Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fifty Shades Freed- This Review Might Literally Kill Me

I really have to do this now, don't I? Even though I'm getting around to this much later than I originally intended and it's kind of too late already because the movie is already out and probably nobody cares anymore so what's even the fucking point? Oh, alright...

(Warning: Spoilers and NSFW-ness ahead. Also, anger, general snark, and rude language. You get the idea by now.)

 Even now that the Greypocalypse has already happened, I find myself struggling to give this review my all. I've long since accepted that reading bad books and watching bad movies just to tear them apart is basically my "thing", but there comes a point when it goes from being fun to feeling like an obligation. I think I hit this point when I finally posted my Fifty Shades Darker review. Being a slow writer + going into overkill mode + not feeling as enthusiastic about it as I was even just last week really took a toll on my psyche. And as much as I have to say about Fifty Shades Freed I really don't think I have another review like that in me. I'll try to make this one as painless for everyone as possible. So let's just dive right in, shall we?

1.) The Writing- Oh Christ, do I really need to go through all this yet again?  Well, I'm sure as hell NOT going to go through all the crap regarding basic writing mechanics again; in terms of word choice, crappy dialogue, sentence structure, and bad grammar, this book is pretty comparable to the last two. No, the real issues with Fifty Shades Freed are more macro-level stuff.

Remember how I said in my review of the last book that there was a clear plot-degradation across all three books?  The first book, though quite stagnant at times, did have a plot. The second meandered all over the place and the story wrapped up before the novel was even over. The third one has no plot whatsoever. None. Zero. I think there might've finally been something of a plot in the last few chapters, but that was in the last few chapters. Not the entire rest of this 500-some page monstrosity. Fifty Shades Freed is an absolute clusterfuck of a novel, a hot mess of random events that happen that, much like in the last one, ultimately result in no fundamental change in the status-quo for our characters.

And you know what? I wouldn't really mind that so much; at this stage whether or not 50 Shades has a real plot has no bearing whatsoever on my opinion of it, and the fact that it is a hot mess does make it easier to mock (when it's not being dull and frustratingly pointless, that is). Except at the same time I do mind, because despite the fact that she's not even trying for coherency at this point, EL James has still not given up her delusions that this series have any sort of literary legitimacy. No, she has to make an attempt at "style". Apparently as she was writing this book she discovered the narrative technique known as "the flashback", which she seems to have been super excited about for all of about three chapters before promptly giving up on it. Style? What's that?

Best vision representation of EL James writing a novel I could come up with
I don't even know why the fuck any of these flashbacks were in here except to show off her use of literary "style" that she doesn't actually possess. There's nothing artistic or deep about shoving in a pointless flashback that does fuck all to further a plot that doesn't even exist. Absolutely none of these flashbacks were necessary! What, was she concerned that if she didn't flashback to their wedding in a chapter taking place during their fucking HONEYMOON that readers wouldn't know that it had taken place? I mean, yeah I'm grateful I wasn't forced to sit through a wedding for half this novel like with fracking Breaking Dawn, but was she really so desperate to show them consummating the marriage  after yet another fucking scene of people telling them what an amazing couple they are that she really had to put it in flashback? I mean come on, she doesn't even show the whole wedding (thank GOD) but she could've just started the novel with that scene and then jump forward to the honeymoon if she was so intent on putting it in there.

There is no justifiable reason for this to be a flashback. But I guess you could argue it was more "important" than the other two flashbacks, though, both of which are extremely jarring and have nothing to do with the current situation. Did we really need a flashback to that one time just a few freaking days before that Christian shaved Ana's cooch? And I know we definitely did not need that brief and pointless prenup conversation that will never be brought up again later. And then once the honeymoon chapters are over, James doesn't write another flashback until the epilogue. I can't exactly count that as a negative, though; even the author doesn't seem to think anything worth writing about could've possibly happened during the single fucking month they were engaged.

My exact feelings when reading all the goddamn flashbacks in this book
I do have to commend E.L. James on her achievement of writing a subplot without there even being a main plot. I never thought that was possible, and yet these books continue to prove me wrong about just how low the art of writing could sink. The only thing that gives this book any semblance of having a story arc is the fact that Jack Hyde keeps popping up to cause mayhem, and yet his only real purpose is to create more pointless drama between Ana and Christian that never really gets resolved. Of course, that is when the narrative doesn't seem to forget that Jack even exists at all. And even when he does cause friction between our lead characters the subsequent fight is never any different than all the other 1,543 fights they have, so why the fuck should we care about Jack? He's not the real obstacle blocking their path to eternal bliss, it's their relationship itself.

I have my suspicions that E.L. James knows perfectly well just how stupid and aimless this book is, though, because she starts playing these dirty little tricks to try and make us forget that there is no real plot, such as ending almost every fucking chapter on a cliffhanger. Don't believe me? Let's consult the text:

1)  Crap, crap, crap, and he’s mad. Shit. He’s really mad.
2) Holy fuck! What has he done to me?
3) “We don’t know for sure that it was arson,” he says, cutting to the heart of my anxiety. My hand clutches my throat in fear. Charlie Tango and now this? What next?
5) We have an hour! Christian glances down at me. “Rough?” I nod. “Well, Mrs. Grey, you’re in luck. I’m taking requests today.”
6) Holy crap! I know who it is. “Christian,” I whisper. “That’s Jack Hyde.”
9) But what’s more shocking is Jack Hyde slumped at his feet.
10) “Good to have you home. I’ve been waiting for you.”
11) Christian lifts his face and gazes at me, his expression unreadable. “Ana, I was born in Detroit.”
13) “My beautiful Kate, I love you. Your grace, your beauty , and your fiery spirit have no equal, and you have captured my heart. Spend your life with me. Marry me.” Holy shit!
15) Leila? Fuck. What does she want?
16) “Ray’s been in an accident.” Oh no. Daddy. I stop breathing. “He’s in the hospital. You’d better get here quick.”
18) “Hey, Annie, we lost? No!” Ray rasps, and he squeezes my hand. Daddy!
19) She looks up at me, her eyes serious. “Well, Mrs. Grey , it means you’re pregnant.” What? No. No. No. Fuck.
20) That’s where he went. He’s been to see her.
21) My scalp prickles and all the hair on my body stands to attention as adrenaline floods through my system and my world stops spinning. It’s Jack Hyde.
22) “ANA!” Darkness … peace.
24) Holy fuck … he’s talking.

That's right, 17 out of 25 chapters end on a cliffhanger/some kind of bad surprise, including the second to last one. You can't fool me, E.L. James, I know this game you're playing: it's called "trick the audience into thinking there is a plot with actual forward momentum by leaving the reader hanging at the end of every chapter". See? There's totally an engaging story here with rising action and interesting character arcs, so back off, haters! Also, what I find kind of hilarious is that you can pretty much guess what the overall story line of this book is just from reading the last line of each of these chapters. And you just know that a love story is off to a promising start when the main character ends the first and second chapters with "Shit, he's really mad" and "Holy fuck! What has he done to me?". This is the book series that managed to outsell Harry Potter and the frickin' Bible.

This is one of those days when Archer seems to speak to my very soul
2.) Fifty Shades of Fucked Up Romance- You know what really grinds my gears? Fifty Shades fans who keep insisting that this series is romantic and that the books get progressively better because Ana ultimately changes Christian. I know I already mentioned previously that the fantasy of changing a man is a big part of why a lot of people do like these books, but honestly? I just don't see it. Yes, I know that "changing a bad boy through the power of luuuurve" is an unhealthy message for this or any other story to send, but putting that aside I would really like to know just where readers are getting the idea from that between the beginning of Fifty Shades of Grey and the end of Fifty Shades Freed Christian's character underwent any substantial change for the better as a person.

Go on, tell me. I've got time.
Fact is, Christian Grey in no way becomes a better lover, a  better Dom, or a better fucking human being over the course of this trilogy. His personality is static; he is every bit as controlling, possessive, codependent, paranoid, manipulative, and un-empathetic as he was when he was first introduced. Any time he mentions that Ana makes him feel vulnerable, that she has control over him, or someone else remarks that she has had a positive influence on him, it's nothing more than lip service. We're constantly being told that Christian has changed for the better, but never actually shown that he has. This is, of course, also a flaw in the way these books are written--telling rather than showing is a very common writing error--but this seems to have gone unnoticed by the vast majority of the fandom.

I know a lot of people will say that Christian made the ultimate sacrifice by giving up his kinky lifestyle for Ana, and that her love ultimately "cured" him of his need for it. In response, I pose to you several questions: 1) Did he really give up asserting his dominance over Ana? 2) If so, has this fundamentally altered his personality in a positive way? And 3) Is this really something that one needs to be "cured" of in order to have an ideal romantic relationship?

First off, at no point does Christian ever stop attempting to control Ana's life and assert his dominance over her. He continues to treat her in such a way without her consent and with little regard to her feelings, both in and out of the bedroom. He gets irrationally angry with her and feels justified in punishing her physically/sexually on more than one occasion, also without her consent, making these clear instances of abuse. In no way does he appear to have become a better boyfriend/husband, and there are multiple instances during which Ana is clearly afraid of him and rejoices when she has his "permission" to have fun. Fundamentally, Christian has not changed; the fact that he becomes furious with her for "disobeying" him and goes ballistic and swears at her for getting pregnant should be proof enough of that. We're meant to believe that when she was unconscious in the hospital near the end that he has this come-to-Jesus moment when everything fell into place and he vowed to change, but as soon as she wakes up he's back to being as controlling, harsh, and condescending to her as ever. In fact, you might say that if anyone truly changes their behavior at all it's Ana, who by this point seems to believe that it's up to her to work around his needs and manage his expectations.
The only changes Christian really makes are minor and unsubstantial; he gives up his canes and tells Ana that she's "his wife, not my submissive" (As if it's impossible to be both? Not cool, E.L. James, not cool), but ultimately he gets everything he wants in the end, while Ana sacrifices personal freedoms and remnants of her individuality left and right. I guess the only "important" changes that occur within him are that he recognizes that Elena molested him and that he really did love his birth mother, but despite what the author would have us believe, neither of these revelations have any bearing on his actual behavior.

3.) The Sub Club- This is a really minor point, but something about this one throwaway line really irks me because of how fucking bizarre and unrealistic it is. You all remember Leila the crazy ex-sub of Christian's that was stalking the main characters in the last book? Yeah, apparently she's doing better now and even going to art school on Christian's charity, so she shows up at Ana's office with one day with--for who knows what reason--ANOTHER former sub of Christian's named Suzy, who makes this remark about them calling themselves, "the Sub Club". By "they" it's implied that she means the ex-subs of Christian, aka "the fifteen".

So, E.L. James, you're telling me that there exists a little "club" exclusively made up of the former sexual partners of this one guy, and that they're all on friendly enough terms and are organized enough to actually refer to themselves by a specific name (even if it's just jokingly)? Nope, nuh-uh, not buying it. I'm sorry, but shit like this does not happen in reality. If this is James' attempt to actually portray part of the local BDSM community it really makes no sense at all. I mean, how do they all even know each other, if Christian was so private about his sex life? And why would a bunch of one guy's exes form this tight-knit circle in the first place? What, are the magical properties of his dick so strong that they all are hopelessly in love with him and needed to form a post-Christian support group as a coping mechanism? I can just imagine after her breakup with Christian, Leila getting a call from a mysterious stranger, asking her to join the club.

I honestly believe that the only reason this is in here is so that E.L. James could congratulate herself for coming up with a clever nickname for her fangirls to call themselves. I can believe that she would be that much of a egotistical control freak herself that she would feel the need to come up with the name of her own fan club. That, or the fans were already calling themselves the "Sub Club"--in a "teehee it's so weird and naughty!" kind of way that's basically a middle finger to actual subs--and she awkwardly shoehorned it into this book. But I don't actually think she cares enough about her fans to give them a friendly nod like that.

4.) The Point at Which I Almost Quit Reading- So by the end of the novel Ana is pregnant, which was impossible to not see coming because E.L. James spent half the book dropping anvil-sized hints that this was going to happen. Apparently all the crazy shit that happened in the book kept forcing Ana to tell her assistant to move her doctor's appointments when she was scheduled to get her birth control shot--why all of the calls from her doctor were going to her work number rather than her cell phone is beyond me, but then again we're dealing with the woman who's too stupid to not use her work email for personal correspondence--and even then shifts the blame onto the shot not being effective or the doctor somehow screwing up. Because God forbid Ana ever have to take responsibility for her mistakes!

To be fair, Ana isn't entirely to blame for this mistake; she had a pretty crazy couple of weeks and her dumbass assistant never told her exactly what the appointments were that she was moving to unspecified dates. But of course, this is just another convenient justification for Christian's control over Ana's contraceptive choices. THIS IS TOTALLY NOT ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR AND TOTALLY ALL FOR THE GOOD OF THE FEEBLE WOMAN. TOTALLY.

(**CORRECTION** At the time of writing this review, it had been a while since I'd given the book a thorough read-through, and the details were a bit fuzzy on the issue of the pregnancy debacle. Not to mention, the extremely compressed timeline of these books really fucked with my head and made it hard to figure out exactly how little time passes between events. Thanks to Ket and Gehayi's sporking  on Das Sporking, it's been made clear to me since then that the pregnancy is actually not Ana's fault at all, despite her appointments being moved around. Judging by how far along the doctor believe's she is, she couldn't have possibly gotten pregnant any later in the story than her honeymoon, during which time the shot was still supposed to be effective. So yes, the blame does rest squarely on the birth control for not working properly, but it still doesn't make Ana any less of an idiot for literally every other thing she ever does, including not keeping track of her doctor's appointments.**)

Needless to say, Ana is fucking terrified to tell her husband the news, which would normally set off alarm bells in my head, but when has Ana ever not been afraid to tell Christian something that might upset him? I just knew that he would react terribly to this, and yet somehow I was not prepared for just how ugly his reaction would be. It pretty much dings about half the items on one of those "warning signs of abuse" checklists in one single paragraph. He immediately starts screaming and swearing at her, finally brings up the fact that they barely know each other, calls her fucking stupid (hey, it's ok for me to do it because I was more specifically referring to her reaction to the news, alright?) and tells her that she "had one job" (namely, not getting pregnant except when it was convenient for Christian), almost knocks the chair over, storms out of the house, and doesn't come back until hours later when he's super drunk. And he went to get drunk with Elena, the eeeevil ex that he specifically said he wasn't in contact with anymore. Oh, and in the morning he totally-not-seriously makes a thinly-veiled rape threat. Seriously, it veers right the fuck into Lifetime movie territory, and yet somehow millions of women still find this asshole attractive.

Dear readers, I almost threw my laptop across the room when I reached this point in the book. This is the point where Fifty Shades officially crosses the threshold from being infuriating yet mockable to something that makes me so angry that words do not exist in the English language to properly describe how I feel. I am not the first person to say this, but it bears repeating as many times as possible: Fifty Shades is such a shockingly accurate portrayal of an abusive relationship that it is almost unbelievable at times that it wasn't meant to be perceived that way. Fans will defend it by saying "it's just FANTASY!" or "don't like, don't read!" but what woman has ever fantasized about being screamed at and walked out on for being accidentally pregnant by a husband she is plainly terrified of??? In what warped version of reality is this some kind of romantic ideal??? And what really gets me is this story I heard somewhere of someone who basically lifted the whole pregnancy plotline wholesale and posted it on pregnancy/parenting forums as if it were a true story, and every single response pretty much told "Ana" that she needed to get the hell away from her husband.

Everything else up to this point I could stomach well enough to either shake my head sadly or make fun of, but this? This is beyond the pale. This is biggest, reddest, red fucking flag in the history of red flags, and I just don't see how after reading this chapter that there is a single woman alive on this Earth would could possibly want a Christian Grey in their lives. I'm sorry, my soul is just too fragile to go on anymore if I can't live in denial that this fucker is the epitome of the perfect man to millions. I just can't do it.

5.) I'M DONE- Originally I was planning on talking about the epilogue and how E.L. James doesn't know when to quit while she's ahead, but at this point I've been slogging through this review for so long and I ended up being a lot angrier than I thought I would be. At this point trying to give my sarcastic take on this crap isn't fun anymore, and I really don't know what to say. I've exhausted myself with this surprisingly virulent spewing of hatred, and I not even sure if reading this review is fun for you readers anymore, either. At this point I just can't keep going anymore; I'm tired and cranky and I'm absolutely spent. All my snark is dried up, I have no more humor reserved for this series. I suppose there really is no other way this torturous journey could've ended but like this, but it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth to know that it has. Perhaps now that this review is done, I can move on, and leave this pain behind me. But the expected catharsis has not yet come, and I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that relief will not find me so easily. I am emotionally broken, and on some sick, twisted level, I want others to know my pain. The damage is done, and yet I feel I will never be released from this prison. Nothing can ever undo this damage, there is no hope left for me.

Ugggghh, this review took forever to finish! Hopefully my next post will be a little less depressing and I'll be able to get it out fairly soon! Stay tuned, my lovelies!

1 comment:

  1. I nominated you for the Liebster Award.

    Rules are here: