Fifty Shades of I don’t give a crap: Fan Fiction and Net Value

Posted: 19 March, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well I better get this one up while it’s still relevant

Something has been kickin around in my head for a while now. With the movie being out and all the hubbub surrounding it, suddenly I have a reason to write about it again, so I’m gonna go ahead and jump on the having an opinion about Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon before it completely stops being topical.

With all the noise surrounding the film/book, what I want to focus on is what is its value. How Fifty Shades of Grey has had a positive or negative impact on ‘us’ and why. To do this I want to place it in comparison to Twilight.

Normally, I don’t go in for drawing dichotomies between pieces of art (yeah, I’m calling it art). It is rarely productive.

I am making an exception for a couple reasons. First, Fifty Shades of Grey (herin referred to as 50SoG) originated as a piece of fanfiction based on the Twilight series. The direct relationship between the two means 50Sog cannot be completely separated from Twilight and the comparison is fair game.

Second, as a point of contrast. While I could have picked from probably hundreds of examples of pop culture ranging from TV to movies to magazines to GIFs being passed around on Tumbler,  the similarities between these two make Twilight a useful tool for discussion.

Before we get started, I should mention I have not read either 50Sog or Twilight nor have I seen the movies.

I don’t need to because shut up and click on this link so I can excuse myself from explaining.

I have read bits of 50Sog with the help of Pervocracy’s cliff notes, which you should read if you want to know more about 50Sog without having to do the work yourself.

I want to separate this post from their literary merit*, aside from the subjective nature of evaluating art, what people are mostly upset about is 50Sog is the influence it has or maybe at least what it is indicative of as it relates to who we are as a culture.

[*side note: There are good books and bad books. There are books that sell well and disappear from conversation and total flops that become an intrinsic part of our curriculum. I for one am not concerned with the state of literature. Great works will persevere and the bullshit will all be washed away by time.]

Let’s look at some of the criticisms laid against that poor, maligned bestselling 50Sog.

One point people won’t let go of is that it portrays BDSM in a negative light (particularly in regards to the ending).

And it does, fair enough. It gets two major things wrong. First, Kink is seen as a sickness that comes from a history of abuse and worse, something that can and should be cured (kinda like some other things for which people are sent to reparative therapy). This isn’t true and if you want to read more about it, google.

Second, what the characters are doing in this book is not BDSM which refers to a variety of activities which require the participation of freely consenting adults. What happens in 50Sog is not consensual. It is abuse. It is not BDSM (Again, plenty about this has already been written) and that much should be acknowledged. So there.

However, 50Sog is far from the first or only work to contain a “bad” portrayal of kink and it shouldn’t be held to some standard that less successful art is not. It is a work of fantasy, it’s erotica, people fantasize about inappropriate shit all the time. Teacher/student, boss/secretary (I believe there was also a popular film about something like that), rape, incest, the list goes on. Just jump on a tube site or google Kristen archives and see if there’s anything portraying an inappropriate scenario. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

You really wanna go through every bodice ripper, porn scene, and stray thoughts containing kinky fuckery and evaluate it to make sure all the fictional characters are being safe, sane, and consensual?

What seems to really bother people about 50Sog is not that it is a bad portrayal of kink, but that it seems to claim within the work that this is what BDSM is. Grey doesn’t just abuse Anastasia, he does it by justifying it with jargon many self-proclaimed kinksters use in their daily lives and explains it to her as if what he’s saying is the obvious truth.

But this is like any mainstream film which attempts to simplify or alter a subculture in order to facilitate the plot. The best response to this I’ve heard was adult film actress, Nina Hartley, who made an apt analogy, saying 50Sog is to kink what James Bond is to Covert Intelligence. No one expects spies to use Sean Connery and Daniel Craig as mentors & I don’t see the CIA or MI6 or FSB protesting the latest Bond flick.

So those are its flaws.


But what I want to look at are the effects of the work.

It has dragged kink into the main stream. Which has allowed some people to be more open about their sexuality and those that are feel less demonized or weird or fearful.

All points in favor of sex-positivity.

As a result, there has been an uptick in people going to educational events or sex positive stores, or becoming part of the kink/sex-positive community where they can learn & explore in a safer environment, than say, trolling craigslist.

I’m not saying there won’t be anyone who reads/sees 50Sog & does something stupid, but how many kids saw Jackass and ended up in the hospital trying to replicate stunts or read Fight Club and started unregulated sparring under the bleachers or in bathrooms at school? (Also I should point out, that one of those was ‘real’ and one was complete fiction, the ‘credibility’ of the work had no bearing on whether people mimicked them)

However, in all likelihood you’re not going to end up the sex slave of a child billionaire.

So what about the source material, Twilight? All the abuse people cited in 50Sog, still right there. I’d say it’s even worse. Anything wrong with Grey that you might try to excuse as complex flaws, he’s young, he’s ignorant, he’s psychologically damaged, is compounded in Twilight by the fact that the love interest there is three hundred fuckin years old! He should know better by now! No excuses. And talk about an inappropriate age gap. He’s ten times the predator Grey is. Of all the women though all the decades, he thinks, hey you know who I should hook up with? An immature, vulnerable, impressionable, teenager! That’s the kind of gal for me!

The other key difference is that in Twilight, the kind of jealous, controlling, manipulative, shit the vampire pulls is portrayed as what love should look like & most importantly is marketed to children.

Which, for me, is what this comparison all comes down to.

They may call it “YA”, but let’s get real, they mean children. I don’t know what a Young Adult is supposed to be, but the youngest adults are seventeen at most, while these books are actually aimed at middle schoolers, people who, in all likelihood, have little to no experience with romantic relationships (Actual young adults are just that, adults and they’ve already started reading “adult” books.).

Kids see this & it becomes their model for conduct. The stories are absorbed into their archetypes for loving relationships. Also, despite, being heavily sexual in theme throughout the series, Twilight is overshadowed by the sex-negative Mormon worldview of the author. In the book, sex will literally kill you. Twilight takes advantage of kids many of whom can’t then go to a responsible community member and ask for help.

And now it seems I’m in a weird position of defending fan fiction. 50Sog is aimed at grown-ups. That’s why the public started jokingly referred to it as ‘mommy porn’, erotica for bored Midwestern housewives. People who see 50Sog and get all hot ‘n bothered, know it’s fantasy. If it really gets them going, they seek out help, they explore, and they learn. And with all the media hype and writing and discussion that has taken place as a result of its commercial success, it makes it all that much more likely people will become more educated and safe as a result of this film/book.


Twilight has had a negative and pernicious effect overall. While, All in all, 50Sog is a net positive,

Then again, no Twilight no 50Sog…

Oh well.


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