I just write the same things over and over and also all women are terrible except for Ana, but you should note that she is also quite terrible."

“Christian and I had a fight, that’s all.” 
“Did he hurt you?” 
I roll my eyes. “Yes, but not the way you’re thinking.” I cannot deal with
Kate at the moment.  
UGH. I seriously hate you Ana. You are just so awful to the people who make the mistake of caring about you.

Later Ana visits Ray again and while this is a reasonable thing for her to do, there's no particular reason for it to be in this book. It's pretty much just another few pages for Ana to mope and for us to think, "Oh shit maybe things really won't work out for them!" Even though they totally will. Then Ana goes home and CG is working late. And then he leaves before Ana gets up the next morning and that is fine because who cares about these people and the things they do? No reasonable person.

Ana pukes at work because she's pregnant. CG writes her an email saying he's going to PDX alone. Things are pretty rocky! But also, they're exactly the same as established early in the chapter. EL is in this mode of starting a chapter by more or less resolving some lazy cliffhanger, and then setting a tone that's going to last the rest of the chapter without any alteration. Every scene in this chapter is just making the same point a different way: Things are pretty rocky!

Oh but now it's time for our newest cliffhanger! Remember when Jack Hyde came up and it was pointless and we said that probably that was just to remind us that he was a thing in the book? Well here goes!

My BlackBerry buzzes, making me jump. I glance at the screen—it’s Mia. Jeez, that’s all I need, her gushing and enthusiasm. I hesitate, wondering if I could just ignore it, but courtesy wins out. 
“Mia,” I answer brightly. 
“Well, hello there, Ana—long time no speak.” The male voice is familiar. Fuck! 
My scalp prickles and all the hair on my body stands to attention as adrenaline floods through my system and my world stops spinning. 
It’s Jack Hyde. 
Hey so what about Ana's weird mix of literal and figurative? So the adrenaline--that's probably a real thing. But um. All the hair on her body? Like straight up? I feel like that's not happening. And it's pretty weird to say that a shock makes your world stop spinning, right? I mean, yeah, I am familiar with the fact that the earth is literally spinning. But isn't it more likely in a time of shock that you'd say you felt like things were spinning? I don't know. It's dumb and I hate it.

One other point: "Long time no speak." Hey did you guys know that that's one of those fun little bits of hidden racism that stick around in our language? You probably did. But anyway. That one is a bit of fake pidgin English that's basically a racist joke on Chinese immigrants. Also: when I looked up the proper spelling of "pidgin" I learned that even the word "pidgin" is itself kind of a racist joke on Chinese immigrants. American English is such a great metaphor!

So that little language footnote is the end of our chapter! Jack has Mia's phone. That's probably a bad thing!

But yeah. Will it all end fine? Probably, sure. Probably. 

No comments: