If Christian Grey is meant to be a stand-in for Stephanie Meyer‘s enigmatic and impossibly handsome Edward, Anastasia Steele is our klutzy, self-doubting, introspective Bella. Much like Bella, Anastasia is unique in that she has no personality, but is rather a bland yet idealized version of the author. Even though she has a name that sounds like it belongs on a daytime TV set rife with crystal chandeliers and dramatic open-hand slaps in low-lit restaurants, Anastasia is just the most normal shy, bookish American girl in the world. She wants to travel to England! She likes classic novels! She loves tea! She’s an English major! She wants to go into publishing! She’s a ditz! People tell her she’s pretty, but oh gosh, she’s not sure! She says things like this:
Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high.
To be honest, I prefer my own company, reading a classic British novel, curled up in a chair in the campus library.
“…[I]t’s England that I’d really like to visit.”
He cocks his head to one side, running his index finger across his lower lip… oh my.
I blink rapidly. Concentrate, Steele.
“It’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy. I’d like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books.”
Omigod it’s like we’re the same completely unique and individual person.
50 Shades of Grey opens with Ana a mere week away from her college graduation (she’s an English major, because of course she is), when that rascally roommate of hers’, Katherine Kavanagh — lead writer or something for the school paper — falls ill and can’t do that big interview she’s lined up with the reclusive multi-trillionaire, Christian Grey who never, ever grants interviews. So Ana subs in without doing any research at all because she’s an idiot and, naturally, Mr. Grey finds her lack of preparedness and professionalism deeply intriguing and hauntingly sensual. And… that’s basically it. Christian is into S&M and he wants Ana to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement and a contract which will establish her as his official submissive. She’s just not sure. He buys her things that she’s not comfortable accepting. They have sex a bunch. That’s the book. Every now and then we’re reminded that she plans to become an intern at a publishing house, or that she has parents, but other than that the “not sure, money spending and sex a bunch” sums up the plot.
Since the book has no plot progression, EL James gives Ana one of the most awful and confusing inner narratives I’ve ever suffered through as a reader. Rather than have Ana think things through herself, James instead has her lead channel all of her emotions through two figures that she refers to as her “Inner Goddess” and “Subconscious” who represent her “good” and “bad” feelings respectively. She literally fancies up a trope from old Simpsons episode.
I had a lot of trouble finding a reputable source that could tell me what an Inner Goddess was, or where the term originated. The book represents it (her?) as a hedonistic figure that encourages the lead character to give into her id, but also attempts to build her confidence through championing her bolder actions. Namely the sexy ones. A not-so-reputable source defines the Inner Goddess thusly:
The Inner Goddess is not just another inner self. Rather she is a special partner of the aware adult. She embraces spirituality, femininity and sexuality in a positive and balanced way (and a way that a male cannot fully understand.) She may well be the most powerful of all personal energies and certainly in full flight is above any male self, including her arch rival the Inner Patriarch, hence the Inner Patriarch’s reaction to her – a reaction that includes fear and anger, more usually control and sometimes a patriarchal desire to totally suppress or destroy her.
The knowledge, experience and wisdom carried by the Goddess goes back far, far into time, to the earliest days of civilization, to a time when woman was probably the more powerful of the species in terms of her sexual and spiritual energy and her understandings of the mysteries of the female psyche. Within her she holds great magic. Her combined spirituality and femininity can be quite overwhelming and can terrify males who try to face her in a struggle for power.
It goes on like that for a while — Boo Men, Yay Ladies, etc.
If you search the internet for more information on this topic, you’ll be sure to stumble upon a bunch of Inner Goddess quizzes which really help to underscore the sacred importance of this element of your spiritual psyche. Like this one from Sushi Cat:
I’m a “calm and peaceful blue,” by the way. You can also get Noble, Spiritual Violet; Power and Strength Red; or The Entire Rainbow. Take that, Inner Patriarch. I bet all of his colors are, like, brown and grey and black — dumb old boring colors. Woo, Inner Goddess, woo.
And man does Ana’s Inner Goddess work overtime:
My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.
My inner goddess jumps up and down with cheerleading pom-poms shouting yes at me.
but sometimes she can also be emoticon frowny face:
My inner goddess is not pleased.
As incredibly stupid as the Inner Goddess is, my rage toward this totally nonsensical inner aspect doesn’t hold a candle to my rage at the notion that Anastasia frequently confers with her Subconscious.
You would think that a term like SUBconscious would be clear enough. What with SUB meaning below and all, therefore making SUBconscious below the level of consciousness. And yet somehow this nosy bitch is always popping up and squashing the unadulterated joy of Anastasia’s supercute and totally Noble Violet Inner Goddess.
If the Inner Goddess is a cute and fun HelloKitty Yoga Spice Girl, the Subconscious is a forbidding school marm/librarian. All she seems to do is fold her arms in disdain or wag a finger of scorn. She’s basically the Captain of the Bringdown Squad:
My subconscious glares at me, wagging her long, skinny finger, then morphs into the scales of justice to remind me that he could sue if I disclose too much.
I hope she has her on retainer. A shape-shifting subconscious lawyer would probably be incredibly helpful in a lot of areas of life, not just crazy S&M fantasy sex decisions.
Come on, though, James isn’t a complete idiot. At least she knows what a metaphor is, right?
Stop! Stop now! my subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me.
Wait — if this is a metaphor, what is the comparison being made here? As far as I can tell, the only thing that the subconscious is metaphorically representing is… her consciousness. And I’m not at all sure that that’s what James intends on either count.
Okay, but perhaps the author has a better handle on other literary terms. Like “figurative”:
My subconscious is figuratively tutting and glaring at me over her half-moon specs.
First, James’s hilarious misunderstanding of American culture and slang is practically a post in and of itself since no American 22-year-old girl refers to glasses as “specs” and almost no one on this side of the Atlantic has referred to any pair of glasses as “half-moon” unless they’re talking about Dumbledore. Second, the use of “figurative” in this sense isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it remains painfully stupid.
So there you have it. Anastasia Steele: our schizophrenic heroine.
Now, while you’re all exploring your Inner Goddesses, I’ll leave you with this one very sage piece of advice from Anastasia’s Southern Mama:
Never trust a man who can dance.