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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.

On September 11th, 2001, tragedy struck in New York. Ten years later, the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy hits the market and begins sweeping the nation. These two events are seemingly disconnected, and couldn’t be further apart if they tried, right? Wrong. There is a direct pipeline from the terrorist attacks in 2001 to the best-selling series about a kinky businessman and a demure woman trying to make it in the publishing business. This bizarre phenomenon has been humorously tracked online since 2020 when a viral Tumblr post gave us a short synopsis of how it all went down. From that post, people across the internet have investigated the events that take us from 9/11 to 50 Shades. 

“Everything is kind of pointless right now,” Gerard Way thought to himself as he watched the tragedy of 9/11 unfold from across the river. He stands there watching, feeling the despair along with the rest of the nation as nearly 3,000 people lose their lives. Fed up with the mundane and filled with a new drive to contribute to society in a meaningful way, he formed the band My Chemical Romance. One of the first songs he wrote, “Skylines And Turnstiles” from the band’s first album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, was about his experience watching the towers fall. From there the band takes off, becoming one of the most well-known emo bands on the planet. And thanks to their success, a cult classic series would eventually be born and divide the country into two teams: Team Edward or Team Jacob. 

Flash forward a couple of years when the infamous series by Stephenie Meyer is launched. The first book of the series, Twilight, was released in 2005, inviting us into a world with vampires and werewolves. These creatures are enemies by nature, and things only get more complicated when a vampire named Edward and a werewolf named Jacob fall for the same human girl, Bella. As their story continues throughout three more books, My Chemical Romance is thriving, releasing music and touring the world. One song in particular by the punk band released a year later in 2006, “Famous Last Words”, has been cited by Meyer as her main inspiration for the character of everyone’s favorite wolf, Jacob Black. She explained in a 2009 interview that as she listened, it felt a lot like something Jacob would say to the main character, Bella. A large part of the plot in this series is the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob. Meyer used MCR’s music to fuel the angst that Jacob feels as he watches Bella fall for not just another man, but a creature that is his designated enemy by nature herself. While “Famous Last Words” was used to help shape the character of Jacob, the work of MCR was commonly seen on Meyers playlists that she would make for her books. Another MCR song that Meyer had on her playlist that seems to fit the general vibe of the Twilight saga is “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”. It’s safe to say that without My Chemical Romance, we may never have gotten the masterpiece that is Twilight.

Twilight goes on to take the world by storm, cementing its hold in many people’s lives. It especially influenced one author, who wrote a fanfiction about the series, where Bella Swan gets roped into interviewing a billionaire CEO, Edward Cullen. From there, they form a steamy relationship, with Edward opening up Bella’s eyes to a whole new world of intimacy. If this plotline is starting to feel familiar, good! This original fanfiction posted on Fanfiction.net in 2009 was later turned into the best-selling trilogy, 50 Shades of Grey. The 50 Shades of Grey trilogy set the publishing world on a tailspin. The last of the series was published in 2012, and by 2013 E.L. James had been given the title of the world’s highest paid author for that year. Since 2013 she has been moved around the list, occasionally going up in sales especially when her books got turned into movies. The trilogy grossed over 1 billion dollars altogether, shocking people worldwide that a romance series could have made so much money. To be more specific, people were amazed that a series primarily enjoyed by women could make such an astronomical amount.  

To wrap up this insane chain of events, it’s safe to say that inspiration can take many forms. It can be as simple as loving a song, or horrific as witnessing a tragedy. If possible, I’m even more of a believer that we as humans living in this vast universe, are all connected. Not to mention the absolute wonder that is timing. If Gerard Way had taken a later train or decided just to stay home that day, we never would have gotten the iconic band that is My Chemical Romance. And without their inspiration, who’s to say that Twilight would have become the global hit that it is? And, obviously, you can’t write a fanfiction for a book that never gets made, which leaves us with no 50 Shades of Grey. I find it both comforting and terrifying that our lives can be determined by the smallest choices we make. That inspiration could strike at any time and lead to something big, something life-changing. Whatever it is that inspires us, the one good thing to take away is that humans will keep on creating and inspiring one another.

Randi Heth

Illinois State '25

Hey! My name is Randi and I'm a Junior at Illinois State, majoring in Secondary English Education. In my spare time, I like to read romance novels, obsess over Harry Styles, and spend time with the people I love. Follow me on Instagram @ran.della25