I will also be opening Troutmart, a Zazzle.com shop for all your snarky mug and t-shirt needs. More to come, because that shit is confusing and I've got some deadlines.
Annelia sent me these links, which are... phew. These are doozies, and will no doubt be enormously triggering to some of you, so... you know, warning, there are real images of domestic violence in progress in these links, and images of children witnessing domestic violence. The first is Photographer as Witness: A Portrait of Domestic Violence, and the other is I Am Unbeatable: Donna Ferrato's Commitment to Abused Women.
*Subtly moves from DV links directly into recap*
So, if you don't remember from last time, Ana was gearing up for this huge confrontation with the bitch architect who was going to steal her husband. Ana's husband, not the architect's - oh, never mind, you know what I was saying. But yeah, Ana got all tarted up to have some kind of vamp-off with this woman who... well, I'm getting ahead of myself. What are Gia Matteo's defining characteristics, beyond the cardinal sin of being female?
Gia Matteo is a good-looking woman - a tall, good-looking woman.So, that's two strikes.
She wears her short, salon-blonde, perfectly layered and coiffed hair like a sophisticated crown.I can't decide if the blonde hair is a ball or a strike, since it's "salon-blonde" and not "naturally blonde." The latter indicates a genetic predilection towards evil man-stealing, while the former is merely the mark of a wannabe man-stealer, right? I can never keep my girl hate straight.
But it doesn't matter, because she strikes out like the 2003 Tigers with her next sin:
Her clothes look expensive.This is a really interesting theme that has run through all three books. Ana seems to have a very jaundiced view of people with money. She snarks Kate's wealth and the generosity of her parents. One of her chief objections to dating Christian Grey was that he had too much money, and his wealth made her uncomfortable. She's often saying how she doesn't know if she'll ever get used to having money. She passes all sorts of wacky judgement on other characters for having money, but most of them are helping her out financially. I wonder if Ana is just unable to face the reality that she hasn't pulled herself up by her bootstraps, but has relied on the generosity of others.
You didn't build that, Ana.
I'm sorry, was I just talking about Ana as though she were a fully realized character, much like a real human being? I must have blacked out.
More about Ms. Matteo:
She is well groomed - one of those women who grew up with money and breeding, though her breeding seems to be lacking this evening; her pale blue blouse is undone too far. Like mine. I flush.Still not real clear on if Ana is trying to out-sexy Gia, or if she's trying to have sex with her.
They do the standard greeting thing where Ana overanalyzes everything the other person does, a dig about the fact Gia is wearing mascara (unlike Ana who clumped that shit on in the last chapter) and then Christian puts his arm around Ana.
See... he's mine. Annoying - infuriating, even - but mine. I grin. Right now, I really love you, Christian Grey.Because she's "winning" the "competition" (which I'm pretty sure Gia has no clue she's participating in), Ana can forgive everything Christian has done to make her mad. To further express her happiness and possession of another human being, Ana squeezes Christian's butt.
How uncomfortable would that make you, if you were Gia? If I were Gia, it would make me very uncomfortable. I would wonder if they were going to offer to make me their third. And I definitely would not want to fuck them, thanks.
[...] I'm gripped by the uncanny feeling that Christian and I are putting on a show, playing a game together - but this time we're on the same side pitted against Ms. Matteo. Does he know that she's attracted to him and is being too obvious about it? It gives me a small rush of pleasure when I realize maybe he's trying to reassure me. Or maybe he's just sending a message loud and clear to this woman that he's taken.
Mine. Yeah, bitch - mine. My inner goddess is wearing her gladiatrix outfit, and she's taking no prisoners.
Is it just me, or is this excerpt making Ana sounding just as awful as Christian? The only value she places on him here is as an object. I suppose it would be easy to blame Christian in this one; he is, after all, the only romantic interest she's ever had, and he is "guiding" her through how to be in a relationship. But we've seen Ana act selfishly about the people in her life before she was married to Christian. Is this a learned behavior? Or is Ana just as fucking terrible as Christian? Discuss.
So, they start to talk out the plans for the house, and Gia casually touches Christian. So, okay, she may be crossing the line or making a play. Or, she might just be naturally touchy. Some people are. She just touches his arm, but since we know Christian doesn't like to be touched, he gets all stiff and formal.
She makes him uncomfortable. Why didn't I see that before? That's why I don't like her.Yeah, that's why you don't like her.
They talk about the plans for the house, which I am so fucking not interested in, so I'm skipping all of that part. I don't think you guys care if they have a glass wall or an alfresco dining room, either. Christian actually lets Ana drive the plans, though, which is nice:
"Like the bright blue shutters in the South of France," I murmur to Christian, who is watching me intently. He takes a sip of wine and shrugs, very noncommittal. Hmm. He doesn't like that idea but he doesn't overrule me, shoot me down, or make me feel stupid. God, this man is a mass of contradictions. His words from yesterday come to mind: "I want this house to be the way you want. Whatever you want. It's yours." He wants me to be happy - happy in everything I do.Unless you would be happy doing something he doesn't want you to do. In that case, fuck you.
Notice the subtle misogyny in the fact that Christian considers the house Ana's domain. He trusts her to decorate, but not run her own career or life. The house, though, that's all her.
The entire exchange with Gia alternates between "Blah blah blah, boring house plan, blah blah blah stay away from my man, bitch." Ana decides she's going to have words with Gia:
When I turn to Christian, he's still looking at me - not at her at all. Yes! I am going to have words with Ms. Matteo.If he had been expressing sexual interest in Gia, would Ana refrain from having these words? Gosh, when will an opportunity pop up, where you can be alone with her?
There's a discreet cough from the entrance to the great room. We three turn as one to find Taylor standing there.
"Taylor?" Christian asks.
"I need to confer with you on an urgent matter, Mr. Grey."Of course you do. Because like three paragraphs before, Ana was just thinking how she was going to "have words" with the architect. Christian is conveniently called away by the author, and Ana gets to have her confrontation.
"So... the master suite?" Gia asks nervously.
I gaze up at her, pausing for a moment to ensure that Christian and Taylor are out of earshot. Then, calling on all my inner strength and the fact that I've been seriously piqued for the last five hours, I let her have it.
"You're right to be nervous, Gia, because right now your work on this project hangs in the balance. But I'm sure we'll be fine as long as you keep your hands off my husband."Wait, what? Hangs in what balance? I thought that was an expression you generally only used if you were mentioning two other things. So that there was a balance to hang in. I suppose "my husband" and "your work" would be those two things, but it seems weird to mention the two opposing things after the fact.
But there I go again, expecting waaaaay too much of the use of colloquial English in the best selling series of all time.
Ana warns Gia that she's about to get her ass fired, and Gia is like, "But it isn't him I want. It's you." And then they grab each other and hate fuck right on top of the plans.
Okay, that's not what happens. But wouldn't be awesome if that's what happened?
What actually happens is that they have a stare-off. There's some adverb or adjective that could be applied to the manner in which Ana conducts herself at this time, but fucked if I can remember which one it is...
But I hold my ground, gazing impassively into her widening brown eyes.
Don't back down. Don't back down! I've learned this maddening impassive expression from Christian, who does impassive like no one else.Fuck, I wish I could remember what adverb or adjective that could be used at a time like this, to describe an emotionless glare. I feel like it's right on the tip of my tongue, too. I'm sure if I heard it, or some variation of it, several times in close succession, I might understand exactly how Ana is staring at Gia.
What is it with three letter names in this series? Ana, Gia, Mia. Ana Gia Mia. That sounds like an Italian car. "The Fiat Anagiamia's production was halted, because too many of the plant workers were committing suicide."
"Let me be clear. My husband is not interested in you."
"Of course," she murmurs, the blood draining from her face.
"As I said, I just wanted to be clear."And to totally not sound desperately in need of proving something to yourself.
Now that I have the upper hand, I feel myself relax for the first time since my meeting with Christian this afternoon. I can do this. My inner goddess is celebrating her inner bitch.
Worst matryoshka ever.
Christian comes back from his super urgent flimsy authorial excuse (Hyde hasn't been to his apartment in weeks, hardly time sensitive information), and Gia leaves. Christian knows something is up because Gia acts like he's Quasimodo and will barely look at him. Ana admits to having said something about that bitch keeping your slut hands off my man, ho! and Christian is... ugh. This fucking guy.
His eyes grow wide in alarm. "You're not jealous, are you?" he asks, horrified.It's horrific that Ana is jealous? I guess I can see where he's coming from. I mean, he has to be jealous. Ana is a woman, and therefore she'll just relentlessly fuck every male in her path if she doesn't have a man to be jealous at her whenever those rival males are in proximity. But Ana being jealous is just... well, that's silly.
"Ana, she's a sexual predator. Not my type at all. [...]"
Hey, he'd be a good Taylor, too.
I thought Ana would jump directly on a chance to slam Elena, but Christian is still kind of stuck on this "how can you be jealous of me" thing and he's not getting unstuck any time soon.
"How can you think otherwise? Have I ever given you any indication that I could be remotely interested in anyone else?" His eye blaze as he stares into mine.Okay, here's the thing, Chedward. Jealousy has nothing to do with the other person, and everything to do with the person experiencing the jealousy. You, Chedward, have no self-worth, hence your incessant and ridiculous posturing. Pro-tip? Ana has no self-worth, either. What little she might have had has been systematically destroyed by your "love," so she's constantly doubting she's good enough to keep you from straying. You're both in the same boat. Despite any evidence to the contrary, you believe she's going to fuck around on you, so you treat her even worse, which in turn causes you to doubt she could ever love you, and, fuck it, you know what? This is hard to explain, let me provide a handy diagram:
THIS IS ANA AND CHEDWARD'S RELATIONSHIP.
"Oh, Christian" - my bottom lip trembles - "I'm trying to adapt to this new life that I had never imagined for myself. Everything is being handed to me on a plate - the job, you, my beautiful husband who I never... I never knew I'd love this way, this hard, this fast, this... indelibly." I take a deep, steadying breath as his mouth drops open.
"But you're like a freight train, and I don't want to get railroaded because the girl you fell in love with will be crushed.Let's give E.L. a hand here, for not mixing a metaphor for the very first time in all three books. This calls for some kind of celebration.
And what'll be left? All that would be left is a vacuous social X-ray, flitting from charity function to charity function." I pause once more, struggling to find the words to convey how I feel. "And now you want me to be a company CEO, which has never even been on my radar. I'm bouncing between all these ideas, struggling. You want me at home. You want me to run a company. It's so confusion." I stop, tears threatening, and I force back a sob.So, when I started recaping the first book, people would get furious with me. They would be like, "It's a series! You have to read the whole thing to see how the characters develop! You must not understand how a series works!"
NO I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW A SERIES WORKS COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN IT TO ME, 50 SHADES FAN?
That would make me so furious because the thing was, it really, really, really does not matter that Ana delivers this big speech in book three. Not one little bit. And it has very little to do with what comes before the big speech, and everything to do with what comes after it. Because she delivers this big, heartfelt speech, and NOTHING CHANGES.
Saying all of this stuff to Christian doesn't make Ana a strong woman, because she never makes it clear through her interactions with him that she actually expects him to change his behavior. If she is given the option to either do what he wants her to or force him to respect her boundaries, she will always pick shouting at him, then ultimately caving to his desires.
"I just want to give you the world, Ana, everything and anything you want. And save you from it, too. Keep you safe. But I also want everyone to know you're mine. I panicked today when I got your e-mail. Why didn't you tell me about your name?"
I flush. He has a point.See? Immediately it becomes about him again. He wants to give her everything she wants - but what he really wants is to give her everything he wants for her, and to force her to want it, too. But instead of saying, "Hey, jackass, do you hear yourself?" she rushes to tell him how much she loves him - by quoting King Lear - and tries to reassure him that he's the only one for her. She does, however, ask him if he would consider taking her name, if having the same last name means so much to him:
"Would you change your name to Christian Steele so everyone would know that you belong to me?"
Christian's eyes fly open, and he gazes at me as if I've just said the world is flat. He frowns. "Belong to you?" he murmurs, testing the words.He then agrees that he would, if it meant a lot to her. Spoiler alert? He doesn't. And even if he did, it wouldn't make up for aaaaaaall the other shit he's done to her. The fact that he can't even comprehend "belonging" to her the way he feels she "belongs" to him is a big, neon sign that he really does consider other people possessions instead of, you know. People.
"Does it mean that much to you?"
"Yes." He is unequivocal.
"Okay." I will do this for him. Give him the reassurance he still needs.Boom. Right there. This is not a book about how a woman becomes empowered. This is a book about how a woman tricks herself into believing that she is empowered.
But hey, at least she's going to get a reward:
"Mrs. Grey, do you know what this means to me?"
"I do now."
He leans down and kisses me, his fingers moving into my hair, holding me in place.
"It means seven shades of Sunday," he murmurs against my lips, and he runs his nose along mine.See, this book isn't anti-feminist at all! Stupid Jen, not understanding how the fact that he's willing to pay lip service to her concerns by saying he would do something he ultimately doesn't do and then rewards her by letting her have sex with him means this is the paragon of female enlightenment.
But just in case you think she's earned this reward too easily...
"I need you to cut my hair. Apparently, it's overlong, and my wife doesn't like it."When Ana is all, hey asshole, I'm not a stylist, he says:
"Okay, good point well made. I'll get Franco to do it."
No! Franco works for the bitch troll!
So, since Chedward has subtly threatened to go see Mrs. Robinson if Ana doesn't comply with his wishes, Ana thinks:
Maybe I could give him a trim. After all, I cut Ray's hair for years, and he never complained.I like how she says "after all," like that's totally a given that someone has been giving their dad his haircuts for years. Like, "everyone does this, right?"
So, Ana is going to sexily wash Chedward's hair, but they just can't keep their hands off each other. Their desire is painstakingly detailed by the author, who has a masterful grasp of the English language:
Sculptured, chiseled, whatever, it is a beautiful mouth and he knows exactly what to do with it.Clearly, those words were chosen with the utmost care. "Sculptured, chiseled, whatever." I'm going to start writing all my books that way. "He was gorgeous, or something, and I totally felt, I don't know. Like I might want to fuck him. Or whatever."
Christian doesn't want to have sex with her, though, he really wants his hair cut:
"I want this," he continues. And his eyes are round and raw for some inexplicable reason. It's disarming.
"Why?" I whisper.
He stares at me for a beat, and his eyes grow wider. "Because it'll make me feel cherished."Now, I hate to point out that yet again, Ana is doing something that she doesn't want to do because it's something Chedward wants. Or that there is a lot of needless drama surrounding a fucking haircut here. But what I really, really hate to call to anybody's attention is that a haircut makes him feel "cherished." Remember what Mrs. Robinson does?
Right there, that could have been a more interesting conflict than the name thing, the architect, any of it. But guess what E.L. does with it?
That's right. She ignores it and takes a self-indulgent trip to sexy haircut town.
Ana washes Christian's hair, at one point getting water in his eyes.
"Hey, I know I'm an arse, but don't drown me."Do it.
And then there's more sexy hair washing I'm skipping because it's sooooooooo goddamned long and pointless.
Who would have thought after our argument this afternoon he could be this relaxed? Without sex?I like how Ana is already viewing sex as marriage maintenance.
I'm skipping the sex scenes from now on. They're all exactly the fucking same. In this one, Ana has no idea what titty fucking is, but they don't do it, they just talk about it, and it's all the fucking same lines about fucking hard etc. until Chedward tells her to orgasm and she does, on command, and then of course she cries because it's the most beautiful, emotional sex ever in the history of anything.
Ana ends up wearing Christian's shirt, a garter belt and stockings, and then she scampers off to get the scissors so she can finish Christian's haircut.
Guys, this haircut is fifteen fucking trade-sized pages long. You probably could go get a haircut, start reading about this haircut, and then still not be finished with it by the time your hair was done.
So, Ana goes to get the scissors, as I was saying, and...
Okay, do you have your cigarettes handy?
As I enter the main corridor, I notice the door to Taylor's office is open. Mrs. Jones is standing just beyond the door. I stop, rooted to the spot.
Taylor is running his fingers down her face and smiling sweetly at her. Then he leans down and kisses her.
Okay, it's not a cigarette, it's a one hitter, but you get the picture.
That line is honestly the only part of any of these books that has given me any pleasure. But then, Ana has to destroy everything. Because Ana is a ruiner. Ana totally Brittas this whole thing.
Wow! I'm reeling. I always thought Mrs. Jones was older than Taylor. Oh, I have to get my head around this.Not, "Wow, how weird, my domestic servants have hooked up, Bates and Anna style." No, she needs to get her head around the fact that a man would want to fuck an older woman. And yet, she's super jealous that her husband might fuck Mrs. Robinson. CAN ANYONE IN THESE FUCKING BOOKS HAVE ANY LEVEL OF LOGICAL CONSISTENCY? AT ALL?
But then Ana opens a drawer in Christian's office and finds a gun.
I open the top drawer and am immediately distracted when I find a gun. Christian has a gun!You know how they say people who own a gun for home defense are more likely to be killed by their own gun than they are to kill an intruder? That claim is kind of bullshit, but whatever, I wish it was real now that I know Chedward owns a gun.
A revolver. Holy fuck! I had no idea Christian owned a gun. I take it out, slip the release, and check the cylinder. It's fully loaded, but light... too light. It must be carbon fiber.I'm not sure there are full carbon fiber revolvers you can just buy. If there are, someone leave a link in the comments, because I'm actually interested to know if there are. You can certainly get a carbon fiber grip for a handgun, probably for a revolver, but it seems like if you made a revolver completely out of carbon fiber it would be super expensive to produce and it would probably have a fucking crazy kick that would possibly affect your accuracy on repeat shots. I can't imagine what the customer base would be for a totally carbon fiber revolver. They make sniper rifles with carbon fiber barrels, but it seems like it would just be super impractical for a mass produced revolver.
What does Christian want with a gun?Wanna know how I know the author isn't American?
I put the gun back and find the scissors.I vote you use the gun to cut his hair, Ana.
Ana runs into Taylor in the hallway, and she's embarrassed because she's half undressed. So, of course the first thing Ana does is tell Chedward that his bodyguard has seen her dressed provocatively, because she likes to make everyone's lives so super easy:
"I just ran into Taylor."
"Oh." Christian frowns. "Dressed like that?"
Oh shit! "That's not Taylor's fault."
Christian's frown deepens. "No. But still."
"Barely."Demand for circumspection coming from the man who has his cleaning lady wash his buttplugs.
Ana asks Christian if he knew Mrs. Jones and Taylor were knocking the boots:
"Ana, they're adults. They live under the same roof. Both unattached. Both attractive."Right, because everyone knows that two attractive people who are single MUST FUCK.
"Well, if you put it like that... I just thought Gail was older than Taylor."
"She is, but not by much." He gazes at me, perplexed. "Some men like older women - " He stops abruptly and his eyes widen.
I scowl at him. "I know that," I snap.I hope this book ends with an explosion in which everyone except Taylor and Mrs. Jones are killed.
"I was thinking we could convert the rooms over the garages for them at the new place," Christian continues. "Make it a home. Then maybe Taylor's daughter could stay with him more often." He watches me carefully in the mirror.
"Why doesn't she stay here?"
"Taylor's never asked me."
"Perhaps you should offer. But we'd have to behave ourselves."
Christian's brow furrows. "I hadn't thought of that."You hadn't thought that maybe Taylor didn't want to bring his daughter, whom he has the occasional weekend custody of, to the apartment where his boss makes women kneel naked on the floor, waiting to serve him sexually, exclusively on the weekends? Why wouldn't he want to bring his child into that environment?
Christian tells Ana that he pays for Taylor's daughter's schooling:
"Seemed the least I could do. Also, it means he won't quit."ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS? This is how Christian Grey gets loyalty from his employees?! He puts the happiness of their children at stake?! Christian Grey cannot get through life without controlling every aspect of every other person around him. And people let him? This isn't about being left alone with his mother's body. Christian Grey is a dangerous person who doesn't understand personal boundaries or individual autonomy.
There is a reason Ana's subconscious is constantly reading Dickens. Because Christian Grey is Ebenezer Scrooge. This isn't Twilight fanfic, it's A Christmas Carol fanfic. The prompt was clearly, "What if Scrooge was a young dude, and he had some dummy telling him it's totally okay to ignore his conscience at every turn?" And Snowqueen's Ice Dragon grabbed that prompt in her utterly incapable hands and made this.
This guy. This fucking guy.
I hate this guy.
On the sides of my face.
Ana tells him basically that of course he doesn't have to do stuff like that to keep people close to him, because Taylor really likes him and blah blah blah because Christian Grey is somehow the man everyone wants a piece of despite the fact that he's truly horrible. Sometimes, when I'm really down in depression and telling myself I'm a piece of shit and no one loves me, I stop and think, "No. No, you're not Christian Grey. If he deserves love, then so do you."
Ana cuts his hair, and of course it's perfect because she does everything perfectly, all the time, nonstop perfection because she's a fucking Mary Sue, and then there's a section break and she goes to bed.
"What?" he says as he climbs into bed beside me wearing only his pajama pants.Does he usually wear a three fucking piece suit to bed?
Ana tells him she doesn't want to run SIP, and he argues with her about whether or not she wants to run SIP, because he obviously knows better than she does what she wants.
"You see," he continues, "running a successful company is all about embracing the talent of the individuals you have at your disposal. If that's where your talents and your interests lie, then you structure the company to enable that. Don't dismiss it out of hand, Anastasia. [...]"Oh please, tell us more about how to successfully run a business, Mr. If-You-Fuck-Me-I'll-Buy-You-A-Company.
Then Ana asks him something about tying him up during sex, and he wouldn't be down with that, and then they're going to have sex again:
And soon we're lost... lost in each other again.I wish you were lost at sea. I wish you were lost in a haunted castle with a murderer on the loose. But the good news is, the chapter is over, so we don't have to see them get lost in each other.