Twilight: Beautiful People and Hairless Cats

Twilight Recap: It's her first day at a new high school, and Bella has made it to lunch period with her new classmates. As her newest "friend" (a girl whose name Bella doesn't try to remember and whose conversation Bella doesn't try to follow) chatters on about the inner workings of Forks High School, Bella's attention is about to be fully absorbed by something else entirely.  

Twilight, Chapter 1: First Sight

   It was there, sitting in the lunchroom, trying to make conversation with seven curious strangers, that I first saw them.

Astute readers will note at this point that we're all of sixteen pages into this book - not very far at all in a series that is almost 1,700 pages long. So far, the pace has been moving at a fairly solid clip, and the writing has been very economical with detail - we know that Bella is slender, pale-skinned, and dark-haired - and we can perhaps assume that her parents may be as well - but that's about all the description we have of the main characters so far.

The other characters so far in this high school drama have been shaded with the broad brush of stereotypes - Eric is a "chess club type" that seems generally greasy and unpleasant; Jessica (whose name we haven't yet heard) is short and has curly hair, and everyone knows that curly haired girls exist solely to be cheerfully extroverted plot-exposition devices. We don't even have a good bead yet on when the setting is - the trees outside are green, and the sky is gray, but that's about all we have so far.

Thus, it's important to note that this first mention of the Cullen family will have two full pages of lavish description devoted to them in a manner that I feel can fairly be termed a "Wall o' Text" - and a great deal of this description will serve as the starting point for the personalities of the family members. As such, I'd like to deconstruct these two pages a bit.

They were sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, as far away from where I sat as possible in the long room. There were five of them. They weren’t talking, and they weren’t eating, though they each had a tray of untouched food in front of them.

The Cullen family - Jasper, Alice, Emmett, Rosalie, and Edward - attend high school every day, ostensibly because they feel they can "pass" as humans longer in a given place if they start out pretending to be in their teens instead of pretending to be in their 20s and 30s. We've talked briefly before on how taking and retaking high school 10, 20, or 30 times over as part of an immortal masquerade would be many people's personal version of hell, but I can imagine that if you truly craved human companionship then you would make the necessary sacrifices in order to stay in one community for as long as possible.

What's odd, though, is that the Cullens don't appear to be socializing with the other students at school. They sit alone at the far end of the cafeteria and apparently brood their way through lunch - beautiful and unapproachable. I can imagine that a group of immortal beings all several decades old would have very little to say to their high school peers, but I'm not sure that "waiting it out" is going to make the situation better. By the time the Cullens graduate and can start socializing with actual adults, the adults that are "their age" (or, rather, the age they will be passing as) will be these same students, just a few years older.

This creates the curious scenario where the Cullens are willing to submit to something they hate (attending high school over and over again) in order to gain access to something they consider worthwhile (living in human society) while all the while refusing to actually partake in that society. Perhaps this would have made more sense if the "passing" was less of a personal choice and more of a survival necessity, but that angle was presumably dropped once the Twilight-verse vampires evolved into unstoppable god-creatures. Since the Cullens don't need humans for survival and can just lope off to the Alaskan wilderness to live in the raw beauty of the majestic north any time they want, I can't really fathom their reasons for living in the depressingly rainy town of Forks, Washington.

What is particular sad to me about this paragraph isn't just that the Cullen "children" aren't socializing with the other students - they're not even talking to each other. The initial impression I get is that this is a "family" thrown together simply because the alternative - being alone - is just so much worse. I can't even imagine the unbearable sadness of an eternal life, always missing your lost loved ones, forced to live with pale imitations of a family you can never see again, having nothing to say to each other after the decades of simmering pain, resentment, and hatred - all while you go through the meaningless motions of a human life that you can't appreciate and can never truly join.

But, then again, I love wangst, so maybe I'm reading too much into this scene.

They weren’t gawking at me, unlike most of the other students, so it was safe to stare at them without fear of meeting an excessively interested pair of eyes.

This is something of a tricky passage - I think we're meant to take from this that the Cullens' lack of interest in Bella means that she is able to observe them at length and unnoticed without seeming to be rude. However, there is an alternative impression created: that Bella is interested in the Cullens because they aren't interested in her. This could be a healthy response - Bella could be finding polite disinterest as safer and less pressuring than the gossip-mongers and hanger-ons watching her every move for something interesting to report at the dinner table later - but it could just as easily be a terribly unhealthy one.

We've mentioned that the "overly helpful" appellation applied to Eric could be taken as a "creepy and clinging" description, but could just as easily convey the idea that truly worthwhile people are cold and aloof at all times. And if this is the case, then I can't help but think of a particularly apt Dilbert comic.

One of the major problems with the mentality that aloofness is a sign of social standing and "alpha" status within a group is how incredibly isolating it can be. Taken to the extreme, the principle of self-isolation becomes a way of trying to exercise control on one's surroundings by controlling one's own behavior. If I can just exercise perfect self-control, the inner voice assures, then everything will be perfect. You too can be beautiful, aloof, mysterious, and desirable, as long as you never exhibit the slightest sign of your actual emotions - as long as you constantly maintain a perfect mask for the outside world to judge and praise.

The problem, of course, besides the fact that perfect self-control is a meaningless and impossible dream, is that the promise is a lie. There's no guaranteed method to popularity and power, and being quiet and aloof and mysterious is far more likely to get you sidelined in Real Life as uninteresting and boring rather than providing a sure-fire method to high school popularity and accolades. However, reality has done very little to stop the myth of perfect self-control leading to a perfect-life and for every Van Diemen at 17 and Hunger that explores the dangers of pursuing that seductive lie, there are hundreds of books that reinforce self-destructive, self-isolating behavior in the name of being pretty, perfect, and popular.

   They didn’t look anything alike. Of the three boys, one was big - muscled like a serious weight lifter, with dark, curly hair. Another was taller, leaner, but still muscular, and honey blond. The last was lanky, less bulky, with untidy, bronze-colored hair. He was more boyish than the others, who looked like they could be in college, or even teachers here rather than students.

S. Meyer and I have very different opinions on the meaning of the phrase "they didn't look anything alike" - three muscularly fit white boys with pale skin and dark eyes look pretty "alike" to me, but again I think we're meant to take from this that the Cullens don't have the same bone structures and physical details that might indicate a common genetic line.

And now it's time to start filling out our TV Tropes bingo card with a little pet peeve of mine - that of characterizing personalities based on personal appearance. Emmett is "muscled like a serious weight lifter", so it's a good bet that he'll be the Big Bruiser - the relatively dumb member of the family who serves as the loyal and brutish muscle. Jasper is tall and lean, which in literary-stereotypes shorthand conveys intelligence and experience, so it's good money that he's The Lancer - he may be smarter and more experienced and generally cooler than everyone else in the novel, but he won't for a moment get to be the star - at best, he'll dish out important advice and crucial strategic planning. And Edward is younger-looking and has bed-head, so he's guaranteed to be the Hero - it's some kind of law.

   The girls were opposites. The tall one was statuesque. She had a beautiful figure, the kind you saw on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, the kind that made every girl around her take a hit on her self-esteem just by being in the same room. Her hair was golden, gently waving to the middle of her back. The short girl was pixielike, thin in the extreme, with small features. Her hair was a deep black, cropped short and pointing in every direction.

Tall, blonde, and beautiful? What are the chances that she'll have a truly horrible personality and be rude and cruel to our dowdy protagonist? Slim to none, I'll guess. Short, dark-haired, and pixie-like? If that girl is anything other than incredibly energetic, full of idiosyncrasies, and the smart one of the group, then I'll eat my hat.

Oh, look, I got Five Man Band bingo!

Obsessive TV Troping aside, I'm uncomfortable with the language used here. It may not be unusual for women in our society to compare themselves unfavorably to other women, but it's not something I think is worth reinforcing or aspiring to. Here we see the first example of many where the Cullens' beauty is placed in stark contrast to Bella's - Rosalie is described as a statuesque model whose very existence hurts "every girl['s]" self-esteem. I find this particularly frustrating because "self-esteem" - literally the appraisal of self-worth - should not, in my opinion, be a relative thing.

My own appraisal of self-worth shouldn't dive in the presence of Jesus, Gandhi, and Kate Beckinsale any more than it should rise in the presence of Hitler, Stalin, and small hairless cats. I think it's faulty and dangerous to judge one's own worth in comparison to others - this comparative judging leads to a whole slew of unhealthy behaviors, and in fact is one of the first things Kate Harding deals with in her Fat Acceptance book, Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. Fundamentally, you cannot be happy and self-accepting of yourself if you are constantly judging and re-judging yourself based on who is in the room with you at the moment; and self-judging behavior quickly and inevitably leads to other-judging behavior - if you value yourself less because of Rosalie Cullen's presence, it's just a matter of time before you start valuing all other girls less because of Rosalie Cullen's existence.

Sadly, this most definitely will not be the last time we see this self-judging of Bella against all the very, very pretty Cullens.

   And yet, they were all exactly alike. Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Paler than me, the albino. They all had very dark eyes despite the range in hair tones. They also had dark shadows under those eyes — purplish, bruiselike shadows. As if they were all suffering from a sleepless night, or almost done recovering from a broken nose. Though their noses, all their features, were straight, perfect, angular.

It should be obvious by now, I think, that Forks doesn't have a strong social welfare network - if a nice-but-strange doctor and his charming wife moved into the far outskirts of town with a passel of adopted teenagers that refused to socialize (either with themselves or the other kids in town), never ate lunch at school, kept strange hours and were pulled out of school entirely on nice days for "mountain hikes", and constantly showed up at school with bruised faces and sleepless eyes, I would expect some kind of welfare investigation to occur.

   I stared because their faces, so different, so similar, were all devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful. They were faces you never expected to see except perhaps on the airbrushed pages of a fashion magazine. Or painted by an old master as the face of an angel. It was hard to decide who was the most beautiful - maybe the perfect blond girl, or the bronze-haired boy.

And the prestigious "Comment of the Week" award will go to the reader who provides the best example of an artistic masterpiece featuring an angelic being with purple bruises under their eyes.

   They were all looking away - away from each other, away from the other students, away from anything in particular as far as I could tell. As I watched, the small girl rose with her tray - unopened soda, unbitten apple - and walked away with a quick, graceful lope that belonged on a runway. I watched, amazed at her lithe dancer’s step, till she dumped her tray and glided through the back door, faster than I would have thought possible. My eyes darted back to the others, who sat unchanging.

Once again, no matter what you think about the Cullens or about this novel in general, I find this scene utterly tragic. S. Meyer would have us believe that this family cares about each other - four of the five featured here are officially coupled, after all - and that they live together out of love rather than need for survival or fear of being alone. So why are they so silent and avoiding each other's gaze? I can imagine that maybe the Cullens would save the bulk of their conversation for home - no need to draw attention to their oddness further by discussing quantum physics at the lunch table, perhaps - but it seems deeply sad to me that they aren't even communing with their eyes in silence. They're not exchanging meaningful glances or enjoying each other's company - they're looking away from each other, not so they can look at anything in this utterly disinteresting lunchroom, but rather because they want to avoid their gaze.

What's more interesting is how obviously impossible this charade is and how uncommitted they are to maintaining it: they're not eating. Edward will later admit that they can eat human food but that the experience is intensely unpleasant; in the meantime, they daily go to school, buy food in the lunchroom, make no pretense of touching their food, and throw it away entirely as soon as possible. It seems like the Cullens are trying to stand out as odd - why wouldn't they bring lunch bags from home where they could at least obscure the fact that they are openly not eating? For that matter, why don't they go off the premises for lunch period - an option that I'm given to understand is perfectly acceptable nowadays for high schoolers? If Carlisle Cullen can get them permission to skip on sunny days, he can surely come up with some kind of "nutritional diet that can only be fixed at home" excuse to get the kids off the school campus every day at noon.

But, no, they buy the school lunches publicly where everyone can see exactly how much they've bought and exactly how much they aren't eating. It's not just wasteful, it's incredibly attention-getting. Or, rather, it would be in my world - but I suspect that in S. Meyer's world this may be just another acceptable expression of the Cullens' special aloofness; they don't talk to the school students; they don't eat the school food. For me, that would immediately set a group apart as weird, noteworthy, and suspicious - not the sorts of emotions you would want to raise if you were a vampire set on passing as a human. But for S. Meyer - and, presumably, for the rest of the school because Edward can read minds and has not elected to alter the Cullens' daily routine - this would seem to be a perfectly normal outward expression of perfect self-control.

In many ways, Twilight seems to me to be about control. Self-control isn't a bad thing - it's actually a pretty good strategy to not go through life saying every little thing that crosses our minds, eating everything regardless of our intuitive internal cues, and sleeping with people without thoughtful consideration of what may come after. But these examples of "good control" are deemed good because they're examples of control utilized in service to a greater goal: the point of the control is to minimize hurt to oneself and others and maximize pleasure for the associated parties. In contrast, the control in Twilight seems to be about control for the sake of control - passing as humans merely so you can then ignore them, buying food so that it can sit in front of you for an hour before being thrown away, entering into intimate relationships in order to hold the other person at arm's length, both emotionally and physically.

That sort of control is far from healthy and - in my opinion - is less about using control in order to live and more about living your life in order to control.


jetso said...

The seeming starvation and the descriptions of "lanky" and "thin in the extreme" also rings the Eating Disorder Alarm.

SkyknightXi said...

I've not read the books, but I've heard a fair number of things about the bodies of Meyer's vampires as being like unto stone (hence the gleaming; what happens when light hits mica?). If you're worried about keeping your body under utter control, unchanging stone rather than comparatively amorphous hydrocarbons for flesh would seem a godsend. Add in Meyer's apparent fondness for eternal couples, and one really does begin to see an obsession with stillness.

Ana Mardoll said...


It's an interesting point that the "eternal couples" of Twilight definitely represent, if not stillness, then at least unchanging status quo. Contrast with a series like, say, "Elfquest" where the near-immortality of the elves has caused them to develop a very open society in terms of relationships and sex - author Wendy Pini has confirmed in and out of the series text that pretty much every possible pairing (including the Ho Yay and Les Yay ones) has occurred at some point in their ridiculously long lives.

That doesn't mean that the elves don't have "one true loves" and that they aren't faithful to them in the context of their soceity, but rather that the immortality in their society has led to different ideas about what constitutes sexual faithfulness in their culture.

I'm honestly not sure how an immortal life would affect a monogamous relationship like what Edward and Bella seem to be angling towards, but I get the impression that Twilight isn't going to delve into that question.

Leely said...

I'm with jetso. Flamboyantly not eating? The physical act of consuming food being deeply unpleasant? This sounds distinctly pro-ana to me.

Leely said...

(Oops, forgot something!)

I think a lot of the depictions of saints' martyrdom could be described as masterpieces of angelic beings with a variety of bruises. St Sebastian in particular comes to mind.

Ana Mardoll said...


Hmmm. That's a really good point, but I seem to recall from my arts classes that by the time we got around to painting saints, the people in the pictures usually weren't what we'd modernly think of as pretty, since the focus was at that point more on the symbolism of the painting as opposed to being photo-realistic. Still, maybe there's a Sistine Chapel angel with bruises that someone can dig up. :D

Greenbrains said...

Really enjoy these posts, tnx

Kit Whitfield said...

Twilight's a book of great internal tensions, and I think the description of the Cullens has some more of them. How do you square 'airbrushed' with 'bruised', for example? Dark shadows under your eyes are an imperfection, a sign of mortality and vulnerability, which is right at the other end of the scale from the 'inhuman' perfection they're supposed to be displaying. And come to that, are they like fashion models or like Old Master paintings? Because those are two different things: ideas of beauty change as culture changes.

Even more than that, the models/angels mix feels unsettling because it gives conflicting ideas about Bella. Is she a fashion-conscious, modern girl whose notions of beauty come from pop culture, or is she a studious, unworldly girl who's unusually up on the art history for her age? Saying that a character looks like a model immediately sounds shallow to my ears - it's rather lazy writing, and it invokes a world of appearances rather than depth. It might have worked if Bella was genuinely interested in fashion, because it's a world where there's a lot of creativity and artistry, but when it's thrown in with the angel paintings, it just comes across as a generic way of saying 'attractive.'

Then we have the 'runway'/'dancer' description of walking, and it's the same thing: a model and a dancer don't walk the same way. And come to that, if you walk across a crowded cafeteria with a model's strut, you're likely to bump into something pretty quickly. You can't use a runway walk in a busy area: the model stride is specifically adapted for a long, narrow, uncluttered space where you don't need to look where you're going. (Or at least, you need to keep an eye on the edges of the runway, but you can use peripheral vision for that and keep your head up for the cameras.) All in all, it starts to sound like similes are being used to substitute for description, and used imprecisely and carelessly.

The result is that the Cullens end up a bit difficult to picture: we know they're attractive, but apart from some basic descriptions of colouring and musculature, exactly what's attractive about them is rather left to the readers' imagination. Which may be an advantage in its way, as the reader can picture whatever's most attractive to them.

The aloofness is interesting too. Given that Bella's been so aloof from everyone she meets, and that Edward will later be attracted to her despite, or because of, the fact that she alone is immune to his telepathy, I think we're seeing a certain consistency in the idea that attractive means inaccessible.

Actually I've known people who think that way - as I suspect many of us have. These are the people whose love lives always seem to be in drama, who are not really happy, but who somehow tend to see the suitable, interested potential partners as boring, as if eligible was unromantic. I remember one time someone was asking me and my husband about the secret to being married, and to being committed enough to feel able to have a baby (I was pregnant at the time); she seemed genuinely puzzled by the idea that you just find someone you like and make a consistent effort to get along with them. The way she talked, she seemed to find the qualities that would make a good father unattractive, but didn't quite seem to believe that this meant that having a baby might be problematic. But when I asked her what kind of person she'd like to be with, she named a couple of actors she liked - actors who were similar physical types but tended to play different characters. I'd meant 'What kind of personality do you like?', but she didn't seem to get that. I suspect that if you don't think in terms of personality, then being ignored is less of a turn-off - and Bella really doesn't seem to think about personalities very much...

Chelsea said...

Ana, I'm loving these posts. I found my way over here from the Slacktiverse. I'm baffled by this scene, I have to admit. There's so much about it that isn't normal at all and it seems weird that Meyer would think it was normal. The idea of aloofness=superiority isn't an uncommon one in high schools, but even The Libby has a support network of lackeys and hangers-on. One can't be popular in a void. Whereas is seems like the Cullens don't talk to anyone at all (apparently not even each other!), which would put them squarely in the category of "freak" to most high schoolers.

Which brings up another interesting point: are vampires social animals in the Twilight-verse? You'd think so, considering that they were born humans and still think at least partially like humans, but the lunchtable behavior makes them seem extremely ill-at-ease. No sharing food, no talking, no holding hands or touching at all.

...sorry, anthropology major here. Anyway, keep up the posts!

And Kit, I think part of the contrasts of descriptions comes from Meyer not being a very good writer. Saying someone is as beautiful as a model/like a classical sculpture is fairly cliche, so why not toss both in together? It's easy to do, doesn't require too much thought or fleshing out, and your readers will understand what you're trying to say even if they acknowledge that the way you're saying it makes no sense. It's the same as when someone describes a character as having "the body of a dancer"; my immediate thought is always "So their feet look like nightmares?"

Karen Nilsen said...

Fascinating analysis of the Cullens' relationships based on the initial description of them in the text. Meyers tells the reader one thing about the Cullens, but shows quite a different thing. They supposedly have this perfect family, but the relationships are actually very shallow. I think this dichotomy between what she tells and what she shows is completely unconscious on her part, so it's definitely not dramatic irony. :) You do a wonderful job analyzing the description to show this.

Another theme you touch on that's dear to my razor-edged heart when it comes to Twilight . . . It's always bothered me that the Cullens attended high school over and over and over again . . . why couldn't they be taking night classes at a university? If I had countless years and seemingly endless wealth at my disposal, I would be taking some night classes in philosophy or advanced calculus or the history of world literature, not high school biology. I would be improving my immortal vampire mind so I could be an interesting vampire, like Joshua in George RR Martin's Fevre Dream. Don't get me wrong, some of the classes I took in high school were interesting--the first time around. But the tenth time? You have to be kidding me, Stephanie Meyers.

SkyknightXi said...

Hence my point some time back that if the Cullens played at undergoing homeschooling, they'd get the best of both worlds. They'd be able to believably maintain their still-normative-human facade while mixing with the mortals, but not have to put up with a swath of near-unalloyed repetition.

Admittedly, my idea for how I'd cast non-evil vampires would have them sticking around for much the same reason as many folkloric ghosts: unfinished business. Once their respective Tasks of Great Import have finally been Dealt With, THEN they'll let themselves age normally and die. Until then, nothing doing.

(So one wonders what might make a good Task of Great Import for each member of the Cullen clan...)

Karen Nilsen said...

Hmm, home-school for the Cullens--that is a good idea, SkyknightXi, and would take care of the problem of academic monotony I raised. Sorry I missed your previous comment about it. The repetitive high school experience in Twilight for the vampires really does bother me, and not just because of the academic monotony of learning the same things over and over again. It's not that I didn't enjoy high school--I did. But college was so much more fun, both as an academic and social experience. When I went to college, I got out of the bubble of my small town and experienced a wider variety of people and things. It doesn't seem like the Cullens will ever get to expand their horizons in this way or that they even want to, and this makes me sad. What a waste of immortality.

Speaking to your interesting idea of vampires taking care of unfinished business and then moving on to the next realm as well as Ana's point about the Cullens' self-centeredness, there are things I wonder. I mean, if you have endless years and a good heart, why not spend some time trying to find the cure for cancer? Or raise social consciousness about a particular issue? Or create great art? I realize the Cullens don't want to be famous because of their vampiric condition, but Carlisle seems to be contributing good things to society in a quiet way. Why not the rest of them? It seems to me that all the Cullens had adverse experiences when they were human--war, getting attacked on the street, pestilence. After fifty, sixty, seventy years or so of immortality, wouldn't they start thinking about those experiences and perhaps trying to help others who are suffering? Apparently not.

Mau de Katt said...

The only way I can think of "bruise-looking undereye shadows" being on "perfectly beautiful, unflawed-looking" people and not be considered a flaw is in the Goth subculture. (Or at least how I used to understand the Goth subculture.) Which would actually be the perfect place for the younger Cullens to hang out, if it wasn't SO very extremely cliched.

But then these books are so abysmally written that I think even the "hide in plain site" fake-Goth-vampire-is-actually-a-REAL-vampire-SURPRIEZ" cliche would be an improvement....

I agree, though -- this initial description of the Cullens makes their existence seem sad and pitable, rather than something to be desired with all one's heart.

Silver Adept said...

Five Man Band Bingo! Whoooo! (In all seriousness, I love TVTropes references, and have seen my share of shows that have the Five Man Band, so this particular reference tickles more than others.)

Perhaps Ms. Meyer is playing up a different trope of the stereotypical high school - the person at the top of the heap is always seen as inaccessible, because of the Barrier Of Cool that separates most novel protagonists from The Heathers at the top. I wonder whether Isabella felt like she was higher-up in the pecking order in Arizona and has thus become accustomed to being able to brush off anyone that didn't meet the cool standard. Thus, confronted with the people who are immediately recognizable as the top of the pecking order, the people who are so cool that while they sit together, they're totally aloof from each other, she realizes her status as "cool enough to get by" is threatened and is sizing up the competition to see whether the right response is to spread her hood and hiss or roll over and expose her belly. Either way, Isabella is going to have a posse to hang out with, assuming that the overly-friendly chess-club types don't sink her chances by being seen with her too much.

This may be giving Ms. Meyer far too much credit, but it does at least make it botched execution instead of poor planning.

jetso said...

Quick throwaway on the Renaissance-Masters-with-too-much-eyeshadow: Guido Reni's St Sebastian seems to fit the bill:

ack-47 said...

One of the things that strikes me about Meyer's writing is that she is profoundly indifferent to anything she lacks a perverse interest in. It's very much a fanfic attitude, and as anyone in that subculture can tell you that attitude extends to the Original Character and is usually the shit icing on its shit cake. Not only has she not thought through the idea of going to high school for a century, I think the idea of her permanent teenagers going to college would make her angry and proprietorial (as have several other fan inquiries about her awful books).

There is a sort of life you lead where learning is a burden - and sometimes you justify it to yourself by screaming about how you've already learned all this - and the only tolerable part of institutions of learning is being an awkward, sex-obsessed moron. There are two aspects to this. One is the cult of infancy and youth - the idea that childhood is more innocent and being a teenager is exciting, where the reality is that childhood consists of a fog of ignorance and confusion and teendom, even for fairly healthy people, is like the high manic phase of MDPD for six years. The other aspect is an inculcated hostility to depth.

Stephen Bond discusses it in the context of "objects of fandom", and Fred Clark as the evangelical hostility to metaphor - smug, self-assured people have this traumatic formative experience where they learn there's meaning beneath what they think they know that they're unaware of, which turns them against either their existing knowldge or the idea of learning. This is a formative experience in the Midwest, whose culture is fairly shallow, whose education is modelled by people with religious objections to novelty and metaphor, and which tends to raise particularly prickly, vicious cynics from a young age. Meyer is part of the monoculture, she thinks of herself as smart in the useless way that women are only allowed to be smart in, and the idea of spending a hundred years learning - being constantly reminded you don't know things, and having to constantly reassess what you do know - would be like living through that minute of hell between the cute Scottsdale boy sneering and insisting that Carrie was about menstruation and finding people to laugh him off with, forever.

Twilight is a book about how the person you are can become perfect without having to go through any suffering that you don't deserve for being inferior. You don't need to edify yourself; you don't need to debase yourself with learning; you just have to be born with imperfections you can have killed. The first step is finding a man who loves you for your soul so much he has no concept of your body or mind and the last step is giving birth to a grown adult.

Reader of Books said...

Playing into the archetype of angels watching over humanity, the refusal to engage in society but just sit there watching it makes a little more sense to me.

"It should be obvious by now, I think, that Forks doesn't have a strong social welfare network - if a nice-but-strange doctor and his charming wife moved into the far outskirts of town with a passel of adopted teenagers that refused to socialize (either with themselves or the other kids in town), never ate lunch at school, kept strange hours and were pulled out of school entirely on nice days for 'mountain hikes', and constantly showed up at school with bruised faces and sleepless eyes, I would expect some kind of welfare investigation to occur. "

But no one else in the world is attentive enough to notice these little details that lead to the formation of the very obvious theory that they're all vampires, not abused children. Only Mary Sue can save them from a life of boredom!

"They're not exchanging meaningful glances or enjoying each other's company - they're looking away from each other, not so they can look at anything in this utterly disinteresting lunchroom, but rather because they want to avoid their gaze."

[spoiler note]
They're just waiting for psychic-super-baby to come along and let them have conversations entirely in their heads!

"But, no, they buy the school lunches publicly where everyone can see exactly how much they've bought and exactly how much they aren't eating. It's not just wasteful, it's incredibly attention-getting."

Except they're in a crowded cafeteria filled with teenagers who are socializing and being paranoid that they're being watched like hawsk by others. The same way I never noticed there were drug deals going on in my high school, none of the students but Mary Sue notice these things. It makes a tiny bit of sense.

"That sort of control is far from healthy and - in my opinion - is less about using control in order to live and more about living your life in order to control. "

Very much so. It's not a series about healthy relationships.

"After fifty, sixty, seventy years or so of immortality, wouldn't they start thinking about those experiences and perhaps trying to help others who are suffering?"

That would require them to have empathy. Or interests outside themselves, like ack-47 was saying.

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