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50 shades of unintentional connotations

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The following conversation occurred at work the other day:


MD executive [jokingly, to HR executive, holding up document]: This is like that book 50 Shades of Grey!

Me [to MD executive’s assistant]: Did he just say what I think he said?! To an HR person?!

MD executive’s assistant: Yeahhhhh…he doesn’t know what that book’s about.

Me [later, after some thought]: Did he mean that it was confusing and hard to understand, like it wasn’t black and white, but shades of grey?

MD executive’s assistant: Yup, and, while that’s technically correct…

Me: Jeez, I really hope that document wasn’t like grade Z erotica.

I expect there was some subtlety lost in translation too, as the MD executive’s primary language is not English.

And here, my dear readers, we have a great illustration of the difference between connotation and denotation. If I say in an exasperated voice, “Ugh, this stinkin’ document is 50 shades of grey!” it is eminently plausible that I’m annoyed at its endless sfumato murkiness, and I could certainly use the words to denote that — that is, to indicate it definitionally. However, such a remark now currently carries associations with certain pieces of grade Z erotica, so, even if I mean something frustratingly ambiguous, no one will interpret my remark that way.

Speaking of grey, apparently une éminence grise does NOT mean an old, respected, redoubtable person, but a power behind the throne. I always thought it referred to an old eminent person, with the grey alluding to the person’s grey hair, but apparently it refers to Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, the advisor of Cardinal Richelieu. Leclerc was technically not due the title of Eminence, as he wasn’t a cardinal, but people called him the Grey Eminence in respect to his power. The grise denotes not the color grey, but Leclerc’s beige friar robes. I guess beige was called grise back then. Makes me wonder what the French for beige was.

50 Shades of Poooo, book 1, chapter 12: not missing it this time

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After having read Clarissa, which handled the whole rape scene plot in a frighteningly realistic manner, I repair to 50 Shades of Pooooooooo, chapter 12, location of a rape scene that I’ve apparently missed all the times I’ve looked at it. Continue reading 50 Shades of Poooo, book 1, chapter 12: not missing it this time

One of the things I especially dislike about rape scenes

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…When I miss the rape scenes because I’m so inculcated, acculturated, and inured to depictions of normalized sexual assault that I gloss over them as examples of…well, not unproblematic sex, but at least not-rape scenes.


Rape scenes I have missed:


  • The bit in Rocky Horror where Frank tricks Brad into sex by pretending to be Janet and Janet into sex by pretending to be Brad.
  • The one in chapter 12 of 50 Shades of Poooooooooooo. Hat tip to Cliff Pervocracy for identifying and deconstructing it.

Master of the Universe as commentary on Twilight

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I skimmed some of Masters of the Universe while I was doing something else, which is probably the best way to read it. :p Thoughts follow.

  • It’s very strange to read a story in which Bella and Rosalie are roommates. I kept thinking, Wrong! Rosalie is a Cullen, and she lives in a strange vampire family with all the other Cullens.
  • Very little seems to have changed between the self-published version of Masters of the Universe and the traditionally published 50 Poops. There was obviously a search and replace done on character names, some superficial clean-up for spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and a removal of some Briticisms. Other than that, though, it’s all pretty much the same: the scenes, the lines, the adverbs, everything. Made me realize how much 50 Poops could have used an editor. I think there was an opportunity here for some heroic editorial effort to turn improve the story by excising redundancy and making it overall more concise. Then it would have still be formulaic and cliched, but at least it wouldn’t have been so badly written and constructed.
  • Now that I think about it, E.L. James’ interpretation of Edward Cullen as a really bad dom who can’t separate his actual self from his pathological need for controlling everything is pretty accurate. No wonder Stephenie Meyer doesn’t really like E.L. James. E.L. James can see the grotesquerie at the base of Meyer’s characters.

50 Shades and the fanfic shrew

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1. Stephenie Meyer writes Twilight saga.

2. E.L. James writes Twilight fanfic, Masters of the Universe.

3. E.L. James edits and publishes novels, the 50 Poops trilogy, based on Masters of the Universe.

4. E.L. James publishes Grey, arguably fanfic of her own trilogy.

I think we’ve moved past ouroboric territory. That snake is just biting its tail; no one ever said it was trying to consume itself from the end up. However, I hear that, when some shrews get exceedingly desperate [i.e., they haven’t eaten in about five hours], they start eating themselves. We’re in starving shrew country now.

Watch out. They bite.

Now we know what Stephenie Meyer thinks of 50 Shades.

Now we know what Stephenie Meyer thinks of 50 Shades. published on No Comments on Now we know what Stephenie Meyer thinks of 50 Shades.

After wondering Meyer’s opinion a while back on E.L. James’ series that started off as Twilight fanfic, I finally found an answer to that question. In a recent presentation at the New York Comic Con, Meyer tergiversated on the eventual release of Midnight Sun, apparently claiming that James’ Grey pissed her off so much that she changed her mind yet again on publishing Edward’s point of view. Meyer characterized the news that James had come out with Grey as “a literal flip the table moment.”


From this I deduce that [surprise surprise!] Meyer really dislikes 50 Poops. I’m sure Meyer takes offense that James co-opted Meyer’s cherished, chaste characters and reinterpreted them as people who can’t stop banging. Beyond that, however, Meyer also appears to be fuming because James got there first. In Meyer’s mind, the objectionable Twilight wannabe with her objectionable characters and objectionable ideas of sex has copied Meyer’s idea — a romance novel from the dude’s perspective — yet again. Meyer dislikes James for claiming attention and money that Meyer believes should be directed toward her. This is yet another case of Meyer acting like her books are a sacred extension of her self. Her lack of critical distance and self-reflection on her creations really drives me up the wall.

50 Farts #4, entry 5

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Two contracts figure prominently in the 50 Farts trilogy. The first is a non-disclosure agreement, which the characters refer to as an “NDA,” which Christian requires Ana to sign before any sort of physical activity between them. This is a legally binding document which Ana signs immediately, without fully reading.

The other document, which the characters refer to as a “contract,” is a description of the practices, obligations, and expectations of a bdsm relationship between Christian [the “Dominant”] and Ana [the “Submissive”]. Christian wishes that Ana would agree to the contract with as much alacrity as she agreed to the NDA, but she and he engage in tedious, minute discussion of its contents. It is not a legally binding document.

E.L. James lavishes much more attention on the contract than the NDA. We get the full text of the contract, but only dismissive summary of the NDA. Ana doesn’t even analyze the NDA at all; in fact, she skips directly to the signature line. By contrast, she queries Christian about many aspects of the contract, and James treats the reader to their endless back-and-forth. Clearly, she finds the contract much more important than the NDA.


But wait a minute… Back up there, author. I’m still hung up on the fact that a) Christian trots out an NDA before all nookie and b) Ana signs it without any compunction. Who does this doofus think he is? Usually people whip out NDAs when they have big, important secrets and/or when they have audiences eager for [salacious] details about their lives. While Christian’s interest in bdsm counts as a big secret, we have no indication anywhere in the narrative universe that anyone would really give a crap. [Seriously…do gossip magazines and paparazzi have any significant role in this series? No.] Sure, if Christian were a hot Hollywood celebrity with a reputation and a brand to manage, he might have an NDA, but I’m not convinced he’s famous, only that he’s rich. I suppose that anyone with his amount of money automatically has a reputation that they care about, but I don’t see his NDA as Christian Grey [TM] brand management. I see it as a way for a control freaky drip to inflate his own sense of self-worth by throwing his weight around in the form of unnecessarily punitive legal nonsense.


As I said, I also have great reservations about Ana’s uncritical acceptance of Christian’s NDA. Look at it this way: As soon as Ana and Christian establish mutual interest in intimacy, Christian produces a document that basically requires Ana’s silence so that the relationship may continue. This immediately makes me wonder what he’s hiding. What doesn’t he want her to talk about? Why doesn’t he want her to talk? What bullshit is he trying to keep under wraps? Absent any narrative indication that anyone really cares what he’s doing, Christian’s NDA comes across as an excessively controlling gesture by an abusive wanker. Ana’s blithe disregard for this red flag shows her to be very inexperienced and clueless.

50 Farts #4: entry 4

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P. 117: Christian has one of his inane flashbacks: “Mommy is happy. She is singing. / Singing about what love has to do with it. / And cooking. And singing. / My tummy gurgles. She is cooking bacon and waffles. / They smell so good. My tummy likes bacon and waffles. / They smell so good.” The slashes indicate line breaks. I’m sad to report that this is a typical flashback into young Christian’s point of view. He appears to consolidate many of James’ worst writing habits into the space of a short scene: telling and not showing, useless paragraph breaks, redundancy, stating the obvious, overkill, and redundancy [hah!]. James does not know how to differentiate characters’ voices, much less how to write a young child.


P. 124: Christian’s talking about his penis: “I want you to become well acquainted, on first-name terms, if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body. I’m very attached to this.” Nobody talks like this, especially not a rich 27-year-old college drop-out billionaire. It’s just hammy, redundant, and ridiculous. I am sure that there are people who act like their penises are their “most cherished” body parts, but I highly doubt these people would express those sentiments in the above terms. They’re probably telling people to suck it [literally].

As for the last sentence, again Christian illustrates that he has something like an anti-sense of humor. I think we’re supposed to take that line at face value — i.e., he really feels emotionally “attached to” his penis. Sorry, Christian — I’m just too hung up on the fact that the adjective you used to describe your interest in your penis also literally describes the physical state of every single other body part of yours. I hope you’re attached to your penis, Christian, ’cause it’s attached to you physiologically. Christian’s apparent inability to recognize that words have more than one meaning [ref. his earlier, unremarked description of his unhappiness as “gray”] makes him sound really obtuse. He has got to be one of the world’s dullest and most literal people.


Number 4 in the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy: entry #1

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E.L. James recently busted out with the super-imaginatively titled Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian. Naturally, given how much fun I had with the first three books of the trilogy, I just had to check out book 4. This time, I’m prepared: I have my tablet computer beside me to record my thoughts as I read. Forthwith, my discussion of the first 43 pages:


“Copyright 2011, 2015.” I assume that the 2011 date means when this was written. How does that compare to the chronology of the first three books? I am having trouble finding out when the original trilogy was drafted as fanfic, as it’s generally referred to by its official publication date, of which the first was in 2011. Basically I wonder whether this book was a part of the original story or whether it was written to capitalize on the enthusiastic reception that the first three received. James’ dedication of the book to “those readers who asked…and asked…and asked for this” suggests the latter. It’s the Midnight Sun of 50 Shades!

On that note, has anyone asked Stephenie Meyer what she thinks of her opus being an inspiration for this? As she espouses conservatively heteronormative concepts of sex, I have no doubt that she would feel disquieted and disapproving.


P. 3: The book begins with a dream from young Christian’s point of view in which he tries to get his mom’s attention by throwing toy cars at her, to which she calls him “maggot.” Upon waking up, modern Christian asks himself, “What the hell was that about?”

I can tell you what it was about, you dipstick — it was about your miserable childhood and your miserable relationship with your abusive mom! I suppose James is trying for sympathy here by making Christian a lost, lonely little boy. However, his ignorance about what the hell that means seems almost willful and pathetic instead of provoking sympathy. Well, it’s provoking, all right, but I don’t think it’s provoking what James intended it to provoke.

P. 4: “My mood is as flat and gray as the weather.” We have no evidence of this. Yet again, James prefers to tell, rather than show. Also Christian is apparently using “gray” as a synonym for “bleak” in all seriousness, with no acknowledgment whatsoever of the fact that he has just canonically, implicitly equated his own surname with depressingness. To me, this illustrates [yet again] his lack of even the most basic self-awareness, as well as his tragic, chronic, acute lack of a sense of humor.


I mean really! Realistically, people pay attention to these things. I have a character in my mini universe named Grey [partly as part of my attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of one of my favorite words and colors from its recent association with 50 Shades of Poo]. She’s introduced by someone who opines that she’s so boring that even her name is Grey, and his interlocutor says, “Like the color?” [Yes, like the color.] I find it really irritating that Christian doesn’t seem to recognize the metaphorical potential in his own name.


Now I kinda want to write more about Grey because, even in the brief appearances she’s made in the mini universe, she exhibits more intriguingness and depth than Christian….

“…[T]he only thing to capture my interest recently has been my decision to send two freighters of cargo to Sudan.” I’d be more convinced of Christian’s interest if he provided some more details, like what he was shipping, exactly where he was shipping it, how he felt about his shipments, and why this decision stood out for him amongst the grey [har har] dullness of his life. As it is, he’s just claiming that the only exciting thing he’s done recently is to send two loads of stuff to a place. Consider my interest supremely uncaptured.

P. 6: Ana comments on the paintings on Christian’s wall, saying that they’re “raising the ordinary to extraordinary.” Christian judges this to be a “keen observation.” I might believe him if James gave us some detail about the “ordinary” contents of the art and how the artist made them “extraordinary.”  I’m not asking for William Carlos Williams and his red wheelbarrow charged with significance here, just a little more foundation for these otherwise baseless claims.

P. 7: “Grey, stop this now. … Stop being such a shit, Grey.” Christian talks to himself in exactly the same way that we had to suffer Ana’s internal monologue for three books. Fortunately, though, we have yet to see his subconscious or his inner goddess [or its equivalent]. [Incidentally, I’d be enthralled if Christian had an inner goddess. But no, that’s much too potentially interesting for such a straight-and-narrow author.] As for the advice that he gives himself, he’d do us all a favor if he took it, but then there’d be no story….

P. 13: Ana says, “Don’t let me keep you from anything.”

Christian’s inner monologue says, “Oh no, baby. It’s my turn now.” He has this irritating habit of calling Ana “baby” in his head; she doesn’t even really have a name to him. He’s just thinking of her as one of an interchangeable series of submissive brunettes.


Well, I guess I can’t complain about James telling instead of showing here. Christian’s behavior very clearly shows him paying zilcho respect to Ana. He thinks of her solely in terms of an object to give him pleasure as he hits her and uses her for sexual release.


One of Christian’s [many] problems lies in his control freakery. He has made the acquisition and exercise of control central to his identity. Therefore he controls everything, which, for him, includes playing the dominant role in his bdsm games. He sees the dominant role not as a role, but as an expression of self, an extension of his essence. He assumes that he should automatically be in control because that’s who he is.


Thus he completely neglects the negotiation common to a lot of bdsm practice. This negotiation, in which the participants talk about what their interests are and what roles they want to take, is an opportunity to ensure that all participants are getting what they want out of their games. Christian, though, doesn’t negotiate; he only cares about what others want insofar as it aligns with his compulsive control freakery. He doesn’t use bdsm games as a way to connect with participants, only to reassure himself that the world does indeed revolve around his straight white cis rich Western dude penis.


There is an interesting idea in here somewhere about a desperately empty person who confuses control with selfhood and, for some reason, turns to bdsm games in an attempt to fill himself up. However, I would find this story much more engaging if the pursuit of bdsm games provoked this desperately empty person to think about elective roleplaying. He could reflect that, while the role of control freak was an ingrained habit, it was also a role, not the totality of his existence, but a facet of himself that he could choose to perpetuate, alter, or nix. He could realize that he was neither necessarily nor solely a control freak; he could be other than a control freak! He could be someone who could play the control freak for bdsm games, and then, in the rest of his life, explore other roles, of which control freak would be only one. In other words, he could chill out and learn that he was a lot more multi-faceted than a desperately empty control freak. You know, a well-rounded, sympathetic human being. However, because this conditional tangent involves carefully considered character development and a slightly more nuanced discussion of the uses of bdsm games, we won’t be reading it in this book.


Where was I? Oh yeah, page 13. At this rate, I’ll never make it past the first chapter…

P. 16: He does a background check on Ana?! Oh, that’s real sexy.

P. 19: “I mainly shop online for my needs, but while I’m here, maybe I’ll stock up on a few items: Velcro, split rings  — Yeah. I’ll find the delectable Miss Steele and have some fun.” Okay, so it’s confirmed that Christian abuses his wealth to find out where Ana works, then goes way out of his way to her workplace to “have some fun” by ordering bdsm supplies with her help and watching her squirm at his innuendo. Hmmm, yes, because being manipulated by an arrogant, condescending, self-centered, power-hungry, pathologically possessive stalker turns everyone on.

Stop being such a shit, Grey!

P. 43: Christian is talking about Jude the Obscure and Tess of the d’Urbervilles: “Both are bleak books, with tragic themes. Hardy had a dark, twisted soul.

“Like me.”

Get over yourself, for God’s sake! If you really believe that you’re an unlovable wretch, there are less pretentious ways of expressing that sentiment than by straight-up comparing yourself to Thomas Hardy. This is only acceptable if you’re like 15, and you’ve just finished a unit on dead white British dudes of the 1800s in second period sophomore English. Even then, though, such a simile is in really questionable taste.




50 Books of Grey — beating a dead horse to death

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Whenever we encounter something particularly repetitive — especially if it’s a book or a movie that slams the same point home ad nauseam — Jill and I call it “beating a dead horse to death.” Yes, I know that phrase is redundant itself, but it also illustrates that the redundancy we’re referring to is not just useless, but exquisitely overdone. If I really want to emphasize the redundancy in something, I’ll go even further and talk about beating a horse to death, resurrecting it as a zombie, then bludgeoning it into inanimacy again.

All of this is to say that E.L. James’ new book, Grey: 50 Shades of Grey as Told by Christian, is caught in some hellish spin cycle of endless zombie horse torture. It’s right up there with Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun — which is Twilight from Edward’s point of view — in terms of gratuitous fatuity. Naturally, I have it on reserve at the library so I’m first in line to read it when it arrives…assuming I can suppress a) my gag reflexes, b) my pain sensors, and c) my compulsion to throw it across the room.

“It is also sort of classy-looking, in a generic, TV-ad-for-bath-oil way.”

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Bwah hah! Lisa Schwartzbaum damns the 50 Shades of Grey movie with faint praise in the linked review. I particularly like the line quoted in the subject.

The general consensus appears to be that this movie is decidedly mediocre: not so bad it’s good, but definitely hampered by the headliners’ limited acting abilities [I’m looking at you, Jamie Dornan!], a sort of generic set dressing and the refusal of the script to let the main characters take off their pants and actually do something significantly sexy.

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50 Shades of Registered Trademark

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Last December I noted that Vermont Teddy Bear had a bear clearly inspired by 50 Shades of Blaugh, which was discontinued [after it sold out] because it was unlicensed. Well, it looks like VTB got the legit license to do Blaugh bears, ’cause here they are. I just know they’re going to sell out, especially in conjunction with the Valentine’s Day release of the Blaugh film adaptation, which is going to be a turd.

The impending release of the movie has people online talking about the books again and their abysmal portrayal of pretty much everything, but bdsm in particular. Now I kinda wanna read it again…

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50 Shades of…Unlicensed Reproduction??

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Apparently Vermont Teddy Bear had a 50 Shades of Bear teddy bear that, with its suit, mask and handcuffs, was clearly inspired by the character Christian "50 Shades of Abusive" Grey in the 50 Shades series. Media consensus agreed with Cosmo that it was "quietly unsettling," and yet the item sold out, though it disappeared from the site after Valentine’s because apparently it was not an officially licensed 50 Shades thing. Whoops.

P.S. Why were the bear’s eyes blue? What’s-‘is-face has grey eyes.

P.P.S. Did it come with an Ana doll that tripped over its own feet and had a voice box to say, "Wow!" and "Double crap!"? No? Okay, then I’m not interested. :p

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Baroque architecture, BDSM lust novels and very expensive puns: starring Jareth and Jennifer

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I made this mini universe story this weekend just so I could have a chance to make this pun. Well, I also did want to use my new Montespan Interior Scene and Jareth’s fabulous Baroque outfit. Anyway, enjoy.

Note: Jareth is reading the third in the 50 Shades Trilogy. All the faces he makes come directly from my own reactions, although, in my case, there was a lot more yelling at the book. :p
Continue reading Baroque architecture, BDSM lust novels and very expensive puns: starring Jareth and Jennifer

50 Shades of Rape Culture: “You do the math”

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Hey kids! I know that you eagerly awaited my scathing rant on chapters 2 through 5 that I promised, but too bad. I will dispense with an analysis of all the problems in chapter 5 to zero in on a particularly repugnant snippet therein.

To set the stage, immediately before chapter 5, Ana and acquaintances go out drinking to celebrate the successful end of finals. Ana becomes sloshed and drunk-dials Christian. Her so-called friend Jose sexually assaults her, only to be fended off by Christian, who has tracked Ana’s cell phone and come to pick her up. Jose leaves as Ana, no doubt mirroring the reader’s disgust, pukes everywhere. She and Christian dance for a little bit until she passes out.

Chapter 5 begins with Ana in an unfamiliar bed. She quickly realizes that Christian has taken her to his house and removed her pants. Inevitably, Ana wonders if he raped her. Christian assures her that he likes his women "sentient and receptive" [p. 66], so he did not assault her while she was unconscious. Ana appears disappointed by Christian’s assertion. In a paragraph discussing her confusion about his apparent lack of hots for her, Ana muses [p. 69]:

"He said he likes his woman sentient. He’s probably not celibate then. But he’s not made a pass at me… I don’t understand. … Am I repellent to him? You’ve slept in his bed all night, and he’s not touched you all night. You do the math. My subconscious has reared her ugly, snide head. I ignore her."

As we have already observed, the math is pretty easy to follow. Here’s the equation:

Christian + unconscious Ana rape

Ana, however, seems to wish that Christian had touched her when she was unconscious. In her perspective, his sexual assault of her in her unconscious, unable-to-consent state would prove his desire for her. Because she apparently subscribes to the trope of romance novels that men can’t control their libidos, she conflates rape and desire. It’s a testament to how deeply she has been indoctrinated with a misogynist rape culture that she regrets not having been fucked over in her sleep.

This instance represents possibly the only moment in the series that Christian exhibits a modicum of basic human decency, and yet he gets no credit. I’m not expecting the the story to glorify his not raping an unconscious woman. However, it would be nice if the main character, with whom we are supposed to sympathize, didn’t fault him for it.

I think this excerpt represents E.L. James’ troubling inability, on a global level, to assign the appropriate ethical weight to…well…just about anything. She treats Jose’s sexual assault of Ana like an awkward date, after which Ana feels guilty that she doesn’t call him. She treats Christian’s tracking of Ana through her cell phone as charming protectiveness on his part. She treats bdsm as a dramatic secret nurtured by broken psyches and peeing on a consenting partner as something akin to pedophilia. Whether she’s dismissing significant problems of surveillance, control and consent or using her sense of revulsion as a moral proxy, she gets it wrong again and again.

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50 Shades of Infelicity of Style

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Hey, kids! I’ve progressed up to chapter 5, so I have a significant commentary to write on the pages I have spanned since my last rant. However, I do not have time for full-length vituperation, so I will just make a single comment: E.L. James needs to find another way of describing things besides the "it’s all x, y and z" model. Here’s a random example on page 56, where Ana is observing her so-called "friend" Kate’s outfit:

"She’s all tiny camisole, tight jeans and high heels, her hair piled high with tendrils hanging softly down around her face, her usual stunning self."

I have no intrinsic problem with this phrase; in fact, I like to use it myself on occasion because it gives a sense of a person fascinated by the details and yet also overwhelmed by the overall effect of something. But I only use it on occasion. James, on the other hand, finds a phrase she likes [q.v. "fair point well made"], beats it till it dies, waits till it resurrects as a zombie, then beats it to death again. I repeatedly felt impelled to throw the book across the room, but then I realized I was on a bus, and none of the other passengers would appreciate being bombed with a bomb of a book.

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50 Shades of Bilge: part deux

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All right, individuals, it’s time for another installment in 50 Shades of Meh!

When we last left off, I was on page 11. Let’s see how far I get today…

P. 12: "You sound like the ultimate consumer."

Anna makes this observation after a string of control freaky observations on Christian’s part. I think she’s onto something here.

Christian is an extremely materialist individual who wishes to possess the newest, latest, most expensive objects. He also believes that he can possess people by controlling their finances, as he does with his ex-domme [owning a stake in her salon chain] and ex-sub [bankrolling her therapy]. If he can’t control people financially, he attempts to create bonds of obligation between them and him with extravagant gifts — he gives Ana first editions of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, as well as a phone, a computer, a few cars, etc., etc.

Do we notice a pattern here? Christian substitutes economic transactions for emotional intimacy. Everything has a price, and he’s willing to pay it to create attachments between him and other people. He really doesn’t know about the giving and receiving of oneself that forms a non-obligatory, mutually enjoyable, emotionally based relationship.

In other words, this interview that Ana’s conducting gives Christian opportunity after opportunity to advertise his complete unsuitability as a romantic partner. But who cares? He’s hot!

P. 13: "’Are you gay, Mr. Grey?’ … How can I tell him I’m just reading the questions? Damn Kate and her curiosity!"

Again, Ana — you chose to ask this question. Kate did not force you. You are not being impelled by forces outside of your control, but by your own damn self. Stop  having an external locus of control.

…Okay, I got up to page 19.

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50 Shades of Bilge: the redux

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Gather ’round, folks. I couldn’t wait for my own copy of 50 Shades to materialize, so I borrowed one from the library. I’m working my way through from the beginning, commenting on whatever catches my eye, until I become bored.

P. 3: "Damn my hair — it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanaugh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal."

Look, readers — it’s our first glimpse of our endearing Everywoman protagonist, and what’s she doing? Whingeing about her appearance and cursing her so-called best friend for having the temerity — the utter chutzpah! — to come down with a cold. Though Ana insists that she feels sympathy for Kate, she cusses her out an awful lot in the first few pages.

Ana, you stinkin’ pushover — it’s not Kate’s fault that you blew off your senior finals and essays to do a favor for her — i.e., interviewing Christian Grey. It’s your own dang fault for having all the gumption of a doormat. Try developing some assertiveness and the skills of saying no effectively. Establishing and maintaining personal limits and boundaries proves essential in all relationships, whether with so-called friends, family or BDSM play partners.

P. 5: "It’s a stunning vista, and I’m momentarily paralyzed by the view. Wow." 

The first of many examples in which Ana’s interior monologue adds nothing whatsoever to her narration.

P. 6: "I know nothing about the man I’m about to interview. He could be ninety or he could be thirty. The uncertainty is galling, and my nerves resurface, making me fidget."

Christian bankrolls Ana’s university, but she doesn’t even know that he’s in her age bracket?! Wouldn’t news of him being not only rich, but also young and handsome, travel generally around the campus? ["Yeah, that CEO — you know, the one who’s like 27 and looks like a movie star — he just endowed another building. I’d like to see his endowments, if you know what I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink."] Ana’s so completely clueless that it hurts.

P. 7: "I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet and falling headfirst into the office. Double crap — me and my two left feet!"

Seriously — who says "double crap?" Who?!

P. 11: "Well, to ‘chill out,’ as you put it — I sail, I fly, I indulge in various physical pursuits. … I’m a very wealthy man, Miss Steele, and I have expensive and absorbing hobbies."

Whoop de doo, Christian. You do realize that you’ve just said the equivalent of, ‘I like to do things when I’m not at work. Some of the things involve vehicles, and some of them don’t. All of them cost money and take up time’? In other words, you took a whole bunch of breath to say nothing.

Okay, that’s enough for tonight. I’m going to work on something more entertaining.

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Parce que je suis masochiste, je l’ai acheté encore une fois.

Parce que je suis masochiste, je l’ai acheté encore une fois. published on No Comments on Parce que je suis masochiste, je l’ai acheté encore une fois.

The subject is, of course, French for "Because I am a masochist, I bought it yet again." "It," of course, is the shit heap known as 50 Shades of Grey, which I read about 1.5 years ago and made the mistake of donating to the library when I was done. I don’t regret donating it to the library as much as I regret letting it out of my possession. It’s now returning to my personal library to hang out with Warrior’s Woman, which I assume will just point, laugh and mock 50 Shades mercilessly for being such a repository of incompetence. [One of these days I need to write an essay about Warrior’s Woman and its influence on my narrative imagination.]

As soon as 50 Shades comes, analysis, sarcasm, incredulity and other fun stuff will no doubt ensue. Watch this space! I also foresee some photostories involving my eminently sardonic dolls [Submit: "What’s this about?" / Jareth: "Pain. Acute, chronic, unremitting, agonizing pain. Give me that."] and possibly a book smackdown or two. [50 Shades goes up against a variety of rivals and gets trounced.]

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Ohhhhh — THAT guy! With bonus double crap.

Ohhhhh — THAT guy! With bonus double crap. published on No Comments on Ohhhhh — THAT guy! With bonus double crap.

I know very little about the impending 50 Shades movie, currently slated to come out February 15th, 2015, just in time for Valentine’s Day — because nothing says commercialized heteronormativity than a grade-Z flick glorifying abusive relationships! Anyway, the only person attached to the movie that I’m remotely familiar with is Jamie Dornan. He played the sheriff of Storybrooke, Graham, for the first few episodes of season 1 of Once Upon A Time and died before he did anything interesting. Anyway, in 50 Shades, he has the role of Christian Lead Fit-Thrower. My official reaction is "Meh."

This movie is going to be such double crap… :p

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I don’t think this book was supposed to provoke that particular reaction.

I don’t think this book was supposed to provoke that particular reaction. published on No Comments on I don’t think this book was supposed to provoke that particular reaction.

One of the many reasons I enjoy my new avatar photo is that Jareth looks both considering and on the verge of laughter. In other words, he has on his face the same expression that I had on mine when I was reading Flush Blush Crush Rush by Maya Banks. Well, at least I exhibited aforesaid expression up till page 33, which I just lost it and cracked up.

Rush is not written as a comedy, however. It’s the first in a trilogy of novels about a young, inexperienced ingenue hired to work for an older, richer, wiser dude who overmasters her with his sexy sexiness and seduces her into the thrilling, glamorous world of BDSM, where he dominates and she submits and — hey wait — where have we heard this before? Oh right, in E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Tedium Grey, Sylvia Day’s Bared to Complementary Neuroses You and the herd of other BDSM lust novels that have sprouted like post-rain mushrooms since about 2011. For Pete’s sakes, people — find a new template!

Anyway, at first I thought that Flush might prove better than 50 Shades, as it’s written by an experienced, prolific author. Well, no dice. Bank writes in generic statements and superficial vagueness. A paragraph on page 29, wherein the ingenue eyeballs the rich dude’s office, epitomizes this flaccid style:

[The office] screamed classy and expensive. Rich mahogany wood, polished marble floor that was partly covered with an elegant oriental rug. The furniture was dark leather with an antique, old-world look. Paintings adorned three walls while the last wall was all built-in bookcases filled with an eclectic mixture of works.

As anyone with a modicum of real-life and/or reading experience knows, looking into someone’s personal space — bedroom, study, den, boudoir, office, etc. — provides a wealth of information about their activities, routines, interests, preoccupations and general character. The paragraph above, full of missed opportunities, demonstrates Banks’ generic, inexpensive style because it, technically speaking, contains detail, but doesn’t really communicate anything. The mahogany, marble, oriental [sic] rug, leather furniture, paintings and stocked bookshelves stereotypically signify wealth. Without any further modification to particularize them so that they reveal the character of the rich dude, the stereotypical signifiers just lie there limply like the authorial equivalent of spaghetti flung against the wall in a test to determine its adhesive properties.

As I intimated, Banks passes up a huge chance for the reader to get to know the dominant dude. If she would just give us more specifics, we might ground the story and the characters a little bit more. What’s the design on the rug? What figures, palettes and styles appear in the paintings? What subject matter fills the books? How is everything arranged within the room? Are there focal points or salient details and, if so, what? Music, traffic noise, computer keys clicking? Garish fluorescent lighting, natural light from huge windows, cave-like dimness? The smell of carpet shampoo, dried spooge, expensive cigars, floral perfume? We’ll never know. In paragraph after paragraph like this, Banks builds empty edifices of stereotypical tropes that may seem to evoke certain worlds, personalities and feelings, but which ultimately leave the subjects that they describe mysterious and cipher-like.

The gummy, rubbery prose, impervious to all attempts at the incision of fine detail, does this book in. I bravely put up with it until the ingenue’s discussion of her impending BDSM contract with the rich dude on pages 32 and 33:

"And this relationship you propose. What exactly do you mean by nontraditional?"

…"I’ll own you. Body, soul. You’ll belong to me."

Whoa. That sounded so…heavy.

Right there was where I bust out laughing. The 24-year-old ingenue has evinced no particular idiolect up until this point, except for a distressingly ableist propensity to describe stuff that she thinks is pathetic as "lame." Suddenly, for no reason that I can discern, she sounds like a mash-up of Neo from the Matrix and Marty from Back to the Future. The odd combination of two elements totally anachronistic for this character’s generation struck such resoundingly wrong notes that I just had to give up. When the supposedly steamy and erotic BDSM novel has me snorting and rolling my eyes at the glaring infelicities of style, it ain’t really having its desired effect.

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Bared to You by Sylvia Day: the passion of complementary neuroses

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Bared to You by Sylvia Day [Crossfire #1] shares a lot in common with the [unfortunately] more popular Shades of Grey by E.L. James. As in the 50 Shades trilogy, the Crossfire trilogy follows the first-person adventures of an administrative-assistant-level young woman, Eva in Bared to You, and her rollercoaster relationship with a young rich man, Gideon in Bared to You, who owns the company for which she works. They have sex and fight a lot, sometimes simultaneously. Their relationship involves some bdsm, submission for the protagonist, domination for the love interest. A series of assumptions, piss-offs, misunderstandings, apologies, jealousies, running-aways and reconciliations passes for plot. And don’t forget the sex. At the end, the reader is exhausted, but there are still two books to go!

But that’s where the similarities end. Crossfire exceeds 50 Shades in quality at every level.
Continue reading Bared to You by Sylvia Day: the passion of complementary neuroses

50 Shades Freed: victory lap!!!

50 Shades Freed: victory lap!!! published on 4 Comments on 50 Shades Freed: victory lap!!!

I finished the book…and the series! God, I thought it would never end. After the official conclusion, there is, of course, an epilogue in which Ana and Christian gambol about with their son [because the Penis of Doom always generates a first-born son] and coo about their upcoming daughter. The epilogue contains awkwardly inserted flashbacks and serves no purpose whatsoever except to hammer home that Ana and Christian live happily ever after in true love, perfect bliss and harmonious, nurturing parenthood. Yeah, I'm not going to believe that until I read transcripts of their kids' therapy sessions.

And then, after the epilogue, we get a 50 Shades of Christian section, which, I assume, is bonus material supplied for the Vintage republishing. James gives us a first-person report of Christian's first Christmas with his adoptive family, the Greys, which adds nothing to the story because we've already been inside young Christian's head in the prologue when he was telling us about his nightmares. If anything, this section tickles my gag reflex, as James writes the 5-year-old Christian without nuance, realism or complexity. It's just…baby talk for pages and pages.

Just in case you haven't had your fill of redundancy, 50 Shades Freed finally, finally, finally closes out with Meet 50 Shades, an exhaustive recap of Ana and Christian's first two meetings from Christian's point of view.

Insights I gained from Meet 50 Shades:

1. Christian is an asshole.

2. He has the hots for Ana.

3. Even though he has no "subconscious" or "inner goddess," Christian's interior monologue sounds exactly the same as Ana's: repetitive, shallow and unindividualized.

4. Wow, that was a pointless section.

On second thought, scratch that victory lap. Now that I'm done with the 50 Shades trilogy, I'm too exhausted to put forth more effort. I just read 514 [book 1] + 532 [book 2] + 579 [book 3] = 1625 pages of erotic romance over 9 days. It was clearly a feat of endurance for which I should get a prize [preferably in the form of well-written erotic romance]. I understand the commercial impulse behind stringing the story out over 3 books and thereby making $$$ [or, for E.L. James, £££], but oh my God…the trilogy could have been easily cut down to 400 pages by a ruthless and judicious editor without losing any of the traits that make it such a gloriously bad read.

It's victory nap time instead.

50 Shades: “Fair point well made” ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

50 Shades: “Fair point well made” ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH! published on 2 Comments on 50 Shades: “Fair point well made” ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

Of all the recycled phrases in the 50 Shades trilogy, the one that's driving me up the wall the most is "Fair point well made." Ana and Christian say this about as often as they have sex, which is up to twice a chapter. Sometimes they even say, "Fair point well made as ever."

I have never heard anyone in my life say this, especially not a 26-year-old Harvard dropout [Christian] and a 21-year-old recent college graduate [Ana]. If people under the age of 30 who have been born and raised in the US want to acknowledge someone's opinion that they disagree with, they typically use one of the following phrases:

"Yeah, but…"

"Okay, but…"


If one feels the burning need to use the word "point," one could say, "Good point."

One could also say, "You have a point."

If one feels like being particularly snotty, one could also say, "Fair point." I've never heard anyone actually use that phrase in the wild, but it's not outside the realm of possibility. I think I've probably read it in a novel somewhere.

But "Fair point well made"?! What the hell? Who even says that? Is it some sort of Britishism? If so, I've never encountered it in any of the British literature I've read before the 50 Shades trilogy. [The author lives in London, England.] It could possibly be a function of E.L. James' fallback on her own British idiom and her lazy refusal to invest in any research that would make the voices of two US citizens in their 20s realistic and believable. However, I can't really tell much about the origin and current use of this phrase, because, hilariously enough, most Google results of "fair point well made as ever" point to pages lambasting the 50 Shades trilogy for this irritating verbal hiccup.

50 Shades Freed: Ana’s continued pregnancy and gooey maternal feelings

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Oh for God's sake! Less than 2 pages after fearing for her safety because she's pregnant, Ana suddenly changes her mind (p. 413):

"…Perhaps I shouldn't tell Christian. Perhaps I…perhaps I should end this. I halt my thoughts on that dark path, alarmed at the direction they're taking. Instinctively my hand sweeps down to rest protectively over my belly. No. My little Blip. Tears spring to my eyes. What am I going to do?"

Well, because this is a romance about a fertile, heterosexual couple, they will be brainwashed by Baby Magic into abandoning their previous agreement to postpone kids. The Miracle of Reproduction will overawe them, activating their dormant, but hereditary and totally natural, parental instincts. With surprising ease and no ambivalence at all, they will quickly convert to anticipation and adoration of their little Blip. Baby Magic is overtaking Ana even in this paragraph: Automatically characterizing her thoughts of abortion as a "dark path," she "instinctively," without any thought at all, develops protective inclinations. YAY BABEEZ!

I detest this trope so very much. I've discussed before, in relation to Bones' pregnancy on her eponymous show, the trivializing, insulting and misogynist ways pregnancy is portrayed in popular media. It compresses a range of emotional, intellectual and characterological responses into a single trajectory of blissfully complaisant, essentialized and instinctive [ergo brainless] femininity. It's pretty much always a horrible derailment of character that represents a descent into utter boredom.

This can't end well either.

50 Shades Freed: Ana’s pregnancy and ensuing ABJECT TERROR

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At the end of Chapter 19, Ana discovers that she's pregnant.
Continue reading 50 Shades Freed: Ana’s pregnancy and ensuing ABJECT TERROR

Gilbert Gottfried reads excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey

Gilbert Gottfried reads excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey published on No Comments on Gilbert Gottfried reads excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey

As irritating and pretentious and unfunny as I find Gilbert Gottfried, I must admit that this fake commercial of him reading explicit excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey, less because of Gottfried himself and more because of the increasingly horrified expressions on the readers' faces. Needless to say, this contains explicit sexual language.

A few thoughts about 50 Shades Freed [book 3]

A few thoughts about 50 Shades Freed [book 3] published on 1 Comment on A few thoughts about 50 Shades Freed [book 3]

I'm almost halfway through 50 Shades Freed, book 3 of the 50 Shades trilogy, by E.L. James. Forthwith, some random remarks:

1) Remember how I objected to Ana's sudden promotion from executive assistant to editor at the end of 50 Shades Darker, saying that it made no sense and that Christian should have been behind it? Well, he was. Okay, fine. I still don't think she's remotely qualified to be an editor, though.

2) Ana and Christian have a big fight about Ana wanting to keep her surname. This fight occurs about a month after they get married. Apparently they just forgot to address the subject before they got married; they must have been too busy "quirking" and "pouting" and saying, "Fair point well made." Seriously, people? You just neglect a subject that affianced couples notoriously have strong views on? You couldn't even be bothered to ask each other your preferences?

3) Speaking of fights, I'm way more interested in all of Ana and Christian's arguments than their sex scenes. In fact, after the first sex scene, I've been skipping them all and paying close attention to their disagreements instead. It's like Conflict Porn!

4) There's a notable amount of alcohol consumption in this trilogy. Before dinner? Have a drink. During dinner? Have a drink. After dinner? Have a drink. After sex? Have a drink. Hectic, worrisome day? Have a drink. Angry at your spouse? Have a drink. Nervous? Have a drink. Since they have sex, eat dinner, feel worried and get angry with each other frequently, Ana and Christian drink copiously. I'm waiting for someone to either get drunk and do something really stupid or to develop alcoholism. Or both.

Allen’s Law of Censorship

Allen’s Law of Censorship published on 1 Comment on Allen’s Law of Censorship

The probability that a book will be challenged, banned and/or censored increases exponentially as the book approaches mega-bestseller status.

As a corollary, if a book or series hits mega-bestseller status, somebody somewhere will challenge, ban and/or censor it for one "reason" or another.

Libraries around the country are currently throwing fits about the 50 Shades trilogy. So infuriating. Censorship is wrong. I don't care if you disagree with the views stated in the trilogy. I don't care if you think it's pornographic. I expect my public library to offer reading opportunities, rather than remove them. Public services have no right to selectively and arbitrarily limit reading material like this just because someone somewhere thinks it's icky. "Ewww!" is not a valid argument against anything, from marriage equality to 50 Shades of Grey.

50 Shades: Ana’s dream job

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The plot with Ana and her sleazy boss winds up this way: The sleazeball harasses Ana, so Christian has him fired. Somehow, after only having been an executive assistant for a week, Ana gets the sleazeball's job, becoming head editor at Seattle Independent Press! Amazingly enough, Christian has nothing to do with her sudden promotion.

THAT MAKES NO SENSE. Why would the press stick Ana in the position of a seasoned executive? Even if her sleazeball boss has praised her work, she has no track record at the company, so why should anyone trust her? She also has zero related experience, her job during college having been cashiering at a hardware store. From what little we know, she's conscientious as an assistant, and, uh, she likes to read British literature. That's not enough to recommend her. As much as I object to Christian's abusive, control freaky behavior, if he had gotten Anna the sleazeball's job, that would have made been much more logical and believable, narratively speaking. E.L. James really doesn't know how to write.

50 Shades: Ana’s “inner goddess” and class warfare

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I got about halfway through 50 Shades Darker [book 2 in the 50 Shades trilogy by E.L. James] last night. It picks up several days after the end of the first book, when Ana and Christian break up, for reasons that I'm not quite clear on. When Christian proposes that they try again with a non-kinky, completely vanilla relationship [hah hah hah!], they're off and running [or, rather, bonking]. There's something of a plot in there too, involving Ana's new job at Seattle Independent Press, Christian's ex-domme, one of Christian's emotionally labile ex-subs, Christian's secret past, et hoc genus omne.

I'd like to talk about Ana's "inner goddess." Introduced toward the end of book 1, she appears in pretty much every other paragraph, usually in counterpoint to Ana's "subconscious." Like Ana's "subconscious," the "inner goddess" is personified, apparently as a multi-talented Olympic athlete, given her acrobatic performances of joy whenever Ana thinks about getting kinky. Beyond that, she serves no useful function; she's just a convenient image for James to use in describing Ana's lust. So, if the "subconscious" and the "inner goddess" do nothing to advance Ana's character development or the plot, why does James insert them on every damn page?! Characters in one's head can be interesting, compelling and revelatory if done with care, purpose and depth, but these are just useless, stupid and annoying.

On another note, I'm fascinated by the tensions of class warfare as exhibited by Ana and Christian. Ana seems to have grown up [from what I can tell — she doesn't have much history] in a middle-class family; as a college student, she had little spare money [hence driving the same beat-up car for three years], and she currently earns an entry-level publishing salary [which, let me tell you, is diddly squat] in her first post-college job. At this point, I'd call her lower middle-class, aspiring to higher, and rather anxious about money.

Meanwhile, Christian has millions, maybe billions. For the first few years of his life, he grew up in poverty, but, since adoption at the age of 4, he has been surrounded by ostentatious, fabulous wealth. He uses money casually and confidently, without anxiety about it at all.

Ana and Christian clash on financial matters. Christian spends exorbitant amounts on gifts for Ana, including a set of first-edition Tess of the d'Urbervilles, a laptop, a Blackberry, an Audi, an iPad, diamond jewelry and a Saab. He doesn't understand that this makes Ana, who earns much less, feel unworthy, subordinate, bought off and kept. He explains that he wants to "give [her] everything," that this is "how [he is]" and that this is "part of [his] world." Nope, he just wants to make her his objectified possession, as evidenced by the fact that he buys the publishing company Ana works for [ostensibly because he's jealous that Ana's boss shows interest in her, which is a great reason for a takeover]. He uses his socioeconomic privilege to control Ana's communication [laptop, Blackberry, iPad], transportation [Audi, Saab] and occupation [Seattle Independent Press]. It's like the 1% overruling the 99%, but with bonus secret childhood trauma!

50 Shades: insidious stereotyping

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After mulling for a few days, I've determined some of the most problematic assumptions underlying 50 Shades of Grey. As I've discussed, it is about a young woman, Ana, who embarks on a submissive, bdsm relationship with the dominant and slightly older Christian.
Continue reading 50 Shades: insidious stereotyping

50 Shades: the Twilight connection

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Yes, folks, just in case you were curious, E.L. James' 50 Shades trilogy started off as Twilight fanfic. It starred Edward and Bella in a bdsm relationship, and it was entitled Masters of the Universe. No word if Skeletor and He-Man were involved. I doubt it. That would have been interesting, and if it's anything these books aren't, it's interesting.

50 Shades: what is this relationship based on?

50 Shades: what is this relationship based on? published on 1 Comment on 50 Shades: what is this relationship based on?

As far as I can tell, Ana and Christian's relationship in 50 Shades of Grey is based on the following:

1. Their mutual sexual attraction.

2. Christian's abusive need to control his partners.

3. Ana's delusion that she can somehow change Christian.

They don't really understand each other; they don't communicate well, and yet they love each other. Since they've known each other only several weeks as book 1 ends, I opine that they are feeling infatuation, but not love.

Even if they are in love, they don't seem to like each other. By that, I mean that they don't enjoy each other's company, unless they're having sex. I do not have high hopes for this relationship being satisfying for both partners for any length of time.

50 Shades: done!

50 Shades: done! published on No Comments on 50 Shades: done!

Just finished book 1. The ending is abrupt, resolving nothing. I suspect that E.L. James initially wrote a single, much shorter story that was then strung out into a trilogy upon acquisition by an actual publishing house. God forbid we ever have a single novel that tells a complete story. Everything comes in threes these days. It's an extremely irritating privileging of capitalism over story.

And now to rustle up books 2 and 3…

EDIT: Awesome! They're coming [hur hur hur] on Saturday. I should donate them to the local library when I'm done.

50 Shades: insight into Christian’s character

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Christian, on page 135: "I want you to become well acquainted, on first-name terms, if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body. I'm very attached to this."

Given the unusual lack of explanatory prose around this bit of dialogue, I think we're supposed to take this statement straight, at face value, without self-consciously mocking undertones.

Sorry, Christian. I can't take you seriously any more. Not only do you have a HUGE CLICHE for your favorite body part, but you also use the phrase "making the beast with two backs" as a synonym for "having sex." I have never heard anyone, much less a modern, 27-year-old dude from the U.S., use this phrase, Iago excepted.

James clearly has no concept of voice and how all people — and therefore characters — have unique, individual, internally consistent ways of expressing themselves.

50 Shades of Grey: initial impressions

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I started 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, first in the 50 Shades trilogy, last night. The trilogy constitutes a very drawn-out romance novel with bdsm themes, starring Ana as an inexperienced college graduate and Christian as a 27-year-old CEO and millionnaire. 

Let me tell you, folks — it's a treat! And by "treat" I mean "a book in dire need of a ruthless and judicious editor." I found myself rolling my eyes up to thrice a page at some infelicity of style or bizarre authorial choice. I fear I'm going to sprain my ocular muscles by the time this book is through.

In no particular order, here are some of my observations after about the first 60-80 pages [I forget where I stopped]:

Ana has an unusual relationship with her inner monolgue, which she, in her first-person narration, inaccurately terms her "subconscious." Her "subconscious" repeatedly appears personified, tapping its foot and rolling its eyes at one of her stupid remarks, for example. This gives the unintentionally hilarious picture of a homunculus inside Ana's brain, providing MST3K-like commentary on everything she does. It's an interesting characterological device if you want to explore it, but, of course, James doesn't, so Ana's internal divide ends up revealing nothing interesting about her.

Furthermore, Ana's inner monologue sounds off indiscriminately, no matter what the needs of the story. It's almost always repetitive. For example, when Ana admires Christian's office building, she describes it as "impressive." Okay, she's impressed. We do not need to know that her internal monologue is saying, "Wow." Ana's inner voices have a reaction to every single event in the novel, mostly along the lines of, "I feel horrible for doing [insert embarrassing thing] in front of Christian." Since Ana's body language and speech, also detailed in the text, clearly demonstrate her chagrin, her thoughts add nothing to either the story or her personality. In fact, she ends up coming across as literal-minded, unanalytical and kind of stupid.

On another subject, Ana keeps tripping over her own feet and falling into Christian's arms. She should consult her primary care doctor about this. I think she might have problems with proprioception.

Speaking of Christian, he too is a very odd duck. He has the most labile emotions of any character I've met recently. His feelings change from paragraph to paragraph, as he vacillates between leering at Ana, freezing her out, then getting angry that she's not acting the way he wishes her to [which, of course, he hasn't communicated to her at all]. His actions are extremely unusual, in that most people don't cycle through emotions so rapidly. His transparent, fluctuating facial expressions suggest that he was inadequately trained in the socially acceptable methods of monitoring and expressing his emotions.

We know that Christian has some painful secret past, so it's possible that James intended his emotional instability to manifest his internal damage. However, given the way that James completely fails to recognize opportunities to psychologize her own characters, even as she's writing these opportunities into the story, I doubt that I'm supposed to be considering what historical effects led to Christian's emotional problems. More than likely, James wishes us to read Christian's instability as the seductive moodiness of a typical romance-novel alpha male.

On a related note, I see nothing but trouble for Christian in any sort of bdsm scenario. An ideal scene requires explicit, trusting communication between the participants about their roles, interests and dislikes. Christian would much rather impose his will on his partners, instead of initiating productive dialogue. He's the sort of creepy dom who would touch people sexually without their permission and probably ignore their safe words.

A particular incident between Ana and Christian set off warning bells for me about Christian's abusive traits. In one scene, Ana gets drunk for the first time and impulsively calls Christian. She has a short chat with him, at which point Christian flies off the handle and states that he is coming to pick her up. He tracks her location by using data from her cell phone call. Conveniently, Christian arrives just in time to save Ana from being raped by a "friend." Ana pukes on herself and Christian [that's what I think of him too], then faints, waking up in Christian's bed in her underwear.

Look, Mr. Grey — I don't care how "justified" you are [according to the story] with the assault and the puke and the sexual tension. You are stalking Ana by finding her through cell phone data. You are assaulting her by nonconsensually removing her clothes. Furthermore, you are a classic abusive personality in the first place for using her phone call as an excuse to control and confine her behavior. You really are a repulsive individual. And if you "quirk" your eyebrows or grin a "sardonic" grin one more time, I'm taking away your poetic license.

The same goes for you, Ana. If you don't stop biting your lower lip and saying "crap" and "double crap," there will be consequences.

Speaking of 50 Shades of Grey…

Speaking of 50 Shades of Grey… published on No Comments on Speaking of 50 Shades of Grey…

…I ordered it, primarily because sources tell me it's based on Twilight Saga fanfic [!]. I had so much fun with the Twilight Saga [see "twilight" and "breaking dawn" tags if you really care] that I think I will at least have a little fun with 50 Shades.

Also, concerning 50 Shades of Grey, please see the related parody video by Flula: entirely ridiculous and safe for work. You're welcome.

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