FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
If I didn’t already know FIFTY SHADES OF GREY started out as TWILIGHT fanfiction, I’d like to think I could decipher the code based on the myriad of similarities between the two novels. The following are a few examples (and by all means not a comprehensive list): a virgin main character; uber-successful parents on the boyfriend’s side; divorced parents, where the daughter lives with her father; a clumsy, melodramatic, younger than her years main character; a complete hatred of receiving presents; a pale complexion and dark hair, where everyone finds her attractive but she does not; extremely attractive, supposedly out of her reach boyfriend; gorgeous, friendly, graceful sister; complete avoidance of high risk activities, except in the name of love; drives broken-down automobiles fixed by mechanic friends; the elusive friend who is totally into her and perfect in many ways but she’s not interested; boyfriend tells her on multiple occasions that he’s not right for her and does everything he can to discourage her affection; and despite being a virgin, she is magically good in bed and a skilled lover.
Or in other words, what we have here is teenage fantasy supposedly based in reality, yet with TWILIGHT the reader already has the suspension of disbelief, since it’s a vampire/werewolf/human love triangle. With FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, the teenage fantasy plays out in real time and on the streets of Seattle and Portland, among other locations. Aside from the overuse of Fuck (like it holds some sort of deeper meaning) and mentioning way too many firsts, had both references been pared down to more manageable levels, the writing actually did hold a certain amount of appeal. Sure her ability to orgasm on command was a bit comical, and her number of orgasms in Grey’s presence could probably satisfy an entire church choir, but this is teenage fantasy after all, and in this regard it very much resembles TWILIGHT, although at least like any normal couple there was actual sex involved. In that regard, I must give E.L. James credit, because she literally held nothing back, and I was certainly entertained, if not a bit flabbergasted by the level of f*cking that took place in this novel without the benefits of those little blue pills.
Setting aside the teenage fantasy bit for a minute, the relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele was actually believable and intriguing, yet based on Christian’s propensity for subs and lack of ability to love, I did find it a bit comical that she broke up with him after three weeks or so because he wasn’t willing to profess his undying love and affection. So, yes, I’m intrigued to read the next book, and in fact, I’ve already started it, but my wife has told me it gets worse from here. So I approach the finish line with trepidation, but I vow to make it all the way through, one way or another, and I shall do it all in the name of scientific research. Yes, that’s what I shall tell the curiosity demon that harbors within me.
FIFTY SHADES DARKER
FIVE DAYS. A good alternative title for this series. Why? That’s the extent of the breakup of Christian and Anastasia. I’ve had goldfish when I was six last longer than that. Sure, short breakups can happen, mere hiccups in the game of life, but this one seemed forced, and the questions that hadn’t been answered before the breakup certainly weren’t answered when the two of them got back together. It was like a high school crush that suddenly turned into a high school crush again, and based on the relationship and its ramifications, the two lovers deserved something more. As readers we deserved a little bit more.
As for the sexual encounters—and FIFTY SHADES DARKER certainly had plenty of those, not that I’m complaining mind you—they reminded me of a conductor with a baton, leading up to some dramatic crescendo or climax. Every. Single. Time. The batting 1.000 climax did strain my believability just a bit, which led me to the following question: What percentage of women climax from penetration alone? This book certainly led me to ponder questions of the universe like this, and being a guy, I don’t have a definitive answer. All I know is Anastasia reminded me of a fembot with machine gun jubblies and a platinum vagina who was wetter than the Euphrates and comes on command. Not that this is a bad thing if your setting is an alternate universe with alien life forms, then you can certainly make up your own rules. Since this setting is the real world, though, the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY trilogy should be grounded in some semblance of reality, not a teenage fantasy with twenty-something year olds with raging hormones.
Even the conflict felt forced to me. There wasn’t enough conflict to sustain a 544 page novel, so it became artificially created, like the alternate universe that might have been a better setting for this novel. Anastasia’s three main sources of conflict—Leila, Elena (Mrs. Robinson), and Jack—could have been stronger villains. Instead, the three felt like shells of what they could have been and felt artificially created to sustain this novel. We’re developing some sort of theme here, aren’t we? Anyway, give E.L. James credit, because she recognized that conflict was needed, but this was bad conflict. And it could have been much better.
Probably the single most detrimental aspect of this novel, though, was the dramatic and abrupt change in Christian’s personality. For the first two-thirds of this novel, coupled with the entire previous one, we had 890 pages of Christian being Christian. He was strong, tough, distant, and probably a bit too beautiful for his own good, but I’m nitpicking here. In other words, he made this novel interesting, until he metamorphosed into some alien life form and became a submissive to Anastasia, all based on Ana threatening to leave. Which made absolutely no sense because she’d already left once before, for no really strong reason, thus proving her instability. Instead of manning up, like his character should have done, he dropped to his knees and stared at her with pleading, puppy dog eyes. I might have coughed up my Cheerios, had it not been over fourteen hours since breakfast.
I’m a little scared to read FIFTY SHADES FREED. Call it morbid curiosity, though. It’s like watching a train wreck on the news, because I can’t seem to look away. But I will trudge onward. I will.
FIFTY SHADES FREED
I feel like I’ve been cheated in every possible sense of the word. Cheated out of a wedding, cheated out of the first two weeks of the honeymoon, cheated out of a relationship that hinted at so much promise yet managed to under deliver, cheated out of plotting and conflict and other writing techniques that were under-executed or done ineffectively, and cheated out of hours upon hours of my life.
If Christian Grey were an unemployed garbage man with six pack abs and a washboard stomach, I can’t help but think this wouldn’t have been a phenomenon, and there would have been no happily ever after for the Greys. No white horse, no cowboys, and no barebacked nude riding off into the sunset, which by the way, might have been a better ending for FIFTY SHADES FREED. At least it would have made the unbelievable sex seem a tad more believable. Yet, here we are with Christian, an emotionally distant, controlling, narcissist. And Ana is supposed to be the one to save him. Seems to me that is Fifty Shades of Fucked Up. With this trilogy, the feminist movement is dead, buried, and headed straight for Hell. But at least the kinky fuckery makes it all worthwhile, right?
As for the white roses, long flowing gown, picture-perfect wedding ceremony, that was relegated to the backburner, otherwise known as flashbacks, and the reader grabbed bits and pieces. It’s very similar to starving oneself for a week and then being handed a saucer-sized plate of cheese and crackers. Yeah, I would have passed out if I wasn’t already lying down waiting for the next tiny morsel to be tossed my way.
As for the first two weeks or so of the honeymoon, it’s like it never existed except for a bit of descriptive summary. But as long as you’re okay missing vital organs or vitally important parts of your life, because after all you blacked out after your tenth shot of Jose Cuervo Gold, then it’s okay to miss both your wedding and your honeymoon, which lasted much longer than a billionaire CEO and recently promoted editor could possibly manage without the help of either aliens or cloning or overly sympathetic bosses. Yeah, I’m not sure I’m buying it either.
Conflict avoidance has reached near panic level. Sure, conflict was there, but I had to dig for it like I was shoveling for my own grave, and then I was going to be tossed in afterwards with my hands zip-tied behind my back and spitting up dirt. Jack popped in for a brief interlude, after the conductor had already waved his magic wand, and Leila (who was probably consuming massive amounts of happy pills) and Elena, aka Mrs. Robinson, were literally nowhere to be found, unless a brief reference is counted as full-fledged character development. Yeah, I must have missed that memo in Writing 101. But Christian managed to nearly drink himself to death once he found out Ana was pregnant, so that could be construed as conflict, if that’s all you really have to work with.
If you’re willing to suspend disbelief (and I mean really suspend it to teenage hormonal fantasy level), then the sex scenes work perfectly. So at least E.L. James has that going for her.
Fifty Shades of Done.