Tuesday, November 13, 2012

50 Shades Darker recap Chapter 18 or "50 Shades Greatest Hits"

Hey. There is this nifty book out, called 50 Writers on 50 Shades of Grey. You should probably buy it, I hear there is this really sexy author/blogger who wrote an essay in there.

In other news, a lot of people have sent me links to this horrifying trend. I'm going to go on the record here and say that if I see a child wearing this, I'm going to assume that their mother only conceived as a result of wanting to play out the "Christian and Ana have a baby" fantasy (spoiler alert) and I will immediately call CPS. If those aren't bad enough for you, check out this offering from Oh Sew Glam Boutique. If an Etsy forums moderator doesn't wander into the comments to "wrap this up," I'll be fucking shocked.

What kind of pathetic weirdo would you have to be to advertise that you're in an unhappy marriage via your child's clothing?

If that weren't enough A woman is divorcing her husband for basically not pretending to be Christian Grey. I joyously anticipate all the divorces we'll soon be hearing about, where men leave their wives for putting stupid shirts on their babies. But yeah, marriage equality is totally to blame for the death of "traditional families." Not blatant, steaming piles of selfish immaturity.

Speaking of immaturity - the good kind - Patrick Stewart narrates a shirtless guy tying up a raw chicken. It's actually easier to wank to this than to wank to 50 Shades.

And finally, Tweep @Skole_Bone made this for me. Which is touching, because I actually used to live very near the liquor store that the original picture was taken at. I had some good times with products purchased there.

Which leads me to this: If you aren't following me on twitter, you're wasting your life and not using your internet time productively. I tweet all day long. I follow back. I am a tweet monster. And I will talk to pretty much anyone. The other day, I tweeted a picture of a candy bar that looked like a dick. If you weren't following me, you missed that. Repent, and be healed.

When last we left these idiots, they were driving somewhere as a surprise:
Christian continues to drive past single-story, well-kept clapboard houses where kids play basketball in their yards or cycle and run around in the street. It all looks affluent and wholesome with the houses nestling among the trees.
Here is another area where E.L. James needed to research American culture a little bit. "Clapboard" does not signify "affluent" in the US. It makes us think of farms and New England whaling shanties or something. Neither would children playing in the street make an American immediately think, "Wow, that's a nice neighborhood." And we don't play basketball in our yards. We play basketball in our driveways.
A few minutes later, Christian turns sharply left, and we're soon confronted by two ornate white metal gates set in a six-foot-high sandstone wall.
That sounds like it fits into the described neighborhood... not at all.
We head up a tree-lined lane just wide enough for two cars. On one side the trees ring a densely wooded area, and on the other there's a vast area of grassland where a once-cultivated field has been left fallow. Grass and wildflowers have reclaimed it, creating a rural idyll - a meadow, where the late evening breeze softly ripples through the grass and the evening sun gilds the wildflowers. It's lovely, utterly tranquil, and suddenly I imagine myself lying in the grass and gazing up at a clear blue summer sky. The thought is tantalizing yet makes me feel homesick for some strange reason. How odd.
Oh, for Christ's sake, we all know why it makes you feel homesick. You're obviously about to go visit the house you'll end up living in when you marry Christian Grey, because you're going to say yes to his proposal no matter how long you hem and haw to draw out a longer word count. She feels homesick because she's found her TRUE HOME and her TRUE LOVE and she's going to be happy forever and ever lying in the grass, getting ticks all over herself. And I can say this about Ana, because she's a fictional character, but I really, truly hope she gets Lyme disease.

But let's focus on the description of the property. Trees "ring a  densely wooded area." How is she differentiating the trees doing the ringing from the trees that are just, you know, densely wooded? And while her description of the fallow field being reclaimed by wildflowers is truly lovely imagery, how could Ana possibly know that it was "once-cultivated" if she's never been there before?
The lane curves around and opens into a sweeping driveway in front of an impressive Mediterranean-style house of soft pink sandstone. It's palatial.
So are psychiatry offices, in Ana's estimation. So either Dr. Flynn's office is really huge, or this house is really small.

Ana still doesn't get what the trip is for. She must be so easy to take the vet. Christian asks her to keep an open mind, and she tells him that she's had to have an open mind since the day she met him. Then he says, "'Fair point well made, Miss Steele.'" and you can all take a drink, because I'm adding that to the drinking game, too.
The dark wood doors open, and a woman with dark brown hair, a sincere smile, and a sharp lilac suit stands waiting. I'm grateful I changed into my new navy shift dress to impress Dr. Flynn. Okay, I'm not wearing killer heels like her - but still, I'm not in jeans.
Nothing exudes confidence and maturity more than a woman who can't stand not being the prettiest girl in the fucking room.

Christian shakes the woman's hand - and he knows her name, so Ana is obviously going to hate her:
She smiles at me and holds out her hand, which I shake. Her isn't-he-dreamily-gorgeous-wish-he-were-mine flush does not go unnoticed.
I maintain that this book is only so popular because it indulges the female fantasy of girl-on-girl competition. There is a certain, dumb subset of women who think that having a man other women want is the most important achievement one can attain. They're driving the success of these books. And if you meet one of them, you'll probably notice she's as vapid and self-important as Anastasia Rose Steele. And she probably bought her baby one of those fucking stupid shirts.
"Olga Kelly," she announces breezily.
"Ana Steele," I mutter back at her. Who is this woman? She stands aside, welcoming us into the house.  It's a shock when I step in. The place is empty - completely empty. We find ourselves in a large entrance hall. The walls are a faded primrose yellow with scuff marks where pictures must once have hung. All that reamins are the old-fashioned crystal light fixtures. The floors are dull hardwood. There are closed doors to either side of us, but Christian gives me no time to assimilate what's happening.
How is she still not getting this?

They walk through the house, which is huge, so that Christian can show her the view:
The panoramic, uninterrupted vista is breathtaking - staggering even: twilight over the Sound. 
Pretty ballsy move to use that word, James. Well played.
In the distance lies Bainbridge Island, and farther still on this crystal-clear evening, the setting sun sinks slowly, glowing blood and flame orange, beyond Olympic National Park. Vermillion hues bleed into the cerulean sky, with opals and aquamarines, and meld with the darker purples of the scant wispy clouds and the land beyond the Sound.

I may have already used this in a recap, but I do not care.

Ana asks if he brought her there just to look at the view, because she has no critical thinking skills whatsoever, and then he utters what has to be the most unintentionally creepy piece of dialogue ever spoken by a fictional character, ever:
"How would you like to look at it for the rest of your life?" he breathes.
That sounds like some shit the Ice Truck Killer said to Deb before he tried to Dexter her.
What? I whip my face back to his, startled blue eyes to pensive gray.
POV skew. She can't see her own eyes.

Christian tells Ana he's planning to buy the house, demolish it, and build a new one there for them to live in. Ana thinks the place must be worth five or ten million dollars... way to pinpoint that estimate there, Ana. She asks him why he wants to demolish it and he says:
"I'd like to make a more sustainable home, using the latest ecological techniques. Elliot could build it." 
Because that's really the core of the environmental movement, isn't it? Demolish existing things, wasting those resources, and then waste newer resources building something shinier. That's why environmentalists are always so thrilled when one strip mall goes out of business and they put a new one up right behind it. Those signs and chants they're doing are signs and chants of overwhelming support.

Ana finally gets that Olga Kelly (who has a full name despite that being totally unnecessary) is a realtor and not a predatory man-snatcher, and asks to look around the house.
The house is enormous: twelve-thousand square feet on six acres of land. As well as the main living room, there's the eat-in - no, banquet-in - kitchen with family room attached - family! - a music room, a library, a study and, much to my amazement, an indoor pool and exercise suite with sauna and steam room attached. Downstairs in the basement there's a cinema - jeez - and game room. Hmm... what sort of games could we play in here?
You could play a game I like to call "spot the run-on sentence with too goddamn many em dashes and hyphens in it." Bring this paragraph to the table and you will clean up.

In case you were wondering how Ana is acclimating to the whole "being stupid rich" thing, I think she's doing just fine:
It's a little shabby now, but nothing that some TLC couldn't cure.
Twelve thousand square feet, indoor pool, movie theatre, incredible view, shabby.

Even though the place is clearly a broken down shack on its last legs, Ana is so in love with its charms that she asks Christian if they could make the existing house "sustainable." I think the fact that some dipshit billionaire hasn't knocked it down already is proof that it's still useful.
Miss Kelly leads us into the master suite, where full-height windows open onto a balcony, and the view is still spectacular. I could sit in bed and gaze out all day, watching the sailing boats and the changing weather.
There are five additional bedrooms on this floor. Kids!
I don't think Ana has ever actually heard of children before. If she had, she would know that having kids is totally incompatible with sitting in bed all day, gazing at the weather.

We also find out that Ana hates horses, so she can't possibly be a Mary Sue, right? Because Mary Sues love animals. So omg, stop being so mean about this fanfic E.L. James wrote. She had to write it for school, okay? And she doesn't even care what you think, anyway.

That last part is probably true.

In the car, Christian and Ana talk about the house, and Christian says he's going to buy it. Ana mentions putting Escala on the market, and he balks at that, saying that he can afford to keep them both. That should be your alarm bell, Ana. If your boyfriend doesn't want to sell his apartment after moving in with you, he's either not seriously committed or he wants a place to bang other chicks. "I'm working late, Anastasia," he'll tell her. "I'll just sleep at Escala tonight. Good thing we never sold it." And then it's off to the playroom with the next unstable sub who'll try to murder you. Enjoy your happy marriage.
"Anastasia, you're going to have to learn to be rich, too, if you say yes," he says softly.
She just called a "palatial" mansion with ocean views "shabby." I think she'll be fine.

Christian drives them to The Mile High Club at Columbia Tower. There is actually a real club, without a silly name, in the Columbia Tower. If you visit their website, they promise there will be a dramatic remodel in the future. Probably to make everything white sandstone and gray with ties and masks and handcuffs laying around because this book series is what is driving literally every marketing decision you will see in every singled industry on the planet for the next few years. This series is our culture now. Try to sleep tonight, knowing that. Sweet dreams.

They drink Cristal and then Christian tells Ana to go take off her panties, but on her way to the bathroom she accidentally walks into Architectural Digest:
The restrooms are the height of modern design - all dark wood, black granite, and pools of light from strategically placed halogens.
As opposed to the kind of halogens you just sort of slap up without any forethought?
I am excited already. Why does he affect me so? I slightly resent how easily I fall under his spell. I know now that we won't be spending the evening talking through all our issues and recent events... but how can I resist him?
"I know that he's manipulating me with sex to avoid talking about our relationship troubles, of which we have many, but tee hee, I'm not wearing panties." No, nothing problematic at all in that statement. On the other hand, who the fuck wants to read more about them working out their issues? Not me, that's for damn sure and certain.
My inner goddess is draped in a pink feather boa and diamonds, strutting her stuff in fuck-me shoes.
For the reminder of this recap, the part of Ana's Inner Goddess will be played by octogenarian stripper Tempest Storm.

 Ana gets back to the table to find that Christian has ordered for her. He says he hopes she doesn't mind, but he's never worried about that before, has he? She probably knows by now that if she marries you, she'll never choose her own food again. He ordered oysters for their first course, which reminds her of the Heathman hotel. Remember, the night they talked about the sex contract for the first time, and he threatened to rape her a bunch? Ah, romance.
"I think you liked oysters last time you tried them." His voice is low, seductive.
"And if you don't," he continues with a shrug, "It doesn't matter. You'll do whatever I want because I'm rich and used to controlling women."
"Only time I've tried them." I'm all breathy, my voice exposing me.
Uh... what? Her voice exposes her? Does the updraft from speaking blow her skirt up? I'm not getting what that means.
He takes an oyster from the dish and lifts his other hand from his thigh. I flinch in anticipation, but he reach for a slice of lemon.
That's a pretty telling verb there. She "flinches" in anticipation because he moves his hand?

He feeds her oysters and won't touch her, and it gets her all hot and bothered:
My inner goddess is on her knees, naked except for her panties - begging.
 Wait, you're not wearing panties, but your Inner Goddess is? How does that work? I know she usually has props and shit that are unavailable to you, but this just confuses the hell out of me. Is she wearing the panties you took off? And if so, is she more conservative than you are? I don't even know what's happening anymore.

The main course comes, and it's sea bass and asparagus, and Ana freaks the fuck out over the fact that it's sea bass. Like, has she never even heard of rich people before? Everyone knows rich people love sea bass.

Christian still won't touch her, and he points out that at the Heathman, they had cod:
"Happy days," he says, smirking. "This time I hope to get to fuck you." He moves his hand to pick up his knife.
I love how if you take literally any line out of this scene, it sounds like a serial killer mystery and not a romance. I mean, obviously these books are not really romances, but for the sake of argument, you get it. I also love how he thinks of that night at the Heathman, when he threatened to rape her, when he told her basically that if he wanted to have sex with her, it was going to happen whether she wanted it or not, he thinks of it as being "'Happy days.'"

The truth is that Arthur is a good boy, and he never threatened to rape anybody.

Ana asks Christian about the NDA, and he tells her to rip it up, because he's going to give her the benefit of the doubt. How very romantic and trusting of him. He also tells Ana he's not going to touch her until they get home. Then Ana eats her asparagus, and while I could excerpt the scene here, it's easier to just post a link to the dinner scene from Flashdance. It's like that, except with asparagus instead of lobster, and no footsie playing, because Ana knows a woman's place.

Hey, you know what would have gotten Prince Humperdink mad hot in Flashdance? If Jennifer Beals had an eating disorder!
"Eat," he orders. "I am not taking you home until you've finished your meal, and then we can really celebrate." His expression is so heated, so raw, so commanding. I am melting.
"I'm not hungry. Not for food."
"You really don't eat enough. You've lost weight since I've known you." His tone is gentle.
I don't want to think about my weight; truth is, I like being this slim.
Remember when I said I thought it was just an unfortunate coincidence that Ana was Ana and Mia was Mia? I take that directly the fuck back. I feel skeevy for suggesting this, because I'm a big fan of not assuming that an author thinks/feels/acts a certain way based on what they write. Because trust me, I write about sex all day long, but I am the furthest thing from sexy most of the time. But I can't help but wonder if this really isn't a manifestation of an eating disorder the author is struggling with. Because she's not a skilled enough writer to work "Ana has an eating disorder" into the plot this well. She's just not. She's clearly just hammering out clumsy sex and relationship-with-a-rich-guy fantasies here, and all this other shit, like the picture perfect abusive relationship and the eating disorder, those seem to be falling into place by accident. And it gives me a bad feeling in my tummy region.
He quizzes me about Ethan. As it turns out, Christian does business with Kate and Ethan's father. Hmm... it's a small world.
Almost unrealistically small, one might say.

They finish their meal and leave, and from the way the sexual tension is described throughout the scene, one can only assume they put on hip waders to get through the sheer volume of vaginal secretions flooding the place. Ana asks, "'What now?'" and Christian answers:
"Now? We leave. I believe you have certain expectations, Miss Steele. Which I intend to fulfill to the best of my ability."
"The best... of your a... bil... ity?" I stutter.
That isn't a stutter. At least, that's not how you write a stutter. A stutter isn't just a bunch of pauses.
On the way out he murmurs something about the car to the maitre d', but I'm not listening; my inner goddess is incandescent with anticipation.
I hope she is literally on fire.

Now, I hope you don't feel cheated if I don't excerpt this next part, which goes on for like two pages. He fingers her in the elevator when it's full of people. Oh, and she thinks, "Oh, Christian, what you do to me," which makes me think that the retelling of this series from Christian's POV isn't really going to be all that different from the original series. Then they go outside and Christian licks his fingers and tells her that she tastes "'Mighty fine,'" because this chapter wasn't actually written, but cobbled together from other lines in other chapters by a sophisticated software algorithm. Want proof? He calls her "Miss Steele" three times on a single page.

Ana is super hot and bothered, and she suggests they have sex in the car:
"I've never had sex in a car," I mumble. Christian halts and places those same fingers under my chin, tipping my head back and glaring down at me.
"I'm very pleased to hear that. I have to say I'd be very surprised, not to say mad, if you had."
I flush, blinking up at him. Of course; I've only had sex with him. I frown.
"That's not what I meant."
"What did you mean?" His tone is unexpectedly harsh.
"Christian, it was just an expression."
"The famous expression, 'I've never had sex in a car.' Yes, it just trips off the tongue."
You know how people used to think that if you had sex with a woman, she would just mindlessly run around fucking everything in sight if you didn't prevent that from happening? Like, we're all robots on the verge of malfunction, and if you broke the factory seal, it's up to you to stop us from fucking everything to death? I'm so glad to see that attitude making a comeback.

Ana distracts him from her alleged infidelities by asking him to take her home and fuck her. He mentions that he didn't want to fuck her in a restroom, which is hilarious, because he totally does in the first book. Remember, the hotel room? Where he pulls her tampon out and flushes it before they have sex? But he won't have sex with her in a public restroom, because he has class.

They get back to Escala, where Ana is still amped up for the lovin':
With wanton anticipation, I glance at him, trying to contain my palpitating heart.
I feel like she's just pulling words out of a hat at this point. How often can "wanton" be used in a book that isn't a historical romance, I ask you?
It's like he's addressing me below the waist... my inner goddess performs four arabesques and a pas de basque.

Then in the elevator, this happens:
He grabs the hair at the nape of my neck, pulling gently so my head tips back.
"What can I do to make you say yes?" he ask fervently, throwing me off balance once more.
That's right. This whole, amazing night? It was just Christian trying to buy Ana's acceptance of his proposal. And he for real does not understand why she won't just marry him already.

Then they have sex on the table in the foyer.

Later, they're in bed, and they have to have the requisite romance novel "Our sex is better than the sex everyone else is having, neener neener," conversation:
"Is sex like this for everyone? I'm surprised anyone ever goes out," I murmur, feeling suddenly shy.
He grins. "I can't speak for everyone, but it's pretty damned special with you, Anastasia." He bends and kisses me.
"That's because you're pretty damned special, Mr. Grey," I agree, smiling and caressing his face.
There. Everybody is special. Everybody gets a trophy, just for participating.
 He nuzzles my hair, and I drift into sleep, safe in his arms, dreaming of sunsets and French doors and wide staircases... and a small copper-haired boy running through a meadow, laughing and giggling as I chase him.
She's going to get pregnant. Spoiler alert, in case you haven't read Breaking Dawn, but AnaBella is going to get pregnant.

Christian leaves early the next morning for a breakfast meeting, and Ana gets an idea for another birthday present for him while he's in the shower. Because billionaires need the most birthday presents or something.
In the walk-in closet, I put on a dark red fitted dress with a square neckline, cut quite low. Yes, this will do for work.
Nothing says professional like, "Check it, yo, my tits are hanging out."
Now for Christian's present. I start rummaging through his drawers, looking for his ties. In the bottom drawer I find those faded, ripped jeans, the ones he wears in the playroom - the ones he looks so hot in. I stroke them gently, using my whole hand. Oh my, the material is so soft.
Beneath them, I find a large, black, flat cardboard box. It piques my interest immediately. What's in here? I stare at it, feeling like I'm trespassing again.
Remember when she compared her life to the story of Bluebeard before? I'm loling so hard right now.

Instead of severed heads, she finds pictures Christian took of his exes in the Red Room. And she actually takes it pretty okay, rationalizing that they were taken before they were together. Still, it bothers her that he kept them, and I have to be honest, that would bug the fuck out of me, too. She asks Mrs. Robinson for the keys to the playroom, but never lets us in on what she's planning to do in there. So, I guess that's another subplot to add to the total. The mystery of what Ana is giving Christian for his birthday.

At work, Ana wonders if she should tell Christian she found the photos, and then she decides not to. Which is a wise choice, I think. They email back and forth, until she says the wrong thing and he gets mad and stops responding to her. So, basically, every email exchange they've ever had. At around four, Ana realizes that Christian still hasn't emailed her back, and since he never goes a full hour without pestering her via some form of modern communication, she's getting a little worried.
My phone rings unexpectedly and my heart jumps. Christian! But no - it's Kate, my best friend, finally!
This is the only time she will ever be happy to hear from Kate. They talk a little and Ana invites Kate to go out for drinks with her and Jose. Oh yeah, I forgot that was happening.
Wow. Kate is home. How am I going to tell her all that has happened? I should write it down so I don't forget anything.
What if she doesn't care that much, Ana? What if she's just as bored by your relationship as I am? What happens then?

Jose arrives in reception, and Claire just has to comment on him:
"You should see the guy asking for you in Reception. How come you know all these hot guys, Ana?"
Because she's a Mary Sue, and they get to keep all the hotties. Every last one of them.

Jose and Ana go out for drinks, where he asks her about her relationship. Because it's super realistic that all her friends only care about her relationship, and not her job or the rest of her life or anything.
"He's not too old for you?"
What? He's twenty-seven. She's twenty-one or twenty-two, right? That's not an age gap. What is up with the weird ideas about age in this book?

Kate and Ethan arrive:
I turn and there's Kate with Ethan. She looks gorgeous: bleached strawberry-blonde hair, golden tan, and beaming white smile, and so shapely in her white camisole and tight white jeans. All eyes are on Kate. I leap up from my seat to give her a hug. Oh, how I've missed this woman.
If she were in Seattle, you wouldn't have seen her, anyway. You've been spending every single non-work moment with Chedward.

Since we just heard how great Kate looks, we must now hear how skinny Ana looks, because otherwise Kate just keeps on being the prettiest, and what kind of world is that to live in, I ask you?
"You've lost weight. A lot of weight. And you look different. Grown-up. What's ben going on?" she says, all mother hen. "I like your dress. Suits you."
"A lot's happened since you went away. I'll tell you later, when we're on our own." I am not ready for the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition just yet. She regards me suspiciously.
For like, a second, Ana liked Kate, and now it's back to, "OMG THE KATHERINE KAVANAGH INQUISITION WHEN WILL I GET A MOMENT'S PEACE OR PRIVACY?" Which is hilarious, because wasn't Ana going to write a detailed list of shit she wanted to tell her?

Then Ana goes to the bathroom, and when she comes back, this happens:
"Ana." Elliot's voice is clipped and quiet, and my scalp prickles ominously.
"What's wrong?"
"It's Christian. He's not back from Portland."
 "What? What do you mean?"
"His helicopter has gone missing."
"Charlie Tango?" I whisper as all the breath leaves my body. "No!"
 This is me right now, dear reader. This is me. 


  1. It gives you a bad feeling... down there?
    I have to say, I can't help but like that dumb inner goddess. I keep imagining her as a chibi doing all that dumb stuff, so it turns the book into manga-style comedy, which is way better than the embarrassment I'd feel for Ana otherwise.

  2. Hi Jenny - I know I'm super late to the party on this but I just want to thank you for your commentary on this series. This book reminds me of another pop culture glorification of an abusive relationship: Spencer and Heidi from The Hills. Also about an impossibly rich moron manipulating a girl who was too stupid and had simultaneously too much and too little self confidence to realize it. He alienated her from her friends and family, manipulated her emotionally into moving in with him and then subsequently marrying him way before she was ready and then changed everything about her both physically and emotionally to fit some version of his ideal woman. Just sad. Our popular culture needs more strong female voices and less glorification of rape culture.

  3. Hi Jen, have to say thank you for throwing yourself on the unexploded khrappe that is this series - saves the rest of us from having to slog our way through it.

    One thing aout her word usage. The word 'shabby' doesn't mean the same thing on that side of the pond either. Ana is saying that the place is shabby - it's grubby and neglected, maybe paint and wallpaper peeling off, window frames need refinishing, carpets need cleaning - that kind of thing which would be perfectly reasonable for a house that has been left empty for any length of time. You seem to be using shabby to mean something derogatory, as if Ana is disparaging the house for being small or not up to her expectations. (And I can't believe I'm defending ELJ's word choices!)

  4. "There. Everybody is special. Everybody gets a trophy, just for participating."
    I heard this line in my head being spoken in Foamy's voice. I then gave myself an "Achievement!" for finishing reading that sentence.


  5. I can't help but imagine the insufferable inner goddess as an animated character, like on that Hilary Duff show "Lizzie McGuire". Which makes sense, considering this whole series is a fantasy wrought by middle-school level emotions and writing skills.

  6. 'For the reminder of this recap, the part of Ana's Inner Goddess will be played by octogenarian stripper Tempest Storm.'

    TBH, I've always pictured her 'inner goddess' as EL James herself

    Also, inner goddess? Hork.


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