Tuesday, November 20, 2012

50 Shades Darker recap Chapter 20, or "I ain't sayin' she a gold digger, but she ain't messin' with someone who doesn't have a helicopter and a yacht."

All the chatter on the last recap about whether or not Ros is a lesbian and if keychains do/don't exist led to me having a dream about LED keychains that flashed the word "LESBIANS!!!" so good job, everyone. You've manipulated my subconscious. Achievement unlocked.

Look, I'm going to be straight with you. I really, really want to be in the woods with a gun right now. But that can't happen until I get this post done. So lets all work together to make this the easiest, most pain-free recap possible, okay?
"Yes, I'll marry you."
So much for taking it easy on me this morning. Thanks, recap.

He inhales sharply and moves suddenly, grabbing me and swinging me around in a most un-Fifty-like manner. He's laughing, young and carefree, radiating joyful elation. I grab his arms to hold on, feeling his muscles ripple beneath my fingers, and his infections laughter sweeps me up - dizzy, addled, a girl totally and utterly smitten with her man.
If you took this paragraph and drank every time the author uses a clumsy synonym for happiness, you'd be dead from alcohol poisoning right now.

Really examine what Ana is saying there. She's just agreed to marry a man who is characteristically unhappy. It is out of character for him to express joy. Why would anyone want to spend the rest of their life with someone like that?

There's another round of Ana expressing how sad she would be if he were dead, and Christian replies:
"Baby, it will take more than a malfunctioning 135 to keep me away from you."
"That's right. Go ahead, smile. It's funny."

Now, you might be thinking, "What a freaking dick, he can't stop bragging about owning a helicopter for like, one second," but this is actually going to be an important part of the story:
"Charlie Tango. She's a Eurocopter EC135, the safest in its class." Some unnamed but dark emotion crosses his face briefly, distracting me. What isn't he saying?
He's certainly not saying, "Look out, there's a load of poorly executed foreshadowing barreling your way!" Note how once again, the author perfects little shitty details no one cares about, while abandoning any concept of plot or suspense. I feel like an old-timey sideshow barker. "Gaze in wonder upon God's forgotten creature, the book with no plot! Marvel at the work put into insignificant detail for seemingly no reason because the target audience is just reading this to have a wank!"

But enough about the helicopter's specific make and model number and how safe it should have been but isn't it weird that it wasn't, after all, because Christian remembers now that Ana gave him the keychain present before they went into see Dr. Flynn.
I shrug apologetically. "I wanted you to know that whatever Flynn said, it wouldn't make a difference to me."
But what if it had, Ana? What if you went in there and Dr. Flynn was like, "You know he collects cadaver nipples he buys from shady sources off Craigslist, right? And he keeps them pinned in frames like butterflies? And those frames are stored under the bed you've been sleeping in every night?" Maybe that would have changed your mind, and you would have to come up with some reason to take your present back.

You'd think that whole, "I love you exactly as you are, and this proves it," sentiment would be seen as a romantic gesture right? Not to a control freak like Chedward:
Christian blinks at me in disbelief. "So all yesterday evening, when I was begging you for an answer, I had it already?" He's dismayed. I nod again, trying desperately to gauge his reaction. He gazes at me in stupefied wonder, but then narrows his eyes and his mouth twists with amused irony.
"All that worry," he whispers ominously. I grin at him and shrug once more. "Oh, don't try and get cute with me, Miss Steele. Right now, I want... " He runs his hand through his hair, then shakes his head and changes tack
That's right. Rather than realizing, "Holy shit, she really does love me, she was going to say yes this whole time, I'm such a lucky man," Chedward is all, "You should have told me yes when I was bullying you into it yesterday." Ah, romance.

And to prove just how "romantic" this monumental love of theirs is:
"I believe some retribution is in order, Miss Steele," he says softly.
Retribution? Oh shit! I know he's playing - but I take a cautious step back from him anyway.
I know he's playing, but I'm still deeply, deeply afraid of him.

I don't know why they're even making this crap into a movie. There's already a movie exactly like this.


Christian picks Ana up over his shoulder and marches her to the bathroom.
I can only imagine what I look like in the mirror from this angle.
That must be driving her crazy. She looks in the mirror and describes herself more than any other literary character I can think of, including the evil queen from Snow White.

 Julia Roberts Twofer!

Then there is a four page sex scene in the shower. They start with all their clothes on, and then strip the soaking wet clothes off, than wash each other, etc, and of course it's hotter than any shower you've ever taken, because you're not as perfect as Ana and Christian.
I peek up at him, and he regards me with hooded eyes and sensual longing. Hmm... I like this look.
Why is it that during all the sex scenes, Ana comes off like an alien studying human sex. "Hmm... yes, the human subject responds as expected. I like that."

Ana jerks Christian off with body wash suds (it's implied, not specifically stated, but she was washing him and then she starts jerking him off so, hooray for soap all up in his urethra), then he's all, "It's Saturday," which means he doesn't have to use a condom, and we never again have to read a description of foil tearing.

At this point, it's like a personal mission to make the rest of this recap Julia Roberts themed.

Near the end of the way, way, way too long sex scene, Ana has another magic orgasm:
I could have lost him... and I love him... I love him so much, and I'm suddenly overcome by the enormity of my love and the depth of my commitment to him. I will spend the rest of my life loving this man, and with that awe-inspiring thought, I detonate around him - a healing, cathartic orgasm, crying out his name as tears flow down my cheeks.
Yes, suddenly overcome by the enormity of his penis and the depth of his penis, Ana can't have just any old orgasm. No, she has to have a healing orgasm. What is she healing from? One would presume from the horrors she's already experienced in her relationship with Christian Grey.

After the sex, they just sit on the floor in the shower and talk about how he almost died and how scary that all was.
So much has happened this last week - enough for a lifetime of drama - and now I'm getting married.
It's always "so much has happened." Rather than invest in any character development or even a natural timeline for a relationship, it's "so much has happened, so, just trust me, we're in love."

Don't get me wrong. A lot of romance novels are like that. The plot of a romance novel is the relationship, and readers want the fantasy, not, "I've gone on a few dates with this guy and he seems okay, maybe I'll sleep with him if we go to that Michigan game on Saturday." So, when a romance reader picks up a contemporary romance, they're going to expect the relationship to be signed, sealed and delivered over a timeline that will take a few days, maybe a month, maximum, unless we're talking about an old school historical where the heroine will marry six different dudes and get abducted into a harem on her journey to endless love. It takes some skill to make people fall realistically into a forever love in that short of time. E.L. James doesn't have that skill, so she substitutes her heroine saying, "So much has happened," and constantly telling us that, don't worry, she really loves this guy.

Let's look at it this way, shall we? Everyone loves Pretty Woman. Except for some dumb bitch who gave a writing workshop I went to and insisted that the heroine of a romance novel could never be a prostitute, because then she would have had sex with other men and wouldn't deserve the hero's love. Seriously, that happened. And in reality, she went on to say that she loved Pretty Woman and I wanted to get up and storm out, but I wasn't published yet and I was really intimidated by "real" writers.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Okay, everyone loves Pretty Woman. Think about how great that movie was the first time you watched it, how funny and charming Julia Roberts was, how enigmatic and adorable Richard Gere was. The dialogue was sharp, the heroine was smart and feisty, it was just a really, really enjoyable movie.

Now think about how much you would have enjoyed it if it had just been a story someone flat out told you: "This guy hires a hooker and they have sex a lot and in the end they fall in love." That doesn't make it sound romantic. It makes it sound like a business transaction. An illegal business transaction, at that, since the movie takes place in California.

So, why doesn't E.L. James just let us experience this whirlwind romance for ourselves, rather than having Ana tell the reader that "So much has happened?" We know what happened. We read it. We were right there with Ana the whole time, and yet some of us remain unconvinced that this is truly a romantic thing we're reading. Slapping, "So much has happened," or "I love him," etc. in there to tell us, "Hey, just in case you're still doubting, look at how in love they are," is lazy and pointless. I know a lot has happened. The narrative has taken us from waking up to going to bed for nearly every day of Ana's life since meeting Christian Grey. I saw it all, and none of it seems romantic to me. Stop telling me how to interpret your damned story, and write it to convey what you want it to convey in the first place.
After a moment, he shifts. "Come - let's get you dry and into bed. I'm exhausted and you look beat."
Rimshot.
I lean back and arch an eyebrow at his choice of words. He cocks his head to one side and smirks at me.
At least they can joke about that time he beat her so hard she broke up with him. Romance!

Note, there was a four page sex scene, and it's only right there that any variation of "cock" shows up. Racy!
I am sitting up in bed. Christian insisted on drying my hair - he's quite skilled at it. How that happened is an unpleasant thought, so I dismiss it immediately.
He owns a couple salons, you jealous nutjob. Jesus.

Christian tells Ana that her acceptance of his proposal is the best birthday present he's ever gotten.
"I would have told you earlier, but since it was going to be your birthday... What do you give the man who has everything? I thought I'd give you... me."
Who are you going to give him next year? I see this turning into multiple rape-conspiracy charges very quickly.

They talk some more about how much people love him, and then they go to sleep. After a section break, Ana wakes up suddenly from a nightmare. Christian is still asleep, so Ana has time to think some more about how much it would have sucked if he'd died and stuff. Also, that it's his birthday:
He looks much younger when he's asleep, and I grin because today he's a whole year older.
Ugh, enough with telling us how young all the twenty-somethings look. We all know twenty-somethings are young. The media beats us over the head with it every day.

Ana gets up and plans on making Christian some breakfast, but there's a complication:
I find Jose at the counter, eating a bowl of cereal. I can't help but flush when I see him. he knows I've spent the night with Christian. Why do I suddenly feel so shy? It's not as if I'm naked or anything. I'm wearing my floor-length silk wrap.
"Morning, Jose." I smile, brazening it out.
"Hey, Ana!" His face lights up, genuinely pleased to see me. There's no hint of teasing or salacious contempt in his expression.
Because he's an adult. With his own life. He is not as obsessed with your sex life as you are, Ana. Other adults - you know, that thing you're supposed to be? - don't give a shit about the sex other adults are having. Unless they're some kind of fringe religious group that the rest of the world couldn't give two shits about, anyway.

Ana tells Jose that she loves Christian, to which he replies:
"What's not to love?" he asks, gesturing around the great room.
And a few lines later, Ana thinks:
Hmm... will I always have this leveled at me? That I'm marrying Christian for his money.
Yes. Yes, you absolutely will, and here is why: you lived with Kate rent-free all through college, in an apartment her rich family paid for. You did this without seeming to like her very much as a person, but you still claimed she was your very best friend. After graduation, you moved with Kate to another apartment her rich family paid for, so you could work at your new job with a suspiciously fast promotion after your boyfriend bought the company. Your boyfriend, by the way, who whisked you around in his private helicopter and yacht, who bought you not one, but two cars, and who you agreed to marry after knowing him for less than a month. You don't come from a high-society background. You worked in a hardware store when the two of you met. You will always been seen as a gold digger, and if you don't like it, you need to get out now. I'm not about to listen to you cry and bitch for a whole 'nother book about how unfair it is that everyone thinks you're marrying a dude for his money when he has all the money in the damn world and you could easily buy yourself a great big case of IDNGAF.
"Seriously, I'm kidding. You've never been that kind of girl."
"Omlet good for you?" I ask, changing the subject. I don't want to argue.
Who was arguing? He was saying you're NOT a gold digger.

Kanye, however...

Damnit. Kanye was my Julia Roberts c-c-c-combo breaker.

Christian comes into the room wearing nothing but pajama bottoms that hang "in that totally hot way off his hips," so everyone drink.
Swaggering over, he wraps his arms around me, tilts my chin up, and plants a loud wet kiss on my lips. Very un-Fifty!
 I want to scowl at him and tell him to behave - but it's his birthday. I flush. Why is he so territorial?
Get used to it, because once you're married the patriarchal laws that govern our country will just reinforce his belief that you are, in fact, nothing more than a piece of his property. Also, I like that she won't say anything about it because it's his birthday. Was it his birthday allllllllllllll of the other days you've known him? It must have been, because you didn't object to him treating you like he owned your ass then.

Jose mentions going to visit his dad and Ana's dad, and Christian didn't know that the two knew each other because he's never read Twilight, either. Then he and Jose bond over fishing. But not, you know, really super hardcore bonding, because right after he leaves, Christian says:
"He still wants into your panties, Ana. But I can't say I blame him."
I think this might be the attitude that makes me hate Christian Grey the absolute most. He seems to believe that Ana really, truly is an object to possess, to the point that any other man coveting her doesn't add to her worth, but detracts from it. Think about that a second. If you have a really, really rare baseball card and everyone wants it, that's awesome, because it drives the value up. But in the case of women, if you have a wife or a girlfriend everyone wants, that somehow cheapens her. Rather than thinking, "I'm a lucky man, she could have chosen any of these other guys and she picked me," Christian Grey seems to think, "I better make sure this stupid whore doesn't unwittingly fuck someone else because she's not intelligent enough to make the right decisions."

This guy. This fucking guy.

What's worse, Ana uses this conversation as a way to justify Christian's bad past behavior:
I frown. "Christian, he's just a friend, a good friend." And I'm suddenly aware that I sound like Christian when he's talking about Mrs. Robinson. The thought is unsettling.
Yeah, it really fucking is. Ana has never had a sexual relationship with Jose, nor has she ever expressed an interest in one. She hasn't involved Jose in her current relationship, either. Christian has done all of that, up to and including having discussions with Mrs. Robinson about Ana while trying to legally assure that Ana couldn't talk to anyone at all about her relationship with him. It's not the fucking same, but of course it is, because Chedward is a portrait of stunning male perfection and everything he does is right.

Christian mentions that he should ask her father for permission, and Ana tells him it's not the 18th century. Wow. She is such a feminist, guys. An example for all sisters, everywhere.

Ana gives Christian another birthday present, another little model kit, this one of a helicopter. Ah, a memory of the time you had a helicopter, before you crashed it in the fucking woods. Wait, did I pick out this present? It seems like something I would want to give him.

Ana asks him if Charlie Tango is salvageable:
"I don't know. I hope so. I'll miss her, otherwise."
Her? I am shocked at myself for the small pang of jealousy I feel for an inanimate object. My subconscious snorts with derisive laughter.
Oh my god. Am I Ana's subconscious? Is this like The Never Ending Story, but with 100% less sad horse death?

 You want your helicopter back? Come and fucking get it, pretty boy.

You know, it struck me the other day that the point of that entire movie was that without imagination, life becomes stagnant and unlivable. It's like the people making it foresaw a time when  fan fiction without an engaging plot would become the bestselling book of all time, and they were warning us. We should have heeded that warning, even if I still can't understand what name that kid was mush-mouth shouting into the height of the storm.

Ana gives him another present, which is not the blow torch I would have given as a companion gift to the mini-Charlie Tango (I strive for realism in gift giving):
He tears through the pale blue tissue paper and fishes out an eye mask, some nipple clamps, a butt plug, his iPod, his silver gray tie - and last but by no means least - the key to his playroom.
She gives him the stipulation that he can't use "'whips and stuff'" and they go straight to the playroom.

Honestly, I thought she'd wait and give him her ass at Christmas.

4 comments:

  1. I know this post is old as hell, but I'm just getting to it. And it is truly awesome, by the way. The name Bastian is mush-mouthing is "Starchild," for whatever it's worth. That was his mom's name, i believe.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I know this post is old as hell, but I'm just getting to it. And it is truly awesome, by the way. The name Bastian is mush-mouthing is "Starchild," for whatever it's worth. That was his mom's name, i believe.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Pretty sure it's Moonchild. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Neverending_Story_characters#The_Childlike_Empress

    Sorry, I am a nerd. Anyway, thank you for posting this magic. You are seriously brave to read all three of these books without killing things.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Chedward is a total ass, but he's not wrong that Annabella is "not intelligent enough to make the right decisions."
    She's proven that time and time again when she stuck around rather than fleeing from him and never looking back.

    ReplyDelete

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