Warning: I may be giving away parts of The Fifty Shades series in this blog. Continue on at your own risk.
Last night I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning finishing the third book of the Fifty Shades trilogy. Let me just say – – I don’t get it. I don’t get the draw of these books. I don’t get why women, mostly in their twenties and thirties, are fanatical about these books. I don’t get why there is an attraction to this man, Christian Grey, who is obsessive, domineering, degrading, abusive and demeaning.
There is a common thread that runs throughout these books and it sickens me. The male lead, Christian Grey demoralizes the female lead, Ana Steele. Ana gets mad…until she looks into his grey eyes and melts. She forgives her “Fifty Shades” and moves on. It does matter that he tortured her or stalked her or used sex as his weapon. His grey eyes are soooo dreamy. Christian is so messed up and Ana is there to ‘fix him’. I know the trilogy is fiction, but really, the fixing theme has been women’s desires since Eve tried to fatten Adam up with the apple. And you know what? It doesn’t work. Even if I allow myself to escape into the fantasy that a good women can fix a messed up man, I would still have to ask should a woman be abused in the process? Um, no.
Some of the dialogue, okay most of the dialogue, in these books is ridiculous. I was forever hoping there would be fewer “I love you”, “You’re my world”, “I need you”, “You are mine” etc. etc, as the books went on. I mean, if you want a character to grow, I think the dialogue should as well, but no. In the third book Christian tells Ana over and over and over again that she’s everything to him. Getting old there Christian. We get it. Ana gets it. The more you say it, the less it means anything. And he is still pleading with her never to leave him…even after they are married, he pleads. I know he’s insecure and his life’s experiences made him that way, but come on now. He has a therapist! The most throw-up-in-my-mouth-a-bit moment is when he confesses his undying love for her – over and over and over again – and then a few pages later tells her he wants to “beat the shit” out of her. Romantic words if I ever heard them…NOT! Wanting to beat someone up is not a profession of love. And I’m sorry, but that would not keep me in a relationship. And yet, Ana forgives him. I suppose he does have dreamy eyes.
Let’s look at what Christian does to Ana…and no, I don’t mean sexually. Besides, buying her clothes so she can look a certain way, even down to the underwear – and not just sexy lingerie or two – he buys the company she works at so he can keep tabs on her. Ah, Christian you are an obsessive love, aren’t you? Christian even makes Ana the head of the company…despite her inexperience…okay, her nonexperience. To top it off, Ana doesn’t want that responsibility. Ana tells us how much she would rather stay in her current position. She even conveys this to Christian. I was hoping this would be a starting point of Ana gaining back control. I was wrong. In the end, she stays as the company’s head and I never really know if she’s happy with that decision. So, I suppose Christian does know best and as women, we really should trust in our men’s decisions for us….I write sarcastically.
Okay, let’s look at the sex in the book. I am not a prude. I don’t care what people do in their bedroom and the voyeur in me did like the details of their sex lives, except when I be gan to hate them. It was not the S&M aspect of it, nor was it E L James’ details of it. I felt sickened to my core by the way Christian used sex as a tool. When Ana starts to purge her negative feelings, Christian deflects them swith a great romp in the bed…or elevator…or wherever. What’s worse is ANA LETS HIM! Then of course there are the two times he completely and utterly demoralizes her by using sex as a tool. The last time he does this, Ana knows it, is hurt by it, and yet she still cuddles up to him and feels sympathy for him! Okay, I thought Christian was insecure, but Ana is way worse.
This brings me to my second to last point – throughout the trilogy there is this peeling back of layers to Christian’s character. There’s an attempt – kind of feeble if you ask me – to explain all the nastiness of Christian. He had a messed up early life and later a victim of pedophilia. Christian’s life is sad and tragic. What is never addressed in the trilogy however, is how Ana became so messed up. Something in her past had to explain her willingness to take all the crap from Christian. I asked friends who read the book ahead of me, if this is ever addressed. They told me no, yet I held onto to hope. But, they were right, damn it.
Finally, it saddens me, to my deepest feminist core, that women in their twenties and thirties are so drawn to this book. It saddens me in the same way I am sadden to see middle schoolers drawn to the Twilight series. (E L James took her inspiration from the Twilight series and it shows. Both are about weak women characters who are drawn to abuse and obsession…as though these are the definitions of love.) I really, REALLY hope the women that are so into the Fifty Shades trilogy are not looking for a Christian Grey. I hope that the women of my generation and the generation before have taught them well enough to realize demoralization and stalking are not okay, even if there are reasons for it. I hope they know women are NOT to be dominated rather they are be treated as equals. I pray they understand women can become higher-ups in companies without sleeping with the boss. And I hope they really get that messed up is not attractive, despite dreamy eyes. The sales of this trilogy, and all the giggly talk about it, has me wondering though…and I am sad.
I read the first book because it was a choice for my book club and I did want to see what all the brew-ha-ha was about. I did like the first book. It was different. I liked the character studies. I liked the fact they went their separate ways in the end of the first book. I still was uncomfortable with the abuse and the obsessiveness, but not enough to stop from diving into the other two books. I wanted to finish what I started and to make comments based on what I read, not others opinions or what they read. And yes, I was also hoping things would change …get better. Maybe James could show parallel lives – Ana involved with a more normal guy and Christian, well he could still be messed up, but not messing up women in the process. In the end, that didn’t happen. In the end, at 1:31 last night, I closed the last book in the trilogy and thought, well those were hours I will never get back.