I really like life without Fifty Shades of Grey.
The absence of it is kind of like a respite from pain or annoyance; eventually you get complacent about how much nicer everything is without it, then all of a sudden you step outside your door and even buses are advertising milquetoast porn at you.
I spent a year in the company of these terrible books, mostly because the first one was so goddamn bad that it caused my brain to have some kind of fifty thousand word spasm that is now FREE on Amazon.com. Obviously since I planned on doing parodies of the other two books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series, it seemed like it might be helpful to read them.
So I did. I slogged through and blogged through each and every one of those three godawful affronts to literature. I staggered, glaze-eyed and occasionally screaming, through three monstrously obese volumes of plotless, meaningless guff. And I came out the other side relatively unscathed, considering that there were times when I felt like the acutely depressed horse in The Neverending Story.
Or did I?
It’s time to come clean. I haven’t finished The Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy. Not really. Because there is more.
For those who don’t know (you lucky people) there’s a…thing at the back of Fifty Shades Freed. Actually there’s a couple of things, one being a saccharine vom-fest called Fifty’s First Christmas, in which Baby Edward Christian is coddled by the Cullens Greys and recounts this experience in adowable wickle baby tawk.
Surprisingly, this is a lot worse than it sounds.
The other thing at the back of Fifty Shades Freed basically amounts to a threat. Remember how Stephenie Meyer was going to rewrite the whole turgid Twilight series from Edward’s point of view, until some wonderful someone leaked the manuscript, causing her to abandon the project in a hissyfit? Remember that?
Well, it’s that. No, it really is. Twilight’s idiot, teratomic hellchild once more follows in Mommy’s footsteps with what is tantamount to a written threat to write the entire Fifty Shades Trilogy again, but from Christian Grey’s point of view. Which was why I was working so very hard on ignoring it and hoping it would just go the fuck away.
On the other hand, enough time has passed to make it safe to start hoping that E.L. James is going to follow Meyer’s example and take a pass on the grubby cash-in rewrite. So with that in mind – and with a fervent prayer that this book will never be finished – let’s take a peek at the world through the moody, molten grey eyes of Christian Thundercat Grey.
Meet Christian Grey
“Tomorrow,” I mutter, dismissing Claude Bastille as he stands on the threshold of my office.
“Golf, this week, Grey.” Bastille grins with easy arrogance, knowing that his victory on the golf course is assured.
Hi Claude, bye Claude. That was Claude, by the way. You remember Claude – the black guy who said ‘Golf, this week, Grey’ in Fifty Shades of Grey? Lucky old Claude gets to repeat that one line, before (just like he did in Fifty Shades of Grey) buggering off out of the book forever. Still, at least he gets a name this time, albeit a rather stupid one.
I scowl after him as he turns and leaves. His parting words rub salt into my wounds because despite my heroic attempts in the gym this morning, my personal trainer has kicked my ass.
Not hard enough, it would seem. Two paragraphs in and I already want to give sulky-face Christian a damn good kicking.
Bastille is the only one who can beat me, and now he wants another pound of flesh on the golf course. I detest golf…
Is there anything you like, Christian? Good lord. I thought miseryguts Ana was an exhausting enough point of view character, but two paragraphs in and it looks like Mr. Sparkles here might somehow be even worse.
As I stare out at the Seattle skyline, the familiar ennui seeps into my consciousness…
Might as well jump.
I have to endure an interview with the persistent Miss Kavanagh for the WSU magazine…
Oh my God, I hate this guy. I mean, I hated him anyway, because I’ve read the Fifty Shades series. I know that he’s a rapey, manipulative psycho with no charm, less manners and the sense of humour of a housebrick, but nothing prepared me for him being so incredibly fucking whiny. He’s like an emo Howard Roark.
Why the fuck did I agree to this? I loathe interviews…
See? It’s like if Ana and Morrissey had a baby and bottle fed it nothing but a blend of sad cheap whiskey and the bitter, heartsick tears dilligently harvested from a million lonely high school bathroom stalls.
…inane questions from inane, ill-informed, vacuous idiots. The phone buzzes.
I admit this not only gave me my first laugh, but also that it was a full-on belly laugh. Oh Christian – I know exactly what’s coming your way, and you have never met a moron quite like Ana ‘Holy Crap, We’re Talking About Cheese’ Steele before. Trust me on this.
“Miss Anastasia Steele is here to see you, Mr. Grey.”
“Steele? I was expecting Katherine Kavanagh.”
“It’s Miss Anastasia Steele who’s here, sir.”
I scowl. I hate the unexpected…
…I hate the rain and sunny weather. And I hate the beach and mountains too, boo-hoo.”
“Show her in,” I mutter, aware that I sound like a sulky teen but not giving a fuck.
Ah, James. In a sick kind of way I’ve missed you. Whereas other authors would look back at the previous pages and realise that their moody hero is actually coming off as simply stroppy, you just hang a lampshade on that and meander off on your lazy, comma-strewn way. Bravo. Bra-fucking-vo, you terrible scrub.
Okay. So having established that Christian hates…well, everything actually, it’s time for him to meet the love of his life. Sort of. Insofar as you can describe Ana and Christian’s awful pelvic symbosis as ‘love’.
A commotion at the door brings me to my feet as a whirl of long chestnut hair, pale limbs and brown boots dives headfirst into my office.
I stared at this sentence for a long time. I still have no clear idea what it is and why it exists. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this may be one of the worst character entrances in literature. While it’s awful even by E.L. James standards, I suppose we should be somewhat grateful that Ana’s boots don’t have their own haircut and haven’t started blinking at him or ‘regarding him shrewdly’ or whatever it was Christian Grey’s tie apparently got up to in their first meeting. I think one item of sentient clothing is more than enough in most modern BDSM relationships.
Anyway, he scoops up Klutzy O’Faceplant from the floor and describes her, causing him to reveal what we’ve all known all along anyway; that frumpy, self-loathing Ana was always only a romance novel make-over away from being a doe-eyed porcelain beauty.
She has a small, sweet face that is blushing now, an innocent pale rose. I wonder briefly if all her skin is like that – flawless – and what it would look like pink and warmed from the bite of a cane.
And straight off the bat he’s thinking pervy thoughts. This relationship is off to a flying start.
She gapes at me, and I almost roll my eyes again. Yeah, yeah, baby, it’s just a face, and the beauty is only skin deep. I want to dispel that unguarded, admiring look from those big blue eyes.
I admit I was curious to see how James handled a different narrative voice, and the short answer is that she doesn’t. Christian has gone from Draco Malfoy to Austin Powers and back in the space of about two hundred words.
A nervous, bashful, bookish type, eh? She looks it; hideously dressed, hiding her slight frame beneath a shapeless sweater and an A-line brown skirt.
Don’t be so superficial, Christian. If you would only look beneath the geeky, bookish surface you’d see that she’s actually denser than any of those blonde bimbos she devotes her few non-Christian related thoughts to disparaging. Seriously – ask her about Tess of the D’Urbervilles. That’s always hilarious.
Ana then gazes at the paintings – the ones that were so carefully described in Fifty Shades of Grey that I initially thought they were a plot point. Surprisingly, it turns out that they sort-of are, except you’ll never guess how. If you’re eating or drinking anything you might want to swallow it before you read the next paragraph.
“They’re lovely. Raising the ordinary to extraordinary,” she says dreamily, lost in the exquisite, fine artistry of my paintings. Her profile is delicate – an upturned nose, soft, full lips – and in her words she has mirrored my sentiments exactly. “The ordinary raised to extraordinary.” It’s a keen observation. Miss Steele is bright.
Yeah. This is the woman who not only thought you couldn’t use helicopters in a city because they needed ‘lots of space to take off’, but who also thought you could fly from Seattle to New York in one. She used the words ‘terminal velocity’ in the same thought as ‘elevator’ and didn’t even think to take the stairs. Hell, she probably thought Aristotle was Belgian.
Ana then sits down and fumbles about with the mini-disc recorder, prompting the weathercock of Christian’s inconsistent character voice to swing back round to pervy Draco Malfoy.
As she grows more and more flustered, it occurs to me that I could refine her motor skills with the aid of a riding crop. Adeptly used it can bring even the most skittish to heel.
That lasts all of about one paragraph before we’re back to Austin Powers, swinging briefly past Prince Joffrey and veering slightly towards Robin Thicke. Actually I’m getting character voice flashbacks to a vampire novel I wrote when I was fifteen or sixteen, which was pretty much full of all the things you’d expect from a fifteen year old’s vampire novel; frilly cuffs, horrible dialogue, inaccurate BDSM and quite extraordinary amounts of crying.
She peeks up at me and bites down on her full bottom lip. Fuck me! How did I not notice that mouth before?
“Sorry, I’m not used to this.”
I can tell, baby – my thought is ironic…
That’s not irony. That’s just really, really creepy.
This is actually kind of funny to read, because you can see how the author is trying to re-write the entire conversation from the first chapter of Fifty Shades of Grey but keeps tripping over the errors and inconsistencies she never bothered to fix in the first place.
“Did Kate – I mean Miss Kavanagh – explain what the interview was for?”
“Yes, to appear in the graduation issue of the student newspaper, as I shall be conferring the degrees at this year’s graduation ceremony.” Why the fuck I’ve agreed to do that, I don’t know.
See what I mean? Even Christian doesn’t know why he’s yarfing up this expositional hairball, but James very well can’t go back and fix her sloppy first draft. Since the sloppy first draft is now an international best-selling novel with a movie in the can. (Why, God? Why?)
Anyway, on with the infamous interview. This is the bit where Christian drivels at great length like he’s on The Apprentice and Ana sits there gazing at his radiant beauty and wondering why her noo-noo place feels all tickly. In this case we get the Christian’s summarised, interior version of his Apprentice drivel, which is – amazingly – even more douchey than the original.
But Miss Steele, the simple fact is, I’m a fucking genius at what I do. For me it’s like falling off a log. Buying ailing, mismanaged companies and fixing them or, if they’re really broken, stripping their assets and selling them off to the highest bidder.
I still have no idea what he does.
It’s like the author is trying to reframe him as a venture capitalist and asset stripper, but in the first instance he was supposed to be into telecommunications, then sustainable farming and apparently into manufacturing because he liked to build things. And he had a love of ships. Or something.
I mean, she could have solved this confusion by making him go to work once in a while, but since that would cut into the various smirky, quirky, impassive, murmuring, haunted-by-ghosts-of-smiles encounters that people mysteriously find so interesting about these books, we’ll just tell the readers he’s a workaholic and then show over half a million words of Christian Grey either goofing off work or shouting exposition down a telephone.
There’s no two ways about it; these books make The DaVinci Code look like Foucault’s Pendulum.
To succeed in business you need good people, and I can judge a person, better than most.
Christian, on the basis of a single banal observation, you just described a girl who could lose a battle of wits with a cheese sandwich as ‘bright’. This is not what anyone with an IQ larger than their shoe-size would consider to be good judgement.
Ana suggests that his success might have been due to luck, prompting Christian to throw a hissy-fit.
A frisson of annoyance runs through me. Lucky? No fucking luck involved here, Miss Steele.
Says the crack-baby who was adopted by the millionaires.
Hard work, bringing people with me, keeping a close watch on them, second-guessing them if I need to; and if they aren’t up to the task, ruthlessly ditching them. That’s what I do, and I do it well. It’s nothing to do with luck. Well, fuck that. Flaunting my erudition, I quote the words of my favourite American industrialist to her.
Needlessly dangling a participle, I check my notes for this section and read ‘This man is an absolute cock’.
Ana then says he sounds like a control freak, which once again – for no reason – stuns him with the originality and audacity of her completely unexciting observation. Again, it’s one of of those desperate attempts to retrofit some kind of real motivation into the hollow cardboard box of Christian’s character, when it was obvious in the original that Christian had no character or motivation, beyond being brooding and disdainful and making Ana gush like Old Faithful all over his white leather couch.
Anyway, she then asks him about his interests and he goes creepy once more.
“I have varied interests, Miss Steele. Very varied.” I smile. Images of her in assorted positions in my playroom flash through my mind: shackled on the cross, spread-eagled on the four-poster, splayed over the whipping bench. Fucking hell! Where is this coming from?
Yer a pervert, ‘Arry.
The girl is a mass of contradictions: shy, uneasy, obviously bright, and arousing as hell. Yes, okay, I admit it. She’s an alluring little piece.
Could this guy sound any more like a total neckbeard?
She regards me with a quizzical expression as if I’m some kind of conundrum for her to solve, but there is no way I want those big blue eyes seeing into my dark soul.
Oh, he could. Apparently.
I shrug, feigning boredom, and I imagine fucking her smart mouth to distract myself from all thoughts of hunger.
Surprisingly, this works pretty well. I was thinking about lunch before I read that sentence. And then I wasn’t.
Christian then goes on to say his guiding principle in life is to control things and people, and more or less admits that he thinks people are also things.
“So you want to possess things?” Her eyes widen.
Yes, baby. You, for one.
And there we have it – in black and white, straight from the horse’s mouth. The hero of this ‘liberating’ and apparently oh-so-empowering trilogy openly admits that he thinks women are things he can own. And don’t even think about telling me that he revises his opinion over the course of the books, because I’ve read them.
“You sound like the ultimate consumer.” Her voice is tinged with disapproval, pissing me off again. She sounds like a rich kid who’s had all she ever wanted, but as I take a closer look at her clothes – she’s dressed in Walmart, or Old Navy possibly – I know that isn’t it. She hasn’t grown up in an affluent household.
This observation prompts him to think he could ‘really take care of’ her, because it’s the twenty-first century and that’s what every modern woman needs – a man to buy her shiny baubles. You can tell that just a find/replace ago he was Edward Cullen, an old fashioned gentleman from a time when men were men and women were property.
“You were adopted. How far do you think that’s shaped the way you are?”
What the fuck does this have to do with the price of oil? I scowl at her. What a ridiculous question. If I’d stayed with the crack whore, I’d probably be dead.
Tease me with that beautiful thought, why don’t you, James?
The answer to this ‘ridiculous question’ is, of course, a whole fucking lot. In the real world infantile amnesia – the inability of anyone to remember much before the age of about four or five years of age – is a widely documented if still little understood phenomenon. Obviously it’s not so widely documented that the author has heard of it, which is why Christian spends three entire books hanging his foul behaviour and imaginary ‘issues’ on things he probably wouldn’t even remember.
She asks him if he’s had to sacrifice a family life for his work, which he thinks is another stupid question and surprisingly I actually agree. He’s supposed to be about twenty-seven. If I meet someone and they haven’t started a family by the age of twenty-seven I automatically assume they know how condoms work.
“Are you gay, Mr. Grey?”
What the fuck! I cannot believe she’s said that out loud! The unspoken question that my own family dares not ask, much to my amusement.
Your family is fucked up, but we knew that anyway.
There are lots of quite revolting things about these books, but this is one of the very special ones; the implied assumption that if Christian were gay he would be somehow broken or defective. Which is hilarious when you think about it.
I have to fight down the urge to drag her out of her seat, bend her across my knee, then fuck her over my desk with her hands tied tightly behind her back. That would answer her question.
Um, Christian? She asked if you were gay. Not if you were a sex-offender. (Although you are, obviously.)
I’m sorry, but this is the man we’re supposed to be wanking ourselves into a coma over? A man who thinks women are possessions and who fantasises about raping random strangers? Not that it should come as a surprise that he does so, after three horrible books where ‘no’ variously means ‘yes’, ‘maybe’ and ‘I don’t know but you could probably talk me into it’, but I always held onto the desperate hope that maybe it was due to bad writing.
And it’s not. He really is that bad.
Well, that’s about as much of that as I can stand right now. I’m told that even fans of the books didn’t like this glimpse of the world through Christian’s eyes, which is understandable because it’s about as charming as a peek at a BBC accountant’s fevered erotic fantasies about Jeremy Clarkson. The other reason is that it pretty much confirms all the things that us nasty meanie-head ‘HATERS’ said about their precious darling Christian Grey (aspiring serial killer, creep, perv, rapist) and there’s nothing they can do about it since it comes from the semi-original shitfaucet herself.
Still, it’s pretty bad. Next time, thrill as Christian Grey gets down with his serial killer side and runs a comprehensive background check on a woman he has met once and wanted to rape. It’s a love story – you can tell.