About Me

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Concord, California, United States
I am a sometimes-writer, everyday mama, creative failure and experimental cook. I am interested in living a beautiful life, spending time with my family and making things that I can feel proud of. When I'm by myself I'm usually outside. Don't bother calling because chances are that I didn't bring my cell phone because I couldn't find it. If you see me walking, it's because I lost my keys and if you see me with only one child... I'm probably in big trouble.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

50 Shades Review

Do not read this post if you want to read 50 Shades of Grey, 50 Shades Darker or 50 Shades Freed by E.L James or see this movie and value an element of surprise.  

Anyone who has gotten to know me knows that I am fascinated by pop culture.  When something explodes into the mainstream and wraps all of America around its metaphorical finger, I'm unable to stay away.  I'm like a moth to a light, a fly to a burger and stay-at-home-mom to a Whole Foods Market.  For this reason, I vote every Wednesday for our next American Idol (go Phil Phillips), and I shop Etsy first.  I buy my clothes from Free People and I have read every Twilight book (even the non-published, half-written, online book from Edwards perspective).  I know all of the "Real Housewives" cast members by first AND last name, feel like Emily Maynard and Courtney Robertson are old friends of mine AND have every lyric to both "Jar of Hearts" and "Firework" memorized.

As you can imagine, I could not resist the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.  Reportedly, these books have changed the lives of women far and wide.  They've saved marriages and my friend Laura even knows someone who has read them THREE TIMES (which disturbs me).

Confession:  I couldn't make it through, though I gave it a valiant effort.

I read Fifty Shades of Grey one night last week.  I read Fifty Shades Darker the following night.  I have been unsuccessfully struggling to choke Fifty Shades Freed down my throat ever since.  I am not one to abandon a book.  Books are like cd's.  How can you possibly know if it's any good if you haven't listened to the whole thing?  But friends, I.  CAN.  NOT.  DO.  IT.  I have tried.  I have popped my eye lids up with toothpicks and forced them to take in the monotonous drivel of E.L James for two hundred pages of the final book in this trilogy... but no more.  I surrender.  My brain can no longer endure the absolute stupidity of these novels and I simply can not make it through.  I just can't read about Christian Grey "cupping"  Anastasia Steele-Grey's "sex" anymore.  I just can't read about her having an orgasm at the very sight of his clothed erection or using the word "please" interchangeably with, oh idunno, every other world that means "I want to get it on right this second."  Even typing about it makes me want to kick Mrs. Grey in the face.

That said, I have an awful lot of respect for E.L James.  I imagine her to be a chubby mum, snuggled into the overstuffed, floral patterned chair in her English cottage, eating scones with clotted cream and sipping tea, thinking- "I've always wanted to write a novel.  Bloody Hell, I'll start straight away."  And after a little contemplation and a Monday Twilight movie marathon, she decided to write about what Edward and Bella would be if they were rated XXX.  E.L James pulled out her Microsoft Word and online thesaurus and went to town.  No research.  No understanding of convention.  She poured her imagination all over the page and the whole western world ate it up.

And just look at her now! E.L James is taking her fan fiction all the way to the box office.  It's mind boggling.  I understand a lot of things that I don't necessarily like.  I get Britney Spears.  I get skinny jeans.  I get Dancing With The Stars.  I get facial tattoos.  I get paying $800 for a pair of shoes whose  claim to fame is it's red sole.  I do not get Nickleback.  And I do not get 50 Shades of Grey.

That said, each 50 Shades book is about 700 pages on my iPad.  I'm not sure how that translates into real pages.  Let me tell you how the book gets it's name.  Christian Grey says, at one point that he is "50 Shades of Fucked Up" and Anasatia starts referring to him as "50 Shades."  Anastasia has a lot of contrived, stupid, non-clever nicknames for other characters in the book.

Okay, so Fifty Shades of Grey begins with its heroine, Ana Steele driving from Oregon to Seattle so that she can interview the Billionare businessman who donates money to her college's agriculture department for her wannabe journalist, sick roommate Kate.  She meets gorgeous, nerve wracking Christian Grey.  He is a stoic, stone-cold business man who doesn't have time for anyone, but is immediately smitten by how awkward, dumb, clumsy and rude Ana is.  She asks him a bunch of boring, unimaginative questions and marks him as the first man she has ever been attracted to in her life.  She asks him if he's gay and this is apparently very scandalous and a terribly big deal.  We later find out that not only is Christian a self-made billionaire, but he's only 26 years old and makes $100,000 an hour and is a Harvard dropout.  Ana is about to graduate from college.  She's a bookworm and a virgin who has never been interested in a man, but is now ready to shake her chastity belt free for Christian Grey.  She also doesn't care about money at all.  She neither struggles with money or appreciates money or shows that it has any impact on her quality of life at all.  She lives practically for free, mooching off of her roommate's wealthy family while working part time at a hardware store.

Christian was adopted when he was four years old by the pediatrician who found him at the scene of his birth mom's suicide.  His birth mom is consistently referred to as "the crack whore" throughout the entire story.  He was physically abused by his mother's pimp, neglected and left alone with his mom's rotting body for four days.  He did not speak for two years after being adopted.

I am not certain what happened to Ana's biological dad.  I think that he died.  I don't remember this being stated specifically (though it probably was), but on Ana's wedding day, her mother says that she wishes her father was there to see it.  In any event, Ana was given the name of one of her mom's other husbands, Ray.  He is also the man that Christian speaks to when he wants permission to marry Ana.  Her mother lives in Georgia with her current husband Bob and clearly is attracted to men with three letter names.  Her next husband will likely be Joe.  They are flighty weirdos with no sense of responsibility.  Her mother didn't go to her graduation because Bob broke or sprained some random bone conveniently.  So dumb.

So, it's reasonable to assume that Christian's difficult start in life left him with a few pesky issues that he works on with his therapist (who oddly is invited to all of their family events and bid on Ana for a dance when she was spontaneously auctioned off and sold for $100,000.)  Christian's life was further complicated when a friend of his parents began beating and sleeping with him at the age of 15.  Her name is Elena, but Ana consistently refers to her as Mrs. Robinson.  So dumb.

Mrs. Robinson quickly taught Christian about the world of BDSM and 11 years later he's moved on from his relationship with her and acts as the "dominant" partner in contractual relationships with subservient women.  These women are all small with brown hair and resemble his birth mother.  He likes to beat them and then have intercourse with them.  This oedipal undertone is sprung on us like it's a twist, when it was painfully obvious.  So dumb.

Christian approaches Ana in respect to his penchant for sadomascochism, giving her a list of rules like, here's what you can and can't eat and here's when you can and can't eat. You have to come to my house every Friday through Sunday. You have to let me do anything to you sexually.  You only speak when spoken to and must call me master or sir.  You have to only wear the clothes I buy for you.  You have to be polished and waxed from head to toe.  Of course, he has a "play room" full of torture devices in his penthouse and he can terminate the arrangement whenever he wants.  Because Christian explains to Ana that he is not able to be available to her in any other way, and that the only relationship that he is willing to have is an abusive, sexual, controlling, dominant relationship, she figures that she'll take what she can get and cries a lot.  She also struggles with anorexia that is explained but never really addressed.  If anything, it's exploited and glamorized.

Christian has had a few long term "subs" who have agreed to be his weekend maid, chef, baby, mother and sex slave.  They have done things like tortured cats and been scratched up by them, been suspended from the ceiling, been whipped and flogged and had any number of objects shoved into any orifice.   But Christian had to end these relationships when they women became too emotionally attached to him and wanted "more."  The word "more" is used in the first two books as if it were some deep vehicle for complicated introspection.  The way E. L James overuses it but never defines it is maddening.  It makes these characters feel incredibly juvenile.

Of course, Ana learns all of this and immediately drops her panties.  She does not, however, sign Christian's contract but decided to dabble in S&M anyway.  She does agree to participate in a completely unhealthy relationship because she evidently  hates herself.  I could sum this story up by saying that there were two people who hated themselves and were obsessed with each other.  And everyday they just said, "Baby.  Don't hate yourself.  I love you.  No.  I love you.  No. I love you.  YOU ARE MINE," over and over and over and over and over again. When Christian finds out that Ana's a virgin and that she's never masturbated or had an orgasm and wholly the most non-sexual person ever, he decides to have what he calls "vanilla sex" with her.

And here's where the trilogy goes entirely downhill.

Ana loses her virginity and engages in poorly written sex on every page or so for the rest of the next two and a half books.  For someone who has never been at all interested in sex, she has full-on vaginal orgasms when Christian touches her nipple, says "You are mine," licks his tips AND she's even woken up by one once.  (It was at this point that I turned on the internet to see if E.L James was a.) a man or b.) a virgin.)  Luckily for Christian, Ana is always ready to go and can have an orgasm on command.  I mean, literally, he'll tell her to hurry up and she'll just go ahead and do it and usually at the exact same time that he is. Especially if he says, "You are mine."  Miracle of miracles.

The sex scenes in this book are terribly written and mostly driven by Christian saying cheesy things and repeating the phrase "oh baby,  I want to take you now" over and over and Ana saying, "Please" and nothing more.  As the books wore on, these sex scenes became sooooo over the top cheesy that by the end of 50 Shades Darker I was laughing at them.  By the time I hit my midway point in 50 Shades Freed I was  just skimming the sex paragraphs to find their end so that I could start reading again.

When Ana and Christian aren't in the playroom or tangled up in his vanilla sex bed, they are becoming  obsessed with and falling in love with each other.  Somehow, this is possible, though they have only had a few (in any) conversations.  Their relationship is horrible and laden with conflict and a struggle for power and control.  They fight all of the time and only feel secure when they are assured that they each possess each other.

Ana and Christian's families entirely accept their relationship and each other.   Christian's parents give Ana 100% credit for Christian being/becoming human.  Oddly, they attribute his strides in mental health to HER and not to the therapist he sees for hours every week.  Repeatedly, Christian will do something surprising- like sing or survive a helicopter crash or bail out of work for the day- and as a result, his mother will sweep Ana into her arms, thanking her for existing.

Ana's friend Kate doesn't like Christian because he's made Ana feel like a sperm receptacle, but she sure likes his brother.  And no worries.  When Kate becomes an obstacle that E.L James isn't savvy enough to cleverly overcome, she just sends Kate out of the country for awhile.  Fortunately, Kate's parents have bought an apartment in Seattle where Ana is able to live.  After about five weeks of knowing each other, Christian and Ana decided to get married.  Everyone is overjoyed for them and of course, he insists on not having a prenuptial agreement.

But let me backtrack just a few steps.  Rewind to Christian and Ana's pre-wedding, falling in love week.

Here's where things get really bad for me.

Christian spanks Ana a little too hard and they break up.

Ana graduates from college and quickly gets an internship at a local, small publishing company.  Her boss is a sleaze bag who, naturally, wants to sleep with her.  Christian and Ana get back together.  He buys the publishing company in order to have control over Ana.  But things take a real turn for the worse when Ana's boss predictably sexually harasses her in the office while Christian and his security team are waiting in the car downstairs.  Christian has Ana's boss fired.

(And here is where I was completely lost and unable to suspend my disbelief further.)

When Ana goes into work, the company has decided that in the week that she's been there she's done such a great job, that they are going to promote her from being an INTERN to taking her boss' old job as a chief editor.   They insist that her "notes" have been seriously impressive and have gotten her this job.  Further, though all you see Ana do at work is email Christian, apparently she has built sustainable, strong relationships with all of her boss's clients.  Again, this was all established in ONE week.  When she decided to leave for a month on a honeymoon, it's no problem.  They just hold the promotion for her.  And when she comes home from the honeymoon she has her own assistant.  And Christian is giving the company to her and promoting her to being the president of it.  And renaming is Grey's Publishing.

In the meantime, Ana's old boss tries to kill Christian a few times.  There are even car chases followed by parking lot, adrenaline induced sex.  Oh, and Christian buys Ana a giant house.

And that's as far as I got.  Now that I'm writing about it, maybe I will continue reading.  This is possibly the worst book that I've ever read in my life.  I can not even reconcile how terrible it is, never mind how it's possible for so many people to love it.  But can I really just not finish it?  Jesus.  I don't know.  It just has no depth.  No soul.  Barely any storyline.  Shallow, flat-as-a-pancake character development... there is just NOTHING good about this trilogy.  I honestly worry for any young person reading this book.  I worry that they'll find this unhealthy relationship model romantic and I further worry that they'll think there's something wrong with them when they fail to have an orgasm when their significant other suggests it verbally.

The fact that I hear that women are reading these books and getting all hot and bothered for their husbands troubles me deeply.

Has anyone else read this?


  1. haha I did read them and I am one of the wives you bother you. haha. The books helped spice up the bedroom. I had to just know that these are not these books are not fine literature. I took them for the trashy unrealistic novels that they were and I loved them!

  2. Oh my god! You and everyone else! It boggles my mind. And I totally love trashy books. I am not some sophisticated reader. I have read every Sookie Stackhouse book out there.

    What am I missing?

  3. Do you think it's worth finishing the third book? Will it change my mind?

  4. May I humbly suggest for your reading pleasure, The Erotic Adventures of Sleeping Beauty, written by none other than the brilliant Anne Rice.

    I dare you.

  5. Mathew, I started it last night. It's Taking Beauty, or something. Disturbing stuff... and she refers to his penis as "his organ," which seriously grosses me out.

  6. Dumbest book I ever read..clearly they are putting too much fluoride in the water.

  7. Saw your review quoted on Tumblr and just had to come tell you I could not agree with you more. If this woman can get a publishing deal with that pile of sh#t, I should have a 6-figure deal by Christmas.

  8. Also here via Tumblr, lured in by your lovely, smooth writing style. I have not yet had the displeasure to read these books for myself. However, I am half-heartedly trying to get my hands on a free copy of the first one, out of a morbid sense of Schadenfreude and/or masochism.
    Based on what I have heard (which is plenty, and not pretty, coming as it did from fellow aghast book lovers), my reaction to this... franchise is as follows:

    1) how does this get published? how? i want to weep for humanity.
    2) hey! If something that bad gets published, surely there is hope for me as a writer, too.

    And here we were thinking that Twilight itself was a terrible phenomenon... who knew how much worse it could get?

  9. Where is my post quoted on tumblr?

    I have also read Twilight. Though I don't think that the series is well written, I do think that Stephanie Meyer is quite good at creating tension between her main characters, which is pretty engaging. There is nothing good about 50 Shades of Grey. It's just terrible.

  10. this is the most stupid series ever. yea, read the sleeping beauty chronicles by anne rice if i were looking for something dark. and not 50 shades boredmom sex