Twilight: First-Person Narrator, Third-Person Omniscience

Twilight Recap: Jessica has caught Bella up on the backstory of the Cullens, and Bella has unilaterally decided that the Cullens must be genuinely nice people because they have guardianship over five teenagers - a daunting task for any two-parent family, to be sure. Bella has just made eye contact with the bronze-haired Cullen, and is surprised to find him frowning at her instead of gawking in curiosity like the other students. 

Twilight, Chapter 1: First Sight

   “Which one is the boy with the reddish brown hair?” I asked. I peeked at him from the corner of my eye, and he was still staring at me, but not gawking like the other students had today — he had a slightly frustrated expression. I looked down again.
   “That’s Edward. He’s gorgeous, of course, but don’t waste your time. He doesn’t date. Apparently none of the girls here are good-looking enough for him.” She sniffed, a clear case of sour grapes. I wondered when he’d turned her down.

The first university I attended was a very small, conservative, private Christian college. I often find myself struggling to describe the culture of the school - if you've never been in that sort of environment, I would think it would be hard to imagine; if you have been in that sort of environment, you may find yourself imagining a different experience entirely - there are as many flavors of private Christian schools as there are Ben & Jerry's ice creams. To make a long story short, I'll just say that the girls were allowed to wear short and pants, and the student body could listen to Carmen without fear of expulsion, but you could be expelled for drinking, swearing, gambling, having premarital sex (as well as for being raped) and it wasn't unheard of at all for the dorm mothers and school counselors to literally stalk students around the city surreptitiously looking for wrong-doing so that they could be hauled in for triumphant expulsion.

We were, however, allowed to date. Encouraged to do so, in fact, which was odd because not a decade before, this same school would expel students for getting married - the idea being that you couldn't be a serious student and have a family life at the same time. Over time, however, the parents and school alumni had noticed that people who didn't marry at-or-before the end of their four-year term had a tendency to go out into the world, meet new people, question the rigid belief structure we'd been given in the mandatory three-times-a-week chapel sessions, and sometimes leave the church. A few of them even went on to vote Democrat. On the other hand, the students who did settle down and get married almost invariably got pregnant within months of the wedding (I had at least two girlfriends whose mothers vehemently encouraged them to not use the pill because it "made you moody") and had a general tendency to stay close to home, within the church support network, and as active members of the local Christian community. Idealism, therefore, had to give way to pragmatism, and with astonishing verve and determination: by my junior year, I didn't know a single girl (including myself!) who wasn't already married or engaged!

When I first enrolled in the school, I quickly became involved in a close network of girls and guys of various different ages and school years. The group was ostensibly for hanging out and having fun, but possibilities for dating and courtship were enormous. One of the guys in the group was particularly sweet and kind, and I finally worked up the courage to ask him - the first time I'd ever asked a guy out! - if he wanted to go see a movie with me. He very politely and extremely gently turned me down and I was only marginally scarred for life... until I confided a week later in one of my new girlfriends and she assured me that he had been asked out many, many times by the very creme de la crop of our group and he never, ever accepted an offer.

At the time, we all saw this as evidence that the gentleman in question was extraordinarily close to god - so close that he wouldn't and indeed couldn't be distracted by the opposite sex. Since he was such an extraordinarily nice guy, we all stayed extremely close friends with him and it was just understood that he didn't date anyone, ever. It wasn't personal - it was spiritual. And then, years later, when we both left that college and its atmosphere behind, and I realized that he was either gay or asexual (I was never sure which because it was not my place to ask and he never felt the need to tell me) and that his sexual preferences might have had just as much, if not more, bearing on his refusal to date me than any religious fervor, well, I definitely didn't take my rejection personally at that point, either.

I think of my friend occasionally, but especially with this passage: Edward Cullen has refused to date any of the girls in his high school, but instead of everyone assuming that he's very religious (and it seems like a Promise Ring would be an ideal disguise for the youngest Cullen) or quite possibly gay, the prevailing assumption here on Jessica's part is that he's an arrogant snot who thinks he's better than everyone else. It's possible, of course, that Jessica - and her friends - may be very mean-spirited people who jump to unfounded conclusions. But it seems to me that human nature isn't easily predisposed towards holding baseless grudges, and the animosity that Jessica apparently evinces here seems awfully strong for a simple "no, thank you" rejection.

Now, it's possible that I'm treading on the ground of victim blaming, and I certainly don't want to do that; any person should feel free to turn down any advance in whatever way they feel comfortable - and they are not responsible for the attitude that the rejected person decides to take. But having said that, this attitude of Jessica's - that Edward is arrogant and off-putting - does seem to bear out through the course of the novel. I don't think Jessica is being unfair to Edward; I think she's pegged his personality pretty accurately. And if that's the case, Bella's silent smirking over Jessica's "sour grapes" makes Bella seem arrogant and off-putting by association.

   After a few more minutes, the four of them left the table together. They all were noticeably graceful — even the big, brawny one. It was unsettling to watch. The one named Edward didn’t look at me again.

I'm glad that Emmett is graceful - it's always an annoyance when big bruisers knock stuff over and cause property damage by accident - but I'm still confused as to how one can be "noticeably graceful" in a school cafeteria setting. Maybe this is a lack of imagination on my part, but the only way this sentence makes sense to me is if the Cullens are exiting the cafeteria via the method of leaping over school tables and cafeteria chairs as though they were lovely gazelles with dewy eyes. Now that would be graceful and unsettling - but you'd think the other kids would notice.

   When we entered the classroom, Angela went to sit at a black-topped lab table exactly like the ones I was used to. She already had a neighbor. In fact, all the tables were filled but one. Next to the center aisle, I recognized Edward Cullen by his unusual hair, sitting next to that single open seat.

And now we see that not only does Edward not have a Cullen cutie to complete him, he also doesn't have a biology partner. What I want to know is: why?

I assume that we're supposed to believe that the partners were "picked" among the students and not assigned by the teacher. If that's the case, has Edward vehemently turned down all takers? This seems in fitting with his sourpuss personality, but not with the conceit of the story - the Cullens are supposedly trying not to stand out and attempting to blend in with the humans; that is, after all the whole point of this high school masquerade. And while it makes sense for Edward to turn down potential suitors (he's not interested, she'd only get her feelings hurt, intimacy could blow his cover, etc.), being a lab partner isn't the same as being a girlfriend. I can't think of any real motivation for him to blatantly single himself out by refusing to be lab partners with anyone else - a single period class every day isn't going to out him as a vampire. Of course, we could assume that no one screwed up the courage to ask him, but if he's as desirable as Bella and Jessica claim, it seems unlikely that there wouldn't be at least one brave soul to ask to sit next to him.

I also find it odd that the teacher hasn't solved the problem of an odd-number of students in the time honored fashion of having one group have three partners instead of two. The only explanation I can think of for this is that Edward's advanced grasp of the class concepts coupled with his frequent class absences convinced the teacher that he'd be best sitting on his own - or perhaps that Edward arrogantly demanded to sit on his own, which would - again - seem to fit the judgment that Jessica seems to have of him.

   As I walked down the aisle to introduce myself to the teacher and get my slip signed, I was watching him surreptitiously. Just as I passed, he suddenly went rigid in his seat. He stared at me again, meeting my eyes with the strangest expression on his face — it was hostile, furious.
   I didn’t look up as I set my book on the table and took my seat, but I saw his posture change from the corner of my eye. He was leaning away from me, sitting on the extreme edge of his chair and averting his face like he smelled something bad. Inconspicuously, I sniffed my hair. It smelled like strawberries, the scent of my favorite shampoo.

Edward is, of course, quivering with lust hunger for Bella's delicious, delicious blood, but Bella doesn't know that. It's interesting, though, that she immediately focuses on the (correct) fact that her smell must be bothering him. In my personal experience, body odor rarely extrudes beyond about a two foot radius - and even when it does, it can be fairly difficult to pinpoint who is generating the offensive odor. Edward, of course, has vampire super-senses so he can smell the pungent farts of the nearest Canadian moose, but Bella should know this already, and it seems odd that his passionate "long distance reaction" to her (starting as soon as she walks down the aisle between the desks) would be so quickly and neatly pegged as a nasal sensory response - it would seem just as likely that he's angry because he's an obsessive control-freak who hates people and/or women and who very much prefers not having a lab partner and to whom it has just occurred that his is the only available desk in the room.

I should reiterate here that I don't necessarily think the writing in Twilight is bad. There's a lot of evocative images, and I do think that it is relatively easy to adjust to the "reader-insert fantasy" concept and drift into a world where everyone loves you and takes care of you and fights for you and you sparkle all day in the sun - it may be a shallow fantasy, but it's a well-executed shallow fantasy in terms of providing a light frame for the reader to hook into and build their own story over the bare bones of the narrative. If anything, it reminds of a slightly stale fanfic - some bare bones world-building, meager characterization, occasional plot holes, and a lot of fantasy and self-insertion.

What little is good in Twilight, however, seems to me to be offset by its incredibly sloppy execution. We've already noted that Bella's assumption that Jessica asked out Edward and was turned down is probably meant to be read by the reader as fact - not because Bella has Sookie Stackhouse levels of mind-reading and clairvoyance, but because S. Meyer created a world where it is fact, and Bella is the voice she uses to convey facts to the reader. Now we see it again in this tableau with Edward: Bella doesn't correctly deduce that her scent is offensive to Edward because it makes any sense in the context; instead, she tells us that her scent is offensive to Edward because it is offensive to Edward, and if S. Meyer knows it to be true, then so does Bella.

What's frustrating here to me is that if Bella had assumed something a little more plausible - like, say, that Edward was an arrogant snot who completely over-reacted to her being his lab partner because he assumes she'll ruin his GPA what with being a woman and an inferior being and all - then her (wrong) assumption would give flow to her later overt antagonism to Edward. What's more, we readers might experience vicariously the thrill of jumping to a wrong conclusion and of learning the truth later.

Instead, though, it seems that S. Meyer either can't write misdirection or she won't write misdirection. Either possibility is intriguing: there are many reasons why new authors can't write misdirection, not the least of which is the fact that sometimes authors forget to separate themselves from their writing long enough to perform the crucial "what do I know and what do the characters know?" exercise. Or, alternately, many authors struggle with devising ways to convey facts to the reader without their first-person narrator having third-person omniscience; in first-person, a lot of information has to be conveyed through conversations, which are frequently very difficult to write due to the difficulties involved in finding a natural-sounding, information-packed, speedy flow - none of which are particularly endemic to everyday conversations.

If, on the other hand, misdirection was deliberately avoided in the pages of Twilight, we have to wonder why. Is the author concerned that unless everything is spelled out for the targeted YA audience, they just won't get it? Or is she concerned that if Bella were realistically flawed and capable of being genuinely incorrect, then her value as a self-insert character would dry up considerably?

In either case, I would like to say that she's under-estimating her audience...and yet, I'm not sure if I can adequately argue with the obvious fact of her success. Can I get a third-party opinion here?

67 comments:

Orion Anderson said...

I think there are ways to be conspicuously graceful that aren't *quite* that ridiculous. I'm picturing the Cullens sweeping out with their backs ramrod straight, chins high, and feet stepping lightly forward without being allowed to tilt their core--like a a Shakespearean dancer.

This is , of course, still ridiculous from a "blending in" standpoint--but then again, I'm beginning to wonder whether the vampires really *care* about blending in. In a normal vampire story, vampires are expected to maintain their disguise with extreme care, because they have three problems. First, their existence and lifestyle are illegal. Second, they constantly leave evidence that a monster is about. Third, if they were revealed the public, humans could kill them.

None of that seems to be true of the Twilight vamps. They aren't leaving any bodies in Forks--not even animals bodies, since they go hunting in the wilderness. They aren't doing anything illegal--after being outed as vampires, they'd still basically be what they are now--weird but harmless cultists. And even if humans panicked and tried to kill the Cullens, I don't think they have any realistic chance of success. The Cullens have no weaknesses, and they can just hide in the wilderness.

So the stakes are actually pretty low. Their human facade lets them make money and buy nice cars, but if they were exposed it wouldn't be that big a deal. And there's no realistic way they're going to be exposed. In a normal vampire story, once bodies start turning up, anyone who attracts attention would attract suspicion. But there's no reason for anyone in Twilight to go looking for vampires. Edward has no real reason *not* to be as demanding as elitist as his heart moves him to be.

Ana Mardoll said...

@dad616cb686291a27b9ecacacb936e60


An interesting point about the non-consequences if they are caught. Perhaps that's why the Volturi are added later? They consider "non-blending" to be a crime worthy of capitol punishment.


I like the idea of the dancer-walk - and that's probably what the scene is meant to invoke (darn my bad imagination!) - but that almost seems funnier to me than gazelle-leaping. At least leaping over tables and chairs is a potentially threatening thing for the vampires to do. ;)

Kit Whitfield said...

I'm going to go with 'sensual awareness'. One of Twilight's sharpest hooks is the erotics of abstinence: by withholding from Bella more that the briefest of sexual contacts with Edward, while at the same time stressing over and over her visual and physical awareness of him, it stays on a more or less permanent plateau of arousal. It's kind of the Tantric sex of teen romance.

If Edward's reaction to Bella seemed to imply intellectual or social disdain, that might make for a plot about how their personalities come to interact in a Pride-and-Prejudice way; it's a good story that has been told many times and has a lot of potential. But it isn't personality that attracts Edward and Bella: it's physicality. His main attraction to her is her delicious scent - indeed, he can't read her mind at all, so her personality is more closed to him than anyone else in the world's. Likewise she's smitten with his beauty long before he does anything that would show a lovable character, or really very much personality at all. The way their personalities interact is actually full of arguments rather than rapport, but that's very often forgiven because mutual attraction powers so much of the narrative.

If Bella thought Edward was turning his nose up at her, that'd be about how he thinks. Turning his nose away from her means his first awareness of her is physical and sensual. His reaction to her is as visceral as hers is to him - more so, even, because it's expressed in action rather than in visual comparisons. (Though I think we might read a lot into the word 'unsettling.) What looks like sexual recoil is in fact sexual attraction so strong he has to twist himself right round to stop himself jumping on her: what passion that implies!

It allows Bella to remain appealing: we're reassured that she doesn't, in fact, smell bad. Hence, it's a mystery - a guessable one, which lets us feel like clever readers and allows us more of that delicious delicious anticipation that powers so much of the book, but one that makes it nice and clear that Edward is having a strong sensual reaction to Bella first thing. Since they practically never kiss, never mind anything more nekkid, their lovemaking has to be confined to small scraps like this.

In short: I'd call it the novel's first sex scene.

Nathaniel said...

Christ, if that constitutes a sex scene for some people, they really need to get laid.

Kit Whitfield said...

Not if they're a twelve-year-old girl they don't. This is a young adult book, remember?

My twelve-year-old cousin who loves these books needs a lot of things - respect for her preferences, freedom to explore her own desires without condemnation, good access to information, safety, support - but some dude on the Internet telling her to get laid is not among them.Seriously, who are you to judge people for having a different interpretation of what feels like sex from you? In my experience, the more open you are to definitions of lovemaking that extend beyond the basic Tab-A-goes-in-slot-B, the more fun you have and the more loving and sensuous your relationships. And besides that again: if your name is Nathaniel I assume you're a man. This is a book by a woman, about a girl, for female readers. Female sexuality is diffuse, polymorphous, protean. A really great kiss on the hand can be more thrilling than a routine shag, depending on the kiss and the shag; it all depends on context. Most women derive more pleasure from clitoral stimulation than from penetration, and the clitoris is a whimsical organ. All sorts of things trigger it. If it arouses the woman, why are you running it down? Female pleasure matters, right? And come to that, focusing sex on 'getting laid' is not just unsensual, it's unworkable. Read this: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2006/09/are_we_having_s_1.htmlSo much of sex is in the mind. That's where the nerves go, that's where the arousal routes, that's where our perceptions begin and end. If an experience is deeply sexual to someone, dismissing it because it's not 'getting laid' is really, really bad sex. In short: please have some respect for other people's right to enjoy themselves in ways that differ from you and don't be a jerk about it.

Kit Whitfield said...


I also find it odd that the teacher hasn't solved the problem of an odd-number of students in the time honored fashion of having one group have three partners instead of two.


Surely the teacher knew that Bella was on her way, meaning the class would be even-numbered once she arrived?

As to Edward sitting on his own: maybe it was sunny and he was home the day everyone picked lab partners? :-) It's kind of a joky suggestion, but the Cullens are presented as familiar-but-separate to the people of Forks, and the frequent absences could have that kind of consequence.

Nathaniel said...

First off, the notion that this is strictly a book for children and the quasi pubescent is belied by the hordes of legal adults and even middle aged women who cannot get enough of the stuff.


Now one can be generous, and assume I was talking about those people. Or one could assume that I am perv telling 12 year olds to have sex.


Now, lets have a look see at some of your assumptions. Like the one that the only conception of sex I have is one of p-in-v. But after all, I'm only a guy.


You see, Female sexuality is diffuse, polymorphous and complex. And as we all know, guys in contrast are the essence of simplicity. All we need is a wet hole and a keg of beer, and we got the perfectly happy guy, amirite?


You know nothing about how I deal with sex, and the fact you assumed that you did based on my gender is really quite insulting.


Now note this, I am not defending my statement in full. I have a history of making flippant comments as though I were chatting in person, where tone can make a difference. Or at least, explanations come quicker.


To clarify, I was making an attempt at a humorous comment in light of how unhealthy I find the attitudes of sexuality in this book. Bella doesn't do the whole look from afar and be constantly aroused by Edward's beauty because she finds it totally hot, but because she implicitly has to follow the author's Mormon sexual practices, namely that of abstinence before marriage. The book eroticses abstinence and sexual denial by a controlling man while also denying of doing any such thing.


BTW, I find it interesting your assumption as put it "This is a book by a woman,
about a girl, for female readers."

What makes you say that?

Ana Mardoll said...

I'll chime in to note that this idea of "non-sexual sex scenes" is definitely not a new one in vampire books. Bram Stoker's "Dracula" has very little ACTUAL sex in it, but quite a lot of the vampire biting-sucking-licking scenes are commonly thought by literary scholars to be metaphors for sex.

'Course, the Hollywood movie versions spice everything up by throwing a lot of nudity and writhing into the mix.

So I can definitely see where this scene could be construed as a sexual scene, but if it is intended to be taken as such, I am a little discomfited by the conflation of SEX and VIOLENCE. Edward may be absolutely quivering with passion and barely able to restrain himself, but his desire is to hurt, kill, and ultimately possess Bella - NOT to leap on her and pleasure her according to her desires. So it’s “passion”, but definitely of the “this only really works in fantasies” kind, imho.

Kit Whitfield said...


First off, the notion that this is strictly a book for children and the quasi pubescent is belied by the hordes of legal adults and even middle aged women who cannot get enough of the stuff.


The fact that adults read a book doesn't mean it isn't primarily a book for children or young adults. Just ask J.K. Rowling.
You know nothing about how I deal with sex, and the fact you assumed that you did based on my gender is really quite insulting. I was addressing how your comment dealt with sex, nothing more or less. I'm really not interested in how you personally deal with sex; I don't know you and it's none of my business. I know perfectly well that male sexuality is complicated: human sexuality is complicated. What was simplistic was not male sexuality but your remark. Bella doesn't do the whole look from afar and be constantly aroused by Edward's beauty because she finds it totally hot, but because she implicitly has to follow the author's Mormon sexual practices, namely that of abstinence before marriage.That's a pretty massive assumption. And what makes you think that the two are mutually exclusive anyway? Sexuality is complex, remember?The book eroticses abstinence and sexual denial by a controlling man while also denying of doing any such thing. Well, some people do eroticise abstinence and sexual denial. It's a sadomasochistic vibe, and sadomasochists have a long tradition of having to get their literary thrills from works that deny what they're doing - have to deny it, not only because it helps get under the censors' radar but because the tension between what's acknowledged and what's felt creates a taboo and a paradox, and taboos and paradoxes are at the heart of sadomasochism.In addition, the denial has a more vanilla thrill: it simply appeals to the pleasure of anticipation. Look, I'm not saying this book is a good model for ordinary relationships. Consider the context of my first post: Ana was wondering how to square the book's success with its implausible handling of details, and I was proposing the theory that the details tend to be implausible in a way that charges small moments with sexual intensity - that they're implausible in erotically effective ways. A flippant remark about how sexually starved anybody who responded to that must be is both disrespectful to the thought and consideration others put into the discussion and to every reader who does find the book erotic.I'm not among them, incidentally. I merely find it unfair to assume there must be something wrong with every woman or girl who enjoys the books. Their success suggests that, women and girls not being stupid, there must be something Meyer does well, and one of the things she does is express sexuality. BTW, I find it interesting your assumption as put it "This is a book by a woman, about a girl, for female readers."What makes you say that? Because Stephenie Meyer is a woman, Bella is a girl, and the plot is romance - a genre that's traditionally aimed at women. I wouldn't assume Meyer objected to men reading her novels, but neither do I think it's reaching to assume that they aren't the primary audience.


Finally, please do not bring in phrases like 'wet hole'. Just because a woman said something you don't like is no excuse to use demeaning descriptions of the female body.

--

So it’s “passion”, but definitely of the “this only really works in fantasies” kind, imho

I'd agree with that ... but then on the other hand, a lot of sexual fantasies depend on being fantasies to work, especially when they involve play with danger and power dynamics. I don't think that means they're bad; you'd worry if someone couldn't tell a fantasy from reality, but that's a problem with the person rather than the fantasy, on the whole.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'd agree with that ... but then on the other hand, a lot of sexual
fantasies depend on being fantasies to work, especially when they
involve play with danger and power dynamics.



Oh, absolutely, I agree. But I think healthy communication and awareness that the fantasy is, well, a fantasy is crucial for those situations to really work.


I guess my disconnect with Twilight is... I understand wanting someone to want to leap on you and, ah, ravage you. But with Edward and Bella, it's not a consensual game, or at least not a safe one - he really does want to do something to her that could kill her. And as much as she seems to enjoy his arousal, I can't help but be uncomfortable with the real danger involved (as opposed to the fantasy danger).



The book eroticses abstinence and sexual denial by a controlling man while also denying of doing any such thing.


I'd be interested to know what makes you say that. From my own reading of the book, Bella seems to be the one being controlled - she's always trying to initiate stronger physical contact, with Edward pushing her away saying that any contact will set him off and he won't be able to control himself. Bella then usually says she's fine with Edward going out of control (or that she trusts him to be stronger than he thinks) and he gets very upset and they change the subject.


I've not really seen Bella control Edward in any meaningful way yet.

Nathaniel said...

The book eroticses abstinence and sexual denial by a controlling man while also denying of doing any such thing.


What makes me saw that is the mindset implicit in the eroticism of abstinence. To have everything simmer under the surface but deny expression. Thus it would seem to me that attempts to suborn all the tension under the category of "romance."


How romantic it is to be desired as a snack by a predator with emotionally abusive tendencies is a determination left to the reader.


As for the previous commenter, if you had really felt that gender was irrelevant, you wouldn't have mentioned it. Implicit in your comment was the assumption that since I am male, I couldn't possibly understand female sexuality. A similar assumption seems to under gird your comment about this is a woman's book for women. If my gender really wasn't relevant in your comment, why bring this up? Are you suggesting that since I am a man, I don't have anything of value to offer in critique of this book?


I agree that sex and sexuality are complicated. But that doesn't mean that simply because someone enjoys a work means it should be shielded from criticism.


And as for that last crack about my language, I was echoing sentiments on sterotyped male sexuality as elucidate by the previously mentioned Greta Christina in this piece: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2010/06/suspectability-of-male-sexuality.html. It deals with the rather insulting assumptions many people have regarding male desire, including the phrase that I used.


So no, I am not a misogynist reaching for objectifying language because a woman disagreeing with me wounds my poor male ego.

Ana Mardoll said...

What makes me saw that is the mindset implicit in the eroticism of
abstinence. To have everything simmer under the surface but deny
expression.



Well, I definitely see the "eroticism of abstinence" in Twilight, but I'm just not quite connecting how that correlates to controlling a *man*. So far, in Twilight, I haven't seen any men controlled at all. In later novels, Jacob will get strung along and Edward will have his will subverted occasionally by Bella, but I never see any control of a man in Twilight anywhere.


Maybe it's there and I'm not seeing it. But "eroticism of abstinence" doesn't have to have either party being controlled by the other - you can see much the same thing in very conservative Christian couples. Here I'm thinking of the infamous "Left Behind cookie" where Buck and Chloe are so sexually charged (they can't even hold hands yet!!!!!) that they essentially turn a cookie-eating experience into a highly erotic (for them, NOT for the reader) ritual.


I don't think in that case you would argue that either party is 'controlled' except, perhaps, by Turbo Jesus and their fear of him. :D


Question to all readers: Who would win in a fight between Turbo Jesus and Edward? Discuss.

The Dread Pirate Matt said...

"[I]f they were exposed it wouldn't be that big a deal."


This could lead to yet another reinterpretation of Twilight: this time as the town conspiracy, in which the entire town of Forks (sans Bella) is aware of the Cullens' nature but chooses to ignore it and come up with lame excuses for outsiders (e.g. Bella).

Silver Adept said...

Part of the first-third issues to me seem to be that S. Meyer cannot choose the correct adjectives to describe what is going on, or doesn't provide the right details for the reader to infer what Bella already knows. A "hostile" reaction says that Edward is somehow mad at Bella for something. If he were reacting to her scent, though, wouldn't "disgusted" be a more appropriate choice to use? Or "predatory"? Or "barely-controlled lust", because Bella's a worldly city girl and should be able to recognize that,.


Even if we don't resolve the issue of Bella's omniscience, being able to pick the right word would do the audience a world of favors in being able to interpret properly. With the way this is going, we have to wonder about what the editor was looking for when they reviewed the book.

Gordon said...

@Kit_Whitfield:disqus






The books start in late January. It couldn't have been much sooner
than Christmas that the teacher would have found out Bella was coming to
Forks. Presumably that means Edward has been going solo on all of his
biology assignments since the beginning of the year.

Cupcakedoll said...

I'd agree with that ... but then on the other hand, a lot of sexual fantasies depend on being fantasies to work, especially when they involve play with danger and power dynamics.

This.

And "this" may be one of the reasons Twilight reminds me of an anime. The Japanese seem to have no problem using relationships that only work in fiction, like student/teacher or having characters fall in love with non-biological parent or sibling figures. Western authors (in my experience anyway) tend to flinch away from describing unrealistic relationships as "real" inside the story. Ms. Meyer does not flinch, which is kind of fascinating. Does she not realize her relationships are not reality-appropriate? does she not care? and now come she gets away with it and the rest of us don't?!

Gordon said...

@309c56667ee9b28daec59e51eb5bc586 Does she not realize her relationships are not reality-appropriate? does she not care?


She doesn't think it is. From what I have read, she believes Edward and Bella to be an ideal couple.


At one point she even commented on her Romeo and Juliet comparisons(in New Moon) and said that yes there are some parallels, but the big difference is that Edward and Bella's love is real, while Romeo and Juliet were simply infatuated with one another.

Nathaniel said...

Edward and Bella's love is real, while Romeo and Juliet were simply infatuated with one another.


Oh that's rich. Right, they are so into each other because of their magnetic and awesomely compatible personalities. Why, Bella hardly even thinks about Edwards physical features. There must be a full three pages where she doesn't comment on them.


Such a model of restraint should be followed oh god I can't take it anymore.


Ms. Myers, normally I am a restrained and thoughtful critic. But this constant comparison with your literary betters that really grinds my last nerve.


Do you really wanna know the difference between you and Shakespeare? Well first, he's a good writer. But in this case, and actually all other cases, he differs from you in having perspective. He knew that Romeo and Juliet were stupid, horny teenagers, not the fucking paragons TRRUU WUVVVE.


But you, you write what makes you hot and blithely assume that it must work for everyone, and that such a distastefully toxic relationship would actually work in real life. You are no better than the people that smugly argue that all people who attempt monogamy are repressed prudes, or that bisexual means closeted gay person.


To use a slightly modified title of a blog I used to read, your book is bad and you should feel bad.

Kit Whitfield said...


Implicit in your comment was the assumption that since I am male, I couldn't possibly understand female sexuality.


Sigh.

No. Explicit in my comment was the fact that being male, you can't possibly know more about female sexuality than women can, and that responding to a woman's comment about a woman's blog post about a woman's book with heavily female readership with a statement of what people need to do was, hence, not very productive. If you can't stand that belief, there's nothing I can do about it.

And that wasn't a 'crack' about your language. It was a way of saying that it was a nasty phrase that made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

Kit Whitfield said...

Ana, would you like this argument dropped for the sake of civility? If so, just let me know.

Nathaniel said...

No, I think we have both our positions clear, and I not sure that furthering this particular argument does anyone a favor. I am willing to consider it closed.


Let me also be the first to extend an apology. As I said before, my initial comment was hasty. I also am truly sorry I made you uncomfortable. I hope both of us can discourse civilly on this topic.

Kit Whitfield said...

Thank you very much, Nathaniel, I accept your apology.
-- So far, in Twilight, I haven't seen any men controlled at all

I've heard it argued that Bella controls Edward. The basic principle seems to be that her power over him is, as Margaret Atwood put it in The Handmaid's Tale, like the power over a dog with a bone, passive but there. She doesn't act independently, but so strongly does she sway him that she continually gets him to act against his own interests, lose his grip on his principles, abandon his family at intervals, and generally speaking be ruled by his feelings for her rather than by his own judgement. Bella, meanwhile, exerts fairly constant pressure on him; she certainly never accepts it when he says 'no' to anything. And while I've only seen the film for the second, she seems to have a similar dynamic with Jacob. Basically it always seems to go:

- I can't be with you because I'll hurt you. If I'm true to my principles, I shouldn't be with you.
- But I want you to.
- Oh, all right then, I can't resist.

Which is to say, Bella's influence disrupts men's ability to make decisions and stick to them. She is a creator of dithering.

When it comes to these books I tend to assume that all interpretations are true, even the contradictory ones, or at least have an element of truth, skilled as Meyer is in balancing incompatibles. In sadomasochistic terms I'd say Bella has a tendency to top from the bottom, at least.

It's a theory, anyway.

Nathaniel said...

Even if that is the case though, talk about a limited and rather dubious power. So she can make men irrationally, or so the theory goes. Does she use this to extend her personal power, make men do things they otherwise wouldn't. Hell, does she even indulge in the cliche of lording her power over men over other women? No.


And if that theory is held to be true, how does it explain Edwards ability to consistently treat Bella's desires and wishes like toilet paper? Or the fact that he leaves her when she clearly never wanted him to?

Kit Whitfield said...


Does she use this to extend her personal power, make men do things they otherwise wouldn't.


Yep. She gets Edward to go out with her, and later to have sex with her and vamp her.

Hell, does she even indulge in the cliche of lording her power over men over other women?

It's certainly an element of the fantasy: look how she preemptively snipes at Jessica for 'sour grapes' about Edward.

how does it explain Edwards ability to consistently treat Bella's desires and wishes like toilet paper?

Her main desire is to be with him, and she gets that. She puts up token protests to his other intrusions, but the main point of conflict is whether they'll be together at all, and in that, Bella gets her way. She gets him to sleep with her, then she gets vamped. She wins.

Or the fact that he leaves her when she clearly never wanted him to?

Only temporarily. She gets him back. She wins.

Ana Mardoll said...

I can see it, but I dislike that definition of power/control because it tends to fall under the idea that men can't control themselves around pretty women and that the "I have boobs, you must obey!" TV Trope actually works in the real world - and, to my mind, that belief requires a very low assessment of men.


I don't think it's control for Bella to say "I'm okay with the risks involved with being with you" - I see that as honesty and communication. In such a case Edward has a choice: he can either respect Bella's wishes and stay with her and try to be the best, least dangerous boyfriend possible, or he can say, "No, as much as I want to be with you, I can't live with myself if I accidentally murder you, so I'm going to leave." I don't think EITHER choice is right or wrong, as long as it's made with clear communication and mutual respect.


To say (as apparently some people do - I understand that you're reporting this belief, not endorsing it, Kit, so this is not an attack on you at all!) that Bella is controlling Edward simply by throwing herself at him, presupposes that he does not have the ability to deny her. Perhaps this is true because he's a vampire, but IF it is true, it's not because he's a male. To put another spin on it, if a woman propositions my husband while he's out on a business trip and he accepts, my ire will be directed at Husband, not at the woman, because I firmly believe that Husband isn't an automaton attached to a heat-seeking homing device.


So while Bella "gets" Edward to go out with her, I see it as less a matter of control and more a matter of her being willing and available and Edward making the choice to be with her. And if it's not a choice, then I see it as being a supernatural blood-lust that compels him and not a normal physical-lust. If that's the case, then perhaps Bella is controlling him, but it would seem to be appropriate for one of the vampires-in-the-know to talk to her about her behavior. (Then again, the rest of the Cullens, minus Rosalie, are all so het up to turn Bella that it's a miracle she makes it through the first book. :P)


Then again, I have a very different view of the world than, perhaps, S. Meyer, so it's entirely possible that she intends for us to see Bella as controlling and I'm just not "getting" it. I do like the "all interpretations are true" concept - it seems to fit for literature that is as amorphous as Twilight sometimes seems to be. :)

cmerced said...

@openid-75628:disqus I think you are onto something regarding your "hostile" comment.

Part of the first-third issues to me seem to be that S. Meyer cannot choose the correct adjectives to describe what is going on, or doesn't provide the right details for the reader to infer what Bella already knows. A "hostile" reaction says that Edward is somehow mad at Bella for something. If he were reacting to her scent, though, wouldn't "disgusted" be a more appropriate choice to use? Or "predatory"? Or "barely-controlled lust", because Bella's a worldly city girl and should be able to recognize that knows. A "hostile" reaction says that Edward is somehow mad at Bella for something. If he were reacting to her scent, though, wouldn't "disgusted" be a more appropriate choice to use? Or "predatory"? Or "barely-controlled lust", because Bella's a worldly city girl and should be able to recognize that.

I do not think she would be able to recognize it afterall. This is the girl that goes down a dark alley just for the thrill. I think hostile it's what it looks like to her. It would be interesting to compare Bella 's version to Edward's. Meyer already wrote the first chapter or so from Edward's POV. Maybe....we can impose on our dear Ana to do a compare and contrast...hint hint. ;)Even if we don't resolve the issue of Bella's omniscience, being able to pick the right word would do the audience a world of favors in being able to interpret properly. With the way this is going, we have to wonder about what the editor was looking for when they reviewed the book.

Kit Whitfield said...

@Ana - well, it's not a view I particularly subscribe to, though as I say, with Twilight I think there are nine and sixty ways of interpreting this lay and every single one of them is right...

I think that pressuring someone to act on their own desires against their conscience is something that people of both sexes can do, and it's often unethical no matter who's doing it, but I don't personally see it as the main dynamic in Twilight. If Edward was a recovering alcoholic and Bella wanted him to go with her to wine-tasting sessions every time they met, for instance, he might make the choice freely but it would, at least, raise questions of whether she was being fair to him as well as to herself.

I do think it's a power fantasy for Bella in that it's all about being the centre of attention and everyone going to really extraordinary lengths for her - though perhaps we might call that a status fantasy. I also think that in the female fantasy of having a dangerous man at your feet, there is an element of oblique but potent fantasy: a woman in that situation appropriates the power she cannot embody for herself. My husband calls it the 'having a big dog' school of partner choice; I'd say it was the female equivalent of the trophy wife - and trophy partners are not usually equals. Though I'd be interested to hear your view on that...

Redwood Rhiadra said...

Um - I think both Kit and Ana have misread one of Nathaniel's comments. He didn't say "sexual denial by controlling a man", but "sexual denial by a controlling man" - controlling describes the *man*, not the woman. Nathaniel isn't saying that Bella's somehow in control, he's agreeing with you that Edward is doing the controlling.

aravind said...

"
a woman in that situation appropriates the power she cannot embody for herself"

That's where I think Nick might be coming from. Sure, Bella gets what she wants through horribly dubious means, but there's always that risk of her control over Edward (or Jacob? Mostly Edward) slipping when she needs it most. Even if we can see this dynamic as female-empowering (by unethical means, but still), it seems to begin from a place where women are on a lower status than men, and I'm not sure it really moves us beyond that. Long term, all straight couples* with this will lose, even if both partners think they're winning in the short term.

*I don't think there's an exact same-sex equivalent, although there are vaguely similar themes in certain divisions within the community, in my opinion.

Kit Whitfield said...


controlling describes the *man*, not the woman


I know, and I think Ana does too. Whether or not Bella exerts any control in the relationship is a separate question.


Even if we can see this dynamic as female-empowering (by unethical means, but still), it seems to begin from a place where women are on a lower status than men, and I'm not sure it really moves us beyond that.

I don't think it does; Twilight is nothing if not conservative in its gender roles. It's more the empowerment fantasy of a woman within a patriarchal system of values than the empowerment fantasy of a woman seeking to get out of that system. Patriarchy doesn't stop female power fantasies, but it can shape them.

Gordon said...

@openid-75628:disqus

A "hostile" reaction says that Edward is somehow mad at Bella for something. If he were reacting to her scent, though, wouldn't "disgusted" be a more appropriate choice to use? Or "predatory"? Or "barely-controlled lust", because Bella's a worldly city girl and should be able to recognize that knows. A "hostile" reaction says that Edward is somehow mad at Bella for something. If he were reacting to her scent, though, wouldn't "disgusted" be a more appropriate choice to use? Or "predatory"? Or "barely-controlled lust", because Bella's a worldly city girl and should be able to recognize that.


That's because Twilight is mostly written as half a story: Bella's half. A lot of the inconsistencies we see here are simply "Easter eggs" for Edward's half. It's like when you play a video game that is a sequel to another game and you load clear data from the first game and it gives you something extra: weapons, armor, extra lives, etc.


In a few chapters, Bella is going to open the window in her room. When she does, she is going to comment on how easy it is to open. Think about that for a moment. Have you ever gone somewhere and come back and said, "Yeah, the door was surprisingly easy to open." No. Of course not. That's one of the many things you don't notice every day because it performs as expected. Windows open. Doorknobs turn. Birds fly. Bella has no reason to expect the window to not be easy to open. Charlie has clearly prepared the room for her.


We find out in Twilight's unfinished companion book, Midnight Sun, that the first time Edward came to watch Bella sleep the window squeaked when it opened. The next time he came, he oiled the window so that it wouldn't make noise.


Furthermore, we "know" Bella's description of Edward being hostile is correct, because in Midnight Sun Edward's first reaction to Bella, after the frustration he exhibits in the cafeteria, is anger. His first thought is that somehow she was specifically sent to make him destroy himself, in a melodramatic sense.


Originally, Twilight, Midnight Sun(and I think New Moon and Eclipse) were supposedly going to be one novel.

Gordon said...

If, on the other hand, misdirection was deliberately avoided in the
pages of Twilight, we have to wonder why. Is the author concerned that
unless everything is spelled out for the targeted YA audience, they just
won't get it? Or is she concerned that if Bella were realistically
flawed and capable of being genuinely incorrect, then her value as a
self-insert character would dry up considerably?


I think it's because Twilight is Meyer's fantasy writ out large for the world. She wants to share the fantasy, and even let others take on her role, but it still must be her fantasy. That means certain things must be a certain way, otherwise the effect is ruined. This is necessary even if the elements needed to make it the way she wants don't fit fit into the narrative properly, or are simply poor writing.


I think Jessica's jealousy is a key part of the fantasy here. Who wouldn't want a partner that would make others jealous?

OrionJA said...

Gordon,

I *think* this is an agree-and-amplify of your post, but I had to type it out to be sure I understood you.

Perhaps the reason there's no misdirection is that Twilight was never plotted out in the conventional sense. It didn't start with her wanting to *tell a story* about a vampire--which would lead to sitting down and thinking up a protagonist, cobbling together a plot outline, and then figuring out how and when to reveal each nugget of exposition. It began because she *had a daydream* about a vampire.

The thing is that things in a private fantasy--like how someone feels about you--aren't deduced from physical signs--they're directly perceived. If you want to fantasize about being admired, or adored, or hated, you just bring some characters on stage and tell yourself they feel that way about you. If Twilight is literally a transcription of SMeyer's fantasy, it's not surprising that it's Bella's opinions don't have to be explained or justified.

Silver Adept said...

@cmerced:disqus If that's the case and Bella doesn't recognize it, or worse, recognizes it but attributes it to something else, then Renee shades into either sadism or neglect of her daughter. (This does fit with her "airhead" characterization, but not in a good way.) For the most part, when Bella sees what should trip a danger response, she heads into it wnthusiastically. Repeatedly. This suggests that she's had enough of those situations where the right response was a different strategy than the default. Maybe Bella has a dark and abusive past, with her mother's string of "boyfriends", all of whom took quite the interest in the blossoming beauty, and whose mother looked the other way, if not actively pimped her to them so that they could continue to live off of someone else? That would explain why she thinks it's a hostile reaction - it matches when the other men were mad at her for whatever reason. She's nervous and waiting for the pimp-slap and being dragged off somewhere for punishment.


(Darkest Sketch, Darkest Sketch? Suddenly, it seems like Twilight has a lot of skeletons...)


@c47f5a9ec5b45f7667bfebc245588caa:disqus
That would make some sense to read Twilight as if it were only one half of a telephone conversation. That still doesn't excuse S. Meyer for simply splitting up the prose and not realizing that it meant certain things couldn't be known any more. We still have a lazy writer on our hands, and we still have the problem mentioned in the title of the post - a character that knows more than she should. Which means, if we're not breaking the fourth wall, we have to find a reason why she knows these things... I still personally like the idea that it's a retrospective, told from an unknown point in the future, by someone in a hurry for some unknown reason.

Gordon said...

@openid-75628:disqus That still doesn't excuse S. Meyer for simply splitting up the prose and
not realizing that it meant certain things couldn't be known any more.
We still have a lazy writer on our hands, and we still have the problem
mentioned in the title of the post - a character that knows more than
she should.


That's where what I was saying in the post after my response to you comes in. OrionJA expands on it nicely in the post after mine. This is Meyer's fantasy. The goal is to convey the fantasy exactly as she experiences it; rules of literature and narrative be damned.

Nathaniel said...

Which is another thing to dislike about the book. Personal erotica posing as novel is an awkward, uncomfortable thing indeed.

OrionJA said...

I'm not convinced. Whenever I remember my dreams, people seem spellbound by my recounting. I know other people's dreams can be quite fascinating to me as well.

I think "recounting of a fantasy perceived without mediation" could work as premise for a novel. People like Stephen Donaldson have played with similar conceits.

Silver Adept said...

@c47f5a9ec5b45f7667bfebc245588caa:disqus Well, okay. That shuts down a lot of avenues for exploration and trying to fill in the holes, but it's as valid as any other. And when I complain again, it will simply be that I don't find S. Meyer to be a compelling storyteller, a position that can be "well, that's your opinion"'d by all of the Twihards out there.

Gordon said...

Also, Ana, since you like TV Tropes, I'm going to throw this out there:


Bella Swan is the literary equivalent of an AFGNCAAP.

Gordon said...

There's always the criticism that Meyer didn't make an effort to write something that would stand up both as an exploration of the fantasy and a good novel. I'm not sure if it's entirely possible in Twilight's case, but given the sheer number of problems there are I think it's safe to say not enough effort went into it.


Writing is not a purely a creative effort. It is a skill that must be honed. And I think we do everyone who reads a great disservice by pretending otherwise.

Silver Adept said...

@c47f5a9ec5b45f7667bfebc245588caa:disqus Indeed. Writing is not something that springs forth fully developed from the forehead of Zeus.


As for Bella being an AFGNCAAP, well, like all the other things, there's problems with the execution. Unless, that is, you ignore a lot of the jangly harsh bits about Bella (like her snap-judgments, or her headlong rushing into dangerous situations) in a single-minded devotion to the fantasy of Edward. Then again, that's kind of what the book wants you to do, doesn't it?

Kit Whitfield said...


Which is another thing to dislike about the book. Personal erotica posing as novel is an awkward, uncomfortable thing indeed.


I see nothing wrong with it; almost all erotic writing that actually works is written by an author who finds it personally erotic. Having a taste for something is the best way to know how to write a good scene containing it: you know what the good bits are. I don't see anything wrong with erotic novels either, especially with a book that's explicitly a romance. Why not? Any erotica that doesn't push one's personal buttons will be an uncomfortable read, but if you share the erotic tastes of the author then the personal element is going to be a plus, not a minus. And if you don't, you can always go find erotica by someone who does share your tastes, and you'll probably find the personal element enjoyable there.

--

Writing is not a purely a creative effort. It is a skill that must be honed.

People like to say that, but I'm sceptical. (And I'm a professional novelist.) Honing is of the conscious mind, and most of the elements of writing - social insight, rhythm, grammar, structure - are at their best in the subconscious. You can practice writing in the same way you can practice an instrument, but the only way you can learn to create is by creating things. And in the end, what you're learning to do is become the kind of writer you can be: skills can be learned from the outside, but no writer can write from the outside: you can polish your voice, but you've always got the same things to say.

So nah; the 'it must be honed like a craft' is a popular theory, but I don't think it accurately reflects the process. Not in my experience anyway. I suspect it's popular partly because it seems to empower readers to tell writers off, but there's no need: if a work of writing is bad, it's bad, and you don't have to know why to be able to say it's bad. In addition, what's to say Meyer didn't hone her skills and this is the pinnacle of them? We don't know what's going on in her head, and frankly I find it a bit intrusive when people assume they can know how a writer writes by looking at the end product. None of us know the lady.

Gordon said...

No offense, Kit, but what you're saying pretty much contradicts everything else I've ever read about writing. And other authors are usually the people to whom I give the most credence. Now I'm not saying you're wrong, because your experience is your experience, but your experience, from what I've read, doesn't seem to be the norm.



Your analogy doesn't really work, either, You practice an instrument by doing that: practicing. You practice even when you don't feel like it. You practice for hours on end. You practice until you're so sick of practicing that you want to give up, and then you practice some more. At least, if you want to play music professionally, you do.


And I'm not sure what you mean. How are structure and grammar subconscious? Can some people grasp them intuitively? Of course, but subconscious?


As for your experience, how much did you write before you published your first novel? Compare your first creative effort to the first one you published? Is one not objectively better than the other? Would you send that first effort for publishing? How would that first effort and all the efforts between that one and your first published material not constitute a honing of your writing skill?


You're also correct when you say I can't know what goes on in her head, but I can know a little about her process based on what she's said. For instance, did you know that Twilight was dreamed up, written and accepted for publishing in six months? Or that the most research she says she did is look up the rainiest part of the U.S.(and then a map of the Washington) and go to a baby naming website for her character names?

Gordon said...

I can see how what I was asking about your writing could be seen as both condescending and intrusive, and for that I apologize.

hapax said...

I can see it, but I dislike that definition of power/control because it
tends to fall under the idea that men can't control themselves around
pretty women


Coming in very late, but I was one of the people who argue this position vociferously (with Kit, at the Amazon forums, really everywhere... :-) )

I'm not saying that I *like* this fantasy, but it is a very powerful one, especially in a culture without healthier outlets for women to exercise power.  In a society that emphasizes prescriptive gender roles, where women are taught to believe that their strengths are emotional, intuitional, domestic "people skills", while intellect and rationality and authority were the preserves of men, it is incredibly to seductive to fantasize about exerting sexuality -- "innocently", of course! -- in such a way that a man loses "natural" advantages and are helpless without relying on the woman's "instinctive" guidance.

I compare it to the huge explosion of "rape fantasy" romances in the seventies.  These were popular primarily among women who were raised in a society much more defined by traditional sex roles but newly receptive to overt sexuality, yet uncertain / unsure / uncomfortable with how to access power outside traditional channels.  There is a large element of a "safe" and "innocent" expression of sexuality in these rapes, of course, but if you look at the language used by e.g. Rosemary Rogers, one of the most popular of these authors, it always emphasizes the way the heroine "forced" the men to "lose control",  describing them as "helpless" against the overwhelming tide of emotion and desire -- which the heroine later taught (or even "trained") them to manage safely.

But I still think the best expression of this dynamic (both in literary quality and sheer sensual power) is the chapter in the SCARLET PIMPERNEL in which Marguerite begs Percy to help her brother.  Marguerite has always been characterized as an exceptionally capable character, but her intelligence was "a woman's cleverness" -- that is, intuiting and manipulating emotions and relationships.  Percy, in contrast, is the "ideal man" -- brilliant, strong, brave, and always always in control.  At the conclusion of this scene, the reader sees Percy as literally driven mad by the power of love (the language is all about "frenzy", the loss of "reason" and "self-control") kissing the marble steps where his wife's feet had touched.  (And later we find out that he goes on the very task that she had asked of him, and that his "disciplined" self had denied.)

This is heady stuff.  and I think it well may be the dynamic that Meyers (who has expressly indicated that the books were meant to endorse "traditional" relationships) is tapping into;  and I think it expresses SOME of the resonance among adolescent girls, who are first experiencing their own sexual identities, and are getting very mixed messages (to say the least) from popular culture about how to be both feminine and potent.

But of course, as Kit says, TWILIGHT is such an open lattice of a story it's possible to weave darn near anything you like into it....

Ana Mardoll said...

@fa009241bbd15ee840d21056d1306fb2:disqus

When you explain it that way, I can see what you mean. And... I'm not against that sort power-play in fantasy because as long as everyone understands that THIS IS FANTASY then there's no problems and everyone can enjoy it (or not, and put it down) as they see fit.

So I guess if someone were to say that "Bella is controlling Edward in the same way that pretty women control men in the real world", I would argue vociferously against that statement, but if someone were to say "Bella is controlling Edward in a sexualized fantasy world where a man's fictional lack of control around a pretty woman is a form of control and release for the female characters", then I can see the case for that.

I do think you're right that someone losing control in fiction is a very different thing because the reader/author still ultimately maintains all control and can stop the action at any time.

Kristy said...

 Here's the thing though - the book is not marketed as "Here is my erotic fantasy, let me show it to you."  It's marketed as "Teh Greatest Romance Story EVAR!"

To recap for a moment: Bella is using "feminine wiles," a form of control predicated on the idea that men are helpless against a pretty face, which plays into the fantasy of being so alluring that men can't help themselves - they break character, turn into assholes, and do things they would generally never do, because they are that much in love with you.  Edward is being controlling in a much more direct way: raging jealousy, controlling who she can see and where she can go, doing things against her will "for her own good," denying her affection, let alone any sort of sexual contact... you get the picture.  Now, this is all based on some pretty harmful stereotypes about men, women, and how they're supposed to interact, but y'know, yeah - in the context of an erotic fantasy, fine.  It's not my thing, but if that's what floats your boat, you go ahead and get your boat floated.

What scares me is when I see women - and girls - acting like this is the perfect romance and saying things like "I wish I could find a man like Edward in real life!"  No.  You don't.  Because in the real world there ARE plenty of guys who will try to control you and be possessive of you and get irrationally angry for reasons you didn't anticipate, and tell you it's all ok "Because I just love you so much, baby, you just make me so crazy."  And yeah, it can seem flattering at first, but the sparkle wears off real fast.

I'm not saying the books aren't entertaining, because they are.  I don't think they were particularly well-written, but I read them and had wholesome cheesy fun while doing so.  I just worry that many of the readers are not seeing the distinction between "a fun fantasy to think about" vs. "an actual model for actual, real-world relationships."

Reader of Books said...

"But it seems to me that human nature isn't easily predisposed towards holding baseless grudges, and the animosity that Jessica apparently evinces here seems awfully strong for a simple 'no, thank you' rejection. "

Minor nitpicking: just a post ago, I think it was Ana herself (yourself?) who said that Edward is sarcastic. I doubt he's that wonderful at masking his disdain for these lesser beings who want to worship him when turning them down. Also, the comments section of the Internet and any and all hullaballoo that come of sensations, not to mention politics, seems rife with baseless grudges. I'm grudgingly (teehee?) admiring the sunny disposition you've turned towards humanity--no, really. I'm far too jaded to believe that people do many things without malice attached. Too many Internet trolls spoils my respect for humanity or something.

Gordon said...

@OrionJA Except the only part of Twilight that was a dream is the scene in the meadow(and to some extent I think it shows in Meyer's writing). The rest is contrived circumstance that exists solely to facilitate that scene, or to build on it. The meadow scene is the heart of the fantasy.


Relating a story(or dream) in person is vastly different from being able to relate the same story(or dream) in writing. I'm a decent storyteller in person, but I struggle a lot more when I'm writing. In the hands of a competent writer, I'm sure the as-is plot of the Twilight series could have been much more than what we got.


I'm not saying Twilight is inherently inferior because it is based on Stephenie Meyer's fantasy(Though, I do have problems with the fantasy she is presenting). I'm saying it's inferior because she dressed said fantasy in writing decisions that are at best ill-advised(splitting the narrative without addressing the issues it creates), and at worst show a fundamental lack of understanding of how literature works as a medium(the "empty protagonist" we discussed in an earlier post, or how she constantly employs useless description).

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