It’s kind of old news by now, but I can’t remember Ariel or I mentioned that we were briefly mentioned in an article on Medium about the #AskELJames hashtag fiasco. It’s also a pretty great read about why E L James and Fifty Shades are so, so, so problematic, which – you’re here now – you’re probably interested in.
Grey: Monday, May 30, 2011
This chapter starts off promising:
Her sharp intake of breath is music to my dick.
You know how sometimes it’s hard to tell if E L James is trying to be sexy or silly, because her writing can be so bad it borders on self-parody? Basically I’m saying that I am fascinated by the “music to my dick” sentence.
Anyway, you might remember from Fifty Shades of Grey that there’s a chapter where Christian brings out some vaginal balls, AKA kegal balls, AKA ben wa balls, AKA the only thing in the much-discussed risqué Fifty Shades that the average person probably had to google.
Christian whispers an offer to Ana that she somehow interprets as enticing, not manipulative:
“We’ll fuck,” I whisper. “And if you’re still awake, I’ll impart some information about my formative years. Agreed?”
Christian “inserts both of the balls into her mouth”, which is a great time to realize you were skimming this book and that he brought out the kegal balls out at the end of the last chapter.
They’re a little big and heavy but will keep her smart mouth occupied for a moment or two.
I wonder if that upcoming formative years bit will shed any information on why Christian has to silence a woman who challenges him by literally shoving sex toys in her mouth. Is it because he had a bad childhood? Is it because he’s just an asshat? WHO CAN SAY?
What about the kegal balls scene itself? As it turns out, rereading a scene that’s entirely about Ana’s physical sensations doesn’t exactly gain anything from Christian’s point of view. Surprisingly enough. Not that this doesn’t afford E L James to write fairly confounding prose anyway:
I could look at this glorious sight for a while and imagine what I’d like to do to it. But right now I want to spank and fuck her.
That’s hardly a revelation. When does he want to do anything other than that to her?
After the sex, Christian gives Ana the first reveal into his troubled childhood, where he immediately demonstrates not really understanding the point of sharing, like a real human:
“The woman who brought me into this world was a crack whore, Anastasia. Go to sleep.” She tenses in my arms. I still. I do not want her sympathy or her pity.
There is then a flashback to his still-troubled, post-adoption childhood, where E L James immediately demonstrates not really understanding “troubled”:
“Don’t just pick the apples and throw them away, asshole!”
“Fuck off, you righteous dweeb.” […]
I jump him. Pounding my fists into his face.
“You fucking pig. This is food. You’re just wasting it.”
Guys. Teenage Christian got into a fistfight with Elliott… over wasting apples. To demonstrate that Christian’s childhood was rough and led to his obsession with mismanaged food, E L James has helpfully written a flashback to Christian’s childhood where he roughly picks a rough, profanity-laden fight over mismanaged food. Like, there’s on the nose, and then there’s “Fuck you, you fucking fuck! You’re fucking wasting fucking APPLES.”
Christian wakes up and reflects on the flashback, which he describes as “happy, angry days”, because all that flashback needed was one more way to not make sense.
As Christian goes about his morning – talking to his housekeeper, getting on a Skype call with one of his employees – and it offers an interesting window into the varieties of female characters E L James has to offer. There’s “woman with womanly intuition”:
As [Mrs. Jones] watches me her smile changes from pleasant to knowing… in the way that’s feminine and secretive.
There’s “serious woman who is serious, but in a way that Christian comes closest to respecting for some super unclear reason, AKA the lesbian”:
“So when can we expect you?” Ros’s tone is sarcastic.
“Good morning, Ros. How are you?” I say sweetly.
“Yes, at you, and your hands-off work ethic.”
Contrast with “serious woman who is serious, which Christian chalks up to them being a harpy” aka most women who aren’t the previous two types or the next one, “Swooning, lovesick moron”:
“I’ll need an extra ticket, because I have a date,” I inform Andrea.
“A date?” Andrea squeaks with incredulity.
I sigh. “Yes, Andrea, that’s what I said. A date. Miss Anastasia Steele will accompany me.”
“Yes, Mr. Grey.” She sounds as if I’ve made her day.
For fuck’s sake. What is it with my staff?
It’s a bit weird criticizing a female author for not being able to write female characters well, but keep in mind that anyone can perpetuate reductive stereotypes. Much like how anyone can romanticize toxic masculinity:
“I’ve only got a taste for you.”
“Damn right! Only me!” […] No. She’s not doing this with anyone else. Ever.
“You. Are. Mine.” My words crack between us. “Do you understand?”
Sigh. Ok. Let’s get back on track. Any good awful prose in this scene?
Our eyes are locked, her scrutiny intense, as if she’s seeing through me. Seeing the darkness in my soul. […]
This is too much.
You said it, book.
This is what I like: our banter. It’s refreshing and fun
Footage not found.
Christian gets someone to figure out what flight Ana is on in order to upgrade her, which he refers to as a “cunning plan”, which seems like a very low set of standards for “cunning”. His secretary calls him later to give him that information and he tells her to use his personal credit card to upgrade her flight.
“Will do, Mr. Grey.” She’s trying her best to keep it professional, but I catch her smiling.
This is none of her business.
Except her boss is telling her to do this, so… this is the definition of her business?
Christian also gets an email from Elena, who has found out from his mom that he “took a young woman to dinner”, which is “so not your style”. He responds with his usual “It’s not a big deal” line (I’m so glad we got another 500 pages of this story from Christian’s perspective so that we could understand what he thought about it by reading “It’s not a big deal” over and over again to). We also get to see Elena’s email signature a bajillion times, and I can confirm that “For The Beauty That Is You” does not start sounding like a real sentence even over time.
Nothing else interesting happens, except that Christian ends the chapter in a bad mood, which feels superfluous even saying at this point.