Folks, here at the Gag Order we try to have some nice things to say about stuff; personally I’m the kind of person who’ll allow my like of individual aspects of a work overshadow its overarching lack of quality a lot of the time. Hell, I even kinda like those Transformers movies because there are giant robots in them, and I have an escape clause in my soul against feeling too badly about anything with those in them.
But Grey? I simply can’t do this for Grey. Because chapter five begins like this:
I’ve slept well for the first time in five days. Maybe I’m feeling the closure I had hoped for, now that I’ve sent those books to Anastasia. As I shave, the asshole in the mirror stares back at me with cool, gray eyes.
We are five chapters into this book now, and fully four of them open with either Grey waking up from sleep, or talking about his sleeping schedule. Of the things this book discusses, the most omnipresent theme so far is E.L James’ pressing need to tell us absolutely everything about the way Christian Grey sleeps. It’s a wonder we haven’t heard about the thread count of his sheets yet. I halfway suspect that when we finally get to the sex scenes Grey will just start lovingly describing the size of the mattress while he’s thrusting into Ana, or imagining how comfy the pillows will be under his head when he finally gets to sleep on them.
Hell, if that turns out to be the thing that drives him to orgasm, I wouldn’t be surprised.
It’s not just repetitious and weirdly specific, it’s also just bad writing. Chapter openings are supposed to hook the reader into the scene, to set the stage for what’s to come or hint at future plot events, but Grey only ever opens on the most mundane shit imaginable. The bland stream of consciousness that comprises the entirety of Christian’s narration just stops at the end of one chapter, and starts back up at the beginning of another.
It’s like E.L James has no understanding of tone, or pacing, or scene setting, really anything that writers need to establish and ground their work. All she cares about doing is writing the characters, and characters just incidentally have to be occupying physical space so there’s maybe a spattering of things around them so they aren’t just being insufferable bores in an empty void. It reads like Christian Grey wrote a “what I did on summer vacation” reports after failing second grade for twenty years.
Anyway, we’re suddenly thrown back into Christian Grey’s life as he’s shaving, which, I mean… fucking nobody cares about that. This obsession with rendering the most mundane aspects of Grey’s life in minute detail, while ignoring the stuff that might maybe be interesting, like his business career or billionaire lifestyle, get lost by the wayside. I said earlier that nearly all of the actual actions in these scenes, all the physical locations, are essentially irrelevant, and I meant that; they’re just window dressing for Grey to impart certain pieces of information about himself or Ana to the reader through them. What Grey does rarely has any impact on the story at all; what he thinks while he’s doing it is what the scene is for, more often than not.
This opening scene exists so that Grey can relate to the viewer that he hopes Ana sees the books he sent her in the last chapter and, rather than interpreting them as a warning like he (vaguely) wanted to, opts instead to contact him again. That’s literally the entire gist of what’s going on there; the scene ends immediately after he finishes thinking that, and his actions during it are completely irrelevant. That being the case, why not choose something interesting to happen in the background? Why doesn’t James ever choose to let something interesting happen in the background?
Grey is always out jogging, or shaving, or taking a frigging potty break whenever he thinks relevant information that the readers should know. He’s always doing things that the readers don’t care about and don’t have any impact on how we perceive Grey as a character. From my perspective, he might as well just be standing in the middle of an empty room, motionless, just thinking what needs to be imparted, before moving on: “I sent Ana those books. I hope that my pretense of warning her away is ignored, and she calls me. End communication.”
There is no reason why he couldn’t be doing something interesting during these scenes. The problem is that Grey doesn’t have much of a character beyond vague, ill defined jabs at hobbies that he has that don’t ever go anywhere. He doesn’t seem to do much at all, despite all of the things he just tells us he does; he apparently likes literature and music, plays sports, pilots aircraft and gliders, but we never actually see any of that happen. Wouldn’t it be more fun if Christian contemplated Ana while, say, playing the piano? Something that could actually be used to reflect his emotional state without him having to just declare how he’s feeling?
The thing is that people’s moods and thoughts influence the way they act, and that this is a great way to demonstrate how a character is feeling at a given moment. If Christian thinks of Ana while playing the piano, then the choice of music he plays could be used to indicate how he feels about her. His proficiency at it could give us a window into his mood, because if the mind is elsewhere it’s easy to screw up; imagine if he was playing during that part where he felt guilty about rejecting her, rather than just waking up some more. He attempts to play the piece but, whenever he stops actively thinking about his finer placement and allows himself to play by feel, he thinks back to Ana and donk, hits the wrong key. Sour note.
That’s just off the top of my head, but doesn’t that feel like a much more active and nuanced scene than the bluntness of having him wake up and tell us all outright that he’s having trouble sleeping? Don’t you have a better grip on Christian’s mental state in that moment when it is expressed through his actions, rather than not expressed at all? Don’t actions speak louder than words?
At heart, everything a writer writes is about the information being imparted; there’s nothing really different about what James is doing versus what any other writer does, at the core. But the mark of a good writer is their ability to wrap that information in a compelling package, to express it in an interesting way. That’s why we set scenes, select words to befit the mood we’re attempting to create, rather than just blandly recount what we thought of. It’s the difference between a novel and a plot synopsis. It takes the information and uses it to evoke a world, where Grey just takes it and dumps it out in front of you while having the protagonist do a thing off in the background; what Grey does is a concession to the fact that it’s presented in the novel format, rather than a legitimate use of that same format. It’s a grudging acknowledgement that something needs to happen in a book, that the information can’t just be recounted in a vacuum and still be called a novel.
It is, in a way, ugly. Grotesque in its reductive cynicism, the way it just slops mundanity on the page in front of you, confident that you’ll all just eat it up anyway. This isn’t so much James resting on her laurels as it is James constructing something like Jabba the Hutt’s palace around the laurels so that she can lounge upon them and do essentially nothing at all, while sycophants and petitioners gather round due to nothing more than the gravity of her success. One gets the feeling that if she could have gotten away with just releasing the plot synopsis for twenty dollars, she would have done so.
Yeah, so, there you go: 1500 words written about the first sentence of a single chapter of a shitty romance novel. And what’s the takeaway from all that? “E.L James is Jabba the Hutt.”: I’m sure that’s not going to bite me in the ass at all. Imagine what I could do with the whole book.
… Oh man, I just made myself depressed.
Anyway, Christian gets a phone call from his brother Elliot, who spouts the usual Hollywood playboy platitudes about needing to get away from a woman for a while, and in response Mister “I never get any time off work,” decides to take a half day so he can go hiking, on zero notice. It’s at this point that I honestly suspect that E.L James has never read a single solitary word of her own writing.
Almost as if in acknowledgement of how pointless the entire exchange is, the scene ends immediately afterward; the message has been received, and so there is literally no other reason to continue. The book knows that there’s nothing here that we were interested in seeing through to its conclusion, and that it has no actual character insight or profit to be gained from persisting, and so it just… stops.
Notably, though Christian spent the majority of the last chapter going on about how it was for the best that he rejected Ana when he did, that he was sending her a warning to stay away with the gift he sent her, he takes the opportunity here to go hiking in Portland, where Ana is, so as to get closer to her again. This disconnect between what Christian says and what he does is the main source of this sense of distrust I get reading this book, like I should be wary about his stated goals at all times. This isn’t helped by the fact that he often outright lies to people about those goals; he’s a picture perfect unreliable narrator, and this was entirely unintentional. It’s kind of amazing.
We return to Grey and Elliot driving down to Portland together, and this is maybe as close as we’ve gotten to an actual character interaction in this entire book so far, least of all one that’s new to the series and not a repetition of a scene from a previous novel.
… So of course Elliot begins it asleep.
I mean, yeah, I could point out that this is another thing where a character being asleep is an important part of a scene, but what’s more telling to me is how we finally have two characters with a history we don’t exactly know, in a new location and engaging in a new scene, and E.L James had to desperately scrabble to find a way to keep any weighty interactions from happening. She just had to put Elliot out of the game the moment there was any risk that something interesting might happen.
The end result is that we’re subjected to some more of Christian performing meaningless actions- in this case ordering mountain bikes and having cars delivered- instead of doing something that might aid at all in character building. And of course, James has to stop to make a point of showing that Christian is an absolutely horrendous human being:
“Good.” I end the call and turn up the music. Let’s see if Elliot can sleep through The Verve.
He knows that Elliot is tired, he knows that he wants to sleep, but what Elliot wants doesn’t matter at all. All that matters is Christian and what he wants, and so the asshole deliberately makes it harder for his brother to get some rest, for basically no reason. And we’re apparently supposed to find it funny?
Is that it? Everything in this book is written so flatly that I have trouble figuring out the intent of individual lines.
Thankfully, Elliot doesn’t remain asleep for the entire scene, and when he wakes we’re given some potentially substantial insights into his relationship with Christian, sketched with a characteristic lightness and disinterest.
My father is a polymath, a real renaissance man: academic, sporting, at ease in the city, more at ease in the great outdoors. He’d embraced three adopted kids…and I’m the one who didn’t live up to his expectations.
But before I hit adolescence we had a bond. He’d been my hero. He used to love taking us camping and doing all the outdoor pursuits I now enjoy: sailing, kayaking, biking, we did it all.
Puberty ruined all that for me.
Look at that! That’s some real information that we didn’t know before, replete with some dramatic questions to ask about Christian’s dad and what happened between them! It’s almost as if a writer got her hands on that passage!
… It is never going to come up again, is it?
It certainly doesn’t persist within this scene; Christian is all too eager to move on to something that is objectively less interesting. We turn to their jobs without a word in conclusion of that last idea, and what I find particularly amusing is that, though none of it actually entertains, we end up knowing more about Elliot’s job than we’ve ever learned about Christian’s, and we’ve literally seen him do his job.
There are a number of pragmatic reasons I can think of for a writer to do this, but whatever the reason is, E.L James writes Christian’s career in incredibly vague terms, such that we don’t have much of an idea at all of what he actually does. This is fine, we don’t actually need to know all of that, but the trouble is that Christian’s job is very much a part of his character, it informs who he is. Him being this rich big shot, the money and resources his company pours into feeding the world and other charitable works, are things that James seems to want to talk about, in that more time is spent on these things than should be if it’s unimportant to the overall narrative, while simultaneously being unwilling to actually describe what Grey’s company does, or what Christian does within it.
This reluctance to put any detail into even the important things in the novel creates humorous moments like this one, where an incidental character gets a better sketched career than the damn main character.
There’s another scene break, because of course there is, and we cut back to the two of them mountain biking. Just like every other scene change, the opening lines do nothing to set the tone or evoke any sort of emotion or sensation, and the actual mountain biking, which might have been something exciting to see, is over in the span of a three line paragraph. In fact, this entire scene is exceedingly short and highly confusing; they finish mountain biking and then, with absolutely no description or hint at all that they’re still moving, they’re suddenly inside. Christian continues to obsess over Ana, and we’re treated to the absolutely fascinating spectacle of him checking his email; not even actually reading any of them, just checking and letting us know the contents of his inbox.
Frankly, I refuse to believe that a legitimate human being thought that that was the interesting part of checking email, insofar as checking email can be considered interesting at all.
Elliot grumbles that the girl he’s trying to escape has been calling him non-stop, and we get this exchange:
“Maybe she’s pregnant.”
Elliot pales and I laugh.
“Not funny, hotshot,” he grumbles. “Besides, I haven’t known her that long. Or that often.”
… Because it’s impossible to get pregnant the first few times you have sex with someone? Their uterus unlocks and opens up after the third date?
Does… does James actually think that’s how it works?
It’s another short scene, completely pointless in its execution, and we end up with the two brothers watching sports together. Ana finally calls, and with absolutely no sense of build up or significance, Grey answers:
“Anastasia?” I don’t hide my surprise or my pleasure. The background is noisy and it sounds like she’s at a party or in a bar. Elliot glances at me, so I get up off the sofa and out of his earshot.
“Why did you send me the books?” She’s slurring her words, and a wave of apprehension ripples down my spine.
So, just to get it out of the way, she drunk dialed him. That’s what happened here, which sort of makes Christian’s dramatics over it (“a wave of apprehension,” really? It’s that unnerving to you, is it?) pretty funny, if you don’t know where this scene is going, or how badly it’s going to end up looking once it’s all over.
Ana, quite reasonably from my perspective, wants to know why Christian sent her those books, and apparently needed to get drunk to get the courage to call him. I said in the last recap that Grey’s little gift sends a very confusing message, and it’s nice to be proven right about that; evidently Ana couldn’t get behind the weird pretense Christian presented either.
Christian falls over himself to act concerned over her drunken state, assuming some poorly defined worst scenario based on absolutely nothing, but his worry rings false in my ears because he still takes the time to get shitty the moment she conducts herself in any manner that he doesn’t approve of:
She giggles again. Shit, she’s laughing at me!
I thought you were crazy worried about her, guy? Besides, what kind of insane, prideful shit do you have to be to turn every instance of laughter in your life into some kind of personal attack?
And then things start to get dumb and creepy, which I’m beginning to suspect will become the signature narrative flavor combination that this book will be remembered for.
Christian attempts to get Ana to tell him where she is, but since there’s clearly little actually going on and she, potentially, doesn’t even want to see him after the shit that happened the last time they were together, she hangs up on him instead. Christian responds by calling her back and, frankly, responding in an immensely threatening way:
“I’m coming to get you.” My voice is arctic as I wrestle with my anger and snap my phone shut.
That, dear readers, does not sound like “I’m coming to take you home,” especially from Ana’s perspective, since she thinks he’s in Seattle, not Portland. I mean, that statement is phrased very closely to a literal threat as it is, and apparently it was delivered in an angry tone, but from Ana’s end of the phone what it is, is a person calling back to say a vaguely threatening statement in an angry tone and then hanging up, after she irritated him, who is apparently going to travel interstate to “get her.”
I want you all to keep that in mind as we progress through this chapter, and we’ll see how it all looks from the outside, without knowing Christian’s motivations like we do.
Grey invites his brother along on his strange quest, and then makes a call to his private investigator Welch:
“I’d really like to know where Anastasia Steele is right now.”
“I see.” He pauses for a moment. “Leave it to me, Mr. Grey.”
I know this is outside the law, but she could be getting herself into trouble.
He decides to track her phone. And he knows that it’s illegal; he even opts to use Welch for this rather than a technician in his own company because he wants to keep his name out of whatever trouble that comes of it. That he chooses to make Elliot an accessory to that is just the icing on the cake.
This time there’s an actually appropriate scene skip, and the pair arrive at the bar that Ana is apparently at. Christian, despite being 27, gets rather curmudgeonly in his (two sentence) description of the place, and then remarks that it makes him feel old. At 27. This book’s really not helping shake my opinion that E.L James is just writing her perspective and shunting it onto her characters.
Grey spots Kate, evidently having a good time with some guys, and of course he approves of none of it:
Well, let’s see if Miss Kavanagh is as loyal to her friend as Ana is to her.
It’s worth pointing out again that Christian doesn’t actually know how loyal Ana is to Kate. He’s seen them together exactly one time, during which they did not talk and he monopolized the entirety of Ana’s attention. He’s basing his entire opinion of the woman on one conversation and a series of assumptions he made on sight.
His irritation with her continues- apparently the two sentences he said to her before he labels her “exasperating” just drained away all his good will- and only seems to get worse when she gets interested in Elliot. Fortunately for everyone involved Christian is merely directed to where Ana is, rather than subjecting us all to whatever interactions would have come up with Kate and Elliot, and Christian quickly discovers his objective with Jose:
Hell! She’s with the photographer, I think, though it’s difficult to tell in the dim light. She’s in his arms, but she seems to be twisting away from him. He mutters something to her, which I don’t hear, and kisses her, along her jaw.
“José, no,” she says, and then it’s clear. She’s trying to push him off.
She doesn’t want this.
Grey gets to play white knight at this, intervening to rescue Ana, but his over-eagerness and immediate rage come across as… strained, to me. Like an exaggeration, especially when he describes his voice as “sinister,” and ends up just sounding like a guy yearning to be a badass. Jose, of course, backs off like the good little beta male he is, allowing E.L James’ Mary Sue alpha male hero to preen a little more… well, right up until the moment Ana tosses her cookies. She’s drunk, you see.
Ignoring him, I grab her hair and hold it out of the way as she continues to throw up everything she’s had this evening. It’s with some annoyance that I note she doesn’t appear to have eaten.
Okay, how the fuck am I supposed to commentate on this, let alone make fun of it? Christian Grey, romantic icon for a generation of women, literally takes a moment to examine his paramour-to-be’s vomit in order to find things to be annoyed about. The contents of her stomach are apparently that interesting to him.
How am I supposed to make that seem more ridiculous than it already is? It’d be like making fun of a clown.
Since I can’t say anything any dumber than what that sentence in the book actually describes, I’ll just say that he ushers her somewhere else to vomit, because true gentlemen facilitate their ladyfriends’ drunken purges in peace. Once she’s done having violent gastric distress in this romance novel, she feels bad, and Christian just has to rub that in:
“I’m sorry,” she says finally, while her fingers twist the soft linen.
Okay, let’s have some fun.
“What are you sorry for, Anastasia?”
Okay, so the woman is probably still feeling very sick, not to mention pretty shook up from the whole Jose thing and losing all her dignity in front of Christian, so apparently twisting the knife in all of those places at once is fun? What, exactly, is fun about intentionally making a person feel bad? Let alone somebody you are supposed to like? This is the behavior of a sociopath, not a romantic hero.
Seriously, people go out of their way to defend Christian Grey and the way he acts, but it’s now at the point where I can just describe some of the things he does in the book and they make a perfect counterpoint to anything they might say. E.L James, who has gone on record defending her writing and asserting that no, it isn’t abusive or mean spirited at all, has written a new book that literally enables me to tell people that there’s a scene in the series where Christian Grey makes a point of taunting a sick woman, describing it as “fun.”
She’s really just doing my job for me, the more she writes.
“We’ve all been here, perhaps not quite as dramatically as you.” Why is it such fun to tease this young woman?
Because you’re a complete sociopath who enjoys the discomfort of vulnerable people? See what I fuckin’ mean?
Perhaps she has a problem with alcohol. The thought is worrying, and I consider whether I should call my mother for a referral to a detox clinic.
Wow, this is a huge overreach. I mean, just to begin with he’s seen her drunk once, so this idea that she might have a drinking problem is coming out of goddamn nowhere, but the fact that Christian has empowered himself to confront her on that and push solutions on her, after all of three meetings, is frankly insane. He simply doesn’t know her well enough to be judging her like this, but of course, huge snap judgments are sort of a hallmark of this series; Ana does it too, and it’s no more acceptable when she does it.
Ana frowns for a moment, as if angry, that little v forming between her brows, and I suppress the urge to kiss it.
“As if angry,” huh? It’s probably because she’s angry. Maybe all that judgey bullcrap made her angry? Who knew!
Christian offers to take her home, and Ana is oddly trusting of this creepy weirdo, only objecting that she needs to let Kate know beforehand, as if she’s never heard of a cell phone before… which might actually be the case, considering that if I’m remembering correctly, Ana is a college graduate in the modern day who has never owned a laptop before. A lot of things about her suggest that she came right out of the eighties, if that.
I stop and bite my tongue. Kavanagh wasn’t worried about her being out here with the overamorous photographer. Rodriguez. That’s his name. What kind of friend is she?
Okay, so how do you know that Kate knew what was going on with Jose, and did nothing? They’re both adults, it’s not like she needs to keep tabs on them at every point in their lives; hell, given that Jose and Ana know each other as friends it’s equally likely that Kate trusts Ana with Jose, if he’s never done anything like that before. And that’s just me assuming that Kate actually knows Jose, which certainly isn’t something that Christian can safely conclude, given that he’s only ever seen the two of them together one time, during which neither of them really communicated. From his perspective, it’s possible that Kate doesn’t know Jose at all, or even that he was at the bar that night.
Really, the book is just scrabbling for things to go negative on Kate over, because there’s nothing remotely positive about Ana that can be demonstrated beyond Christian fawning over her in exclusively sexual terms. She is, at best, a pretty face with nothing behind it, and so the only course to make her seem at all acceptable as a human being is just to shit over every other human being in the story. It’s a deeply unpleasant tactic, this enforced misanthropy, but it’s all E.L James seems to have, like she’s incapable of writing decent characters on their own.
So they go inside to search for Kate and when Ana takes hold of Christian’s arm he has a sort of panic attack, which, I mean… why? It’s been slightly established that Christian’s got a bit of a past, but not in any level of detail such that an aversion to touch could be reasonably expected, or even alluded to, meaning this comes out of left field. To add insult to injury it’s also described in the most trad, rote way possible:
My heart rate catapults into overdrive as the darkness surfaces, stretching and tightening its claws around my throat.
This constant refrain of “darkness” is overdone, exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to see out of a bad fan fiction. It is the uninterested shrug of describing bad events. I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past, but not on the same scale, or with the same insistence; James does it constantly and seems to think that she’s writing something respectable in the process.
Anyway, Ana seems to be able to calm him down from a panic attack before it happens, even though she herself caused it, so I don’t exactly know what James’ message is supposed to be there. She’s clearly going for a “love heals all wounds” thing- it’s consistent with the overall disdain for psychiatric help that this series has to ignore the therapy and zero in on the woman- but having Ana be the cause of the problem as well as its solution undercuts the message before it’s even fully established. Moreover, it’s a problematic lesson on its own, because Ana hasn’t known Christian for long enough for the “love” part of the trope to be in effect, so it’s… well, what is it? Is it the old trope of “The One,” that we’re dealing with here? So mentally ill people should just ignore therapy in general and just focus on finding that one person in the entire world that doesn’t trigger their symptoms? Those are what those messages combine to form; if Christian wasn’t so consistently down on the very concept of therapy then that wouldn’t be the case, but the book has never described psychiatrists as anything but “shit.” By corollary, that means that mentally ill people with loved ones who don’t immediately assuage their symptoms aren’t with the one they’re meant to be with, and that they should just sort of deal with the fact that everyone else will trigger their symptoms and there’s nothing that can be done about that.
Propositions have consequences, and the propositions regarding mental health that Grey seems to be espousing are uniformly harmful and uninformed.
There’s some more of Grey being a domineering asshole, and then the two of them find Kate and Elliot on the dance floor and let them know what’s going on, just before Ana passes out. Grey resolves to just take her to his hotel room, weakly justifying it to himself as being because he doesn’t want her to puke in his car, because pulling over is literally impossible. What I want to pull attention to just now is his specific wording when he talks to Elliot, though:
“I’m taking Ana home. Tell Kate,” I shout in his ear.
He is not taking Ana home. He is taking her someplace else, and yet is content to let Kate think that she’s going to be safely at their place. Just throwing that out there.
So this rich guy who has no problems breaking laws to get what he wants drives the drunk girl he’s lusting after back to his hotel room after lying to the people she’s with so they don’t know where she is, and boy, doesn’t that sound incredibly sinister when you describe what it is? As he carries her up to his room he plans on stripping her out of her clothes, and it certainly isn’t getting any better the further into this we go, isn’t it?
Briskly I remove her shoes and socks and put them in the plastic laundry bag provided by the hotel. Then I unzip her jeans and pull them off, check the pockets before stuffing the jeans in the laundry bag. She falls back on the bed, splayed out like a starfish, all pale arms and legs, and for a moment I picture those legs wrapped around my waist as her wrists are bound to my Saint Andrew’s cross. There’s a fading bruise on her knee and I wonder if that’s from the fall she took in my office.
And after taking off her pants he starts fantasizing about her sexually, and now we’re about one step away from a date rape scene in any other book.
But also, consider the course of this chapter thus far: Christian discovers Jose trying to kiss Ana, and in that instance her consent is super duper important, you guys. Grey gets involved, gets incredibly angry at Jose, at Kate, at everyone else for violating Ana’s consent by kissing her, and that’s sort of a justified reaction, if described in a way that’s a little too heavy handed. Now, before the scene has even ended, Grey has taken Ana some place she doesn’t know, touched her all over by carrying her, and is now stripping off her clothes, all without her consent, and nobody bats an eye. Grey himself certainly doesn’t have any qualms about any of this, despite it being far more of a privacy invasion than anything Jose had done, and he’s still angry with Jose about that! In fact, Christian takes this as an opportunity to assure the reader of just how tasty Ana is, some more; he’s being entirely flippant about his own blatant hypocrisy, and apparently James just expects us all to take it at face value and not question it.
He even frigging kisses her himself in that state, and that’s apparently okay!
Before I check my e-mails I text Welch, asking him to see if José Rodriguez has any police records. I’m curious. I want to know if he preys on drunk young women.
Yes, well, we wouldn’t want Ana to associate herself with the sort of person who might commit crimes, would we, Mister Illegal Phone Tapping? No sir, Mister Kidnapping Drunk Women would never allow Ana to be in the same room with a criminal!
What I also want to point out is just how… childish this all is. Not just for Grey, but for James too, since she put this in here without any form of ironic commentary, this idea that Jose is probably a super evil rapist Hitler based on that one scene. That he deserves to have his privacy invaded so that Christian can have the voyeuristic thrill of sifting through his dirty laundry, so that Mister “I’m going to pretty much rape this woman multiple times in this series” Grey can sit in self righteous judgment of the inferior Jose, who can’t muster up the wherewithal to be as obviously perfect and morally flawless as Christian is.
When I was a really small child, just starting out in primary school, there was this noise all the kids in my grade used to make whenever someone else did something bad or got into trouble, this kind of drawn out, rising inflected “um-ahhh!” It did the business of making us all sound shocked– shocked, I say!- that someone else would ever do something bad, we just couldn’t imagine why they would do that, because we were all such upstanding children, not like that ne’er-do-well in the naughty corner. Yes.
It was basically a way of rubbing it in that someone else had gotten caught, a little schadenfreude-infused exclamation of our own supposed moral perfection, and when I read Grey going out of his way to know Jose’s criminal record, that is exactly the sound I hear Christian making. It’s the sound I hear E.L James making even as she writes Jose being a very bad boy indeed. A vicarious opportunity to look down her nose at someone else.
The chapter is almost over by this point, and unfortunately it marks the advent of something James makes a habit of in her writing, yet has only appeared once before in this novel: full transcriptions of in-universe text.
We saw it in chapter two, which opens with the full text of a background check, but anyone who’s actually read the other books probably remembers that James often just plonks in full emails, texts, or documents into her writing, dumps them in there without any concessions to the characters reading them or to how badly it breaks up the narration. Seriously, huge swathes of the book go by without any description or prose at all, replaced instead by insipid email flirting or the full text of a legal contract. I was hoping we might avoid that this time around, given how criminally lazy it is, but I hadn’t figured on E.L James and her utter unwillingness to write anything new to earn her paycheck: this chapter ends with the full text of an email sent to Taylor, commanding him to go out and buy new clothes for Ana that Christian finds visually appealing, and a couple of text messages to Elliot.
What’s notable about the latter is that Christian was evidently capable of communicating with Elliot the entire time he was kidnapping Ana, but he waited until he’d already done everything he wanted to do to her before he puts himself in any position to hear objections to his plan. He doesn’t give Kate the opportunity to be worried about her friend or to look out for her well-being when a near stranger attempts to take her back to his place when she’s passed out until after he’s already gotten away with it, and even then he only does it second hand through Elliot. He engineered this entire scenario so that he gets what he wants first, without the consent of anyone involved. He deliberately obfuscated information so that he could maneuver a vulnerable woman to a private location of his choosing.
But clearly it’s Jose who’s the scumbag here, am I right?
Well, that’s the end of this chapter. At least I had a lot more to talk about this time, and since I’ve read the next chapter already, I know that’s not going to change, nor will my seething contempt for this entire enterprise. Join us next time, when E.L James has me fed to the Rancor!