Twilight: No Cookies for Human Decency

Twilight Recap: Edward has been ignoring Bella for weeks as she sinks further into depression. Now the dance is coming up and Bella has encouraged Jessica to ask Mike out as her partner. Mike has stopped Bella in Biology class and demanded to know if she intends to ask him to the school dance; Bella has declined.

Twilight, Chapter 4: Invitations

   And Edward was staring at me curiously, that same, familiar edge of frustration even more distinct now in his black eyes.
   I stared back, surprised, expecting him to look quickly away. But instead he continued to gaze with probing intensity into my eyes. There was no question of me looking away. My hands started to shake.

We talked last week about Bella having depression, and speculated on whether her depression is meant to be situational or chemical, so it's probably not surprising that the first thing I would notice this week is the shaking hands.

I have some experience with anxiety, which is not the same as depression. I think my anxiety is due to a chemical imbalance, but I've managed to find solutions with self-distraction. My particular version of anxiety is kind of a circular escalation: something is bad, I can't fix it, my mind goes around and around in circles, the problem seems worse the more I go over it, rinse, repeat. I've gotten very good at distracting myself with the mental equivalent of OH LOOK! A PUPPY!, but even with practice it's really something of a crapshoot if distraction will really work on a given subject. When the distraction doesn't work and it's time for full on anxiety time, it's actually very standard for my hands to shake.

So I actually don't blame Bella at all for having shaking hands here, although at first glance I'll admit it read as rather melodramatic to me. But, no, on further reflection, it makes sense that she'd have an ingrained anxious reaction to the guy who initially reacted to her with obvious hostility, then went to a lot of trouble to avoid her, then warmed to her appreciably, then did something impossible in order to save her life, and then shunned her for some weeks in the wake of the accident. That's Fear, Puzzlement, Attraction, Confusion + Existential Angst, and Depression all rolled up into one person and that's a lot to handle.

The problem with this as an explanation is that it's not a good start for a relationship. Remember what I said about distraction techniques to lessen anxiety? In my experience, the distraction is pretty much all or nothing: I can forget Edward Cullen exists (no anxiety) or I can remember Edward Cullen exists (high anxiety). I can't remember the lusty, perfect bits of Edward Cullen and just conveniently forget the frightening, confusing bits. Now that's how it works for me; maybe Bella's anxiety works differently. But I would say that, in general, if the mere sight of someone is enough to set you off with anxiety shakes, then a relationship with that person possibly won't pan out that well, even if they turn out to love you completely. Anxiety isn't logical like that, I'm afraid.

   I looked down at my book as soon as his eyes released me, trying to find my place. Cowardly as ever, I shifted my hair over my right shoulder to hide my face. I couldn't believe the rush of emotion pulsing through me -- just because he'd happened to look at me for the first time in a half-dozen weeks. I couldn't allow him to have this level of influence over me. It was pathetic. More than pathetic, it was unhealthy.

And then there's this. It probably is unhealthy for Bella to shake when she looks at Edward: anxiety problems are pretty much by definition an unhealthy level of anxiety. But there's a lot of assumptions packed into this statement that need to be unpacked.

Bella's anxious reaction isn't something she can "allow" or disallow to Edward based on her wants and decisions. It may be natural for her to think so, and to narrate her feelings thusly, but the fact of the matter is that if Bella has anxiety problems, she can't just flip that switch by choice: it's going to take counseling, training, practice, and possibly medication to get to that point. In the meantime, her physical reaction to the uncontrollable anxiety that his presence causes for her doesn't make her a bad or pathetic person: it means she's been through a pretty intense few weeks with a person who was a major focal point (and not in a good way) through several bizarre and frightening situations, and her body is responding to that.

Now, Bella doesn't have control over her anxiety but she does have control over her actions. Since she realizes that her anxiety is harmful to her and that Edward is a major trigger for her, it would be wise for her to not get into a relationship with him. Beyond the residual anxiety that he is going to trigger in her (because a promotion to boyfriend doesn't rewire your brain into magicking the anxiety away), there's also a major danger that he might leave her, which could send the anxiety back with a vengeance and send her spiraling into a deeper depression. I don't expect Bella to instinctively realize that, but this would be a good place for her counselor to step in and provide some valuable advice.

But now I'm feeling a little too serious, and I'm going to switch gears. What if Bella doesn't have anxiety issues at all? We know that one of the Cullens, Jasper Hale -- and if the Cullens are "cold ones" are the Hales "hearty"? Puns! -- has the magical power of mood control and we also know that Bella is susceptible to it. We've speculated in the past that the Cullens really cannot have kept their cover for so long without having multiple contingency plans in place for this very situation: a person exists who can blow their cover. They should be scrambling to intimidate, bribe, silence, or discredit Bella -- or possible all of the above at once -- and yet we've not seen any evidence of that. We've also speculated that the best thing they can do is involve Bella in a romantic relationship with whichever one of them she will have, but Edward seems to be doing his best to shut that down as quickly as possible.

So what's Plan C here? It would seem to me that thoroughly infusing Bella with fear and anxiety every time she looks at Edward might be a distant third option. It would have to be handled very carefully so that she wouldn't tip over the other end and go around spouting off her suspicions, but if Jasper can fine-tune her emotions so that she's not outright scared and paranoid, but instead merely uneasy, unsettled, and driven to distraction, it might buy them some time to get out of Forks in a quiet, non-suspicious manner.

This would at least reconcile how Bella's anxiety is magicked away once Edward starts declaring his undying love for her.

   When the bell rang at last, I turned my back to him to gather my things, expecting him to leave immediately as usual.
   "Bella?" His voice shouldn't have been so familiar to me, as if I'd known the sound of it all my life rather than for just a few short weeks.

I'm not going to comment on this. I want to; I can't. Anything I wrote would just look like what does that mean I don't even what.

I mean, what does that mean? I don't even. What. Is there some sort of "familiar voice" level that peoples' voices get when they know each other for a long time? How does that work? There are people whose voices are so distinct, I could pick them out of a blindfolded line-up after a single conversation, so who's to say Edward's voice isn't like that? I mean, what if he sounds like Gilbert Gottfried, we don't know.

And on the other hand, it's remarkably easy for people to confuse my husband and his son on the phone, and my dad occasionally confuses my aunt -- his sister -- for me on the phone. Is three decades of knowing me and six decades of knowing his sister not enough time to put us into the "familiar voice" bucket? Or are our voices "familiar" but just not "distinct" from each other? I mean, seriously, what does this statement mean? I'm asking.

This is the train ride inside my head.

   I turned slowly, unwillingly. I didn't want to feel what I knew I would feel when I looked at his too-perfect face. My expression was wary when I finally turned to him; his expression was unreadable. He didn't say anything.
   "What? Are you speaking to me again?" I finally asked, an unintentional note of petulance in my voice.
   His lips twitched, fighting a smile. "No, not really," he admitted.

We have officially graduated from a perfect face to a too-perfect face. Isn't that nice? My hope is that this will continue to escalate and by the end of the book Edward's face will be so perfect that it actually burns the people who look at him. Kind of like how fairy food ruins your taste buds for anything else, but with eyeballs instead.

Just to recap, Edward has been shunning Bella all week and Bella has finally reached a sort of "depression plateau" where it still bothers her, but she's given up hope of the situation getting any better, and as such she's potentially on the road to recovery which will involve a destination of Acceptance. So, just to utterly muck that up, Edward has decided to call Bella's name, and then when she looks at him, return to his previous state of shunning. Who says Edward can't gas-light like a pro? I guess he just needed to hit his stride.

And then we're back to Bella describing herself like a child. Children are petulant; adults are irritated, annoyed, and utterly tired of being toyed with. Look, here is a man who has been nothing but a jerk as far as Bella knows. He was hostile and aggressive on their first meeting, avoided her for days afterward, acted like none of that had happened at their second meeting (which can be very unsettling for the other party) and was intrusive about her personal life, and then when queried about an impossible feat he performed, he was insulting and hostile in addition to also breaking a promise. Since then, despite Bella's submissive attempts to converse with him, he's been dismissive and rude. And now he's being more dismissive and rude. Bella isn't being petulant, she's annoyed at having her chain yanked and the narrative should say so.

Bella shouldn't be describing herself as petulant. I would hazard that it is impossible to be petulant and describe oneself as such at the same time. And even if Bella hates herself with a passion, it's still not a word that fits to me. It just seems... out of place. There are times when I feel like Bella hates herself because she has low self-esteem, and there are time when I just feel like the author hates Bella.

   I closed my eyes and inhaled slowly through my nose, aware that I was gritting my teeth. He waited.
   "Then what do you want, Edward?" I asked, keeping my eyes closed; it was easier to talk to him coherently that way.
   "I'm sorry." He sounded sincere. "I'm being very rude, I know. But it's better this way, really."

And it's hard for me to reconcile Edward's smirking at his own bad behavior with him "sounding sincere" in his next statement. Sincerity isn't something that's conveyed solely through the voice, such that if you could just find the perfect pitch and tone, you could perfectly mimic sincerity. Sincerity is conveyed through actions, through body language, and -- yes -- through context. If I say "I'm really very sorry I'm annoying you" while smirking like a Cheshire Cat before and after the statement, it doesn't matter what my voice sounds like: I will not "sound sincere" under those circumstances.

   "I don't know what you mean," I said, my voice guarded.
   "It's better if we're not friends," he explained. "Trust me."
   My eyes narrowed. I'd heard that before.

Complete de-rail, but where has Bella heard this before? How? Under what circumstances? Edward is supposed to be her first love. It's fairly clear in text that Bella doesn't actively pursue boys and hasn't in the past. How has she ever been told by a boy that it's better if they aren't friends? Is this just a reader insert hook? I demand fanfic explaining this.

   "It's too bad you didn't figure that out earlier," I hissed through my teeth. "You could have saved yourself all this regret."
   "Regret?" The word, and my tone, obviously caught him off guard. "Regret for what?"
   "For not just letting that stupid van squish me."
   He was astonished. He stared at me in disbelief.
   When he finally spoke, he almost sounded mad. "You think I regret saving your life?"
   "I know you do," I snapped.
   "You don't know anything." He was definitely mad.

Edward is mad.

Edward is mad at Bella.

Edward is mad at Bella because Bella is accusing him of regret for saving her life. Edward is so mad he could explode. Who does she think she is? Why, he risked a lot to save her life. He nearly had to leave his family, and his family may yet have to leave Forks. It will hurt to leave Forks, but if they don't, they might be discovered and that will mean they'll become fugitives not just from the humans but also from the other vampires. They'll be hunted. They'll be killed. The people Edward loves, that he considers his closest family. All for this girl he barely knows, a girl who isn't even grateful enough to not question him, why he could just spit. No wonder he's mad. This girl wasn't even worth saving, why...

...oh wait. Yeah. Edward pretty much does regret saving Bella. Nevermind.

I'm trying to be open-minded about Edward, I really am. This isn't the I Hate Edward And You Should Too blog, I swear. I want to be fair to all the characters, and that includes Edward. But... Edward is mad. Edward is clearly mad. Edward is, for the second? third? fourth? time in 50 pages openly hostile and aggressive to a girl who is significantly smaller and weaker than he. And he is mad because she's accusing him of something completely reasonable from her point of view: his entire behavior since the accident has been one big neon I Hate You Please Die sign, and I think it's reasonable to assume that if someone feels that way about you, then they might well regret saving you from death a few weeks ago.

Edward hasn't just been anti-social to Bella, he's been openly shunning her. He refuses to talk to her. He leans as far away from her as possible in class. Assuming they have been given any class assignments in Biology, he's been either snatching the paper from her and filling it all out on his side of the table, or he's been letting her do all the work. He bolts from the room as soon as class is over. His every movement makes it clear that he hates Bella.

Sure, it's a romantic setup. Sure, it's meant to be Hilarious in Hindsight when they hook up later on. Bells and Eddie can chortle over the old days while they romp in the forest meadow: "You thought I hated you? No! I was burning with unresolved sexual tension for you!" "Oh Eddie!" But right now, right this very minute, Edward's body language says I Hate You Please Die. And Edward must know that. He cannot not know that, it is literally impossible. Not after 100 years of life. Not after 100 years of reading minds and learning how people interpret body language. Not. Possible.

So if Edward knows that Bella is perfectly reasonable to assume he regrets saving her life, why is he mad? Why mad and not sad or disappointed or amused or contrite or despondent or anything except mad? My feeling is that Edward is mad because Bella isn't being properly submissive. She's calling him out for his bad behavior; she's openly saying I see your I Hate You Please Die sign and I acknowledge it, Jerkface and that makes Edward mad. He risked everything for her, and she should know that, even though she absolutely can't know that because he won't share with her the impossible truth that he's a vampire and if anyone finds out then the Italian vampires will come burn their house down and can he please explain it with the chess pieces again?

Edward can't even be mad because Bella is wrong, because she's not. She's not only "not wrong" from her perspective of being hostilely shunned; she's "not wrong" from his perspective. Edward does regret saving Bella. Not from a "I have no regrets" Frank Sinatra-esque global perspective, maybe; he loves her and values her life immensely. But from a "crap, I've really put my family in a bind and I know it" perspective, you bet he does. There's a part of him that wishes he could go back to that day and do it all over again... maybe not to let Bella die, but to save her in a safer, less conspicuous way, sure. He has regrets! They're written all over his face! Bella calls him out on them! And he's mad. Hostile. Aggressive. Angry. And he shows it.

Edward Cullen is Buck Williams. There's no other way to say it.

   I meant to sweep dramatically out of the room, but of course I caught the toe of my boot on the doorjamb and dropped my books. I stood there for a moment, thinking about leaving them. Then I sighed and bent to pick them up. He was there; he'd already stacked them into a pile. He handed them to me, his face hard.
   "Thank you," I said icily.
   His eyes narrowed.
  "You're welcome," he retorted.

Edward is a 100-year-old person who has no willingness to engage courteously or kindly with the person he's supposedly madly in love with. I know that the excuse is that this is the first time he's had Special Feelings for anyone and that this is affecting his judgment, but there's a point where I have to wonder what the intended reader response is supposed to be?

Are we supposed to see Edward as chivalrous for calling Bella's name, refusing to talk to her beyond that, clearly messing with her head and her heart, being openly hostile when called on it, and then snotty and passive-aggressive when he helps her with her books? You don't get a cookie for basic human behavior and I just don't feel like Edward gets any cookies for today, regardless of the book-picking-up. You hear that, Edward? No cookies for you.

Try again tomorrow.


Bificommander said...

Minor tangent: I was wondering if we could assume that Edward really is horrible at reading Bella, BECAUSE of his mind-reading powers. He's been able to read the minds of everyone he's met for a century. He always knew exactly what they were thinking. So why would he bother remembering any 'tells', body language, non-verbal communication or reading between the lines? Some people have different signs about what they are feeling, why bother with them when you can always see the cheat sheet. And now he's confronted with a girl he's obsessed about and he has no idea how to please her or what she could be thinking. Even if she's practically holding up a sign saying what she's feeling, Edward has only ever gotten used to reading the neon letters he could see above everyone else's head. And he's at a loss on how to proceed.

This I think would make Edward a lot more likable, but I don't think it's really supported in the text. That'd just distract from Edward being perfect and knowing exactly what Bella wants and what's right for her (so when he trashes her car engine? No worries, he totally knew this was what Bella really needed! *Hurls*). But it would put an interesting spin on their relationship. I imagine it must be hard to keep a loving relationship with someone who's every nasty thought or little lie, or arrousal by a passing member of the opposite sex you know. Hell, even the good stuff can get annoying. It might be a very good thing for Edward to meet a girl that he isn't at such a huge advantage to. Except that everything in the book screams that yes, he is so much more awesome than Bella. Shame.

Just putting that out there since I had a story idea myself with a girl who could instinctively glance at people's minds (or techincally, see their future intent), though she thought she was just good at spotting lies and body language, and who's completely baffled when she meets someone who she can't read. She can't spot a single lie he makes, even though she sees him in a scene where he switches sides about 4 times in as many minutes. She's just been relying on her ability to know what others are thinking so much she got worse at using the skills most normal people use to figure that one out.

hapax said...

Possible alternate explanation:

Edward is mad -- FURIOUS -- at himself. He *knows* he shouldn't engage with Bella, either in a friendly way or a hostile way. He *should* treat her with the sort of distant condescension the Cullens show everybody.

But he CAN'T. He can't ignore her, he can't let her die, but if he is nice to her, if she starts to get close, he'll kill her. He's sure of this.

And so he is angry at himself. For the loss of the control he has been steadily building up over his instincts for a hundred years. For risking everything that he values over this one ordinary girl. And yes, at HER for being so darn irresistible, angry in a way that he knows is utterly unfair, and it makes him even angrier at himself for being so unfair.

And then she trips and drops her books. And without thinking, he finds himself swooping in performing this one tiny act that will help her out just a little. And then thinks, "God DAMN it, Edward, will you just get a GRIP on yourself?"

All of which Bella -- being Bella -- interprets as anger at her.

No, Edward doesn't get a cookie, but I find this scene fairly emotionally plausible.

Ana Mardoll said...

Edward is mad -- FURIOUS -- at himself. He *knows* he shouldn't engage with Bella, either in a friendly way or a hostile way. He *should* treat her with the sort of distant condescension the Cullens show everybody.

I'd like that a lot better, but the text seems to paint him -- to me -- as utterly amused with her UNTIL she says he regrets saving her and then it's locked jaw, furrowed brow, and scowling. He goes from 0 to 100% at that one statement.

So either it reminds him that he's supposed to not be talking to her, which really he *should* know, or it sets him off because she's an ungrateful you-know-what.

Some people have different signs about what they are feeling, why bother with them when you can always see the cheat sheet.

I guess it's kind of the Sookie Stackhouse problem. She's a mind reader and instead of it weakening her from reading body language, she seems to have used her experience to read body language BETTER, which comes in handy whenever she meets someone not mind-readable. Of course, that series is a mystery series, not a romance series, so maybe it's just narrative convenience.

Still, if the argument is that Edward is lazy, I can see it. ;)

Amarie said...

From a story writing perspective, Edward’s ire kind of makes sense. To understand this, I think we have to look comparatively at Bella first.

Bella is consistently infantilized and trivialized even when she’s melodramatic. She ‘slams the car door’. She ‘sets her jaw’. She ‘wants to stick [her] tongue out like a five year old’. She ‘feels petulant’. And so on and so forth. From there, it’s safe to say that Bella is quite childish, despite (or especially) what our author seems to see. By that extension, we usually don’t regard and/or treat *childish* anger as we do *adult* anger. Childish anger is usually associated with temper tantrums before bed time and throwing food on the floor because it’s not a cupcake. Either way, no matter what toddler Bella wants, Mommy and Daddy are going to get their way because Mommy and Daddy are bigger, stronger, faster and smarter than her. She can throw histrionics all she wants to…but in the end she *will* go to bed at eight o’clock and she *will* eat her vegetables. As such, we don’t characterize Bella’s anger as neither a force to be reckoned with nor a genuine emotion to sympathize with in the text.

Overall, I think Bella as a character is largely her own understatement and therefore the audience mostly under-reacts to her (for lack of a better word). Outside of her being a self-insert, we could really give a damn whether she lives or die, is happy or sad, etc.

Now enter Edward. Edward’s anger is *never* infantilized and/or trivialized. He ‘snarls’. He ‘growls’. His ‘eyes are coal black and penetrating’. He ‘restrains himself from lunging with effort’. And so on and so forth. Over and over again the text portrays and advocates for the audience to know that when Edward Cullen is angry, things die, fall down, disappear, etc. There’s nothing childish about it and there’s everything dangerous about it. His anger is a force to be reckoned with and a genuine emotion to sympathize with. In my opinion, the fact that there’s not much personality and/or nuance *beyond* that anger and overreacting is all the more reason for the anger to repetitively appear; like Bella’s whining, it gives the illusion that we’re actually looking at someone that *does* something.

By that extension, Edward is an *over* statement and therefore the audience overreacts to him (i.e, lust, fan girl squealing, idealization, etc.). We honestly *do* give a damn whether he lives or dies, is happy or sad, etc. The audience doesn’t see him as a self-insert because that anger and overreaction stands in for an actual personality.

So, you have Bella being ‘under’ and Edward being ‘over’. Go back to the fact that we’re trying to build a [plausible] romantic relationship here and think about Bella’s insipid character. Again, we honestly don’t give a damn about Bella, much less think she’s Special. By herself and outside of the role of a self insert, Bella Swan sparks no interest or emotion (unless you count annoyance, disgust, bewilderment, etc.) in the audience. Yet, she’s the romantic heroine, so the author has to make you care about her *somehow*. And that’s where I think Edward comes in again. His overreaction acts as a *canceling out* to her lack of interesting traits. Again, it gives an illusion. And that illusion is that there *is* something fascinating and special about Bella if she has the ability to garner such a strong reaction in a man that’s supposedly had a hundred or so years to master the art of control and gas lighting. As a result, we *do* give a damn about Bella because there’s a perfect entity that has a strong and repetitive reaction to her: anger. And despite contrary to psychological studies, most people see anger as an incredibly strong and invincible emotion. From a story writing perspective, when you aren’t really showing a true and healthy *relationship*, you can just put that anger in there and at least you have the illusion of logical emotion to give to your readers. Whether it’s logical and/or fair doesn’t matter; as long as you and the audience are engaged, that’s all that matters.

Samantha C said...

I think the "familiar voice" line is sort of a take on the old "across a crowded room" - the instant connection, the feeling that you've known each other all your life even though you've just met. I certainly find the voice of my boyfriend soothing, because it represents the safety and happiness and all the other warm gushy feelings that I have about him, that's why it can make me feel better to call him if we're away from each other than it does just to text and IM. So I think that's what's implied about Edward - even though they've barely spoken, his voice has those notes of love and passion and warmth that it won't be able to justify until they're together.

I can live with that. All the Instant Love, I'm happy to have it, it's a Romance, and a Fantasy, and that's enjoyable stuff. It's that the book has to swerve into all these bizarre, creepy directions. I had no idea that Edward was actually this hostile - I just remember laughing watching the movie when he specifically walked across half a parking lot to say "we shouldn't talk." WELL THEN DON'T!

/Tangent time! After studying Orientalism during a class on the Arabian Nights, I had a fun thought about why paranormal romance is getting so popular. It's a massively age-old trope to put the sweet, innocent (white) woman up against someone primal, almost bestial, powerful and strong and strange - either to endanger her for her noble, respectable (white) lover to rescue, or to fall into the exotic trappings and (usually) ennoble her strange lover.

It's no longer acceptable to do this storyline with black men. Or Asian Emperors. Or Sheiks and Saracens. The Latin Lover still seems to be a trope but not quite this way. On the other hand, no vampires or werewolves have ever come up to complain about this treatment, so they get to be the new trope

Ana Mardoll said...

It's no longer acceptable to do this storyline with black men. Or Asian Emperors. Or Sheiks and Saracens. The Latin Lover still seems to be a trope but not quite this way. On the other hand, no vampires or werewolves have ever come up to complain about this treatment, so they get to be the new trope

Samantha! incredible thought. I never would have thought of that, but... it makes so much sense. I'm just in awe right now.

chris the cynic said...

Complete de-rail, but where has Bella heard this before? How? Under what circumstances?

I think it's the, "Trust me," that she's heard before. It's what Edward said to Bella at the van. She was trying to figure out what the hell just happened he was asking her not to examine it too closely. He said, "Trust me," and she did. She asked if he would explain later if she dropped the matter then, he said he would, and she trusted him.

That trust was betrayed.

Edward clearly cannot be trusted.

For some reason I now have the idea of Twilight Clue in my head, "Who did it?" "It was Edward with the false promise at the van." "Really? I thought it was Mike with the controlling questions at the desk." I'm not entirely sure what "it" would be in this context.

Now I'm off to write a blog post about whether or not I was a horrible person a decade ago. Which will probably have some uncomfortable similarities with some of the stuff we've discussed in Twilight threads. Maybe I can have more on topic things to say when I get last decade out of my head.

Silver Adept said...

Possible de-rail:

Notice how Bella's bad luck reappears here? She's going to do the dramatic flounce, and then, of course, she catches her toe and scatters her books all over the ground. Her lack of grace, remember, only shows up when The Plot Demands. I don't think she's fallen down or otherwise been anything but perfectly level from the Van Incident to this point.

As for Edward, he's not giving anybody any reason to believe that he's actually trying to get her to go away here. This sounds more like a "okay, there's been enough of a cooling-off period, in my opinion, let's see if she's still mad at me." Since she is, he says, "well, okay, then, how do I continue to Give Her Space?" Apparently, he thinks that getting her mad at him again is the way to go.

Either that, or he's trying to encourage that flounce, and then when she trips, he has an amused sort of pity for the girl who can't even get her melodramatic exits right.

Brin Bellway said...

Yes, yes, plenty of non-shallow discussion matter, but I saw the picture at the beginning and now I want a cookie.

*looks around*

*spots jar of chocolate-covered almonds*

Close enough.


Randy Owens said...

De-railing the de-rail:
Aw, shucks, and the title of today's entry really had me hoping for a touching scene where Edward and Bella share cookies, and he wipes a bit of chocolate off of her mouth and licks it off his thumb, or vice versa. I'm so disappointed!

Nathaniel said...

"His voice shouldn't have been so familiar to me, as if I'd known the sound of it all my life rather than for just a few short weeks."

This entire sentence should be purple.

I think a possibility is that as Bella is the perfect Good Girl, Edward is the perfect Cocky Bad Boy. There are only three things such a person can feel: Confidant(smug), angry, and desirous.

Consistently, Edward has either glared at Bella, secretly smoldered with lust, or smirked at her. Edward is so off putting because in the end he is as much a reductive stereotype as Bella is.

Ben Reis said...

I feel a little bad for derailing, but...

I don't think "too perfect" should be purpled. It may have been written with purple feelings, but I think it serves as a warning that something is wrong (desperately, desperately wrong) with Edward and the Cullen clan. It pointed me towards the Uncanny Valley.

Then, I had a thought. Edward's description is vague at best, no? We aren't really sure what he looks like. What if he is a Nonman? They are described as perfectly beautiful for three books, and then...we see one. And they are not. NOT NOT NOT. They are scary and creepy and they kill people they love to remember them.

Or maybe the Cullens are Dunyain...

Susan B. said...

Delurking, here. As I know how much you like de-lurkers, do I get a cookie?

"Bella?" His voice shouldn't have been so familiar to me, as if I'd known the sound of it all my life rather than for just a few short weeks.

My interpretation of this line is that we have shades of a "predestined love", "two halves of the same soul" kind of thing going on here. It's not love at first sight, but it's perhaps connection at first sight. The reason Bella is so obsessed with Edward all the time is because their souls are connected somehow, she's destined to love him, and somewhere deep in her psyche they both sense that. I have the impression that that's the sort of relationship the author had in mind. Thus it's as if she's known him all her life, voice and all.

Personally I'm not fond of this sort of love in the first place, and I think Stephanie Meyer's handling of it is not very inspired, so it's not surprising that what's supposed to be the Greatest Love Story Ever comes off as confusing in places. Give me a good solid love story in which the two characters grow to love each other through their shared experiences and the way their personalities begin to mesh together through the magic of character development!

Rikalous said...

Or they could be Discworld elves. Their glamour makes them seem incredibly beautiful and gives humans an inferiority complex. They're also universally sociopathic.

Cupcakedoll said...

My hope is that this will continue to escalate and by the end of the book Edward's face will be so perfect that it actually burns the people who look at him.

Long after noble Perseus killed the vile Medusa, Zeus and Athena finally felt remorse for creating a being that turned people to stone. Medusa's curse was supposed to punish her after all, not the innocent bystanders. So the gods returned life to the remaining statues. Life but not the touch of flesh, for flesh would have rotted by now. And something of Medusa's curse remained in these living stone men-- Medusa's visage, so ugly it turned men to stone, was reversed by the gods' blessing making them almost too beautiful to look upon.

The gods realized they had released a race of undying stone creatures with free will and without even the weakness of the golem. They were troubled and decided to meddle no more lest they accidentally create still worse monsters next time!

Or something.

Kit Whitfield said...

Hm, this is interesting: I was browsing Vampire Sheikh, and here's something from the second page:

Joss did not believe in vampires.

Or shape-shifters or mummies or any of the other fantastical creatures of the myths and legends her ethnographer sister Gemma seemed to take at face value with listening to the stories of the local villagers. Josslyn was an archaeologist, a scientist, and she needed to see hard evidence to instill belief.

'Local villagers' has replaced 'natives' for the sake of manners, it seems, but belief in these - actually Western - horror stories is explicitly identified as 'ethnic'.

The story is taking place in Egypt - you'd expect Egyptian people to believe in 'mummies' in that they'd believe the pyramids contained mummified bodies; that's not a myth, it's just a fact. 'Mummies' meaning 'walking dead mummies' is a Hollywood spook story. 'Shape-shifters' are a fairly universal myth, but there are darn sure plenty of Western ones - and the vampire as sexy aristocrat, which is what we're gonna get here, is an English Victorian creation. Yet belief in them is projected onto Egyptian people - presumably because they're too Close To Nature to have heard of science.

I'm all in favour of women being allowed to express and explore their sexuality, and I know that desire and good taste have little to do with each other ... but oh dear.

Smilodon said...

Hi everyone!
A slight derail, but the bit that got me was "she was an archeologist, a scientist". Those are really not the same thing (and you'd have some odds of offending an archeologist if you said they were). And as though scientists are extra quick to discount local knowledge, because what knowledge could locals possibly impart when you're doing fieldwork? I know that I shouldn't judge a romance novel on such things ... but I can't help it.

Ana Mardoll said...

Working through the thread...

Delurking, here. As I know how much you like de-lurkers, do I get a cookie?

YES! Yes, cookies for the delurkers! We have molasses, sugar, chocolate chip, macadamia nut, and snickerdoodle. Your choice! :D

@Cupcakedoll, I love the Medusa tie-in. That made so much sense in my head. Somehow we must also tie in the "vampire venom" with Medusa's hair snakes.

@Kit, vampire... sheikhs...? Vampire... sheikh! VAMPIRE SHEIKH?! How... does that work? I mean, I thought Egypt was supposed to be pretty darn sunny. o.O

I'm always ambivalent about the "local natives" trope. On the one hand, if there IS a local vampire/werewolf/mummy/whathaveyou nomming on the locals, you'd expect them to KNOW about it. I mean, there's only so many times you can blame "vampire bats" or whatever before it becomes clear that the orphan children are being picked off like popcorn for a local malevolent force.

On the other hand, there's usually no reason given for the locals to, you know, MOVE. Leave. Stop being nommed on. They're sort of passive victims in all this; you rarely see them mobilize a mob to take care of that pesky vampire once and for all.

Maybe it's an analogy for poverty and how it grinds down our spirits. :/

chris the cynic said...

I mean, there's only so many times you can blame "vampire bats" or whatever before it becomes clear that the orphan children are being picked off like popcorn for a local malevolent force.

No one cares about the orphan children. Everyone who cared about them was eaten first. That's why they're orphans in the first place.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Chris, ha. I would think in a setting like "Van Helsing", they'd basically be lathered up in caramel sauce and tossed outside every night. Oh, dear, but I am a dreadful person. :(

Amarie said...

Oh dear…are you guys talking about that Harlequin Nocturne book “Shadow of the Sheikh”? By Nina Bruhns…? Because good lord, I own that. X.x

I admit that when I picked it up at the grocery store, I just wanted an easy, over-the-top, cheesy-as-hell, bad-sex-scenes, interracial-couple read. I never take Harlequin series serious. Goodness, now I feel bad. v.v

But…I have to say that I completely agree with Kit about her psychoanalysis.

And as far as Kit’s question, I admit that I *did* feel that way about Bella. I remember that I would always read as fast as I could whenever it was just Bella talking/thinking on the page. She was just so incredibly dull and overall an understatement, like I said. What was more was that her voice was *so* rude and crass that, again, I admit that I subconsciously struggled to like and sympathize with her. It was difficult and nearly gave me a migraine sometimes. Eventually, (and I think I speak for a lot of other fan girls) in order to actually like this character, I had to *become* this character; I had to take her out and put myself in. And then I washed my mouth out with soap, haha.

When Edward came on, I just felt like the page splashed across my vision with colors. Now here was someone whose emotions were regarded and treated as though they mattered. He was not a child; he was a hundred plus years old and knows what he wants when he wants it. In my eyes, Edward was good for Bella and I just loved the intense fluff talk and his overreaction(s) to her. I pretty much thought Bella was brave to be able to deal with him and his family.

graylor said...

Kit, I was trying to discuss the pretend person idea in rl the other day. Thank you for articulating it so clearly. I was talking about Twilight with a friend (I just finished reading the book, btw. I blame you, Ana.). It struck me how the conversations started reading like they were between Bella and her pretend people. They reminded me of a more adult version of the scene you get sometimes, where a small child is daydreaming about how they will state their case clearly and eloquently to their mother and get to have cookies for dinner, and then reality smacks them and their mother refuses to cooperate. Only reality never smacks Bella. Or possibly Meyers because there seems to be something meta-ish going on.

Okay, so Bella gets all the pretty clothes and the attention, but she can still deny wanting any of these things even to the lady doth protest too much levels. She gets a safe 'rival' in Rosalie, because how can you know you've 'made it' unless people are jealous of you? Then she gets just a little bit of intrigue when Jacob turns up to warn her, and, ooh, Edward is jealous, so just a tiny touch of danger/excitement. It's like every other character slots perfectly into a place in Bella (Meyers'? The readers'?) fantasy in a way real people never would. Which isn't to say that any one element is impossible, it's just that all of them at once is just jarring. Though I suppose adding yet more coincidents to the story after having the yummiest smelling girl just happen to move to where the vampires lurk, where it turns out she just happens to have lead around her brain or whatever blocks Edward's telepathy, and she doesn't run screaming into the night when she finds out about vampires and Edward thnks she's awesome and she loves douchecanoes and... Yeah, getting off my hobbyhorse now.

Ana Mardoll said...

(I just finished reading the book, btw. I blame you, Ana.)

*wicked grin*

Thomas Keyton said...

The relationship is happening in an unreal way, Bella's supposed to have some sense, so she's aware that real relationships don't work like that ... yet somehow, magically, it does anyway

I can't remember - has anyone here posted the theory that Bella's becoming Edward's Renfield?

Rikalous said...

So the orphan children's greatest (possibly only) ally would be the Fagin-esque exploiter. Hark, do I spy some villain-villain conflict, complete with noting the similarities between man and monster?

bekabot said...

"It's no longer acceptable to do this storyline with black men. Or Asian Emperors. Or Sheiks and Saracens. The Latin Lover still seems to be a trope but not quite this way. On the other hand, no vampires or werewolves have ever come up to complain about this treatment, so they get to be the new trope..."

I agree that this is an awesome insight. The one bit of observation I would like to add to it is that S. Meyer doesn't steer totally clear of the Race Trope in Twilight. If you think of Jacob as a Quileute and not as a werewolf, you will see that this formula holds good with him and that S. Meyer makes use of it when she's constructing the part of the story which doesn't revolve around the Cullens. (Given the way the Twilight plot ultimately works out, there's a faint hint of a suggestion implicit in it— somebody around here once called that sort of thing "Fed-Ex arrows" which I think is a great phrase— that mating [or, at least, marriage] between races Is Not Okay but that mating [or marriage] between species is all right as long as the individuals concerned are of the same color. The last thing of which anyone's ever going to be able to accuse Edward Cullen is not being white enough.)

An additional wrinkle is introduced into this suggestion when Jacob bonds with Ness. The hint that's dropped there is, I take it, that maybe marriage/mating between races is okay after all but that it's okay for the next generation and not this one. (The operative clichés would be "these things take time" and "the world is not yet prepared".) I know: neither Ness nor Jacob is human, properly speaking, but we're talking about allusions here.

I think S. Meyer's use of the Race Trope is deliberate and actually pretty skillful; she seems to be able to have some fun with it. Part of the miscegenation mythology that used to flourish in old-time novels — the kind that Edward would have grown up reading — is that a decent white woman ought to prefer death to the Unsanctioned Touch of a Man Of Complexion. That's why what's-her-name has to be abducted by the Sheik* and can't simply run away with him and then live to regret it. (And in fact the abduction scene in The Sheik reads like the "official version" put about by an English girl's family after she's run off with a man of whom they disapprove for ethnic reasons.) It's also why Little Sister, in The Clansman, takes a header off a cliff rather than be importuned by Gus the ex-slave. This notion is taken to darkly hilarious lengths in Twilight: Meyer consents to marry Bella off to Edward, who is suitably white but who literally is death, but won't allow Bella to settle down with Jacob, who is not white, but who is Bella's passport to retaining a pulse. (Just to make sure everybody gets the joke; Jacob reminds both Bella and the audience of this several times.) "Woman, choose: the wigwam or the knife of Le Subtil!"** Bella does choose, and she chooses the knife, in the form of Edward Cullen.

*Though the Sheik is finally proven to be of French derivation. So that's all right.

**I didn't write the stuff; I'm just commenting on it.

DarcyPennell said...

"Bella shouldn't be describing herself as petulant. I would hazard that it is impossible to be petulant and describe oneself as such at the same time."

I don't know, it seems like that has happened to me occasionally. I'd be in the middle of an argument and hear something come out of my mouth that I just did not like the sound of. It's kind of an awful moment, like, "ugh, did I really just say that?" It's bad enough that I'm having a hard time writing this comment and admitting to it. It never happened often, and not in a long time (mainly because since noticing it, I've tried my best not to let it happen ever again). And it does seem unlikely that Bella would be mature enough to recognize her own immature behavior though not mature enough to cut it out. But I don't think its impossible.

Totally unrelated: I would so love a cookie! A relative with a medical condition is staying with us, and of course no one is eating sweets in front of them so they don't feel left out. I might have to take a cookie break during lunch at work tomorrow.

Cupcakedoll said...

You know, I had forgotten the vampire venom, and remembering it sent me to wondering why Ms. Meyer decided to go with venom. In folklore the vampire just turns everyone he kills, and from Stoker onward it's pretty much been vamp drinks victim's blood then victim drinks vamp's blood to get changed.

But Ms. Meyer may not have known that. Didn't she say proudly that she'd never read Dracula or studied up on vampires before writing Twilight? Maybe she came up with the venom idea naturally. Other critters whose bite has a major effect have the major effect because of toxic venom. So she was thinking up her ultimate man and mixed in a little rattlesnake.

Off topic for Amarie: Some threads ago you suggested the Black Dagger Brotherhood books. I snagged a few from the library and they're pretty good. So thanks for the recommendation. =)

Susan B. said...

I suppose failing to study up on vampires is not as bad as failing to study up on your World War II history, or how evolution works (though goodness knows enough authors get that wrong anyway). You're free to add your own spin on fictional/mythical creatures without anyone complaining that you Did Not Do The Research. Still, if you're banking on the familiarity of your chosen monster it would be nice if it bore some resemblance to the traditional vampire beyond being blood-sucking. Calling a sparkly, venomous rock with personalized superpowers a "vampire" is like inventing a "dragon" that has eight legs, no wings, and can shapshift into a cat. (Though I would kind of like one of those!)

Rikalous said...

I think it's reasonable that the Cullens would be called vampires even if it was explicitly stated that they had nothing to do with the vampire myths. They need to be called something, and it seems kind of silly to make up a word when we already have a word for something with few life signs that drinks blood. If your eight-legged cat-shifter looked lizardy and talked when not in cat form, I'd probably call it a dragon for lack of a better term.

Kit Whitfield said...

Meyer consents to marry Bella off to Edward, who is suitably white but who literally is death, but won't allow Bella to settle down with Jacob, who is not white, but who is Bella's passport to retaining a pulse.

Wow. I never thought of that - but I for sure think it now.


I suppose failing to study up on vampires is not as bad as failing to study up on your World War II history, or how evolution works (though goodness knows enough authors get that wrong anyway). You're free to add your own spin on fictional/mythical creatures without anyone complaining that you Did Not Do The Research. Still, if you're banking on the familiarity of your chosen monster it would be nice if it bore some resemblance to the traditional vampire beyond being blood-sucking.

I don't agree with that. For one thing, the vampire myth has all sorts of different variants; the Jiang Shi and the Chupacabra and Count Dracula are all very different creatures, and blood-sucking is one of the few things they have in common. Blood-sucking is basically your defining quality, and everything else is up for grabs.

I'm a defender of not studying up anyway - I studied up a lot of mythology for my first novel and practically none for my second (though I did study up on marine biology) - but I think it's not really about the resemblances. If a writer created a vampire that was very different from the traditional Dracula but also really interesting and well-realised, nobody would be complaining. Cronos isn't at all traditional, but it's a darn good film, and its breaks with tradition are generally seen as clever and imaginative rather than a fault in the conception.

Or in other words, if you don't like what Meyer did with the tradition that's completely fair, but I don't think the problem is that it wasn't traditional. I can't see inside your head, obviously, but would I be wrong in suggesting that perhaps your problem is with what she added rather than what she left out, and if she'd added something more to your taste, you'd like it?

redcrow said...

Chinese dragons don't have wings. And I agree with Rikalous - as long as it looks like a lizard, I won't mind calling it a dragon.
An eight-legged lizard who can turn into an eight-legged cat sounds like an awesome pet (well, awesome as long as it doesn't take too much place in your apartment and doesn't breath fire every twelve seconds). Can it also make cobwebs (preferably while in a cat form)?

Ana Mardoll said...

Part of the problem may stem from the fact that the additions don't make a lot of sense. o.O

The superpowers are inconsistent. Rosalie has the power of beauty when they're all supernaturally beautiful. Carlisle has the power of "self-control" even though he's the one turning people left and right (4 of the Cullen clan are Carlisle-turns), which would seem to indicate that he's scrambling to fill a void with, well, people. Alice can see the future with enough precision to win chess and game the stock market flawlessly, but can't see, say, a major life event like Bella coming a mile off. Bella is immune to mind-reading because it's an "attack", but not emotional manipulation. And so on.

Then, as Chris pointed out in an earlier thread, the perfect strength and speed don't fit the evolutionary narrative, nor really does the sparkling. (And the super powers REALLY don't fit the evolutionary narrative!) If the explanation was magical or religious or something, that would perhaps fit better, but as an evolution/science thing, it just doesn't work in my head. This doesn't even get into the "unchanging bodies" and Edward's storing of sperm for the last 100 years.

So maybe it's less "that's not what a vampire is" and more "that doesn't make sense for a vampire to be that way"? I can't speak for Susan, but that would be my thought process.

chris the cynic said...

I have never before heard of Chupacabra described as vampires. I've never heard them described as anything close, but I suppose if we're letting the Cullens into the vampire club then the Chupacabra has to come too. The Cullens do appear to be goat suckers after all.

Still, if we accept that the Chupacabra is a vampire, then it seems like by "vampire" we just mean, "hematophage," in which case the question of vampires existing is pretty much settled. They absolutely do, I for one have had to deal with ticks, mosquitoes the like.

I think that if vampire just means "thingy that drinks blood," then we have somewhat overgeneralized the word to the point that we've removed its understood meaning.

It probably would make more sense to me to say that there is overlap between Chupacabra and vampires (see, for example, the Cullens) but not containment in either direction. It is possible to be a vampire without being an Chupacabra, and it is possible to be a Chupacabra without being a vampire.


On the more general topic of not studying, I don't see much problem with that since we're not talking about real people. Vampires, for a given value of the word, don't exist and thus will not be hurt by being misrepresented in fiction. Thus not studying before writing about vampires isn't the same as not studying before writing about the Quileute people (did she study before writing about the Quileute people? I honestly have no idea.)

I do think it means you need to put in a bit more effort.

[added:] Everything that follows assumes that you're writing something contemporary, which is to say that the characters have as much exposure to currently common meanings as the readers.[/added]

If you're using something as it exists in the popular imagination you don't need to explain it too much to the audience or the characters. You will, almost certainly, end up describing it quite a lot but it will be more like how you'll be describing what it means to be human quite a lot if you have human characters. There will not be a need to do a lot of direct description of how things work because that is generally understood and can come off as, "Of course you know, Bob".

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, for example, it would make little sense for people stop and go over the details of zombies in the story which are pretty much as they exist in the popular imagination. The characters know, the readers know. Let's have a meeting to discuss things we all already know would come off as bizarre and jarring. Like stopping to explain what a human being is as if the characters and readers had never heard of one before.

If, on the other hand, the zombies sprout wings and start flying around while shooting laser beams out of their eyes, that deserves to be addressed. Both because the reader has no idea what is going on and because the characters ought to think of this deviation from the expected as something worthy of note.

The places where your version differs from the norm demand description, the places where it is the same not so much.

I think it's like everything, people have a general idea of what you mean when you say human, or car, or vampire, or dog, or werewolf, or lion, or chair. There is still a need to describe what kind of lion/chair/werewolf/dog/vampire/car/human it is, because there is significant variation (a Chihuahua is not a Great Dane) but if you feel the need to stop and explain what a dog is when all of your characters and all of your readers already know this, you're (probably) doing something wrong. Unless "dog" here means 16 foot tall largely horse looking thing with dragon wings and ram horns which is to say nothing of the bifurcated prehensile tail, because in that case it probably make a certain amount of sense for both your characters and your readers to want some explanation of, "In what sense is this a dog?" and also, "Ok, so it's called a dog, what is it?"

Ana Mardoll said...

This reminds me very strongly of a book I read awhile back that had "fairies" with delicate gossamer wings and angels who... well... weren't angelic in any sense that I could find, but the Fairy and the Angel fell in love and I was very much "how will THAT work" when I finally figured out that the Fairy was human-sized and I'd been reading the book very wrongly up until that point because the scale hadn't been settled.

Now, of course, there are MANY different legends about fairies and fata and fae folk and so forth, and they come in all shapes and sizes. However, I've rarely seen the "gossamer wing" variety in a human-sized package.

On the question of research, I'm on the fence. In theory, I support the right of an author to write what is in their head without having to spend the rest of their life exhaustively researching the topic. But... I still think that there's a need for a bare minimum of research. I've seen an interview with Meyer where she almost seems proud of the fact that she didn't watch any Buffy, didn't read any Dracula, didn't do any research at all because it would have contaminated her book.

And that seems... well... I'm not sure. I fully understand worrying about cross-pollination and assimilation in writing, but... I wouldn't really brag that I did no research whatsoever, full stop. Then you pair that with the interviews packed with EVOLUTION FAIL and how her vampires are more "scientific" than other people's vampires, it starts to grate a little on my nerves.

I guess it's a "can't have it both ways" kind of thing -- if you don't want to do research, fine, but then don't say your stuff is better than all the other stuff you admittedly haven't read or experienced, because now you're making a statement of faith.*

* Mind you, I conveniently don't have any interviews on hand to back this up. I feel that I've seen and read them in the past, but I could be remembering them wrong.

Will Wildman said...

The 'familiar voice' to me makes sense for two reasons that have been mentioned before - one, that voices of particular people can rapidly develop an 'intimate' quality that makes them stand out from others, and two, that Bella seems to be somewhat aware that her reaction to Edward's voice isn't quite appropriate. (I'm still hung up on someone I haven't spoken to since January, and I'm hyperaware of random bystanders who sound like her.)

None of which will stop me from intentionally reading all of Edward's lines in Gilbert Gottfried's voice from now on.


A controlling person doesn't actually relate to the person they're abusing. They relate to a 'pretend person': they've had a fantasy most of their lives that somebody will one day come into their lives, make everything perfect for them, and (though this isn't consciously considered) never have any needs that conflict with their own - in effect, they've outsourced their wellbeing onto a fantasy. Then they start projecting that fantasy onto a real person, and get very aggressive when the person does anything that indicates they're not the fantasy person because they panic and try to force them to bring the 'pretend person' back as soon as possible.

Oh look it's me when I was twenty. I'm always grateful to have references like this on hand as a sort of counter-checklist to monitor my behaviour.


Bella's self-description as 'petulant' tripped me up; I kept rereading her words and couldn't find a natural speaking style that could still be described as petulant. It is - to me - a word that begs for sympathy while still being abrasive, the voice of someone who wants to provoke a reaction from a person who doesn't seem to be acknowledging how unfairly the speaker is being treated. It's the sympathy part that gets me the most, I think - I can't see Bella expecting sympathy from Edward while he's still yanking her around. At least not in the context of the rest of their conversation, maybe? It feels like we've suddenly changed to the point-of-view of someone else who is listening in but doesn't know what's going on.

Kit Whitfield said...

It feels like we've suddenly changed to the point-of-view of someone else who is listening in but doesn't know what's going on.

I think that's a good point. Twilight is not a very polished book, style-wise, and I don't think it aims to be, and as Ana has pointed out, whether Bella is an omniscient or an unreliable narrator seems a little unstable. This may be a moment where Bella assumes narrative omniscience about her own tone.


Oh look it's me when I was twenty. I'm always grateful to have references like this on hand as a sort of counter-checklist to monitor my behaviour.

That's interesting. My memory may be faulty, but I think you've previously talked about the 'Nice Guy' perspective from the inside? Because I have a working theory that while some women may not date 'Nice Guys' because they appear weak in one way or another, a lot of women probably avoid them because they give out a lot of 'potential abuser' signals.

And if that's the case, I think it should probably be brought into the conversation more. Self-declared 'Nice Guys' sometimes defend themselves as if people are kicking them when they're down; reclassifying such behaviour as one of many excuses an abuser will make for his behaviour might cut through a certain amount of waffle.

Will Wildman said...

That's interesting. My memory may be faulty, but I think you've previously talked about the 'Nice Guy' perspective from the inside? Because I have a working theory that while some women may not date 'Nice Guys' because they appear weak in one way or another, a lot of women probably avoid them because they give out a lot of 'potential abuser' signals.

Well, the 'controller' and the 'Nice Guy' are both expressions of a shared concept, which is the 'non-person' status of the person/people one is attracted to. On the 'controlling' side we have the expectation that a specific person will fulfill the obligations of their fantasy counterpart, which I think has to be based at some level on the idea that Controller deserves this fantasy partner in karmic payment for their personal virtue.

On the Nice Guy side there are two key parts that get emphasised to varying degrees: the idea that women* in general are deterministic contraptions that give set responses to set stimuli, and the idea that the majority of men are total jackwagons who are nevertheless swamped with all the affection they could ever want because they know particular stimuli that will get those responses. The Nice Guy philosophy is that while Nice Guys are too virtuous to use those same stimuli to receive affection, they still deserve affection because they do other things that are good and virtuous.

I think someone could easily be either an aggressive or a passive-aggressive Controller, but an aggressive Nice Guy is harder to manage because their passiveness is key to maintaining their image as unassumingly Nice, but that doesn't mean they don't like the idea of being aggressive. For both a Nice Guy and a passive-aggressive Controller, we're talking about someone who doesn't (consciously) think they have power, and resents that, and expresses it in their relationships as 'Please give me power so that I can use it against you'. I think resentment is one of the easier vibes to pick up on, and someone who claims to want a relationship while resenting their prospective partner obviously doesn't view the relationship as an equal partnership between two full people, so yeah, that's straight on the road to potential abuse.

Basically, my view is that if a woman doesn't want to date a Nice Guy because he appears weak, that's just because she doesn't know him well enough to not want to date him because he's a misogynist.


*I say 'women' because I'm really only aware of Nice Guys as a heterosexual male phenomenon, presumably because it's twisted up in a form of male privilege, but in retrospect I would assume that there is at least a variant of the same behaviour among same-gender couples. I don't know. Are there bisexual Nice Guys who treat female partners like automatons and male partners as actual people?

Ana Mardoll said...

That's a really fascinating theory of Kit's though. I think it's an interesting idea. Hmm.

For me, it seems like my biggest aversion to the Nice Guy mentality is the two-fold assumption that Zie deserves cookies for basic human decency (ooh! post tie-in!) and that all the OTHER people getting cookies are getting cookies unfairly because they're secretly (or not so secretly) jerks.

I would imagine that both these attitudes are not uncommon in abusers: the idea that (a) being good is something one only barely has to be (i.e., I may have done X bad thing, but I'm still better than all those other abusers out there) and (b) the idea that the other people out there are all worse than oneself (i.e., I may be an abuser, but everyone else is secretly worse). Perhaps. Not sure if that came out properly.

Kit Whitfield said...

I think someone could easily be either an aggressive or a passive-aggressive Controller, but an aggressive Nice Guy is harder to manage because their passiveness is key to maintaining their image as unassumingly Nice, but that doesn't mean they don't like the idea of being aggressive.

On the other hand, abuse within relationships doesn't start immediately. It's possible, if so, for a Nice Guy to begin as passive-aggressive and unassuming as long as he's trying to get a woman into a relationship, but gradually get meaner once she's with him. But I'd defer to other people's experience there.

Ana Mardoll said...

A major area of overlap would be convincing one's partner that all romantic rivals are (worse) jerks. This is key to both Nice Guyism and abusive relationship, in my opinion.

Will Wildman said...

On the other hand, abuse within relationships doesn't start immediately. It's possible, if so, for a Nice Guy to begin as passive-aggressive and unassuming as long as he's trying to get a woman into a relationship, but gradually get meaner once she's with him.

I would fully expect as much - I tend to think of 'Nice Guy' as mutually exclusive with 'being in a relationship', because the Nice Guy whine is all about how women aren't giving him the affection he deserves. Possibly the link is that a person who is/was a Nice Guy outside a relationship is more likely to become controlling if he does get into a relationship; whether this will be aggressive or passive-aggressive control/abuse is less predictable.

bekabot said...

"Meyer consents to marry Bella off to Edward, who is suitably white but who literally is death, but won't allow Bella to settle down with Jacob, who is not white, but who is Bella's passport to retaining a pulse.

Wow. I never thought of that - but I for sure think it now."

I'm extremely flattered (no irony).

"Alice can see the future with enough precision to win chess and game the stock market flawlessly, but can't see, say, a major life event like Bella coming a mile off."

I think that maybe Alice can't see Bella coming b/c Bella is Bella and has a natural shield, though that still wouldn't explain why Alice could see that Bella was destined to join the Cullen coven after Bella and Alice had met (or after Edward had asked Alice to find a solution to his dilemma, whichever). Wouldn't Bella's shield prevent it? Maybe there's a kind of "tipping point" involved: Alice wouldn't see Bella joining the Cullens as long as the possibility still existed that Bella might decide that she still liked Phoenix and was not going to move to Forks after all. But once Bella has definitely moved to Forks and has started showing up at the same high school Edward and Alice attend, the timeline Alice glimpses attains such a high probability as to become, to all intents and purposes, "inevitable". (Speculation The First.)

"Bella is immune to mind-reading because it's an "attack", but not emotional manipulation. And so on."

Speculation the second: I think that Bella could be immune to "superpowers" without being immune to ordinary powers. For example, Jane can't cause Bella to feel any pain, but non-supernatural events, like bumping into things and falling down, do cause Bella to feel pain; she's not immune to that. This is also true of the non-supernatural injuries sustained by Bella at the hands of vampires: when James beats Bella up almost to the extent that he kills her, Bella experiences pain, though Jane later turns out not to be a threat to her. So, hands-on-up-close-and-personal violence does hurt Bella, while mind-woo stuff does not. I assume the same rule would hold true with the werewolves: if a Quileute shaman were to conceive a grudge against Bella and decide to play a purely physical practical joke on her to teach her a lesson, that could hurt her, but if he decided to try to put a curse on her instead, he might discover that he had a challenge on his hands. By this rule, Bella wouldn't be subject to Edward's telepathy because it's a "superpower" and falls into the mind-woo category, but she's affected by his emotional manipulation b/c emotional manipulativeness is just a part of being Edward. Edward would have played the same games during his mortal life if he'd stayed human. It's the vampire-enhancement part (superpowers obtained by supernatural means) which Bella's shield filters,out.

Enough "telephone" for now...

Ana Mardoll said...

Whoops, I meant "emotional manipulation" by Jasper The Assertive Empath.

Kit Whitfield said...

if he does get into a relationship; whether this will be aggressive or passive-aggressive control/abuse is less predictable.

Considering how nastily such men are likely to talk about women who'd turn them down, I'd say verbal abuse at least is pretty much on the cards, and the question is less 'will he be aggressive?' and more 'will he be physically assaultive or just verbally?' (Not that there's any 'just' about verbal abuse, of course.)

bekabot said...

"Whoops, I meant 'emotional manipulation' by Jasper The Assertive Empath."

Well, that pretty much punctures my theory (I really did misunderstand what was being said). I have one further suggestion to make, though. (This is my feeble attempt at a save.) Maybe Bella is, on some level, aware that her shield exists, at a much earlier time than the explicit text of Twilight allows for, and maybe she has more control over it than anybody thinks, including herself. In the last book, when she starts to appreciate her possession of her shield as a strategic advantage and starts to try to deploy it to her benefit, she has a far easier experience doing that than a person might expect. (I'm fairly certain she's a vampire by then, but still.) She turns out to be such a natural with that shield that one might almost think she'd already had some practice manipulating it. So — possibly she has. It could be that on some proto-conscious plane Bella has had some inklings of the properties of her shield right from the get-go, and has come into the game knowing how to raise it and lower it and hypothetically even how to extend it somewhat, according to what the circumstances at the time would have demanded. (Bella's devastation after Edward leaves her seems to fit in with this: she acts like a person who has separated by some force from others since birth but who has figured out how to forge a connection with one other person despite that. Since Bella has grown up never knowing closeness, she doesn't know how to deal with the anguish of losing it.)

None of this would have been information which Bella would have realized she had access to; she would have been acting according to something like instinct. Result: when Bella's around Edward in the context of his family, she eases her screen down just the tiniest bit*, b/c she doesn't want to miss any interpersonal clues which the shield might mask. Then too, she's in lair of vampires: she doesn't want to be walking around all swaddled and cocooned, she wants to be chipper and aware and to have her feelers out. But this holds true so long as there's no overt threat on the horizon: when an overt threat presents itself, Bella's "attack" protocol comes into play, and up comes her shield (see: Den of the Volturi).

*making her vulnerable to Jasper's interference

That's the best I can do. Basically, I'm on the same page with you insofar as I agree that the Twilight rules make no sense, but I can't resist the temptation to try to figure out what they would be if they did — if that adds up at all.

Izzy said...

I will snarkily point out--not so much snarky at you as at Boys of the World*--that many Nice Guys bring the same attitude toward relationships that they do to hitting on women: that Girlfriend X is so *horrible* for going out with her friends and leaving him alooooooone/asking him to take care of himself/looking at other guys/wanting more sex/not wanting more sex/having sexual fantasies that don't involve him/asking him to get a damn job/breaking up with him. Because he's such a nice guy! He doesn't hit her! He doesn't cheat on her! Putting some work into being an interesting person and maintaining a relationship is sooooooooo haaaaaaaaard! And he can't leave a relationship that doesn't make him happy because Nice Guys Don't Leave, so he's just going to passive-aggress at the girl until she changes to be what he wants!

Which: fuck that noise.

Even when Nice Guy doesn't cross the line into actual abuse, he's still a pain in the ass. I think I fall into the "because he appears weak" reasons more than "because he's a misogynist"--although there's a lot of overlap--because "appears weak" usually translates to "is actually insecure and whiny". And even if Pokeball Of Insecurities never evolves to is too motherfucking short to go there in the first place.

*Girls too, from what I've seen/heard, but I haven't dated 'em.

chris the cynic said...

The trouble is that there are a long list of mental powers Bella isn't immune to (according to the Twilight wiki) which includes some put in use by people explicitly trying to kill her. You'd think shields would go up when faced by someone trying to kill her.

Plus when Jasper is capable of magicing her, Edward still is not. If I understand correctly.

Pthalo said...

a fixfic i read for that gets around it by suggesting that whether a power is determined physical or mental for Bella's shield purposes depends both on how the vampire sees their own power and on how Bella sees it. Jasper thinks of it as being a physical thing, seeing himself operating on a hormonal level, regulating heart beat, controlling fight or flight responses in the brain, and Bella doesn't think about it much at all at first. In the fixfic, Bella learns that if she spends a few minutes thinking about how this doesn't make sense given that she doesn't even have a heartbeat, and deciding that emotions are definitely a mental process, her shield expands and cuts her off from Jasper's effects. This freaks out Jasper because he can't "feel" her anymore and he relates to people primarily by feeling them.

Kit Whitfield said...

I’m of the mind that ‘Nice Guys’ think they [subconsciously] fill a role of the victim rather than the perpetrators.

And the trouble is - in my experience, at least - there's nothing so ruthless as someone who thinks of themselves as a victim. They'll hit you with anything they can think of and not feel the least bit bad about it. (Or if they do, they'll want their target to console them for how bad they feel. People can be very creative in twisting everything back to themselves.) A self-identified victim is the kind of person who brings a tank to a knife fight, not because they've decided to be bigger and stronger, but because absolutely nothing they do will change their self-image as victim - and hence, no matter what they do, they still feel outgunned, and will escalate and escalate until you collapse from sheer exhaustion, deeply convinced that they're just standing up for themselves against a stronger opponent. A self-identified victim always feels that they're outmatched and that anything they do is just an attempt to semi-even the odds - even if what they're actually doing is far more brutal, devious, vindictive or relentless than whatever they're up against.

Or, in other words, I agree with you.

Which is what the self-help books don't tell you about why you shouldn't define yourself as a victim. The incentive-reason is that it'll make you feel bad about yourself, and that's true. But the bottom line reason is that if you define yourself as a victim, you are at great risk of passing on the abuse.

bekabot said...

"Bella also can't block Jasper Hale's ability to control emotions;"

- did my best with that; I like the fixfic idea too

"Marcus's ability to read relationships as seen when he reads the love between her and Edward"

- taking up a line from the fixfic concept: if the love between Bella and Edward is a physical fact, Cathy and Heathcliff stuff, à la "my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath--a source of little visible delight, but necessary...he's always, always in my mind--not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being" then Bella's shield would not necessarily block out Marcus's ability to verify it

"Siobhan's ability to affect reality"

- well hey, reality is reality; there's definitely a "physical fact" component there too

"Benjamin's control of natural elements because it's a purely physical power"

- conveniently explains itself

"James's tracking sense"

- gee, that's a tough one. But James first comes across Bella when she's in the company of the Cullens, doesn't he? So maybe, as I suggested, Bella does have her shield eased down just bit when they meet. (Later, after it goes up again, it's too late.) Maybe James's tracking ability depends on his capacity to insert a little-teeny "seed" of himself into his intended prey, which he then follows like a homing device. He had the opportunity to place such a "seed" in Bella b/c she literally had her guard down when she met him. Once he'd done that her shield was not much help to her.

"Fred's ability to physically repulse others"

- what Fred has is the ability to physically repulse others, not just repulse them mentally as a more Jane-like vampire might. So, once again, there's a "physical fact" component involved, though I'm not quite sure how it works. (What I'm also not sure of is how Fred's physical repulsion mojo does not constitute an "attack".) One thing I'd like to ask, though, is: though we know Bella's shield does not block out Fred's mojo, are we certain that it could not, if, as in the fixfic, she asked nicely?

(My God, I'm tired.)

All you guys pleeez remember I'm on your side!! I agree that Twilight makes no sense!! It's just that I hate it when there's no explanation for things!! Aaaaaaaarrrghghgh!!!

[runs away; looks for a place to hide]

Pthalo said...

*shamelessly plugs luminosity again*

The girl writing it actually makes Twilight good.

chris the cynic said...

So the only one that I looked up in more detail was Fred's, and the "physical" in the title isn't that it's a physical ability. It could be a physical power depending on how it works, but the physical in the title refers to how it feels to people. People feel as though they are physically repulsed but the description available is, "I guess Fred can sort of repel people on purpose. It's all in our heads, though. He makes us repelled at the thought of being near him." If it's all in your head on the level of thought and feeling then it is precisely as physical as any other mental thingy.

Whether or not mental thingies should be considered non physical is somewhat debatable. Certainly we could claim that Jasper is modifying your endorphin levels or Edward is detecting the goings on of your neural pathways and thus claim the powers as physical. We could, if we wanted, probably claim that all powers are in some way physical (they have measurable effects on the physical world, after all) but if we're going for a mind body divide on which we are basing the idea that Bella can block the mind side things but not the body side things, I think that, "It's all in our heads," would have to be on the mind side of things.

If the goings on of what's in your head are on the body side of things, then Edward should have no problem reading the mind of someone who cannot stop physical powers.

Actually, I take something back. I did look into one person other than Fred.

"Siobhan's ability to affect reality" seemed vague and in need of more description. How does one know that Bella isn't immune to it? The answer is that via her ability to manipulate events she is credited with causing Bella to think of and do a certain thing at a certain time. I haven't read that scene (it is as I understand it the final confrontation of the final book) so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the claim that this was a case of the power being used on Bella. If it was a case of that, which is to say if it was a case of influencing Bella's thoughts, that seems as firmly in the "mental not physical" camp as something can be.

Ana Mardoll said...

Pthalo, I agree. I started reading those and had to STOP reading almost right away. They were so good, it was almost depressing. I'm holding them out as candy -- when I finish the Twilight series, I may read them. :D

chris the cynic said...

All of that said, I do think the idea is interesting.

Incoming power!

Do I think it it's physical?

[If yes, I it works on me.]
[If no, I block it.]
[If neither, request information from the sender.]

I have no opinion. Does you think it is physical?

[If yes, it works on me.]
[If no, it does not work on me.]
[Otherwise, throw error 2005: Nature of power undetermined.]

Power accepted. You may now manipulate my emotions.


It's interesting for a number of reasons, one is that it posits a rather interesting back and forth, the person with the power attempts to use it, if Bella has no opinion of the power Bella's power then reads their mind to determine what they think of it and determines whether or not to block it based on that information.

It does bring up a question of what happens when you have two Bellas in one place. Say Edward is under the protection of Bella number one when he tries to read the mind of Bella number two. Neither Bella is sure whether getting information on someone else's thoughts is a mental or physical power.

Edward activates his power sending out a mind reading request to Bella2 (B2), B2's power then sends a request back to Edward to see if Ed's power is mental or physical. At this point B2's request slams face first into B1's shield, which results in a request being sent from B1 to B2 to find out if B2 considers the "is it mental or physical" information extraction power to itself be mental or physical. That hits B2's shield, which in turn sends the exact same request back to B1.

Now you've got the question being pinged back and forth between the two Bellas with no signs of ending. Does it finally just default to something? Does power ping pong continue forever?

Is there a possibility that some day, somewhere, some how the whole thing suddenly burns out and Edward is suddenly bombarded with the thought, "This movie sucks!" with no idea where it came from (or whatever Bella 2 happened to be thinking at the time.)

Or, for that matter, if one of the Bellas should eventually decide that their power is physical then the entire standoff collapses, they are unable to block each other, and then it becomes a question of what Edward thinks about his power. If he thinks it's physical see above, otherwise nothing comes of it.

Speaking of Edward, what's he getting while his power is stuck in a limbo of neither being accepted nor rejected? Static? The strange sensation of being stuck in a single moment? What?

Ok, so that's one way the idea is interesting, here's another:

What if Bella doesn't grow up to be a materialist? What if she comes to the conclusion that all of reality is composed of thought? (I was going to call her a solipsist in this case but this thinking doesn't require one to believe that they are the only thinker.) Would she be able to block anything?

"A van is being thrown at my head. Clearly a mental attack."
*Van is stopped by Bella's power*

Even failing to go that far, she could reach the conclusion that all powers are clearly mental. Powers are ways that, without using their physical body, vampires are able to interact with the world via their thoughts. That sounds fairly mental. So shouldn't she be able to shut down someone's ability to control the natural elements with his thoughts?

In the opposite direction, what if Bella, after spending a long time studying the brain, were to decide that Edward's power was clearly physical. Would that mean that she looses the ability to block it?

What if Bella came the the conclusion that everything is physical? Would her power evaporate entirely?


The possibilities are interesting and doubtless deserve exploration.

Amarie said...

*nods vigorously with Kit*

Thank you, Kit! I was worried that I wouldn’t make sense and/or that I would annoy/offend people (…I worry about that a lot, don’t I?) because of my own inexperience.

But, I’m glad that you saw what I was trying to say. In my own experience, victims could be excruciatingly *annoying*. I had a *lot* of friends-mostly girls-that would just blow *everything* up. ‘He didn’t call me at eight o’clock like he always does’. ‘My mom isn’t buying me a car this year; I have to wait until next year and now I still have to ride the bus.’ ‘I didn’t do my homework and I know our teacher is going to give me a frickin’ ‘F’ for that.’ And so on and so forth. Whenever I tried to lighten up the mood by being optimistic, I might as well have been talking to a wall. Soon I was seeing that these girls almost *reveled* in their melodrama; the [fabricated] pain and anguish and heartbreak and frustration *stimulated* them like nothing else. Now, I admit that I could and still can understand that from a certain point; there’s a reason why human beings are more likely to remember and seek out *bad* news than *good* news. We are simply creatures that thrive on conflict…to a certain extent. Still, it got to the point where I felt they were toxic to me; the more I socialized with them, the more depressed *I* became. Eventually, I cut them off completely (I think before my Junior year) and carefully watched who I surrounded myself with.

So, I think you can also have the victim that sincerely doesn’t think that he or she can ever elevate themselves to an equal status and therefore doesn’t even try. Instead, they desperately expend incredible amounts of energy trying to bring everyone *lower and to their level*. Or, at the very least, *explain* in detail why they’re victims and why you should feel sorry for them every single day. It kind of breaks the heart, but again, I think we have to cut those people loose if we don’t want such toxicity to bleed into our own mentalities and by that extension, our own lives.

And as far as all of this Bella Is Immune To This Power And That…Mary Sue vibes, anyone? -__-

chris the cynic said...

Just to keep up the every-other-comment-is-me pattern.

"I've come to stop you."
"You? You can only stop mental powers. I control the Physical Elements!"
"And that's not mental?"
"Of course it isn't mental I-"
"Oh. Ok. Let's see you control fire with your hands." *pause* "I'm waiting."

The above is a random something that has come to my mind since I started thinking about how you split powers between mental and physical a few posts back.

Ana Mardoll said...

Chris, you make me laugh so hard. *wipes tears* Thank you. Just... thank you. :D

bekabot said...

I think the way Benjamin's and Siobhan's powers may work is that they allow Benjamin and Siobhan to control the context or frame within which things happen. (All the rest of the characters are stuck with having to try to affect the things/happenings within the frame.) If that's the case then it doesn't matter much whether their powers are mental or physical; their powers are metapowers which directly affect the circumstances whereby events take place. If this is the case and if they both can do their thing without having to worry about Bella and her shield getting in the way, and if that's one of the ways in which an observer can tell that a power is a metapower, might not Fred's repulsion ability be a metapower too? Fred's capacity to repel people may be "all in their heads" but isn't it at the same time in all of their heads? Might he not have set it up as a universal condition that "I' will repel you in the event that you are a conscious creature"? If this were true Fred's repulsiveness would, until such time as he chose to rescind it, a property like the wetness of water: step out into the rain and get soaked; be around Fred and get repelled. A shield might, like an umbrella, protect against the rain itself (keep Fred at bay?) but it wouldn't be able to protect against the wetness of the water: a person who gets splashed would still be drenched.

Rikalous said...

So Bella gets a superpower based on her ability to block people out. This Fred person gets an ability to make people not want to hang out with him. It's starting to sound like they wandered out of , where the insecure chick gets the power of hearing what everyone's thinking about her and the guy who feels ignored gets the power of invisibility.

Kit Whitfield said...

Instead, they desperately expend incredible amounts of energy trying to bring everyone *lower and to their level*.

Whoa yes, that one. I do not like being around people who turn me into a Randian.

BrokenBell said...

In any case, doesn't Bella having some form of her shield pre-transformation imply that humans in the Twilight universe are basically low-level X-Men? Most people have some kind of subdued magical power, and being turned into stone just makes it substantially more pronounced? I could never really buy Rosalie's Magical Prettiness or Carlisle's Supernatural Compassion as actual powers on the same level as mind-reading or being a living taser, since they don't seem that different from the regular strengthening of character traits that happens to everyone when they get turned. It makes more sense to me that they just never had powers. I mean, if Bella can have an extreme degree of self-control just because she's extra-specially mature and level-headed (snrk), to the extent that she puts Carlisle's explicitly magical self-control to shame, I don't see how mundane stuff like that can really be considered an ability.

Kit Whitfield said...

Is self-control turned into a magical power when Bella gets vamped? Because if so, gosh there's a lot of gender politics discussions coming up.

Kit Whitfield said...

For both a Nice Guy and a passive-aggressive Controller, we're talking about someone who doesn't (consciously) think they have power, and resents that, and expresses it in their relationships as 'Please give me power so that I can use it against you'.

It can also be 'Please give me power so I can stop you using your power against me.' And if you say 'But I'm not more powerful than you/using power against you/planning to use power against you', you get accused of bullying, because all they hear is 'I don't want you to have more power.' The idea that power comes from choices is one that some people find very difficult to grasp.

BrokenBell said...

Not for Bella, I don't think - she's just special like that. Before the mind-shield thing is settled on, there's speculation that her magic power is Being An Awesome Vampire, because she doesn't have any of the overpowering bloodlust that all new converts always have without exception. She's just inexplicably perfect, immediately better in every way at being a vampire than people who have centuries of experience.

Carlisle, on the other hand, is kind of like that. His supernatural ability is supposed to be an incredible level of compassion, which in practise means that he has enough self-control that he doesn't try to murder anyone when he smells blood. This is what allows him to work as a doctor, as opposed to most other vampires, who are likely to go berserk if someone gets a papercut. So for him, self control is basically painted as a superpower.

And then I think of how sexual the whole vampire thing is and I get really disturbed by the Twilight universe and everything in it. That's a different conversation than the one we'd have had if Bella's restraint was painted as supernatural, but no less interesting, I think.

Ana Mardoll said...

The frustrating thing about Carlisle's self-control is that it doesn't work in the context of the story. The Cullens demonstrably *don't* lose control over papercuts or they wouldn't be able to attend high school, full stop. We've already hand-waved menstruation, but what about actual papercuts? I bleed on a near daily basis because I (a) chew my fingers and (b) have temperamental cats -- the Cullens shouldn't be able to be within smelling range of someone like that without losing control and yet they never do.

Then there's the contradictions in text. Bella explicitly has Tyler bleeding profusely during the car collision, and none of the Cullens notice -- they're busy glaring at Edward while he suavely turns down the EMTs' proffered care. And at the end of the novel, when Bella is bleeding out over the floor... Alice has to leave the room. That's it. Edward stays behind and has zero problems sucking the venom out (RESEARCH FAIL) without losing control and draining Bella.

So, yeah, Rosalie's beauty and Carlisle's self-control start to look like traits EVERYONE has, but meh we'll just SAY that's their power. Oh, and Esme is really family oriented. And Emmett is strong.

And Ana is, uh, supernaturally WORDY. Yeah.

Will Wildman said...

"Oh. Ok. Let's see you control fire with your hands." *pause* "I'm waiting."

From this, I wonder if Bella would legitimately have a hard time dealing with the element-benders from Avatar, since their telekinesis is deeply bound up in martial arts. On the other hand, I'm not sure how much Avatar really gets into the mechanisms by which bending works, and it's obviously not as simple as 'lift hand = lift rock'.


If Carlisle really had super-self-control, would he be vamping people on such a regular basis? I mean, of the seven of them, didn't he make four? Whereas it seems that the rest of the family has managed to go for decades or centuries without vamping anyone at all, with the possible exception of their eternal mate.

The worldbuilding and the story on the page appear to be completely independent. Both are (variably, but reasonably) consistent in themselves, but not with each other.

Kit Whitfield said...

I'm not sure how much Avatar really gets into the mechanisms by which bending works

They're not very mechanical about it, really; it's presented as a combination of martial art and spiritual discipline, so insight, perception, attitude and emotional state are all factors in how you do it, and it's more or less portrayed as one of those things you can only really understand by doing. The upshot is that it becomes an expression of character, which in turn creates several good turning-points in the plot...

chris the cynic said...

Forget about papercuts, Edward is allowed to roam free in a hospital. He's in the room with bloodied up Tyler after the accident. He doesn't seem in the least bit influenced by the blood.


Edward stays behind and has zero problems sucking the venom out (RESEARCH FAIL)

There are two ways I can see to justify sucking the venom out. Not to justify it working, just to justify trying it. One is that the Cullens are old. Tie a tourniquet then suck the venom out would be what they were taught. The second is that there's probably not a treatment for vampire venom at the local hospital, which means that you'd probably be grasping for whatever is available even if it is unlikely to work.


"What happened?"

Edith turned her attention to me and quickly removed her fangs from the bag of blood she was holding, "Oh, hey," she tossed the blood bag on the windowsill and wiped blood off her face with her shirt, "You're awake."

"Where am I? What about ..." I was having some trouble finding words, "the thing? And the thing and the thing?"

"You're at a hospital, and... lets see. The thing is dead. And as for the thing, it's over. And in answer to your last question, you probably won't become a vampire but we're talking a wait and see approach."

That was a lot to take in, "How?"

"Well ... wait. Which one are you asking how about?"

"The last one."

"Well, I tried to suck the venom out."

"Does that work?"

"No idea, figured it was worth a try. We had to take the tourniquet off before we got you to the hospital because we were worried you'd lose the arm, then Jasmine did her thing and through a combination of urgency, fear and respect managed to get my mother cleared to do pretty much whatever she wanted. That's when we started up the transfusions and at this point most of the blood in your body comes from somewhere else.

"There's probably still some venom in you, but we're hoping it's not enough to do much of anything. So, that's the how."

I decided I'd asked the wrong question, "Why?"


Just to clarify here. Bella wants to be a vampire. Edward doesn't want her to be a vampire. So, when Bella is injured and probably not in a good position to refuse, Edward embarks on an almost certainly deadly procedure to stop her from becoming a vampire. Is that correct?

Edith, obviously, wouldn't do that. But assuming that Edith's situation is different to the point that there's no real chance of her hurting Ben, and assuming that Ben had agreed to wait until later to be a vampire, I could see Edith trying to stop the process, say on the justification that Ben should have more opportunity to do human things first.

She's still going to make him into a vampire later on if, he so desires, just like she promised but he's going to remain human until then just like he promised. (Said promises come from someone's idea of Bella wanting to be a vampire to make the hurting stop and Carlisle convincing her to let him try to solve her problems by more human means first.)

I think I'd want her answer to be food based, "Because you haven't eaten X yet," where X is a food Edith tried and liked so much that, decades after she lost the ability to enjoy food, thinking about it still produces good feelings. And for some reason the food that comes to mind is one that I'm pretty sure I've never tried:

"You can't become a vampire just yet."
"Why not?"
"Because you haven't tried pierogi yet."

I think I just like the name. Pierogi.

Ana Mardoll said...

I've always read, though, that the venom sucking thing doesn't work and people need to stop doing it because in addition to Not Working, it's actually dangerous for the victim. Maybe that's just snake venom and not vampire venom, but now we have the added problem that the person sucking out the venom does, in fact, produce venom! Which is apparently not a conscious choice thing.

So you're basically using a snake to suck out snake venom when the procedure is dangerous and doesn't work. It's all very odd. I like your explanation better, Chris. And I like Jasper turned to Jasmine. :)

chris the cynic said...

As I understand it there are various reasons why venom sucking is actively bad, one of them being that the human mouth is completely unsafe and should be kept far removed from the bloodstream. (So let it be known, licking your wounds is probably a bad idea.)

The fact that venom production is involuntary is something that I had kind of forgotten about. Well, that and I was thinking that maybe vampire sucking and human sucking are different enough that a vampire sucking like a human wouldn't produce venom where the same vampire sucking like a vampire would.

Regardless, this does seem accurate:
So you're basically using a snake to suck out snake venom when the procedure is dangerous and doesn't work. It's all very odd.

Rikalous said...

From what I understand, licking your own wounds is safe because you've got all those germs in your system already. Licking someone else's wounds, on the other hand, is going to expose them to a host of germs they don't have the antibodies for.

Silver Adept said...

@Amare -

Are you sure you don't want that Dark Mark? You're clearly quite good at this, that you can turn all of their supposed superpowers into super-liabilities. And played that way, those societal strictures are not just a straightjacket, but a suffocating noose.

Amarie said...

Awww...thank you, Silver. But I think I'm fine with *you* being the Dark Mantle carrier. You got here first, yes? ;)

Kit Whitfield said...

hi all.

fyi - have hurt arm, hospital suspected fracture, typing difficult. will be unable to chat for unknown period. lurking, not sulking.

Dav said...

Ah, Kit, my heart goes out to you. I hope they are taking care of you properly.

Pro tip and tots unsolicited advice: Pillows. You can never have too many pillows to prop your arm in place, to hold on ice packs/heating pads, and to hold your arm somewhat stable when sleeping. Especially if you're pre-casting.

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh my gosh, Kit, I'm so sorry to hear that. :(

Tons of internet hugs and hot soup for you. That sounds just awful :(

Kit Whitfield said...


Brin Bellway said...

Get well soon, Kit.

Amarie said...

We looooooooove you, Kit!!! *gives you a big, squeezy hug while being mindful of your arm* ^ ^

Kit Whitfield said...


chris the cynic said...

Kit, I hope that you will be better soon. I also hope that until then your experience is as not-unpleasant as possible.

Ana Mardoll said...

We should find Kit a good speech-to-text program. :(

bekabot said...


I like your Cullen dissection more than I can tell you. It did lead me to wonder whether I hadn't gone overboard with the "white" thing. But, so far as I know, all the exemplary pop-cultural American families (the ones we're supposed to knock ourselves out trying to imitate) are white, except for the Huxtables. (The Huxtables are the one nonwhite family to have made it onto the Perfection Preserve.) The Cullens are newbies, but they're members in good standing: they're white (and how), they're wealthy but manage to fit with a bit of a squeak and a wince into a podunk community, and they have lots of "kids", even though the kids aren't really kids and aren't really theirs. (The Cleavers are the paupers and the birth-control fanatics of this crowd: they only have two sons and even though they are quite comfortable, thank you very much, they are not visibly rolling in dough.) A more energetic person than I could have a lot of fun comparing the Cullens to other American-fictional "showpiece" families, but it's a job which is out of my league.

It occurs to me that after Bella has been added to the Cullen clan the Cullen family assumes an idealized "shape". This "shape" isn't to be taken to indicate the real intensity of any of the bonds between the different members of this family; it's more on the order of what the family might look like to outsiders, along with what it might look like to an observer from "50,000 feet up". Once Bella has been vampirized the Cullens are eight in number and the family (which is comprised of genetically unrelated people; they aren't "blood relatives" other than in a fairly bizarre sense) assumes the form of a square dance set composed of two rings. In the inner ring you have an Ideal Dad (Carlisle), and Ideal Mom (Esme), an Ideal Son (Emmet, strong and brave), and an Ideal Daughter (Rosalie, beautiful and pensive). Surrounding these paragons (please forgive the snark) you have their four protectors. The most powerful threats any family can encounter are the following:

1. Lack of emotional unity.
2. Lack of intellectual unity.
3. Lack of preparation for the future.
4. Susceptibility to influences from outside.

(I've tried to rank these threats in order, starting from those which originate "within" and trending toward those which originate from "without".) These are the four threats which the four protectors of the Ideal Dad/Mom/Son/Daughter have been manufactured to counter. Jasper is there to ensure emotional unity, Edward is there to ensure intellectual unity, Alice is there to ensure that future events will be adequately dealt with, and Bella is there to annul influences from the outside world. The picture with which one is left is that of a flawless nuclear family which is supernaturally guarded from mischance. That this is a picture which, even within the framework of Twilight, is misleading, is only one of the many pieces of intentional/unintentional dark humor in which the series abounds.

If I'm still in the mood I'll type more about this later; I'm interested in the issue of Ness and how she fits in, or doesn't. But this is enough for now.

redcrow said...

Best wishes for Kit and her arm.

Baeraad said...

I was actually very annoyed with Bella for constantly insisting that Edward "regretted saving her." That might be unfair, because if she (who is one of Meyers' characters) is certain that that thought can so easily enter someone's head, then Edward (who is also one of Meyers' characters) might indeed be thinking it. But when dealing with actual sane human beings, I take it for *freaking granted* that no one regrets saving someone else's life except under the most extreme of circumstances. You can hate their guts and wish that they would stay far, far away from you, sure - but to wish that you had just stood by and let them die? No. You don't do that, unless you're right on the brink of being an utter irredeemable son of a bitch (I say "on the brink," because if you had been an utter irredeemable son of a bitch, full stop, you wouldn't have saved them in the first place). And that means that to accuse someone of regretting saving your life is to accuse them of having so little good in them that they'd flip-flop back and forth on whether saving someone's life was a thing they wanted to do.

That's not a fair accusation to throw at Edward. If I were Bella, my immediate assumption would be that Edward was a big fat jerk, as proven by him being an ass to me all the time, but also that he wasn't a *monster,* as proven by him not being willing to stand by and watch me die without trying to save me, even though he clearly didn't like me. The fact that Bella really does seem to think that him not liking her means that it would be perfectly logical for him to stand by and watch her die... well, that makes me think that *she* is a bit of a monster. (or, more charitably, that she's just stupid and immature and hasn't really thought it through)

Ana Mardoll said...

Really? Huh. It seems reasonable to me. He'd treated her relatively nicely the day before the accident, and since then he's been nothing but hostile.

And there's the fact that he didn't just save her; he saved heer by letting her see he can do something impossible.

Seems reasonable to me that he might regret that. He actually has put his loved ones in danger by revealing himself to Bella, so I actually think he does harbor some regrets. Edward is, after all, very much about family above everything else (except Bella, obvs). :)

Baeraad said...

Would you then say that if someone annoys you it's reasonable to kill them, assuming you are sure that you can get away with it and the effort of killing them is outweighed by the effort of putting up with them every day from then on? Or would you say that anyone who thought it was had something seriously wrong with them?

That's my problem with Twilight... okay, one of my many problems with Twilight. Everyone really *does* only care about themselves and the people they have decided that they like (and even then, they seem to care only about their actual well-being, not about being fair to them or giving them the chance to make their own decisions). Not a single character in the book seems to have any sense of things being right or wrong, or of people having an intrinsic value irrespectively of what you personally think about them.

As such, I'm sure you're right - Edward probably is, at this point, asking himself why he was so "stupid" as to save Bella. And the reason is of course that she's The One for him - which means that if it had been a random person in danger, Edward would have stood by and let them get squashed, and not lost a wink's sleep over it. This is because Edward is what is technically known as "a worthless piece of shit."

I suppose I might sound overly starry-eyed about human nature here, but actually this is a source of great misanthropy for me. Most people I meet are conservative assholes who whine about how letting people starve to death on the streets is vastly preferable to them having to pay higher taxes. As far as I'm concerned, that makes them utter irredeemable bastards - but I'd still trust them to pull me out of the way of a speeding truck if they were ever in a position to do so. I wouldn't hate people so much for failing to honour their more abstract duties to their fellow human beings, if I didn't know that they tend to honour their direct duties instinctively, without even thinking about it.

Steve Morrison said...

What if she comes to the conclusion that all of reality is composed of thought? (I was going to call her a solipsist in this case but this thinking doesn't require one to believe that they are the only thinker.)Is Idealism the term you’re looking for?

hapax said...

the text seems to paint him -- to me -- as utterly amused with her UNTIL she says he regrets saving her

Hmm. I guess it's all in what the reader brings to the text. I didn't see Edward laughing at Bella in this scene (of course *Bella* did; she's the quintessence of It's All About Me), but laughing at himself in rueful sort of way: "No, I shouldn't be talking to her, I *know* I shouldn't be talking to her, but look, here I am talking to her."

I'm not saying that your reading doesn't work. But I'm predisposed to like Edward, for all of his godlike qualities, he always struck me as a total doofus.

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