There was a Fifty Shades of Grey joke on How I Met Your Mother yesterday. Everybody in the room turned to look at me.
The last chapter ended with a distinctly “trying too hard”, Goosebumps-level cliffhanger.
As I absentmindedly wash my hands at the vanity unit, recalling last night at the Casino, my robe falls open. I stare at myself in the mirror, shocked.
Holy fuck! What has he done to me?
And this chapter picks it up from there rather engagingly.
Hickeys! I have hickeys!
Ana is upset that Christian left hickeys on her breasts and welts on her wrists and ankles from the cuffs, but also sort of admits to herself that she enjoyed Christian giving them to her. This sort of thing happens a lot in Fifty Shades, where Ana wants to be sexually dominated or “punished” by Christian, but then doesn’t like dealing with the aftermath. So she consults her schizophrenic alter egos for direction:
My subconscious peers over her half-moon specs and tuts disapprovingly,while my inner goddess slumbers on her chaise longue, out for the count.
Disapproval from the subconscious? And no counterargument from the inner goddess? Well, looks like we know what direction Ana’s going in!
How dare he mark me like this, like some teenager.
Ana’s gonna stand up for herself and tell him that he went too far and explain why she’s upset!
I seethe as fury spikes through me. I can behave like an adolescent, too!
“Anastasia,” Christian calls and I hear his anxiety. “Are you okay?”
I ignore him. [...] I hurl the hairbrush at him, turn, and leave
Okay, I don’t know why I expected Ana to address the issue like an adult. Maybe I’ve been reading too many other stories where characters actually develop after two goddamn books.
“You’re mad at me,” he whispers.
“No shit, Sherlock!”
“Scale of one to ten, I think I’m at fifty. Apt, huh?”
“That mad.” He sounds surprised and impressed at once.
Okay. That’s it. Enough of the goddamn “fifty” bullshit. I’d like you to consider the following.
The title Fifty Shades of Grey refers to two things, one being the concept of multiple shades of the color grey and the other being the concept of the many different sides of the main character Christian Grey. This makes sense. Additionally, Ana and Christian reference the number “fifty” a lot; Ana even refers to Christian sometimes as “fifty shades”, referencing his multi-faceted (in theory) character. Still makes sense, right? However, the words “fifty shades of Grey”, in that sequence, appear nowhere in the novels. Instead, the first time “fifty” comes up is in Chapter Sixteen of Fifty Shades of Grey, where Christian refers to himself as “fifty shades of fucked up”. Since then, all this “fifty” and “fifty shades” referencing begins. So none of it is actually referring to the title “fifty shades of grey”, but is instead all referring to Christian describing himself as “fifty shades of fucked up”, which I might point out doesn’t make any sense.
Now the counterargument might be that “fifty shades of fucked up” is figurative. Christian’s just describing his abysmal mental health. Let’s think about what the word “shade” actually means. It means it’s a degree of something. Fifty shades of grey (or any other color) would refer to different degrees of that color along a scale as they change incrementally. They’re different degrees of one color, not varieties of colors – that’s what the other colors are for. So “fifty shades of fucked up” would therefore figuratively mean that there are different degrees – or intensities – of a lack of mental wellness, and not of different kinds of mental wellness like Christian and Ana think his line means. Christian’s mental instability is relatively stable insofar as his issues are fixed – he isn’t bipolar or schizophrenic, his problems are the same day-to-day. While he is all kinds of fucked up, he is not different degrees – or shades – of fucked up.
So every time Christian or Ana refer to this “fifty” business they are referencing a statement that doesn’t make any sense. Not literally. Not metaphorically. Nothing. They have misunderstood their own forced title drop and constantly make meaningless references to how they don’t understand that they’re not making any sense, which, ironically, actually makes a lot of sense.
Okay, back to the funny funny jokes. Ana and Christian make up a page and a half later.
“I will always love you, Christian.”
“And I you,” he says softly.
“In spite of my disobedience?” I raise my eyebrow.
“Because of your disobedience, Anastasia.” He grins.
Wasn’t Christian the one who was just in trouble for being disrespectful? Like this conversation could be happening the other way around and actually mean something.
Anyway, remember how E L James is including flashbacks in this book?
Remember how the flashbacks went very quickly from “not really necessary” to “actually entirely unnecessary”? Well, now they go beyond that. But first, things get horrifying.
“Shall I do this to you again?” he whispers wickedly and holds up the razor.
Holy shit! Was Fifty Shades actually a slasher narrative this whole time?!?!
I purse my lips at him. “No,” I mutter, pretending to sulk. “I’ll wax next time.”
That’s a weird way to murder some- wait a second…
I remember Christian’s joy in London when he’d discovered that during his one meeting there, I’d shaved off my pubic hair out of curiosity.
Of course I hadn’t done it to Mr. Exacting’s high standards …
Not a flashback. Not a flashback. Not a flashback.
“What the hell have you done?” Christian exclaims. He cannot keep his horrified amusement to himself.
“I think I should do a thorough inspection of your handiwork, Mrs.Grey.”
Oh god, it is a horror story after all…
“I think you missed a bit,” he mutters and tugs gently, right underneath.
“I have an idea.” He leaps naked out of bed and heads to the bathroom.
What on earth is he doing? He returns moments later, carrying a glass of water, a mug, my razor, his shaving brush, soap, and a towel.
I have never known such discomfort.
I hear the slosh of water as he dips the shaving brush in the glass of water,then the soft swirl of the brush in the mug.
Somehow the word “slosh” just made everything ten times worse.
I gasp as he runs the lathered brush over my pubic bone. It’s warm. The water in the glass must be hot. [...] with a gentleness that surprises me, he runs the razor over my sensitive flesh.
Is this still supposed to be erotic? I have a hard enough time telling with this novel as it is, and then this scene happened. At least the flashback ends and it’s over.
“But that was fun,” he says his eyes gently mocking.
“For you maybe.” I try to pout—but he’s right . . . it was . . . arousing. [...] I take the razor from him.
“Tit for tat, Mr. Grey.”
I have to read a pubic hair shaving scene again?!?!
Very gently, I stroke his razor up from his neck to his chin, revealing a path of skin beneath the lather.
Oh. She’s shaving his facial hair. Oh. Oh thank god.
Okay, I still need to recover from that scare that I thought I was going to have to read that scene again. Ana and Christian go buy art and shit. There’s a fire at Christian’s office and it’s probably not arson but it probably was. I need to take a breather.