Let me get something out of the way here. I dislike Anastasia Steele. Actually…I despise this character. She makes my skin crawl. I wish the books had ended with her sudden death. She is an abominable excuse for a human being. I think she’s a petty, mean, snobby, stupid, boring liar who treats other human beings as if they only exist in relation to herself and what they can do for her. She’s outrageously selfish and callous. She’s emotionally abusive and sometimes physically violent. She takes zero responsibility for anything in her life and constantly blames others for her own mistakes.
I didn’t feel this way when I started the project of reading all the books. I felt very worried about Anastasia and defensive of her throughout most of the first book, right up until the end. My feelings about her shifted dramatically through the second book, Fifty Shades Darker, and by the third, Fifty Shades Freed, I was grinding my teeth at her behavior. And I realized when I picked up the first book again…she’d been like that the ENTIRE TIME. She’s just an awful person, and she is even more so for being so comfortable with her awfulness, so blissfully unaware of it.
The problem for me lies in the fact that the author and the world of the books don’t seem to notice that Anastasia is an awful person. There is a roar of approval at everything she does. Every fresh offense is practically met with applause. I feel like the old woman in The Princess Bride screaming “Boo! Boo!” when the crowd is trying to cheer for Buttercup. Sorry to rain on everyone’s parade, but I am going to tell it like it is. Anastasia is a rotten, terrible person, and I’m going to show you what I mean.
When we meet Anastasia, she is frantically fussing with her appearance and belittling it in the mirror, because she’s got somewhere to be. She’s promised to do a huge favor for her friend and roommate, Kate, a fellow student from a well-off family. Kate has, through some difficulty and with nine months of effort, landed an interview for the school newspaper with a powerful and wealthy businessman who will be attending the ceremony when Kate and Anastasia graduate in a few weeks. Kate’s come down with a cold suddenly on the morning of the interview, and has begged Anastasia to go in her place. Anastasia is sent off to Seattle to interview Christian Gray, underdressed, uninformed, with a bag of the worst interview questions imaginable. At least Kate lets her drive her Mercedes CLK instead of making Ana take her battered VW Beetle.
Anastasia’s not grateful for the opportunity. She’s not sorry for Kate that she won’t get to do the interview she’s worked so hard to get. She’s not determined to do the best she can. She doesn’t even stop and wonder why Kate chose her for this job instead of one of the other well-qualified journalism students on the paper. Ana’s just kinda pissed off, really.
Kate is my roommate, and she has chosen today of all days to succumb to the flu. Therefore, she cannot attend the interview she’d arranged to do, with some mega-industrialist tycoon I’ve never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for and one essay to finish, and I’m supposed to be working this afternoon, but no— today I have to drive 165 miles to downtown Seattle in order to meet the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. As an exceptional entrepreneur and major benefactor of our university, his time is extraordinarily precious— much more precious than mine— but he has granted Kate an interview. A real coup, she tells me. Damn her extracurricular activities.
Look at how it’s all constructed. Kate’s chosen to succumb to the flu. It’s all Kate’s fault, she practically did it on purpose. Ana’s completely dismissive of the whole endeavor – she’s never heard of the guy, so why is he important? Kate tells her it’s ‘a real coup’ but Ana herself doesn’t say what SHE thinks it is, except for just a huge waste of her time. Ana is really preoccupied with being annoyed at Kate. She’s so preoccupied that she has not yet asked Kate anything about the interviewee, even though it’s clear that she’s had at least a few hours to prepare. She’s just wasted that time playing with her hair and being angry at Kate. After the interview, she believes this is entirely Kate’s fault.
Finally on the way out the door and bordering on being late, Ana starts whining that she’s unprepared.
“I know nothing about him,” I murmur, trying and failing to suppress my rising panic.”
“The questions will see you through. Go. It’s a long drive. I don’t want you to be late.”
There’s nothing Kate can do for her now except shove her out the door. With those dreadful, dreadful questions.