Thursday, July 17, 2014

50 Shades Absurd

After a long absence, the penultimate review of Fifty Shades Freed, read by me so you don't have to.

Here's what this book is doing to me: in the three chapters that I read for this review, a husband threatens to rape his wife but the only part I got upset about was that E.L. James has no fucking idea how banking works. I'm a monster.

When we last saw our heroine asshole, she was (dramatically at the end of a chapter) staring at a completely benign and innocuous but for its originator text message on a phone belonging to her husband that she "accidentally" turned on. Chapter 21 begins with her reacting with the kind of despair normally reserved for finding out your house burned to the ground with your whole family inside. She curls up in a fetal position and sobs while rocking back and forth. James actually writes "I rock to and fro" as if that's something people say. Her husband freaked out about a pregnancy neither of them wanted which was caused by her own awe-inspiring irresponsibility, and ran to a woman who was a very important and influential figure in his life for practically his entire life, and everything is ruined now forever. There is only one thing to do and that thing is to attempt to deliberately upset herself even further by going through ALL of Christian's text messages and emails. She is relieved to find nothing else from "the Bitch Troll" (actually capitalized! Like a fun title!) and apropos of nothing, none from Leila either. What she does find is an email terrible plot device from someone who can't write a fucking story from an investigator about the comings and goings of one Jack Hyde, attempted rapist and failed murderer extraordinaire. There is absolutely no point to this email being where it is. She reads it and immediately goes back to speculating on WHAT IT ALL MEANS and how horrible everything is now that her panicked husband did a shitty but completely understandable thing and goes to sleep in another room because LOLZ HE'LL WAKE UP AND BE SO SCARED I'M NOT RIGHT WHERE HE LEFT ME SRSLY I AM SO MATURE HAHAHAHAHAHA.

She's right though. When she emerges the next day, she finds that the entire staff has been combing the desert looking for her, though no one thought it would be a good idea to check the sex room. You know, the one with a bed in it that would be a totally likely place for someone who didn't appear on the security footage as leaving the house to likely be sleeping in. She ignores Christian's repeated attempts to have a mature and rational conversation about the pregnancy while she gets dressed for work. With extra sexy dressing activities because, you know, that's the kind of thing you take great pains to do when you're so angry at your husband you're thinking of leaving him. In the middle of this, she tells him about the text message she found and accuses him of "spinelessly" running off to fuck Elena, confirms his greatest fear by telling him she DOES choose the baby over him, and then goes mega pot/kettle on his ass by claiming that he, HE!, is the one behaving like a "petulant adolescent". Christian's attempt to solve this problem is by being all "You bring up an interesting point, let's fuck about it and see what happens" and Ana for once turns him down. No problem, says Christian, I'll just rape you then. Of course he didn't literally say "How 'bout I rape you instead?" The ACTUAL FOR REAL exchange, and it is clear from Ana's inner monologue that the reader is supposed to be SUPER FUCKING TURNED ON by it, is this:

"Don't even think about it, Grey."
"You're my wife."
"...if you touch me I will scream the place down."
"You'd scream?"
"Bloody murder."
"No one would hear you."

You guys. "You're my wife"? That hasn't been a legal excuse for rape in decades, and hasn't been a legitimate one since, um, EVER. But no matter, "No one would hear you." NO ONE WOULD HEAR YOU. Because when I want to rape my wife, Imma fucking rape the shit out of my wife, man! Ain't no stopping THIS rape train! LET'S DO THIS. I'm not saying I had even one shred of respect for E.L. James as either a writer or a woman before this, but I felt like maybe I should get some respect for her just so I could lose it again because she wrote, in a book, that people were meant to read, that rape. Is. Sexy. I hate everything.

Anyway, he nobly backs down and decides not to rape her after all. She goes to work and comes home and goes to bed before Christian and he's already gone when she wakes up the next day. She doesn't hear from him until she gets a terse email at work telling her he's flying to Portland for work. It's while she's over reacting to this that she takes a call she thinks is from Mia. But it's not Mia. It turns out to be Jack Hyde. Calling from Mia's phone. How odd! Gee, now that I think about it, Jack calling her from Mia's phone seems kind of ominous. Should we go to the next paragraph? Of course not! There is no next paragraph! It's merely the end of the chapter!


Anyway, Chapter 22. Jack has kidnapped Mia and if Ana doesn't bring him $5 million in the next two hours he's gonna kill Mia and maybe rape her first for good measure. And of course, she shouldn't call the cops or her security guards or anything because he'll totally know. Which is kind of a pointless instruction because these people NEVER call the police, so why would she start now? But whatever. The scary man wants the arbitrary value of $5 million, she's gonna give him $5 million. She leaves work and goes back to the house to get the checkbooks (plural) and conveniently discovers that Mr. Guns Are Bad still has an unlocked and fully loaded pistol just sitting there in the desk drawer. Mrs. Guns Are Great If You Know How To Use Them Safely does the safe thing and shoves it down the back of her pants, presumably with the safety off. I hope she shoots her own ass off. She then sneaks out of the house to go to the bank with security hot on her heels but as always one step behind.

Okay. So I used to work at the investment arm of a bank. And before that I worked in investments for years and had to deal with banks. And before THAT I've had a checking account since I was a teenager and have been to an actual bank. Let's just say I'm familiar with how going to the bank works. E.L. James clearly is not. Here's what happens. Ana gets to "the bank". I have no idea if this is a branch bank or the main bank building for this particular bank because she never says, but let's give her the benefit of the doubt that this is the main bank. She walks in and asks to withdraw $5 million. The manager, correctly, tells her that you generally need to give notice to withdraw that much money, but incorrectly follows up with, "Fortunately, however, we hold the cash reserve for the entire Pacific Northwest". No. No you absolutely do not. Because that isn't how fractional reserve banking works. Even if you are the main branch of this particular bank which for some reason keeps their entire cash reserve in one building, you do not hold the cash reserves for every commercial bank in the pacific northwest because you are not the central bank and that is not how banking works and it doesn't work that way because to do so would be colossally, unfathomably stupid. But James is just warming up. He next asks her for ID and she gives him her driver's license which still says "Anastasia Steele" on it. Her name on the account, of course, is "Anastasia Grey". But this also is not a problem because, hey here's my Amex card with my new name on it! And the bank manager is like, "Oh, cool that totally works. You said $5 million right?" THIS IS ALSO NOT HOW A BANK WORKS. If I walked into a bank with the wrong name on my ID and tried to withdraw even 500 dollars from my account they would not give it to me. You are asking them to hand over $5 million.And a piece of plastic that has a name stamped on it, but no picture of your fucking face is not a legitimate, legally acceptable form of "ID". IT'S JUST A CREDIT CARD. If the store you're shopping at is doing what they should be doing, they will be asking you for an actual ID when you try to buy something with that card, and if your name doesn't match they will not let you buy the thing. And that is a store. This is a bank. The bank is not going to hand you $5 million on the strength of your name being on a credit card, especially if you've already established that the name on the card is different from the one on your ID. But not this bank, this bank is all "Totes!" The bank manager tells her she'll have to write a check to cash and given all the other more egregious problems here, I should probably skip over the part where withdrawing $5 million from a checking account requires more paperwork than that and said paperwork would include a withdrawal slip or similar which would negate the need to write out a check, but I'm not going to because also, it is not normal to keep $5 million in a checking account in the first place. There are better and safer account types to keep that kind of money in while still remaining relatively liquid and therefore writing a check to cash in this situation is not a likely story. OH BUT IT GETS EVEN BETTER. The bank manager has at least enough sense to call Christian and ask him what the fuck is going on. I'm going to let slide the "you can't authorize transactions of that magnitude over the phone" because the bank manager called him and not the other way around, but, eh, probably this wouldn't happen at a real bank either. It turns out I was right about not keeping $5 million in a checking account because Christian authorizes him to liquidate $5 million worth of assets to cover Ana's withdrawal request. No mention of what particular assets he wants to liquidate. I'm curious because different types of securities have different levels of liquidity. Without getting too shop talky, the time between placing an order to have your assets liquidated and the amount of time it takes to process that request, sell the securities, and hand you the cash can take as much as three days depending on what you want to sell. Even if it's a more liquid security than that, the lag time from order to cash in hand on $5 million worth of transactions is going to be longer than the approximately five minutes this transaction seemed to take. Sorry but THAT IS NOT HOW A BANK WORKS. AND HAVE I MENTIONED THAT ALL OF THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON WHILE SHE HAD A LOADED GUN SHOVED DOWN THE BACK OF HER FUCKING PANTS? IN A GODDAMN BANK? Anyway, while all this shady bullshit at the First National Bank of Ludicrously Unlikely Transactions is going on, the bank manager hands the phone to Ana to talk to Christian who is understandably confused and wants to know what's going on. This would have been the perfect opportunity to mention that Jack Hyde has his sister and maybe he should use his magical problem solving skills to find her and helicopter her the hell out of there or something, but Jack said not to tell him, so instead she decides the best thing to do is upset him by telling him she needs the money because she's leaving him. Not "I'll tell you later" or "It's a surprise" or even "Just trust me on this ok?" No. The only answer she can think of to give him is "Fuck off, asshole, I'm taking your money and your baby and I hate your fucking guts." Afterwards Jack calls her back with instructions to take the money outside to his waiting van, get in it, and throw away her cell before she gets in. The bank has two courier guys carry the money out for her in several bags, saving me the trouble of complaining about how a girl that hasn't eaten in months and weighs about the same as a broomstick carried 110 pounds worth of cash all by herself and also the volume of that much cash totes fit in one sack, but I do suspect that this was for story telling purposes and not necessarily because James realized lack of strength would prevent the first thing and physics the second.

Ana dutifully throws a cell phone in the trash and gets in the van which is being driven by Elizabeth from work, because, apparently, Jack has some "dirt" on her. They drive to Jack's remote location and when they get there, Jack starts beating the crap out of her. He pushes her to the ground where she hits her head hard enough to pass out...but not before she can pull out her gun and shoot him in his kneecap! Hooray! And also not know it....Christian comes running up out of nowhere LIKE A MIRACULOUS PHANTOM to dramatically hold her while she loses consciousness! Wait, wasn't he in Portland? How did he get there in the, like, 15 minutes since he was just on the phone with her? It DOESN'T MATTER, you guys. ROMANCE.

I really thought the banking thing was going to be the low point of this writing. I was immediately wrong. Chapter 23 features literally THE WORST and most contrived plot device I have ever read in a published volume. Ana is in the hospital. She is in the hospital because she has a skull fracture, "a major contusion to the head", and I imagine probably a concussion because generally you do not hit your head heard enough to be (mostly) unconscious for DAYS and NOT have a concussion. But how does one advance a plot when the first person narrator is unconscious for two entire days? Well, you do that by having her just barely wake up for a few seconds at a time JUST IN TIME to hear bits of conversations people are bizarrely having in the room with her that all coincidentally happen to advance the plot. And of course if she's unconscious for two whole days, you do this EIGHT TIMES. IN A ROW. And NOT ONLY do you advance the plot through convenient windows of consciousness EIGHT TIMES IN A ROW, but you also close EVERY ONE of those vignettes with a vomit inducing overly dramatic return to unconsciousness :

1."...unconsciousness claims me once more, stealing me away from the pain."
2."The fog closes in."
3."I fight the fog...fight...But I spiral down once more into oblivion. No..."
4."The fog surrounds me once more and I'm dragged down...down. No!"
5."The world dips and blurs and I'm gone."
6."Oh...the darkness closes in. No-"
7."Sweet oblivion beckons."
8."I try. I try. I want to see him. But my body disobeys me, and I fall asleep once more."

I can't even process this. Just, why? WHY would you write this this way? You couldn't have just had people TELL HER ALL THESE THINGS WHEN SHE WOKE UP? And the seemingly random did you decided which words out of these mini shit parades should be in italics? When I do it, it's for emphasis. When you do it...I don't know, I just can't tell. By the way, in my head I do all these noes in Luke Skywalker's voice when he finds out Darth Vader is his father. It's the only way I can go on.

Anycunt, what we find out in this awful, AWFUL, expositional stunt is that Christian really does want the baby, Mia is recovering from being roofied but is otherwise fine, Elizabeth is telling the police everything, everyone thinks Ana is practically the goddamn Batman, and Christian's mom thinks he should say sorry to Ana when she wakes up for being a total piece of shit. The fact that this plot device was not necessary to advance the story is proved when Christian tells her even more things when she finally does wake up, like that Jack and Elizabeth have been arrested and how they figured out where she was (the cell phone she threw out was the bank manager's; she had cleverly hidden hers inside the bags of money so the people who she hadn't told she was in trouble could track it if they figured it out on their own which of course they did.) Since Christian has decided he wants the baby (that neither one of them wanted three days ago) all the stuff about Elena is forgiven without ever really being explained, and the rest of the chapter is just gross things James thinks are romantic, like Christian not letting her pee without him standing there and forcing food on her that directly contradicted her doctor's orders, you know, typical abusive dick moves, swoon swoon. The chapter ends with more typical Christian self-flagellation about how he'll be a terrible father because he's a total piece of shit (though in his defense, he's right) and a nauseating conversation about whether they should name their child "Junior" or "Blip". Personally I would name it "Get adopted by mature responsible people who are way more suitable to be parents than we are" but god forbid anything logical or healthy happen in this entire fucking trilogy.


So anyway, sorry I made you wait seven or eight months for that. There's really only one more left of the actual book, and then I understand there are something like three different epilogues to the story which will probably get covered as a bonus post. Those should come with much shorter breaks in between as I am now using "getting to blog" as an incentive to write my actual dissertation. On that front, I am not going to lie, I am finding it massively difficult to write about the BDSM/romance aspects of the books without making snide comments about how everything else about these people is also stupid. Because seriously, everything in these is so fucking stupid.


Paul Anthony Shortt said...

Don't fight that desire. Embrace it. Embrace your hate for their stupidity.

Then your journey to the Dark Side will be complete...

Hannah said...

Go ahead and make the snide remarks, you deserve to after having to read that dross.
Even though I still thought they were the worst books I've ever had the misfortune to read, I'd forgotten just how mindnumbingly shit they are.

Miss Crystal said...

At first I was like OH No she's left us cliffhanger by not reviewing the last part of this shitshow. And then I noticed the date is from last week and I was like "OK good, it's still going to happen!"

I can't thank you enough for suffering through this so us out here don't have to read it. I am constantly telling people as somebody who is into BDSM how horrible these books are and constantly link to your reviews.

Lucky Vine said...

"When she emerges the next day, she finds that the entire staff has been combing the desert looking for her..."

~ I knew it would be Spaceballs even before I clicked on the link. Thank you for that. :3

" shit parades..."