Conduct Unbecoming an Inner Goddess

I have not read E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey for lots of reasons. Despite the first person narrative of way too many posts on this blog, I dislike books written in the first person.[1] And based on the excerpts I have read (because I was curious, and some of the smartest women I know have read this book) Anastasia Steele Grey’s inner manic meta-being is just too exhausting (two halves of which are presented by her Inner Goddess and her half moon glasses wearing Subconscious, which unlike the IG, doesn’t get to pant along in post-climatic afterglow) and exhaustingly stupid, as is James incorrect use of “metaphorically,” “figuratively,” and her overall abuse of poor Icarus.  You are hang gliding, dumbass, not flying into the sun.  IHOP is not Mount Olympus. [2] 

Ana’s IG after a particularly good night?

Ana’s Inner Goddess/Subconscious seems to function in the role of the classic Greek Chorus or a soliloquy, but as produced by a self-published porn, er, erotica (not sure of the difference) writer.  A Greek Chorus is a homogenous “non-individualized[1]” mass (usually all the same sex) that provides commentary on the action, background or conflict of a narrative. The Chorus can dance, sing and yell in its interpretation of the narrative and in providing needed information to the audience.  However, I’m pretty sure none of the choral ladies in Sophocles’ Electra ever did anything remotely resembling “the merengue with some salsa moves.[2]” Especially over the thought of Electra performing fellatio (not that Electra’s family situation was fully functional.  Gertrude meet Clytemnestra). Interestingly enough, the original concept of a Greek Chorus had fifty – yep, 50 – people in it.  Those numbers later shrank to between 12 and 18. Presumably, at some point in the story, her Inner Goddess and Subconscious supposedly represent the 21stcentury women’s dilemma in terms of her wanting to be directed and wanting her own control.  Either James is trying to grasp with an issue of the modern age by using a whole bunch of classic literary tropes and themes, including the virgin, whore, mother trinity and riffing on classic literary conflict, like Hamlet’s To Be or Not To Be soliloquy or she’s just overeducated but lacks the knowledge of how to use these.

Like a chorus, a soliloquy is used to supplement the action within a play, to provide motive or thoughts of the speaker, and keep the audience in the loop.  In Fifty Shades, Ana’s inner soliloquies serve up references to both her subconscious and the Inner Goddess. Her subconscious provides what critical insights into the situation there are – this is what Ana is not addressing, and turns away from.  “In my mind, I tell her where to go.” (277)   Her Inner Goddess, the other side of these dichotomous inner monologues, well, she appears to be a slut. “To Be or Not To Be” is suddenly To Be (Spanked) or Not To Be.  Maybe Shakespeare cut out the scene where Hamlet “jumps up and down with cheerleading pom-poms {or the appropriate 14th century Danish equivalent} shouting yes.”  It is his longest play, after all.  Something had to go.  But probably not.

Ana’s Inner Goddess is a couch jumping, squealing, badly dancing presence in the excerpts that is as tiring as watching Tom Cruise on Oprah. The only hope is that E.L. James takes a look at The Daily Beast’sFifty Shades of Grey vs Ulysses and Modern Literary Classics” (I’m guessing it was all of James’ references to Icarus, which lead to Christian Grey is No Stephen Daedalus that lead to this, but that’s just conjecture) and adapts accordingly.


[1] Have you ever played the Thomas Friedman game on Sunday mornings?  Pour a drink, and drink every time he uses the first person in his article.  The rest of the day is guaranteed to be a blur.

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