Twilight: Heads He Wins, Tails She Loses

Content Note: Victim Blaming

Twilight Recap: Edward has approached Bella in the parking lot at school and asked if he can take her to Seattle on her planned day-trip. Bella has agreed, but is puzzled by Edward's behavior.

Twilight, Chapter 5: Blood Type

So we're finally out of the "Invitations" chapter. Bella has successfully fended off three unwanted requests to the school dance, and has accepted one incredibly-unlikely-and-probably-unsafe request for a day-trip date to Seattle. Not, in my opinion, a winning record, but that is coincidentally the subject of today's post. Let's follow Bella to English class.

   I MADE MY WAY TO ENGLISH IN A DAZE. I DIDN'T EVEN realize when I first walked in that class had already started.
   "Thank you for joining us, Miss Swan," Mr. Mason said in a disparaging tone.
   I flushed and hurried to my seat.

Sometimes the behavior of the people in the Twilight 'verse makes more sense if you pretend that they don't have persistent memories.

I mean, it kind of makes sense, I guess, that the first-period English teacher would be a snarky jerkface to Bella for being late to class. That's what teachers do, amiright? Except, of course, that Bella is a student who notoriously cannot walk across a perfectly flat, empty room without falling over onto her face. No, really! Edward will say pretty much that exact same thing later! So it seems to me that if an infamously clumsy student were late to my class, I might figure she fell on the way to class and just count my blessings that she wasn't bleeding visibly anywhere.

(And I might cut back on the Victorian romances just a tiny bit. Not that Victorian romances make you fall down! I'm just saying maybe we need less "Wuthering Heights" and more "Satanic Verses" here.  Except now that I write that, I remember that "Satanic Verses" memorably has two characters fall out of a plane, and then one of them turns into a satyr, so maybe this is not what is needed here. But I'm not a high school English teacher, so there's that. And, of course, I realize that the teachers have very little control over the curriculum. So there's that, too.)

What's more frustrating to me, though, is that the Forks teachers are so dang snarky to Bella about being late to English class and about getting high marks on her Biology labs (because girls don't get Biology, natch?) but they conveniently forget in the process that they routinely bend over backwards to accommodate the Cullens' truancy and constant special treatment! Edward will skip class today because he can't participate in a blood test, and he doesn't even have to show up to hand the teacher a note! And this is on top of him and his siblings taking off whenever the weather is sunny, or when they have vampire munchies, or when they just don't feel like going to class! The Cullens seem to spend more days out of class than in, but the teachers are being snarky to Bella about being five minutes late

This is something I can't blame on Twilight, however. In fact, I'm kind of glad it's here, even if I wish it was highlighted more starkly, because it really illustrates an ongoing theme in these chapters and it's that Bella simply cannot win. It doesn't matter that she's bought-in for the moment the cultural standards of perfection demanded of the Good Girl, because ultimately it's a losing game. Late to class despite having a severe disability? Get publicly humiliated by your teacher! Sure! It doesn't matter that your classmate Edward routinely breaks far more serious rules by not showing up at all, because he is a male and you are a female and there are very different rules for you

   It wasn't till class ended that I realized Mike wasn't sitting in his usual seat next to me. I felt a twinge of guilt. But he and Eric both met me at the door as usual, so I figured I wasn't totally unforgiven.
   Mike seemed to become more himself as we walked, gaining enthusiasm as he talked about the weather report for this weekend. The rain was supposed to take a minor break, and so maybe his beach trip would be possible. I tried to sound eager, to make up for disappointing him yesterday. 

And then there's the Human Trio, Mike-Eric-Tyler, and where do I begin? How do I begin to unpack why this sentence sends shivers down my spine? Let's start with the reference to forgiveness, as though Bella has something to feel guilty about because she gently and carefully refused to go to a school dance with these guys by fabricating an expensive road trip just to preserve their feelings. Bella has done nothing wrong here.

Bella is operating in a culture where she can't win. If she lets Mike carry her books without protest, she's leading him on by letting him think she has feelings for him that she doesn't; if she tries to assert her book-carrying independence, she's not giving him a chance to show what a nice guy he is, and she's shooting him down before he has a chance to really win her heart. And then when she goes off with Edward -- who she finds more attractive -- Mike can spend a lot of time griping about how girls are all attracted to jerks instead of Nice Guys like him who carry books and only occasionally demand that women structure their schedules around his needs. Heads, he wins; tails, she loses.

Now Bella is in a situation where she's turned down both these boys, but she did so in a passive way in order to protect herself. Mike is the popular boy in school and is the nexus of her circle of friends -- he's routinely referenced in the book as a major social player in a very small community. If all goes well, he's about to be Jessica's boyfriend (and Eric and Tyler will ideally pair off as well) and if Bella wants to maintain her relationship with her girl friends at school, it would help if their boyfriends didn't hate Bella.

So for these and a variety of other reasons, I think it's perfectly reasonable that Bella would want to passively turn down these boys, but now her extremely weak rejection of I have to be out of town, sorry is being used against her as an excuse for the boys to continue hanging around her and pressuring her for a romantic relationship. After all, it's not like she said not in a million years, get out of my face. So she's really only escaped the immediate pressure of the school dance and hasn't at all managed to dodge the long-term pressure of repeated romantic advances by guys who she would rather be Just Friends.

Or maybe I'm not being charitable! Maybe Mike and Eric are genuinely embarrassed about the other day, and they're trying to be super-friendly to Bella to show that there are no hard feelings and they're all still friends. Maybe they're really super, awesome, great, very genuinely nice guys from whom Bella has absolutely nothing to fear. We really can't tell from the text at this point, and yes that frustrates me to no end. But in this case it's almost apropos, because it means we don't know any more than Bella.

Bella knows about as much as we do about the inner workings of Mike's head at this point. Bella doesn't know whether he wants to be her friend or is still holding out hope for a romantic relationship. Bella doesn't know how to respond to him in order to keep him in the Just Friends bucket, and the great thing about our society is that no matter what she does, it will pretty much be wrong.

If she's sullen and standoffish about the beach trip, then she's being a very poor sport -- after all, Mike backed off when she said 'no'! -- and she's punishing Mike for asking her a simple question. If she's excited and eager about the beach trip, then she's leading him on and giving him the impression that he still has a chance. If she comes up with another avoidance excuse and announces that she has to wash her hair that day, then she's anti-social and seriously over-reacting to what was just a simple outing among friends, geez. If she spontaneously combusts from the conflicting and contradictory societal demands on her, then she is waaaaaaay too sensitive. 

Mike does not have to worry about these things. That isn't to say he doesn't worry -- I'm sure he worries a lot about how to say and do exactly the right thing to woo Bella. But the stakes are a little different for him. His rewards and pitfalls are largely confined to the success or failure of his immediate efforts: he either gets Bella to go out with him, or he doesn't. Maybe, at worst, he'll be embarrassed or humiliated. I do not want to minimize that as nothing, because it's not nothing, but it's not the same as the world Bella is living in.

In the world Bella lives in, everything she does will be perceived by someone as wrong. It's really just a question of minimizing the damage. Margaret Atwood once wrote that "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them," but it's even more complicated than that. Women aren't just afraid that they'll be hurt; they're afraid that they'll be hurt and they'll get blamed for it. I cannot think of a single thing that Bella can do in this relationship with Mike to get what she is comfortable with and has every right to demand -- that they be Just Friends or nothing at all -- that wouldn't draw ire from someone somewhere.

Bella can't win. Everything she knows about the situation with Eric and Mike is laid out on the table: they've asked her out, and she's said no. She said no in an extremely passive and unassertive way, in order to protect their feelings and protect herself, and now she has no idea how to react to these boys the day after to maintain her boundaries and protect her friendships. I don't blame Mike or Eric in this equation -- it's possible, and even probable, that they're doing their best to navigate this situation as tactfully as they can.

But I do blame the society around them that is going to be judging Bella every step of the way without once really seriously questioning what Mike and Eric could be doing differently in this situation to put her at ease. I blame the society that ensures that 99% of my readers will know what "leading him on" meant when I used it earlier, but we have no colloquial equivalent like "pushing her on" to explain Mike's will you go to the beach so I can try to flirt with you again behavior later in the book. We're used to dissecting a woman's behavior and declaring What She Did Wrong; we're so much less likely to do so in the other direction.

My biggest disappointments in Twilight are with the lost opportunities. Bella doesn't see this situation as fundamentally unfair, or if she does, she never really seems to convey that in her narration. The text never really seems to call out just how deeply unfair this whole situation is, that Bella should have to carefully analyze her every word, gesture, and facial expression to ensure at all times that she is neither hurting Mike's feelings nor leading him into a place that she doesn't want to be. I'm disappointed most of all that the Love Interest for this novel won't provide a useful contrast to this situation, but will instead amp the unfairness up to 11. You hear me, Twilight? I am Very Disappointed In You.

And yet... if there is anything in Twilight that appeals to me, it is perhaps the inevitable transformation from Good Girl to Vampire Not To Be Messed With. There's going to be all kinds of Fail along the way, and the whole thing will be wrapped up in and served alongside of a relationship that I consider to be Very Much Not Recommended, but at the end of the day, Bella will not have to deal with gender discrimination from her teachers anymore and she won't have to walk on eggshells around the Mike-Eric-Tyler-Jacob crowd out of fear of social retribution or physical harm because Sparkly Vampires are above such petty concerns. If you mess with a Sparkly Vampire, you become nommage, it's as simple as that.

It's probably not the best of fantasies since it also ends up with Bella essentially dead to her friends and family, but it's a powerful one and I can respect that aspect. I can see why it's compelling, and I can even see why it might be considered empowering if you squint at it just right. There's a certain relief to be had in laying down a million societal demands and saying this is a rigged game and I refuse to participate in it any longer.

You hear that, Twilight? I just said something nice about you. And I didn't even plan to or anything. You're welcome.

108 comments:

Jonathan Pelikan said...

Nearly every post in this deconstruction gives me a lot to think about, so I'm glad I found your blog one day. (I don't remember how, probably through slacktivist or something.) I'd say you're helping me to see Twilight from a different perspective. Not necessarily one that's any more flattering, but the problems you outline with the book and how it reinforces every bad societal impulse about gender in most of its chapters aren't really touched on a lot with the majority of the hatedom. (Of which I am a proud, card-carrying member.)

Could SMeyers' intent be to have Bella rebel against the unfair system, as you suggest? It seems that, mostly, she doesn't even notice all this crap that you point out the implications of in exquisite detail. Yet, at the asme time, it's hard to dismiss your theory.

I guess the main problem I have is that in our society as a whole, women can't win, but that isn't the end of the story here. Even for a teenager. Maybe the school system I went to was simply extraordinary, and that's probably the case, but what everyone says is 'hell on earth', especially for the outsiders... it really wasn't bad at all. Nowadays, there are ways to stop and step back and say 'fuck it' to the old standards, especially among the young. I personally saw a lot of examples of that. The girls that weren't ostracized but also weren't pulling the line on gender. I've no doubt that they felt the very same pressures we can read into Twilight so easily, and I really don't want to minimize how our society treats women, but somehow, they took a third option and lived as people instead of being consumed by the system or having to turn into a monster. Maybe I'm just too hopeful or my perspective is too limited, but today, it's certainly not a closed system or a done deal for women.

hapax said...

So for these and a variety of other reasons, I think it's perfectly reasonable that Bella would want to passively turn down these boys, but now her extremely weak rejection of I have to be out of town, sorry is being used against her as an excuse for the boys to continue hanging around her and pressuring her for a romantic relationship. After all, it's not like she said not in a million years, get out of my face.

Note: link goes to The Mary Sue, not the cesspool that is Facebook; still, TW for rape and rape culture, probably NSFW.

And this reminded me of the recent controversy about the Facebook rape joke pages -- specifically, the "You know she's playing hard to get when..." page.

No wonder that feminists are constantly accused of being "humorless"; after all, Broader Culture, it couldn't *possibly* be that your jokes just aren't funny.

Jurgan said...

"(and Eric and Tyler will ideally pair off as well)"

Don't give the slashfic writers ideas, Ana.

chris the cynic said...

Could SMeyers' intent be to have Bella rebel against the unfair system, as you suggest? It seems that, mostly, she doesn't even notice all this crap that you point out the implications of in exquisite detail. Yet, at the asme time, it's hard to dismiss your theory.

I'm not sure that the theory requires any intent on Meyers part. Even if it is an expression of the fantasy on the part of the author there is no reason it has to be conscious. Meyers dons't have that at all, what's been seen is still there.

chris the cynic said...

I'm already considering pairing off Erica and Tricia, why shouldn't their male counterparts pair off?

Ana Mardoll said...

But it's so much more elegant than creating Angela and Lauren out of nothing!

Ana Mardoll said...

This. FedEx arrows. ;)

But also, although I think there's an argument to be made that Meyer wasn't deliberately writing rebellion against gendered expectations (or was she? She's on record calling Twilight a feminist work, so maybe it was a goal for her), she does seem to be writing The Girl Who Wins Everything At The End.

I think there's something too be said that Wins is a similar ending to doesn't-have-to-endure-gendered-expectations-anymore. Edward can be pretty and sparkly and Bella can be free of Mike-Eric-Tyler angst.

Probably I'm just in a good mood today. MORE SNARK NEXT WEEK.

Gelliebean said...

but at the end of the day, Bella will not have to deal with gender discrimination from her teachers anymore and she won't have to walk on eggshells around the Mike-Eric-Tyler-Jacob crowd out of fear of social retribution or physical harm because Sparkly Vampires are above such petty concerns.

Excellent point, and actually, goes a ways toward redeeming Twilight overall.... It's a shame that Meyer couldn't have brought this out explicitly in the text. When you have to rely on the reader completely dismantling your work and re-building it in order to make it palatable, you may have done something wrong as a writer. *cue standard lament about the inherent laziness of Meyer's books, and the myriad missed opportunities that would have made Twilight a great story*

It could have been the story of the ugly duckling, but in a much less stereotypical way; (I'm picturing one of those old "Atlas" comic book ads, with a girl in place of the scrawny beach guy) where she not only recognizes the artificial societal boundaries making her miserable but takes control of her own agency and does something about it. Even if that something is nothing more than placing herself beyond the control of those boundaries.

Ana Mardoll said...

I cannot post coherently in response to that, except to say thank you for the link. That whole topic makes me want to write a 800-page comment of rambly rambleness.

Nathaniel said...

"And yet... if there is anything in Twilight that appeals to me, it is perhaps the inevitable transformation from Good Girl to Vampire Not To Be Messed With. "

I'm not inclined to view this so charitably. Given the circumstances of the turn to vampirism, it feels more to me like the reward for being the Ultimate Good Girl. She did her patriarchal duty, now she gets the reward of "perfection."

Ana Mardoll said...

@Nathaniel, that makes sense, that it's less "escaping the system" and more "transcending the system" by being so very perfect that you ascend to a new level. Still very toxic, but liberating in a sense that at least you've gotten off the hamster wheel.

Of course, as you note, "winning" the hamster wheel by running harder does not work and therefore is destructive as an actual Real Life Plan Of Action.

Regarding stepping out of gendered expectations in general: it's more complicated than that. Quite a few women voluntarily leave male-dominated professions because death of a thousand cuts just isn't that attractive to a lot of people. :/

Nina said...

*high five* Ozy and Millie! I love that comic strip, but I rarely meet others who've read it!

Ok, I don't have anything else of substance to add. I think your post is spot-on, and extra points for an Ozy and Millie reference!

Ana Mardoll said...

Any comment that gets Sweeney Todd songs stuck in my head is a GREAT comment. :D

chris the cynic said...

The history of the world my sweet
is who gets eaten, and who gets to eat!!


Ok, I'm going to quote a Squid now:

I shun the harsh dichotomies
That splash and roil these endless seas:
Endless debates that but reveal
Which side will be the other's meal.
In unsearched caverns of the sea
I seek a lost reality:
The secret that enables one
To feed on brilliance of the sun


And so on. Of course then the Sperm Whale eventually says:
The thing you think so wonderful
Is nothing but a vegetable.


Anyway, random poetry, I can quote it.

hapax said...

Y'know, chris-the-cynic, I just realized this morning what your Edith and Ben stories make me think of; a de-furried Kevin and Kell, if they had met in high school, when Kell was already a competent predator but Kevin was still a gangly bunny growing into his feet and ears.

Except I eventually got tired with K&K, and I haven't been bored with of your snippets yet.

bekabot said...

Ana, thanks; chris, I'd pick the back-and-forth of Mr. Squid and Mr. Sperm over the snipe and snark of Edward and Bella any day of the week. Mr. Squid and Mr. Sperm may be mere floaters on the tide and one of them may be the natural prey of the other, but at least, in the meantime, neither of them succumbs to the impulse to be rude. That's just what you don't get in Twilight, which is a novel, or a series, about the ways in which high school never ends. In Twilight, being snotty is a way to show that you're one-up. The world which Mr. Squid and Mr. Sperm inhabit is a world which is red in tooth and claw but which is not designed to be spirit-crushing (this is a distinction that Kit Whitfield's more recent novel pays a great deal of attention to) but the world in which Bella and Edward et al. are ensconced is a world which is not only psychologically very taxing but not even particularly physically safe. So that Bella can't make the customary bargain of trading her humiliation for physical security. Bella is both liable to humiliation and exposed to physical danger; nothing she's got to offer buys her any recompense; no wonder she's pissed off.

That having been said, I think Sweeney Todd is über cool; I just do; I always will. I can't help it.

Rikalous said...

I'd never heard of Kevin and Kell, so at first I thought you were talking about Kenan and Kel, and was thoroughly befuddled.
--
And yes, Sweeney Todd is cool. So are Assassins and Into the Woods, which leads me to the conclusion that Steven Sondheim rocks.

Nathaniel said...

I'm irrationally proud to say that there is only one degree of separation between me and the esteemed Mr. Sondheim. My father had dinner with him a few times. Probably the closest I've ever been to a genius.

Rowen said...

You should check out A Little Night Music (my personal Sondheim fav) as well as Company. Passions can more or less be avoided, and if you're feeling REALLY obscure, you can try Saturday Night, which as a few nice things in it, but otherwise is kinda meh.

And if you REALLY want something new and nice and refreshing, go check out Adam Guettel. He's the grandson of Richard Rodgers, and wrote the musical "The Light in the Piazza" (one of three shows where I felt like I was transported) and "Myths and Hymns". Oh, hell, just watch this. (The sad thing is that the . . . effervescence of this show didn't really come across on TV, at least to a lot of people who watched the PBS version and went "meh". . . anyway. Also, ignore Katie Clarke's acting. It's theater acting and wasn't so glaring from the back of the orchestra)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qskgZLsrbtQ

Rowen said...

Also, I don't remember Bella having to actually cut all ties.

Doesn't she make the same, lame, "I am DISEASED WITH BEAUTY" excuse to Renee and Charlie, and they're all "well, ok. You're much skinnier and paler now, and I guess you'll be spending all this time with this other skinny pale guy you're seeing, who doesn't remind us of Pete Doherty, so it was nice knowing ya!"

bekabot said...

"I'm irrationally proud to say that there is only one degree of separation between me and the esteemed Mr. Sondheim. My father had dinner with him a few times. Probably the closest I've ever been to a genius."

Ooohh, squeee!! If I could get an autograph from the computer screen I would...

Guest said...

I just noticed that's a German Euro coin in the picture. Interesting.

... why no, I have nothing productive to add. Why?

Amarie said...

I have to say…Ana is actually right. If you just squint a little, you can detect a certain feminist/anti-patriarchal message. It’s not the most *empowering* message, but it is a message that does exist, if one chooses to look for it.

Yet, I admit that no matter how hard I squint-even with my glasses on-all I see is anti-feminist and pro-patriarchal aspects. I suppose that’s because I can’t help but look at the *way* Bella gets to her ‘liberation’. The way she gets to her ‘liberation’ appears to me to be actually embracing the chains on her to the point of using them (i.e, manipulation, lies, omission, etc.) to get what she wants. Ana has made a great example of this in regards to the ‘Eric-Mike-Tyler’ trio; Bella uses the chains on a woman that says she must suppress her feelings and work to minimize-not completely eradicate-any blame on her. Yes, Bella gets what she wants in terms of being left alone, which appears to be the author’s goal, too. But the problem for me is that she reached the *goal of no longer by subjugated* by *remaining and manipulating her status of being subjugated*.

So basically, I see the formula for Twilight is “Embrace Constricting Gender Roles/Expectations + Use Gender Roles/Expectations In Unhealthy Manner To Get Want You Want In Most Indirect Way Possible= Get Out Of Gender Roles/Expectations To A Certain Extent. It’s just such a dysfunctional contradiction to me that I can’t really say anything nice about it.

What bothers me the most is how and what Bella gets overall. Like Kit said, she basically snaps and blusters, gets rescued, snaps about getting rescued and then the cycle repeats itself all over again in the series. And then, at the end, Bella gets what she wants…by being ideally right back to square one. She’s strong, fast, and an overall badass, yes. But she’s still a housewife with no college education (before getting married) and is still clearly stuck in a patriarchal system (Carlisle is the head of the Cullen family), among other things. It’s almost like the fantasy of throwing off the chains is actually just the fantasy of *keeping* the chains but *making them pretty and colorful*. In Twilight, you can’t throw off the chains because, as a woman, there’s nothing outside of being tied to and defined by a man.

Alas, I have utterly failed to see the empowerment in Twilight. I’m going to go clean my glasses to see if I can correct myself. v.v

Kit Whitfield said...

Alas, I have utterly failed to see the empowerment in Twilight. I’m going to go clean my glasses to see if I can correct myself. v.v

I think you can make the case that there's empowerment in it as a cultural phenomenon. We live in a capitalist society; money talks. A book written by a woman, about a woman, for women, knocking other books off the bestseller spot ... well, you (generic you) can argue with the content, but you can't deny that it's established female tastes as a powerful market force. Publishing is fairly female-dominated, but films aren't, and along with Mamma Mia and various others, it's at least provided some counter-arguments to those who'd claim that there's no point making films without explosions and boobies because teenage boys are the only people who go to the movies. Male eye candy is demonstrably selling as well as female - the movies have really an unusual amount of beefcake in them - and the books are the start of that. And the books' ability to mobilise publishing 'events' is calling everyone's attention to the fact that female fantasy and desire can be, when present in a safe space, just as powerful as men's.

I'd put the Twilight books on a similar level to the James Bond ones: direct and shameless appeals to the fantasies of a single gender, full of problematic implications but treating fantasies as serious business. In the case of Twilight, I'd make the case that it's at least a sign of progress that women are finally getting a turn - and that it's being covered in the papers rather than ignored.

redcrow said...

Happy birthday, Brin!

redcrow said...

(On that note, my belated birthday wishes to a certain cat somewhere in UK, too. Also best wishes to her owner, obviously.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Brownies! NOM NOM NOM

Happy birthday, Brin!

Rowen said...

If you want to know what happens, here's link to a highly crass and uncouth and very image heavy breakdown that I rather enjoyed.
http://stoney321.livejournal.com/317176.html#cutid1

Silver Adept said...

Happy birthday, Brin. I'll pass on the brownies, although I might snag one of those Girl Guide cookies, despite not liking mint, because I'm intrigued...

Hyperio said...

Happy birthday, Brin!

Will Wildman said...

Happy birthday, Brin. Here is your Responsibility Sombrero and your Decision-Legitimisation Boots. Hail Canadia.

---

To me, the idea that the only thing (emphasis on ONLY) that could make someone read is Twilight is a sad concept indeed.

It seems deeply improbable to me as well, but the perfect is the enemy of the good and all that. I think it's safe to say that the thing Harry Potter and Twilight most have in common is their substantial appeal to people who didn't previously consider reading all that interesting (no idea what the audience ratios are, of course, since both series also had multigenerational appeal, so it's not a case of 'this book gets children to read'). I wonder what the long-term impact on the bestseller list will be - what books will or won't be on there in the future because of Twilight being there in the past? It's a bit of a force majeure; no one really saw it coming and now a lot of people are (hopefully?) substantially restructuring their plans because of it.

I'm calling 'globetrotting adventurer' for the next out-of-left-field mass market boom. Sort of a Young Indiana Jones type of thing. And it's not easy to justify a teenage archaeologist, so I'm predicting a very wealthy family (with archaeologist parents) and, thus, the series' major fail will focus on class issues rather than gender.

chris the cynic said...

I am confused by Random Rambles. What I wrote should read:

Amarie's post is now up at The Slacktiverse: http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2011/11/love-at-first-white.html

Anyway, Amarie's post is now up at The Slacktiverse.

Gelliebean said...

Happy Birthday, Brin! :-D I hope it is filled with all wonderful things, like chocolate, and sparkly ribbons on presents, and raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Since that's already started to come true with the chocolate, I have high hopes for the rest. :-D

chris the cynic said...

I'm calling 'globetrotting adventurer' for the next out-of-left-field mass market boom. Sort of a Young Indiana Jones type of thing. And it's not easy to justify a teenage archaeologist, so I'm predicting a very wealthy family (with archaeologist parents) and, thus, the series' major fail will focus on class issues rather than gender.

Well if you're going to call it then I'm going to call it in absurdly specific detail that is certain to be wrong.

I say that the series will be overly male centric and feature not a rich family but a rich looter and his teenage protege.

A young man left home the moment he was 18* and thus a legal adult. He was hoping to strike it rich by finding a long lost treasure briefly rediscovered by a German immigrant to the US sometime in the 17[high numbers]. Almost everyone who knows enough obscure history to have even heard of said guy dismisses him as a fraud**. Young future globe trotter found out about him on the internet.

On the night of the first full moon after the [whatever] he shows up to a quarry with notes in hand and somehow gets injured. He wakes up in a mansion. His benefactor was in the quarry for the same reason he was. He's told to get a good night's sleep, the kitchen is open to him, and they'll talk in the morning.

That night bad guys break into the house and young future globetrotter stops one of them with a frying pan. Rich looter is impressed and, since they have a common interest in the German riddle leaver, takes him on as apprentice.

They trot the globe dealing with Indiana Jones type things, teenager always keeping a frying pan handy.

Areas of fail include that class, gender, and american exceptionalism, a preponderance of mighty whitey plots, and a total failure to even remotely respect archaeological sites. At all. Though occasionally a lampshade is hung on the last one, as it was in Indiana Jones ("I'm sure everything you do for the museum conforms to the International Treaty for the Protection of Antiquities.")

-

*Though part of me wants to claim that that's what he says but he's actually younger. No one bothered to check so they only found out he was younger when he announced that it was his birthday and he just turned 18 for real.

** An annoyingly hard to interpret fraud at that. His marginalia is in German, of course, but his primary writing is in Latin and, as a tribute to his new home to truely understand the Latin writing you have to sometimes translate it into English because he hides meanings in plays on words in the English translation. Of course since any Latin writing can have multiple English translations it's a massive headache where you have to try to make a comprehensive list of every single English word that could be used to translated a given Latin one, and the only hints you'll ever get are occasional notes to himself written in German. It is generally agreed in the academic community that even speaking his name is a waste of time.

Ana Mardoll said...

It's worth noting that HP and Twilight both featured supernatural/magic elements and a "normal" YA protagonist that stumbled into same. And also turned out to be super-secret magical special. And angsted a lot about the opposite sex. Can someone knit all that into the Indy plot above?

bekabot said...

"I found bekabot's writing about the Cullen family as an ideal very interesting."

I'm extremely flattered. I have to say that I like your Edith and Ben stuff a lot; I haven't commented on it so far b/c it seems to speak well for itself and b/c I don't feel like I have anything useful to add. It is striking, though, how much changing the characters' genders changes the narrative (or maybe it's just that a very-much-changed narrative functions better when acted out by opposite-sex characters; I couldn't say). Bella and Edward are both users; Bella in particular treats Edward like a fetish, and she brags about it, in book after book after book. And Edward, as most people here can tell, is a creep. He's a predator and he's attracted to lameness and insecurity b/c those are the things which make for a good victim. Edward is magnetized by Bella in about the same way a lion would be magnetized by a zebra who keeps falling down. Neither one of them is ever going to win any prizes for self-awareness (I mean that literally) and neither of them shows any genuine concern for the other.

(Bella does rescue Edward from the Volturi in New Moon but her motivation is all: "O my cherished darling Edward!! I must get him out of trouble for I can't live without him!! Furthermore if I allow him to be destroyed then O Noes!!! I lose my only chance of turning sparkly and living* with the Big Folks in the Big House!! And I'm just not going to have that!!" To which you can add a stamp and a pout if you want.)

Ben and Edith, OTOH, come across more as real people involved in a real relationship. Each one of them recognizes the existence of the other, instead of being immersed à la Edward and Bella in personal issues they haven't resolved. The story-line of Twilight concerns the quest of a "good" girl to become "perfect"; it's an individual quest with no room for a partner: Edward is merely a means to Bella's end. But Ben and Edith are two different people who like to hang around each other but who encounter a significant impediment to that: she's a predator and he's the prey. So how will they manage to stick together? The plot-points are similar but the whole gestalt of the story is different. And better, if what you're judging by is the psychological health and maturity of the characters.

*don't mean that literally

chris the cynic said...

The reason that the teenager was chosen as apprentice is actually that he is the chosen one, as demonstrated by him fulfilling the prophecy of the frying pan.

Or maybe it occurred to him and then he shook his head, decided there was no way, and then took on the teen as apprentice anyway. But it turns out that he really is the chosen one and he can... yeah no idea. I'd like it if he could see the world in a different way, something that seems normal until you realize OMG awesome magic.

I've got it, (its nothing like what I just said) he can see magic but never knew it before because his glasses are opaque to magic and so he only found out when his glasses were knocked off while there was magic going on. (Before that it happened with him seeing things out of the corner of his eye but then when he looked his glasses got in the way and everything seemed normal.) When he gets special lenses that aren't opaque to magic he's able to use this power all the time.

As for the opposite sex, in addition to normal problems he's never in one place for very long, which makes things very difficult, and he doesn't have much to talk about because you can't really open up with, "Well I'm just in town to fight some Eldritch abominations. Once that's done I'm planning on going a few countries south to see if I can find the actual Spear of Destiny."

So he's completely unsuccessful when it comes to dating and has serious angst. To top it all off the only member of the opposite sex he does see regularly is a water nymph who may or may not be evil. (I have a temptation to add something about an ancient feud because either he or his mentor is descended from Odysseus and for whatever reason the children of Poseidon still hold a grudge.)

Amarie said...

*Was going to respond to Kit, Will, Chris, etc. about the theories on Twilight's popularity...is currently speechless at the comments on my posts*

A-Ana...? Someone? Anyone? Internet hugs...? Kind of, err...shocked...right now...@__________________@

*dead brained* x.X

Will Wildman said...

It's worth noting that HP and Twilight both featured supernatural/magic elements and a "normal" YA protagonist that stumbled into same. And also turned out to be super-secret magical special. And angsted a lot about the opposite sex. Can someone knit all that into the Indy plot above?

I think it's just about given with the 'Young Indy'-style plot that there will be supernatural elements and an entirely mundane hero. The magical-special aspect is a bit harder to work with in that milieu, since such a hero is expected to get by on Guts and Fortitude (though the archaeology side makes room for book-learnin' to have its day), but since it also begs for Imperialism Fail I think it's safe to expect plenty of prophecies around the world to prove to centre on our protagonist (and might involve temporarily gaining special powers as well).

I'm not sure about the angsting about the opposite sex. Indy-esques would tend to follow the old motto 'Feelings are boring; kissing is awesome', would they not?

depizan said...

Happy birthday! Eat a brownie for me. :)

depizan said...

I'm afraid the globetrotting adventurer thing's already been tried. And, while it's been somewhat popular, it hasn't been Twilight/Harry Potter popular. (But few things are.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_39_Clues

depizan said...

*hugs*

Amarie said...

*hugs depizan back in a daze* @____@

Oh, and, err...happy birthday to, umm...Brin...thank you for the brownies...

chris the cynic said...

bekabot, and hapax earlier in the thread,

First, thank you. It means a lot.

Second, I makes me somewhat worried when people say why they like Edith and Ben. I don't mean that I don't like to hear that, it's actually very important to me to hear it. (In large part because I have a tendency to think everything I do is either bad or, if it's good, good in sort of vague amphorus, "Yeah it's alright I guess," ways.) So I certainly appreciate people saying why they like it.

The reason it can be worrying is that if someone says I'm doing some specific thing well my reaction is usually something like, "I am? I'm doing that? Did I know I was doing that? What if I'm not really doing it and it's just an illusion and everyone will be let down when it turns out I don't know how to do that thing they think I'm doing?"

Especially when it comes to making characters because my big worry is always that my characters will all turn out the same. They're pretty much all based on me, usually pretty closely. I'm not good on figuring out what's going on in people's heads in real life so in fiction I worry that things don't go very far from where I am.

I usually don't think too much about writing characters in general, but when I do I have the recurring fear that at some point people are going to realize that I just write the same character over and over again. Well not just that they'll realize it, that they'll realize it and stop liking what I write as a result.

-

Amarie,

*hugs*

Hugs of congratulations.

Cupcakedoll said...

Here Amarie, have an internet brownie. Internet sugar helps stave off internet shock. =)

I think the appeal of Twilight is that it unashamedly goes straight for the fantasy of "I don't have to be strong because this strong man will use his strength to protect me, comfort me, and snuggle me back to health if I'm injured. In fact he's so strong he has to rein in his strength so he doesn't hurt me by mistake." I suspect that fantasy is buried in the depths of all female brains since caveman times. It's certainly buried in mine; I have a long running "story" on the theme, with three alternate versions, a cast of dozens, and detailed character backgrounds... all of which exists so that I can become the character being comforted when there's no real-world comfort available.

Like when you come home from work and your head hurts and your boss yelled at you and you hate yourself for being dumb and getting yelled at and you're so exhausted you just want to lean on somebody and cry, but the laundry needs to be done and dinner needs to be made and there's nobody around to lean on, you can be Bella and lean on Edward.

I suspect lots of people have something similar, but most of them who are past the Mary Sue stage of writing realize you don't put this stuff out in public. It's too private and personal, and other people won't get the same feeling so they'll be either bored or weirded out. And besides, showing it to people is not the point of such fantasies, they belong in your head. But Ms. Meyer by some twist of fate had a one-size-fits-many fantasy and was brave/dumb* enough to put it out in public where it was a huge hit because it appealed to that one fantasy in the depths of the female brain.

*Whether it's brave or dumb depends on so many factors I cannot compute them to know which it is.

Cupcakedoll said...

OOps, here's the other half of my train of thought re: Twilight fans without Twilight

So Twilight has this 'private fantasy of weakness' overtone that none of the other girl-meets-supernatural series that I've read have. Readers just looking for vampire smoochies have many reading options, but readers looking to resonate a fantasy have only one. That might be the draw, why so many people dive into Twilight but are meh about other, better series.

That's my opinion of what Twilight has to catch people with that the others don't. Could be wrong. Probably am.

bekabot said...

chris,

my one and only piece of advice to you is: just keep doing what you're doing and don't spend so much time worrying about it. The reason I'm no good at writing fiction is that I analyze the way sweaty people sweat. I take everything with absolute seriousness, then titivate it into little fragments. That may or may not be an OK way to go through life (marginally better than fat drunk and stupid?) but it's no way to write a story, even (especially) a light/flaky one.

I'd like to repeat that Ben and Edith seem companionable; they give the impression that they like to be around one another, unlike Edward and Bella, who are doomed to carry their permanently raised hackles through the next several centuries if not through eternity. I think that's why Ben and Edith raise a laugh; the laugh proceeds from a sensation of relief. Sucks to be Edward and Bella.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think I understand what you mean by your characters being based on you, because I feel the same way. It's really not true, though, at least not to your readers.

For instance, the character I wrote last night is totally based on me. Well, except that I'm not a Jewish atheist with short black hair who went to a private Catholic school with a lawyer Mom and a copy editor Dad who likes to shop in his spare time. But she IS sarcastic and likes to read and that's 100% me!

Edith and Ben share similarities (they're sensible and nice people) but they are clearly very different people. For instance, even if Ben had Edith's history, I don't think he'd be a mechanic or view his own language as something that he stubbornly won't change. He seems a little more flexible and introspective in many ways.

So those little things might both be aspects of you, but the characters as a whole aren't CHRIS and CHRIS and CHRIS. Using a piece of your personality as a character seed is just writing what you know, I think.

And I, too, adore Ben and Edith. :D

Ana Mardoll said...

There's a lot of fantasies on display in Twilight, which is why I'm surprised that Edward doesn't compliment Bella more often.

As I've written before with The Bioware Guy, when he falls, he falls HARD. I got sick of Alistair cooing "Your wish is my command" not because it wasn't nice so much as because it hit my immersion hard. People, in my experience, aren't like that - eventually you startle them or catch them in a busy moment and you get an abrupt whatdyawant?!

If I am going to sink into protector fantasy, I want zie to at least be a NICE protector. :/

Will Wildman said...

Amarie, I wasn't totally sure what you were feeling with your earlier reaction (actually, I'm still not) and I'm never totally comfortable offering Internet Hugs, but I do have some Internet Fireworks we could set off if it's a celebratory thing. (The big red one on the left explodes in the shape of euphoria.)

---

chris, for what it may be worth, Ben and Edith and Ryan and Nick Andes and so forth all seem like very distinct people to me. They share a certain high level of intelligence and geekery, obviously, but they care about different things, they have different attitudes and styles; that's about the most we can hope for to separate our characters from us, no?

Amarie said...

*smiles shakily*

Thanks for the fireworks from Will and the hugs from Chris and Cupcakedoll! :D

Honestly...I'm not too sure what I feel, either. I'm definitely nervous talking to such intelligent and articulate people. I mean, I feel so young, inexperienced and amateurish. And then I'm pretty terrified that I'm going to say just *one* stupid thing and then I have an entire internet community thinking I'm stupid, terrible, full-of-myself, etc.

At the same time, I'm...very awed. When I started commenting on Ana's blog, I just intended to be a simple participant that would leave immediately if no one liked/agreed with what I had to say. But to know that the people on Olympian Home of the Gods and Goddesses Slacktiverse want me...it's something that my mind is still trying to wrap around. Heck, I'm still having a hard time believing that a prestigious writer like Kit likes me. @____@

Anywho!! Chris, I agree with everyone here!! You are certainly AwesomeSauce! What I like-and what I suspect that other people like-is that you keep the basic frame of Twilight. And then you just flawlessly mash out all of that ugly dysfunction, sexism, abuse, etc. I'm convinced that you could have done that just as easily if you'd have kept the male as the vampire and the female as the human. Frankly, you have a gift that I wish Stephenie Meyer would have had. Or at least, the gift of insight.

chris the cynic said...

If I am going to sink into protector fantasy, I want zie to at least be a NICE protector.

I feel the same way. I definitely get the fantasy as described by Cupcakedoll, but when we move beyond general overview into the specifics, it's kind of hard to ignore that Edward is a jerk.

-

For instance, the character I wrote last night is totally based on me. Well, except that I'm not a Jewish atheist with short black hair who went to a private Catholic school with a lawyer Mom and a copy editor Dad who likes to shop in his spare time. But she IS sarcastic and likes to read and that's 100% me!

But what if I am a 103 year old female vampire and a 17 year old boy both of whom are currently living in the Pacific northwest?

I actually did think of how strange it sounds to say that someone like Edith could be closely based on me, but I definitely feel like she is. Though now that you mention them, I do see more differences between Edith and Ben than I saw before.

Ben is a lot less invested in his language, to the point that I see him as picking up Edith's style over time*, without even realizing it, where the reverse wouldn't happen. And you're right that he wouldn't be a mechanic, given eternity he might at some point learn how to repair cars, but it's not something he would do for fun.

-

* I'm thinking that Ben would insist on saying "from whence," though.
Edith: That's redundant.
Ben: But it sounds better.
(Now I have to check to make sure that I don't have Edith saying "from whence" anywhere.)

He picked up the "whence" from Edith, but not the proper usage because it never sounded right to him. (In case anyone is unfamiliar, "from" is included in "whence". Saying "from whence" is like saying "from from [that place]".)

Brin Bellway said...

Thanks for the well-wishes, everybody!

Will Wildman: Here is your Responsibility Sombrero and your Decision-Legitimisation Boots. Hail Canadia.

Hail Canadia! *salutes with maple leaf in hand*

Gelliebean: I hope it is filled with all wonderful things, like chocolate, and sparkly ribbons on presents, and raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Let's see...
I don't know about the other presents yet, but the morning present was in a reusable bag. I don't think the bag was particularly sparkly, but it did contain a lovely jellyfish T-shirt. I'm wearing it now.

I also got a mango-tastic umbrella drink at the Chinese buffet. Probably my second or third umbrella ever, and the only one I know the location of. I plan to treasure it for years to come.
(Non-Internet chocolate ice cream, too.)

There were (and still are) plenty of raindrops, but I think the roses are hibernating by now.

We don't have a cat.


*watches fireworks display*

Ana Mardoll said...

Ha. Yeah, I definitely see Ben and Edith as very different people. I'm very familiar with the fear you describe, though, so I don't think it's unusual to feel that way. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

And completely random, but more Facebook fail, courtesy of Husband:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57324703/salman-rushdie-defeats-facebook-fatwa/

Facebook deactivated Salman Rushdie's account because of their "Real Name" policy and then reactivated him as Ahmed Rushdie.

I hate to preemptively call racism, but I kind of doubt that Facebook is actively campaigning against all the white, American authors with pen names on their site.

Silver Adept said...

@Chris the Cynic

In a totally-not-insinuating-anything way: Writing the smae characters in different books is very successful for David Eddings and the late Brian Jacques, so it's not entirely a hopeless cause if you happen to end up doing so. That said, Edith and Ben are far better than their source materials, and each character written is in some way their author, whether sharing traits or deliberately trying to be orthogonal to those traits.

@Amarie

Don't feel like you're na unworthy supplicant come to Olympus to beg from the gods. You're going to join the pantheon up there as a writer and contributor. The material you have is high-quality and well thought-out. If Slacktimods want you, it's because you're good and for no other reason. Enjoy that, yea?

Rikalous said...

The young adult series where the protag finds out about a magic world and that zie has special magic powers that I wish had caught on is the Alcatraz series, by Brandon Sanderson, because it's by Brandon Sanderson.

Unfortunately, I don't think the kinds of kids who need to be gotten into reading would appreciate a narrator-protagonist who keeps interrupting the action to build suspense by, for example, explaining that authors don't like readers, and do things like building suspense for the sole purpose of making readers suffer. Relevant to a dead Twilight thread is the fact that the first book* does the "opening with the hero in dire straits at the climax" thing. However, that scene never actually happens, and Alcatraz admits he made it up to mess with the readers.

The innate magic powers were also not the stuff power fantasy is generally made of. Or hero has the power of breaking things (like the gun being pointed at him). His uncle arrives late (to bullets being fired at him). There's mention made of an ancestor who had the ability to get lots water on the floor while doing dishes, and used it to remedy a drought.

So this is basically me fanboying over a series that never had a chance for Harry Potter popularity, and not really relevant to any of the discussed topics.

* the only one I've gotten my hot little hands on so far, alas.

Amaryllis said...

@Amarie: if it's true that "crabbed age and youth cannot live together," then I hope that conversation with you and the other bright young people around here will help to keep my aged self from becoming unduly crabby.

@Rikalous: talk about messing with the readers, the final pages of the first Alcatraz book were a direct shot at me. To quote Shakespeare again, they were "a hit, a very palpable hit!" (But I still do it.)

chris the cynic said...

He has since gotten his name back. Not that I can make any sense of why it was taken away in the first place. If you want people to use their real names, isn't the name they actually use the one you want them using?

If he'd signed up as Ahmed Rushdie they wouldn't have recognized him.

Looking around the internet I see he already said it better:
"Dear #Facebook, forcing me to change my FB name from Salman to Ahmed Rushdie is like forcing J. Edgar to become John Hoover.

"Or, if F. Scott Fitzgerald was on #Facebook, would they force him to be Francis Fitzgerald? What about F. Murray Abraham?"


-

@hapax
because she is just so ground down, chewed up, and spit out by the whole business that she just can't take it anymore.

That sounds like an even more, "Why do I go on living, again?" ending than Twilight. The kids these days, I understand them not. Then again, I didn't understand the kids of past days either. The kids of the future I have very little hope for understanding.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm so glad to hear it was resolved. I have a soft spot in my heart for Salman Rushdie, even if I've only actually read "Satanic Verses".

I really loved The Hunger Games, so it was interesting to see that parallel drawn between the endings. 'Course, the THG ending is full of nightmares and despair and PTSD, but it's happy in the sense that there's a vague hope that the future might somehow be better. And, as hapax said, the heroine has basically UNSUBSCRIBED from the rest of humanity, not entirely unlike Bella.

So if Twilight is winning the game of Patriarchy, The Hunger Games is kicking over the table? (Love that Dean Martin quote from "Robin and the Seven Hoods". "When your opponent's holding 4 aces, there's only one thing you can do: kick over the table.")

As for The Kids These Days, it's worth noting that the fairy tales of yester-century weren't precisely happy either. A lot of the endings were downers, or only happy after decades of pain and suffering on the part of the heroes. (My god, Rapunzel. The thorns tear out his EYES.) But I've read here and there that more kids are wary of the future, what with Global Warming and The Economy and The Oil Spills and Earthquakes and such. I would guess that Apocalyptic fiction has at its root a feel of honesty (yes, things really are going to hell in a handbasket) and empowerment (but you will be able to survive and thrive because of your personal awesomeness).

Izzy said...

I suspect that fantasy is buried in the depths of all female brains since caveman times.

Not all. Not mine.

I have all kinds of fantasies of not having to do stuff for myself, but they all involve being wealthy enough that I can pay someone to do it for me: being able to go "fuck it, takeout!" every night if I want and send my laundry out to get done.

Most of the personal-relationship fantasies I have involve either being really competent and awesome or being really stoic under fire, and the really hot guy...helping out somewhat, maybe, but mostly being an impressed audience. (Which is one of the reasons I like Bioware Guy.) Even if he's dangerous himself. Maybe especially if he's dangerous himself.

Not sure that's any healthier, necessarily, but it's worth pointing out that any given fantasy is not a universal, or even a universal-gender, thing.

On other notes: happy birthday, Brin! And hugs to Amarie!

Brin Bellway said...

Amaryllis: I believe I wished you a happy birthday over on Slacktivist yesterday, so here I'll hope that it was happy. Are there any leftover brownies? (what? What's wrong with brownies for breakfast?)

As a surprise gift, my parents got me a fez. Because fezzes are cool. I laughed, then wondered why there wasn't a bow tie and where I could get one, then laughed some more. (Brother has a much more Elevenish hairstyle than I do, though. I'm not willing to cut my hair for the first time ever just for a costume.)

Most of the leftover brownies are being saved for tonight; I promised the Girl Guides I'd bring them. There's a couple that wouldn't fit in the box, though. In fact I was planning to have one very soon, to steel my nerves for the two math lessons today. (Mom bought Saxon Physics as a science course; we learned too late the Saxon textbook writers take "Physics is just applied math" very seriously.)

Ana: But I've read here and there that more kids are wary of the future, what with Global Warming and The Economy and The Oil Spills and Earthquakes and such.

Who wouldn't be? I can only stave it off with regular doses of Daily Planet. Daily Planet is like distilled optimism.

Ana Mardoll said...

*Saxon fist-bump*

We used Saxon Calculus and Saxon Physics my senior year. I cried every night, I kid you not. But in college I CLEPped Calculus 1 and 2 and Physics, and I was able to ace Calculus 3 four years later. I fully credit Saxon - I am not good with math at all.

Brin Bellway said...

I cried every night, I kid you not.

I went through that bit back in New Jersey. It made Mom realise just how ridiculous 30 problems/lesson is, so she let me do only the odd-numbered problems on odd-numbered lessons and same with even. It says something about Saxon that even halved, it's still hard.
(Well, somewhat halved. The 20-problem bits are still 20.)

I have a Saxon Calculus book, but it's still wrapped in the plastic it came in. Mom ignored the "For 11th graders, this is a four-semester book" on Advanced Mathematics and tried to make me do it in three. I couldn't*, so I'm starting where I left off: lesson...let's see...85. Which I swear I will get around to by the end of the day. (So many things on my schedule today. Math, then wash the chlorine from yesterday's swim class out of my hair, gather 'round a chatroom with some other fandom geeks and watch Star Trek DS9 together, dinner, Girl Guides. That's just the stuff that specifically must be done today, mind you: I also have blog posts dating back to the 13th to catch up on and it would be nice if I could find some Runescape-playing time as well, but at this rate I doubt it.)

*I'd probably be worried about the timing if I was planning to go straight into uni, but as it is I think I can finish up the calculus and take community college stuff at the same time.

Ana Mardoll said...

Calculus usually isn't a first year thing in uni here, anyway, unless you're majoring in something mathy, so you should have plenty of time to catch up even if you DO go straight into uni. I mean, there's always the literature pre-reqs to pad out first year. :)

hapax said...

Rikulous, you forgot to mention that the villains in the first Alcatraz books were EVIL LIBRARIANS, which was twenty kinds of awesome.

kbeth said...

I think it makes sense that Edward is a jerk even as he's a protector -- it reinforces his dominance, and Bella clearly feels that he should be dominant over her, so she likes that. It also helps with Bella being a self-insert, because it allows the reader to look at condescending/mean people in their lives and think "Well, maybe they just really like me and can't bring themselves to express it," which is a great self-esteem boost. But mostly I think it's a dominance thing -- Bella hasn't yet started dating Edward (read: submitted to him), and occasionally even questions his authority, so any praise would look like a reward for bad behavior. This implies that once they're a solid couple, he compliments her more. Does this actually happen? Maybe in Breaking Dawn? I have no idea.

Gelliebean said...

Brin - sorry if you've mentioned this before and I missed it, but are you also a homeschooled kid? I was homeschooled until 9th grade, when I decided that my learning style would be best suited in public school (and it took some convincing for my parents to agree!). My two sisters and my brother all stayed homeschooled through high school, and they used the Saxon books also doing every other problem... I go over and borrow them sometimes when I need the fun and relaxation of just working through some polynomials. :-D

No, sadly, I'm not kidding.... :-( A life, I has not one.

bekabot said...

"I think the appeal of Twilight is that it unashamedly goes straight for the fantasy of 'I don't have to be strong because this strong man will use his strength to protect me, comfort me, and snuggle me back to health if I'm injured. In fact he's so strong he has to rein in his strength so he doesn't hurt me by mistake.' I suspect that fantasy is buried in the depths of all female brains since caveman times. "

"Not all. Not mine."

Mine, somewhat. But I follow along with Ana in wanting, if not necessarily a nice protector, at least a trustworthy one. If I were a female lead character looking for a Caveman Protector, I'd insist on getting someone on whom I could depend under almost any circumstances. Otherwise what would be the point of him? He'd have to be, and stay, on my side: otherwise I'd feel threatened rather than supported. Which is probably the core of the problem I have with several fictional heroes; even Jericho Barrens closer to the "threatening" side of the threatening/protective dichotomy than I really like.

Edward Cullen doesn't work for me in caveman terms because he comes across as too juvenile. He acts like a brat. That's reasonable because he died when he was only 17, but the text of Twilight never makes a good case as to how he can be a Brat Prince and Bella's Enduring Pillar Of Strength at the same time, and the dissonance grates, because it's never properly accounted for. The contradiction in Edward's personality could be explored away or passed off as "complexity" if it were correctly handled, but Twilight refuses to handle it at all. That irritates me. It's like the author's trying to get two gumballs out of a vending machine when she only put enough money in the slot for one. And it's another case in which these books tell us one thing ("Edward is perfect, full stop") while we're being shown another ("Edward is perfect looking, but his character flaws are numerous if understandable") then expected to make what sense of the inconsistency we can.

Gelliebean said...

hapax - wait, wait, wait, evil librarians??? How did I miss this? *adds to the ever-growing To-Be-Read list*

kbeth - every compliment from Sparkleboi to Bella that I remember is an insult at the same time. "You're too dumb to know how wonderful you are." kind of thing. The whole thing you said about dominance and having to earn a compliment through good behavior just sent chills up my spine - especially considering that they aren't yet dating and he can't be said in any way to have any kind of legitimate authority for her to question! (My husband could, I suppose, be said to have a sort of authority in that I greatly respect his opinion and have granted him 'veto' power on certain things just like he has me, and he'd never get away with acting like Sparkleboi does.) I guess it's an extension of the idea that a woman requires a man to be in charge of her - that every woman should respect every man as if he were her ruling figure?

Amaryllis said...

The young adult series where the protag finds out about a magic world and that zie has special magic powers that I wish had caught on is the Alcatraz series, by Brandon Sanderson

hapax: the villains in the first Alcatraz books were EVIL LIBRARIANS

Coincidence? I think not! Who do you think ordered all those copies of Harry Potter for the library? Who didn't order equivalent numbers of the Alcatraz books? You're lucky to have found a copy at all!

Brin Bellway said...

Gelliebean: Not intended to be a reference to age at all.

I don't mind being called "kid". I've only had the Decision-Legitimisation Boots for one day.

are you also a homeschooled kid?

Yeah. Always have been, ever since I learned to read age two. My parents figured it would be a bad idea to send me to kindergarten already knowing the main thing they'd teach. I'd end up very bored, and bored five-year-olds are Bad.

I was homeschooled until 9th grade, when I decided that my learning style would be best suited in public school

It's amazing how many people go to public high school. I suppose it would help with university applications: UWaterloo basically wants homeschoolers to take 12th grade before they'll let you in. Guess I'm not going there. (Although, my twenty-year-old friend is currently doing a sort of two-year compressed high school at a suspiciously-euphemistic "adult education centre" so he can have an Official Diploma to show people who want it shown. If I understand it right, anyway.)

depizan said...

Does Canada have some equivalent to the GED? Or is that what your friend is doing? Here in the US, we can just take a few tests and voila! General Education Diploma. Or at least we could in the '90s, when I got mine. I wouldn't put it past them to have decided to require schooling for it in the meantime.

(Hyperlexia? Fascinating. I learned to read by the time I was three with no training, just my parents reading to me, but none of the rest of that fits.)

Brin Bellway said...

Or is that what your friend is doing?

I'm not sure. Maybe I'll ask him next time I see him. He seemed pretty excited about it at the Halloween party, but I didn't catch much detail.

Ana Mardoll said...

Brin, we really are twins, I swear. I was reading at 2. Was sent to school anyway, but the teacher was nice and let me read all day while everyone else learned their letters.

We started home-schooling in, oh, 4th or 5th grade. Every two years we'd try public/private school for a couple of months, and then something would happen and I'd end up home-schooled again. I liked it better that way -- between chronic pain and bullying issues, I learned much better at home.

Home-schoolers usually do better in standardized testing than public schoolers, so I'm shocked that colleges have gotten snotty about that. I was a National Merit Scholar, so no one said 'boo' to me during the college admissions process, but yeah, a GED is a magic diploma in America.

My favorite home-school story is that first day of school, a guy said to me "You were home-schooled? Don' you guys have, like, zero social skills?"

I said, "We have enough to know not to ask rude questions."

Ha. (Ironically, we ended up dating, so I don't think I hurt his feelings much.)

Brin Bellway said...

"You were home-schooled? Don't you guys have, like, zero social skills?"

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. I have noticed that--especially at the teen-only events that don't include people going to public high school--autistics often outnumber the non-. Sometimes, rather than X causing Y, X and Y are both caused by Z. I wouldn't go so far as to say that's the only reason, but it probably helps.

I liked it better that way -- between chronic pain and bullying issues, I learned much better at home.

Homeschooling the whole time adds an extra layer of weirdness to the being-bullied-is-a-rite-of-passage people. "Look at me and tell me what horribly vital things I'm missing not having gone through that."


(Oh god I have to go to bed soon and when I wake up there will be more schoolwork. Can it be Hanukkah yet? Or at least weeken...no, birthday party and then overnight trip to Toronto, there's no resting this weekend. I can probably get Sunday off as well* due to being in Toronto until late afternoon, but that's still only an evening. And while I've made it up to the 14th in my blog reading, there's a lot more 14th posts now than there were 13th posts this morning.)

*We're often busy on Fridays, so we do a Sunday - Thursday schedule.

Rikalous said...

Oldest brother entered school reading Doctor Dolittle. One of the old jokes in my family is that since I didn't start reading until they taught us, I've been trying to make up for it ever since. Mind you, my rate of book devouring dropped off quite a bit since I discovered that there are interesting people on the internet.

Chiming in in defense of public schooling, I think it was quite good for me socially. I've had reclusive/antisocial tendencies basically since day 1*, so I think dealing with people in meatspace, and especially getting involved in my high school's award-winning drama program, helped me avoid becoming scared-of-strangers hermit guy. The fact that my schooling was happily free of bullies and related jackwagons was also nifty, and possibly atypical.

*little kid me once called some nice woman a "possum old windbag"** for trying to talk to me.

**corruption of "pompous old windbag," an insult used in The Jungle Book.

Silver Adept said...

@Amaryllis and other Alcatraz fans -

Well, we had to be sure that the truth didn't leak out, and those books ran a little too close to reality in some places. Mr. Potter was a much safer bet to promote.

-One of the Evil Librarians.

redcrow said...

Count me in as one of the Slacktiversians who learned to read at two. (And accidentally made my kindergarten friends think that phloxes are actually called "frankincense" - well, the word I used was "fimiam", only I thought it's pronounced "fiamim"... Long story.) Wasn't homeschooled, unfortunately.

Amaryllis said...

* nods *

It's just as I suspected.

chris the cynic said...

Count me as one of the Slacktivites who was the last in class to learn to read. By a wide margin as I recall. I remember that class would have reading alone time and everyone else would get an actual book to read. I'd get a copy of Where's Waldo because I couldn't read and it was frustrating to go through the process of not-reading a book.

Then, one day, I suddenly could read. I could read with ease. And I read, and read, and read, and so on.

I was also slow to speak, but when I finally started I started in complete sentences because if you're going to learn to speak, that's obviously the way to go.

Will Wildman said...

Does Canada have some equivalent to the GED? Or is that what your friend is doing? Here in the US, we can just take a few tests and voila! General Education Diploma.

We do have something equivalent - I forget exactly what the details are, but I have a friend who had sufficient high school issues that he keeps running into prerequisite problems at university, and the diploma-equivalent thing would be quite useful, except I think there are restrictions on who's allowed to get it under what circumstances. It might require a minimum length of time out of school.

---

I'm also the antisocial/reclusive type, and quite simply high school was rubbish for me breaking out of that pattern. If anything I became more reclusive, because the increased freedom allowed me to avoid most people most of the time. The things that have actually increased my social skills have been totally unavoidable (sharing a house with a very extroverted friend) or intentional on my part ("Hm, I seem to be incapable of dating; possibly I should hang out with people and learn how this 'socialisation' thing works.")

I know another family in which all three kids left public school for homeschooling at some point or another, and there is no correlation I know of - the one who is by far most sociable also left earlier than at least one of the others.

---

I have vague memories of learning to read, but none of not being able to read. In my mind the transition occurred over the space of an afternoon (which is presumably not reality).

In terms of reading cursive writing and musical notation, I took a hilariously empirical approach that I can only assume comes from being raised by scientists - I would scribble a jumbled line across a page or randomly stamp out things that looked (to me) rather like an arrangement of quarter- and eighth-notes (staves are decorative only), and then ask someone to read/play what I had produced. From whatever they told me, I expected I could start working out the basic principles of how these symbols functioned. When they insisted that my scribble was not, in fact, legible, I concluded that they were hopelessly uncooperative and simply Did Not Care.

hapax said...

Will Wildman: That's how I learned to read! I have very vivid memories of copying random combinations of letters off my alphabet blocks, then pestering adults with "Is this a word? What does it mean?"

At one time, I remember my mother and grandmother getting into an argument as to whether "jarl" was a word or not.

chris the cynic said...

At one time, I remember my mother and grandmother getting into an argument as to whether "jarl" was a word or not.

It feels to me that it's "jail" with an interesting accent. An online dictionary tells me that it is, in fact, a Scandinavian noble ranking immediately below the king.

Izzy said...

If I may, Izzy I think your fantasy is sort of like that; you’re laid back because you no longer do any housework, but at the same time you’re powerful enough to get other people to do it for you.

Pretty much. Although in that particular case, there's a certain amount of base "this shit is annoying and I just don't want to do it" there: I would be perfectly satisfied with Jetsons' World where everyone's house cleaned itself. I like Doing Stuff, just not that particular subset thereof. (Even subsets within subsets are okay--I like shopping if I don't have to carry stuff home, and I like laundry fine, I just hate ironing.)

It’s a pleasant situation to think of because, unlike in reality, you get to have two things that are mutually exclusive.

Yeah. I mean, there are versions of reality where I'd get both, but they involve winning the lottery/getting a really good book deal/becoming the sudden heir to a reclusive and wealthy great-aunt.

I wouldn't object to being a kept woman, except...well, I don't do well at being a girlfriend, or at any situation where I feel obligated to be around and be attentive more than twice a week or so. Most guys who were "keeping" me would probably want that, and would probably get stroppy about me sleeping with other men, and no, thank you.

Also, I don't do well at jobs where my financial security depends on making people like me. It's one of the reasons I can't stand customer service.

On schooling: due in part to moving around a lot and in part to other stuff, I went to all of:

a) Catholic school,
b) weird not-quite-Montessori hippie school
c) public school
d) private boarding school across the country from family

D was definitely good for me. It let me start over at a time in my life where I really wanted to do that, it placed me in a situation where it was easier to make friends because we were all in the same place, and it put me in a system that didn't give a damn about my feelings, so I had to either follow the rules or learn how to break them without getting caught. I don't know if living with everyone else developed my social skills or if I was just at the point in my life to acquire them.

The others...meh. All probably did help me in some ways, but I don't know that social skills were at all part of it. I think having to deal with other kids was good, having to deal with people I didn't like in a situation I couldn't just drop out of was good, but I don't think that it helped me make friends or be extroverted.

Like anything else, different strokes for different folks, and all that.

Nathaniel said...

Funnily enough for me on the reading issue, my mother was told that I was borderline retarded and would probably never read based on some testing when I was 4-5.

I learned to read on my own at age 7 and I ended up scoring an 800 on the reading portion of the SAT.

Pthalo said...

We were reading at age 2 as well. We remember being yelled at in kindergarten to put away the novel we were reading because we had to pay attention to the lesson on the alphabet.

Brin Bellway said...

We remember being yelled at in kindergarten to put away the novel we were reading because we had to pay attention to the lesson on the alphabet.

Uh...
...there are no words.

Fluffy_goddess said...

My mother tells me I wanted to read Swiss Family Robinson (or something like it) when we were in grade three and getting our first lessons in english reading (immersion program -- we were supposed to learn to read in French in kindergarten, and pick up English in grade three; I maintain this is backwards and ridiculous). Apparently, when I asked my teacher the definition of recalcitrant, she told me I had to put it away and join the rest of the class reading See Spot Run.

Then again, this is the teacher who wanted to give me a failing grade on a book report when we were doing a unit on Mystery Fiction because I claimed there was no detective. I was doing Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, where there is... very arguably no detective. And she was the one who lent me the book!

Kit Whitfield said...

I was doing Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, where there is... very arguably no detective.

I do believe Christie herself described it in those terms. She wrote, at least, 'I had written this book because it was so difficult to do that the idea had fascinated me.'

Gelliebean said...

:-D I was also reading a couple of months before my 3rd birthday; I have the first book I ever read aloud, with my grandmother's letter to me written inside the front cover. (Go Dog Go, if anyone's interested.)

Re. public school - I didn't go for any social reasons. My mom's 'teaching' style was very laid-back, as in "Here are the books, go learn it and do these problems. If you have any questions about anything but math, let me know; if it's math, ask your dad." :-p It worked really, really well for my next sister, who spent her entire senior year on a massive WWII research project. I worked much better with a little more structure, and wanted to engage in a classroom setting; the place where my mom and I weren't able to cross paths was enough for us to decide that public school would be worth a try. You guys who were scolded for being too far ahead of the expected level make me very grateful I wasn't in school before 9th grade.... :-( I suspect the nature of 20-30 student classrooms makes it much more difficult for teachers to appropriately handle teaching children too far to one end or the other of the spectrum.

Amaryllis said...

I learned to read in first grade with "See Spot Run" like all the other six-year-olds of the time, or at least the ones who hadn't taught themselves. It is family lore, however, that someone should have taught me earlier.

My own memories that far back are fragmentary, but I'm told that when I was five, I used to have what today's parents call a "meltdown" but what my mother called a "tantrum," every afternoon at four o'clock, with almost clock-setting regularity. Then I learned to read, and the tantrums stopped. When life got to be too much, I just went off by myself with a book.

Things have pretty much gone on that way ever since.

Ana Mardoll said...

When they insisted that my scribble was not, in fact, legible, I concluded that they were hopelessly uncooperative and simply Did Not Care.

This was officially the most adorable thing I read all day. :D

Ana Mardoll said...

I was also slow to speak, but when I finally started I started in complete sentences because if you're going to learn to speak, that's obviously the way to go.

I believe this makes you Charles from "A Wrinkle in Time" and therefore a genius.

Ana Mardoll said...

*little kid me once called some nice woman a "possum old windbag"** for trying to talk to me.

I am totally stealing this. :D

Silver Adept said...

You would have to ask my maternal parent about when I was reading, knowing that it was definitely before entering schooling, and possibly a year or two before that, but I do remember doing advanced sums and multiplications before entering schooling. As it turns out, though, my knack for maths is pretty well limited to quick calculations and rule-based applications. The part where I have to manipulate equations so that I could apply the rules? Awful (as my Calculus II - single-variable integration scores would prove).

I had no homeschooling. I had the other possibility - I could have been vaulted grades, but ultimately it was decided against because the social development wasn't there. Not to mention being in the same class as another sibling...

That said, as an Evil Librarian, I see all of your types daily, and can put the right kind of books in their hands or on request for them. (The Evil Part really comes from the fact that I have very few qualms about dismissing disruptive users, tweaking the ignorant in ways that I can get away with, and expressing something that is either bitterness, cynicism, or grumpiness about the practices of the organization and the people that support it with their taxes. In just about all other aspects, I'm actually fighting for Good/Awesome.)

bekabot said...

"Bella decided to keep the baby even knowing the risk. That's pretty cool."

If/when you read Breaking Dawn you'll see that it's not a risk, it's an absolute damn certainty. (Which is why Jacob spends his section of that book mourning Bella.) Bella hasn't got too firm a grip on life. She's not thrilled with her life and she's willing to give it up without much push-back. This trait of Bella's dismays Jacob but it's probably at the core of her attraction toward Edward (it's probably at the core of Edward's attraction to her as well).

One of the many things I don't like about Twilight is that Bella's lack of luster, her paucity of enthusiasm and her unwillingness to participate, are presented as honorable by the narrative and marked out as something the readers might want to imitate, instead of just being described and explained. Bella's despair is important to the plot so it can't be left out of the story altogether, but it doesn't need to be showcased and spotlighted like jewelry. But that's what happens in Twilight. Bella's blahness is what makes her special. Her indifference toward her own life, and her fixation on the lives of others, ensure that she's destroyed in the end, just as might happen in the real world, but as would not happen in the real world, her death in childbirth turns out to be a trapdoor through which she moves up into an eternity at Edward's side. By courting the worst possibilities and then succumbing to them, Bella gets what she wants. Stepford wins, but Bella wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm a middle-aged woman, and I can read this stuff without danger, b/c I know that the account it gives of the world is false. (I can't believe I just typed that: "A woman near 50 can read without peril that which might ruin a young girl" — but there it is in black and white.) I just hope the kids at whom these books were aimed and toward whom they were marketed are smart enough to know that they can't model their lives on those of female leads. The fantasy that's offered is very compelling: Bella is saved and made exceptional because of her flaws, the same flaws which doom her in real-world terms. But what actually happens with doomful flaws in real-world terms is that they just doom you. They don't save you. There's no finale in which Edward pulls you sparkling out of the mouth of the grave.

Kit Whitfield said...

I just hope the kids at whom these books were aimed and toward whom they were marketed are smart enough to know that they can't model their lives on those of female leads.

My personal take (I'm 34) is that they probably are. Or if they aren't, it's not the fault of the books: kids learn from the people around them far more than from what they read.

Interesting theory that she's singled out by her lack of motivation to live. That might tie in with her negativity, think? I've always heard Bella described as a blank, but she stood out to me as a strong voice because she carped so much about everything - not an agreeable voice, but a distinctive one. But perhaps her carping is a form of blankness: by being somewhat irritated with everything, she effectively has no tastes. Liking things ties you to earth; Bella doesn't like anything, even herself, and she doesn't seem to like Edward that much either - she's in love with him, but she complains about pretty much everything he does. She puts no pressure on the reader to deal with the fact that she likes something they don't. She can detach at any time.

chris the cynic said...

But perhaps her carping is a form of blankness: by being somewhat irritated with everything, she effectively has no tastes.

I have some trouble agreeing with that. (Instead agreeing with what you said about her having a strong voice.)

If someone is irritated by everything that tells you a lot about their state of mind. If someone has no tastes that gives you a very good understanding of them in a way that, "She likes soccer, the Kurdish language, and long walks on the beach," simply doesn't.

These things would seem to be the opposite of blankness, they tell you an extremely large amount about Bella, that information is entirely unhappy, I would say depressing, but it's there.

Her irritated lack of interest in any given thing tells us as much as any interest in that thing would, that that irritated absence of interest in things is universal tells us more than any interest could.

Silver Adept said...

@BaseDeltaZero

It's not "power fantasy" in the sense of "I has powerz, now watch me do awesome with them", much like Neo in The Matrix, but instead more like Mibs's Savvy in Savvy, by Ingrid Law (or how Ledge relates to his in the first part of Scumble, same author), it's a talent that doesn't manifest itself with obvious consequences and can be seen or hidden as something else entirely, like a family curse or klutziness.

That Alcatraz eventually figures out how to manipulate this is an important part of the story. Then it becomes more like a standard power fantasy. Sort of.

Pthalo, we have plenty, but unless we can get them sufficiently anonymized that someone tracking couldn't put two and two together, you probably won't hear about them. For substitutes, though, go ask your public librarians about their stories from the trenches. You'll probably not look at them the same way again.

BaseDeltaZero said...

So it's subconscious? Even better! Now you don't even need to know you *want* to destroy something to destroy it. (Not to mention, since stories that use that kind of thing tend to be more 'mystical' than 'mechanical'), 'breaking things' can easily be construed to mean 'breaking rules'.

Sorry. I'm just not a big fan of that kind of story, with 'wild magic' and such - it makes it way to easy for the author to just do anything they want. I remember an incident where someone was explaining their fanfic character was much weaker than normal characters in the series, because she had such a power (luck). It quickly came out that there was nothing in the universe that could actually harm her...

Silver Adept said...

Yep, I get it. Those kinds of stories after often only as good as the character doesn't know what kind of power they have. After that, there's not much point - although Graceling, by Cashore, still has a major plot point on top of that self-discovery, so it works pretty well.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

Rowen, I just saw this comment today and finished reading this series - thank you for the link!

Kat said...

"And, of course, I realize that the teachers have very little control over the curriculum. So there's that, too."
Actually, once there's no more standardized testing, English teachers can do almost anything they want. (Except have my Standard English class read original Shakespeare, apparently.) While there are some vague requirements of what to read, my English class didn't read any Austen or Bronte. Which actually disappointed me, because I was the only one who ever read aloud, and I was looking forward to reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies aloud while everyone was expecting the original.

hapax said...

it seems to me from what I've heard that Twilight is, if anything, about winning the rigged game Ana describes. At the end of all this Bella will find herself in her ideal place in her ideal patriarchal family* and the rest of the world can go to hell for all she cares because she just got a perfect score and won the game of patriarchy

Well, the next HUGE publishing success among YA women was the HUNGER GAMES trilogy.

Mind you, I have lots and lots of problems with the HUNGER GAMES books. But they are, very much, about a young woman winning a rigged game in a rigged world, and (after not only an emotionally wrenching romantic triangle but also a lot of stuff way more important and consuming than her love life) she find herself in her ideal place in her ideal family and the rest of the world can go to hell for all she cares ... because she is just so ground down, chewed up, and spit out by the whole business that she just can't take it anymore.

hapax said...

Edward Cullen doesn't work for me in caveman terms because he comes across as too juvenile. He acts like a brat. That's reasonable because he died when he was only 17, but the text of Twilight never makes a good case as to how he can be a Brat Prince and Bella's Enduring Pillar Of Strength at the same time, and the dissonance grates, because it's never properly accounted for.

Yes. And this is why it is so JARRING when, in the final book, the text expects us to see him acting as a father. (Gee, I hope I didn't just spoil it for somebody!)

I'm sure that there are seventeen year old men who make perfectly lovely fathers, but Edward isn't one of them. I can, if I squint my brain, see the attraction in a perpetually teenaged horny slavishly devoted spouse; but as a dad? Eeek.

Anonymous said...

qs05zgrey

Feel free to surf to my webpage :: quick cash loans online

Anonymous said...

0m3rnsu72

Also visit my homepage ... Easy Payday Loans

Post a Comment