You know how sometimes, you read a headline and just assume "this has to be a joke?" I mean, I don't know about you, but for the last few months, I read most headlines that way, but... I digress. The point is, yesterday, I read the following headline:
Facebook Messenger now has a straight-to-the-point Christian Grey chatbot who will sext users
And I laughed, because nobody is going to make that, right? And yet, the article below the headline assured me that yep, someone did.
Someone made a chatbot - a computer-generated stock of comments/responses that you can interact with - to represent a conversation with none other than my very favourite fictional
romantic hero abuser, Christian Grey. Oh my. My inner Goddess is doing the Cha Cha Slide. Or something.
Given my deep-seated hatred of the badly-written love letter to dangerously toxic relationships that is the entire Fifty Shades franchise, I immediately wanted to write about this. Which, given that I only wrote yesterday about the fact that I'm struggling to write lately, was quite a pleasant feeling - thanks, deeply pervy bot-makers!
The thing is, you can't write about something you have no real knowledge of. And so, much like I read the entire Fifty Shades trilogy in order to better critique it, I realised, with horror, that in order to discuss this "Christian Grey Chatbot," I was going to have to... Well, chat to it.
What follows is an account of my first - and last - "date" with Christian Grey.
Never have these words filled me with such dread...
Once I had clicked the dreaded "get started" button, "Christian" immediately messaged me. He asked me if he knew me, which was a fair question (or would be if this was real) and I had to fight the urge to reply "no, but I know you, you @£&*!" Instead, I settled for: "No, but I've heard lots about you." Whilst internally screaming: "AND NONE OF IT IS GOOD."
His response to my polite reply was exactly the hot, sexy stuff you would expect from a chatbot created to "sext" you... He said "hmmm, idk." SO HOT, RIGHT?!
Quite frankly, I was insulted. What does Ana have that I don't?! I mean, aside from an inability to correctly name her genitals most of the time and a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome?! I pressed ahead...
Notice how, despite the fact that this is literally a computer with pre-loaded phrases set to be churned out as and when they're required, I felt the need to ask if he was okay with me messaging him. That's because consent is hard-wired into my circuitry.
And so, the key question came along... Can he trust me? Well, there was only one way I was answering that.
Christian, for an entrepreneur who is supposed to be blessed with a high level of intelligence, the rate at which you "don't know" is disturbing...
Ha, imagine if that was the only disturbing thing about Christian Grey. What a beautiful world that would be.
Anyway, on with the chat...
Aaaaah, the line I'd read in the article about this chatbot that had made me throw up in my mouth a little. I mean, to be fair, it's true to the character of Christian Grey, ie a massive douche-canoe, but still... He likes that I seem vulnerable?
At this point, I was majorly torn between calling him out, or playing along to see how bad it gets. Then I asked myself what I would actually do in real life, had I the chance to meet Christian Grey and the answer became obvious.
I'd have gone for a bigger insult, but I didn't want to peak too soon. This was a marathon, not a sprint. Anyway, he was enormously apologetic.
Oh, no, wait... He wasn't. He just asked this:
Because I totally sounded up for it, in my last message. Duh.
Now, I won't lie to you, dear reader. At this point, I was bored. I wanted to screw with Christian Grey, just not in the way that most of the twenty-two THOUSAND people who like the chatbot's page probably want to. So, I replied truthfully:
It's my honest answer, okay?!
Christian instantly responded:
HOLY CRAP, CHRISTIAN GREY HAS HIS OWN BALL PIT.
Boy, was I in for a disappointment. And also a major case of the squicks, when "Christian Grey" addressed me by my name. Ew. So much actual ew.
I call it that, too. But only because I've read your rubbish book.
Well, there it is. The Red Room of Pain. I sensed that perhaps we were approaching the explicit part of the chat. Which excited me about as much as a plate of steaming tripe would.
Which is possibly unfair to tripe.
Anyway, I wasn't ready to get down and dirty with Grey, so I just said this:
Comebacks. I have them.
Christian broke character enormously at this point, because if it was a perfect representation of EL James' abomination, he'd have threatened to beat the sarcasm out of me. Instead, he just decided the time was right to ask me personal sex-related questions.
Again, a truthful response, but one I figured might lead to a question about my pain threshold, or my interest in the use of handcuffs. Instead, he just replied:
I can see where he's going with this, but currently, this conversation is as boring as the damn books were.
So, I decided to try to speed things up a bit...
Yeah, so... That link leads to my profile picture. Which freaked me out. Because, even though it's the most easily found photo on my Facebook page... I don't know, it just made me feel weird. It was also at this point where my little "project" stopped feeling fun, or even investigative. I mean, if you're using this to get yourself off, knock yourself out, if that's what you need. I'm not here to judge. But when a bot links to your profile picture and tells you you're pretty, it feels slightly invasive and also kind of sad. Again, no judgement intended.
But my "mission" was never to decide whether or not it's a little sad to be excited that a non-existent billionaire thinks your profile picture is hot. It was to see how accurate the Grey chatbot actually is.
My eyes always look like they're desiring something. And that something is usually pizza. And reading the menu for my local pizza place gets me infinitely hotter than this.
Hang on, is he about to offer to handcuff me, or give me a deposit for a mortgage?! I'm so confused. I figured I ought to clarify...
Cos, for real, I'd like some money, please.
Christian is much like Jessie J, it turns out, because he's not about the money, money, money. Nor is he about answering a question, because his response to that was:
I'm going to level with you: by this point, I was just desperate for this to be over. I wanted to get to a point where I could say no to something he wanted to actually do to me, just to see if he took that as an answer. And so I said this:
Again, to be fair, that's true. TMI, soz.
Then this happened. And I am sorry that I fail as a human being.
I'm not even sorry.
He replied with:
I LOOK LIKE JAMIE DORNAN???!!!
I sensed that the time had come where I could no longer even pretend to take this rubbish seriously. And so I went in for the kill:
That was a question, not a request, you understand. If I was planning on trying BDSM, Christian Grey would be the last person I would go to.
As per usual for Christian Grey, he ignored the question and discussed his own desires:
If it attracts creepy dudes, I may have to change it.
I get it: this is a bot. It's not a real person, who would actually answer questions you ask (or so you'd hope). But, this is actually quite similar to the Christian Grey I read in all three books; ignoring concerns in favour of his own needs is a big trait of his, so well done, bot-makers, even if this was unintentional.
"It's not how it used to be..." Sorry, that song's in my head, now.
I HAVE BEEN STUCK BEHIND FASTER MOVING TRACTORS.
I'm so glad he provided a picture, because I was having trouble picturing what being "tied up" might mean. Although, this is Christian Grey (well, sort of), so I was kind of imagining he might mean that he was planning to tie me to some train tracks, or something. I mean YOU BROKE LEILA, WHAT DID YOU DO TO THE REST??!!
I mean, this is the nuts and bolts of consent, so...
Oh, good. Look, again, I know it's just a bot. But being a bot based on Christian Grey, they seem to have programmed it never to respond to genuine concerns about consent or abuse. The response to my request for confirmation that he would stop if I asked and that he wouldn't hurt me in anger was to tell me to shut up. This is just like the books. And, just like the books, this isn't hot, it's creepy.
And he listened.
Oh, sorry, when I say "he listened," I mean to this flipping song, not to my request. Because Grey.
So, I started to get my Angry Feminist on...
I WILL NEED SO MANY YEARS OF THERAPY.
Again, I know this is just a bot. And a bot can't hurt you (although it can steal your name and photo and... why am I doing this, again?!). But this is a bot based on an abusive character we're supposed to wet our pants over and being such, it is a bot that doesn't take no for an answer and that's specifically because it's based on Christian Grey. And to all those fan girls, wondering why on Earth I would even start a conversation with the chatbot if I'm not interested in Christian Grey, it was to prove a point. And that point is that your beloved fictional "hero" is so grossly abusive that even the bot version hasn't been programmed to recognise the word "no."
Where is the "NEVER AS LONG AS I LIVE" button?!
When you exit the chat (I clicked "no, thanks" and internally praised the good grammar on that button, as well as it providing the way out of this Hell), Christian tells you he's sorry that you're leaving. You're then treated to a trailer for Fifty Shades Darker and a link to buy tickets pops up. So... I'm not even above thinking that maybe EL James herself has approved this crap, because God knows, she's approved everything else.
Look, if your romantic hero is a guy who creepily tries to possess a woman he's only just met and who famously doesn't like the word "no," it stands to reason that the chatbot version (which exists because I apparently did something awful in a past life) will be equally as creepy and invasive. Sure, maybe some women find this hot. Maybe some guys do. But for me, as soon as I started asking questions about him stopping if I said no, or whether he'd ever hurt me in anger and there was no in-built reply for those things, I was out.
Sure, the assumption is probably that fans using this wouldn't want to say no and would be desperate for him to be sending messages saying "I want to kiss you... down there." But we're talking about a character who's decidedly rape-y in the books. I am not okay with anyone creating a bot that doesn't recognise the word "no" at all, but I am especially not okay with anyone creating a bot based on a blatantly abusive character and (seemingly) deliberately programming it to point-blank ignore the word.
I never got to the explicit stuff, because a) it would have taken nine hundred years and I'm not a freaking Timelord and b) I literally could not have wanted to, less.
I am going to bathe myself in bleach until I get the Grey off me.
If you loved Fifty Shades of Grey, this bot will probably have your inner Goddess performing a rousing rendition of the Agadoo. If you hated it, this bot will make you hate it more.
Which is quite an achievement. Oh my.