Movie Reviews

Is Fifty Shades Of Grey Twilight Fan-Fiction? Origins & Inspiration Explained


  • Fifty Shades of Grey started as Twilight fan-fiction, heavily inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s world of vampires and werewolves.
  • The success of Fifty Shades of Grey was unexpected, benefiting from word-of-mouth recommendations and a viral marketing strategy.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey revived the female erotica genre, despite controversy over its portrayal of BDSM and underdeveloped characters.

Fifty Shades of Grey has many similarities to Twilight, and Stephenie Meyer’s world of vampires and werewolves played a key role in the development of Fifty Shades of Grey. One of the most controversial and despised book adaptations in recent years is Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the novel of the same name by E. L. James. The book was quite controversial due to its literary quality and its inaccurate representation of BDSM, but it became a worldwide phenomenon. As has happened to many other popular books in the last two decades, Fifty Shades of Grey got a film adaptation in 2015.

Fifty Shades of Grey follows college graduate Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), who meets young business magnate Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), with whom she starts a relationship. However, Grey is into BDSM and has strict rules on how their relationship should be, which pushes Anastasia to her physical and emotional limits, making her question what she truly wants from their relationship. Despite being panned by critics, Fifty Shades of Grey was a box office success, but due to its similarities to Twilight, it raised the question of whether it inspired Ana and Christian’s story or not.


15 Biggest Changes Fifty Shades Of Grey’s Movies Make To The Books

The Fifty Shades of Grey movies are better than the books on which they’re based because of the overall changes they make to the plot and characters.

Fifty Shades Of Grey Started As Twilight Fan-Fiction

Twilight Was The Main Source Of Inspiration Of Fifty Shades Of Grey

Ana and Christian from Fifty Shades of Grey are in front of chains.
Custom Image by Yailin Chacon

Among those inspired by
was E. L. James, a former TV executive who, after watching the first
movie, was instantly captivated and inspired by Bella and Edward’s story.

Stephenie Meyer’s debut novel Twilight was a huge pop culture phenomenon back in the early 2000s. Meyer shared her unique world where humans, vampires, and werewolves coexist, but the latter two creatures were unlike their traditional versions. Meyer’s Twilight told the story of human teenager Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen, who started a relationship that put humans and vampires at risk in different ways. Twilight was the beginning of a series of four novels that became a worldwide phenomenon, even serving as inspiration for many other authors and artists.

Among those inspired by Twilight was E. L. James, a former TV executive who, after watching the first Twilight movie, was instantly captivated and inspired by Bella and Edward’s story. James told Chicago Tribune in 2012 that she read the Twilight books after watching the movie and reread them various times, and so she decided to write a sequel to Meyer’s novels. After finishing two books, James discovered fan fiction, and so she wrote her own Twilight fanfic, titled Master of the Universe, under the pen name “Snowqueen Icedragon”.

The extended version of
Master of the Universe
was divided into three parts, thus becoming the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

Master of the Universe featured characters named after Edward and Bella, but given the story’s sexual nature, James removed it from the fan fiction website she was sharing it on and published it on her own. James kept working on Master of the Universe and rewrote it as an original piece, changing the names of its main characters to Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. James took it down from her website before its publication, and the extended version of Master of the Universe was divided into three parts, thus becoming the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

Fifty Shades Of Grey Succeeded Thanks To Viral Marketing

Fifty Shades Of Grey’s Success Was Unexpected

Custom Image by Yailin Chacon

Fifty Shades Of Grey
became known through word-of-mouth recommendations.

Fifty Shades Of Grey had an unusual but very successful publishing process. The first novel was released as an e-book and print-on-demand paperback in 2011 by The Writers’ Coffee Shop, with Fifty Shades Darker published in the same formats later that year and Fifty Shades Freed arriving in 2012. The Writers’ Coffee Shop, a virtual publisher, had a limited marketing budget and thus relied on blogs for publicity, but Fifty Shades Of Grey became known through word-of-mouth recommendations. This benefited Fifty Shades Of Grey so greatly that booksellers who had copies of it advertised themselves in the comments sections of blogs (via The Christian Science Monitor).

The increasing interest in Fifty Shades Of Grey got the attention of publishers, with Vintage Book picking up the trilogy for re-release in 2012, both online and physical copies. Fifty Shades Of Grey was a success due to the curiosity of readers sparked by the sexual themes in it and to its perceived demographic, mostly composed of married women in their 30s, though the books were also quite popular among teenagers and college women.

Fifty Shades Of Grey Revived A Specific Literary Genre

Fifty Shades Of Grey Benefited A Sometimes Controversial Genre

Anastasia Steele from Fifty Shades of Grey in front of the book covers for Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker.
Custom Image by Yeider Chacon

Fifty Shades Of Grey is labeled as an “erotic romance novel”, and its mainstream popularity ended up reviving a specific literary genre that has been continuously looked down upon: female erotica. Fifty Shades Of Grey faced a lot of controversy and criticism due to its sexual themes, how underdeveloped and toxic its characters are, and its negative and inaccurate portrayal of BDSM, but that didn’t really make it any less successful. Instead, Fifty Shades Of Grey revived interest in erotic novels, especially those aimed at women, and many other works from the genre reached success as a result of the Fifty Shades Of Grey phenomenon.


10 Best Movies Like Fifty Shades Of Grey

The Fifty Shades movies have become quite the phenomenon within their genre, but plenty of other great films explore similar themes & stories.

How Similar Is Fifty Shades Of Grey To Twilight?

Twilight’s Influence On Fifty Shades Of Grey Is Very Obvious

Despite changing its characters’ names and other details, Fifty Shades of Grey is still very similar to Twilight. Both novel series have a female protagonist who is described as not being particularly special, yet she wins over the heart of the male protagonist without any effort. Bella and Anastasia are clumsy (to different levels), their mothers remarried but to immature men, and they hadn’t had a serious relationship or a sexual partner before meeting Edward and Christian, respectfully. They both have best female friends who are the opposite of them and their male best friend is in love with them, but the feeling isn’t mutual.

Christian is not a vampire, but just like Edward, he was adopted, though in very different contexts. Both men carry a lot of trauma they resist addressing and gradually open up to Anastasia and Bella as they make an effort to make their relationship work. Christian and Edward are also overprotective and manipulating, though the former took these to truly unhealthy levels (not saying Edward’s toxicity wasn’t unhealthy, but Christian pushed all the boundaries). Both couples went through a breakup and Bella and Anastasia dealt with depression during that time, though in very different ways.

Everything happened too fast in both relationships, as well. The time that passed between their first meetings and their marriages was brief, and both Bella and Anastasia went through unexpected pregnancies, with Edward and Christian not being excited about them. E. L. James changed the names of her Fifty Shades Of Grey characters but the similarities and parallels to Twilight are still quite evident, and her unique trilogy is an interesting example of how fan fiction can evolve and succeed once it becomes its own thing.

Source: Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor.

Fifty Shades of Grey Movie Poster

Fifty Shades of Grey

Based on the book by E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey is the first film in the trilogy that follows naive literature student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), whose life changes upon meeting the complicated and tormented billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dorman). Drawn to each other, the two start a romantic relationship where Steele uncovers Grey’s secrets – and explores her own personal desires.

Sam Taylor-Johnson

Release Date
February 13, 2015

Jennifer Ehle , Dakota Johnson , Jamie Dorman , Marcia Gay Harden , Eloise Mumford , Victor Rasuk , Luke Grimes , Rita Ora

125 Minutes

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