Monday, November 12, 2012

50 Shades Tedious

I read and review Fifty Shades Freed so you won't have to.

Reading this book is absolutely draining. I am four chapters in and I'm still waiting for there to be any kind of plot at all. So far it's been nothing but stupid fights, boring fucks, and Ana reciting the monetary value of every fucking thing Christian touches. Also I've become a terrible person, because despite Christian's terrible and blatantly abusive behavior, I find myself constantly engaging in victim blaming. 

The book opens with the now obligatory prologue in which Christian has a nightmare/flashback about hanging out with the corpse of his dead mother, then wakes up and tells Ana that she's the only one who can save him from his epic sad, which is basically the same thing as saying "if you ever leave me I'll kill myself". So, you know, off to fun, abusey start.

Chapter 1 starts (depending on which estimate of time you want to use, since James couldn't decide and had Ana make several contradictory statements) either a month or six weeks after the last book ended, meaning Ana and Christian have known each other roughly three months. THEY ARE ON THEIR HONEYMOON. Lest you think (as I did before all my hopes were crushed) we get to skip all the inane melodrama we know ensued in between, James has adopted a new writing style that involves constant flashbacks preceded by terribly contrived set ups. In the present, though, Ana and Christian are on a beach in the south of France, having a scream inducing conversation about whether Christian would be ok with Ana taking her top off on the beach. Surprising no one, he would not. In fact, he is not particularly happy with her being dressed only in a bikini as it is. ON THE BEACH. Ana thinks to herself "Oh, possessive, jealous, control freak Christian." because it is SO ROMANTIC to be threatened and controlled constantly. I write in my notes "I hope he kills you."

They decide to go for a swim, during which Christian jokes that they should fuck in the water in full view of everyone. Ana gets very excited at this prospect. Apparently she just met her husband five minutes ago - the idea that he would allow anyone else to view her having sex is absolutely ludicrous and it is proof of Ana's monumental stupidity that she thinks this is something that could actually occur. The entire point of the scene is to set up a situation where Ana feels she needs to do something childish because she didn't get exactly what she wanted: "...what can I do to get him back?" she thinks, before deciding the obvious thing to do is take her top off exactly the way he just told her not to.

Before we get to the fight scene though, it's time for a flashback to their wedding, at which every single person she knows warns her that she's making a huge mistake, including herself: "Marry in haste, repent at leisure. The saying haunts me." Oh everyone, except her mother that is. Carla's well reasoned parental advice is to remind Ana that men are from a different planet. Excellent, I'm sure that hyperbolic and vague statement will solve all their problems.

After the wedding, Ana and Christian are driven to the airport by Taylor so they can leave on their honeymoon. Here James inserts one of her most utterly stupid details to date when she has Taylor drive Ana and Christian right onto the tarmac at the airport without having to stop and prove to a single person who they are or that they belong there. Clearly James was visiting Mars on the day people decided to fly planes into the tallest buildings on the planet 11 years ago. It's the only excuse for thinking it would be possible to do anything like what she wrote.

Ana and Christian get on his private plane and meet the flight crew. We've been to this party before: Ana is out of her element because ermigerd a private plane! and is instantly jealous of every damn person they'll be flying with because every one of them is eyefucking the shit out of Christian. Christian finally condescends to tell her where they are going on their honeymoon (a decision in which she had no input whatsoever). They are going to London, and then Paris, and then the south of France. But before they get to London they have to stop to refuel. In Ireland. Which, if you have enough fuel to get to Ireland I imagine you probably have enough to get to England. I checked the commercial airlines and you can fly non-stop from Seattle to London, but even the one stop flights all stopped somewhere near the middle of the trip like in Vancouver or New York. Refueling 8 hours into your 9 hour flight is ridiculous. After dinner it's time to fuck, but not before Ana is astonished to find out that you can, in fact, fuck in an airplane ("") and then three sentences later remembering that that is actually a thing ("...the mile high club. I've heard about this.") Awful sex happens, and then he makes a comment about touching down in the Emerald Isle and Ana thinks "Oh my...I'd forgotten. Europe." Which he told her about five fucking minutes ago and she was SO EXCITED as she has always wanted to go to Europe. You didn't forget Ana. Your creator is just a terrible writer.

FLASHBACK OVER and TIME TO FIGHT! Chapter 2 starts with Christian in the blindest rage we've seen from him yet standing over a topless Ana, screaming at her about the fact that she can be seen by both the security crew that trails them everywhere (seriously) AND the paparazzi, because Christian is so famous and important. Mind you they are on a topless beach and Ana points out rightly that wearing her bikini top makes her stand out even more since she's the only person wearing one. However, I have sided with her abuser and I hate myself for it. Should Christian dictate what she does and doesn't wear 100% of the time and fly into a blind rage every time she is disobedient? Of course not, but she knows perfectly well who the fuck she married, in fact she finds it FUCKING ADORABLE, so if she's going to DELIBERATELY FUCKING ANTAGONIZE HIM on a near CONSTANT basis, I'm sorry, but she does not get to act surprised when he flies of the handle and she ESPECIALLY doesn't get to say things like "I thought Christian would see the funny side..." NO YOU FUCKING DIDN'T. YOU FUCKING KNEW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN YOU BRAINLESS FUCKING FUCK.

Christian decrees that they are going back to the boat they are staying on. He and Ana are taking the jet ski, the security crew (Taylor, and a couple French guys named Philippe and Gaston because of course they are) are following in the motorboat. There is no explanation given at any time of why they can't just all go in the motorboat. Back at the boat Christian outwardly appears to calm down when Ana asks if she's going to be punished. I, however, do not calm down, because his answer to that question is "Anastasia, you're my wife, not my sub." I write "Those aren't mutually exclusive things you judgemental prick." He goes on to talk about the boat they are on and how unfathomably rich he is. The boat belongs to a British knight, whose daughter is married to "one of the crown princes of Europe." It is apropos of nothing really, but James hasn't worked out how to be subtle about her new found literary device, so this conversation has to happen so that Ana can ask if the knight is rich like Christian because he needs to respond "and like you" because it's time for another flashback about the prenup argument. The wavy lines and "doo-doo-ly-doo, doo-doo-ly-doo" from Wayne's World is much more subtle than this.

In the flashback, Ana and Christian are sitting around with his parents and siblings, chilling and reading the paper, when Mia finds an article about the engagement which contains the joking line "Bet she's reading one helluva prenup." Christian obviously has no intention of there being any prenup because HE'S IN LOVE, even though he is a billionaire and she is drowning in student loan debt, not to mention the fact that they barely know each other and fight fucking constantly. His father is not a fan of this plan, and his entire family proceeds to argue about this with him as though Ana were not sitting right there in the same fucking room, proving that money buys neither tact nor class. I hate all these fucking people.

FLASHBACK OVER and ALMOST TIME TO FUCK. But first two things happen: Ana begins her obnoxious litany of narrating the cost of every single thing Christian buys her, and she escalates the descriptions of what her subconscious is doing to heretofore unseen heights of absurdity. In case you were wondering (I was not), her bikini that she only bothered to wear half of cost what Ana believes to be the obscene amount of $540. In the glamorous world of Hollywood, that would be considered a bargain. To her multi-billionaire husband it's the equivalent of a nickel. On the way to fuck, Christian tells her not to pee and "My subconscious looks up from her book - The Complete Works of Charles Dickens, Volume One - with alarm." No. Goddamn it, James, NO. YOU DID NOT JUST SPECIFY THE TITLE OF THE BOOK HER SUBCONSCIOUS IS READING. THAT IS FUCKING RETARDED. Why is is this being allowed? Why hasn't every keyboard and writing implement in her home been confiscated?

During fuck time, Christian handcuffs Ana's wrists to her ankles. It's a good thing he's her husband and not her Dom (you can NEVER be both), because he puts these handcuffs on way too tight for anything remotely resembling safe play. Later when he takes them off he will have to rub feeling back into all her extremities, and she will wind up with deep bruising from it. She is very lucky she didn't have permanent nerve damage. For anyone who is still foolish enough to be reading this book for sex advice, I beg of you to ignore this entire scene, it is extremely dangerous.

After the sex (and an orgasm that leaves her sobbing. SOBBING), she heads to the bathroom for that piss she wasn't allowed to take earlier, and is incensed to discover that Christian has left hickeys all over her chest. How she managed to not notice this while it was happening is anybody's guess. It is obvious that Christian has marked her like this ON PURPOSE in order to prevent her from ever sunbathing again. Her reaction to this temporary problem, which actually could easily be fixed except for the fact that Ana has apparently never heard of MAKE UP, is on par with how a normal person would react to being chloroformed and waking up to find their entire body has been covered in tattoos depicting their mom fucking various farm animals. She throws a hairbrush at him and runs out of the room where they proceed to have a massive screaming match on the deck. I honestly can't remember what makes her finally calm down, but then they fuck and everything is fine.

The next day they go into town and everything out of Ana's mouth irritates the living fuck out of me. Christian  wants to buy some art for the new house, and Ana is totally freaked out because she doesn't "know how" to buy art. Let me help you with that difficult procedure, Ana. The best way to buy art is to go look at some art, pick out something that you like, and then FUCKING BUY IT. You aren't running a fucking gallery, you twat, you are decorating your own goddamn house. Jesus Christ. Eventually she picks out some paintings of peppers that she likes and is shocked, SHOCKED at their astronomical cost of 5 thousand euros each. Again, for Christian this is pocket change, but the fact that her plan is to hang this fine art in her kitchen leads me to kind of agree with her - if you are going to ruin your pepper paintings with grease and smoke, you can probably find paintings of peppers for about 5 euros each at a nearby IKEA. All day long Christian has been fretting about the bruises on her wrists from the handcuffs he doesn't know how to safely use. He decides to solve the problem by buying her a bracelet to cover them up. The bracelet cost him 30 thousand euros. I want to liquefy Ana's eyeballs with my thumbs.

On the way back from super expensive shopping day, Christian gets a call from Seattle - there has been a fire in the server room at Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. headquarters. Despite suspecting it's arson, Christian inexplicably instructs his people not to call the police or the fire department. This is the same thing he did when a deranged woman with a gun was running around town trying to kill Ana, and short of his company being a secret criminal enterprise or Christian having delusions that he is some kind of vigilante superhero it makes no fucking sense. There's no serious damage thanks to the argon gas fire suppression system. When Ana hears the word argon she thinks "It rings a distant bell from chemistry class - an element, I think." Congratulations, Einstein, argon IS an element! One of the noble gases on the right hand side of your periodic table, a fact I know without looking it up because it's a common element everyfuckingbody has heard of, and which is commonly used as a fire suppressant in server rooms because it doesn't damage the equipment like a water suppression system would. Ana's a girl, you guys! Science is hard! I hate this book worse than E.L. James hates her own gender. Incidentally, if Jack Hyde spent half as much time looking for work as he did trying to kill Christian he'd have another job by now.

So that's the first three chapters. Much like the other book, I took a shit ton of notes about things I hated that I haven't addressed in this review because if I did my reviews would literally be longer than the actual books.  What I'm going to do instead is make some videos as I go along where I talk about some of the other terrible stuff that bothers me, usually things that happen again and again on every page and do nothing to advance the plot. I'll post them as supplemental material on my YouTube channel. There is also a video up of me reading and reacting to the first chapter I read, which StereoNinja was kind enough to sift through a half hour of footage and edit together about five minutes of me yelling into an empty room. I hope you enjoy it:


Anonymous said...

You should post your notes. Kind of like a read-along activity.

Dev said...

Seeing as I make the flight often, I can confirm that Ireland to the UK isn't even an hour. Flight time is about 50-55mins, but most of that is spent getting to and from the runway at each end. You're in the air for about 25mins.

Any pilot who needs to land because he can't make the last 25 mins without extra fuel is probably much more likely to have ditched over the Atlantic, killing all souls on board.

Hannah said...

"Any pilot who needs to land because he can't make the last 25 mins without extra fuel is probably much more likely to have ditched over the Atlantic, killing all souls on board."

Ahhhhh, if only...

Kate said...

You've said before that he puts the handcuffs and stuff on her too tightly and he ought to be more careful about that but would an abusive arsehole really be careful about that?
If he just doesn't give a shit about her comfort or safety, that's pretty in character for him.

And then the bit where, after he's calmed down, he starts worrying he's hurt her and buying her expense stuff to make up for it.
I'm no expert in the field of partner abuse but that really sounds like a classic abuse cycle to me.

This is just a horrible, horrible relationship that's being depicted here and I almost feel physically sick. There are no words for the fact that some readers find it romantic.

WulfenCG said...

We love you too Amber!

Els said...

I feel your pain.Seriously, I think you need a break.

Anonymous said...

Love these reviews, you take the pain so we don't have to, and I love you for it.

PS: Fifty Shades of Grey has been nominated for a National Book Award!!!!!!!

Stop the planet, I want to get off!

Laura Mary said...

Amber, you're a fellow lefty!!!!

Lefties unite!!!

I really like the addition of the videos... you look like you were having fun at some point! Or maybe just laughing through the pain...

Lola Cherry Cola said...

I've just seen this today and it is perhaps the funniest 50 shades related thing I have ever come across (other than your blog of course). Gilbert Gottfried (yes, that would be the voice of Disney's Iago) reads 50 shades of grey. My belly hurts!

amberance said...

Kate - my issue is that he's supposed to be an experienced Dom, and an experienced Dom would never be so careless.

In my notes for chapter 4 I actually wrote the same thing "this relationship makes me sick." I'm going to do a video later tonight to talk about some of the things Ana says that are glaring red flags of how bad it is.

amberance said...

Laura Mary - One of my favorite things about being left handed is the way we all run around collecting other left handed people. I love you for noticing! You would love my office - six of us are lefties out of eight people. Weird and awesome.

Laura Mary said...

I very nearly said 'I'm collecting you' but felt in the context of a Fifty Shades review it had a creepy edge to it...
Consider yourself collected ;-)

PS Typical response from people the first time they see me put pen to paper -

Right hander: Woah, you write really weirdly! Everyone look!*Makes huge spectacle of the situation*

Left hander: *catches eye* *smiles knowingly* *instant camaraderie*

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed your write-ups of the Fifty Shades of Shite saga so, so much more than the actual books (I skim-read them because I thought that as an English teacher I ought to find out how awful they truly are).

It will seem cruel to anyone who's read the whole of book 3, but I really am looking forward to what you make of it. SHOUTY CAPITALS and fucking, fuckety, fuck, fucks aplenty. Prepare yourself well, and have a whole damn crate of beer on standby. You will need it.

Anonymous said...

I love you dearly for these reviews. All the women around me are obsessed with these damned books, it is nice to know what I am not missing! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

You're my hero. I only got through the first few chaps of THE FREE ORIGINAL FANFICTION before deciding I'd need considerably less taste in order to continue. Thank you for raging on my behalf. Your reactions are PRICELESS. I've gotten severe asthma from reading your reviews. Apparently that happens when I laugh like a hyena for extended periods of time. You're a rockstar. I love you.

q said...

God more people are reading these books and i just want yo gouge my eyes out every time I see "50 shades "...ugh

Just series. Willl not read the last two.

Anonymous said...

The Complete works of Dickens... because she couldn't remember the name of a single Dickens novel. fucksake.

There would not be more than one Dickens novel in a volume, they're all a million pages long. the woman's a fucking idiot.

Anonymous said...

Can you please stop calling stuff "retarded" in these posts? They're great otherwise and it's just jarring and weird to keep coming across an ableist slur in a series of posts calling out abuse and misogyny. It really isn't adding anything to the pieces.

Lucky Vine said...

"Congratulations, Einstein, argon IS an element! One of the noble gases on the right hand side of your periodic table, a fact I know without looking it up because it's a common element everyfuckingbody has heard of, and which is commonly used as a fire suppressant in server rooms because it doesn't damage the equipment like a water suppression system would."

~Okay, THAT hurt my feelings. I'm 34 years old and have never heard of argon before this very minute, nor did I know there was such thing as a fire suppressant. Is that like being fire retardant? I honestly don't know. I chose not to take chemistry in high school (yes, it's a choice in some schools, believe it or not) but that doesn't automatically make people like me stupid. Now, if Ana had been talking about oxygen or helium and wondering if they're a gas, THEN I would call her stupid. None of us chooses when or where or how we will receive all of our knowledge, and you certainly can't opt to learn about something you don't even know you don't know about. Somehow I went 34 years without ever hearing of argon or "fire suppressants." It happens. I know a man in his 70's who had never heard of Anne Frank before I told him who she was just last year. Sometimes it just happens that way.

Anonymous said...

Not to be one of those people, but in the world of private jet travel, you pretty much can just drive right up to the plane. I don't know how exactly it's portrayed in the book (never had to read it, thanks to people like you!), but the most you'll often have to do is ID yourself at the gate and get buzzed through. Your identity is vouched for by the pilot flying the aircraft; your essentially flying on his or her security clearance.
Not that I'm eager to give James any credit for this one. I highly doubt she spent hours phoning up FBOs and Homeland Security personnel to make this scene as authentic as possible...