Sunday, January 22, 2012
In With a Roar...Out With a Whimper - Reflections on the 50 Shades series
When I started the series, honestly? It consumed me. I was aware that there were issues with the writing and with the editing, but I found the story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele compelling to say the least. Christian displayed all sorts of stalker-ish, controlling behavior that as a woman I railed against, but couldn't stop reading. I found his obsession with Ana both disconcerting and compelling. I found her struggle with his issues, and her coping mechanisms to be childish and naive most of the time.
The third book picks up Ana and Christian's relationship on their honeymoon. At the end of Book 2, Fifty Shades Darker, Christian had proposed. The first half of Book 3 is all rainbows and unicorns. The couple is quite happy together, even as Christian continues to deal with his issues from childhood. The book is meant to be propelled by a stalker that is after Christian and Ana. Christian is outraged, and more protective than ever of Ana. Predictably, Ana rebels against Christian's rule and is constantly pushing for her independence, which readers of this series understand will never be possible for her. The couple struggles for 600 (!) pages, with various and sundry issues arising as "obstacles" to their happiness. The formula should have worked for me as a romance reader. But honestly, what would have made the book work more for me would have been if they had broken up. Mostly because although the author had set Christian up to be a sympathetic character, I never fully bought it. His issues were real, but the way he manifested the damage from his childhood and the abuse he suffered was to abuse and oppress Ana. Going so far as to mess with her mentally and play constant games with her. This is NOT the behavior of an adult or sane person.
Overall, the series failed for me because I never bought the innate goodness of Christian that the author was trying to convey. His stalkerish behavior, his abuse of Ana in the bedroom and his temper, which he routinely took out on her made him irredeemable in this readers eyes. While I found the series compelling, overall it failed for me because I didn't understand how Ana, who showed herself to be naive, but intelligent, could ever have a sustained relationship with a man who never offered a sincere apology for his abuse, and never demonstrated that he could change his behavior towards a weaker and more naive person.