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Book Review: 50 Shades of Awful

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I stayed off of the Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon for a very long time.  I have a ton of ebooks, but that was one I’d never inadvertently acquired.  I actually downloaded it for the first time at the request of my BFF Llek, who told me she was skeptical but her husband had asked her to read them.  Imagine my surprise when a week later, she was raving about the books.

I had recently ran out of dystopian teen lit to read, and had gone through Michael Stackpole’s Blood of Kerensky trilogy again in preparation for MechWarrior Online, so I figured I might as well give them a shot.  I’ll admit that my interest was also piqued when I discovered that EL James had originally written the trilogy as Twilight fanfic that was so popular it got a publishing deal.  You may remember (who am I kidding, I totally wrote this ages ago and you have no idea what I’m talking about) that while I really liked the short second life of bree tanner, I felt that Edward and Jacob were both too controlling of Bella in Eclipse and Breaking Dawn and that they ruined the series for me.  This should have given me the heads-up that 50 Shades would not be my cup of tea.  Especially not the weak “I only dunk my Twinings bag in the mug for a hot second” tea that 50 Shades served up.

First impression:  WOW, this is a lot of sex.  I have made no secret that I’ve read explicit books before.  My very first one was a pirate Fabio novel when I was like eleven that my Meemaw bought me at a yard sale, thinking it was an adventure book and not porn.  Which it was.  Dirty, dirty Fabio porn that I shared with my then-BFF, Cheri.  Since then I’ve read some books with explicit themes (The Other Boleyn Girl and other similar-but-better historical fiction) and a lot of HP fanfic.  Sex in novels does not phase me.  But good lord, please let there be some plot.

In 50 Shades, the sex was a LOT of the plot.  As in, most of the time Christian and Ana are just really pissed off at each other and having sex to make their relationship work.  Forreals.  They keep fighting, and then they have sex to make up.  Then they fight about something else, and have some more sex.  Then they sleep.  Then they wake up and have sex.  Then they fight about something, one of them gets in the shower, the other one joins, they have sex, and then they get out of the shower and have more sex.  Then Christian is like “OMG ANA WHEN IS THE LAST TIME YOU ATE” and they fight because she’s not hungry and then he makes her eat and then they have sex again.  I’m not really kidding here.  By the third book I was flipping pages because let’s face it, the fifth act in as many minutes gets old fast.

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Second impression:  holy crap is Christian ever controlling.  He’s really into BDSM and who gives a damn what consenting adults do in the bedroom?  Except this is his lifestyle  and he inflicts it on Ana.  I use the word “inflict” because Ana expresses repeatedly throughout the course of the series that she is not and does not ever wish to be a submissive.  Occasionally she likes being the bottom bitch but this girl wants to go to work.  Christian disagrees with this.  He doesn’t want his woman to work.  Or drive her car.  Or pick out her own clothes.  Or decide what she’s going to eat for dinner.  Seriously.

Some of this can be shrugged off as “Oh, it’s so cute my boyfriend just ordered my dinner and drink order for me.”  Other parts, such as where Ana insists on working and Christian BUYS HER COMPANY TO BECOME HER BOSS are not so cute.  Especially when he does things like cockblock her business trip to NYC because she doesn’t want him to go with her, or arbitrarily decides “Oh hey, my wife (because this dumb bitch marries him) is a brand new college graduate, let’s GIVE her this company so she can run it even though she has no experience with shit like that and blatantly tells me SHE DOESN’T WANT TO.”

This isn’t even bringing up that he disposes of her car because he feels it’s unsafe and makes her drive one he buys her.  Wait, that’s wrong, because most of the time he decides she’s not capable of driving because she might wreck and die.  Because women are terrible drivers obviously.  I guess her penis can’t reach the brake and that might make her crash.

Third impression:  this relationship is incredibly abusive.  Both of these main characters are sick.  Ana has a Bella complex where even though all the guys think she’s incredibly hot and want to get in her pants and/or be her friend, she thinks she’s ugly and dumb and poor because she’s a middle-class girl with a college degree and she can never do any better than Christian.  And let’s face it, all Christian has on Ana is his money.  She constantly thinks about how hot he is and how “intoxicating” he is and even how “angelic” he looks (WOW THERE’S THOSE TWILIGHT FANFIC TERMS THAT DIDN’T GET EDITED OUT OMG EDWARD CULLEN), but he really is well and truly fucked up.  He uses his looks and his wealth to control women, and he uses them to control Ana.  The best move she ever made was to leave him after he beat the living shit out of her at the end of the first book, but that didn’t even stick because for some reason she immediately picked his ass back up in book two.

Christian repeatedly tells Ana how he wants to tie her up and beat her for disobeying him.  And he’s not just meaning some light flogging, he literally wants to thrash her for being disobedient.  The third book even alludes to the fact that they had a huge argument because Ana refused to allow the “promise to obey” vow in their wedding, yet all the time he’s using physical or emotional punishment against her when she does something he disagrees with – like driving a jet ski when they’re on the water, or driving her own car, or skipping lunch because she’s not hungry, or using her maiden name professionally because she doesn’t want it to look like she got promoted because she married the boss.  Which she did, but still.

Oh my god this couple is messed up.  Then she gets knocked up and he leaves her because she was too fucking stupid to remember to get her depo shot (pretty much using those exact words, actually) and gets drunk and hangs out with THE PEDOPHILE WHO ABUSED HIM AS A CHILD but then magically after that drunken bender he decides “omg she’s going to have my baby this is awesome” and she decides “omg he’s going to be such a good dad even though he’s royally fucked up and he called me a stupid whore for getting knocked up” and they live happily ever after in their mansion.  And he still ties her up when they have sex, but he’s more gentle because she’s knocked up.  THE END.

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I honestly can’t see why or how women like these books.  It made me sick to think about how girls are idealizing Christian and Ana’s relationship when it is obviously so messed up and abusive.  Both of them have clear, definite issues with self-image and they cannot ever discuss anything in a healthy way.  They “fix” their arguments by having sex, or by Christian spanking Ana for misbehaving.  Hey, I guess that’s a parenting skill he’s brushing up on!

Whenever something is wrong Christian throws money at it, and Ana gives up her sense of self and identity to make him happy.  In my opinion that is not how a healthy relationship operates.  I read a part of the book to Darren, giggling over the terrible sex scene, and then told him how terrible I think it is that Ana always compromises to make Christian happy.  He asked me something along the lines of, “well, wouldn’t you give in to make me happy?”  The answer is yes – if it’s something trivial, like what we’re having for dinner (I clearly eat pizza more than I would like to) – but a wholehearted “no!” if it is something that compromises my beliefs or values.  I’m not eating if I’m not hungry.  I am not going to quit my job because he can’t stand to think of the men I work with looking at me.  I am not going to change my wardrobe to please him.  I haven’t even changed my name – I probably will hyphenate in the future, after all of our paperwork is done in both countries – but I want to use my maiden name when I’m published.  But you know what’s awesome?  He and I talk about this stuff, and there is no threat of him beating me for me expressing my opinions.  I also don’t harbor a deep and abiding fear that he’s going to leave me because of my ideals.  After all, if he didn’t like who I am, he wouldn’t have married me in the first place.

Truly at the heart of it, I don’t think Christian and Ana know each other at all, and are trying to make a mature relationship work through emotional manipulation and sexual control.  At least if they eventually divorce she’ll get enough alimony and child support to take care of the kids.

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4 comments

  1. Hehe first time to comment on your blog though I creep often enough.. <.<

    I am so glad I read this post of yours! I was actually considering reading these books because there was actually a report on the news I watch about them a few weeks ago and I've been quite bored, lol. However, I am verrrryyy glad I didn't waste my time after reading your post! I cannot freaking believe that so many people like this crap!! I can understand the whole dominance sex thing every once in a while or something but just wow.. excuse my language.. but Ana seems like a dumb cunt to put up with this shit.

    Anyways, I'll creep more later, thanks for making me not have to waste my time reading the books. :P

  2. I CANT BELIEVE I JUST SAW THIS OMG I LOVE YOU LIZZY <333

  3. While I definitely see your points throughout the book, I have to say that I disagree with some of it. Before Fifty Shades, I never read a book with explicit content but even I can see that the sex is trashy and predictable. I don’t read it for the sex.

    I think that some of your perception of the relationship between Christian and Anna is influenced by your own ideals and views.

    Do I think that their relationship is fucked up? Hell yes I do. Christian is a controlling asshole that has no concept of privacy or free will. He’s emotionally destroyed and will probably never have any idea of how to have a real relationship with intimacy. In the same token, Anna is the typical self-conscience young girl that has no clue what a real relationship should be like and feels little self worth. Having said all of that, I feel that Christian and Anna’s relationship does grow and evolve as the story goes on. (Keep in mind that the timeframe for these books are over a span of a few months and not years) In the 3rd book, Christian begins to realize that his behavior does hurt Anna and that he needs to change. He does seem to take a few gradual steps toward emotional adulthood towards the end. You can’t fix years of emotional pain in such a short time. Anna puts up with a ton of shit that I personally would not, but she does repeatedly say that she is aware he is emotionally broken but deals with it anyway. That’s her choice. She jumped into marrying him out of infatuation not love. Unfortunately in today’s society, we see more and more of this and when the going gets tough people just get divorced. Anna, however, sticks with it, which in some ways I give her props for and in others I want to yell “you stupid bitch!”

    Christian is a controlling asshole which he justifies by his fear of losing Anna because she is the only person he actually loves. He is so emotionally shut down that he never actually cared enough about anyone to let them in. For whatever reason, which isn’t fully explained in the books, he opens up and lets Anna in. As for his abusiveness, he has only had BDSM relationships where he has ultimate control over his submissive. After reading some of the book, I actually googled BDSM and read about the dynamics of the Dom/Sub relationship because I wanted to understand wtf I was reading, and what he expects of her is pretty typical. I don’t buy the “need to punish” her thing because BDSM is usually strictly in a sexual context but then again, after my research, there are a lot of people out there that carry on the Dom/Sub role throughout their lives and not just during sex. Yes Anna repeatedly tells him that “she doesn’t have a submissive bone in her body” but she knew that he only knew how to have a relationship in this manner. Her fault totally, but her choice.

    I like her sentiment “I have lost sight of the simple journey we are making” because that’s what the book is about…The journey of their relationship however fucked up it may be.

    Now I have a pretty good understanding of what a healthy relationship should be, having been married 12yrs and gone through the growing pains myself, and I understand that there are girls out there that will idolize and imitate this kind of relationship, but people have already proven they are stupid. Once again I refer to my comment about infatuation, not love. So many people think that love is that first few months where all you can think about is the other person and wanting to be with them 24/7 and then when real life hits and the warm fuzzy is over, they bail. Most people won’t think of this relationship as being wrong.

    I don’t feel as strongly about some things as you do but you know that has always been the case. There are things that you think I shouldn’t put up with but I do. Its all a matter of perspective.

    As far as the writing, he books are not the best writing I have ever seen and there is a lot of missing information, non-explanations, and jumping around but I chose not to let it ruin the story for me.

    • You know you and I have to disagree on this one.

      I don’t see anything good in their relationship. In my eyes it is 100% abusive, both emotionally and physically. Christian needs therapy to learn to cope and move on with life, and Ana has this misconception that she can “fix” him. I think that may be part of the reason this book appeals to so many women, because we want to feel like we’re useful and like we can save the man we love.

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