“Young people really don’t have the experience to process what they’re seeing,” said Dr. Ima Lippbiter, distinguished professor at Starfleet Christian Academy and author of The Pon Farr Diaries. “They don’t have the kinds of relationships with fan fiction to understand that what happens between Christian and Ana is very, very rare, starting with the fact that these characters are heterosexual.”
Edward and Bella, the Twilight characters on whom Christian and Ana are based, are also heterosexual, Lippbiter says, “and the result is that young people watching the films may try to duplicate these kinds of relationships in their own lives. I can’t underscore enough what a danger that is, and what kind of impact it can have on their reading habits of fan fiction.”
Lippbiter’s principal characters, Kirk and Spock of Star Trek, express their feelings for each other every seven years, when Spock is unable to find a female during his Vulcan mating period, or “pon farr.” “In other circumstances, Kirk and Spock may engage in heterosexual behavior, but that’s really not the norm in fan fiction,” observes Polly Grangerford-Wilks, a fan-fiction author specializing in “Huck/Jim” stories.
Elements of titillation and illicit love play an important role in fan fiction, Grangerford-Wilks says, which is why she finds Fifty Shades so troubling. “A man dominating a woman, you see that all the time in source fiction,” she says, “at least, in the source fiction that has any women characters at all. So where’s the drama? Where’s the taboo-breaking that’s at the heart of erotic fan fiction?”
If E.L. James had written about a dom/sub relationship between characters based on Edward and Jacob, “that would be worth reading,” Arwen Meriadoc agrees. She bases her work on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and she believes she knows what women readers want. “I mean, if you had Edward stripping Jacob, tying him up, and dripping hot wax across his bare chest, for example, then slowly dripping the wax down the narrow, trembling valley between his clenched abdominal muscles, and then — I’m sorry, I forgot what I was saying.”
“We treat these books and movies as if they’re somehow okay for young people,” says Lippbiter, “as if they’re unlikely to have any effect on their attitudes — at home and for the rest of their lives. But what is the message young people are going to take away from Fifty Shades? If they expect all erotic fan fiction to be like this, they’ll be bitterly disillusioned.”
Lippbiter is now exploring Arthur/Bedivere fiction based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Grangerford-Wilks’ most recent Huck/Finn story, “Call Me Honey, and Pet Me,” is currently ranked at #135,930,0137 on Amazon. Meriadoc’s latest novel, My Precious: The Forbidden Passion of Frodo and Gollum, will be released next month. Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, an Atticus/Scout story, is expected in July.