Thursday, March 15, 2012
Fifty Shades of Edward
As a book reader, Twilight fan, and lawyer, I'm absolutely fascinated by Fifty Shades of Grey.
Just not for the reason that most people are.
You can't turn on the computer or tv this month without hearing about the phenom known as "Fifty Shades of Grey." The Today Show, Washington Post, CBS news, USA Today, the LA Times, and even the New York Times (on the front page, no less) have devoted good time to what the Times is calling "mommy porn."
Its this month's selection for my book club, although how one can talk about BDSM relationships in a room full of other moms, I have no idea. I finished Book 1 yesterday, and am starting Book 2.
I didn't like this book - you can read my lengthy post on Goodreads for more on that - but what I find really and truly fascinating about this book is that it started as Twilight fanfic. And most of these big news outlets aren't talking about that. And if they are, its with a casual mention to how it started out as a Twilight fanfic, and thus imply that people shouldn't take it seriously as a book because of that.
I've read my share of Twilight fan fic. Its fun. I read just about every Jane Auten "fanfic" that gets published - that's really all that the re-imaginations and modernizations are, after all. Bridget Jones's Diary is probably the most famous fanfic, having been so popular that Helen Fielding wrote sequels and they made movies and even hired Colin Firth to play Mark Darcy, the modern Mr. Darcy, in the modern Pride and Prejudice otherwise known as Bridget Jones's Diary.
But its different when the fanfic authors base their stories and characters on people from Jane Austen's books. Those stories are no longer subject to copyright laws, and they are in the public domain.
The whole reason authors like Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling allow fanfic sites to exist on the internet is because they aren't done for profit. They OWN these characters, and you can write a story about them, as long as it is for personal enjoyment and Not. For. Profit.
E.L. James originally wrote a lengthy fanfic called "Master of the Universe." Its characters were Edward and Bella. Their physical descriptions matched Edward and Bella. Bella has a flighty, remarried mom who misses important events and lives in the South. She has a good male friend, who would like to be more than friends with her.Bella has no idea how beautiful she is, and how every guy she meets somehow falls in love with her. She is clumsy. She doesn't eat much. She hates to exercise. She doesn't care for fashion. She is drawn to an enigmatic, handsome guy with wild, coppery hair, whom every girl desires. He is drawn to her, but he pushes her away, for reasons she can't understand. He finally gives up fighting his intentions to stay away from her, even though he knows it would be the right thing to do. They fall in 'love.' He has a secret. She should run away from his secret, but she doesn't. He plays the piano, really, really well. He is controlling and expresses his feelings for her in controlling ways. She bites her lip repeatedly, and this drives him crazy. He is controlling because he just cares for her safety. And his big secret is that he is ... into BDSM. Or a vampire. Either way, he bites.
A publisher snapped up the rights to Master of the Universe, the author did a word search, and changed the names of Edward to Christian and Bella to Anastasia, and the people started buying the book. A lot of people. Its currently the #1 seller on amazon and the NY Times lists. The author has now signed a second contract, with a different publisher, for a seven-figure sum. And the movie rights are going to be auctioned off soon, which will probably also be a seven-figure sum. Not to mention the millions made from that movie.
Why isn't Stephanie Meyer suing?? I don't get it. I'm not an Intellectual Property lawyer, but this should be an easy-peasy (lemon squeezy, as Ryan would say) lawsuit to win. Slam Dunk.
I'm utterly beguiled by the forthcoming legal battle, so where is it? And why is no one wondering about it? I did some internet sleuthing, and the only mention I could find of it online were these two articles: an article at Twlight Lexicon, and a blog entry at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (which I have to check out more - what a great title!). They seem to be wondering the same things I am. Why don't the big media outlets go more into this? Talk about dropping the ball.
So again, why isn't Stephanie suing? I know she doesn't need the money. Maybe she thinks its the nice thing to do for a Twilight fan to not sue. But these are her characters. She is Mormon, and clearly has a conservative view of things. Surely she must be more than a little stunned to see her Edward turned into a sadomasochist.
I know that I am.