Fifty shades of exploitation: Fan labor and "Fifty Shades of Grey"


  • Bethan Jones Aberystwyth University



Commercialization, Fan art, Fan fiction, Gift economy, E. L. James, Twilight


This exploration of the debates that have taken place in fandom over the ethics of pulling fan fiction and publishing it as original work draws on the notion of the fannish gift economy, which postulates that gifts such as fan fiction and fan art have value in the fannish community because they are designed to create and cement its social structure. Tension exists between fans who subscribe to the notion of a fannish gift economy and those who exploit fandom by using it to sell their pulled-to-publish works. An examination of E. L. James's 2012 Fifty Shades trilogy (comprising the books Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed), which began as Twilight fan fiction, in addition to Twilight fan art sold through sites such as Redbubble and Etsy, demonstrates a tension between the two modes of fan expression: sale of artworks appears to be an acceptable practice in fandom, but the commercial sale of fan fic, even when marketed as original fiction, is widely contested.

Author Biography

Bethan Jones, Aberystwyth University

PhD candidate at Aberystwyth University researching The X-Files fan fiction and gender