Friday, May 18, 2012

50 Shades of Grey Chapter 15 recap or "I'm halfway done!"

Before we get to the recap, here are some stories that might interest you:

  • An fanfiction author has offered up the finest possible commentary on the unethical success of 50 Shades by "rewriting" it as a Hermione/Draco fic. More details and a link at Crushable, including a link to a comment left by E.L. James, who asks the ficcer to remove it as it is "plagiarising". The reviews are LOLarious and completely without situational awareness.
  • A fantastic piece on consent, dub-con, and rape in fiction at Full Moon Press's Blog, with a selection of links to other stories on rape culture in fiction (and real life).
  • 5 Terrifying Secrets About Riding In Ambulances from Cracked.com. Has nothing to do with 50 Shades, I just thought it was interesting.
When we left our intrepid heroine, she had just said, "Fine, okay, whatever, you wore me down," to her super manipulative pseudo-boyfriend. Then she went home, and he was all, "I'm coming over," so now, at the start of Chapter 15, he has just arrived. Ana invites him in.
"If I may," he says amused. He holds up a bottle of champagne as he walks in. "I thought we'd celebrate your graduation. Nothing beats a good Bollinger."
 Can no one in this story just have, I don't know, water? Soda? I feel like I'm getting drunk at this point, and I'm not even drinking anything. Yet.
I head into the kitchen. Nervous, butterflies flooding my stomach, it's like having a panther or mountain lion all unpredictable and predatory in my living room.
 "Sign this contract so I can have sex with you! Meow!"

When Ana comes back from the kitchen, Christian is staring at the books she wants to return to him. Immediately, she thinks, "Crap... this is probably going to be a fight." He asks if the quote really applies to him, since he's D'Urberville and not Angel, and she tells him it's a plea to go easy on her. He tells her that he will go easy on her if she keeps the books. She argues that they're "too much".
"You see, this is what I was talking about, you defying me. I want you to have them, and that's the end of the discussion. It's very simple. You don't have to think about this. As a submissive you would just be grateful for them. You just accept what I buy you because it pleases me for you to do so.""I wasn't a submissive when you bought them for me," I whisper."No... but you've agreed, Anastasia." His eyes turn wary.
I don't remember the contract being retroactive to the moment they met, but whatever. Ana asks if she can do whatever she wants with the books, and he tells her she can, so she immediately announces that she's going to donate them to a charity that does work in Darfur. But he's not happy with that, either, so she says she'll think about it, because she doesn't want to disappoint him. SHE WOULD NEVER DO ANYTHING SHE DID NOT WANT TO DO.

Ana is starting to have second thoughts regarding this whole, "Don't think" thing, and Christian informs her that since he's rich, he's going to buy her whatever he wants to buy her. She thinks it makes her a ho.
"It shouldn't. You're over-thinking it, Anastasia. Don't place some vague moral judgement on yourself based on what others might think. Don't waste your energy. It's only because you have no reservations about our arrangement, that's perfectly natural. You don't know what you're getting yourself into."
I hate him for this, but I have to agree with him. If someone wants to buy you stuff, let them. That's my policy. You want to buy me a car? Buy me a car. You want to buy me some first-edition books? Send them over. I know that a gift is not a contract. Christian appears to. Besides, his manipulation is more subtle than "I'm going to buy you stuff, so now I own you." He's into warping their heads and insinuating himself into every part of their lives.

They drink pink champagne out of tea cups. If he gives her a foot rub after, he's officially my dream man and I renounce every bad thing I've ever said about him. But, of course that doesn't happen, instead Ana wants to discuss the "soft limits" in the contract. Christian wants to talk about her stepdad, instead, and then it's back to talking about the champagne.
"Did you try the wine at the reception?" Christian makes a face.
"Yes, it was foul."
"I thought of you when I tasted it. How did you get to be so knowledgeable about wine?"
"I tasted this gross thing and it made me think of you." That's amore!

They talk some more about the wine, because I guess it ups the word count? I don't know, there are so many scenes and conversations in this book that go no where and seem to be shoved in for absolutely no reason other than to watch the characters go about their lives. It's like watching a Sims family go about their day on their own, only no one pees on the floor because they watched tv for too long and nobody dies in carefully orchestrated fireworks "accidents" in a doorless shed in the backyard. Christian comments that he would help Ana move, but his sister Mia is arriving from Paris on Saturday morning. I'm going to assume Mia is Alice, since she's the only Cullen who hasn't been somehow accounted for. There is more interminable chit-chat, wherein we learn that Christian is vaguely displeased that his brother is dating Kate, about what Ana is going to do in Seattle and how very much she wants to do this career thing all on her own without his "undue influence". Then we get to hear them fight about how much she's eaten, and even Ana is getting tired of it:
"Have you eaten anything?"
Oh no... not this old chestnut.
"Yes. I had a three course me with Ray." I roll my eyes at him. The champagne is making me bold.
He leans forward and holds my chin, staring intently into my eyes.
"Next time you roll your eyes at me, I will take you across my knee." What?!
What do you mean by that interrobang, Ana? He made this perfectly clear before you agreed to the relationship. Christian gets out his list and they read through it.
"No fisting, you say. Anything else you object to?" he asks softly.
I swallow.
No, we know that, already, Ana, we're talking about what you won't do.
"Anal intercourse doesn't exactly float my boat."
"I'll agree to the fisting, but I'd really like to claim your ass, Anastasia. But we'll wait for that. Besides, it's not something we can dive into," he smirks at me. "You ass will need training."
 I really wish my mac was not broken, else I would totally photoshop up one of those demotivator macros to say: "Your Ass: not something we can dive into." I'm going to be having so much fun with that line, for the next six or so months. "What's the difference between your ass and a swimming pool? You can't dive into your ass." "How is your ass like the shallow end? You can't dive into it." Okay, so this is a decidedly limited oeuvre, but I'm not making any apologies. I love that line.

I do like that Christian is all, "We're going to try anal," because I lose a lot of respect for people who say, "I don't like that," without trying it. Now, you know, as a grownup, if you don't like broccoli or slasher movies. But I really can't handle it when people will just throw down a blanket condemnation of something without trying it out first. Hell, even this book. I've seen authors making fun of 50 Shades and admitting they've never read it. Well, how do they know they're not going to like it? How does Ana know she doesn't like anal? She didn't know if she'd like sex at all, because she'd never wanted to have it. So, shut up, Ana. Let him play with your butt. Do it for the experience.

Christian reveals that he's had his booty plundered before, and by his Mrs. Robinson. This blows Ana's mind, because she's never heard of a strap-on before and has no idea how a woman fucking a man in the ass would work. She has absolutely no idea of sex toys beyond dildos and vibrators, but at least she agrees to swallow semen. Ana's feelings are hurt because Christian finds her innocence amusing, but she quickly forgives him because:
I examine the list, and my inner goddess bounces up and down like a small child waiting for ice cream.
 This will never not be funny/disturbing to me. Funsturbing.

They've gotten to the section on bondage, and Ana is confused as to what a spreader bar is.
"Don't laugh at me, but what's a spreader bar?"
"I promise not to laugh. I've apologized twice." He glares at me. "Don't make me do it again," he warns. And  I think I visibly shrink... oh, he's so bossy. "A spreader is a bar with cuffs for ankles and/or wrists. They're fun."
Hey, prick, no one makes you apologize. You make yourself apologize when you exhibit bad behavior, like laughing at someone when they don't know all the ins and outs of the BDSM lifestyle you want to induct them into. Jackass. Ana is also worried about not being able to breathe when she's gagged. Christian points out that he'd be worried if she couldn't breathe, too. I'm not sure why, because I'm pretty sure he has enough money to disappear a dead girl if he really needed to, and Ana is super obnoxious. It seems like it would almost be a win/win at this point. She's all, "How do you do safe words if you're gagged?" and I'm quite proud of her for thinking of that. Christian tells her they'll use hand signals, but that he hopes they never have to use the safe word.
I blink up at him. But if I'm trussed up, how's that going to work. My brain is beginning to fog... hmm alcohol. 
"I'm nervous about the gagging."
"Okay, I'll take note."
Notice how he doesn't say, "okay, we won't do that," just, "I'll take note," while she's too tipsy to actually argue it with him? He's already refilled her cup with champagne several times, from what seems like a bottomless bottle. Is this really a safe way to be discussing sexual limits? While she's too drunk to consent?
"Do you like tying your submissives up so they can't touch you?" He gazes at me, his eyes widening.
"That's one of the reasons," he says quietly.
"Is that why you've tied my hands?"
"Yes."
"You don't like talking about that," I murmur.
"No, I don't. Would you like another drink? It's making you brave, and I need to know how you feel about pain."
So, in other words, his plan really is to get her drunk so she'll consent to just about anything. That's four refills. Of course, by this point in the book, Ana is basically a pro at drinking, because she's doing it all the time. She's also biting her lip, so if you're playing the drinking game along at home, you should probably dial the 9 and the first 1 right now, just to be prepared. Unless you live in some other country that isn't America, then you're on your own, because I have no idea what number you should pre-dial, I just know that your liver is going to melt.

Ana was never spanked as a child, so she has no idea how she feels about it. It could be awesome, it could suck, she has no clue. She asks him if he could, you know, not do that whole pain part, but it's non-negotiable. And really, what did she think that room full of whips and canes was about? Christian promises that they'll work up to it, and you know, as creepy possessive weird as this guy is, I can believe he'd be an okay dominant in that capacity. If he's at the point where he's requiring a contract about what is and isn't okay in bed, this is a guy who takes his shit seriously. It's all the emotional manipulation and the horror show of unresolved issues that should make her want to run, not the BDSM stuff. Then, he drops a bombshell:
"Well then. Look, earlier today you were talking about wanting more," he halts, uncertain all of a sudden.Oh my... where is this going?
He clasps my hand."Outside of the time you're my sub, perhaps we could try. I don't know if it will work. I don't know about separating everything. It may not work. But I'm willing to try. Maybe one night a week. I don't know."Holy cow... my mouth drops open, my subconscious is in shock. Christian Grey is up for more! He's willing to try!
Okay, let's maybe not start printing those wedding invitations just yet. There was a whole lot of "I don't know," and "I'll try" in there. "I'll be your boyfriend one night a week, maybe, I don't know," isn't really a confirmation of anything other than his dick might be feeling sentimental right now. His "maybe, I don't know," act comes with a condition:
"You graciously accept my graduation present to you."
"Oh." And deep down I know what it is. Dread spawns in my belly.
He's staring down at me, gauging my reaction.
"Come," he murmurs and rises, dragging me up. Taking his jacket off, he drapes it over my shoulders and heads for the door.
Parked outside is a red hatchback car, a two-door compact Audi.
Didn't the Cullens get Bella a Porsche so bad ass that it was actually make-believe? Tsk tsk, Chedward Grullen. Tsk Tsk.

One of the things I've been taken to task for in these recaps is for not saying anything "good" about the book. Like the old rule, say one nice thing for every three negative things, or whatever. The fact of the matter is, there are some parts of this book that are downright charming, and I would love to read them in a much, much better erotica that wasn't a plagiarized version of Twilight. But it seems like everything cool thing I find myself liking is bookended by a lines or a scenes that I can't reconcile with my morals and values. And believe me when I say I have very few morals and values. A perfect place where this is highlighted is after she receives the car. They argue over whether or not she's going to accept it (she can accept the BDSM lifestyle she hates to be with him, but she can't accept a fucking Audi? Get over it, lady!), and finally she agrees to take the car "on loan" like the computer. The Chedward says what are arguably his hottest lines in the entire book:
"It's taking all my self control not to fuck you on the hood of this car right now, just to show you that you are mine, and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I'll buy you a fucking car," he growls. "Now let's get you inside and naked."
That's not just hot to me because I have fantasies of a certain Top Gear host saying something somewhat similar to me. It's hot because it's hot. But then, like a train arriving at Fuck You Jen station, this is next:
Boy, he's angry. He grabs my hand and leads me back into the apartment and straight to my bedroom... no passing go. My subconscious is behind the sofa again, head hidden under her hands. He switches on the sidelight and halts, staring at me.
"Please don't be angry with me," I whisper.
His gaze is impassive; his gray eyes cold shards of smoky glass.
"I'm sorry about the car and the books," I trail off. He remains silent and brooding.
"You scare me when you're angry,"  I breathe, staring at him.
See? How can I go, "Ooh, hot!" and then still think, "Ooh, hot!" when he's acting like the husband in Sleeping With The Enemy? Ana has never seen that movie, though, because like two seconds later, she's all hot for him again.
"I like this dress," he murmurs. "I like to see your flawless skin." 
Maybe that's a compliment when it's coming from a guy who hasn't just been so angry that he frightened the heroine, but now all I can think of is this:

 It signs the contract, or it gets the hose again.

After Ana helps him move his couch into that van, they start to get down. He totally wrecks her panties, but the way it's written kind of sounds like he's giving her a wedgie and her underpants just are not up the strain:
His fingers hook into my panties at the back, stretching them, and he pushes his thumbs through the material, shredding them and tossing them in front of me so I can see... holy shit.
Even like, a peer critique should have caught that you don't want your heroine saying she can see "holy shit" when her ripped panties are on the floor in front of her. It implies skid marks, and it kills the mood almost as fast as a hero being so angry that he actually frightens the heroine. There's some nipple play and some grinding, and then Chedward tells Ana that she is "in charge". Which makes me wonder if he really doesn't understand what "dominate" and "submit" mean.

Ana clumsily undresses him and then there is some more talk about her biting her lip (DRINK!), and she compares his penis to Christmas. There's some beej action, but of course he stops her before he comes, because she's not really in charge, and that makes Ana's inner goddess look "like someone snatched her ice cream."


So, after Ana gets a condom on him (a feat she manages on her first try, at 21, with little prior sexual experience. Meanwhile, I'm nearly 32, with a sexual history that rivals Madonna's, and I still can't figure out how to get a condom on a fucking banana at those sex toy parties), she learns how to have sex cowgirl style:
I am fucking him. I am in charge. He's mine, and I'm his. The thought pushes me, weighted with concrete, over the edge, and I climax around him... shouting incoherently.
I'm not quite sure "I am in charge" is the kind of head space you want from your full time sub, but after Chedward orgasms, the chapter is over, anyway.

8 comments:

  1. I know it's nearly been a year, but:

    "I've seen authors making fun of 50 Shades and admitting they've never read it. Well, how do they know they're not going to like it?"

    That's what you're here for!

    Seriously, though, your reviews have changed my opinion on the book completely except for one thing: I've known all along that I wouldn't like it.

    When it was becoming a sensation, I wasn't interested in reading it. When one of my friends said her mother wouldn't let her read it, I was perplexed, but still uninterested. When I saw the mocking and Gilbert Gottfried's hilarious reading, I thought it was silly, laughable, but still had no desire to read it.

    So, I can only thank you for your criticism of these excerpts because, not only have I known that I wouldn't like it, but (had I read it) this would probably be one of the books I've had to toss aside out of complete revulsion. The recent bits you've chosen to dissect I've found tremendously upsetting, improved only by people like you pointing out how utterly WRONG these situations are, and exactly why they are wrong. Without commentary like yours, it's no longer laughable or silly for me, but disturbing.

    Thank you for sparing me from it!

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    Replies
    1. Here's an even later reply, agreeing with the above! Myself, I don't enjoy romances, so I knew I wouldn't enjoy Twilight. When someone posted some excerpts, I knew there was no way in hell I wanted to touch those books. I mean, *just* the bit about sneaking into her room to watch her sleep... holy shit what the fuck(whoops, sorry Ana), how is any of this shit romantic? So by the time 50 Shades starting making the rounds in the daily office chatter - and I heard quite early on that it was blatantly plagiarized - I really, really knew that there was no need for me to read it. However, I simply dismissed it as harmless fluff, because I thought "oh, bdsm in a novel popular with women, that's a nice change, perhaps it will open people's minds to alternative relationships a little more."

      And then I read this and, like Jen's mind with the whole spit-in-her-mouth thing, every chapter becomes more no no no no NO NO NO NO NO NO NO WHAT THE FUCKING NO. Seriously, I stopped having any tolerance for this book several chapters ago, and I started questioning why *so many* women that I know are reading this and getting turned on by it, in a day and age when surely we should all be aware that HOLY SHIT THIS IS WRONG.

      *ahem* So yes. There you are. Good job on spreading awareness, because you managed to maintain a very strong level of coherence, considering the content. I myself can't stand heroines that go around criticizing themselves and comparing themselves to pretty women blatantly put into the book so the heroine has someone to compare herself to and find herself lacking - what a great way to reinforce the self-hatred popular culture already tries to breed into us from birth, right? - so between that and Chedward's very creepy early behavior, I don't think I would have made many chapters before I foamed at the mouth and burned the book in my kitchen sink.

      Also, side note: I can't believe the author picked Tess of the D'Urbervilles as some sort of romantic messaging system between the two. I can't believe Christian voluntarily identifies as Alec. Has anybody who loves 50 Shades actually read Tess? Because I *did* get through that whole book, and it was awful (I mean, I get what Hardy was going for, but I prefer my books not utterly and completely depressing, thanks much). I'm pretty damn sure any heroine with an ounce of sense and a knowledge of the plot of Tess would not think to herself "ooh he sent me Tess of the D'Urbervilles and he identifies with Alec, that's not a bad sign at all!"

      Delete
    2. Random thought: This woman (E.L. James) is 50 years and has two teenage sons. Can we say AWKWARD? Can you imagine knowing your 50 year old mother is writing this stuff, that this stuff is in her head, when you're a TEENAGE BOY? Oh, these poor kids... I pity them so. Especially the stuff about Christian being molested when he was 15, by someone the author's age?? Herself with teen boys? Oh, creepity creepity! That would be like reading a story my dad wrote about a man who molests teen girls.. *shudder*...

      Delete
    3. *blinks owlishly*

      She's 50? Good God, based on the writing, I had assumed she was 20 at the very, very oldest. Yeesh.

      And though the creepiness you've pointed out is indeed terribly creepy: just imagine what she must be teaching her sons about how to treat the girls they date if this douche's behavior is something she finds attractive.

      Delete
  2. Highlights in this one:
    Funsturbing
    and diving in the ass.

    thanks for more laughs!

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  3. "Not this old chestnut"
    Another one of those Americanisms. :|

    I love this so far. I'm glad you're suffering through this for us. I'm so sorry for all you've gone through. This is bad enough experiencing it second hand. :p

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  4. Contrary to previous comments, your awesometecular comments made me want to read the book, so I've ordered one, should be here in a few days :3 Of course, there's no way I'm buying a brand new one, James is already filthy rich as it is.

    Kudos!

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  5. I love this but with anal first of all no one should feel pressure to do something their really not comfortable doing (especially with sex stuff) and some people have ibs and want to give their anus a rest also, condoms really aren't that hard to figure out how to put on (I managed to do it the night I lost my virginity)

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Say some stuff! If you can't think of anything to say, leave a link to a cute dog picture. I'm easy.