Twilight: It's All About The Protagonist, Baby

Twilight Recap: Bella has pleaded with Edward for the truth behind the incident and promised that she won't reveal his secret to anyone. Unwilling to trust her, Edward has stalked silently off, leaving Bella alone in the hospital corridors. Comment of the Week goes to Hapax for her Dr. Seuss rendition of Twilight. I heartily recommend that this proud tradition be carried on by as many posters as possible.

Twilight, Chapter 3: Phenomenon

Today will be an interesting contrast to Bella's behavior over the last few weeks. While she has been largely deferential to Dr. Cullen and his son Edward, preferring to let her (legitimate) issues with them air out through passive-aggression and carefully veiled word games, now that the Cullens have disappeared from the scene, Bella is going to undergo a bit of a personality change -- not so much from her character thus far but very much so from her character when dealing with the Cullens. Hang on to your seats.

   The waiting room was more unpleasant than I'd feared. It seemed like every face I knew in Forks was there, staring at me. Charlie rushed to my side; I put up my hands.
   "There's nothing wrong with me," I assured him sullenly. I was still aggravated, not in the mood for chitchat.

The first time I read this, I thought the putting-up-of-hands was Bella covering her face with her hands, as if in a gesture of embarrassment or mortification. That reading didn't seem correct -- if Bella covered her face with her hands, her next line should be "Tbere'th nuffinck rawng wiff be," or some phonetic variation thereof.

My next thought was that the movement was putting her hands out in front of her to steady Charlie -- perhaps so that he wouldn't run into her. Charlie is, after all, "rushing" to her, and Bella has a habit of falling over and colliding with things, so it stands to reason that she might have developed some defensive reflexes thus far. (This would also go a long way towards explaining why her pratfalls rarely seem to cause any damage.)

This doesn't really seem to fit the situation, though -- Charlie really shouldn't be running on a slick-from-melted-ice hospital floor towards someone who may or may not be seriously injured. Parental emotions are one thing, but Charlie should have at least a modicum of training regarding the handling of injured people, particularly in an area heavily populated with hunters, vampires, and werewolves.

So it seemed more likely that the gesture is that of a stop sign, stopping Charlie before he can speak so that Bella can reassure him that she's alright. And that's potentially kind of nice, if it's a gesture of reassurance. Something that conveys it's okay, I'm alright, you don't have to worry even a minute more is a wonderful gesture, because it acknowledges that the other person is in emotional distress and the quick response shows that the responder has thought ahead to consider the other person's distress and wants to alleviate it as quickly as possible.

And yet... the language here doesn't seem to fit that interpretation. Bella speaks to Charlie "sullenly" and considers his inevitable request for information to be "chit-chat" for which she is not in the mood. I receive the impression that Bella's stop gesture isn't one of reassurance and affirmation, but rather one of annoyance and irritation. It's a talk to the hand gesture, but with the understanding that she would prefer Charlie not talk at all.

Bella's aggravation is, I suppose, meant to be a logical outflow from her frustrating conversation with Edward. And perhaps I can't fault Bella for not being able to immediately switch gears. But her obvious irritation with Charlie -- and I have to believe that it is obvious, if Bella is such an open-book -- seems patently unfair. Charlie, for all his faults, has (as far as Bella knows) gotten up very early to put tire chains on her car, and then when an accident occurred, he rushed her to the hospital and presumably paid the bill. Some small acknowledgment of these facts would seem to be in order, even if the only acknowledgment is an attempt to dial back the searing waves of annoyance rolling off of Bella.

This acerbic attitude is particularly interesting in light of Bella's kind and deferential conversation with Dr. Cullen and her tender assurances to Edward that his secret was safe with her. I start to get the impression that Bella reserves her patience and understanding only for her social climbing attempts, and not for people whose love and admiration is already assured. This doesn't look good for Edward's future happiness.

   "Dr. Cullen saw me, and he said I was fine and I could go home." I sighed. Mike and Jessica and Eric were all there, beginning to converge on us. "Let's go," I urged.

Now this is just frustrating. Not two pages ago, Bella was insisting that she did not want to go home because she didn't want to spend the day at home with Charlie awkwardly waiting on her hand and foot. She also wanted to get back to school so that she could face the circus and get all the questions over with -- returning to school was presented as a major step towards returning to normalcy.

I'm also annoyed that Carlisle's quip about the "entire school" being out front has been reduced to three faces. Either Carlisle was wrong (or exaggerating), or the rest of the school has wandered off in boredom, or Bella has only bothered to learn three names -- two of which are boys she is not interested in romantically but which we must be reminded of early and often to reinforce her desirability -- in the entire school. Or, I suppose, the rest of the school *is* there but just isn't interested in "converging" on Bella. Either way, I'm disappointed that the much-hyped packed waiting room is so sparsely described.

Between this lack of world-building and Bella's sudden change of heart about going home, one almost suspects that the point of this chapter is over and the author is rushing to finish up.

   Charlie put one arm behind my back, not quite touching me, and led me to the glass doors of the exit. I waved sheepishly at my friends, hoping to convey that they didn't need to worry anymore. It was a huge relief -- the first time I'd ever felt that way -- to get into the cruiser.
   We drove in silence. I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that I barely knew Charlie was there. I was positive that Edward's defensive behavior in the hall was a confirmation of the bizarre things I still could hardly believe I'd witnessed.

Bella seems like a fun person to live with. OK, sorry, I'm in a snarky mood today, clearly.

It seems natural, actually, that Bella wouldn't want to chat much on the car ride home. She probably has a splitting headache, she's going to miss classes today and will have to gather assignments and notes from people tomorrow, and she's been part of a Major Incident in a town where she really just wants to blend into the background. And -- as she notes -- she's witnessed something impossible and the people involved have been extraordinarily evasive and vague and suspicious about what she is sure she's seen. That would give you a lot to talk about.

Still, while I like to think I'd be the last person to slap someone with the Curse of the Good Girl, I do think there's a fine line between enforcing and respecting one's own needs and boundaries and being a pleasant human being to be around. I think there's a place to expect Bella to make some kind small talk with Charlie (Yeah, no, I'm really okay! Yeah, I'm shocked too. Thank god, right? By the way, I really appreciate you putting snow chains on the truck. Hey, do you mind giving me a ride tomorrow since the truck is still at school? Thanks. Man, what a headache I have. *less awkward silence*) just because it's the polite thing to do.

Readers, de-privilege me if I need it: By expecting Bella to be slightly polite to Charlie, am I holding her to "Good Girl" expectations that I shouldn't? I really don't know and it worries me.

   When we got to the house, Charlie finally spoke.
   "Um . . . you'll need to call Renee." He hung his head, guilty.
   I was appalled. "You told Mom!"
   "Sorry."
   I slammed the cruiser's door a little harder than necessary on my way out.

Bella, if you damage the cruiser, the repairs come out of Charlie's paycheck.

I'm amused by the melodrama here. Bella has lived with Charlie for less than two weeks now, so I would expect he would need to call Renee if only because Bella is probably still on her health insurance. (Props to Gelliebean for pointing that out in an earlier thread.) Hospital visits, even if there turns out to be nothing wrong with you, are expensive. Heck, I'll bet the ambulance ride will cost Charlie or Renee at least $300, and possibly much more. So all this hang-dog guilt from Charlie is pretty disappointing for me -- for all the times that Charlie comes off as over-bearing to me (and he does), I wish he was *more* so here. Bella, I had to notify her to get your insurance details, and if you slam that door again you'll be grounded, concussion or not. Now go call your mother while I get the numbers so I can call your school and get your assignments.

This doesn't even touch on the fact that apparently Bella expects Charlie to keep major life incidents a secret from Renee. I have no idea what their custody agreement is, but I can imagine that Renee would be well within her rights to blow a gasket if she found out that Charlie was helping Bella to conceal, say, major car accidents and medical emergencies. The fact that everything narrowly turned out to be alright -- a fact that Charlie could not have reasonably foreseen when he called Renee -- would not have excused Charlie if he had chosen to hide this from his ex-wife.

Layered over this is the melodrama that Charlie can only call Renee in emergencies because -- despite being able to coordinate yearly visits for their daughter -- apparently the two simply cannot speak to one another because CHARLIE'S HEART IS BROKEN. Or something. I'm not trying to be flippant here and say that seventeen or so years would dull the pain, because it's entirely possible that it wouldn't. But I am saying that the world-building around the text proves that Charlie and Renee can talk to one another without difficulty because otherwise Bella's backstory is impossible. There's no way she's been going to California for vacations with Charlie for years without him talking to Renee at least a little bit.

Now, you *could* say that Charlie is telling concussed-and-should-be-resting Bella to call her mother because Renee will demand to talk to her daughter anyway, but I will remind you that this is the second time in text that it's been pointed out that communication to Renee has to go through Bella and that Renee's biggest threat is "I'm calling your father" rather than just, you know, doing it. This just strikes me as very dramatic and not practical at all, and it's frustrating to me that the in-text (No talking!) so blatantly contradicts the sub-text.

   My mom was in hysterics, of course. I had to tell her I felt fine at least thirty times before she would calm down. She begged me to come home -- forgetting the fact that home was empty at the moment -- but her pleas were easier to resist than I would have thought. I was consumed by the mystery Edward presented. And more than a little obsessed by Edward himself. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I wasn't as eager to escape Forks as I should be, as any normal, sane person would be.

I would think it would be easy to resist hysterical pleas to come home immediately after a major move, just getting settled in, and the fact that there is no one in your house to "come home" to. I mean, I realize that Phil is a big up-and-comer in the world of minor league (I almost typed "little league" there by accident) and can spend big minor league bucks on plane tickets for Renee to jet around the country at a moment's notice, but if Bella's personal desire to not impinge on her mom and Phil in their new marriage, even to the point of moving to a town she hates to live with a father she despises and go to a school she deplores... well, it just seems to me that a little near-death experience isn't likely to change someone's mind. Forks isn't going to be icy forever, and statistically Bella is probably safer from car accidents in Forks than she would be in Phoenix.

It's disappointing to me, though, that none of this is called out. Bella doesn't want to stay because she just moved here or because she isn't going to structure her entire life around a pointless accident; instead, she doesn't want to leave because she's "obsessed" with Edward. Now, I get that Twilight is a love story -- I'm not going to demand that it be something it's not intended to be. But I can't get into a love story that has the heroine "obsessed" with the love interest after only knowing him for three days (Biology Incident, Biology Apology, and Parking Lot Collision) and exchanging maybe -- maybe -- a few thousand words with him. Most of which were hostile, antagonistic, or uncomfortably probing. Spoken in tones ranging from smug to smirking to aggressive. I'm just saying that no matter how pretty Edward is, I'm not buying this OBSESSION level from a character who is -- supposedly -- fairly mature and somewhat jaded.

But maybe I need a paradigm shift. Maybe Bella is obsessed with Edward because of her forced mature-and-jaded status. Maybe because her entire life has been built around caring for herself and Renee, she craves a smug knight in shining armor. Smugness, after all, could be mistaken for an indicator of competence -- which is surely something that Bella would prefer in a mate. She doesn't, after all, want yet another adult baby to take care of. His attractive features and wealthy family could additionally signal that he gets what he wants in life without too much of a struggle; a welcome change, perhaps, for someone who has been fighting tooth and nail to make ends meet on her mother's probably-small salary.

And yet, it's just so hard for me to envision someone from Bella's background falling so fast and so hard for someone who is acting like, well, an entitled pompous jerk. I would think that one of the few advantages of coming from a low-income, self-parented background would be that one's previous and frequent exposure with jerks makes one less likely to fall for one right out of the gate. I mean, Bella supposedly isn't the most sheltered person in the world if she's been buying the groceries and picking up the dry cleaning for years and years, so if nothing else you'd think she'd be well aware that Edward isn't the only pretty-but-jerky fish in the sea. I don't fault her for being interested, but obsessed? It doesn't mesh in my head. 

   I decided I might as well go to bed early that night. Charlie continued to watch me anxiously, and it was getting on my nerves. I stopped on my way to grab three Tylenol from the bathroom. They did help, and, as the pain eased, I drifted to sleep.
   That was the first night I dreamed of Edward Cullen.

This actually sort of surprises me, because I would have thought the omg, is that creepy boy from Biology who looked like he wanted to hit me in class going to be there again tomorrow days of  anticipation and dread would have resulted in a few dreams. But of course this means "That was the first night I noticed Edward Cullen coming into my bedroom," which is not quite the same thing.

And that's the end of Chapter 3, people. I'd brag that we whipped through that one in record time, but it was actually a pretty short chapter. And you thought when I said the author was rushing toward the end that I was joking, didn't you? ;)

135 comments:

depizan said...

When I read Twilight, I really couldn't get into it - despite being a smart loner in high school who felt completely not like her class mates. You know, the kind of person you might expect to identify with Bella. (Even if I did read it many years after high school.) But it just felt so off to me, and some of the things you point out are part of that. It's as if Bella knows she's the heroine in a romance novel; that she's very specifically genre savvy. (Though I must say I've read plenty of romance novels with heroines who make far more sense.)

If she were compelled to find out more about Edward out of curiosity or wanting to understand what the heck is going on, especially after this incident, it wouldn't read as so off. But I have just as much trouble with "obsessed with Edward." How? Is he just that damned pretty? But none of Bella's reactions quite read right. It's as if she does things that make sense, but for reasons that don't, or aren't really explained. I can buy Bella as embarrassed after the accident and not wanting people to make a big deal about it, but I'm not sure we're supposed to read her as embarrassed. It's more like we're supposed to agree that people shouldn't fuss over her, but that makes no sense at all.

I wish I could put my finger on exactly what seemed off about Bella's actions vs. supposed reasons, but, unlike everything else that irritated me about the book, I've never been able to quite articulate what's wrong there. The research and world building errors are clear - neon sign clear, the creepy subtexts (whether intended or not), but Bella... I don't know.

Ana Mardoll said...

Maybe Smugface Sparklepants can do something with it, he's one of the few people around who was an adult when it came out. (Charlie wasn't even born yet, apparently.)

This made me laugh so hard. Definitely my new name for Edward, although we may have to combine with Will's (that was you, right Will? I'm terrible with mental-comment-archives) "Sparklethighs".

I honestly have no idea of the best way to fall.

Good question. I'm not sure, either, but professional stunt people must have some kind of training in this and you'd think some of it would be instinctual for Bella at this point. I'd say you want to avoid "locking" your arms forward (break an arm) or landing on your side (ribs or arm damage). Probably the best way to fall would be forward, with knees loosely bent and arms bent and hands held at the upper chest area? That would give you some early absorption of the fall in your knees and hands without locking your limbs, and would protect your face (teeth, nose, chin-biting-tongue) from the worst damage.

This is all pulled directly from my chair. Can anyone with actual knowledge weigh in? :)

But it just felt so off to me, and some of the things you point out are part of that.

You are not alone. Every time I would start to get absorbed in my read-through, something........ off about Bella would hurl me out of the narrative, sometimes (actually, often) unable to immediately articulate what seemed strange about it. She just.... doesn't seem human to me somehow. Or maybe it's that her background doesn't seem to exist -- we're told her background, of course, but it seems to have not shaped her character in any way that I would expect.

If you think about it, *most* parents would burst out laughing if their child started demanding that they fork out about ten grand (that was your estimate, right Ana?) to go back and forth between Arizona to California and Washington to California. Yet, it seems that Bella gets her way in that department-and others-seamlessly. And I think the best part for Stephenie Meyer is where you don’t even have to say thank you or *consider* what the costs of accommodating you when you ‘put your foot down’ are. Essentially, you get to turn that strict, parental-centered environment on its own table; the parents become the children and the children become the parents. That’s what I read when Bella mentally refers to her parents as ‘Charlie’ and ‘Renee’. They’re not really her parents, just overgrown children that have given her power. Therefore, they forgo the honorifics and affections of ‘mama’ and ‘daddy’.

That makes a huge amount of sense actually. What could be more empowered than being the adult while your parents are the annoying children of the family? (Well, quite a lot of things come to mind, but I see the point.)

This very probably also ties into the odd Cullen family dynamics where the "children" are treated by Esme and Carlisle as darling children despite everyone's age being roughly the same, give or take a decade, at this point. The difference being that Carlisle and Esme are "good" parents (they trust Edward completely even when he's running around with Smells Like Teen Cocaine Bella and endangering them all) and Renee and Charlie are "bad" parents for thinking this whole teen marriage thing is maybe not the best of plans.

depizan said...

Overall, I think we’re looking at a fantasy of someone who was taught to bear the Curse of the Good Girl all her life.

Huh. This could be exactly why Bella reads as off to me. I never thought of it from quite that angle before.

(I wish she hadn't used Bella calling her parents by their first names in that way. I've always called my parents by their first names, so Mom and Dad sound strangely impersonal to me. Though even I expect parents to be called that in fiction.)

chris the cynic said...

I may have said this before (I have difficulty of keeping track of what I've said where.)

For me calling parents by their first name has always felt childish. This is entirely a result of my own personal experience with it, which mostly with calling my mother by hers.

It's what I did when I was little and surrounded by mothers and wanted to get my mother's attention without turning every head in the crowd. That's why I called her by her first name to her face. When she wasn't around I think that there might have been an element of not understanding that people would instantly know who I was talking about when I said mom. Adults always called her Joanne so how would they know who I was talking about if I said mom? (I don't think I ever told anyone that was what I did it.)

If I'm remembering correctly, people thought it was both odd and adorable. To me it just made sense.

As I grew up and put away childish things I stopped doing that. Calling my mother Joanne now would seem strangely impersonal.

Combine this depizan's post and I guess that the moral is that either way you'll seem strangely impersonal to someone.

brjun said...

I honestly have no idea of the best way to fall.

I am not sure either, but when I took figure skating, I was explicitly taught to fall on my side -- that way, there is more area to distribute the weight, so you are more likely to get away with bruises than broken knees or something. I am not sure how well it works in reality, where the ground is not as smooth as a skating rink.

Overall, I think we’re looking at a fantasy of someone who was taught to bear the Curse of the Good Girl all her life.

I think that's how I have been reading it all this time as well -- a lot of Bella's bitchiness feels like the sort of bitchiness that I would wish I could do, if I had to constrain my feelings all the time. There are times in the books when I wonder why she doesn't go the direct route of getting something (ie: tell/ask that boy to stop carrying her books damn it) but of course, if you have grown up with that sort of life, telling someone off like that is not actually an option. The difference, of course, is that Bella, knowing that she is a romance novel protagonist can afford to joke about it to herself, rather than worrying about this effect on her social status/relationships with other boys she might like/etc.

Amarie said...

At Ana:

Yes, EXACTLY. I think I commented somewhere that both the parenting styles are ridiculously dysfunctional. And yet, the human parenting styles are the ones that are degraded while the vampire parenting styles are idealized.

I’ve never referred to my mother as ‘Kerri’-mentally or verbally, unless necessary. Not only does it feel impersonal, but I feel that I’m doing her a great disrespect. So, she’s ‘Mama’ or ‘Mommy Wommy’ (yes, I turn 20 today and I actually call her that. In public, no less.) Calling a parent by a parental designation signals respect and affection to me. By that extension, I see that person rightfully designating themselves as the child of those parents, even when they’re adults themselves. When I see someone call their parents by their names, my initial thought is that their parents were neglectful, abusive, or there’s just simply been more of a ‘friend’ dynamic than a parental/child dynamic. If none of those have happened, though…then I get the feeling that person is childish and wanting/needing to feel dominant and powerful. This is what I feel with Bella; despite her caretaking of her mother and father, she seems to be woefully covetous of power. Meanwhile, she’s incredibly puerile and narrow-minded in all her interactions with other people..

Yet, I suppose Bella’s psychology *does* make sense in a way. The power that she wields over her parents is paradoxical in the extreme. Bella is a seventeen year old child. Renee is in her thirties and Charlie is in his forties. *They* have the means to make money. *They* are old enough to have a driver’s license (when Bella is younger). *They* must use that money to put bread on the table. Bella-for all her maturity-does not. It’s not her fault; she is simply too young. And this is where the paradox comes: how in the world can Bella be all powerful (i.e, demanding to go to California, deciding what dinner will be) and yet not powerful at all (i.e, not actually having ten grand herself to go to California, not having the means to earn enough money to put sufficient food on the table). What I’m getting at is that Bella may be making the *decisions* in the households…but she does not have the *means* to make the decisions in the household. She clearly didn’t finance Charlie’s back and forth trips; what minimum wage paying job could a teenager get that would help that? She can only be overall ungrateful for her truck; her father bought it, and she couldn’t afford to buy another car in a timely manner anyway.

So what I think we’re looking at here is a protagonist that only has control *so long as it’s related to taking care of someone else*. As far as control and power over her own life? None whatsoever. She has no money, no college education, no connections/networks and, most of all, no true ambition to get that true power herself. The paradox that I see is being an adult…but only in the strict confines of being a child.

That almost makes me want to cry for Bella; she’s stuck in a paradoxical definition of power and control and doesn’t see it. It *really* makes me want to cry for Stephenie Meyer because I wonder what kind of upbringing she had that makes her think Bella is strong, mature, etc.
That gives the audience the impression that she already feels as though she’s on lower ground…and, in her own way, she does what she has to get back up on that higher ground. She can’t be equal; equality is a myth in Twilight. So, she has to either be lower or higher than someone. In most cases, Bella wants to be higher

Nathaniel said...

This hints at something that I don't think I totally groked in my reading of it, but may point towards additional reasons as to why I hate Bella.

Namely that every relationship she has seems to be based on power, not love. She has power over her parents, and resents their power over her. She tolerates peers to the extent she has too, or can make advantage of them. A huge part of her relationship with Sparklepants is that she is the weak one, him the strong.

Its such a toxically alien viewpoint to me.

Brin Bellway said...

I turn 20 today

Happy birthday, Amarie!

Mostly I call my mother "Mom" or "Mommy". I think the main exception is when I'm talking about her to someone who primarily knows her and not me, especially if I suspect they don't know I'm her daughter.

brjun said...

What I’m getting at is that Bella may be making the *decisions* in the households…but she does not have the *means* to make the decisions in the household.

That almost sounds like the traditional housewife model, actually -- the wife can decide what to eat and makes the food and so on, but since she doesn't earn the money, she only really has so much power. Of course, in the present day she could, theoretically go and make money on her own (unlike Bella, who is literally underage), but it is a thought.

Lunch Meat said...

I am not sure either, but when I took figure skating, I was explicitly taught to fall on my side -- that way, there is more area to distribute the weight, so you are more likely to get away with bruises than broken knees or something. I am not sure how well it works in reality, where the ground is not as smooth as a skating rink.

My dad taught me, when I was doing running, hiking, climbing, etc, that if you're falling forward, you should catch yourself with your hands thrown out in front of you, and then collapse one arm so that you roll onto your side. This way some of the momentum that would be slamming you into the ground is transferred into sideways movement.

Lunch Meat said...

Oh, and happy birthday to Amarie! Hope it's a wonderful day!

chris the cynic said...

Happy Birthday.

Randy Owens said...

Captain Sparklepants?
I wonder what he's captain of.

graylor said...

It never struck me as odd for Bella to refer to her father by is given name. I do the same because a.) my father wasn't around much when I was little and b.) my mother made it explicitly clear which side my bread was buttered on because if they had been willing to divorce it would have been one of ~those~ divorces.

Calling her mother Renee, on the other hand. Okay, say you're a parent who has surrended parenting duties to your kid. This may, depending on your personal insight, make you question yourself in very uncomfortable ways. It is also frowned on in society, maybe not to the extent that it raises red flags, but yellow flags wouldn't be out of the question. It seems to me that getting your kid to call you 'mom' in public would be a psychological balm and a help when dealing with schools (and all those doctors Bella has surely seen over the years. Right? The ones who might wonder if Bella 'walked into a door' rather than, er, actually walked into a door?) . Or is Renee such a free spirit this never occurs to her?

Amaryllis said...

Happy birthday, Amarie!

I read the "putting up my hands" bit as "don't you dare touch me, or God forbid try to hug me." And maybe she was bruised and in pain, and it would hurt to be hugged, or maybe she's just a brat.

Since Charlie escorts out without "quite touching" her, I guess he got the message.

Silver Adept said...

Re: Falling: If there are any commenters out here who have friends that do martial arts and have for a while, ask them how they learned to fall. It's one of the first lessons that they get, so that they don't accidentally injure themselves while sparring or performing. The point is pretty much to protect the soft bits and the core and direct the energy away from them. So leading with the extremities, where possible, helps a lot. In bad falls, that might result in broken limbs, but those eventually heal. As Bella the Klutz should very well know by this point.

Happy Birthday, Amarie! Enjoy your wisdom bonuses.

As for how Bella treats Charlie, despite having probably given him a scare, I suspect some of her standoffishness is the firm belief that she doesn't want Charlie to actually care about her, because if he cares about her, then he takes an interest in what she's doing, and that's not something she wants, having been basically independent with Renee. The other part might well be that teenagers are often really bad at assessing risk, and so if she thinks she's fine, it's probably because she doesn't understand the risks of being concussed or anything else.

I, however, continue to be surprised that Charlie, as a Chief of Police, has not given her the Safety Lecture many times over at this point, and can provide her with all the gruesome statistics to dissuade her from doing just about anything. By this point, Charlie should be nattering on about this other accident that he was at and how things happened and

--"Shut UP, Charlie!"

...anyway. Renee is behaving how Charlie should be behaving. And Charlie, unless he's sure that Bella's not concussed and in danger, would be doing whatever he needed to so that Bella stays awake. We continue to wonder whether S. Meyer has really thought out the consequences of her characterizations. (And when we get to Thunderstorm Baseball, that will come back with an And How.)

And then there's this obsession part with Edward. Why is Isabella obsessed with a jerkarse like him, unless she's playing a particular role of "demure woman who loves her abusive boyfriend and attempts to change him" (is that the Curse of the Good Girl?), which should be a rampant contradiction with her snappishness and general behavior toward everyone in Forks. Or maybe it isn't. This is where we get the "Bella comes from a family of abusers" idea - her constant pushing away of friends and pursuit of who is likely the worst person for her might be that she's going to continue the cycle, because she's so used to having to hide and push away people who might report Renee (and her boyfriends?) and put Bella in foster care.

(Because frankly, every Twilight post needs a Darker and Edgier.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I, however, continue to be surprised that Charlie, as a Chief of Police, has not given her the Safety Lecture many times over at this point

He *also* didn't instruct Bella on gun safety, assuming that she would already know not to touch the gun he hangs on the coat rack (IIRC) every night when he comes home. *facepalm*

Cupcakedoll said...

Very good points Amarie, and happy birthday! I think you're spot on about Bella's jerky behavior being seen as empowered, and how sad it is that SMeyer might see it that way.

That power-as-caretaker reminds me of a creepy mental disorder, Munchhausens by proxy, in which parents make their kids sick in order to remain in the caretaker role, as well as to get attention and sympathy due a mother of an ill child. Obviously Bella's not doing that, but maybe the whole power/money/homemaking thing could be part of the psychological seed of the disorder in some cases. Feeling powerless can really make people go off the rails.

The whole scene with Bella and her father shows such a lack of... respect? Communication? Gratitude? I feel like my parents who were kind enough to raise me deserve at least a "Sorry, my head hurts and I can't deal right now. Can I have a few hours raincheck on life?" And her guilt-tripping Charlie for the normal to-be-expected act of calling Renee just seems low. The scene feels viscerally wrong and mean to me. Of course I'm reacting as a real person with good parents, not a romance novel protagonist whose parents are as obsolete as the VCR you throw away when you get a dvd player.

Dezipan: the "obsessed with Edward" reads as so off to me because there's so little to be obsessed WITH. It's a bit like she's seen the promo images for an anime in a Japanese magazine and decided on her favorite character without knowing a thing other than what he looks like and that he's a "dark angsty bishie" type character, which you can tell from pictures.

And while all this is going on the other Cullen kids have towed away the two trucks on some pretense and are frantically hammering out the Edward-shaped dents in them so nobody can prove the story.

In the Edithverse the other Cullens would be... Allen, Jasmine, Emma and Ross? No, we definitely need a better name than Ross. It's too short.

Ana Mardoll said...

Of course I'm reacting as a real person with good parents, not a romance novel protagonist whose parents are as obsolete as the VCR you throw away when you get a dvd player.

It's a bit like she's seen the promo images for an anime in a Japanese magazine and decided on her favorite character without knowing a thing other than what he looks like and that he's a "dark angsty bishie" type character, which you can tell from pictures.


Cupcakedoll, you have a way with analogies. I heartily approve. :D

Rebecca Morgan said...

I dunno, when I read the whole 'put up my hands' thing, I interpreted it as the kind of gesture you do when you put both hands up with palms out, like you're either telling someone to back off or trying to distance yourself from someone. Like her intention was to say 'Hey, whoa, everything's fine, chill out' because Charlie is rushing over ('rushing' meant to imply that he's super concerned more than walking really fast). I have trouble believing that it's a reflex Bella has in order to fend off imminent injury.

Nothing in her characterization, beside the outright stating of it, leads me to believe that she's honestly a clumsy person who frequently deals with injury. As someone who actually IS really clumsy and frequently hurting myself, I've learned the hard way that putting your hands out to catch yourself can end fairly badly. I broke my arm a few weeks ago doing just that. I can't help but be a little offended by Bella's characterization, since being clumsy isn't a hilarious and nifty trait to have that leads to being swept off your feet by hero-types. It just hurts, frequently, and often to serious degrees.

And you know just how much that must annoy me, to motivate me to type all of this with a broken arm. :3

Also, every time I read 'Smugface Sparklepants,' I kept saying it in my head as 'Smugface McSparklepants,' which I think I like better. ^_^

Ana Mardoll said...

Rebecca, I'm sorry to hear about your arm, but glad that you were motivated to post anyway! It does start to feel like Bella's falling is simply a plot convenient informed attribute, and not a sensitively dealt with disadvantage. :(

Randy Owens said...

Ah, that reminds me, I meant to post a link to this recent Cracked article, 6 Obnoxious Assumptions Hollywood Makes About Women | Cracked.com, see especially #2. By coincidence or not, one of the 'Recommended' related links at the bottom features a picture of our very own Ben an... I mean, Bella and Edward.

Amarie: I only gave you that TV Tropes link a couple of days ago, and you're back posting already?? What's wrong with you?

Ana: I blame your name for my earlier confusion in thinking that Amarie's name was Anamarie. :p

chris the cynic said...

Also, every time I read 'Smugface Sparklepants,' I kept saying it in my head as 'Smugface McSparklepants,' which I think I like better. ^_^

It does sound better, doesn't it. I've been trying to back off on the Namey McName convention lately, but maybe I shouldn't. It's a good convention.

-

Sorry to hear about your arm.

Randy Owens said...

@Amarie: You must sparkle. There's no way any mere mortal could be back within a week of getting their first TV Tropes link.

Pthalo said...

Happy birthday!

I have some experience at falling (years of rollerblading), and it is best to fall to the side. Falling on your butt is okay, if you have enough padding, but it sends a big shock to your spine and can leave you with back pain. Also, don't fall on your hands. Your wrists cannot take that kind of shock. instead, if you have to land on an arm, try to land on the forearm with your forearm parallel to the ground. much less likely to break a bone that way. And the ice skating I've done has taught me (not from experience, thankfully), that you always make a fist when falling. If you splay out your fingers, and someone skates over them, you will lose them and it will hurt.

Once, that nearly happened to a kid I was ice skating with (his aunt, my friend, was with us). He'd just fallen, splayed his fingers, and another kid was coming right for his fingers. So I picked that kid up and moved him out of the way. The stranger kid was surprised, but didn't fall when I set him down gently. And my friend's nephew got an earful from the both of us about how you never ever fall with your fingers splayed out.

To prevent a fall, if you start to feel unsteady while on wheels, it's best to push one foot a little forward and the other foot back, like an open pair of scissors, and just coast. This will give you some extra stability. And on rollerblades, if you find yourself going too fast and are unable to stop because you haven't learned yet (in which case you shouldn't be going that fast), aim at a wall and hold your arms out in front of you with your elbows bent (and scissor your feet). Or veer off the sidewalk onto some grass, where it won't hurt if you fall.

Kit Whitfield said...

Happy birthday Amarie!

--

She just.... doesn't seem human to me somehow.

Something that stands out to me: she isn't very emotionally responsive. By which I mean, she always seems to be in the same mood, and everything she says has the same eye-rolling, impatient, defensive tone. People change moods in response to circumstances, and Bella's circumstances change quite dramatically from one moment to another, but Bella greets them all in the same tone.

Of course, all writers have a particular tone they tend to strike, so it's a case of degree rather than kind. But I think that's one of the reasons Bella feels peculiar. Her catty tone would be appropriate in some situations - maybe she's catty when there's nothing much happening but pulls herself together in a crisis, or maybe she makes the best of things when everything's normal but gets catty under stress - but when we've seen her use it in situation A, using it in situation B feels weird because you'd expect there to be some variation.

And it's that lack of responsiveness that makes her an odd romantic heroine, given that romances are all about emotions.

--

So what I think we’re looking at here is a protagonist that only has control *so long as it’s related to taking care of someone else*. As far as control and power over her own life? None whatsoever.

It's a teenage kind of control, I think: she only has control when it comes to influencing other people. If you're a teenager, how much money you have, whether you have a curfew, what kind of clothes you can wear - all are largely dependent on what you can get your parents to agree to. A kid who can wangle a bigger allowance and a later curfew and a more revealing wardrobe will have higher status than one whose parents draw a narrower line. An adult, on the other hand, can make those decisions for herself, so it becomes less of a status issues.

The compensation, if you're a teenager, is that other people basically take care of things for you. What money you have, you can spend entirely on pleasures: you don't have to pay bills or rent or taxes. What free time you have, you can spend amusing yourself; what clothes you have, you can suit to fashion rather than the dress code of your employers. If you want something, there's one way to get it: you try to get it out of your parents.

Which is a much smaller and more copable kind of power struggle than making your way in the world as an adult. It seems that part of the Bella fantasy is that she never has to make that way for herself: if she wants something, she always has someone to pressure into getting it for her.

redcrow said...

Happy birthday, Amarie!

Dav said...

From personal experience, I can advise people* not to fall backwards - you will thrust out your favorite arm, come down hard, dislocate your elbow, break your wrist in two places, snap off part of the elbow joint, and spend months and months in recovery. Even after a few hours (okay, seven) in the ER, I was a complete wreck. All I wanted to do was get home and cry in private. I was nice to my ride home, though, and managed to be nice to the nurses. But if I'd had someone it was safe to snark at, like my dad, I don't know what I might have said. And my ride very wisely did not pressure me to talk, or ask me to make decisions or do anything or have any further emotional reaction, or I might have completely lost it. From that experience, I'm inclined to cut Bella some slack - emergency rooms bring out the worst in me, and when my relatives showed up to help with the recovery process, I was really mean, even though I was actively trying to be kind. The fact that my brother and dad still talk to me shows that they are forgiving persons made of awesome. I just had no emotional reserves - there was no cushion. All my spoons were going toward pain management and control issues, if not the basics of trying to survive.

Granted, Bella's not seriously hurt, but she's probably still in the vestiges of shock, which at least makes ME incredibly awful to be around. Worse, she's had control ripped away from her repeatedly throughout the morning - the accident, Edward, the doc, the (poorly done) subversion of her perceptions, the medical establishment - that's incredibly stressful for anyone, and especially for anyone with control issues. The pain was ungodly, but the feelings of uncertainty and helplessness was worse. (And control issues: Bella haz them.) Emergency rooms are challenging places, and I think the best part of my experience in terms of behavior regulation was the sheer number of strangers. On one hand, I had to be as nice as possible to these strangers who were essentially just doing their jobs - I've done customer service, and I felt bad for them. On the other, I would get to spin my own story of the accident, and could redact the parts that were most undignified and humiliating. Having my entire high school class outside would have made things much, much worse.

I wish I had the impression Bella was trying to reign it in, though, even unsuccessfully.

* Good luck taking that advice - I had way less reaction time for my ice fall than I feel like I normally do. Sometimes I have that slow-motion thing where I know what's happening. The ice fall was pure autonomous flail. I do wonder if PE classes should add "good falling" to their list of activities. Teach 'em while they're young, impressionable, and resilient.

Dav said...

Et tu, Disqus? Amarie, happy birthday.

And Rebecca - solidarity! I graduate from cast to splint this week, from a less exciting accident than the one that landed me in the ER. I'll be thinking of you. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

I do wonder if PE classes should add "good falling" to their list of activities. Teach 'em while they're young, impressionable, and resilient.

This strikes me as an incredibly good idea. When I've slipped on ice, I've had the same BAM! FALL! issue where I didn't have any conscious thought between slip and land. It would be nice to have some training to fall back on.

Ben E. Hexapodiaasthekeyinsigh said...

RE: falling

As it happens, I do martial arts. We are taught to fall essentially as flat as possible, to distribute the impact. The most important part of this is usually falling with arms out and bent so that you land on the entire arm, instead of just the hand (which could lead to broken wrists). Another group that might know about falling, according to my sensei, is snowboarders.

Amarie said...

Again, thank you, thank you, and thank you for the birthday wishes! It kind of feels, err…weird…to be twenty, but I’m glad I’m not a rock sitting beside a stream. *winks* I hope you all love the Princess Tiana cake! :D

Okay. Mr. Randy Owens. How *dare* you say that I sparkle!!! D:<
I do not sparkle, sir! I am simply Cursed With the Awesomeness of loving Ana’s blog and all the commenters! Pardon me, but this college student wants to exercise her mind outside of class…so I can’t stay away. In that way, dear sir, I am Blessed With Suck. *giggles* If you say I sparkle one more time, I’m going to ask Will to find you a picture of SparkleThighs in gym shorts!!! Nyahahaha! >:D



Kit, if I may…

I think Bella’s lack of healthy, emotional reactions is actually another brand of sexism in Twilight. If you think about it, for all the lack of emotional response she shows…Edward shows a *lot*. For example, she didn’t seem very disturbed about the near rape in Port Angeles. In fact, screaming doesn’t even occur to her. Yet, *Edward* is the one that shows an intense emotional reaction to the situation. As usual, he becomes angry. Now, to be fair…this is a time when Edward has liable reason to become angry; someone that he, err…cares…about (*cough*)…was nearly violated and could have possibly been killed.

That being said, I think the emotional reactions (or lack thereof) are another sign of the conservative gender roles. Women are supposed to suffer in silence and show no emotion about *themselves* at all; men are supposed to be completely free to show as much emotion as they want. In that way, women rightfully remain in the victim role (being constrained to not feel anything other than intense love and devotion for their mate) and men rightfully remain in the protective role (feeling intense anger and outrage on behalf of their mate’s safety and embodying the show of emotion that she is not allowed to show herself). It’s kind of like Stephenie Meyer is saying that as long as a woman will be silent and demure, then a man will come save them and make everything alright for them. If you scream and try to get help yourself…well because you’re a woman, you’re not going to get very far in life, are you?

I think this also ties into the selfless themes. Bella can’t really care about herself because that would be selfish; the very concept of self is selfish and it’s almost like a sin in the Twilight world to nurture, protect and validate the self. Therefore, Bella can have no other emotion besides being constantly irritated, catty, etc.…because she’s being selfish by taking up space. And dangit, she’d be selfish again if she committed suicide to remedy that little problem. She’s trapped.

…Crap. Now I’m depressed. x. X

Gelliebean said...

Firstly: Happy Belated Birthday, Amarie! Looks like I'm a day late, but I hope you had a wonderful time and your cake sounds awesome. :-D

"Bella can’t really care about herself because that would be selfish; the very concept of self is selfish and it’s almost like a sin in the Twilight world to nurture, protect and validate the self. Therefore, Bella can have no other emotion besides being constantly irritated, catty, etc.…because she’s being selfish by taking up space."

I relate so much to this... :-( Especially the bolded. It's not even funny how much this was me in high school and college.

I coped with it in a very different way, though; I tried to be as quiet and out-of-the-way as possible, because I was afraid that my expressing any emotion (including negative) would be an inconvenience to anyone around me. My whole goal was to make as little of an impact as possible because I always knew I wasn't supposed to be here, which makes it hard for me to grok Bella reacting to the same impetus by becoming openly sarcastic and irritable to the people around her. Not saying you're wrong in the least, because I can understand *as a concept* the idea that someone under the influence of all those pressures would react by seeing everyone around her as the source of those influences, and then by resenting them and seeing them as antagonists. On the other hand, though, that might require more self-awareness than Bella seems to have been capable of.

chris the cynic said...

I'm guessing Randy Owens is talking about the idea that TvTropes will ruin your life.

And it does have a habit of doing that, it's like Greek Myth. You go to quickly look up the name of Medea's father, and three hours later you're looking into varying stories of Icarus while repeatedly flipping back to follow up on these amazing new things you've discovered about divergent stories of the fate of Ithaca after the Trojan War. Every answer you find leads you to 16 new things worth following up and the day that was supposed to be spent doing productive work was instead captured by a seemingly endless pile of connections.

…Crap. Now I’m depressed. x. X

Yesterday when I was feeling down I was cheered up somewhat when someone made me ponder the question of whether Thomas Jefferson immortal zombie hunter was a mortal hunter of immortal zombies or instead an immortal hunter of ordinary zombies.

Perhaps you could find something similar to think about. Though I don't know what it would be. Perhaps something involving sparkling. The again maybe not.

-

What are the rules with sunlight and sparkling? Do they still sparkle if the sunlight passed through a window first? What about when underwater? Does reflected sunlight (as in I'm out of direct sunlight but someone in the sun with a mirror is pointing some light my way) make one sparkle? What about full spectrum artificial lighting?

These are not questions likely to cheer anyone up, but I suddenly find myself curious.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ana: I blame your name for my earlier confusion in thinking that Amarie's name was Anamarie. :p

Haha, I love it. We'll Ana-ize the whole internet before long. :P Anachris. Anawill. Anarandy.

These are not questions likely to cheer anyone up, but I suddenly find myself curious.

I *think* the vampire sparkle is supposed to be "scientific" -- they're supposed to be, um, Made of Pyrite. Or something. How this DOESN'T sparkle under the school lights is anyone's guess.

I seem to recall that Breaking Dawn has them on vacation to an ISLAND they own? Is that correct? Does Bella spend the whole week with a headache because TURN THAT SPARKLE DOWN, DANGIT.

chris the cynic said...

Things like that are why this is how the grand explanation of vampireness plays out in my head:

Edith: "There's a perfectly rational explanation."
Ben: "And that is?"
Edith: "Magic."

Either that or:

"There's definitely a scientific explanation for all of this."
"And what is it?"
"I haven't figured that out yet."

I'm not sure it that should be followed up with:
"Then how do you know?"
"Faith."

Or not.

Actually the, "There must be a scientific explanation," is something I'd probably reserve for non-Twilight inspired vampires.

Oddly enough, while I definitely see Edith pointing to magic as the explanation I picture her, "I can't read your mind," revelation to be more like this:

Ben: You can't read my mind?
Edith: No.
Ben: But you can read everyone else's?
Edith: Well everyone else that I've met and taken notice of in a mind reading kind of a way, which is hardly a representative sample of humanity.
Ben: But what makes me different?
Edith: Give me a lab, millions of dollars in grant money, and a few decades and I'd probably be able to answer that.

Ana Mardoll said...

Edith: Give me a lab, millions of dollars in grant money, and a few decades and I'd probably be able to answer that.

Student: So what do I have to do for the $100 again?
Researcher: We need you to sit here and think about whatever you see on these cards while this young lady stares at you.

Amarie said...

Chris, you are truly a cynic, dear sir. LOL!

No, honestly when I get depressed about Twilight, I think of threads, sites, books, etc. that are on the same page as me. That is, this is *not* ideal, there *is* something wrong here and as it is published work, we *do* have the right to deconstruct it and for most, ultimately not like it. But, thank you! Err…I’m pretty sure the idea of Thomas Jefferson being a zombie is, ummm…interesting. Haha!

Gelliebean, thank you and I understand where you’re coming from! I used to feel like that and it was mostly because my personality is so nice and demure. It honestly takes a lot to piss me off and then make me *tell* you off (it’s not pretty if you push me to that point…Bella Swan would be proud…x.X). And I agree with you about how the negativity in Bella inevitably emits outward. From there, she takes it out on people that have nothing to do with what’s going on inside. But then again I tend to think that human beings hate most in others that which they hate in themselves. In Bella’s case, she hates her very humanity, so no one is exempt save for Edward and the rest of the Cullen’s.

Amaryllis said...

Ana: I blame your name for my earlier confusion in thinking that Amarie's name was Anamarie. :p

Haha, I love it. We'll Ana-ize the whole internet before long. :P Anachris. Anawill. Anarandy.


Hey, now! I object! I've always like Amarie's name exactly the way it is.
Yours respectfully,
Amaryllis

...what's that? Resistance is futile?.... .... ....
yours,
Anamaryllis

----
Rebecca and Dav: Ouch. Much sympathy, and I hope you're both feeling better.

----
Kit: :Something that stands out to me: she isn't very emotionally responsive. By which I mean, she always seems to be in the same mood, and everything she says has the same eye-rolling, impatient, defensive tone. People change moods in response to circumstances, and Bella's circumstances change quite dramatically from one moment to another, but Bella greets them all in the same tone.
Thank you. you've put your finger on why Bella seems so inhuman. Oddly, I recently read another book (Moonseed, Stephen Baxter) where the protagonist exhibited a similar personality trait. Whatever happened, good or bad-- and he had some really dramatic changes of circumstance -- he'd respond with the same tone of impatient, defensive snark.

And so far from being a Good Girl in a fundamentalist culture, he's coming from the other end of the scale. He's an adult man in a high-status profession, and everybody listens to him because he's just that awesome. (And the author makes sure that when they don't listen they're sorry, because he's right about everything.)

So what did he have to be so obnoxious about? The need to be right all the time, maybe, but he got very wearing to be with.

Randy Owens said...

Yep, TvTWRYL is exactly what I had in mind. Although, oddly, the effect that TV Tropes itself isn't the same as the effect that you describe, and I had in mind, and in my experience, most people mean when they say 'TvTWRYL'. Their meaning for it is more like general spoilers for storytelling of all kinds.

wmdkitty said...

Excuse me for butting in. I have a lot of experience with falls, and I've learned a few things.

1) Protect your head. If you're falling back, tuck your head, take the impact on your back and shoulders.

2) Stay loose -- seriously, tensing up just makes you more likely to injure yourself.

3) Nothing is as stable/sturdy as it looks. If it's on wheels, it CAN roll. ALWAYS check before putting your weight on/against a structure, surface, or piece of furniture. Especially the furniture.

Carry on.

*disappears back into the ether*

Silver Adept said...

@Amarie

Take the Dark Mantle because I outshine you?

...yeah. You get the Punster's Cap.

@Ben E. Hexapodiaasthekeyinsigh

My thanks to you and your sensei. Glad those instincts were right, even if the ideas about what falling would work doesn't.

@Dav

I think that safe falling would be an excellent part of Phys Ed. Most sport involves falling at some point, whether intentional or not, so learning how to do it properly would be great.

More generally:

Our empathy for the broken bones - having broken a couple fingers deliberately doing something stupid, having that happen while trying to do something to minimize the damage seems remarkably unfair.

As for Bella as the girl whose power is constrained solely into Acceptable Female Roles, the backlash against that, when she truly has Had Enough, would have to be Epic. And that she will have a vampire body with which to exact that revenge... the story of Isabella Swan should be one of the newling that cut a remarkably bloody swath everywhere that she had been in life, including the grisly murder of a promising minor league baseball player, before she was put down by the one that made her in atonement for picking so very poorly in his mate.

Instead, we have wife-and-motherhood, the very strictures that have squeezed her and that cause her to be such a bitter girl at everyone. Perhaps if she had been allowed to have a childhood before she got the means to destroy everything...

...all of this low-hanging fruit for Darker and Edgier reinforces my general thesis that S. Meyer did not think through the consequences of her actions in writing the story. And that all of that Did Not Do The Research detracts from the story that could have been.

Kit Whitfield said...

Instead, we have wife-and-motherhood, the very strictures that have squeezed her and that cause her to be such a bitter girl at everyone.

As a wife and mother, I feel it's only fair to emphasise that they aren't necessarily constricting roles. Or at least, motherhood involves a lot of responsibilities, which can limit your activities somewhat (though if I have this right, I believe Bella is the least of her daughter's caretakers), but given a society that genuinely respects women, they wouldn't put any real limits on someone's identity.

Blame the gender roles, not the husbands and kids, is all I say.

Silver Adept said...

Kit and Gelliebean:

That's what I was aiming for, yes, not a blanket condemnation of wives and motherhood, just that in this instance, where Bella's been forced into the role before she really wanted it, she relates to everyone else from this mode, and it makes her sour and bitter because she feels squeezed. My apologies for the clumsiness of the wording.

And also Benighted squee, in the "once someone mentioned it was that Kit Whitfield that wrote Benighted, I hope I haven't looked too much like an idiot in front of her, but it's so cool to be on the same blog as her, and that was a great book..."

So, Gelliebean, you should enjoy it. Especially in contrast to the cream puff stuff that is Twilight.

Becca said...

It's funny to see the name thing brought up. I took it for a hippy, kid-empowerment, treat your children with respect thing, that she picked up from her mother. It's not disrespectful or cold, just culturally foreign to you. Her father isn't keen on it, but it's easy to see how she would be used to using names if that's what Renee preferred.

Dav said...

Silver Adept: Actually, often broken wrists *are* minimizing the injury. I feel pretty lucky that I didn't break my collarbone or shoulder; my spinal column was intact and painless, my knees were fine, and as wmdkitty noted and the ER nurses impressed upon me, I lucked out that I hadn't smacked my head hard enough to cause serious damage. So, you know, painful, but not bad. Even with my elbow, which was horrific, I was still mobile, and my short term memory issues came from the opiates, not from physical trauma, so my body was trying to protect me as best it could, and did a pretty good job. Sort of the way your car hood will crumple on impact - it's awful, but not as awful as taking the full impact yourself.

Which to sort of tie this back to Twilight, means it's good the van was built for impacts, and it was a mechanical thing he was thrusting away. What if the driver had been on a motorcycle?

Ana Mardoll said...

*disappears back into the ether*

NOOOOOOOOO! Come back! :D

Ana Mardoll said...

Also:

This effect is best shown by this xkcd comic.

"It's like rickrolling, but you're trapped all day." Ahahaha. I loved the alt-text on that comic, too.

Will Wildman said...

we may have to combine with Will's (that was you, right Will? I'm terrible with mental-comment-archives) "Sparklethighs".

Dazzlethighs, because I feel the focus on sparkling is crowding out the impact of the sparkles, which is to dazzle. But close enough, really. They can be interchangeable. =)

I would like to say more because as always this is a great post and looks like a good conversation, but I am ridiculously busy for the next few days. I support the advice given by others about safe falling (in judo we used the term 'breakfalls') being all about spreading the impact across as large an area as possible that does not include the head. Additionally, slapping the ground with your whole arm can help reduce the impact to the torso if timed properly. We learned specific techniques for falling backwards, forwards, sideways, and flying forwards in a flip (common in judo due to being thrown; hopefully less common elsewhere in life, although there was that painful incident with me and a toboggan). And yes, that really should be taught in phys ed.

chris the cynic said...

Dazzlethighs, because I feel the focus on sparkling is crowding out the impact of the sparkles, which is to dazzle. But close enough, really. They can be interchangeable. =)

Then that's perfect. I was thinking that Sparklepants and Sparklethighs wouldn't work as a last name middle name combo since you'd have the Sparkle in both places. But since it isn't sparkle then this can work:

Smugface Dazzlethighs Sparklepants

Or does
Smugface Sparklepants Dazzlethighs
sound better?

Kit Whitfield said...

People make a lot of fun of the sparkling thing, but actually I think it's one of the more imaginative touches. If you imagine it in the right context, it could be genuinely uncanny - imagine, for instance, that Susanna Clarke wrote about a man whose skin glittered in the daylight. Because Edward is so idealised it's an easy target, but I think it gets a lot more mockery than it deserves.

Dav said...

I admire the sparkle thing as risk-taking, but it doesn't play out very smoothly. There's really no fallout from the sparkliness - it really doesn't have the same impact that the traditional no-daylight rule has on vampires, nor do the characters seem to spend much time worrying about it. If you're going to rewrite mythology, great - but it has to have an impact on the characters. Or the plot. Or something. It's sort of the way Angel could have gone, if he just randomly happened to be a vampire with a soul, and it was never explored or explained or mentioned or angsted over.

Kit Whitfield said...

There's really no fallout from the sparkliness - it really doesn't have the same impact that the traditional no-daylight rule has on vampires, nor do the characters seem to spend much time worrying about it. If you're going to rewrite mythology, great - but it has to have an impact on the characters. Or the plot. Or something.

Not necessarily, and certainly not when you're writing fantasy. It can just as well be an element of detail that adds richness to the scenario.

The characters may need to react to it appropriately, but as far as I'm aware the Cullens keep out of daylight when anyone would notice them, so it's integrated to that extent. And I don't think the mockery is directed at its place within the story; people just seem to assume it's an inherently ridiculous detail. Which I don't think it is; it's part of the aesthetic.

You could argue that the aesthetic involves rendering attractive things that are generally seen as dangerous - boyfriends who act controlling, closing down your options before you've fully explored them - and that rendering the traditionally dangerous vampire glittering is part of that. But then that's part of the appeal of the book: it sweetens a lot of pills.

Ana Mardoll said...

I know for me, the sparkle mockery stems from it seeming like yet another Mary Sue feature of vampires.

They're perfectly pretty. They're impossibly strong. They don't have to rest and are never weakened. Sunlight isn't dangerous to them - it just shows how perfectly awesome they are.

There's no drawback to being a vampire in the Twilight verse, not really. They are gods among mortals and even the usual weakness of vampirism (sunlight) has been defanged.

It's, well, cozy. And the sparkles just kind of play into that for me. Imho.... :)

Dav said...


Not necessarily, and certainly not when you're writing fantasy. It can just as well be an element of detail that adds richness to the scenario.


I'm okay with stuff like the eye color changes. But if you have set your book in the real world, and give your characters a feature that would drastically affect their lives, and play it off as an element of detail, that is a problem for me.

Maybe it's a setting issue: I have lived in the Pacific northwest, and you can't depend on the sun not coming out ever. The Cullens are going to be at risk *all the time*, not just designated sunny days. Yet the detail's effects are never really explored or touched on, and that's super irritating. (And one of the markers of Mary Sue, as Ana notes.)

Will Wildman said...

Taking a breath from spreadsheets -

I absolutely agree that the sparkling thing could be very effective, reminding us that the vampires are not made of anything we recognise as flesh, thus increasing their superficial inhumanity. But this is what I mean when I say the 'dazzle' deserves more of our attention than it is getting relative to the 'sparkle' - that the impact of sparkling for Bella is purely that it makes them more beautiful, and the only person who contests this to my knowledge is Edward, who (it seems to me) is meant to be objectively wrong. The sparkling dazzles and it only dazzles. In a way I think it's difficult to reference the sparkling without referencing its place in the story, because its place is so very limited.

(Forks may be cloudy, but I'm guessing it's not thickly overcast 350 days per year, so the integration of 'we live here so our sparkling goes unnoticed' doesn't justify much, especially when regularly exposed to the bright fluorescents in school. Or maybe in the Twilightverse Forks really is that cloudy due to someone exerting their VamPower to control the weather, and they live in Forks because its natural cloudiness means there's less exertion involved in maintaining Megacloudiness.)

I'm guessing that a number of readers/disparagers also draw a connection between the vampire sparkles and the common anime feature of imaginary sparkles appearing around incredibly beautiful people (yes, I know there's a trope, links are not needed). I'm not widely versed, but I have a suspicion that this is more common in shojo series (aimed at girls) and so among some males there's probably a share of sparkles-on-pretty-things-is-gross-girl-stuff. Which is hypocritical and misogynistic, so: not cool if true. Alternatively, there may be room to think that making vampires sparkle is about shifting them further into a category of Stuff All Girls Want, which is itself not awesome.

Trying to contemplate the gender-flipped version just makes my head hurt more because I think there was some agreement weeks back that the closest female stereotype to Edward is the manic pixie dream girl, and she can/could definitely glitter without attracting ire. At least one thought above is probably wrong and several probably need further investigation to arrive anywhere useful.

Orion Anderson said...

Ana -- your instincts for falling are pretty good. What you described -- falling on your front and hitting the deck with your forearms, hands, and chest simultaneously--is considered the second best way to fall in the martial arts schools I've attended. The primary problem is considered to be the risk of damaging your knees, which you are supposed to avoid by keeping them off the ground with a slight elevation of the hips.

The consensus among instructors I've seen has been that the absolute safest way to fall is backwards. The idea is to hit the ground with your butt, back, palms, and forearms more or less simultaneously. You tilt your head forward to keep it off the ground and hunch your shoulders forward so your body kind of rolls. I've actually managed to do this in a couple or real life situations (sliding along a bench until the bench wasn't there, and later flying off a ledge while skiing) so I can say that it does indeed work pretty well.

I'm surprised to hear that skating instructors recommend falling to the side. In martial arts that's generally considered the most dangerous fall, because you have less surface area sideways than front/back and only one arm free. I wonder if it has something to do with wearing blades?

Ana Mardoll said...

I think there's another way to hate Anime Pretty Sparkles besides not liking girly stuff. It usually accompanies Love At First Sight - we rarely see APS with an existing couple (presumably we're meant to understand that the APS exist but are not new information).

And not Lust At First Sight, but Love as in leave my family, give up my plans for the future, and follow the bishi loyally into the great unknown. Which, come to think on it, is not terribly far from Bella and Edward.

Also, holy toledo! I have good falling instincts! That's awesome, now I just need to get my limbs on board. :)

MaryKaye said...

My martial arts instructors also encourage falling backwards, or rolling forwards, though they do a little teaching of side falls. However, dojo falls can usually count on a reliable surface underneath and little or no furniture. (Our dojo does sport a patched hole in the wall due to me--I rolled too close and popped a neat circle out with my heel.)

When I personally have had to fall outside the dojo setting, things have gone wrong. I will trip and fall forward in a way that would suggest a forward roll, but either there is nowhere for me to go, or I am carrying a computer on my back and would end up driving it into my own spine. So I throw out my hands and get gravel embedded in my palms *and* feel frustrated with myself.

I recently did a beginner lesson in parkour, urban acrobatics. Parkour participants cannot count on a nice place to land, so they teach a very compact falling style. Twist around to see where you are going, take the impact on forearms (not palms!) and then roll onto your side. I did a bunch of these and they worked well--we were falling backward over or off of fairly high obstacles. (I was pleased that I could fall better than the athletic young men who dominated me in all other respects. Falling is definitely a practice skill and I have had a lot of practice in the dojo--it does pay off.)

The parkour coaches emphasized not landing on knees, elbows, neck or head: use forearms, shoulders, rump and thighs instead. Keep the head tucked in. And look where you are going (a difference from the dojo) so that if something bad is in the way you have a chance to deal with it.

From ice and roller skating experience I will also say that wheels make a *huge* difference. Your weight is distributed differently and the velocity with which your feet go out from under you is much higher. I feel zero fear of falling backward onto concrete normally, but I banged up my tailbone fiercely when I went to the roller rink after many years' absence. I could not tuck my foot in approved martial arts style; it just had too much forward impulse, and I went straight down onto my butt. (Also I would have been tucking onto a skate, which is not so great with rollerblades and actively bad with ice skates.)

Cupcakedoll said...

I agree the sparkle thing could have been really creepy. I wish it were. But since it isn't, it sort of symbolizes in my mind all that's different about Twilight vampireness from vampireness in the rest of literature. Real vampires are so corrupt, so unnatural, so much something that should not be that the sun itself rejects them and burns them. It's a sign that the vampire's undead status is big and heavy and epic and something you should take seriously. Contrast that with... sparkling. These vampires are loved by the sun, the natural world/God embraces them, there is nothing dark and heavy here. There's nothing vampiric here.

That is why the sparkling is wrong. Plus, the word makes me think of My Little Ponies with the sparkly tinsel in their hair.

Amarie said...

In regards to the issue over the mother and wife aspect, I’m completely agreeing with Silver. I think one of the main, basic concepts of life that Stephenie Meyer always misses is this: *everything is within a context and nuance*. In this case, let’s look at ‘housewife’. Mrs. Meyer has denied claims of anti-feminism in her series, saying that Bella isn’t worthy of such criticism just because she cooks for her father, marries before going to college, etc. Yet the context and nuance of Bella’s taking care of her father and mother feels more like a duty, rather than a result of an emotional tie to them or even dire necessity. Nor do we really feel that Mrs. Meyer shows the possible consequences of parenting a parent, especially at a young age; that’s even more confirmed when we see the burdens placed on Reneesme (sp?) when she’s little more than an infant. And then Bella gets everything she wants…by basically landing right back in square one.

The biggest problem is that *all* of her female characters are housewives, are tied to a man, etc. Again, I think she shows that women have dire consequences if they choose to step out of that patriarchal system. Ultimately what I see wrong with being a wife and mother-in Mrs. Meyer’s world-is the context and nuance state it is not only *ideal*, but ultimately *inevitable*, if one is looking for true happiness. Again, I’m with Silver; I’m not coming down on mothers and wives. However, I think that even Stephenie Meyer should be aware that the word ‘housewife’ doesn’t necessarily have positive connotations.

Now, I personally wouldn’t have had a problem with Bella becoming a wife and mother without (or simultaneously) getting a college education first if there had been *balance* and *sensitivity*. Yes, your main character can basically become your idealized self if *you* want that to happen. But you have an audience. And in that audience resides a wide, wide spectrum of comfort zones, expectations, and their own idea of a heroine/hero. So, wouldn’t it be ‘selfless’ (heh) to show a female character that actually *wants* to go to college, get a career and be fully independent? And while you’re at it show her being *happy* and *fulfilled* on that path. If Mrs. Meyer wants to refute claims that she’s anti-feminist, then we readers need to be *shown* that she’s a feminist by the contexts and nuances of the words on the page.

Personally, I lost *all* ability to relate to Bella when she basically jumped from a high school student to a housewife and mother. If felt like I was reading more and more of Mrs. Meyer’s [idealized] life and frankly, I felt like the pages were reading a big, red ‘fuck you, I don’t care what you can relate to because I’m writing this for *me* and *my* comfort zone’.

As far as the sparkle mockery, jokes, etc…
To be fair, I think a large part of the problem comes from the fact that ‘sparkle’ isn’t usually associated with ‘masculine’. Usually, when we think of sparkle we think of diamond earrings, little girls dressing up, glitter, etc. It’s incredibly emasculating to a lot of people, like breaking a sword in the Three Musketeers. What’s more is we’re talking about a guy (going with Edward) that actively seeks to control, manipulate and abuse his girlfriend/wife. That’s yet another masculine notch taken off of Mr. Cullen’s bed post. I think the brunt of the humor ultimately comes from Stephenie Meyer because, once again, her idealization back fired on itself.

redcrow said...

Well, there *is* a pony named Twilight Sparkle now.
(And it makes me think about Cleolinda's The Secret Life Of Dolls and try to imagine the possible future meeting between The Littlest Edward and Twilight Sparkle. Only I don't think new ponies have their own toys yet.)

wmdkitty said...

I might stick around -- seems to be an interesting place! Plus, dude, Twilight-snark.

Will Wildman said...

Real vampires are so corrupt, so unnatural, so much something that should not be that the sun itself rejects them and burns them.

I have heard that in the earliest vampire myths, this was the opposite of true - that vampires were at their greatest power when they cast the least shadow, namely when the sun was directly overheard: noonday. The idea that the sun burns vamps is supposedly a 20th-century take on the myth. I don't have a citation on hand, though.

Ana Mardoll said...

@ Will, I haven't read Alan Dundes "The Vampire" (a history of vampire myths), but I do know that sunlight doesn't burn Dracula -- but he is weaker in the daylight hours. But there are a lot of vampire myths from a lot of different places and they seem to be sometimes independent.

Re: Motherhood. I think this is a Proscriptive / Descriptive problem. It's one thing to say "here's a housewife. She's happy." Yay. It's another thing to say "here's a housewife. This is the ONLY way for a woman to be happy."

I somehow think that Twilight would have had the SAME problems with feminism even if Bella was a career woman, because as long as you follow a Proscriptive pattern, you remove personal choice.

The lack of variety of choice in the novels (i.e., ALL the happy women seem to be housewives) just reinforces the Proscription, in my mind.

Will Wildman said...

To be fair, I think a large part of the problem comes from the fact that ‘sparkle’ isn’t usually associated with ‘masculine’. Usually, when we think of sparkle we think of diamond earrings, little girls dressing up, glitter, etc. It’s incredibly emasculating to a lot of people

I have an odd reaction to the word 'emasculate'. It involves me hoisting a rallying banner atop a hill, bellowing defiance at the kyriarchy. In a kilt. 'Emasculation' is a problem that only exists because of a rigid concept of masculinity that is ingrained and enforced to increase male insecurity and justify oppression. The only immediate compassion I have for someone complaining of emasculation is that they've been so conditioned that they don't realise they're helping keep themselves down. Emasculation as a concept is built on the idea that 'masculine' is superior to 'feminine' (unless you're a woman, in which case you're supposed to be feminine because it matches your fundamentally inferior status).

To paraphrase Kit, real men wear sparkles whenever they want.

Amarie said...

Will makes an excellent point and I completely agree with him. Now, personally, I’m all but apathetic to the ‘sparkle’ issue. I don’t really care what Edward Cullen’s skin does; I care what Edward Cullen himself does. What mostly surprises me though, is how so many people *literally* call it one of their ‘number one things I hate about Twilight’. When I read into why they think the way they do, I see words like ‘pansy’, ‘girly’, etc. From there, I assumed that they meant that Edward Cullen isn’t a real man because he has an attribute that makes him feminine. I apologize if my take on why a lot of people are adverse to the idea offended anyone. *tentatively hugs*

Ana, I love you. I don’t think I’ve told you enough times, but…I love you. You always say what I want to say much better than I do, haha. What I’m advocating for in the Twilight series is *balance* in the choices that people-especially women-have. Like I said, Bella can be a housewife all day long. But, I would’ve liked to see Alice make a career as a stockbroker, or something that would allow her to put her power(s) to use.

But honestly, I *think* I personally would have been more alright with Breaking Dawn if Bella had at least started college. That would have broken the mold that seems to be Stephenie’s Meyer’s ‘prescription to happiness’ for me. Plus, I would have been *rooting* for Bella to have *some* kind of sense of individuality outside of the home and definitely outside of Edward. Yet knowing our author…Bella probably would’ve quit when she realized studying was taking too much of her yummeh-cottage time with Edward. *sighs*

Ana Mardoll said...

What mostly surprises me though, is how so many people *literally* call it one of their ‘number one things I hate about Twilight’.

It's probably a mix of reasons (different people, different motives, after all), but I wouldn't discount the "vampire genre" people who are just frustrated at the redefinition that Twilight has brought to the paranormal literary world. I think it'd be akin to a bestselling book where zombies were all soft and cuddly and had puppy eyes and just wanted to be your friend and now all the zombie apocalypse books had to be about sweet teddy bear zombies. That'd annoy me, at least. :P

And I love you too. :D :D :D (I LOVE YOU ALL!)

Yet knowing our author…Bella probably would’ve quit when she realized studying was taking too much of her yummeh-cottage time with Edward.

I'm persistently frustrated that the Cullens don't get *bored* more often. With their lives and with each other. Apparently they sit around at home all day and all night ('cause they don't sleep), constantly screwing their True Love. They don't play board games because half the household cheats, and they apparently don't utilize the internet to stay current and tweak their alibis (contacts, among other things). So they pass the time driving recklessly in expensive cars and having sex. There's really only so much of that you can fill an eternity with, in my opinion.

Will Wildman said...

When I read into why they think the way they do, I see words like ‘pansy’, ‘girly’, etc. From there, I assumed that they meant that Edward Cullen isn’t a real man because he has an attribute that makes him feminine.

I definitely agree - I just think those people can take their gender roles and eat them, possibly with a big steaming mug of the vulgar acronym of their choice. I don't think I'd use 'not a real man' as an imprecation under most circumstances, but it might apply to Edward. Not because he sparkles, but because he's incapable of having an interdependent relationship in which he respects other people's boundaries or wishes.

I apologize if my take on why a lot of people are adverse to the idea offended anyone. *tentatively hugs*

I'm certainly not offended - my ire and distaste is for the people you're describing. Internet hugs! (Also I saw in the Rambles that it has recently been your birthday? MORE HUGS.)

Pthalo said...

I'm surprised to hear that skating instructors recommend falling to the side. In martial arts that's generally considered the most dangerous fall, because you have less surface area sideways than front/back and only one arm free. I wonder if it has something to do with wearing blades?

I think it might be the blades. The blades are shaped kind of like this: |___| when looked at from the side, and shaped like this: || when looked at front to back. So, it's a lot easier to fall slowly to the side, where as falling backwards is harder to do on command, unless you were to jump in the air before doing it, I guess. On rollerblades, it's slightly different, because they are wheels, but it's still much easier to fall to the side in a controlled way.

The only time I've ever fallen backwards on rollerblades was when I was standing talking to some adults, and an enthusiastic 8 year old friend of mine suddenly jumped on my back, excited to see me. This of course changed my center of gravity. I landed on my butt with my legs straight out in front of me and my spine exactly perpendicular to the ground. It was painful, but I wasn't injured.

I have fallen forwards a few times when I tripped over something -- once they'd just redone the tar on the sidewalk and I couldn't tell that it was fresh (There were no signage, no tape marking it off), and so i rolled onto it, got stuck, and went flying forward while my feet remained stuck. Twisted an ankle.

Thinking back, I think, aside from tripping over debris on the path which would send you flying forwards, falls happened the most while turning (and then I'd fall to the side) at high speed with not enough berth.

chris the cynic said...

For me the sparkling is just an easy thing to grab. The mood ring eyes, the very low body temperature, the extremely hard skin, the assorted superpowers, the eternal youth, the flawless bodies, the extremely pale skin, these are all things that have been done before. I don't know if they've been done all at once, but not of them really scream Twilight. Sparkling does.

It also stands out as something that appears to have been thrown in without really being thought out. (Unless I've just missed all of the talk about the days when the Cullens had to deal with hiding the sparkle when the unexpected sunshine came out. Over and over again.)

mmy said...

Happy birthday Amarie!

Silver Adept said...

For me, the sparkling is overkill on how otherworldly the Cullens are. They're already impossibly beautiful, ridiculously strong, swift, and otherwise perfect specimens in every way. Sparkling skin, while also being freaking conspicuous (and we wonder how many Forks residents see spots in their eyes after a sudden sun breakthrough while they stare at the Cullens) is the visual equivalent of purple prose, already replete in the text. An editor with a savage red pen for such frippery would probably have made Twilight a smaller book, if not a better one, by excising such things.

Randy Owens said...

Yes, I consider references to 'sparkling' as just sort of a shorthand for the whole Twilight-style vampire package, at this point. It's a short way to mention them that keeps it clear which kind of vampires you're talking about.

Inquisitve Raven said...

I think you mean "Prescriptive," as in "required," not "Proscriptive" as in "forbidden." Sorry, but confusing the two words has become my latest pet language peeve right after "All doors will not open at the next station stop." (Excuse me conductor, but are we supposed leave through the window?). I'm not too fond of "free reign"either. Hint for non-horseback riders: it's "free rein" which has nothing to do with royalty.

Ana Mardoll said...

You are right; thank you for correcting me. I'm afraid were it not for spell checks, my posts at the end of the day would be incoherent, but alas the checkers do not save me from word misuse. :)

Amaryllis said...

But why should vampires always have flawless bodies, sparkly or otherwise, and eternal youth? I'd think they'd go on looking like they looked when they were bitten, or "turned" or whatever the term is. Do vampires restrict themselves to young and pretty prey only?

What if you were bitten when you were 80; would you go on feeling 80 for eternity? *shudder*

Or would you be 80 with the arthritis and Alzheimer's and COPD and Parkinson's and all the rest of the indignities of age miraculously removed? In which case, you'd think the "old old" would be setting up bus trips out to the Cullen place from every nursing home.

Ana Mardoll said...

I have read, but cannot yet confirm, that the vampirism process does make you prettier than you were before. (I have also read, and again cannot yet confirm, that people with dark brown skin prior to the transformation have lighter, "grey" skin afterward.)

I would presume that vampirism at 80 would mean you'd turn into Judi Dench or Sean Connery, depending on your starting gender.

chris the cynic said...

One wonders how the process of vampirzation got it's hands on the objective standard of prettiness. Or, are there vampires who look in the mirror after the process and go, "I"m hideous! I used to look so good and now I'm ugly. I shall destroy the world!"

Actually, I know that Edward doesn't find the whole thing to be pretty, so it's probably the second.

Ana Mardoll said...

Chris, if you're going to persist in believing that Swimsuit Model Rosalie hasn't been a standard of perfect prettiness for all time, across all cultures, and for all peoples, then I'm afraid you're not going to be allowed to write fantasy fiction. :P

chris the cynic said...

I actually have been thinking about mentioning that in Ancient Athens extreme paleness was apparently part of the female standard of perfect beauty. How extreme? It seems that the fact that the lives of women, at least women in households rich enough to have slaves, kept them entirely out of the sun didn't make them pale enough. So they put on makeup to make themselves look even whiter.

The makeup was lead based and if you don't know about any of this it can bet strange when you're trying to translate something and you find that it says "she painted herself with lead."

Ana Mardoll said...

I've also read novels -- and I don't know if this detail is correct or not -- where the women take a pinch of arsenic on occasion in order to enhance paleness.

I think it's kind of a double-whammy, the paleness attractiveness standard: it's pretty much mixed up (as far as I can tell) with racism AND classism. In most older cultures, you had to be pretty rich to afford to stay in doors all day long, after all.

Now that tan is in vogue, it would seem worth noting that the opposite is now true: you have to be pretty rich to afford to stay OUTSIDE all day long. I don't know that anyone has crunched the numbers, but it seems to me that the majority of American workers are indoors from morning to evening. I know I am, and my building doesn't even have windows.

Amarie said...

Thank you again for the birthday hugs and wishes! I couldn’t have turned twenty any better! (Yes, I flirted with the chef at my birthday dinner…but dear god, he looked like Aladdin and had an accent to boot. My Japanese cuisine will never be the same…@___@)


I mean…I personally don’t mind when an author takes traditional mythology and re-creates it. I actually kind of prefer it because it adds a whole new dimension and shows creativity. I like Stephenie’s Meyer’s idea that the vegetarian vampires have golden eyes and the non-vegetarian vampires have red eyes. That’s human-friendly because you can tell which is which. Of course, if that vegetarian vampire wants to quit cold turkey and hasn’t told you yet, that adds to the danger. *winks* I also love her idea that you bring with you your greatest traits and talents to magnification. And damn me, but I like the general idea that the Cullen’s ‘choose’ to be a certain way, despite the fact that they’ve been ‘dealt a certain card’. That concept was what drew me initially to Twilight and made me think that we would really, really get into the idea of ‘choice’. But alas…v.v
But ultimately, I’m agreeing with Ana. Though I’m not quite sure how to phrase this, the mythology of the vampires feels more…sugar coated than anything else. Especially when you try to read “The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner”. It’s like Stephenie Meyer was all too eager to show the endless sex, cars, money, etc…but left out most of the bloodshed, guilt, constant moral dilemma/struggle, etc. Again, that doesn’t make her stories *light*; that makes them *ignorant* and *wasted in potential*. I mean, this is why Jasper is my F.A.V.O.R.I.T.E character; she didn’t really develop him, so she didn’t mess him up, per say (yes that’s mean, but look at Edward Cullen). He has that quiet angst that reminds me of Louis with the constant struggle and I just…mmm…like six foot three men with sour faces and…

*incoherent fan girl squeal*

*ahem* Moving on…

Thank you, Will! That’s what I was trying to say; Edward isn’t a man because he needs someone to subjugate. Nor could he be a true woman, if he/she had that same need.

Oh! And Ana, you *do* become more beautiful/attractive when you’re changed. Stephenie Meyer basically laid it out like a chart. An ugly person becomes average. An average person becomes attractive. A pretty person becomes beautiful. And a beautiful person becomes stunning. And so on and so forth. I was looking at reviews on Amazon.com (*nerd*) and one commenter said something very, very interesting: he/she noted that you can tell the ‘type’ of character that you’re looking at by their appearance alone. All the good, exceptional guys-the Cullen’s-are very, very beautiful. All of the average, human, and insignificant characters-Mike, Jessica, Bella, Charlie, etc.-are not exceptionally good looking/attractive. All of the bad guys-James, Laurent, Victoria, etc.-are ugly, plainer than Bella or are wild looking.


And, umm…I’m proud to be African American. I like my dark skin and my ‘kinky’ hair very, very much. I would probably feel very, very depressed if I looked like a human version of Rosalie because-and I apologize if I offend anyone-there are a *lot* of Rosalie’s. All of them have died blonde hair, tons of makeup, tanned skin, and not a lot of feminine curves. They’re all the same and I’m slightly irritated that the most ‘beautiful person in the world’ to Stephenie Meyer had to be a blonde bombshell. That being said, I would be P.I.S.S.E.D if my skin turned gray and my hair turned ‘fine’. WE DARK PEOPLE ARE BEAUTIFUL, TOO AND PROUD OF IT, TWILIGHT!!!!!!!! D:<

redcrow said...

Wait, I thought blonde bombshells are supposed to have "feminine curves" as long as those curves are In All The Right Places?

chris the cynic said...

I think the real problem with Meyer's becoming a vampire makes you more attractive thing is that she went and defined what that meant. A better solution, I think, would be to have the magic work differently on different people according to their own standards.

Of course maybe it's just Bella who considers the changes to be making the vampires more attractive (I haven't read that part so I don't know the details) and that's why we're hearing her story instead of the story of a human who met another group of vegetarian vampires and started a relationship that seemed to go well, and then stormed out upon discovering how vampire human was dating thought that human's body was flawed and ought to be changed in ways human did not like at all.

Ana Mardoll said...

[BODY ACCEPTANCE SPEECH]

All bodies are beautiful and worthwhile, regardless of size, shape, or the relative position of curves. One of the first things they teach you in Fat Acceptance 101 is how to say "I'm beautiful" without having to compare to anything else, either positively or negatively -- just "I like how I am" without the "but I want to be..." or "I'm glad I'm not..." Neither of those options are helpful to you or to others.

[/BODY ACCEPTANCE SPEECH]

Since Bella explicitly refers to Rosalie as a swimsuit model, and since we have nothing else to go on from there due to the sparse descriptions in the text, I would assume she means flat stomach, moderately small bottom, relatively large chest, and facial features that are even and probably verge towards the large eyes, small nose, large mouth spectrum.

This rather arbitrary collection of body features is neither pretty nor ugly nor masculine nor feminine. They just... are. But since we live in a culture where "swimsuit models" are frequently picked according to these attributes, they are a "collection" that we recognize as being TOLD is Objectively Attractive. This is, of course, dreadfully silly since attractive is subjective.

Whether it is attractive to YOU will vary, but (back to body acceptance 101) it's best not to engage in open speculation of what is/isn't desirable in bodies in general. :)

chris the cynic said...

On further reflection two things jump out at me for the vampire made more beautiful according to their own standards idea that I suggested. One is those who don't change at all. While this would include well adjusted people, I'm picturing a narcissist:

"Oh My God! I look amazing. I'm the most attractive person in history. I look perfect!"
"You look exactly the same as you did before."
"Exactly."

The other is that for some people their bodies aren't right for them, and while I doubt becoming a vampire would allow an otherkin to sprout wings, it might be able to change a characteristic like gender.

redcrow said...

I didn't want to speculate on anything, I'm sorry that that came out this way. As a "curvy" person who'd rather not be*, I obviously have a lot of issues. I'll try to keep them in check.

*Accepting your body is much easier when its sex matches your gender.

Will Wildman said...

I'm trying to imagine how magnificent it would have been if vampiring was consistently about being refined towards your essence - simultaneously narrowing your scope but lifting you to new heights in those select ways. We already know that VamPowers are supposed to be a magnification of your human aptitudes - Edward could 'read' people and so now hears thoughts, Bella was practiced in mental/emotional barriers and so can create actual force fields, etc. Why doesn't this apply to physicality as well? Why doesn't everyone transform in the direction of their idealised form of their own body? What if the first thing that happened when a person got vamped was that they suddenly looked the way they had always wanted to see themselves?

Alternatively, there's always magic glamour - maybe all vampires look the same to Bella because she only has one definition of beauty.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

(I have also read, and again cannot yet confirm, that people with dark brown skin prior to the transformation have lighter, "grey" skin afterward.)

Sounds like Mormon theology getting involved there - prior to the 70s, Mormon belief was that light skin is inherently better than dark skin, and brown-skinned people who convert become paler. The church has officially moved away from this belief, but it's still prevalent in the older membership, from what my ex-Mormon friends tell me.

Gelliebean said...

@Will

I would have loved it if that was how Twilightovampirification worked - whatever you were before the change, it makes you More. More beautiful, More average-looking, More self-centered, More caring, More shy, More violent, etc. Bella as that kind of vampire might become haughty, obsessed with personal appearances and staring into mirrors for hours on end; she might be neurotic, baking manically for three days straight in a desperate effort to buy the affections of someone, anyone who would tell her they appreciate it and thereby prove to her that someone needs her and cares whether she's even there or not....

As a side thought, does anyone ever tell Bella they appreciate her? I don't remember Charlie ever saying "Thank you" for her cooking dinner or shopping, or giving her hugs or saying "I love you, kiddo" or in any way, really, acting toward her like I would expect a Dad to do. Her classmates fawn on her, but none of them are friends. Her Mom might have expressed appreciation, but - in my armchair-diagnosis - I suspect it would have been in a guilt-inducing "what would I ever do without you" way that would increase Bella's burden rather than providing her reassurance and support.

The Cullens immediately become infatuated with Bella, but how many times does she do something to earn their respect? It's nice to continually be told you're wonderful, amazing, perfect, but if you don't feel like you've earned any of that admiration, it wears thin very, very quickly and you quickly come to believe that the people admiring you are insincere, because you know you don't deserve anything they're giving you. When my husband compliments me, he's often very specific about what he's saying and why he's giving me the 'gift' of his appreciation - because I baked cookies, or cleaned the litter box, or fixed the leaky sink, or made a budget. I know that I do these things, so even when he isn't specific about why particularly, at that moment, he appreciates me, I know that it's because I'm me and I do the things I do.

In contrast, Sparkleboi doesn't seem to have any basis for his infatuation with Bella - which is the definition of infatuation, I guess :-p but doesn't do much for proving that it's Bella, herself, as a unique entity, that he's interested in, and not just the nearest person who happens to smell like 'heroin' (does heroin have a smell?). The times he does address her particular characteristics, it's always negative - her clumsiness, her 'stupidity', her lack of faith in him (gag). "You cute little fool, I love you. It's so adorable when you trip over thin air, or when you think you're not good enough for me." He never says he loves her because her compassion has her volunteering at the animal shelter on weekends, or because her love of knowledge has her tutoring second-graders in long division, or because she sketches mountain scenery on hiking trips.

And this is probably my longest "side note" ever. :-p

Casey said...

This is something that interests me because I have some prosopagnosia traits and I'm demisexual. Forgive me if I have my pith helmet on. I think there should be a recognized difference between standards of beauty, standards of fashion, and standards of sexual attraction. It's currently fashionable for women to have a flat stomach, large breasts, and only a certain amount of curve to the hips and rear. What's beautiful is not necessarily the same as what's attractive because attraction is a subjective thing. With access to good medical care, good water, and good food most people are beautiful.

This is something that Bella doesn't consider in her evaluations. From my understanding of early twentieth century culture, Alice would have been very much in fashion during the 1920s with the flapper set. Much more so than Rosalie would have been. At some point, Esme's type will be the height of fashion and so will Bella's and Jessica's and so on. Rosalie will always be absolutely gorgeous but she won't always be what every woman in the room is drooling to be. That's what part of the vampire myth is about. With eternal life, they become displaced from their own place and time eith both positive and negative consequences. Someone who is the Plationic ideal of their age's beauty will not always remain so. Someone who's considered pretty enough but her eyes don't protrude enough or her mouth is too wide will become fashionable in another era. If it were me, I'd have some of Rosalie's disdain for humanity be the way they hold so tightly to such fleeting standards about things that don't matter in the long view.

Silver Adept said...

@Casey

I think that short-term clinging is what endears them to The Doctor, because when you can take the long view, like him or the vampires, a lot of the things that are exceedingly important to a mortal being stop being so very important to someone with a lifespan of several hundred years. Same trope, different effects.

And it would be nice to see a Cullen in the middle of "oh my goodness, by this era's standards, I'm hideous!" After all, the Twilight Zone can't be the only place something like that happens.

chris the cynic said...

As a side thought, does anyone ever tell Bella they appreciate her?

I could be wrong here, but doesn't she make a public show of disdaining any kind of recognition she's ever given. If that's accurate, how does one even go about telling such a person you appreciate them without it making them unhappy?

He never says he loves her because her compassion has her volunteering at the animal shelter on weekends,

That would be a nice thing to say, and yet all I can think is that he'd dispose of the animals when she wasn't looking. Why hunt when there's a buffet right there?

Ana Mardoll said...

Chris, when my Open Thread for Friday mentions "terriers", I want it known that I wrote that in my head BEFORE your comment just now. :D

wmdkitty said...

I, for one, would totally jump at the chance to take on my "true" form. (Remember that scene in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" where Hermione takes the PolyJuice potion and it turns her into an anthropomorphic cat? Imagine that, but cuter, with Siamese markings.)

I don't know if I'd become undead for it, though -- that seems a little... extreme. (And I kinda like being alive.)

Randy Owens said...

Don't you mean, "but cuter, with Siamese markings and more weapons of mass destruction"?

wmdkitty said...

Mmmm... you make a good point.

Rikalous said...

Concerning both the beauty and the sparkles, in the meadow scene, Edward explains that vampires evolved to have a lot of traits useful for hunting humans. He rather bitterly notes that they're pretty overpowered, with super strength, super speed, and beauty and sparkling that lures humans to them, anglerfish light style. So yes, there is a universal, eternal stand of human-catching beauty, and bishie sparkles are part of it.

Rikalous said...

Amarie, you had a long post a couple days ago asking how housewives can do what they do. Now, my mom was raising me and my two brothers* while my dad was putting bread on the table. When the three of us were nominal adults, she got certified as a psych tech and currently works at the geriatric wing of a state hospital for the criminally insane or unfit to stand trial by reason of insanity. She comes home with stories about people called things like "Mr. Annoying Man" and "Every Fucking Day Fuck." I don't understand it either, but apparently some people actually enjoy that sort of thing.

*Which can't have been easy. We're bright in the sense of "could look ourselves up in the child development book lying on the bed to know if our acting out is developmentally appropriate" but not so much in the sense of "consistently make good life choices."

Rikalous said...

"In the Edithverse the other Cullens would be... Allen, Jasmine, Emma and Ross? No, we definitely need a better name than Ross. It's too short. "

Baby name websites to the rescue! How about Rosario (seems a bit Spanish/Italian/Catholic for what I know of his/her background), Roscoe, Roslin, Rosselin, Rossell, Rossiter, or Rosston?

Kit Whitfield said...

That being said, I would be P.I.S.S.E.D if my skin turned gray and my hair turned ‘fine’.

It doesn't seem fair, does it? If we were going to posit a magical whatsit that turns people more spectacular in appearance, you'd think there would be two options: either an Afro-Caribbean person would go full-on ebony black to mirror the chalk white (though where that leaves everybody in the middle is another question - maybe they go gold?) or else their skin tone just goes unnaturally lustrous and rich-looking.

Your birthday, your choice, Amarie: which do you want? ;-)

Alternatively: the Cullens are based on the European vampire myth, but other cultures have similar demonologies. Is there an African or Caribbean folk myth that involves beautiful demons? Anyone know?

chris the cynic said...

Concerning both the beauty and the sparkles, in the meadow scene, Edward explains that vampires evolved to have a lot of traits useful for hunting humans. He rather bitterly notes that they're pretty overpowered, with super strength, super speed, and beauty and sparkling that lures humans to them, anglerfish light style. So yes, there is a universal, eternal stand of human-catching beauty, and bishie sparkles are part of it.

I believe the term is wall banger, as in: it makes my brain hurt so much I want to bash my head into a wall so the external pain will distract me from the interior pain.

Every time that I try to write about how wrong it is to assume that it is objectively true that making someone's skin lighter so forth makes them more beautiful I find that words fail me.

Actually, words fail me a lot in general, and yet I want to be an author.

So anyway, I'll point out something complete different that is wrong with that. Evolution doesn't do overpowered. That's why invasive species are such a problem, evolution doesn't make overpowered things, but if something that evolved in the hard difficulty ecosystem makes it's way into the easy level ecosystem things can go to hell pretty fast. Everything is powered right around the level of their situation, so they're not prepared for immigrants from higher difficulty.

Even setting that aside, vampires aren't developed for hunting humans. Their traits don't fit for that. If your mode of attack is to lure and grab then you don't need sustained super speed. Quick reflexes, yes, (or some other means of catching prey once lured) but to run faster than a speeding bullet over a distance not so much. Having vampires have all of their powers based on being designed by evolution to hunt humans would be like having a Venus flytrap being able to out fly a fly.

Even if they were given super strength, super speed, and super durability for the purposes of human hunting, it wouldn't be on that level. If we assume that they need these things for hunting humans, that is we assume that they're not using beauty and sparkling as a lure, then they need only be able to outrun humans, they need only be able to overpower humans, they need only be able to survive what humans can throw at them. And then only on balance, not with absolute certainty of it working every time.

Given their strength, their speed, and their nigh invulnerability it's clear that if we blame this on evolution, even some magical version of evolution, the lion's share of their traits don't come from the need to hunt humans. They come from hunting and being hunted by other vampires.

Their speed is so impressive because they need to outrun a fellow vampire that might be trying to kill them. Their strength and durability is so impressive because any vampire overpowered and killed by another vampire doesn't survive to pass the virus on. The only thing that could be driving this assent towards godhood, if we're pointing the finger towards evolution, is violent competition with something that is nowhere near as weak as humanity.

I suppose it could be werewolves, but it seems to be that competition with other vampires (presumably for territory or food or plain old fashioned vendettas) is the logical place to point the finger. Vampires are so powerful because the weaker ones were killed off by other vampires. There's no way that humanity resulted in them being pushed so far beyond human limits.

chris the cynic said...

In the Edithverse the other Cullens would be... Allen, Jasmine, Emma and Ross? No, we definitely need a better name than Ross. It's too short.

How did I miss this? I suppose it's not as bad as when in the Narnia thread I responded to someone's response to a thing in the main post because I managed to miss that it was in the main post, and centrally located that that.

Anyway, I was thinking Alex. But Jasmine and Emma sound perfect.

Ana Mardoll said...

Chris, I cannot +1 your post on Racism Fail, Objective/Subjective Differentiation Fail, and Evolution Fail enough.

The other problem in my mind -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- but wouldn't it make more sense for the vampires to evolve to diversify their diet (i.e, they can eat vegetables now!) instead of evolving to be super-perfect hunters? I'm not a scientist, but the latter makes more sense to me than the former.

Randomness: Since vampires only "reproduce" through conscious choice and crappy hunting (i.e., they basically have to let their victim live, which is hard to do once the feeding starts), would evolution even favor super-hunting traits? The GOOD hunters don't reproduce. The BAD ones and the self-controlling ones do.

But I do have research/science fail on occasion. Is this too far off?

chris the cynic said...

The other problem in my mind -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- but wouldn't it make more sense for the vampires to evolve to diversify their diet (i.e, they can eat vegetables now!) instead of evolving to be super-perfect hunters? I'm not a scientist, but the latter makes more sense to me than the former.

The difficult thing is that they are so absurdly well built that it's hard to imagine those less well adapted dying out by any means other than being killed off by other vampires. That said, if a vampire were still able to power itself by normal food then it seems to me like they'd have on hell of an advantage. Start a cult, convert all your followers. You don't need to worry about running out of food, create a whole vampire nation. Then let any other vampires try to stop you.

Obviously there are concerns, like the fact that you probably can't control a nation of gods on earth, but the ability to just live a normal life and do your own thing would seem to remove the one cap that exists on the vampire population: the food source. If you don't have to worry about running low on humans when your coven gets hungry, why not have a giant coven?

There is a reason that apex predators are less common than grazing animals. Vampires are apex predators and that keeps their numbers low, but change their food source and ... well imagine what would happen if Lions suddenly didn't need to hunt to stay alive but they still had all of their current advantages. There would be no force at work keeping their population lower than that of the gazelles (well, an individual lion would need more food than an individual gazelle, but you know what I mean), and who would hunt that herd?

Imagine a wolf pack the size of a buffalo herd.

I could be missing something, but I'm pretty sure that the vampire that can live off of plants would become the dominant form of vampire on the planet unless it had something against reproducing.

Since vampires only "reproduce" through conscious choice and crappy hunting (i.e., they basically have to let their victim live, which is hard to do once the feeding starts), would evolution even favor super-hunting traits? The GOOD hunters don't reproduce. The BAD ones and the self-controlling ones do.

But I do have research/science fail on occasion. Is this too far off?


That actually makes a lot of sense. (Unless I'm missing something.) It doesn't matter how good of a hunter you are, if you don't reproduce your only contribution to evolution is what you kill, not what you are. The vampire who never lets one get away (whether by accident or intention) is an evolutionary dead end. The vampire who sucks at hunting to the point that he or she starts feeding all the time but is rarely able to finish would pass it's version of vamperism on a lot.

The vampire who said, "I don't want to kill anyone, I'll just take a pint," would spread it's genetics through the ecosystem absurdly fast.

Rikalous said...

The other problem in my mind -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- but wouldn't it make more sense for the vampires to evolve to diversify their diet (i.e, they can eat vegetables now!) instead of evolving to be super-perfect hunters? I'm not a scientist, but the latter makes more sense to me than the former.
Well, evolution is random. Maybe in the history of vampirism, nobody's had the "feed on veggies" mutation. They're a pretty small population that doesn't reproduce very fast, after all. Or maybe all the instances of that mutation were wedded to some undesirable trait like being slow or fragile that got them all killed.

That actually makes a lot of sense. (Unless I'm missing something.) It doesn't matter how good of a hunter you are, if you don't reproduce your only contribution to evolution is what you kill, not what you are. The vampire who never lets one get away (whether by accident or intention) is an evolutionary dead end. The vampire who sucks at hunting to the point that he or she starts feeding all the time but is rarely able to finish would pass its version of vamperism on a lot.

The vampire who said, "I don't want to kill anyone, I'll just take a pint," would spread its genetics through the ecosystem absurdly fast.

Possibly. I forget how Twilight turning works, but in some verses the human has to drink the vampire's blood in order to become a vampire, so a drunk-but-not-killed human would just suffer some anemia. It's a handy explanation for how you can have that sort of "just take a pint" vampire without vampirism spreading to everybody.

Will Wildman said...

Wait, I'm fuzzy on our definition of 'evolution' here. Evolution in reality is a refinement of random mutations over a course of generations so that the best mutations stick around, but it doesn't seem to me like vampires have 'generations' as we would understand it. Do we have any indication that if you're transformed by a faster vampire you will in turn be a faster vampire? They don't pass on other abilities - anyone who gets vamped by Edward won't also automatically have his mind-reading powers. The kind of vampire you are appears to primarily be based on the kind of human you are.

Which would mean the humans who were most predisposed towards making questionable decisions with long-term repercussions (from "Sure, let's spend the night in that creepy old castle" to "Yes! Transform me, I don't care if you think it'll be an eternity of misery and prevent me from ever maturing into an adult") would be the most likely to get vamped. And the most 'prolific' vampires would be the ones who are most likely to rapidly form extremely intense bonds with other people such that they are constantly creating new eternal companions for themselves.

...So I guess that kind of explains everything?

Also, what is the Twilightverse method for vamping someone? I know it involves the injection of venom, but do they automatically inject venom every time they bite a person, or is it consciously controlled?

Ana Mardoll said...

That actually WOULD explain a lot.

It's my understanding that ANY bite that doesn't leave the human dead results in venom transfer. Bella will be venomified in Twilight and Edward will suck out the venom. (Yes. You may begin the Flat Whats.)

http://www.twilightlexicon.com/?p=68

chris the cynic said...

If the standard power set is being blamed on evolution then we have to assume that the basic traits are passed down and there is a selection process operating on any mutations of those traits.

We should probably also posit that this selection process has weeded out previous generations of vampires because if they were still around then they would still be passing on their less impressive version and rather than having a standard power level vampires would range in power from a level of Just Above Human to Edwardian Sparkling.

Actually, in the very beginning, before everything was so amazing, you could imagine evolution happening pretty fast for vampires. When vampires weren't that strong and a lot of people were able to get away you'd have it spread very fast. How long does it take one to become a vampire? If I'm reading it the link right, three days is slow. So you could potentially have two or three generations in a week.

Presumably most of them would be killed with rocks before they could accomplish much (otherwise the vampire population would explode) but the strongest and the fastest might survive. (If they harbored a certain amount of resentment towards the person who previously attacked them they might try to kill the bastard at some point, which would give a reason, vengeance, for direct vampire to vampire competition.)

The size of the human population would obviously be a major limiting factor, there's no way that a rate of reproduction of multiple generations a week could be maintained (unless the selection pressure was immense), but you can sort of see in that handwavy magic-is-involved-here sort of way how something vaguely related to evolution could have operated much faster on a species like vampires than something like humanity that needs to go through the whole aging process thing before it can reproduce.

Of course that would change when they reached the point that they no longer let their prey get away all the time any more.

Will Wildman said...

We still don't have parameters for the selection process, though - in reality, it's about the ability to gather resources for yourself and reproduce without being eaten. For every person you vamp, that's one less person you can eat, and now both of you need to eat. There's simply no way of sustaining a rapid rate of vamproduction without obliterating the local human population permanently - vampires don't need to mature in order to reproduce, but they do need humans to mature in order to reproduce. Otherwise you vamp your entire village in a week and the next week all of you starve.

In order to get 'evolution' going on with vampires in order to justify selection for traits, it would have to be so trumped up with magic that it's not even worth calling it evolution anymore, because the two have no meaningful relationship. We might as well give it a new sparklepants name like 'the iterative theory of superiority' and say that magic inherently causes new vampires to use their human genetic material to attempt to improve on their vampire ancestor in a manner desirable to the human. Vampires are intelligently designed by their own genes, or something.

Where the hell did the first vampire(s) come from, anyway?

(I am so, so tired. I've already worked a day and a half overtime this week - going home now.)

Ana Mardoll said...

This whole conversation is giving me so much geeky joy. I can't even express how much.

I am sorry to hear that Will is working so much overtime, though. Internet hugs for Will. :(

Amarie said...

*whispers*

Hmmm…I’d rather stay brown than go marble black, if you don’t mind. That would make me feel and appear more human, yes? So I think I’ll go with the option of simply having richer, more lustrous skin. You see Rosalie and you’re reminded of snow, then you see vamped-me and you’re reminded of darkened desert sand. Or my skin is Willy Wonka chocolate that’s been slowly churned for months and months at a time. The texture and feel makes you think that I’m invitingly soft and pliant. But, goodness…I sounded like a narcissist there, didn’t I? Haha.


And if I may take license, I’d rather not be ‘marble hard’. I mean, how in the world is my human boyfriend going to snuggle with a marble countertop?! If he bumped into me accidentally, wouldn’t that hurt like all hell? I definitely wouldn’t want to hurt him…*sobs quietly at the thought of my hurt human-imaginary-boyfriend* : (


Rikalous, I commend your mother for her hard work and I commend you and your siblings for respecting her. I completely understand and sympathize with how hard it can be to raise children *and* go to school to get a career. My own mother had to do that by herself with my father gone, and I have an enormous respect for the struggle. She’s now an RN (registered nurse) and she’s helping me pay for school and helps my sister when she gets in a tight spot every once in a while.

I had a part that speculated on why I neither understand nor respect Mrs. Meyer’s prescriptive housewifery, but I deleted it. No need to be offense and ignorant, yes? *winks*

Rikalous said...

Yeah, I've got no problem with bringing science into fantasy stories (like Harry Dresden freezing water by sucking all the heat into a fireball spell) but they need to acknowledge that at some point modern science is going to shrug and say "Maybe if the vampires stopped hiding we could do some proper research. Until then we don't know how vampires can maintain homeostasis without a pulse, or how they can perform high-energy activities like super-powered baseball on a relatively small amount of blood, or why animal blood provides less energy than human blood, or what happened to their muscles to make them so strong and fast, or how their skin can be so hard and yet completely flexible, let alone why it sparkles in sunlight but not artificial light. Don't even get me started on the telepathy and so forth."

Anyway, I don't really have a problem with the evolution explanation, because I figure Eddie's badly mangling the more scientifically-oriented vampires' best guess. You'd think he'd have been around long enough to realize that there's no universal standard of beauty, though.

Ana Mardoll said...

I have to think that a better writer wouldn't have gone the "vampirism makes you prettier, and therefore whiter" (and skinnier and bustier and smaller nosed and thin boned and etc), but rather "vampirism makes you whiter (and all) and therefore prettier... because the vampires use their enormous resources to influence media depictions of 'beauty'".

This would, of course, make vampires an Illuminati-style group responsible for racism, sexism, sizeism, and quite a few other isms, and it would also be killing a fly with a sand-blaster in terms of making the vampires accepted/worshiped by their short-lived victims, but maybe it's a narcissistic hobby to pass the time.

chris the cynic said...

My computer is ignoring me, it has been for about an hour. So here I am on someone else's computer (with a different sized keyboard, which is very frustrating) trying to remember what I wanted to say before my computer started ignoring me halfway through a post.

Something about the carrying capacity of Rome after the aqueducts were taken out and the impact that might have on the local vampire population? Not sure.

Anyway, I'm not convinced that humans, historically, make a good food source period. In this present day world of billions you can eat 78 million a year, that's 78 million who would have survived the year had they not been eaten, and it won't dent the population. In the past, not so much.

Regardless of then or now I think that we have to assume that stationary vampires are an urban population. Your village just isn't going to sustain you for long. I don't know how much a vampire needs to eat in a year, but it's something we might be able to work out (though bear in mind that a grizzly is going to have a lot more blood than a human being.) Regardless, I think it's probably enough for small towns to be a problem. (Like Jessica Fletcher, you have to leave Cabot Cove or you'll run out of people.)

If vampires are less than efficient in their hunting (and most predators are) then we'd expect their population to grow very fast and, even with a city to feed them, quickly overgraze humanity and be the end of us all. There may be a good reason why this doesn't happen. Being a vampire makes you stronger faster and whatnot. Anyone who fought off a vampire attack as a human being ought to be stronger than said vampire once they've turned. It is probably in the best interest of a vampire to hunt down and kill anyone who escaped them.

After all, they mauled this person, the person was strong enough to escape them anyway, and they know that the person is about to get stronger. Call it preemptive self defense if follow up murder sounds too distasteful. The vampire is a killer anyway, so it shouldn't be a moral problem.

Anyway, the reason that I'm looking at this in terms of evolution is that that was the reason brought up. I don't know if that is the explanation in Twilight (though given Meyer's playing with chromosomes it wouldn't surprise me) I tried looking through the book in hopes of exact working, but it hurts to take in the large quantities necessary to look for something. I got a very Buck and Chloe vibe from what I read of Edward and Bella talking. Well, that and something along the lines of, "Your hands were wounded in a fall. Ha. Ha. Maybe you're not worth saving."

There was more, I know there was more. And I think it was important because I think it was the first thing I wrote on the post on my computer. No idea what it was.

-

Reading over Twilight I do occasionally see things that I would have done. For example I have long imagined Ben holding one of Edith's hands in both of his own so that the warmth might bleed through, because it seems like something one might do for someone in a perpetual state of having lost their body heat. I saw that Bella did that for Edward. It's just that when I see something I would have done it always seems surrounded by stuff that is painful to read.

Yes, Edward, Bella's pain makes you happy, I get it. Shut up.

chris the cynic said...

What are you planning on doing for the next century?

I was thinking about changing the standards of beauty. You?

I was considering implementing a one word currency, but yours seems more fun.

Will Wildman said...

I was considering implementing a one word currency, but yours seems more fun.

I don't care if this is a typo; 'one word currency' is great.

"Wait, one word?"
"Yes. I've narrowed the options down to 'fnord' and 'haberdasher'."
"So if you wanted to pay someone more..."
"You would say 'haberdasher' several times. Or louder. There are still details to be worked out."

Kit Whitfield said...

Thing is, if vampires don't reproduce by mating with other vampires, which on the whole they don't, evolution is not going to be responding to what they're like. The transfer-by-bite mythology is vampirism as disease, not species. And diseases can have all sorts of odd effects: the only thing a pathogen needs to do is pass itself along, and killing the host rather than just making him or her sneeze a lot isn't very efficient, but it happens anyway. Come to that, it's probably not particularly efficient to make the host feel ill at all, because he or she will likely go to bed and hence reduce the number of other people they come into contact with.

So I think you could argue that the compelling factor in vampirism evolution is the desire to bite, because that's how it gets transferred. You might argue too that immortality and exceptional strength were in the pathogen's interests too: the longer the host survives, the more people the pathogen can be passed to, so actually making the host long-lived and well'ard is a better strategy than killing them off. By that reasoning, the sparkling hard skin and magical powers could just be side-effects. I dunno; maybe it reacts with the body in a way that produces excess carbon that the body excretes in diamond-like deposits through the sweat pores as soon as it gets enough heat from the sun or something. Or no, because those would rub off on Bella; well, they're some kind of reaction anyway, like glittery chicken pox.

(If you wanted to believe that about Twilight, of course, you'd have to pretend that Edward's explanation is based on an incorrect understanding of biology.)

Given how much emphasis there is on sexual temptation in the narrative, I think Meyer is basically relying on the myth of vampirism as STI. And I reckon that allows for a lot more odd symptoms.

Cupcakedoll said...

beauty and sparkling that lures humans to them, anglerfish light style.

"George! There's a man made of diamonds! I'm going to go over there, break him apart with a sledgehammer, and sell his remains to jewelers!"

wmdkitty said...

I recall someone asking earlier how the Twi-vamps "infect" noob-vamps. It's venom. It's an involuntary response, much like salivating, and it takes three agonizing days to transform.

Cupcakedoll said...

Thinking further from my previous silly comment: it would make more sense* for Twilight vampires to eventually evolve to sparkle only around the joints, particularly the neck, wrists and fingers. This would appear from a distance to be very flashy jewelry, a lure for any criminals who might follow a stranger into a dark alley. The vampires with 'jewelry' sparkle would have the advantage that by feeding on the dregs of society they're less likely to be caught by the police, and they'd only have a few areas to cover up when they go out in sunlight. Much better than the Cullens who have to avoid the sun or be picked up for dissection by curious scientists! Also, a few gems set into the skin is more visually cool than all-over glitter.

*admittedly we're still in the negative numbers regarding sparklvamps, evolution, and making sense. But when you start with human anglerfish there's nowhere to go but up!

Kit Whitfield said...

Also, a few gems set into the skin is more visually cool than all-over glitter.

Less uncanny, though, and even more of a wish-fulflilment.

I'm picking a corner here: I like the sparkles. I think it's an imaginative touch. The book has infelicities in its writing, yes, and it presents relationships in a way I don't personally enjoy, but the sparkles are fine on their own. The diamond stands out in its setting, perhaps. But I'm starting to feel like the sparkles need a defender, so I'm stepping up. :-)

Kit Whitfield said...

If, on the other hand, we ignore the whole evolution explanation and just say, "Magic!" which would be my preference since it seems to make more sense in this case than Meyer's "They have two extra pairs of chromosomes," explanation (unless they're magic pairs), then the question becomes: why is it there?

I think it makes emotional sense. The whole overloaded-with-powers thing is a way for Edward to act out his self-hatred: he can list his powers in the same way a self-hating man can list his faults. The sparkling-in-daylight thing is actually quite a neat metaphor: he feels he has to hide himself from positive things, while what he sees as a problem, Bella sees as an attraction.

Which is not an in-story explanation, but I don't think in-story consistency is part of Twilight's appeal. It's a fantasy, and fantasies get to skate over the complications to get to the good stuff.

Will Wildman said...

it seems to make more sense in this case than Meyer's "They have two extra pairs of chromosomes," explanation (unless they're magic pairs)

So here's why I like this: say that the extra chromosomes are the magic pairs. Vampirism is a viral infection - a DNA virus, in fact, which not only carries its code as DNA but welds that DNA onto its host's DNA in the form of two new chromosomes. The vampire-virus DNA carries all the necessary magical code to make people stronger, faster, coated in diamond dust, and rewrite their digestive systems to function solely on blood (I have more on the transformation and the blood-only diet but I don't want to drag on). The unique magical powers of each individual are a result of the random interactions of their human DNA with their new extra vampire DNA.

Given that it is magical, the options are then that 1) the vampire virus was intentionally created by someone using magic for this explicit purpose, or 2) magic can occasionally form in the wild - somewhere out there was a village that got infected with a magical virus, and it mutated like mad, killing most outright and turning some people straight into statues and giving some people fatal hypermetabolisms and etc etc until one lucky mutation happened to give one person an exact balance of different effects that they ended up as the first sustainable vampire. It stopped mutating after that because... Magic? Maybe it could only mutate for a relatively brief period after it was first created, because magical abiogenesis is unstable like that.

And, now that I'm thinking of plagues that could have spread to that many people with such devastating effects and still not be noticed if they turned someone into a superhuman killing machine - maybe the actual cause of the Black Death was nascent vampirism. 99.99999% chance it'll kill you, 0.00001% chance it'll turn you into a sparkling god.

Discount Edward's implausible claims about the anglerfish thing and I think it could hold together. (Doesn't he have several medical degrees? What are they in? I'm leaning towards dentistry.)

chris the cynic said...

It's a fantasy, and fantasies get to skate over the complications to get to the good stuff.

I originally misread this (I read the wrong meaning into the word "fantasy") which meant that originally I couldn't disagree more strongly with a statement that I now see (assuming I'm reading it correctly now) I actually largely agree with.

That said, I think what we're doing here means that we've basically rejected that explanation for any given element of Twilight. It may be true, just as in a poem a given word may have been chosen simply because it fits the meter or the rhyme, but we don't stop there. We delve.

We're going through the book a page or two at a time and dwelling on the complications. Looking unnatural in the sunlight in a place that, on average, has sunshine one out of every three days is pretty complicated, more so if you try to provide an explanation for looking unnatrual beyond, "That's just how it is." Any explanation -good or bad, believable or not, well thought out or chosen on a whim- is going to bring it's own complications.

The Edward-Bella relationship is a fantasy and we certainly look pretty deeply into that.

Ana Mardoll said...

Customer: How much for this?
Merchant: FNORD.
Customer: I'll give you fnord.
Merchant: No, I can't afford that. Fnord?
Customer: ...... okay.

chris the cynic said...

I kind of like the idea of it being in gestures. Obviously accommodation would need to be made for the blind and those unable to make the gestures in question but for most people it would be a flatly spoken, "Fnord," accompanied by a gesture.

Opening offers:
Merchant: *Arms stretched wide* Fnord.
Customer: *Thumb and forefinger held about an inch apart* (exact same intonation) Fnord.

Ending agreement:

The customer and the merchant each have their hands about two feet apart, the customer's four inches closer together than the the merchant

Customer: *Pulls hands two inches further apart* Fnord.
Merchant: *moves hands two inches closer together* Fnord.

-

The only thing that makes it work is the assumption that everyone says Fnord exactly the same way every time. No matter how big or small, not matter how they feel, always the exact same Fnord. Though I suppose it could work if the smallest gesture was the biggest fnord.

Merhcant, arms strecthed wide, speaking so softly it's barely a whisper: fnord.
Customer, thumb and forefinger almost touching: FNORD!

Kit Whitfield said...

That said, I think what we're doing here means that we've basically rejected that explanation for any given element of Twilight.

Well I haven't. If we're discussing the book and how it works, I think that along with the logical implications, the emotional implications are an interesting subject for discussion. I'm not saying anyone else can't talk about anything, but I think that the fantasy-emotional reasons and resonances are worth talking about too.

chris the cynic said...

I guess I've been misinterpreting your words, "fantasies get to skate over the complications to get to the good stuff," sounds extremely dismissive of any attempt to look into the complications to me.

Could you, perhaps, explain what you meant in a different way?

Sorry for misunderstanding.

Kit Whitfield said...

Well, what I mean is that the Twilight books are full of contradictions and tensions between different ideas - but that I suspect the contradictions and tensions are part of their attraction. They encourage you to suspend logic and consume in a more dreamlike way; they also allow you to pick and choose the parts that appeal to your personal fantasies and ignore the bits that don't.

And that, I suspect, is a big reason why they're so successful. They allow themselves to be reshaped to fit the fantasies of whoever reads them - or at least, whoever's prepared to read them in the spirit in which they seem to have been written. That's an unusual way to consume a book - or at least, every book is reshaped in the mind of every reader to some extent, but Twilight allows for it to an unusually extreme degree - and I think that along with the logic of the scenario, that's also an interesting thing to explore. I think Twilight encourages you to employ blind spots, and I'm curious to hear what blind spots people see being encouraged.

Amarie, you're a former fan - does this reflect your experience?

Amarie said...

Anaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!

Guess what?! This post of yours has more than 100 comments!! Celebrate!!! :D

To Kit…

Oh, *definitely*. I absolutely agree with you. One of the main reasons why Twilight must be a pick-and-choose fantasy *is* because there are so many contradictions. Bella and Edward speak so melodramatically of loving and respecting each other…yet their interactions speak of anything but that. The author claims that she’s a feminist and her characters show that…yet Twilight’s definition of feminism couldn’t be more anti if it tried. One of the series’ main themes is choice…but if that choice is only allowed within certain boundaries and ideologies, then whatever ‘choice’ you have is moot and overall contrived.

Ultimately, the books are almost a parody of themselves *because* they define basic life concepts like love, maturity, companionship, etc. in such ludicrously unhealthy terms. But the author didn’t intend for the books to be parodies of themselves; the ‘love’ that she writes in these books takes itself very, very seriously. And, more often than not, to the point of melodrama. Stephenie Meyer herself only pulls out ‘it’s just a book; it’s only a fantasy, so it can’t happen anyway’ card when she’s being a) criticized, b) criticized with good, legitimate questions, or c) criticized.

And because the books take themselves so serious in their melodrama, [young] fans want to take it seriously, too. In my experience, I *did* think that the love between Edward and Bella was real. I admit that I was one of millions that didn’t actually stop and *really* look at what I was reading. Now again, I was young (fourteen) and I desperately wanted something to believe in. I didn’t want to think of all those boring ‘romances’ where the adults talk about stupid things like compromise, compatibility, emotional baggage, etc. Ick. Just ick.

For me, what was *incredibly* appealing about Twilight was that it made love *so simple*. Very, very, very, very simple. Neither Edward nor Bella had ever been in a previous relationship, nor had any sexual encounters. Both of them had backgrounds that *should* have been more painful, and therefore taken more of a role in shaping them and providing emotional baggage. But, like Ana said, the characters’ backgrounds don’t really shape them the way you would expect, if they shape anything at all. So, Stephenie Meyer threw out emotional baggage, too. As a result I, and millions of other girls, just gobbled the books up and we *did* think of Twilight as a blueprint for life.

Now again, you come to where the series backfires on itself: love is anything but simple. When you *do* try to simplify love, you fail and you fail *hard*. There’s so much in the books that backfire and frankly offend a lot of moral sensibilities. So yes, Kit; you *have* to pick and choose what you like and what you don’t like. It’s that simplistic fa├žade that makes you think everything in the books is alright and what makes so many Twilight girls scream ‘YOU’RE READING TOO MUCH INTO IT!!!’ at the critics.

Anna said...

"I've also tried to think of this in terms of what someone suggested about Bella wanting to be a vampire to make the hurting stop and Carlisle saying, "Let me try ordinary methods first." What could Carlisle try? What is wrong with Bella. Her problem seems to be walking. Not any other kind of coordination, not reaction time or anything like that, walking. What messes up walking?"

I'm not sure what messes up walking, but if the doctors' response is also "we don't know, but there's something wrong with your walking" a potential semi-solution would be to give Bella a wheelchair. In fact if Bella arrives in Forks already in a wheelchair, her expectation of "I'll get a lot of attention that I don't want" makes sense as something more than just teenage paranoia. The stigma of being in a wheelchair - or at least her expectation of that stigma - can contribute to her isolation and the fact that she doesn't seem to form many friendships, which ultimately give her less to lose by vamping. A Bella wheelchair could even help to explain why she picks Edward: his advanced age and mindreading abilities probably give him an advantage over the other boys in school when it comes to appropriate responses to people with obvious physical differences, and "he makes me feel at ease because he understands that my chair doesn't make me any less of a human being" is a better reason for liking someone than "he sparkles".

Ana Mardoll said...

Anna, I love that idea, although I'm torn on whether it would make Twilight better. I'd love to see more protagonists who use wheelchairs, but it would have to be written sensitively. Still, I do think it would have been more interesting, and I LOVE the aspect of Edward being, essentially, a lot more mature than some of his "peers".

Lone Mountain Truck Leasing said...

Naturally, that Bella would not want to chat ride home. She may have a splitting headache, her absent today, the task will be collected from the people, and noted that tomorrow, she has been in a small town, she really just want to blend into the background of a significant part of the event.

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