Monday, June 11, 2012

Chapter-by-Chapter Synopsis: Fifty Shades of Grey: chapters 11-13

Chapter Eleven


Ana is reading through the contract, and it’s sort of repetitious because some of it was discussed in previous chapters, particularly with regards to how Ana will look, dress, eat, and exercise. I found it to be boring, but this is the sort of thing that fanfiction readers eat up with a spoon and extra sprinkles. But in a book, it’s boring. Really boring.

Ana gets really freaked out about the contract, particularly when stuff like “anal” and “fisting” are mentioned. Note from the future: you will never have to worry about these things, Ana. The kinkiest thing you will do in these books is the reverse-cowgirl, and I don’t think that’s even particularly kinky. (Is it? I mean…I don’t know what other people do, but I’ve never heard a guy say, “Wait, wait, let’s stop this rodeo. I’m a missionary man!”) Her biggest problem with the contract is the actual submissive part: not being able to touch Christian, not being able to look him in the eye or speak without being spoken to. From what I know of BDSM, and we’ve established that it’s not much, these things are pretty normal. I was actually surprised that there was nothing in the contract about Ana needing to wash Christian, wake him, help him dress and shave and whatnot. I just can’t say enough that he does not want a BDSM relationship, but he wants kink and he wants to do it in a D/s way. I just think the distinction is enough that it warrants addressing.

So, Christian wants Ana to research how to be a sub, and he gets appalled at the thought of her using Kate’s computer, so he has a MacBook Pro sent to her, complete with a tech to set it up and show her how to use it. This part really was odd. How did she get through college without a computer of her own? My computer is over four years old and the battery is completely shot, plus it gets hot enough to boil water on after it’s been running for about ten minutes, but it was cheap and it works. If Ana’s dad bought her a car, he can buy her a computer. For what she needs, she can get one for only a couple hundred. Sheesh.

Ana already has an e-mail from Christian, and they end up sending each other really cutesy exchanges and I want to throw up because I really don’t want to see or read any of that. None of the smileys or the cutesy titles Christian gives himself or any of it.

Ana goes out with José, and it actually doesn’t end badly. They manage to clear the air a bit and I kept expecting Christian to walk in on them and start being an ass, but it doesn’t happen, so props, Author.

Back at home, Ana e-mails more with Christian, and it’s sad because she obviously wants a normal relationship with a normal guy, and he’s who she’s set her heart on. Love is not only blind, but in the middle of nowhere and left for dead. Christian keeps telling Ana to research, which she does, and then she gets all freaked out about the BDSM lifestyle and again, Christian is into kink, not BDSM but it doesn’t matter because Ana wouldn’t know the difference between the two with a type-written list.



Chapter Twelve

Ana goes for a jog to clear her head and then goes home and writes to Christian: “I’ve seen enough, nice knowing you.” SOMEHOW, this is supposed to be a joke. How it’s funny is your guess as well as mine. Is this a Twihard thing like the lip biting? How is this a joke? Where does she put something suitably ironic in order to indicate it’s a joke?

Unsurprisingly, or completely surprisingly since this is bat-shit territory, Christian shows up at Ana’s house instead of just accepting defeat and realizing that it’s over Ana’s head. This makes no sense. He also starts in on Ana for biting her lip and I roll my eyes because it’s her body and she’s allowed to chew on any part of it she wishes, regardless of your feelings on the matter. This? This is what makes him abusive. Also, did he get the joke? Did he know it was a joke? Is it a pop-culture reference that I don’t know about? Or is he just trying to seduce her into getting what he wants? This is the definition of “dub-con” or “dubious consent”, by the way. It’s especially potent since he didn’t think it was a joke (because it’s not?) and really did head over to Ana’s house to seduce her into a different mind frame. This is twisted. Really wrong. This guy needs major psychiatric help, and he needs to stay away from other people because he’s a psychopath and he doesn’t understand empathy or the concept of personal space.

After Christian leaves, Ana starts feeling used, like a receptacle for his sexual energy. This is good because it’s pretty much the truth. Of course, instead of telling him she feels this way, she cries on Kate’s shoulder, and Kate says that he has ‘commitment issues’ which is like saying that the sea is salty.

Ana e-mails Christian in detail about her issues regarding the contract and some of the language, but never addresses the larger issue about how this does not feel like a relationship to her, at least not an equitable one where both partners discuss their innermost feelings and are validated and reassured by each other. Christian promises to talk more on their date, which seems like bullocks since his idea of communication is to have sex.



Chapter Thirteen



Ana finds out that her mom can’t go to her graduation because Ana’s stepfather has fallen down and he can’t get up. I get that Mom has to take care of StepDad and all, but this is her daughter’s graduation. Get a nurse or a friend or something and stay for only long enough to see the graduation. I understand that it’s hard to go from Georgia to Seattle as my family lives in North Carolina and I’m in California, but you can bet my mom dragged her ass across country to see my brother graduate from college, and he was thirty-five when he graduated. This is family. Ana of course says it doesn’t bother her. Why? Because saying it bothers her would be a character flaw? I don’t understand why Ana can’t be let down about her mom. Supposedly they love each other. This is one more odd part of this story. I feel that Ana is detached from her parents, which I guess is typical YA territory, but this is not a YA novel. She’s twenty-two years old, and she is celebrating a major life event. She can be disappointed that her mom won’t be there. But all she can think about is Christian.

After that, Ana calls Ray, the one parent who will be in attendance for her graduation, only Ray’s like, “Yo, there’s a baseball game about to start so I can’t talk long.” The fact that he’ll be there, though, speaks volumes about his relationship with Ana.

Christian e-mails Ana about when he’ll pick her up, and she’s like, “I’ll drive” and he gets upset and pouty because he even has to control her mode of transportation. He e-mails the definition of “Submissive” to Ana who counters with the definition of “Compromise.” The bottom line is that Ana is a little uncomfortable around Christian right now because of this stupid contract, and she wants her car around so she can get away without him next to her, trying to seduce her or coerce her into doing something she’s uncomfortable with.

So, Kate gives Ana a couple of dresses, and she puts on one for the date as well as matching stilettos, and for someone who can’t walk across the street without getting run over by a bike, let me say that this is a really stupid idea. I get that her “flaw” is supposed to be clumsiness, but the alacrity with which the author has abandoned this one flaw gives me whiplash. Ana is, of course, fine in her heels.

Ana tells Christian that the contract isn’t binding, but he counters that it’s good to have everything up front and on the table before they begin, and that he won’t prosecute her if she breaches. No, he’ll just stalk her to death.

I have this in my notes: “It’s not like these two aren’t going to end up together.”

This is the thing: if this were a book series about a virgin exploring the world of sex, and if the books were all about her trying different things with different partners, then I’d wonder who she’s going to end up with. But there’s no suspense here. It’s like the current generation watching Star Wars. If they start with the prequels, then they will be completely unsurprised when Darth Vader ends up as Luke’s father. That is this book in a nutshell. You already know they’re going to get married and make babies ever after. They have to. That is this book. All of this suspense is unnecessary and a little boring.

Anyway, moving on. So, Christian wants Ana to be honest with him, which is so stupid considering the fact that any time she has expressed any modicum of having her own opinions or feelings, he brushes her off and dismisses her boundaries and personal space. Case in point, he gets all over Ana about whether or not she’s eaten, again. Since it seems that Ana doesn’t eat when she’s nervous or upset, it’s no surprise that she hasn’t eaten, but he still gets all over her about it. Also, he asks if she wants to stay in the common room or go to a private room. She says she wants to be in public, but he’s already booked a private room, so no go Ana. The question is completely moot. Why did he ask her opinion when he had already made up their mind what they were going to do? I really hate it when people do that. It’s not fair and it isn’t kind. Also, he’s already ordered for her, including oysters. As a person with severe food allergies, I balk at his incessant obsession over food and his forcing it on Ana.

Okay, Christian starts going over the contract piece by piece, outlining Ana’s issues with what it says. He assures her that he is not HIV positive, nor does he do drugs. He actually goes into his company’s anti-drug policies and mentions random drug testing and Ana’s like, “He’s such a control freak!” Well, get used to it sweetheart, but in this case, he is perfectly within his rights, and few companies don’t issue random drug tests or have strict anti-drug policies. It’s like she nitpicks all the unimportant stuff, but lets his constant, persistent and pathological need to dominate her entirely slide by the wayside. It makes no sense!

Christian says he wants to try their relationship for three months, and Ana starts feeling railroaded. Finally. How long did this take you, Ana?

I have this in my notes: “I can’t believe how boring this is. Ana finally admits she trusts him. Thank God. Can we find the plot now? “

Sorry, self. This is me from the future. There will be no plot. Not ever. Not even with painfully transparent attempts to create drama will there be a plot. This fanfiction is labeled “PWP?”

So then we get to this: Ana is asking why she can’t touch Christian, and she thinks Mrs. Robinson had something to do with it. He says,
“No, Anastasia. She’s not the reason. Besides, Mrs. Robinson wouldn’t take any of that shit from me.” Oh…but I have to. I pout.

Yes. Exactly. He wants you to do things that he would never do himself. He expects of you that which he would never give to you. This is the relationship you want. This is the relationship millions of women want. No wonder men hate us. I’m starting to hate us. This is the type of guy who ‘nice guys’ rail against when they’re trying to ask a girl out.

[You know Nice Guy Syndrome, right? The guys who think all women want Bad Boys who will break their heart? The reason I would find Christian more attractive than a Nice Guy is simply because he knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to say so. The fact that he isn’t interested in what Ana wants and doesn’t care what she has to say is what turns me off to him. But between the two, yes I’d go with Christian Grey. This isn’t saying much.]

Ana brings up his no masturbation clause and he’s like, “I want all of your pleasure.” Sorry, Christian. Until you figure out the Vulcan Mind Meld, all of her pleasure is her own. You can be there to witness it, but she’s the one who feels it. Ana accuses him of using sex as a weapon when he threatens to “fuck” her in the dining room just because he can, and he has the good sense to not deny it. He also brings up how if she were his sub, she wouldn’t have to think about anything anymore, just go along with him. That’s a really great prospect, Christian. Every girl dreams of a guy telling her he’d like to not be able to distinguish between her and a lobotomy victim.

Ana says she feels like she’s playing a game where “[Christian is] the only one who knows and understands the rules.” This is pretty much the definition of an abusive person. Their rules are arbitrary, and what is true today may be false tomorrow, and they change all the time. This is so that Christian can “punish” Ana for not doing what he tells her to do. That is the bottom line.

Thankfully, Ana decides to leave before Christian can seduce and use her again, and she starts wondering if this is the last time she’ll see him, blah blah blah. Look, again, if there were any suspense, I would be on the edge of my chair (not really), but there is no suspense. They are going to get together. I don’t understand this sort of foreplay. Surely the author could have found some other avenue? At this point, it feels like a child’s game of pretend. “Let’s pretend that Christian and Ana won’t get together at some point in the future, okay?”

And now we get to Ana’s Beatle. Christian is all upset that she drives it and keeps asking if it’s road worthy, etc. It’s a steel car with lots of curves on it. It might not have a five-point harness or even a three-point seatbelt, but it’s not a bad car, especially not for a college student. Ana gets adamant that Christian won’t buy her a car, but you know he will.

Ana drives home crying, and lamenting that she won’t be allowed to sleep with or touch her boyfriend if she agrees to the contract. Yes, these are actually huge concerns. The magnitude of these concerns is almost suffocating. Especially the part about looking at him and talking without being spoken to. I mean, if she’s not into D/s or kink, then this isn’t the relationship for her.

She worries he’ll tire of her. Again, no suspense. He sends her an e-mail saying he doesn’t understand why she ran from him, but he wants to make it work, take it slow. One of the first signs of an abuser is that he tries to force you into a committed relationship very quickly. She falls asleep thinking that since this is all he knows, and her view is all she knows, maybe they can forge their own path. Note from the future: yes.

Rant: I think that BDSM is a viable “alternate lifestyle” and that kink and whatnot are perfectly normal between consenting adults, so the undercurrent in this book that says that Christian has something wrong with him because of BDSM bothers me. He has something wrong with him because he had a horrible childhood and upbringing. That’s where his issues stem from. He hides behind BDSM and D/s and kink in order to keep people at arm’s length, but the actual lifestyle is not what has made him this way. He is this way and turned to the lifestyle in order to handle his demons. I feel that this book paints those in “alternate lifestyles” (quotations because I think the term is improper, but I don’t know of a better one) in a light that there must be something wrong with them that they enjoy doing this and classes everyone with Christian Grey. To me, it’s on par with saying that homosexuals are only “that way” because they were abused as a child or just haven’t met the right woman/man to make them not be homosexual any more. In Christian’s case, he just hasn’t met the right girl yet. That’s what this author is saying. It’s easy to get over decades of hurt if you just meet the right person. And it is. If that person happens to be a therapist. But to say that all problems are got over really easily is cheapening the hurt of people like Christian and relegating BDSM to a band aid or crutch-like lifestyle that helps gloss over true problems until that one romantic partner comes along to take you away from “it all.”

I’m sure that this isn’t the author’s intention, but that’s what I’m getting from this book.

Okay, more to come.

5 comments:

  1. I bumped into your blog while googling this Fifty Shades phenomenon. I was uncertain whether to read the books or not... But after reading your chapter-by-chapter synopsis so far, allow me to say that:

    1) I loved the way you write! It's enjoyable and funny, you made me laugh out loud here!
    2) I also loved your analysis, it looks a lot like the kind of things I usually notice on books. Most of the reviews seemed to miss something, but yours made my doubts about reading it or not go away.
    3) That is, thanks to you I'm hardly wasting my time with a book that now I know I would hate to read. I can't stand to dull Twilight-esque female protagonists and the hot male protagonist doesn't seem so hot now. And also, I had many doubts about the way BDSM would be portraited and most of the reviews were not very helpful about it, but yours was.
    4) On a side note, I hate the way BDSM seems to NEED an explanation in order to make it plausible, as if no normal person could like such things. That's so silly... And its even worst that a lot of people are getting the notion that this is BDSM.
    5) Reading your blog seems to be more enjoyable then reading the book itself, so I'm looking forward for the next chapters!

    Thanks for the awesome review, sorry for the crappy english (I'm not a native english speaker) and keep the great job :)

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    1. Thank you so much! I totally was like, "She thinks I'm funny!" and then got a huge smile. I'm so glad you're enjoying this. Remember: I'm reading the books so you don't have to.

      Your English is fine, I didn't get anything that made me think you weren't a native speaker, so keep on going.

      One of my friends has also decided to only read my synopsis instead of the book. I hope you get most of it through what I write. One of the main things that made me read the books was that no one addressed what the sex was about, and whether it was BDSM or kinky or just plain vanilla, so if I can help anyone with that, then I'm happy. I do wish someone who is actually into BDSM would come along to give me some insight, and maybe someone eventually will.

      Thanks again for reading.

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  2. I agree, I am enjoying your chapter-by-chapter synopsis way more than I'd ever enjoy the book! I had no intention of reading it to begin with, but this is an enjoyable 'Cliff's Notes' version with which I can talk intelligently about the plot/lack-of-plot with all my sad friends who ARE reading it. :D And yes, I've told them they are sad.

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    1. Thank you so much, that's a great compliment!

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  3. LOVE your rant about BDSM. What you say is spot-on. Unfortunately, the DSM still classifies BDSM as a paraphilia (much like homosexuality was back in the day). So it's really not surprising that a lot of people misunderstand it as a coping mechanism for having been abused when it's still officially considered a paraphilia. That's horribly wrong of course but still not surprising to see it reflected in literature. Sad. But not surprising.

    But thanks for the rant! See, you're smarter than the last people who revised the DSM.

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