We’re finally done with chapter 3 today, I swear.
Previously, Christian and Ana got back together and it’s a little tenuous but they’re in love, and Christian took Ana to his parents’ charity gala.
Darker: Chapter 3 (Part 4)
Darker continues telling the great love story at the heart of Fifty Shades. Nope, not Christian and Ana. Christian and money.
Taking Ana’s hand in mine, I give her a list of auction prizes.
I think Ana will enjoy this part of the evening—Seattle’s elite flashing their cash.
Not to get too Real World about this, but this is one of the really weird things about reading yet another Fifty Shades cash-in rewrite released at the tail end of 2017. Not that it wasn’t obvious in 2012 that Christian’s unimaginable wealth was part of the sexy escapist fantasy, but it’s hard not to feel gross about Fifty Shades’ romantic take on capitalism after a year or so of the progressive left talking about how late capitalism has eroded civilization.
This is the part of the evening when we raise a sizable sum for the charity. […] everyone applauds a sale price of $12,000 for a signed Mariners baseball bat
As great as it is that Fifty Shades wants to imagine a world where the rich actually want to give their money to those without, it still can’t imagine one without the performativity of having to incentivize this charitability. Look how even during this scene all about giving money away, Christian gets angry that Ana wants to use her money (that he forced her to take for a car he forced her to sell) on something other than herself:
Ana puts her hand up and calls.
“Twenty-four thousand dollars!”
And it’s like she’s kicked me in the solar plexus.
What. The. Fuck. […] Everyone at our table gapes at her while my anger spirals out of control. That money was for her.
A Christmas Carol is the heartwarming tale of how rich people must be supernaturally terrorized into sharing.
— Red Durkin (@RedIsDead) December 12, 2017
And let’s not forget that this performativity includes literally monetizing women’s bodies.
“Gentlemen, the highlight of the evening!” the MC booms over the PA system and the excited hum of the crowd. “The moment you’ve all been waiting for! These twelve lovely ladies have all agreed to auction their first dance to the highest bidder!”
Ana is uncomfortable.
“Matthew, it’s just for fun.” No. It literally says “Ana is uncomfortable” right there in the text it’s right fucking there
“Twelve comely and compliant wenches.”
This is a scene where the rich are incentivzed to give money to the poor by means of monetizing their own women, it’s like maypole dance around a Russian nesting doll of systemic inequality. But, hey, money solves all problems so fuck it right late capitalism woohoo
So how inextricable is wealth from romance in Fifty Shades? Christian is only given pause about the whole thing once it’s his romantic partner involved.
When did Mia get Ana involved in this fucking charade?
It’s a meat market.
I know it’s for a good cause, but still.
Christian winds up spending $100,000 on his possession of Ana (for charity!) because his therapist is also in the crowd and jokingly starts a bidding war with him over his girlfriend. I’m not a professional therapist but somehow I don’t think this is a good practice.
“Sold!” the MC cries out triumphantly, and the applause and cheering are deafening. I step forward and hold out my hand to Ana.
I’ve won my girl.
LOOK. LOOK AT THIS. Look at how this is framed! We’re supposed to be celebrating. There is a whole fucking crowd losing their shit over Christian having sufficient wealth to buy his woman back. Y’all, you can just give money to charity. I do it all the fucking time and I don’t have to prove my love for my date to my social circle vis a vis my bottom line in order to do so.
Now, sure, Christian himself does have charitable qualities. There’s a short scene earlier in this chapter where another vague businessman CEO-type tells him that “you can’t just give this technology away” and Christian tells him that that’s exactly what he is doing and thinks about how the guy just doesn’t get him (dude). Nor am I trying to say that charity events are bad. There’s strength in rallying communities in solidarity around a specific goal or cause. (And I actually wrote this post while watching Awesome Games Done Quick, a biannual event where people marathon speedruns of video games, which since 2010 has raised over $12 million in donations for cancer research, Doctors Without Borders, and other causes. Shout out to them for all the good work they do. In this post about Fifty Shades, apparently.)
My point is more so that Fifty Shades intertwines romance and capitalism in ways where it becomes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Because none of that negates that this book just spent all this time on this one-percenter charity circle jerk to culminate in a donation that’s celebrated specifically as a means to show how much Christian loves Ana.
So. Hm. I’ve written, what, 900 words about capitalism? Is that too much? Do I have any jokes in me today? What happens next?
At last. I have her. […] we head into the hall and up two flights of stairs to my childhood bedroom.
It will be another first.
Inside, I lock the door. Security can wait outside.
We definitely don’t spend enough time appreciating how, throughout a bunch of Fifty Shades, Christian’s security team is just waiting outside while Christian and Ana are fucking.
She moans an incoherent word.
It’s not a safe word.
I smack her again.
The rest of the chapter actually offers us a handful of moments where we get more things from Christian’s perspective, aka the only thing that could possibly justify the existence of this book. First, Ana asks about a portrait on Christian’s desk, and we get… Christian victim-blaming his birth mom. Wow, we’re off to the fucking races today.
The crack whore was a sad and pathetic creature. She looks every bit the victim in this old black-and-white.
Then we get a flashback to his adoptive dad giving him a photo of his birth mom at sixteen:
I hope he hasn’t found out about Mrs. Lincoln.
“You seem calmer, more collected, more yourself these days.”
I nod, hoping that my expression gives nothing away.
“I was going through some old files and I found this.” He hands me a black-and-white photograph of a sad young woman. It’s like a gut punch.
The crack whore.
Ah, so we’ve learned that Christian was already referring to his birth mom as “the crack whore” at sixteen. Not surprising. We also get his understandable relief about a subsequent reveal about his birth father, although it’s hard to ignore how muted this is in contrast to the vitriol Christian constantly spews at his birth mom.
“I don’t have any information on your biological father.” […]
It wasn’t her fucking pimp?
Please tell me it wasn’t him. […]
“That man?” I whisper.
“No. Nothing to do with you” […]
Thank fuck. Thank fuck. Thank fuck.
Back at the gala, Christian’s therapist has a dance with Ana, which Christian takes as well as you’d expect.
I wonder what they are talking about.
No, they’re talking about the many other things they have in common.
My anxiety returns in full force.
I have to face the reality that once Ana knows all my secrets, she’ll leave, and that trying things her way is just prolonging the inevitable.
But John wouldn’t be so indiscreet, surely.
I dunno, dude. Remember that time he made you spend six figures to prove a point about how committed you were to your girlfriend? You have a weirdly aggressive therapist, my man.
There’s a scene where Christian’s mom comes up to him and tells him that he looks happy with Ana. She casually says “I hope she doesn’t hurt you” because “She’s young”. That’s not even the weird part of this scene. Her friend shows up never to be mentioned again, and either Christian is oblivious his mom is trying to set him up or she’s actually just here for no reason.
A female guest wearing the most garish gown I’ve ever seen approaches Grace.
“Christian, this is my friend Pamela, from book club.”
We exchange pleasantries, but I want to grill my mother. What the hell is she trying to imply about Ana?
And then Pamela was never seen again.
Then Elena shows up and confronts Ana while Christian is preoccupied, even though she told Christian that she wasn’t going to go!
“That girl is unpleasant and rude.”
“Well, maybe you should leave her alone.”
“I thought I should introduce myself,” Elena says.
It’ll be another book and a half before Christian realizes Elena still wants him. Ana already figured this out.
“She cares about you,” Ana says.
“Yes, and I her, as a friend.”
“I think it’s more than a friendship to her.”
“Anastasia, Elena and I—” I stop. What can I tell Ana to reassure her?
Christian talks to his mom again, and E L James is under the impression she needs a thesaurus to write a fucking Fifty Shades book.
“Mother, what were you trying to say?” I ask without any preamble.
“Christian, I—” She stops and looks anxiously at me, and I know she’s prevaricating.
Christian’s mom assures him this is all coming from a good place.
“I’m just watching out for you. Be careful. Most young people experience heartbreak during their adolescence.”
And, notably, no one ever experiences heartbreak again after that.
The chapter ends with Christian weirdly summarizing the themes of the day…
We dance and my thoughts of gold-diggers, overanxious parents, and interfering ex-Dommes are forgotten.
…which is… tidy…