Review: Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James

24 Jul

Let’s start with a quote, shall we, from page 329: “I’m a sadist, Ana. I like to whip little brown-haired girls like you because you all look like the crack whore—my birth mother.” If that sets your loins aflame and moistened, fear not, sisters. There’s an ointment for that. Your ginny will be okay in 3-7 days. But the scarring on your soul and mind’s eye? I can’t advise you on that; I’m not a priest or a clergy person.

Ahhh, Christian Grey, you make Oedipal dysfunctions fashionable and swoon-worthy. Not. At least you were only birthed by a crack whore; my mother is the queen of the dragon ladies AND tiger moms. Plus she’s Catholic. Let’s see you contend with that, wimp.

I was really, really hoping we would see some “kinky fuckery” this time around that’s outside the usual “yuppies in love experimenting with sex toys,” but alas, that is not to be. We don’t even get anything like the infamous “tampon scene” that everyone’s been gasping about. The spanking scene in Secretary starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader laughs derisively at your pathetic attempts to be kinky, GreySteele.

Instead of Anastasia Steele running far, far away upon hearing Christian’s confession that beating little girls who look like his mommy gets his motor running, this happens:

“So it’s true,” I whisper, glancing up at him. “I can’t give you what you need.” This is it—this really does mean we are incompatible.

What the effin’ fuck. I can’t even…

The Plot as I Understood It At the end of the first book, Anastasia—who feared for many, many chapters that being Christian’s submissive meant serving as his attack dummy at his pleasure, so she begged him not to beat her Oh God, she begged him not to beat her—ran out of Christian’s “Red Room of Pain,” leaving his Escala penthouse forever, tears streaming down her cheeks and collapsing in the elevator, sobbing as if her heart and soul were being torn asunder. YOU’VE ONLY BEEN DATING THIS DUDE FOR A FEW WEEKS. YOU CAN GO TO OKCUPID, CHECK YOUR EMAIL, AND SEE WHO’S NEXT IN LINE. Ahem. Ana goes home, missing Christian ever so dreadfully, and tells herself to get over it because she has to start a new job in Seattle soon. Or she got sane for a second, but that’s asking for too much because oh noes, Jose has a show in Portland and she had promised Jose she will come and she doesn’t have a way to get there because she had Christian sell her old clunker so she could pay him for the new car he bought her even though he’s a billionaire and he insisted it was a gift and it’s practically pocket change for him and now she HAS to call Christian for a ride to Portland since he’s the ONLY person she knows in Seattle. She and Christian go to Jose’s art exhibit on Christian’s helicopter Charlie Tango and get all misty on each other. Duh. Christian sees huge, blown-up pictures of Ana that Jose had taken of her and proceeds to buy ALL OF THEM because he doesn’t want anyone else to have them. Meanwhile, Anastasia is in full psycho mode, glaring at anyone who even looks at Christian. Lord have mercy. These two possessive fucktards deserve each other.

After Jose’s exhibit, Christian and Ana drive back to Seattle (actually, poor Taylor drives—but don’t worry about him suffering through the whingeing and whining of these morons; he’s got an iPod!) so they can talk and make out. Ana tells Christian she’s afraid of him and doesn’t like to be beaten and Christian tells her she SHOULD HAVE USED THE SAFE WORD. Ana is the one who APOLOGIZES for not using a safe word and they get back together.

I… I can’t even…I can’t breathe…starting to see black dots in front of my eyes…

Christian tells Ana that he can’t live without her and makes her promise never to leave him again and that he will try very hard to not be a girlfriend-beating bastard anymore (likely story) and he can totally do vanilla. Don’t all girlfriend-beating bastards promise he won’t do it again, baby—he just got carried away, that’s all—just to get their girlfriends to come back? They haven’t even been reunited for fifteen minutes before Christian is telling Ana how emaciated she looks and practically starts shoving food down her throat. What is it with this guy and feeding Ana? I’m sure he must have some food fetish—does he get off watching her eat?

Anyway, Christian and Anastasia are boyfriend-and-girlfriend again and now Ana has a new job. Christian demands to know why Ana has to work since he’s a billionaire and all and he can just take care of her, but… REALLY?! REALLY?! Talk about wanting to cut off your girlfriend from her friends and the outside world so you can creepily keep her to yourself. Ana’s new boss is a guy named Jack Hyde (*side-eye* yeah, I’m sure this guy will be a prince) and he doesn’t waste any time sleazing all over Ana. Christian and Ana continue to email each other sexually explicit things—have these two jerkweeds never heard of texting?—with Christian insisting that Ana use her Blackberry when she’s emailing him about stuff like spanking. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF SHE’S USING HER BLACKBERRY TO CHECK HER EMAIL. SHE’S STILL USING HER WORK EMAIL TO SEND PERSONAL, SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MESSAGES TO CHRISTIAN. IT WILL STILL BE ON THE WORK SERVER. I’m plenty sure the tech guys are just lolling all over the floor, getting their jollies off reading these horny, turgid emails. Ana doesn’t listen, of course, because she’s a stupid cow and never mind that she signed pages and pages of a Non-Disclosure Agreement before becoming Christian’s love slave when anyone in the IT department can yank these off the server. So Christian has the tech guys constantly scrubbing the emails off the server, but the brilliant Ms. Steele keeps using her work email anyway to message Christian the firmly vanilla things she wants him to do to her.

Oh, by the way, since Ana insists on working, Christian does what any sane person would do in order to ensure that his lover will be safe in the workplace and he can keep an eye on her: HE BUYS THE COMPANY.

I… I don’t…

Meanwhile, the world just won’t let these two lovebirds be together happily for long and obstacles in the form of Christian’s ex submissive Leila and his former lover, “Mrs. Robinson” getting in the way. Ana, of course, is practically insane with jealousy at this point, because she’s convinced that Christian is not happy with their strictly vanilla relationship and that he’d want to cheat on her with women willing to be spanked and butt-plugged by him.

This is something I have to contend with for a long time—other women wanting my man…

Leila, Christian’s ex-submissive, becomes completely unhinged upon seeing Christian and Ana happy together and just starts stalking them. Christian goes into full-protector mode, of course, and practically surgically attaches Ana to his ass so she wouldn’t be out of his sight for a moment. But because Ana is a stupid cow—as we’ve already established—she insists on going out by herself and demands that Christian call off the bodyguards looking after her dumb ass even though there’s a crazy woman out there with a gun who had just thrashed her Audi and basically wants to kill her. As if that’s not enough, “Mrs. Robinson” has started circling around Christian again, passive-aggressively dropping hints to Ana that she’ll never be good enough for Christian, feeding her insecurities more and more. Man, no wonder Leila went nuts. And because Ana is convinced that Christian will soon tire of her and go off looking for a new submissive he can beat up, Christian decides to shut her up once and for all and proposes marriage.

Oh, yeah, that’s a great idea!

The Heroine Female Lead Ana is just… the worst. When Christian admits to her that he’s afraid she’d leave him if she ever discovered how he truly is, she says:

“Why? Because I might think you’re a sicko for whipping and fucking women who look just like your mother?”

She knows he’s messed up because when he was a kid he was severely abused by his mother’s pimp and was to-hell-and-back-traumatized because when he was four-years-old, he was stuck with his mother’s dead body for four days since no one cared enough about them to check up on them. The dude is… not… okay. He needs more than a psychiatrist who seems complicit in this fuckery and acts more like a gossiping, matchmaking aunt than a medical professional. And yet Ana is more concerned with being dumped because she doesn’t want to get spanked once in a while and is afraid Christian will go somewhere else. At any rate, I never want to see “fuckedupness” used in a sentence ever again.

If she had half a brain, she would have run the second she found Christian’s dead mom’s picture and realized she looked a lot like her.

When Leila breaks into Ana’s apartment, severely unhinged and suffering from a major nervous breakdown, Christian embraces her and comforts her, then gives her a bath. Ana witnesses her boyfriend showing kindness to an ex-girlfriend who’s having a tough time and freaks the fuck out, even though Christian’s treatment of Leila is tantamount to… oh, I DON’T KNOW… having sympathy for another human being who is OBVIOUSLY in pain?! When Christian tells Ana that Leila is basically broken and has the emotional capacity of a needy child, we get this:

What the hell would he know about caring for a child? This was a woman he had a very full-on, deviant sexual relationship with.

DEVIANT. Obviously Ana, the judgmental cow that she is, thinks that BDSM is wrong and abnormal. But it’s totally okay when she does it. Ugh.

This girl is such a massive ball of neuroses and insecurities that she is not in any place to get involved with a man who is emotionally damaged himself. What’s really weird about Anastasia Steele is that she basically had a happy childhood with a mother and step-father who loves her. She’s a beautiful, a college-educated, “smart,” white woman who’s never really had anything terrible happen to her and yet she’s convinced she’s unattractive and unworthy of love. She has barely any self-esteem at all and there’s no reason for it. She is privileged by virtue of being a pretty white woman who was born to a middle class family. The only thing she should be worried about is if she were mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with a man who is obviously in need of major mental help. She should be trying to help him in other ways, not encouraging this sick co-dependent relationship. Shouldn’t she be afraid that a relationship with Christian can obviously mess you up enough that when he breaks up with you, you become a gun-toting, non-showering loony who hunts down his new girlfriends?

And the way she attacks “Mrs. Robinson” is just… brutal, calling her a child molester, when she doesn’t even know the full extent of Mrs. Robinson’s relationship with Christian (the author has only provided the scarcest of details). After all, by Christian’s own admission, he was a rebellious punkass mess before Mrs. Robinson comes along and straightens him out. And yet “Mrs. Robinson” is villainized left and right. Would Christian, “smart” as he is, have a full business partnership with a woman who supposedly sexually abused him? (Well, yeah, maybe. He’s a messed-up dude.) There’s a double standard here: when it’s the woman who is in sexual control, she has to be some kind of manipulative Scheherazade and yet, when it’s a dude who is in sexual control, it’s all kosher. It’s even sexy. I’d understand that Ana isn’t comfortable with “Mrs. Robinson” because she had a previous relationship with her boyfriend, but Ana is actually openly hostile with her.

Speaking of crazy, Ana’s “subconscious” and “inner goddess” are back in full force. In her review, Katrina Lumsden rightly pointed out that Ana’s inner goddess is actually a stand-in for her vagina. I laugh with glee at the image of a vagina wearing fuck-me pumps, tortoise-shell framed glasses, and harlot-red lipstick.

Ana reminds me of a young girl who’s just discovered what sexual arousal is. Seriously, she’s wet “down there” so much that I don’t know how she’s not in danger of chronic yeast infection.

The Hero Male Lead I don’t know where to start with this kid. I don’t know how he manages to get anything done throughout the day when all he thinks about is Ana and how he’s going to “punish” and fuck her. Obviously, he has major mental problems. You know how serial killers have a type and mostly only attack victims who look like their type? Christian is kind of like that. That’s why all of his female employees are tall, Amazonian blondes who look nothing like his mother—they are not his type because he has to work with them and can’t see them as sexual objects. Meanwhile, he seems to be intent on finding a woman who looks exactly like his mother so he can punish and degrade her. HE IS ONLY SEXUALLY AROUSED BY WOMEN WHO LOOK LIKE HIS MOTHER. That is some serious Norman Bates stuff. This kid is not okay. This is not your usual “My mother was a whore and I’m all emo about it and want to find a woman who’ll love me like she should have” romance hero; this dude is so angry with his mother that he wants to continually punish and fuck women who look like her… he has sexual desires for women who LOOK LIKE HIS DEAD MOM. And his psychiatrist is complicit in this and actually encourages it!

I can’t talk about this kid anymore. He’s just… messed up. He needs lots and lots of therapy.

Oh My Word! The Madonna/Whore Complex is strong with this one. There seems to be only two kinds of women in the “Fifty Shades” universe: good women and bad women. Anastasia is deserving of Christian’s love because she is innocent and virginal before him UNLIKE HIS DIRTY WHORE OF A MOTHER and therefore is the one who “breaks the spell.” Mrs. Robinson, for example, is placed in the role of the villain for daring to have sexual desires for being… eww, old and daring to have sexual desires. In fact, much emphasis is placed on the fact that Ana is naive and ignorant in the ways of the world and that’s why Christian finds her charming. With Mrs. Robinson, he was the one being led around by a more experienced woman; but with Ana, he’s the dominant and the decision-maker. He’s the boss. He’s the fucking Master of the Universe because Anastasia sees him as a god and idolizes him.

You know how this author shows how “special” Ana and Christian are? Everyone wants to have sex with them. In fact, they’re so hot and sexy and irresistible that people are willing to BREAK THE LAW just to have a piece. Damn, that better be an awesome piece of ass worth going to prison for.

In the first Fifty Shades book, I felt sorry for Anastasia Steele because she IS young and naive and taken advantage of by an older, more experienced man. But after reading this one, I’ve come to realize that Anastasia is actually awful. She’s judgmental, childish, possessive, petty, and selfish. You’d think she would feel sorry for Leila, a woman who was so damaged and broken up by her relationship with Christian that she has a mental break. You’d think that for the sake of female solidarity, Ana would have tried to understand and to some extent, help Leila. Instead, she begrudges the small amount of care and affection that Christian shows Leila when he sees how his abandonment of Leila had affected her. Ana is so wrapped up in what she wants and what she needs and how Christian would fulfill what she thinks is missing from her life, that she doesn’t really see anything outside of her sphere with Christian. She is a narcissistic, manipulative, needy, clingy brat. She is a black hole of insecurities and spite. She is just… terrrrrrible.

Christian is… seriously, how is this kid not a rapist and serial killer? Don’t we have Mrs. Robinson to thank for steering him away from that and turning the rage and darkness he feels inside into sexual energy?

And what is with the people who supposedly care about Christian and Ana? These two have only been together for two months at most and yet when they announce they’re going to get married, everyone is happy-happy-joy-joy! Aren’t Christian’s very wealthy parents worried that their emotionally-damaged son is rushing into marriage with a pretty girl he just met and that she could be some gold-digger? They don’t even really spend a lot of time with her. They don’t know her. All they know is that Christian is smitten with her and they’d never seen him act the way he does when he’s with her. CHRISTIAN COULD BE ON CRYSTAL METH AND THEY’D NEVER SEEN HIM ACT THE WAY HE DOES WHEN HE’S ON CRYSTAL METH (sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Breaking Bad). The point is, just because the new person in your son’s life is making him act different, it’s not necessarily a good thing. HE IS STALKING HER AND BUYING HER CARS WHEN THEY’VE ONLY STARTED DATING. Isn’t that alarming enough? And what about Ana’s parents? Aren’t they worried that their fresh-out-of-college daughter is marrying a billionaire she has only known for a couple of months? Aren’t there concerned friends (Katherine doesn’t count because she’s dating Elliott, Christian’s brother, and has therefore drank from the Grey Kool-Aid) to tell these two deluded freaks stuck in a “sadomasochistic” codependent relationship to maybe step back, take a breather, and evaluate where they’re at before they take a giant step like marriage?

As for the “kinky fuckery,” there aren’t any to be found. In fact, the sex in this book is even tamer than the previous book. You’d think the sex would be a little wilder and hotter, since Ana’s been “broken in,” so to speak. And yet it’s repetitive. It’s the same old insert-tab-A-into-slot-B foolishness and it’s barely even sexy. There is ONE scene that’s ALMOST daring (but only because for most of Americans, the buttsecks is still a big no-no): Ana goes exploring in the “Red Room of Pain” and finds all sorts of anal toys in a drawer. Naturally, she’s intrigued. For Christian’s birthday, she gives him permission to stick things in her butt by giving him a butt plug, but he tells her the plug is too big for someone untrained like her. He uses his fingers instead and they both get so hot that they start doing it, then cuddle after they finish. AND HE DOESN’T WASH HIS HANDS. HE DOESN’T WASH HIS HANDS.

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2 Responses to “Review: Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James”

  1. Rebecca August 23, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    I’ve been coming here off an on for several years. I love reading your stuff – it always ALWAYS makes me laugh out loud.

  2. Chessie November 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    I get it, it’s a bit of a laugh, it’s supposed to be funny, and for the most part it is very funny, and I agree with you.
    But for example you critise Anna for not being objective about certain situations. (Eg. Leila). Of course we as a reader can be objective but Anna as a person (granted fictional) is unable to because she is submerged in the plot and has emotions somewhat disconnected from our own. And to be honest, if my boyfriend was undressing his ex during her time of need, I’d have something to say.
    With regards to the marriage thing I am totally agreed though.
    What we must remember is that this is essentially a woman’s fantasy gone wild.