This entry is just a transcript of a conversation that I imagined with a character in my head [not my subconscious or my inner goddess, thank you very much! :p], edited slightly for relevance. [J. characterizes Grey as “exponentially irritating.”]
“You were just irritated?” I raise my eyebrows and look up at him. “I was more than that — I was philosophically alarmed by E.L. James’ conditional and super captious moral code, in which people’s acceptability is apparently based on whether she finds them disgusting.”
J. shakes his head a little bit. “Well, yes, there’s that. Mostly, though, I had an overwhelming sense of wanting to punch Christian in the face.”
[We have a brief discussion of the capitalist imperatives that bloated the series from one passable book into three abysmal ones, chock full of tedious sex scenes. Then J. returns to his original subject:]
J remarks, “…That’s really not saying much for Grey if a book intended to make him more well-rounded, sympathetic, and sexy brings out all my vindictive and sadistic impulses to pound him into the ground until he’s just a bloody stain.”
“Well, first of all, you and I are not the target audience. Second of all, the target audience that ‘asked and asked and asked’ for this, according to E.L. James’ dedication, is probably enjoying the ad nauseam sex scenes and looking much less critically at the nominal plot that strings them together. I really doubt that the people who liked the trilogy are getting out of Grey a desire to kill the narrator for his insufferable dipshittery.”
J. flattens his eyebrows. “I dunno. You read the Amazon reviews, right, where some people were saying that they liked the trilogy because Christian was enigmatic, mercurial, and sexy in that, but then, in Grey, he loses much of his magnetism because he comes across as an immature person who throws temper tantrums?”
“Mmmm, you’re right. I guess this book did kill his attractiveness, even for some longtime fans. Should I say, ‘Fair point well made as ever’?” I ask teasingly, sticking out my tongue, as the characters in the trilogy use this phrase constantly, even though I’ve never encountered it in fictional or real-life speech before.
J. pulls his lips diagonally, grimacing. “Please don’t. Then I’d have to punish you.”
“Uh huh.” I cross my arms. “And how would you do that? –Spanking?”
J. snickers and favors me with a smirk. “Nothing so crude, of course — I’d just abort this book club discussion, and you’d be in agony.”
“Prostrate with suffering,” I agree in a deadpan.
He wrinkles his nose. “Nah, that was me while I was reading this shit. Christian is such a hypocritical, intolerant, impatient misery monger with no sense of humor! I think his double standards pissed me off the most. As you know, he becomes annoyed at the slightest things. For example, when his brother flirts with Ana’s friend, he’s annoyed. When Ana’s friend even breathes, he calls her an ‘exasperating woman.’ He even feels disgusted when his family members express excitement over him having a girlfriend. He has no tolerance for predictable, socially acceptable, and even expected emotional responses.”
“His hatred for Katherine — that’s Ana’s friend — particularly struck me as unreasonable,” I add. “He calls her Ana’s ‘so-called friend,’ as if he has evidence that Katherine doesn’t care for Ana, but she does. In fact, Christian himself witnesses Katherine’s fierce protectiveness when he tries to barge into their apartment, but Katherine gets angry at him. She doesn’t let him in at first because, as she correctly observes, he makes Ana unhappy; she cries all the time ever since she’s started seeing him. Of course, because Christian’s denial is deeper than the river in Egypt, Katherine’s spot-on penetration of his abusive bullshit only infuriates him — ”
“–Giving him yet another excuse to stoke his hatred of her,” J. cuts in.
“Yeah, but, when you get right down to it, Christian has no good reason for hating Katherine as much as he does. He judges her negatively without any evidence and stacks up on the contemptuous comments whenever he sees her doing neutral things, like smiling at Elliot because she likes him.So basically,” I conclude, “Christian hates Katherine for existing.”
“Ya know,” J. says, stroking his beard, “I think it’s a little more than that. Your point — fair point well made as ever — ” he adds, pulling a face.
“ARRRRRGH!” I smack my forehead.
“–Your point that he dislikes her for seeing through his bullshit makes sense. Look at all the contexts during which he expresses hostility toward her. He grumbles because she didn’t show up to her interview with him, leaving Ana to cover instead. He fumes when she’s attracted to Elliot and when she tries to bar him from the apartment. In other words, he pouts whenever Katherine doesn’t pay attention to him.”
“–Which is especially rich,” I say, “given that he’s forever whining about what a pain in the ass it is when nearly every single woman he encounters tries to flirt with him.”
“Well, yeah, don’t you see?” J. puts out his hands. “For all his complaints that everyone thinks he’s sexy, Christian does really expect the world to revolve around his rich cis white Western penis. He bases his self-worth on his looks and his money, so he desperately wants everyone to be impressed by them. But Katherine refuses to be glamoured by the wealth and the pretty face.”
“For all that Christian refers to Ana seeing through him and making him feel vulnerable,” I comment, “I don’t think she analyzes him so well as Katherine does.”
“Exactly. He hates her so much because she realizes that the emperor has no clothes. She’s the only one with an ounce of objective analysis in the whole series, and it scares the shit out of him. The man has zero redeeming qualities. Zero!” He makes an O with thumb and forefinger for emphasis.
“That makes me think of something I’ve read about abusive relationships where they can warp the standards of the victim so that they don’t know what kindness really is. For example, if you’ve got an unpredictable, shit-fit-throwing partner like Christian who’s always having some dramatic moment, you might think any sort of lull, during which he acts with a modicum of decency, means kindness and gentleness.”
“Like if he and Ana have a fight about her visiting her mom in Georgia without asking his permission, but then he calms down and says, ‘It’s okay. I’m not mad. You can go.’ –Which, by the way, is how that conversation went down in spirit, if not in letter,” J. says as an aside. “That’s a textbook example of abusive manipulation because he frames the situation as one in which Ana should have read his mind and intuited the need he has to know her every movement.”
“So he throws a fit at her,” I go on, “because she, like a well-socialized human being with a functional sense of self-esteem and autonomy, decides to do something that has everything to do with her and nothing to do with him. However, because Christian has pathological problems, he turns Ana’s visit to her mom as a testing ground for his tiresome insecurities. Because it’s all about him, it’s now a magnanimous gesture of compassion on his part to allow her to do something that she didn’t need his permission to do in the first place.” I shake my head. “I can really see the abusive dynamics at work in that scene, and they look ridiculous because Christian is trying to manipulate her as if his shit-fit tactics should work — ”
“–But they don’t,” J. points out, “because he hasn’t established the sort of warped abusive control over Ana wherein she depends on him for everything.”
“That’s one way of looking at the entire series,” I say. “–An abuser grooming a prospective victim for mental, emotional, and physical subjugation, maltreatment, and dependency.”