So as you all probably know, Grey isn’t simply a retelling of Fifty Shades of Grey from Christian’s perspective, it’s also a re-imagining of the Terminator franchise in which a concerned robot from the future travels back in time to stop this madness from ever taking place.
What’s really worth noting is that each chapter is a date. So we can definitively prove that this book takes place over a fucking month and mock the timeline more accurately than ever before!
Grey Chapter 1: Monday, May 9, 2011
Because the only way to understand a tortured man is to be privy to his nightmares (we learned that thanks to famous romantic leads like Gideon Cross and Four!), we open with Christian dreaming he couldn’t reach his favourite car under the sofa while his mother stares blankly at a wall and calls him “maggot.” It’s very brief and just serves to remind us that Christian is without a doubt fifty shades of fucked up!
[Matthew says: What’s especially worth mentioning (aside from how the book kicks off by saying “IT IS MAY 9, 2011” and then very obviously going into a flashback from not-May 9, 2011, which is sort of confusing, is how E L James figured this was the best way to kick off the book that is her highly-awaited opus:
I have three cars. They go fast across the floor. So fast. One is red.
The best part is I totally read through “I have three cars. They go fast” and didn’t realize this was not adult Christian Grey.]
Christian wakes up and shakes off the dream, which he can’t remember. Gosh, he is so tortured and sexy because he can’t confront his issues!
Still channeling its inner Crossfire [Matthew says: And Walking Disaster!], Grey introduces (or re-introduces?) a minor character. Meet Bastille, who Christian talks about for like twenty fucking minutes and yet I have 0 recollection of his name ever cropping up before:
My thoughts stray to the day. I’ve nothing but meetings, though I’m seeing my personal trainer later for a workout at my office— Bastille is always a welcome challenge.
Why do both these series think we want to get to know the characters’ personal trainers so badly? [Matthew says: BECAUSE MEN. MANLY MEN. If they weren’t in the gym with a personal trainer, how we would know where they rank on the manly man scale?]
In the next scene, Christian and “Claude Bastille” are on the phone, and he’s trying to convince Christian to play golf with him. BUT CHRISTIAN GREY HATE GOLF. CHRISTIAN NO WANT TO PLAY GOLF. See, you are getting the full, 360 experience of all the things that annoy or anger Christian. Whereas before you might have mistakenly believed that there were things in life that didn’t make him angry.
Bastille is the only one who can beat me, and now he wants another pound of flesh on the golf course. I detest golf, but so much business is done on the fairways, I have to endure his lessons there, too… and though I hate to admit it, playing against Bastille does improve my game.
I feel like the stakes shouldn’t be this high for your personal workout. If your trainer wants another ‘pound of flesh’ maybe you should re-think your hiring decisions. [Matthew says: If friggin’ golf makes you think of things in terms of “pounds of flesh”… yeah, golf is about that maddening.]
When Ana is being buzzed into Christian’s office, he fills us in on the fact that he’s done business with Kate’s father in the past and this interview was a favour to her dad (again, was this ever mentioned before? I feel like this should have come up when he finally does meet Kate?) He also says he was very interested in meeting her to see if she was like her father. Again, in the other books he seems completely indifferent to Kate/had no idea who she was.
Anyway, Ana comes crashing into his office in that classic scene where she falls right away. Good times!
Clear, embarrassed eyes meet mine and halt me in my tracks. They are the most extraordinary color, powder blue, and guileless, and for one awful moment, I think she can see right through me and I’m left…exposed. The thought is unnerving so I dismiss it immediately.
I just don’t think that’s the kind of look that actually exists, let alone when someone is just embarrassed for falling on the floor. Like she’s just thinking, “Wow, I wish I hadn’t just fallen to the floor”, and he’s like, “Oh my god, she can see into my soul.”
During the interview, we’re mostly treated to Christian Grey’s inner Johnny Bravo. Though he’s only met Ana 30 seconds ago, he manages to refer to her as “baby” and “sweetheart” every time he thinks of an answer to her questions. It happens eight times during this chapter alone, and from reading ahead it seems that it carries on throughout the book.
Here is a short montage of some of these moments:
- She gapes at me, and I resist rolling my eyes. Yeah, yeah, baby, it’s just a face, and it’s only skin deep.
- “S-Sorry, I’m not used to this.
I can tell, baby, but right now I don’t give a damn because I can’t take my eyes off your mouth.
- “Control” is my middle name, sweetheart.
- Her mouth pops open at my response. That’s more like it. Suck it up, baby.
“Suck it up, baby” is to this book what “laters, baby” was to Fifty Shades of Grey. [Matthew says: Until, you know, “laters, baby” shows up. Because it’s the same stupid book.]
One of the things I find really odd about this scene is that it feels like Christian is trying really hard to convince us how attractive Ana is. One second, he’s like, “She’s so bookish and has no sense of style…but she’s kind of pretty.” Then later, “She actually is really attractive in a super boring kind of way that I can’t resist.” [Matthew says: Then later, it’s “I wish I could spank her! Slappity slappity!” More or less.]
I was actually hoping they’d eventually get really fucking weird, and he’d say something like, “She’s so gorgeous in like the way a chicken nugget is gorgeous when you’re drunk and hungry and it’s right in front of you, and also the chicken nugget has no fashion sense. I must have her.” Just because then I’d sort of like Christian for being a weirdo.
Dumb things continue to annoy Christian because that is the most consistent part of his character to the point where it is actually his defining character trait:
“Do you feel that you have immense power?” she asks in a soft, soothing voice, but she arches a delicate brow with a look that conveys her censure. Is she deliberately trying to goad me? Is it her questions, her attitude, or the fact that I find her attractive that’s pissing me off? My annoyance grows.
I feel like he’s reading way to into this. “Attitude” would imply personality, but all that’s ever going on in Ana’s head is her subconscious reading a book while her inner goddess dances around like a moron.
Christian fantasises about fucking/flogging Ana the entire interview. It’s actually so rude! At one point, he basically says, “She can tell I’m pissed at her terrible questions, and it gives me a huge boner that she knows that.” Why does he love when she knows he’s pissed? Why does he love being angry and irritated all the time? THE BOOK IS SUPPOSED TO BE ANSWERING THESE QUESTIONS FOR ME, NOT RAISING MORE.
Even creepier, when she’s fumbling with her recorder at the start he says,
“I could refine her motor skills with the aid of a riding crop.”
And at another point,
Yes, her mouth needs training, and I imagine her on her hands and knees before me.
I don’t even know how he’s hearing any of her questions over the sound of his inner perv.
[Matthew says: And even when he’s not being a total perv, E L James finds other ways for him to sound inexplicably weird:
“I have a love of ships. What can I say?” They transport food around the planet.
And incredibly wooden.]
He also continues to jump to stupid conclusions about Ana based on nothing:
The girl is a mass of contradictions: shy, awkward, obviously bright [Note: He thinks she’s bright because she says that the painting in his office ‘raises the ordinary to extraordinary. Like the most bland observation ever is how he determined her level of intelligence.], and arousing as hell.
In what way are any of those contradictions? It would be like saying “all of these things are food” and then just naming the cast members of It’s Always Sunny.
And then we combine jumping to odd conclusions with his criticism of Ana’s fashion style, thus bringing everything full circle:
“You sound like the ultimate consumer.” Her voice is tinged with disapproval, pissing me off again.
She sounds like a rich kid who’s had all she ever wanted, but as I take a closer look at her clothes— she’s dressed in clothes from some cheap store like Old Navy or H&M – I know that isn’t it. She hasn’t grown up in an affluent household.
1) How does this sound like Ana’s a rich kid? 2) Why is Christian Grey talking about Old Navy and H&M?
[Matthew says: There’s actually one more weird thing that Christian does not once, but TWICE during this scene, and it’s… quoting “my favorite industrialist”, Andrew Carnegie. I shit you not, this happens twice, because the only way we could have understood Christian Grey better is knowing how often he thinks about Andrew Carnegie.]
After Ana finishes asking the bland and/or weird interview questions that we all know so well (like “are you gay?”), this convinces Christian that he simply must have her as his submissive. I guess ’cause she blushes and stutters every three seconds, he think’s it’s basically her destiny.
Speaking of the infamous “are you gay” question, Christian’s inner answer is extreme:
I cannot believe she’s said that out loud! Ironically, the question even my own family will not ask. How dare she! I have a sudden urge to drag her out of her seat, bend her over my knee, spank her, and then fuck her over my desk with her hands tied behind her back. That would answer her ridiculous question.
So would a simple, “No.” [Matthew says: Because a thing that we apparently have to do in best-selling novels in 2015 is not state that the main character isn’t gay, but state that he’s so not gay that he’d sexually assault the first woman who walked into his office who dared to wonder about it. ROMANCE.]
As the interview draws to a close, Christian tells his assistant to cancel his next meeting so he can keep talking to Ana.
I turn my attention back to the intriguing, frustrating creature on my couch.
I still don’t understand what she’s done that’s so intriguing or frustrating? She’s been so bland that if I hadn’t read a book in her point of view, i would have forgotten she was in the room. She just reads Kate’s questions off a piece of paper! And blushes! [Matthew says: The best part is that we can READ literally everything she’s actually doing, and read that the only frustrating parts are fantasies that he’s building entirely in his head. Like, it’s right there.]
So Christian starts asking Ana about herself, and the answers are so basic it hurts to read. All she says is that she’s trying to finish her finals and not sure what she’s doing after graduation. So sexy! So submissive!
Christian is concerned that she’s driving all the way home tonight:
I glance out the window. It’s one hell of a drive, and it’s raining. She shouldn’t be driving in this weather, but I can’t forbid her. The thought irritates me.
Everything irritates Christian. I’m fairly certain he doesn’t know any other feeling in the world. Isn’t it exhausting to be that annoyed all the time? I really hope at one point in this book, EL James just has Christian write down a list of things that don’t annoy him. I dare you to even try to name one thing, because I can’t.
During the whole meeting, Ana is just completely bland. We knew that from the first book, but because we were in her head we were supposed to be rooting for her. In this, it makes even less sense why Christian becomes fucking obsessed with her from this interview. Also, are we worried Ana has a skin condition? How the fuck can she blush so much?
[Matthew says: As Ana leaves his office and he puts her coat on her, we can also see just how incredibly/worryingly he reads into things.
I hold [her jacket] up for her, and as I pull it over her slim shoulders, I touch the skin at the base of her neck. She stills at the contact and pales.
Yes! She is affected by me.
Maybe because a strange, creepy man is touching her skin? Also, if you’re actually reading this book, I suggest you begin a drinking game where you drink every time Christian says “affect”. Or not, because you’ll be dead by the next chapter.]
The chapter ends with Christian ordering a background check on Ana, because he setting the bar extremely high for what romance means is these modern times.