Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 14)
I’ll probably start a new MST soon, and/or continue my MST of Beyond Aperture, and/or do another Invader Zim episode review, but for now you get more Fifty Shades.
Trigger warning: boring.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Fourteen
We begin the chapter with Christian standing over Ana, naked but for a pair of “faded, ripped Levis” and holding a riding crop. Ana is naked and shackled to the bed below him. Christian drags the tip of the riding crop over Ana’s body until he reaches her crotch, at which point he uses it to hit her in the clitoris (???) and Ana comes.
…and then she wakes up.
On the one hand, dreams can be an expression of one’s subconscious (and I mean an actual subconscious, not this chatty one Ana’s apparently saddled with). So I guess it’s possible that Ana’s having a wet dream about Christian being kinky with her indicates that she’d like Christian to be kinky with her. It does make some sense, especially given how repressed she is and how she already has an “inner goddess” taking responsibility for all her sexual desires. On the other hand, it’s a fucking dream. If she actually wants to do kinky things with Christian, why can’t she ever express that desire while conscious? Don’t her waking desires count for more, anyway?
Also, dreams aren’t real life. Often people react differently to things happening in a dream context than they would to that same thing happening for real. Ana might like the idea of Christian tying her up and doing things to her with a riding crop, but the idea of a thing and the thing itself are, well, two different things. (Shut up. My crappy, no-revision review prose still beats the actual text of this book.)
Besides, I’m fairly certain that no one in real life actually comes from being whipped in the clit.
Ana is very confused after waking up from said dream, because she didn’t know it was possible for her to orgasm in her sleep. This supposed not-knowing is undermined by the fact that one sentence previously she used the term “wet dream” to describe what just happened to her.
She gets up and goes to the kitchen. Kate tells her she looks odd. Okay.
Kate asks about dinner. Ana tells her it was “fishy”. (Referring to the food. Author, your puns will never be funny.) Of course, Kate really wants to know about how Christian acted, but Ana isn’t sure what she can safely tell Kate. I’ll tell you what you can safely tell Kate — that you like Christian but you’re not sure you and he are on the same page, and think this relationship might not work out. Or, better yet, tell her he’s a rapist and you never want to see him again because all he does is ignore your needs and boss you around while pretending that his blatant disregard for your comfort, safety, and wellbeing is “kinky”.
Ana successfully sidetracks Kate by asking her about her valedictorian speech. While Kate is fetching said speech from the other room, Ana thinks about Christian some more. Brief summary of what she’s thinking:
- She thinks his idea of a relationship sounds more like a job offer — she has hours, a uniform, a job description, etc.
- She’s worried that if she tells him she wants a more romantic, committed relationship, he’ll say no and they won’t be able to have any relationship at all.
- The part of being Christian’s sub that puts her off the most is the receiving-pain part. On the other hand, she thinks maybe it’ll be like it was in her dream.
This is why the dream scene was a Bad Thing. The author is using it as a justification for Ana to pursue a relationship with Christian. “Well, it was sexy when she imagined it, so of course it’ll be sexy in real life.” No.
Cut to Ana’s stepdad arriving for graduation. Kate has already left; those giving speeches have to show up early. They hug and small talk and Ana rhapsodizes about how much she loves her dad. Because, naturally, the men in her life have to be So Much More Important than the women.
Ana’s stepdad keeps calling her Annie for, as far as I can tell, no reason whatsoever. Unless the author thinks Ana is pronounced the same as Anna, this doesn’t really make sense.
They go to graduation, which is happening in the gym. (Is that really where they have it? My old school rented a tent outdoors for graduation, and the college I’ll be going to has theirs outside, too. But okay.)
Christian shows up and is super hot. He’s wearing the tie he bound Ana’s wrists with. Ana suspects he chose that tie on purpose. A couple girls next to Ana start talking about how super hot Christian is. Ana gets defensive and tells them he’s gay. Why does it matter what these girls think? Just because they also think Christian’s attractive doesn’t mean he’s going to suddenly up and leave Ana for one of them.
The Chancellor speaks first and is boring. Kate speaks next and is awesome and funny and everybody loves her. In fact, they love her so much she gets a standing ovation. Does that ever happen at graduation ceremonies?
Christian is introduced and goes up to give his speech. For no reason at all, Christian’s speech is about global hunger and poverty. Actually, I know the reason — it’s so that Ana can finally figure out that Christian himself once went hungry, despite the fact that there is no logical reason for Christian to be talking about world hunger at a graduation ceremony. What goddamn sloppy writing.
Ana realizes that Christian must have had a rough time before being adopted — he was adopted at age four, she remembers from the article Kate wrote on him — and feels terribly sorry for poor hungry toddler Grey. I find it hard to care because I hate him.
Christian also gets a standing ovation. About an hour later, when he hands Ana her degree, he asks her if she has a problem with her laptop. Turns out he sent her some more emails, but she didn’t see any of them. The conversation is cut short so as not to hold up the line.
Afterwards, Christian steers Ana into an empty room and locks the door. Ana is much less worried about this than she should be. He asks her why she hasn’t returned his emails or texts. She explains she hasn’t checked her computer or phone since yesterday, then changes the subject and asks him to explain his food issues to her. He says he doesn’t want to talk about that right now — fair enough — and then goes on another rant about how Ana’s car isn’t safe. Jesus christ, man, back the hell down about the car.
We have had no evidence that this car isn’t safe. It’s old, sure. But, as Ana explains, she’s been driving it all through college with no problems, and José — who knows his stuff with cars (just like Jacob) — services it for her regularly. Maybe if the car was actually breaking down all the time or something Christian’s concern would be reasonable, but it isn’t and it’s not.
Christian tells Ana he wants an answer by tomorrow on whether or not she’ll sign the contract. She agrees to make up her mind by then.
He unlocks the door and Ana reunites with Ray (stepdad). Kate’s hot brother Ethan, who is apparently a pal of Ana’s, shows up and congratulates her enthusiastically. He’s still got an arm around her (I hope to god that he doesn’t have a crush on Ana too, but so far his behavior seems platonic, if very affectionate) when Christian shows up. Ana had planned on introducing him as a friend to her dad, but Kate beats her to the introductions and says that Christian is Ana’s boyfriend. (Ethan doesn’t act jealous at the news. Good. I like him.)
Everybody shakes hands, then Kate and Ethan leave to go see their parents, leaving Ana and Christian alone with Ray. He asks them how long they’ve known each other. Ana seems to have lost the ability to talk, so Christian explains how they met and then strikes up a conversation about fishing. Ray warms up to Christian after that and the two of them are soon deep in conversation.
Ana leaves to find Kate, who explains that she introduced Christian as “boyfriend” to help him with his “commitment issues”. When Ana returns, Ray excuses himself to use the bathroom and Christian and Ana are alone together (well, they’re still in a crowded tent, but you know what I mean).
They talk, and Christian says:
“You look lovely, Anastasia, this halter-neck dress suits you, and I get to stroke your back, feel your beautiful skin.”
I had to read that sentence, so you do too.
Ana tells him she wants a hearts-and-flowers sort of relationship. He tells her he’s never had one like that; she says she hasn’t, either. He brings up the contract again, and Ana abruptly decides she’ll sign it, because “[she’s] Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he’s the serpent, and [she] cannot resist”. Yay, lame biblical references! Wouldn’t be a bad romance novel without ‘em.
Ana immediately feels conflicted over the decision she’s just made. Or, shall I say, her inner goddess is thrilled but her subconscious is very upset.
Christian leaves. Ray shows up and tells Ana, in essence, that he approves of Christian. “If only he knew,” Ana thinks. Yeah. If only he knew Christian is a rapist.
Ray drops Ana back at her apartment later that evening. They hug goodbye and get all emotional. To be fair, we haven’t seen Ana interact with her mom yet — outside of phone calls — but who wants to bet that Ray is the favorite parent?
You see this in books a lot, actually; dad is great, mom kinda sucks. Or some variant thereof: popular ones include “Dad is dead/missing but he was my favorite and mom is so broken up over the death/disappearance that she can’t adequately raise me”, “Dad is really chill and lets me do what I want, mom is overbearing and bosses me around”, and “both my parents are great but dad is just inexplicably better”. I wonder, did all these authors really have crappy mothers, or is it just internalized misogyny?
(I, personally, am closer to my dad than to my mom, but the reason for this probably has to do with a) the two of us having a lot of common interests and b) gender. My little sister is closer to my mom for much the same reasons that I’m closer to my dad. Ana doesn’t seem to have any concrete reasons for preferring her stepdad to her mom, which makes this trope particularly obnoxious.)
Ana checks her phone. Christian called her three times but didn’t leave any voicemails. He also texted asking if she was home safe. Ana wonders why he didn’t call the house phone. Uh, maybe because most people keep their cell phones on them, so it’s a more convenient way of reaching somebody? Does he even know your home phone number?
Ana calls her computer “the mean machine” again. Terrible nickname, and I say this as somebody who has apparently nicknamed their new MacBook Pro “bby”. (It’s partly my friend’s fault.)
Christian sent her an email the night before saying much the same thing as his text message. He also sent her one a couple hours ago saying he’s happy to talk through the soft limits with her anytime, as they never got around to that before. Ana writes back saying she can come over right now to discuss, and he says he’ll come over to her place instead because he doesn’t want her driving “that car”. Back the fuck down, son.
Before Christian comes over, Ana wraps up the books Christian gave her and writes a quote from Tess of the D’Urbervilles on the wrapping:
“I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know best what my punishment ought to be; only — only — don’t make it more than I can bear!”
Holy Cow! Alert:
Holy cow – Ray approves.
Bonus: one “Holy hell!”, four “Holy crap!”s, five “Holy shit!”s.
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert:
- [Christian suggests that Ana introduce him to Ray as a friend] Friend with benefits, my subconscious scowls.
- [Ana feels kind of dorky in her cap and gown] You look kinda dorky… my subconscious is at her snarky best. So are you going to introduce Ray to the man you’re fucking? She is glaring at me over her wing-shaped spectacles. He’d be so proud. God, I hate her sometimes.
- [Ana is upset that Kate introduced Christian to Ray as Ana’s boyfriend] I think my subconscious has fainted.
- [Ray and Christian are hitting it off] He’s charming the pants off my dad… like he did you, my subconscious snaps at me.
- [Ana can’t believe she just agreed to be Christian’s sub] What have you done? My subconscious screams at me.
Does “Inner Goddess” Mean What I Think It Means? Alert:
- [Ana wonders if BDSM discipline would be anything like it was in her wet dream] My inner goddess jumps up and down with cheerleading pom-poms shouting yes at me.
- [Christian doesn’t look over at Ana during the graduation ceremony] My inner goddess is not pleased.
- [Ana can’t believe she just agreed to be Christian’s sub] My inner goddess is doing back flips in a routine worthy of a Russian Olympic gymnast.
Great Prose Alert:
- Perhaps the oysters and my Internet research manifesting itself in my first wet dream. It’s bewildering.
- A warm surge of gratitude and love for this uncomplicated man streaks through me, and I throw my arms around him in an uncharacteristic display of affection.
- Ray pulls his car into the campus parking lot, and we follow the stream of humanity dotted with ubiquitous black and red gowns, heading toward the sports auditorium.
- Unbidden, I recall my dream from this morning, and the muscles in my belly do the delectable clench thing.
- “And also a major benefactor to our University, please welcome, Mr. Christian Grey.”
- He smiles briefly at the warm applause – even Kate is clapping, then he resumes his seat.
- What a surprise. His dirty blonde hair tousled and sexy-looking.
- Suddenly, it’s like we’re on our own in the room. Just the two of us, my whole body has come alive, every nerve ending singing softly, that electricity pulling me to him, charging between us.
- I close my eyes as my insides uncoil and melt. [Ow.]
- He steps back, and suddenly Ray’s returned, and the volume in the marquee gradually rises and fills my ears. We are not alone.
- Jeez… why is he so worried about my Beetle.
Thoughts So Far:
Well, apart from the heavy-handed way Christian’s food issues were finally (sort of) explained, there’s nothing too egregious about this chapter. Or, should I say, nothing more egregious than usual. Christian’s still a manipulative asshole, Ana still has no backbone, Kate still changes personalities as the plot requires, and the prose is still some of the worst I’ve ever seen outside of HFF.
Now that Ana’s agreed to be Christian’s sub (not that her agreeing was a surprise), I expect we’ll be learning a lot more about Christian — his past, his kinks, etc. Actually, this is a big opportunity for character development for both our main characters, but who wants to bet Ana’s personality won’t develop a bit and the only bits of character development Christian gets will be to garner audience sympathy and “explain” his kinks?
On the subject of Christian’s past explaining why he’s kinky… I know I’ve been over this before, but most people who have kinks can’t relate it back to some past trauma. It’s just how they are. I’m sure the vast majority of BDSM practitioners are psychologically healthy individuals whose kinks have nothing to do with any traumatic experiences they may have had. Sure, I guess it’s possible that someone could be kinky as a result of abuse they suffered in the past, but this book treats its depiction of BDSM as if all BDSM is like this, therefore implying that all BDSM practitioners are kinky because of a traumatic past experience (or several).
Really, what Christian does shouldn’t even be called BDSM. Despite how much he talks about consent and trust, it’s obvious he doesn’t really give a shit about either. Yeah, it’s easy to see how his sexual behavior could have traumatic roots, but only because his sexual behavior, unlike real BDSM, is actually fucked-up.