E.L. James human centipedes herself with Grey


Oh, how I missed Christian Grey. His stoic intensity, his impeccable suit collection, his way with small words. His twisted cliche of a past and complacent cliche of a future. His contempt for normal relationships and yet powerlessness in the face of the most boring woman on earth. His playroom. His NDA. His overtly metaphorical hatred of being touched.

If there’s anything we’ve learned about E.L. James in the four years since the runaway success of Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed—125 million sold and counting!—it’s that there is zero shame in her game. At one point in 2012, James was reportedly making $1.34 million a week from the series, and rumors of her aggressive presence on the set of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie suggest she’s come a long way from the bemused passivity that typified those early days after FSOG took off. James is the repressed housewife’s J.K. Rowling, living proof that in the age of the blockbuster—movie, album, even book—a rising tide lifts all boats. Like, any boat.

Given Fifty Shades’ ascendancy, it’s little surprise that James has revived the now well-worn tale of elusive sadist millionaire Christian Grey and his (spoiler) semi-submissive-turned-wife, Anastasia Steele. That revival comes in the form of Grey, a retelling of the inaugural FSOG from Christian’s perspective (the original, for those of you with better things to do, was from Anastasia’s). In so many ways, Grey was inevitable—as inevitable as Rowling’s The Tales of Beetle the Bard—because when something clicks with the public, we beat it to death with adoration and replication until it becomes banal in the vast landscape of doppelgangers we’ve created. After all, we are the species that created eight Fast & Furious movies. 

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Throwing shade

I’m going to start today’s review with a confession. Well, part confession, part memory. A confessory, if you will.

When I was a kid—I’m going to guess around age 10—we had a VHS recording of Mr. Mom, the (still completely awesome) Michael Keaton movie about a dude who loses his job and has to stay at home and take care of the kids. So controversial, that film! Men staying home? Women working!?

Anyway, for whatever reason, I watched Mr. Mom with some regularity, and in it there’s a scene where a cadre of local housewives take Michael Keaton with them to a Chippendale club, to see some male strippers. In the beginning of that scene, ominous music plays while distinctly 1980s-looking guys in astronaut costumes come on stage and slowly reveal their naked selves. And by naked I mean in underwear and space boots. 

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