Warnings: The Fifty Shades series is extremely sexually explicit and involves BDSM. Because of that, and because they are not exactly well-researched or high-quality literature, I will mention things such as abuse, rape, rape culture, male dominance, sexism, relationship violence, and consensual BDSM. Also, the books began as Twilight fanfic, so I will be mentioning Twilight (which is a major squick for a lot of people just by itself).
It’s August, and my hiatus from reviewing Fifty Shades is at an end. I’m sure you’ve all been waiting anxiously by your computers for this, right? Admit it, at least two or three of you have. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Fifty Shades Darker begins with what I assume is Christian’s dream-memory of childhood abuse. This is the first real glimpse at Christian’s prior trauma that we’ve had. Since the story is first-person from Ana’s POV, and he won’t ‘fess up about it, we haven’t been privy to that information. Naturally, this is our indication that Christian likes to hit women til they cry as part of “BDSM.” Because, you know, no healthy, rational people would ever be into D/s play.
The scene is brief; we return to Ana’s Brain immediately after Christian wakes up thinking, “Oh, crap, I had that dream again.” Ana is busy distracting herself from pining away by going to work. She’s started her new job at the publishing company, and right away, she lets us know that the boss has the hots for her.
I’m not going to be shy about saying that I don’t think I could ever be friends with Ana. She is the worst combination of “I’m so plain and boring!” and “All men want me anyway!” As it is, I don’t do well with people who are constantly on about how they attract men like flies. I really don’t care how many men think you’re hot. What makes Ana worse, though, is that she’s not even honest about it. All the other women I know who brag about their conquests at least know that they are magnetic, and they have goo-gobs of confidence in themselves. I may think it’s boring, but I respect healthy self-esteem. Ana goes out of her way to assure us she’s not boasting about being a Man Magnet–she reminds us constantly that she’s plain and dull. It’s not convincing.
As if to drive this point home (Ana’s hotness, that is), in one day she gets hit on by Jack (her boss; did I mention I hate that he has my son’s name?), José, and Christian. I think the worst part in all of this is that Jack is probably the best option of the three. Of course, I don’t think much of a boss who makes moves on his brand-new employee–that reeks of power and control. Seems like all the men in Ana’s life are plagued by this issue. Doesn’t she know any truly nice men?
Remember the part in the first book where Ana thinks she makes a lousy sub? I disagree. She seems to get off on being surrounded by men with a need to dominate her in one way or another. She’s always reminding us how many of them want her, yet all of them have indicated a wish to wield their power. José tried to take what he wanted by force; Christian likes to hurt women; and Jack is behaving in a way a boss should not act toward an employee. The subtext here is the definition of D/s–she’s actually the one in control here, but she’s intentionally placing herself at their mercy. Unfortunately, all of what could be good here is lost in horrible writing, BDSM-as-cover-for-abuse, bad psychology, and characters no one likes.
Moving on, we get to see Ana’s inner turmoil over breaking up with Christian. Oh, the drama. You would think that he’s sucked her soul and left her dry, almost like a vampire…oh. Wait. Anyway, her misery is completely out of proportion with reality. She left him because she finally recognized his abuse (or at least she appeared to). His hold on her seems to have been so deep that she’s coming across as clinically depressed. I don’t say that lightly or to make fun of depression; I really mean it. The way she talks about it leaves me thinking she probably needs to see a professional for help, because it’s actually not a healthy response.
She has all the signs that something is very seriously wrong: She’s not eating, choosing to live on cola and coffee; she’s letting her brain spin endlessly on the situation; she won’t talk to friends or family. She finally figures out that her messages are being diverted to the Blackberry, but she does nothing to change that. It doesn’t help that she’s alone in her apartment without even Kate to talk to. It’s no wonder that her solution to her funk is to agree to let Christian escort her to José’s show.
I’m going to leave it here for now. I think I’m back on the blogging train now, so hopefully you’ll stick around this week for whatever pops into my head. Join me again next week as we continue the exciting saga of Does Amy Hate Fifty Shades Darker More or Less Than Fifty Shades of Grey?