Why and for what should blame fall on the beleaguered creator of the Twilight Saga? Well, seriously? Nothing.
But it was supposedly TWILIGHT fan fiction that evolved into FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.
There are some aspects of Twilight that bleed over into FIFTY SHADES but I don’t believe Stephenie was thinking BDSM when she wrote the saga of Edward and Bella. Yes, Edward is rather control oriented, and Bella is kind of submissive, but I think Meyer’s personal values found their way into the TWILIGHT SAGA, as written about in FANPIRE: The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love It by Tanya Erzen (see my review from 2012 HERE). I don’t think FSOG shares her values, and as I even heard her say in an interview, the story was in James and the fan fiction forums gave E.J. James a place to birth it. And, if there are similarities between the characters in the two series, I think they are also very different.
If TWILIGHT birthed FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (FSOG), FSOG seems to have birthed its own genre of what I call “Ingenue meets Billionaire with Control Issues.” It usually has some pretenses of BDSM, but we all know there’s no real BDSM In (FSOG)
Regardless of how you feel about FSOG, it’s part of the landscape and has brought non-vanilla sex into the mainstream. It’s success in the market has opened the publication of erotic romance and erotica much wider than they were previously. Even though FSOG may not be a great indcator of all things BDSM it certainly helped kinky sex come out of the closet. You can ignore books in this vein completely, but you might miss some interesting stops if you never check out the road.
I receive a plethora of books which are seemingly based of FSOG. Occasionally I find one that offers a unique spin, but I am tired of finding one after another. Obviously this is one lucrative model for selling books.
I wonder if the publishers/agents tell writers something like, “Now, give us an FSOG and we’ll buy it/we can sell it!” Or if writers just have figured out that this is what is selling and consciously or subconsciously write up a story with the same pattern.
I don’t know if publishers, agents or writers have formally made a blueprint or recipe for writing a book that will cash in on FSOG, and that age-old question: “What should I read next?” But over time, and a lot of reading, I’ve noted several markers of an FSOG-style story — the anatomy of a clone:
1. Age and Experience: The woman is younger than the man and, if not a virgin, she’s less experienced. In Twilight both Edward and Bella are Virgins, in FSOG, only Anastasia Steel is a virgin in Fifty Shades, and it varies after that.
2. Money: The guy is rich and the girl is poor or not touching her money for some reason.
3. Very often, she’s not a snappy dresser or stylish. He buys her clothes and otherwise gets her gorgeous.
4. The guy is screwed up because of childhood traumas (parental abandonment, drugs, abuse). These traumas supposedly make the dude unable to have a normal relationship (commitment, actual feelings). I’m not making light of these traumas; but it’s a sure sign of an FSOG clone.
5. Insulated by money and fame, the man never has to admit to, talk out or solve his emotional issues.
5. The woman just knows she’ll be the one to heal his hurts and help him fully realize his humanity with her pure and wondrous love — if ONLY she can break through and get him to talk.
6. BDSM or good old control are part of it. Some of these guys have a red room of pain and others just have to call the shots.
7. That control bleeds into the rest of her life – the guy has to “protect” her from everything: threats from his ex-lovers, business rivals, crazy people, other people who are applying for jobs. This often results in the woman being in physical danger and or injured. This near loss makes the man realize how much he loves her and that he’ll do anything to get her back.
The guy takes control here too: Christan Grey buys the publishing company and installs the newly graduated girlfriend in the most senior position in the company. That’s just SOOOOO likely — and, is probably the dream for every girl graduating with an English Lit degree. In the Crossfire series, Gideon hires the company Eva works for to create a campaign for a product he owns. In a twist on this specific norm, in Samantha Young’s HERO, the antagonized Caine gets Alexa fired.
7. Sometimes the woman gets pregnant. If she does there’s usually an issue where the guy thinks the girl did it to get his money, or there’s a problem he doesn’t think he’ll be a good father.
8. There’s a huge break up and reunification. Sometimes, this is the woman’s decision. Often it is the guy’s last gasp effort not to open up because to do so means he has to come to terms with his past. By pushing the woman away he protects his secret. If the woman breaks it off, this sometimes helps him overcome the hurdle of “the secret” so he can convince her to come back.
9. The couple has an impressive and totally ridiculous amount of sex. In this genre it is how they avoid solving problems. The man’s prowess and penis size overcomes the woman’s understanding that sex won’t solve their issues. Aside from the amount of sex, the woman must be absolutely made of cast iron or her vagina would be way too abused to enjoy the constant pounding.
A lot of these variables are borrowed from traditional romance, and probably these markers all existed in story long before Twilight and FSOG. But, not as often as they do now and probably not all at once. I think the FSOG sub-genre, genre or style, has developed in an attempt to capitalize on the “I finished FSOG, what do I read now?” uttered by readers after concluding the series, just as it does with a lot of series. Readers don’t want to lose their vanilla card by joining a sex club, but reading offers safe and tantalizing kink; it gives us an opportunity to see how others get it on in ways we might never want to, or have the chance to, experience.
What do you think? Is this a new genre, a passing fad, or just crap? Or am I full of it?
Are there other identifying markers you’ve noticed for “Ingenue meets Billionaire with Control Issues?”
What books have you noticed as clones of FSOG??