The full, properly formatted saga is available for your reading over at http://TheComplainist.com should you care to partake!
Yet another entry in my ongoing attempt to make EL James feel sad about being a bad writer.
There are more of these essays to check out on my blog if you’d like to read ahead. There’s probably some way to post from blogger directly to tumblr but it’s also probably not available to lazy people who don’t want to look. The blogger version of these essays is almost all the way finished! That’s fun, right?
Ana reads some stuff and sends some emails.
Warnings: I have lost all passion for life. Also, the usual warnings.
Most of this was written before the sort of vacation that all sensible people try to avoid. Wanted to get it finished in time to post while I was away, but failed! Now I will try again. Expect regular Tuesday schedule to return next week. Also, this post is pure text! That’s what happens when I hate a chapter particularly much: I press on, and don’t include any internet memes or whatever. Oh well.
Last chapter we learned a bit about Christian Grey’s background, at least sex-wise: when he was a teenager, an older woman seduced him and he was her submissive and obviously that’s why he enjoys dominating women now because that’s how it works, right? We don’t need to rehash that bit too much. Just seems that EL wants to have her cake and eat it, too—on the one hand she wants CG to be edgy and enticing, but she also establishes that his sexuality a result of an inequitable relationship when he was younger. Hence she sets up the most obvious (Editor’s note: and least interesting!) arc for the trilogy: at least as far as the bedroom (or sex dungeon) is concerned, CG and Ana Steele are going to meet somewhere in the middle. Which is to say, by the end, I presume CG will still be bossing Ana around because gender roles, but they’ll be married and stuff and the kinkiest thing they’re likely to do is to have the occasional episode of tied-up-with-a-necktie sex. See? CG will be “cured”! Isn’t that so exciting? Terribly.
But before that digression, I wanted to compare how EL offers us some background for CG but none for Ana. Granted, he still doesn’t quite make sense—he’s a billionaire at 27, but lives like a man twice his age. And how did he make his money? Don’t know. “Business.” (When I rewrite this book I’ll call it alternate-universe fan fiction—What if 50 Shades were set in an alternate universe where the standard conventions of narrative applied?! And then I’ll make him a tech billionaire because obviously I will.) And is he from the northwest? Probably, because his mom and bro live close, but who knows. Don’t really know anything about him other than the fact that he likes people tied up when he has sex with them, probably because he got tied up in his own first sexual encounters. (EL’s psychology speaking here, not mine.)
So what do we know about Ana?
I write these posts over at TheComplainist.com and then periodically update tumblr. I’m actually close to the end of the book, and not just on Chapter 10 like this post suggests. Hence, please feel free to read ahead! I’ll post all these on tumblr eventually, maybe, but I’m being strangely slow about it. Not even I know why! Anyway. Enjoy!
R.I.P. to Kumar Pallana, sometimes known onscreen as Mr. Littlejeans, a genuine candidate for the most interesting man in the world.
If you’re a boy writer, it’s a simple rule: you’ve gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women and that the worst women writer can write a better man than the best male writer can write a good woman. And it’s just the minimum. Because the thing about the sort of heteronormative masculine privilege, whether it’s in Santo Domingo, or the United States, is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity. And because you grow up with this, it’s this huge surprise when you go to college and realize that, “Oh, women aren’t people who does my shit and fucks me.”
And I think that this a huge challenge for boys, because they want to pretend they can write girls. Every time I’m teaching boys to write, I read their women to them, and I’m like, “Yo, you think this is good writing?” These motherfuckers attack each other over cliche lines but they won’t attack each other over these toxic representations of women that they have inherited… their sexist shorthand, they think that is observation. They think that their sexist distortions are insight. And if you’re in a writing program and you say to a guy that their characters are sexist, this guy, it’s like you said they fucking love Hitler. They will fight tooth and nail because they want to preserve this really vicious sexism in the art because that is what they have been taught.
And I think the first step is to admit that you, because of your privilege, have a very distorted sense of women’s subjectivity. And without an enormous amount of assistance, you’re not even going to get a D. I think with male writers the most that you can hope for is a D with an occasional C thrown in. Where the average women writer, when she writes men, she gets a B right off the bat, because they spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity. In fact, part of the whole feminism revolution was saying, “Me too, motherfuckers.” So women come with it built in because of the society.
It’s the same way when people write about race. If you didn’t grow up being a subaltern person in the United States, you might need help writing about race. Motherfuckers are like ‘I got a black boy friend,’ and their shit sounds like Klan Fiction 101.
The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons. And if you want to be a good artist, it means writing, really, about the world. And when you write cliches, whether they are sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, that is a fucking cliche. And motherfuckers will kill you for their cliches about x, but they want their cliches about their race, class, queerness. They want it in there because they feel lost without it. So for me, this has always been the great challenge.
As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track. They tell you, “You know what? You’re a bit of a fucking homophobe.” You can’t write about the world with these simplistic distortions. They are cliches. People know art, always, because they are uncomfortable. Art discomforts. The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real. And sexism is a way to avoid the real, avoiding the reality of women. Homophobia is to avoid the real, the reality of queerness. All these things are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that.
Two bands share a rehearsal space. Can you guess which song is by Kitten Vacation and which is by Still Unnamed Math-Rock Band?