To begin my Individual Project, I created a Storify which can be found at this link:
Here are the screen shots from my Storify in order:
I then made an Infographic to highlight my project idea in a more simpler and visual way:
Continuing on from my Storify and Infographic, I decided to ask a sample of people what they thought of the two and the ideologies in which the two sagas portray:
- Looking at the similarities between Fifty Shades of Grey and Twlight, what is your opinion on why 21st Century writers keep portraying clingy, abusive men leads as a romantic ideal for women?
For my research I really wanted to try to investigate how people feel about the two sagas, taking religious accounts into consideration too. I also wanted to ask a range of people what they thought of the novels and films, and if they didn’t like it then why not? If they loved it, then what was so good about them and what did they learn? So I also thought it’d be interesting to find out if there was a similarity in the responses too, across an international scale. So I decided to ask some friends abroad that I know from my previous travelling adventures. Cara Nicole, who is an English teacher for her profession, is a practicing Christian too from Australia, believes that the level of writing written by E.L. James and Stephenie Meyer was ‘absolutely appalling’ despite any comments that can be made, making the whole literature experience even more disappointing. Cara Nicole continues: “I think they’re both awful. Not even because of what the stories are about for example, about women being submissive and in need of “saving” or “controlling” but the quality of writing. I also believe that there are a lot of references to Mormonism in the story, Twilight.”
Religious perspectives on my research
It is also interesting to refer to the religious ideals behind Twilight and how this affects the characterisation. The idea of Mormons is a prominent idea in the narrative. The Mormon belief can be identified as the following: “We are all spiritual children of a loving Heavenly Father who sent us to this earth to learn and grow in a mortal state. As Mormons, we are followers of Jesus Christ. We live our lives to serve Him and teach of His eternal plan for each of us.” As a practicing Christian, Cara Nicole believes that the demonstration of Mormons in the film Twilight is evident and clear. Robert Pattinson, a leading character in the Twilight series, believes that if the film were to be dismissed as being infused with Mormonism, the movie would attract less revenue. When analysing the way in which the Twilight film was conceived, Stephenie Meyer claims to have dreamed of the idea about a vampire named Edward, who woos an ordinary girl meaning that the storyline was completely unintentional and made up. There are a few points to highlight that can be said to be superficial:
- The fact that Bella doesn’t drink alcohol and remains a virgin until marriage – both of these are elements in the narrative that stand out as Mormon edges, although to say that Mormons don’t drink at all would be wrong. Not drinking alcohol is not strictly a Mormon practice or a Christian one either. However, they generally don’t drink that much outside of church so the ideas can be understood to a certain extent.
The Religion News Service made some interesting points about the Mormonism in Twilight:
- “A crucial Mormon belief is that humans can become divine. In the “Twilight” series, the Cullen family of vampires once was human but now lives without death in a resurrected condition. Meyer describes the Cullens, particularly Edward, as “godlike” and “inhumanly beautiful.”
- A unique LDS teaching is that marriages are “sealed” for eternity; spouses are referred to as eternal companions. Bella describes her relationship with Edward as “forever.”
Undoubtedly, there is a lot of speculation about the religious references, but what sort of effect is this having on society? The references that have been highlighted to Mormonism have an impact on the way the viewer’s perceived and believe the characters, for sure. For example, it can be questioned as to why authors are constructing novels that have such an ‘out of the ordinary’ portrayal of how a relationship ought to operate – both sexually and on a respect sort of level. In both Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey the women are ‘plain Jane’s’ who find the man of their dream – of which both men soon become besotted and completely abusive or forceful with their woman. Millions of people all over the world are viewing and reading these so this says a lot about our times and why the world is reacting in this way, and what is making the authors so plausible.
The fact that books like these are becoming so familiar and popular are certainly encouraging females to read them; especially with them existing practically everywhere in the media, which is making the journey a strong move away the naturalness of a sincere, romantic love-story. A relationship built on trust and danger is subconsciously brainwashing couples to perform similar sexual acts and/or relationship attitudes to one another, and what is even more starkly confusing is how these female authors are becoming so credible for doing so.
I guess it’s true that controversy definitely sells.
Going back to the Mormon references, Stephenie Meyer has been said to admit that one of her favourite books is the Book of Mormon, so the argument sways toward the whole religious aspect being intentional. The Book of Mormon states that the natural man or women is an enemy to God and has to be put off in favour of struggling holiness – thus this point emphasising the deliberate characterisation and storyline that was created in both Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight where both male and female encounter a multitude of challenges before love can be truly pursued.
To further my understanding from a religious perspective I decided to conduct an interview with an Islamic woman who lives on the same road as me in order for me to gather some detailed answers showing the perspective of a Muslim.
I explained to her my project idea and the two films I am discussing throughout, and then I asked her the same question as mentioned earlier – What is your opinion on why 21st Century writers keep portraying clingy, abusive men leads as a romantic ideal for women?
She replied by saying, “I’m a Muslim woman and the only one I’m submissive to is Allah. In Islam, husbands and wives are garments to each other, not one more than the other. In Islamic law, a wife is not even required to do housework or take care of her children, if she so chooses. The only duty required of her is to be lovingly intimate with him and treat him and his property with respect. That is a mutual requirement”.
I then asked: “if there were any societies that she knew of that would go against this particular belief or religious law?” To which she replied saying:
“Yes there are actually some societies where this is very common and this is particularly evident with those who can afford servants, most notably from Saudi Arabia”.
I then said “what about the stories that are so popular among modern society written by some of some of the so-called great writers of the 21st Century?
“As far as why the writers are trying to use this to their advantage, well I don’t know why somebody would do such a thing. It must be purely based on sales and with no actual religious understanding behind it. It shows a clear lack of respect for us women and what sickens me most is that the majority of the modern day women will be the first to go and buy it. ”
It has been suggested that Feminism is an Evil Communist Agenda and has corrupted the wife’s of our modern day. This is why women file for a divorce twice as much as men. In filing for divorce, you are quitting and breaking your marriage vows before God, and saying that your are not as big a sinner as your spouse; but in fact you are, and in filing for divorce you are committing a sin that perpetuates for a lifetime. You just may be the bigger sinner in God’s eyes.
More research into this phenomenon
What did random members of the public have to say about it?
Andrew Mylett, a political philosopher from the UK, believes that the two sagas are a modern interpretation of 20th Century literature – “a clear gender binary” to be exact. To look at Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight more closely, the ideas behind the storyline are based on dominance and a submissive/subordinate. In an indirect way this is shadowing women to be less of an importance to men, giving men more of the control, which is quite similar to a sexist point of view where the man should be the breadwinner and the woman should stay at home, bring up the kids and carry out the womanly duties. The leading character in Fifty Shades, Anastasia, is reluctant at the start of the novel to accept the male’s dominating personality as it went against her ideology of self-determination, but was soon crushed once his charming ways and mannerisms took control, and swept her off her feet.
Andrew Mylett says: “Anastasia is given the right to say no and leave but enters into the relationship willingly and into a contract, a kind of marriage if we care to say, as two parties entering into a contract to be together which may end through the cessation of the contract.”
This perception of any relationship is destructive, which mirrors the original from the fan fiction in Twilight. Similarly, in Fifty Shades, it’s the outside world that is modern and lots of things are accepted – echoing the state of the current 21st Century’s norms and morals – and the relationship shows how they too elect into a kind of power relationship where possessiveness and vulnerability is inevitable. So how does this continue the premise of this sort of storyline actually selling in the bookstores? People continue to buy into it and rush anxiously to the cinemas on the day of the launch to see such a destructive perspective of how a relationship should be. Maybe it’s because power is attractive and it can be assumed that women are drawn toward alpha males because they are strong, making the image more substantial too by providing a dominance that is pursued in the media so openly and normal in today’s world. This is all despite the availability of freedom to women in the modern day, as women are increasingly independent but as they say: the human always craves what it shouldn’t have and what is not right for them.
Andrew Mylett rounds up his message by saying: “Clear binaries are still popular, as a kind of fantasy and escapism. Everybody loves a fantasy.” I think to say the least the two novels are a real question of power as the women character in both can be believed to have the ability to leave the man but they decide not to. So it can be said that both of the books are encapsulated on a clear duel of supremacy and authority, building the thesis of women having little or zero self-control and authority over their own lives on what may be the best for them – but they tend to go with what is more dangerous for them.
Pat Allison, who is from the older generation and has read the books, said that she didn’t really find the books romantic at all, and remained cynical throughout the entire development of love in the stories, to what she saw them built on “a fake perception of what true love should be based upon”. She also says that the two storylines convey discriminating ways on the conduct of a woman – saying that “women should stand up for what is right, and having a controlling man who destruct one’s self worth isn’t the right way to go about things.” So even though so many people are reading and watching these two sagas, many recognise the consequences that the messages conveyed are having on society.
Briony Nicholson, a student from the North of England, noticed that during the entire film of Fifty Shades of Grey, Anastasia had the choice all along to leave Mr Grey but got pulled back from his edgy, sexual desirability. “She was fully aware quite early on, but she continued to play the game herself, never fully dismissing the idea but she accepted it to a certain degree.”
Another practicing Christian, Jamieson Wall, from Canada, was not interested in Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey at all. She noticed the similarities between the two narratives: in that they both highlight the “morally wrong principles that bounce between two individuals who have an attraction for one another”.
It can seem unusual and peculiar to some – how the imagination of an author can run so wild as to make up a story based on sexual fantasies that pushes the human, erotic desires to a whole new level. Trea Boyce, from the University of Westminster, said that she found the whole film Fifty Shades of Grey so bad that she thought it was funny. “I don’t see how the writer thought of it by watching Twilight, I don’t know what inspired her.” I guess some people will never understand, and probably not even the speculators will ever be able to truly conclude what lead to the creation by the two female writers. It is important to say, however, that many women may feel even more intrigued and attracted toward the dominant sex due to the way that society has progressed in comparison to traditional times. Now that women have equal opportunities to men, the saying “one will always want what one cannot have” may apply to this circumstance, encouraging women to be ruthless sexually, act promiscuously and allow a man to take the control in different angles of life. It’s quite an ironic situation that has got a lot of people talking.
Continuing my research on an international perspective, Charlotte-Rose Allbright who lives in Spain watched the films in Spanish and read all of the books. She made a really interesting point: “Although a lot of women are independent and like to think of themselves as being like that in life and work, when it comes down to relationships most women want to be taken care of.”
The circumstances in both of the film can be seen as very unrealistic as looking at when looking at it realistically, most women in the existent world would probably run from a situation that involves falling in love with a vampire, and/or being forced into sexual practices in a ‘Red Room of Pain’.
Lois Caccaval, from the University of Greenwich, described Fifty Shades of Grey as a “domestic abuse wrapped in a romance whirlwind”, and this underlines my initial idea on these narratives being so subconsciously brainwashing. The films and books have proven to be such huge hits and continue to soar with popularity, and the writers have received such credibility for their written works. How creative a writer as acceptable is absolutely individual and dependent on the publisher’s perception of the book, looking at where to take it, where will it sell and is it what the audience wants. And then the media has a clear influence on the amount of attention and press it receives which all comes down and is influenced by the needs of the public.
So what does this mean for us now? Lois closed her opinion by saying: “the film as a fan fiction of Twilight has been hugely romanticised. If Mr Grey was a poor man living in a caravan it would have been an episode of a crime programme (Criminal Minds as an example) rather than a film.” So perhaps the characterisation really did make a difference, and the fact that Mr Grey was shown as a rich, successful man he made the situation more acceptable and romantic, thus more sellable/desirable to the viewers and readers.
To sum it all up
What can I learn from all of this? Well me personally, I have enjoyed every moment watching both Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey as I am – as a general consumer – pulled in by the heart-wrenching loves stories, that although may be completely unrealistic and dangerous for my mind, they are very addictive and fantastical. Despite the criticism and the international/religious views on the two sagas, they have definitely worked wonders on a global scale, and the two female writers – E.L. James and Stephenie Meyer – are certainly reaping the awards for it all. So providing the viewers, readers and listeners keep an open-heart but live by what is right for the individual, there is no reason why the messages conveyed by the characters and in the two storylines can’t be dismissed, and similarly those messages which are useful and educational, they should be accepted and enjoyed. Definitely it can be concluded that everyone has their own opinion, but I think the two, Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight, speak for themselves.