Dec 192012
 

Ana’s identification of Jack Hyde from the security camera footage is confirmed by state of the art facial recognition software.

Barney, Christian’s surveillance guy, says:

“Sure will. I’m also going to scan the city CCTV and see if I can track his movements.”
“Check what vehicle he owns.”
“Sir.”
“Barney can do all this?” I whisper.
Christian nods and gives me a smug smile.

Think about that. Remember when back in book 1, Christian traced Ana’s cell phone? Now he has access to an entire city’s CCTV network. That’s a frightening amount of power for a private citizen to have, not to mention hideously illegal. We’ve already seen that Christian’s security apparatus takes orders from him, not Ana, and they are willing to restrict her movements. All of this is adding up to a frightening portrait of the power at Christian’s disposal, and just how deeply Ana is embedded in it.

Granted, when there has been violence directed at you, you probably would want this kind of security. But it’s still disturbing to consider how little it would take for Christian to turn on Ana, and how much of a hell he could make her life if he wanted.

Christian also mentions he’s looked into Jack’s hard drive, which is full of stuff about Christian. (I’m assuming that he means Jack’s work hard drive from when Jack worked at SIP, not his personal computer, but you never can tell with Christian.)

“What was on his hard drive?” I whisper.
Christian’s face hardens and he shakes his head. “Nothing much,” he says, tight-lipped, his smile forgotten.
“Tell me.”
“No.”
“Was it about you, or me?”
“Me.” He sighs.
“What sort of things? About your lifestyle?”
Christian shakes his head and puts his index finger against my lips to silence me. I scowl at him. But he narrows his eyes, and it’s a clear warning that I should hold my tongue.

In other words, “Quiet, missy, this is adult/man talk.”

“Already done, sir, and Mrs. Grey is correct. This is Jack Hyde.”
I grin. See?  I can be useful. Christian rubs his hand down my back.

Need I point out that this comes from a woman cuddling on her husband’s lap because she’s scared? It’s bizarre how consistently EL James depicts as child-like.

(Incidentally, an antagonist described as “disgruntled ex-book editor” does not inspire the proper degree of dread. What’s Jack going to do, write a scathing rejection letter to Christian? Stiff him on the overseas audiobook rights?)

Ana responds to the news that the man who attempted to rape her and sabotaged her husband’s helicopter is at large and committing arson… by making lunch for her husband. In fact, we get several pages of the minutiae of what kind of sandwich Christian Grey likes.

Granted, fear can make people focus on trivial, controllable things, like making lunch, to keep from obsessing about serious, uncontrollable things, like attempted violence against a loved one. But any person with an ounce of self-awareness would know that’s what they were doing. Ana just goes from “My beloved husband is in mortal danger!” to “I wonder if he likes avocado?” Despite her inner goddess and her subconscious, there’s no nuance or subtext in Ana as a character, or at least no intentional nuance or subtext. I doubt EL James consciously planned to infantilize her protagonist, but she keeps doing so.

Later,Ana and Christian discuss their plans for their future home,

Okay . . . I steel myself to ask the million-dollar question. “Do you want to put in a playroom?” I feel the oh-so-familiar flush creep up my face as I ask.
Christian’s eyebrows shoot up.
“Do you?” he replies, surprised and amused at once.
I shrug. “Um . . . if you want.”
He regards me for a moment. “Let’s leave our options open for the moment. After all, this will be a family home.”
I’m surprised by the stab of disappointment I feel. I guess he’s right . . . although when are we going to have a family? It could be years.

This is an opportunity to discuss something: what role will BDSM take in their ongoing relationship? Do they want to devote a whole room to it? Yet EL James drops the matter entirely.

To reiterate the age-regression theme, Ana and Christian sit down to watch TV, and she introduces him to the sensual delights of… making out in front of the TV. It turns out Christian has never done that, but Ana has, and Christian goes into a (hopefully) mock jealous rage. Ana tells of her encounter with her lab partner in physics, which leads to another vanilla sex scene.

There’s an elephant in the dungeon that EL James is studiously ignoring: are Christian and Ana sexually compatible? Will Christian want more than Ana can provide, or will he be satisfied with just “kinky fuckery”? Once the novelty wears off, will Ana want to put in the extra effort of a kink relationship?

After sex, Ana and Christian get into another fight over Christian yelling at Sawyer the security goon for letting Ana get so far away from the guard car when she was driving.

“Enough!” Christian is suddenly curt. “This is not up for discussion, Anastasia. It’s a fact, and they won’t let it happen again.”
Anastasia! I am Anastasia when I am in trouble just like at home with my mother.
“Okay,” I mutter, placating him. I don’t want to fight.

(Minor plot twist: the mystery woman in the mystery car was apparently Jack Hyde in drag or something.)

Once upon a time, marriage made a girl into a woman. In this story, Ana was already headed for a prolonged adolescence before she met Christian, but now that she’s married him, she’s done a 180 and is headed back to girlhood. From the outside, it must be a little disturbing to see a young woman be so completely absorbed into her man’s life. Ana may be telling this story, but it is Christian’s story.

I’m starting to wonder if we are actually not in a romance story at all, but rather in a “fall of Christian Grey” story, and we are only getting Ana’s limited perspective on it; limited because she’s very naive, and because Christian is keeping her in the dark. It’s as if we’re following the plot of The Sopranos, Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but from the perspective of Carmela, Betty or Skyler. These are women married to powerful, secretive, volatile and often violent men they know little about, and they have to manoeuvre as best they can to survive, though they are trapped to varying degrees in the feminine/domestic sphere. Unlike the three women cited above, Ana can still get out, maybe.

In the first book, Ana’s dilemma was the false dichotomy between “be Christian’s fuckpuppet” or “die alone as a spinster and my cats eat my face”. The question was, how much of Christian’s sadism would Ana take before he wasn’t worth it any more? Now, the question Ana should be asking is, “Crazy exes, sabotaging disgruntled former employees, security goon squads and regressing to adolescence seem to be part of the Christian Grey package. How much of Christian (and his money) is worth that?”

To continue the TV drama analogy, Ana’s almost a Betty in terms of her ability to look after herself. Scratch that: Betty was once a model who studied abroad and speaks Italian. At some point she had a career of sorts. Ana went from her family, to college and living on Kate’s family money, to living with Christian. She’s never lived on her own. That she got a job in publishing fresh out of college is a minor miracle. Her promotion to commissioning editor is only because she’s married to the guy who bought the company she works for.

Which rapidly becomes a problem. Ana finally goes back to work, and people are on edge around her because word got out that she’s the owner’s wife.

We’re spared another round of cutesy emails when Christian gets into a snit because Ana won’t change her surname at work. He ambushes her at work, supposedly the owner dropping in, gets her alone and demands to know why.

“So what can I do for you, Christian?”
“I’m just looking over my assets.”
“Your assets? All of them?”
“All of them. Some of them need rebranding.”
“Rebranding? In what way?”
“I think you know.” His voice is menacingly quiet.

This is the old Christian, the steelhard man, the stalker, the control freak, the no-boundaries, “I want what I want when I want it” Christian, and I can’t say I missed him. It’s particularly off-putting that this same guy was tenderly canoodling with Ana a few hours ago.

This, by the way, is the classic dominant’s error of assuming that his or her dominance extends beyond the bounds of the scene. If the sub says it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

For a change, Ana stands up to him and defends her position, despite Christian running through different strategies: making demands, looking hurt, etc. She does manage to set a boundary while reassuring Christian that she’s not going to abandon him.

Christian then drops the rather unsurprising bomb that his influence got her this job. He then says he’s going to rename the company as Grey Publishing and put her in charge of it in a year.

Ana objects, not because it is gross nepotism and reduces her life to a line item in the Christian Grey annual report, but because she thinks she can’t do it. Christian says she can; after all, she’s the most well read person he knows.

Ana laughs from the sheer insanity of all this, and Christian, of course, gets turned on by this. He comes unpleasantly close to forcing sex on his wife in her own office. Ana makes a feeble compromise, and then gives in, agreeing to change her name. Wonderful statement about the role of women in these books.

Like a true psychopath, Christian turns on a dime from raging to sunny the second he gets what he wants. Christian leaves and then tells her that she has to accompany him to business functions, and he’ll give orders to her assistant to put them in her calendar.

Right now, I’m rooting for Jack Hyde to just shoot this prick.

I lay my head on my desk, feeling like I’ve been run over by a freight train—the freight train that is my beloved husband. He has to be the most frustrating, annoying, contrary man on the planet. I sit up and frantically rub my eyes.
What have I just agreed to?  Okay, Ana Grey running SIP—I mean, Grey Publishing. The man is insane.

Ana is still seething when the Expander and the Goon Squad pick her up after work. She starts hitting the wine as soon as she gets back to Christian’s place, perhaps a troubling foreshadow of what their marriage will be like in a few years.

When I turn around, Mrs. Jones has disappeared .
Shit!  She’s my human shield. I take a slug of wine. Hmm.  It tastes good.

I’m sure the help loves to be dragged into their employers’ fights.

They argue some more, and Christian plays his usual trump card: sex. He’ll even let Ana top him.

“Anastasia, if you’re still angry with me, take it out on me in bed later.” His voice is suddenly low and full of sensual longing, his eyes heated.
What? Bed? How?
He smiles indulgently down at my expression. Is he expecting me to tie him up? Holy crap!  My inner goddess removes her iPod earbuds and starts listening with rapt attention.

Later, Ana finally realizes that sex is Christian’s coping mechanism. Then her jealousy kicks in and she tarts herself up so that she looks more attractive than the architect who will visit to discuss house plans.

Can a marriage be so unhealthy that the state has to intervene and separate the spouses?

  2 Responses to “The Curious Kinky Person’s Guide to Fifty Shades Freed, Chapter 7”

  1. In one book she’s never had experience with another guy. Then in this one, she’s made it to at least first, if not second, base. Surely she was aware of the existence of arousal at that point. Yet arousal is new to her in the first book.

  2. Ana’s lack of a fear response often makes me wonder if she’s the sociopath.

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