Yup. I read them. All three. And yes, I feel dirty. Not, mind you, because of the much-heralded “Mommy Porn” contained therein – frankly, I found it all a bit lukewarm – but because I have just given weeks, nay, MONTHS! of my life to the most godawfully written, ploddingly plotted, and cringingly juvenile collection of rot in the entire history of time. With the possible exception of The Bridges of Madison County – but don’t even start me down that country road.
Let’s start with the “author’s” nom de plume, shall we? EL James. Which I still cannot recall without checking the spines of the books. I suppose it was her (gender assumed) intention to create the dullest, most forgettable handle possible in light of the literary horrors she was about to unleash upon the world. A pre-emptive strike against infamy, perhaps. But honestly? The books would have borne equal scholarly heft if they had been authored “By Bob” or “From the Desk of Cindy.” I absolutely get her need for anonymity, but I, for one, would prefer my S&M romances to be penned by more aptly named vixens, like Mistress Raven Blackwidow or Vinyl Von Vipervenom. It’s not asking much.
Allow me to get all of the righteously indignant “Christian Grey is an abusive, deplorable, mysogynistic sociopath” stuff out of the way now. Of course he is. He’s deranged. Broken beyond repair, controlling, self-loathing, physically dangerous and emotionally abusive. He is also an exceptional stalker (and I know whereof I speak here, having been stalked myself by one of the best and most cunning in the business – NOT a compliment, asshole). But friends, I cannot take this “literature” seriously enough to truly devote any time pondering the larger sociological ramifications of deifying a maniac like this, because clearly, our esteemed author did not. The pervasive moral directive she wants us to osmose is this: He’s rich, gorgeous, and hung like a woolly mammoth. Therefore he is awesome. And I gotta admit – sometimes, he kinda is. I mean, dude has a fully outfitted designer sex playroom! That? IS FANTASTIC. But I digress…
The true object of my detestation is our winsome heroine, Anastasia (Ana, unless she’s In Trouble). Honestly, a more loathsome character in modern literature I cannot possibly conjure, except maybe Lord Voldemort (and to be fair, that poor bastard doesn’t really have a face. I’d be pissed, too.) Ana is juvenile, insecure, petulant, narcissistic, tedious, self-absorbed, and worst of all, boring. She pouts (pouts!) to get her way, martyrs herself every chance she gets (then pshaws ensuing accolades by secretly nodding to her moral superiority), uses her “fragility” to manipulate EVERYONE, and poo-poos Christian’s lavish lifestyle for all of 8 minutes before requesting a $100K car for her birthday and barking orders at the help. Ana even manages to (spoiler alert!) get herself knocked up with an entirely unwanted, inappropriately timed embryo of seriously dubious lineage (Daddy? Is that a flogger or a bull-whip?) and has the supreme gall to BLAME HER SECRETARY. Which obviously begs the larger question: why does this woman even HAVE a secretary? She’s like, 12. And as far as I can tell, she’s been to work twice. Ever.
Ana’s “sexual awakening” is absurd. (For a non-absurd portrayal of such, please read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Thank you.) She goes from virgin to self-professed (and self-impressed) Sex Goddess overnight, quite literally. All of the thrashing about and carrying on is actually quite embarrassing, as we are supposed to believe that this recent college graduate who has never even KISSED anyone other than Christian is suddenly transformed into some sort of hyper-skilled sexual savant. Oh, I could scream. And scream I shall, if I am ever forced to face any of the following Ana-isms ever again: Inner Goddess, bespectacled subconscious, “happy trail,” “down there” (seriously, folks – she’s that infantile), Little Blip (the name of her unborn, emotionally doomed offspring), “cupping my sex,” desire-induced “squirming”, exploding, finding release, pubic hair (thank GOD she shaves in Book 3 so we can stop hearing about it), moaning/groaning (cleverly alternated throughout, tricking the reader into thinking she’s got different noises in her repertoire), etc, etc, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.
Also, she appears to have very aggressive, unusual nipples, which “elongate” dramatically when tugged upon or clamped. In my mind, there are two pink broken-in-half Crayons affixed to her breasts lengthwise (you’re welcome), and I feel a momentary pang of sympathy for what must be her futile efforts to conceal them in cold weather. Also impressive is Ana’s miraculous ability to have sex 47 times a day without ever contracting a UTI. Me? I’d put Ocean Spray out of business with a tenth of that action.
So yes, friends. I hate myself. Almost as much as I hate Anastasia, Christian, and EL James herself (who reeeeeaally should invest in a thesaurus. And can you arrest someone for criminally uninspired prose and/or serial repetitiveness?). And while I fear I shall never recover my dignity or self-respect after emerging from this fetid vortex of literary dysentery, I can tell you this with absolute certainty: I will TOTALLY go see the movie. Especially if they cast Ryan Gosling.