Sunday, August 12, 2012

TSS: Two Sides to the Same Story

janus head

It's Sunday! How did that happen again? And this Sunday the Olympics finally closes! I don't know if it's because I'm from Colorado or not, but I have a hard time getting into the summer Olympics to the same level I do the winter Olympics (except for BMX racing, that's awesome). In any case, I was planning on writing a post about spoilers, but then I realized: I really don't care about spoilers AT ALL. So instead let's talk about The Book That Must Not Be Named. Yes, it will probably be difficult to talk about it when we can't name it, but I'm game for trying.

fifty shades covertwilight cover

There have been great posts about TBTMNBN--all right, yes, it's Fifty Shades of Grey--recently from Jenn at Picky Girl and Jane at Dear Author. Both posts try to explain the popularity of Fifty Shades, which is indeed curious. I think at some point a really popular book expands beyond its audience and pretty soon everyone feels like they have to read it, whether they have any initial interest in it or not. The same thing happened with The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter, and Fifty Shades' progenitor, Twilight.

The more I think on it, the more I believe Twilight may be one of the defining American novels of our generation, which is really odd. I truly enjoy Twilight and its various sequels, and I don't think Meyer is a bad writer; but would I say Twilight is generation-defining material? Mrm, no. Yet when I look at all the things that have sprung up out of Twilight in the last few years--not just the movies, but tourism to Forks, obsession with RPatt, the popularity of paranormal romance in numerous literary genres, as well as on TV; and several, highly derivative spin-offs, one of which is now among the best-selling books of all time--it seems like Twilight hasn't just started its own industry but its own school.

The most interesting thing to me about Fifty Shades--actually the only interesting thing--is how the series is so obviously based on Twilight, yet at the same time is almost anti-Twilight. Twilight is romantic, in the literary sense of the word. As I argued in my post about New Moon (review here), the series is about Bella following her dreams and remaining true to herself. It emphasizes her isolation, both emotionally and physically, and her struggle to find her place in the world.

Nearly the exact opposite can be said of Fifty Shades. One of the things that really perturbed me while reading it was that it seemed to almost be mocking Twilight; or if not mocking it, taking the story and twisting it into something that, from a philosophical standpoint, was contradictory to everything in the original text. Ana is compelled to do things she doesn't want to do, to suppress her emotions, and both she and Christian subvert their ideals to physical reality (i.e. their physical desire for one another)--as opposed to creating their reality out of their ideals and an emotional and intellectual connection, which was underscored in the relationship between Edward and Bella.

This is true of other elements in the books, too, not just the romance. Take, for example, José in Fifty Shades versus Jacob in Twilight. One is an "ethnic friend," the other is a noble savage straight out of Rousseau.

Fifty Shades and Twilight are like two sides to the same coin--one is about romanticism and idealism, the other is about repressed emotions and physicality. Because of that I would theorize people who like one wouldn't like the other, despite the fact that they have nearly identical plots. So, informal poll: if you have read the books, do you like both of them or just one? Or neither?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...