Venue: L.A. Weekly
As I nervously hide the cover of my Fifty Shades of Grey book I began to laugh because I realized I was just doing the same thing last week while reading Twilight. This realization brought to my attention how similar these texts are. Both contain gawky awkward protagonists who drool over hot, controlling older men. After a few Google searches I discovered Fifty Shades author E.L.began her story as fan fiction called Master of the Universe. It all makes sense now. Fan fiction is what we want to see from our favorite characters. Instead of the soft intimate touches Bella and Edward share some are looking for the rough, intense moments between the two and that is where Anna and Christian come in. They are what some want to see from Bella and Edward. But is fan fiction a reputable piece of work or just straight plagiarism?
The novel is one of the greatest forms of creative expression. When one reads a book they are either left satisfied or wanting more. Those wanting more sometimes decide to take matters into their own hands and write it themselves. This huge epidemic that emerged is called Fan fiction. Fan fiction has been around for a long time. King Arthur tale is a great example. The legend of King Arthur is early fan fiction due to many not knowing concrete facts. People like Chrétien de Troyes filled in the tale with his desired version of Arthur’s life. Characters like Guinevere, Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain all came out of the legend and highlighted more than King Arthur. You could even say East of Eden and The Chronicles of Narnia are fan fiction of the Bible.
Now imagine an Adonis like man whose main goal in life is to protect you but is so controlling. But who comes to mind? Is it Edward Cullen? But what about Christian Grey? Yes the Christian Grey who likes tying up women in his kinky playroom. Many are familiar with Twilight and the novel has grown a huge fandom because of its appeal to so many readers. As a result many wanted theses characters to continue living, which brought on Master of the Universe. Scrolling through Master of the Universe you will encounter multiple pictures of a shirtless Robert Pattinson before encountering Bella Swan’s dilemma of having to interview multimillionaire Edward Cullen because her roommate Rosalie is ill. Now change Edward to Christian, Bella to Anna, and Rosalie to Kate and then we have Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades shows that fan fiction can become a New York Times #1 bestseller and enter mainstream culture. E.L. James took the desires of many fans of Twilight and gave them their fantasy. But is it plagiarism?
An LA Times article reports that the Fifty Shades author claims her fan fiction work and novel are “two distinctly separate pieces of work” but was reported an 89% plagiarism on turnitin. The earlier version has vanished on many websites, including the James posted it on, but I found it (http://www.mediafire.com/?c72brtdjs241sq2)!
When looking at both texts there are many similarities: Clumsy brunette, immature mothers who force brunette to grow up faster, fathers who lack emotion, confuse brunette about love and the scorching hot man who the brunette can’t resist and my list can go on for another five pages. The first kiss presented in each text shows the desire both narrator presents to the text but they still differ.
“And then his cold, marble lips pressed very softly against mine. What neither of us was prepared for was my response. Blood boiled under my skin, burned in my lips. My breath came in a wild gasp. My fingers knotted in his hair, clutching him to me. My lips parted as I breathed in his heady scent (Meyer).”
“He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in one of his in a vice-like grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his hips. Holy shit. His other hand grabs my ponytail and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine. It’s only just not painful. I moan into his mouth, giving his tongue an opening. He takes full advantage, his tongue expertly exploring my mouth. I have never been kissed like this (James). “
The men of their tales control both kisses. Edward is soft and gentle with Bella out of fear of losing control while Christian is domineering and forceful. Bella’s kiss is only forceful because she can’t control her teenage urges while Anna’s kiss is forceful because of Christian’s urges. Both Anna and Bella share intimate moments with their lovers but James take a more aggressive direction as a response to the gentle moment between Bella and Edward. As they further their relationships both become intense but Bella’s intensity is due to the impending threat of her life and Anna’s is caused by her boyfriend’s urge to want to flog her. There are many characteristics of James’s characters that are similar to Meyer’s characters (even up to the point of both antagonist becoming pregnant) but James’s BDSM world differs from the vampire world in the sense that it is not a young adult novel.
Fifty Shades of Grey shows that the love of characters and wanting them to live on can lead to success and others wanting your characters to live on. E.L. James’s novel has had great success and is on its way into being made into a film. This proves that fan fiction is not just some silly fantasy community but is a part of the literary culture. Fan fiction keeps characters alive and is a tribute to the tales. Fan fiction gives the people what they want. The online society allows for instant notification rather than waiting to get picked up by a publisher. Everyone may not get a big break but can still get their work out there. Fan fiction may not become the main source of literature in the future but it will always have a spot in literature, even if it just me reading Freaks and Geeks fan fiction.