Twilight: I'm So Sad (by Crash and the Boys)

Content Note: Eating Disorders, Power Fantasies

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

   The rest of the morning passed in a blur. It was difficult to believe that I hadn't just imagined what Edward had said, and the way his eyes had looked. Maybe it was just a very convincing dream that I'd confused with reality. That seemed more probable than that I really appealed to him on any level. 

Part of me wants to say that we're back for another round of Bella's low self-esteem, but looked at from another angle, her feelings here are kind of logical. Not because she's not valuable or appealing (which is what I think she is trying to convey and with which I disagree), but because she's got no reason to believe she's valuable or appealing to Edward.

After all, in addition to the much-repeated-on-this-blog hostile and aggressive behavior he's dished out to her since literally the first hour they met, he's also just spent the entire morning insulting her and his invitation to Seattle was delivered in the most back-handed of ways: he's going with her not because he wants to, but because he claims she's ruining the environment with her gas-guzzler truck. Great.

I am utterly devastated, though, by the revelation that Bella thinks that a morning of being rudely insulted and given backhanded compliments is so wonderful as to be suspiciously dreamlike. I've never wanted an intervention for a character as badly as I do for Bella Swan. And that makes me sad.

   So I was impatient and frightened as Jessica and I entered the cafeteria. I wanted to see his face, to see if he'd gone back to the cold, indifferent person I'd known for the last several weeks. Or if, by some miracle, I'd really heard what I thought I'd heard this morning.
   Disappointment flooded through me as my eyes unerringly focused on his table. The other four were there, but he was absent. Had he gone home? I followed the still-babbling Jessica through the line, crushed. I'd lost my appetite -- I bought nothing but a bottle of lemonade. I just wanted to go sit down and sulk.

This is now the second or possibly third time that Bella has had a liquid lunch because of her fear and anxiety over Edward Cullen.

A feature I particularly dislike in literature aimed at women is the insidious idea that food is a luxury and that in times of anxiety and distress -- times that most heroines encounter in the course of their stressful lives -- food falls magically unneeded by the wayside. If the book is particularly steeped in this problem it may even be used as a justification for the heroine's socially acceptable waistline: oh, whoops, my distress slimmed me down into a smaller dress size, tee hee.

Anxiety and nerves can cause some people to avoid food because they are too uncomfortable to eat. But this is incredibly unhealthy if it occurs frequently over a compressed time period, and if Bella keeps doing this, she's going to get seriously sick. When I was at my most depressed, I alternated between not eating for long stretches of time and bulimia because it was a way to exert control over my surroundings. The life I was living was incredibly dangerous to my health, and if I'd continued for a very long time I could very easily have needed hospitalization. This is not light-hearted romantic fantasy material here -- her relationship with Edward is making Bella physically ill.

Some teachers and counselors are trained to spot symptoms of eating disorders and provide help and aid to students where they can. I'm not surprised that the Forks staff isn't really attuned to this concept, but they should be -- someone needs to be able to step in and help Bella get off these anxiety-riddled liquid-lunches. But really this just feeds into my on-going gripe that Bella is clearly deeply depressed and no one is doing anything about it. And that makes me sad.

   "Edward Cullen is staring at you again," Jessica said, finally breaking through my abstraction with his name. "I wonder why he's sitting alone today."

And the thing of it is, you can't tell me that S. Meyer isn't doing this on purpose. There was no need for Bella to go through this ooh, I'm too filled with womanly distress to manage solid food! act. It's actually terribly unnatural: Edward is sitting alone because... why? Oh, I see, so that Bella can be all nervous and then get called over to his private table without the interference of his siblings or having to interact with them in any way at all.

It's a way to build fake suspense and continue to isolate Bella and Edward from having to interact with anyone besides each other, and all you had to do was have a character completely change his schedule in order to do something that makes no sense, i.e., eat lunch by himself at a completely empty table in a school cafeteria that probably isn't a sprawling cavernous eatery. And this is supposed to be the big romantic setup for this scene. And that makes me sad.

   My head snapped up. I followed her gaze to see Edward, smiling crookedly, staring at me from an empty table across the cafeteria from where he usually sat. Once he'd caught my eye, he raised one hand and motioned with his index finger for me to join him. As I stared in disbelief, he winked.
   "Does he mean you?" Jessica asked with insulting astonishment in her voice.

Bella, no. You can't have it both ways. You can't keep insisting to us that no, really, what could Edward see in awful old ME and then get huffy when Jessica is astonished. Especially when her astonishment could equally be an astonishment at Edward wanting to interact with someone he's been openly hostile to, or her astonishment at Edward beckoning Bella like she's his gorram harem girl and he wants his gorram peeled grapes.

*clears throat* Sorry about that.

Now, as has been pointed out before, this I'm worthless, but you'd better not think so! attitude is -- again -- not inconsistent with chronic depression. But that doesn't make me feel any better! Either I have a smug heroine who puts herself down but doesn't mean it, or I have a depressed heroine who puts herself down but doesn't like others to weigh in with their opinions. So I can either be annoyed at the heroine, or thoroughly despondent at her slow downward spiral into further depression. And that makes me sad.

   "Maybe he needs help with his Biology homework," I muttered for her benefit. "Um, I'd better go see what he wants."
   I could feel her staring after me as I walked away
   When I reached his table, I stood behind the chair across from him, unsure.

Could this be any more awkward? Please tell me I'm not the only one utterly flabbergasted by the literal beck-and-call on display here. There's just something very uncomfortable to me about Bella's near-instinctive drive to obey the non-verbal commands of a man who has treated her with zero kindness (sans the whole life-saving thing) and mountains of abuse and hostility for their entire extremely-short relationship together.

And I don't understand why we couldn't have been honest and open and totally empowered here. Sure, he's insular and insulting, but you can't deny he's totally hot, so I'll go see what he can do for me, er, what I can do for him, ahem would be (a) perfectly truthful at this point and (b) probably accepted by Jessica as a valid explanation for the situation. Certainly more so than "Biology homework", seeing as how Edward has been established already as a wunderkind at Biology.

(Random thought: Who is collecting the Cullens' homework assignments when they're off "hiking"? Surely the teachers aren't putting together individual homework folders for them? After they've been so snarly to Bella, it's hard to imagine they'd be so kind to the inconvenient Cullens. Because... Jasper?)

And yet... would that be honest from Bella's perspective? There's nothing in the text to suggests she even considers turning him down an option. Not in a I don't want anything to do with you way, but even in a yes, I see you, and I'll happily talk to you later, but I'm having a lovely lunch with my friends at the moment way. This is not presented as an option. Nor is there any real indication that Bella is going over to Edward's table because it's what she wants to do; there's a lot of talk about her "disappointment" at his absence, but for all her implied relief that he's there, there's not really an indication that she seems to think she yet has a chance at those Sparkle Thighs.

I'm left with the impression that she obeys him not because she wants to or because she thinks it will benefit her in some way, but rather because she literally cannot think of any other possible course of action. And that makes me uncomfortable as a reader.

Maybe it's not supposed to read that way; maybe we're supposed to read their "relationship" as further along -- or at least in a different place -- than where I'm reading it. Maybe her instinctive "jump up and go" behavior is meant to seem trusting, in the same way I would "jump up and go" to my husband, because I trust that he wouldn't interrupt my lunch unless it was important. (Not because my lunches are super-important, but more because Husband isn't much the "beckon" type, so I'd immediately know Something Is Up.)

So possibly I'm just reading this whole scene wrong, and yet... would it have been so hard to have Bella explain a little of this to me? I'm sitting here saying, "I have no idea why she's doing this," which means the author must have thought it was obvious why she's doing this, so all I'm left with is my gut instinct that he's a hot man who must be obeyed, and I've nothing to counteract that impression. And that makes me sad.

   "Why don't you sit with me today?" he asked, smiling.
   I sat down automatically, watching him with caution. He was still smiling. It was hard to believe that someone so beautiful could be real. I was afraid that he might disappear in a sudden puff of smoke, and I would wake up.

The problem with highlighting the Purple Prose is that you either highlight individual words -- which eventually seems woefully inadequate -- or you end up highlighting the entire book. And that makes me sad.

   He seemed to be waiting for me to say something.
   "This is different," I finally managed.

Argle-bargle-farking-blaster. He called her over so that she could sit down and they would stare silently at each other. NOT AWKWARD AT ALL. The silver screen is not big enough to contain the passion that is Edward and Bella. And that makes me so very sad.

   "Well . . ." He paused, and then the rest of the words followed in a rush. "I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly."
   I waited for him to say something that made sense. The seconds ticked by.
   "You know I don't have any idea what you mean," I eventually pointed out.
   "I know." 

And here is another case where I kind of like Bella. I mean, here we have a statement that is reasonable, straight-forward, and full of understated snark. If the whole book were like this, I'd have so much less to complain about.

'Course, in my ideal version of the book, after she points out that everyone at the table knows she doesn't follow his little enigmatic statements, and he smirks and says 'I know', confirming that either (a) he's being monumentally rude, (b) he thinks very little of her intelligence, or (c) all of the above, she would calmly stand up and head back to her table to eat a proper lunch.

This is, alas, not a perfect world. And, as you might guess, this makes me sad.

   He smiled again, and then he changed the subject. "I think your friends are angry with me for stealing you."
   "They'll survive." I could feel their stares boring into my back.
   "I may not give you back, though," he said with a wicked glint in his eyes.
   I gulped.
   He laughed. "You look worried."

You heard it here, folks: Bella has friends, and they want her back at their lunch table. Edward the Mind Reader said so, and I think we can take it as read that he's being honest.

I think we're supposed to read this as Bella's group being jealous of her. She has, after all caught the eye of the beautiful and unattainable Edward Cullen. And, of course, the boys are angry because they can feel Bella slipping away. In the game of Patriarchy, Bella just rolled a natural twenty, and her teammates and competition aren't happy for her.

And yet... because this is Twilight and apparently it's up to me to fill in the blanks, I'm not going to interpret it that way. I'm going to take this at face value because I can: all of Bella's friends are angry at Edward for his very rude behavior in beckoning Bella over and commandeering her for lunch.

I kind of would be, too, and it wouldn't be because I totes love Bella's company, although maybe in some ways I would. Bella is quiet and keeps to herself, sure, but she's clearly nice enough to have hooked up all her girlfriends with guys for the dance and she's been pretty encouraging about the whole thing. And now this boy -- a boy who has, for the last year, been pointed standoffish and smug to everyone -- is giving her orders in the cafeteria and who does he think he is? And she's following his order because why? Sure, he's hot, but she's shy and easily taken advantage of, and also he saved her life, and he better not be thinking she owes him any favors. Not cool.

I can actually think of a lot of reasons for Bella's friends to be upset and angry and worried. And I can think of similar reasons for why Bella should be upset and angry and worried. For all this tense gulping and fidgeting and urgent eye contact dancing, Edward still hasn't said a single nice thing to Bella. He's just said possessive things to her. It's sexy in a power fantasy, but significantly less so with real world strangers which is, supposedly, what Edward is to Bella. So that makes me sad.

   "No," I said, but, ridiculously, my voice broke. "Surprised, actually . . . what brought all this on?"
   "I told you -- I got tired of trying to stay away from you. So I'm giving up." He was still smiling, but his ocher eyes were serious.
   "Giving up?" I repeated in confusion.
   "Yes -- giving up trying to be good. I'm just going to do what I want now, and let the chips fall where they may." His smile faded as he explained, and a hard edge crept into his voice.

And this is, if I'm counting correctly, the third time today that Edward has told Bella that he is dangerous to her and that she should stay away from him and that if she chooses to be with him anyway and gets hurt in the process, it's effectively her own fault. If you count all the protestations at the hospital, this is probably the fifth or sixth time.

From a fantasy perspective (both sexual and otherwise), I get this, I do. But I expect Bella to at least reflect on these protestations as something more than just excuses for... um... why Edward can't be with her, even though he clearly is being with her in some sense of the word. There needs to be a point where she says to herself you know, I don't really understand why he keeps saying that, maybe I could explore that a little in my head. And then come up with a few hundred reasons why someone might say and mean "I am dangerous to be around". Like because your dad is hosting a weird adoption cult. Or because your family is in the witness protection program. Or you're affiliated with an Italian mob of ancient vampires. Or something.

But Bella never does. She's so interested in being with Edward that she doesn't once consider so far what he might mean with all this talk of danger and going to hell and warnings and hard edges in the voice. I'm not saying she has some kind of responsibility to stay away from Edward, but I'd like to see her carefully consider all this and at least make some contingency plans like okay, if I find bodies in his cellar, I'm moving back to Arizona. I mean, that would seem reasonable to me. But Bella never does. And that makes me sad.

   "So, in plain English, are we friends now?"
   He grinned. "Well, we can try, I suppose. But I'm warning you now that I'm not a good friend for you." Behind his smile, the warning was real.
   "You say that a lot," I noted, trying to ignore the sudden trembling in my stomach and keep my voice even.
   "Yes, because you're not listening to me. I'm still waiting for you to believe it. If you're smart, you'll avoid me."
   "I think you've made your opinion on the subject of my intellect clear, too." My eyes narrowed.
   He smiled apologetically.

This passage. This passage! This passage. A real warning. Not even remotely heeded. Breezed incuriously past. Another Pilate-esque washing of the hands. An abdication of responsibility that Edward has no right to give up. Another insult. An ineffectual calling out of the insult. An apologetic smile that isn't apologetic because apologies don't work that way. This passage! It makes me so very very sad. I'm literally rendered entirely incoherent by this section.


Kit Whitfield said...

Yes, because you're not listening to me. I'm still waiting for you to believe it. If you're smart, you'll avoid me.

This strikes me as a very traditional view of relationships: the man can't help himself, so it's up to the woman to stick to the rules, not provoke him, insist her shirt stays on, and so on and so on. The interesting thing is that Edward himself admits that he's decided to talk to Bella rather than been unable to stop himself: he 'got tired of' avoiding her rather than couldn't avoid her any more.

It's a double-whammy. Edward gets the patriarchal kudos of being decisive and rational, plus the freedom from responsibility of an uncontrolled, irrational libido that it's Bella's job to manage.

(There's also the fact that he takes for granted that the relationship is entirely up to him in a way that seems to undermine his warnings: it never seem to occur to him that just because he's decided not to stay away from Bella, it doesn't automatically mean she's willing to be in his company. But there you go.)

chris the cynic said...

Bella, no. You can't have it both ways. You can't keep insisting to us that no, really, what could Edward see in awful old ME and then get huffy when Jessica is astonished.

Well, actually you ca-

Now, as has been pointed out before, this I'm worthless, but you'd better not think so! attitude is -- again -- not inconsistent with chronic depression.

Oh. You already know that. My job here was done before I even got here.

*Returns to reading the post*

Ana Mardoll said...

Ahaha, yes! I remembered your excellent depression breakdown mid-paragraph! And -- and this is classic Ana -- instead of editing, I just kept going and completely contradicted what I'd previously written. I'd say "EDIT FAIL", but in my head it all tied together very neatly at the time. Less so, now that I'm on my coffee drip. :D

Ana Mardoll said...

Kit, I like your comment so much I want to print it off. This. This. This. And this over here. This too.

redcrow said...

>>>Why is it that Edward is allowed to not be able to help himself, but the onus is on Bella to help BOTH their selves?

Later: "You were in danger just seconds ago, now I'm full of rage, and it's *your* job to distract me!" (Okay, I'm paraphrasing, but not much. In the book, were I charitable, I at least would be able to pretend that he wants to distract Bella herself. In the movie he outright demands from *her* to distract *him*.)

readerofprey said...

I can't really see Bella Swan as depressed in a clinical sense. The first time I read the book, I didn't realize that so many of Bella's behaviors were symptomatic of depression, but I know from my own experience that those very thoughts and behaviors can also result from simply being sad, as is occasionally normal in people not suffering from mood disorders of any kind.

Of course, the extremity and duration of Bella's "depressed" behavior (in quotes because I mean the vernacular as opposed to the clinical sense of the word) would normally be indicative of a mental illness that requires treatment, but hyperbole pervades every aspect of this book to such an extent (Gym class is hell! You can't go on the internet without deleting dozens of pop-ups! Bella's so clumsy she nearly kills herself every day! Edward is more gorgeous than all the Greek gods combined! Charlie burns pasta!), that instead of seeing meta-Bella as a depressed girl that no one is helping, I see meta-Bella as a brat in a sulk whose author exaggerates her whining to the point where it sounds like a real problem. Which I know is an accusation cruelly and ignorantly leveled against real people with depression, which is a real mental illness and not a choice or a moral failing and not something someone can just snap out of, but in Bella's case, I just see her intentionally wallowing in self-pity of her own free will because she thinks that "suffering" is noble, which is unfortunately a real thing that some real people do.

And I can't help but think that Bella would be a lot less lonely if she'd let the people around her get to know her and bond with her as they're obviously trying to instead of pretending to like them while thinking inside about how shallow they are in comparison to the deep, superior person she is herself (and presumes Edward to be because he's pretty and seems unhappy - and is therefore noble.)

Kit Whitfield said...

Of course, the extremity and duration of Bella's "depressed" behavior (in quotes because I mean the vernacular as opposed to the clinical sense of the word) would normally be indicative of a mental illness that requires treatment

Um ... I know someone who was depressed for twenty years, and whose depression in its deepest points made Bella look like a ray of sunshine. I know someone else who's been on anti-depressants all their adult life. I think your assumptions about depression's duration and intensity are not correct there.

Amaryllis said...

Edward: You have to sit. I beckoned, you came, I said sit, you have to sit. That's how it works.

Bella: "Is thy servant a dog that she should do this thing?"

(I mean, the original text is just about as blatant.)

he's going with her not because he wants to, but because he claims she's ruining the environment with her gas-guzzler truck.
I know, because I still have my "Twilight Companion," that the kind of car someone drives is very important to the Cullen clan. Suffice it to say that,no matter how much she may love her old truck, Bella's in for some serious upgrades.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think if you're saying you don't think Meyer deliberately wrote Bella to seem clinically depressed, you're probably right -- I think we've had someone say before in comments that the most realistically depressed characters are ones that weren't written on purpose to seem depressed.

But if you're saying you don't see the FedEx depression arrows, I do think it's more complicated than that. There are lots of different kinds if depression and they're not all chemically induced -- we've talked about situational depression before, and I think it's very possible that's what Bella may (inadvertantly) have.

Kit Whitfield said...

Considering phrases like 'wicked glint' and 'gulped', I think the most positive way to interpret this scene is to imagine that it's interplay between two sadomasochists. Bella had to do what he says; she also gets to be mildly exhibitionistic by doing it in public while having to conceal what's really going on between them; he takes pleasure in messing with her head and saying things to which there's no good answer because he enjoys seeing her flustered; he implies mild threat while at the same time suggesting that she's a Bad Girl for doing this scene with him in the first place...

And so on. Vampirism and sadomasochism have a long and intertwined history. I have no idea what Meyer's tastes are and it's not my business, but I think if you imagine the scene as one where Edward is deliberately making continual power plays and keeping Bella slightly off-balance as a form of flirtation, it looks a lot more innocent.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm still reading, but oh-my-dog, this:

Jessica: I think that table belonged to freshmen, he probably scared them all away.
Bella: How?
Jessica: Death threats would be my guess. Why is he beckoning to you?
Bella: I have no idea, earlier today he insulted me and my truck-
Jessica: But you love that truck.
Bella: I do love that truck.
Jessica: That would be like when the Klingons insulted the Enterprise in front of Scotty.
Bella: Good episode.
Jessica: One of the best.

Made me laugh SO loud. Chris, I know I always say this, but I'll say it again: you are a genius. "But you love that truck; I do love that truck" just flows so naturally, I can hear it as I read it. Sublime.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Kit, yeah, I can see that. This whole chapter sort of feels like at any moment Edward is going to pick Bella up and spank her for being Such A Naughty Girl. That kind of makes it worse for me, though, because I'm all about the Informed Consent, and B&E simply have not had that conversation yet.*

* Though I realize that Informed Consent Conversations are like condoms in that they're necessary in real Life but frequently glossed over in fantasy.

Pthalo said...

I totally worked an informed consent conversation scene into one of the stories i was writing, back when I was young* and writing porn on my blog.

*says the 27 year old, but naw, i must've been 20 back then and a lot of growth and development happens between age 20 and 27. Or at least it did for me.

That is not to say that there's anything childish about writing porn, just that it was an awfully long time ago.

Mime_Paradox said...

I call total Shenanigans on the title of this post, as it did not take 0.4 seconds to read nor, I suspect, to write. :P

Incidentally, after reading this, I went and read volume one of the graphic novel series Miki Falls, which I had previously mentally classified as the anti-Twilight --"Twilight" because of its similar structure (the protagonist is even saved from a car!), "anti" because its mysterious and aloof Edward figure, HIro Sakurai, is courteous and open and consistent about his reluctance to befriend anyone (within his abilities) being all "darn it Miki, I like you and I'd like for us to be friends, but there's this secret secret I can't tell you that prevents me from becoming friends with anyone" while the Bella analogue Miki Yoshida is cheerful where Bella's downbeat, active where Bella is passive, and completely unwilling to take crap from anyone, including a sequence where she's all "Fuck that noise: I reject your secret rules and your organization, and I know you want to be my friend, so if taking on God is what I need to do to make that happen, so be it."--but without the swearing, because it's hard to swear in Japanese. And then I, as I read it, realize that Miki willingly tries to cross the boundaries established by Hiro (and explicitly acknowledges that that's what she's doing) in trying to befriend him, and that there's a sequence in which Miki, after Hiro rather definitively says that he and she can no longer see each other, begins stalking him to try to figure out his secret, and I conclude that if Miki Falls is the anti-Twilight, it's because it's problematic from the other direction. I still like it and feel it's well-written, but now I'm kinda thinking it needs a deconstruction, particularly since part of its scenario involves manipulating circumstances in order to secretly push people into falling in love, which could stand to be dissected. Because love, in this universe, is actually a finite thing, like coal.

Fluffy_goddess said...

This blog has the best re-imaginations of Twilight, seriously. *applauds*

I think a lot of Bella Not Eating is supposed to make her look more adult, in a very odd way. In a lot of literature and movies, if a child's refusing to eat, it's because the child *is* hungry, but is throwing a tantrum, and should be corrected by the adults in the room. Bella's explicitly described herself as not being hungry, and instead she takes a lemonade. I'm going to try not to delve into the significance of lemonade over anything else (oh dear god cultural relevance and Gone With the Wind and life gives you lemons, etc., *ahem*), but I suspect it's meant to align her with Graceful Adult Women Dealing With Shit. A lot of people go through times in life when eating is just not possible because emotionally they're in an awful place. It's portrayed as being a common part of sudden grief -- you've just lost somebody, you can consume liquids and should because it helps no-one if you go into shock, but you feel as though your throat is swelling shut and you've developed a giant ulcer over the last few hours. So you will eat, at best, a few mouthfuls of soup, and then switch to things you can drink. And it's realistic, to a point.

A high school student who feels this way repeatedly, however, doesn't come across as sick with grief and shock, and just trying not to jar her own body with anything that involves texture. It comes across as a red flag.

And also, a cheap way of saying "look, look! My heroine is so perfect for life as a vampire that she's voluntarily switching to a liquid diet before she even knows vampires are real!"

Ana Mardoll said...

but without the swearing, because it's hard to swear in Japanese.

Wait, what? I was always told that Japanese Vegeta (of Dragonball Z) swears frequently in the source material.

I can't hear "shenanigans" without thinking of that scene from Super Troopers. "Evil shenanigans!"

Ana Mardoll said...

OK, I officially like that interpretation (she's eating something because she's responsibly taking care of her body!) better than mine. And for coming up with "life gives you lemons" and "pre-vampire prefers liquid diet" interpretations all in ONE post, I hereby award you the "...cheerfully reading too much into things" award. That was a.w.e.s.o.m.e. :D

Mime_Paradox said...

Nope. As I understand it, there are basically two words, baka (usually written, 馬鹿, if you're using kanji--the first character means "horse"; the second "deer") which is used for variations of "idiot" and "idiotic", and kuso (糞), which literally means "excrement" and whose tone is usually more "crap" than "shit" (it's commonly translated as "damn"). Combined with the fact that Japanese is generally a more hierarchical language than English, and that you can usually just insult somebody by referring to them by the wrong honorific or pronoun, and there's no reason to, say, evolve the myriad of ways one can use the word "fuck". If they want to actually swear American style, my understanding is that they'll actually try to use the English words.

Fluffy_goddess said...

*blushes* Aww, thanks!

Fluffy_goddess said...

And also, definitely a both/and thing. If the Graceful Adult Woman Dealing doesn't consume something, and goes into shock or collapses or whatever, then she can't be considered to have held herself together under great emotional pressure. If she collapses, she's human, but weak/vulnerable. If she keeps herself together enough to function (which often includes stuff she really won't want to do, like shepherd husband/siblings/children through the aftermath of whatever stressful event set off this scene in the first place), then she's got steel somewhere in there.

I think that's a very attractive trope because it's hugely grounded in reality. Yeah, the woman who's so shattered by losing a child that she can't comfort and care for her other children is a victim who should have support and help. But the one who puts on a calm face for the kids and inlaws is praised for being so strong, and that can give her a feeling of control that helps her through her immediate grief. Maybe Bella's trying to take care of herself whilst under (great to her) strain partly because she's practising to be the one who holds herself together when the excrement really hits the rotating blades some time in the future. Which kinda means she's in high school, practising to be a Strong Heroine In A Tragic Drama in the future, without quite realising that some of the behaviours she's practising do not mean quite what she thinks they mean.

Or she could be stubbornly clinging to the illusion of control given by a really horrible diet book. I always hate seeing those things marketed to young people.

Nathaniel said...

"Bella, no. You can't have it both ways."

This. So much this. One of the things that made me nearly scream with frustration was the book's consistent insistence on having its cake and eating it too.

Give you a good example. In the "meadow" scene in the book, Edward describes vamps as natural human hunters, and that ordinary humans know subconsciously to stay away. He takes this opportunity to insult Bella's intelligence, suggesting that she is drawn to him because of seriously deficient survival instincts.

Ah Edward. Don't ever change. Dick.

Anyways, this is pretty much directly contradicted by a later scene in a restaurant in Seattle where Bella and Edward have a meal. The waitress is drawn in by the power of the sparkle, constantly flirting with Edward and getting miffed that he ignores her in favor of Bella.

Which is it Myers? Do people find vamps indescribably off putting despite their looks and stay away? Or are they drawn in by their beauty, and perfection, and perfect beauty, and beautiful perfection?

Sorry about that. I am quite chagrinful.

Another thing that leaped out at me was in the bit where Bella and Edward are conversing in the lunch room.

He smiled again, and then he changed the subject. "I think your friends are angry with me for stealing you."
"They'll survive." I could feel their stares boring into my back.
"I may not give you back, though," he said with a wicked glint in his eyes.
I gulped.
He laughed. "You look worried."

This entire passage has the feeling of the threat of violence to me. Given the context, where Edward has look at her with murder in his eyes, berated and insulted her and told her repeatedly how dangerous he is, she should be terrified.

But of course, this being Twilight, that's not how it works. As others have noted, it feels more like a lead up to a BDSM spanking scene. Which I would have no objection too, if the book were honest about the fact that its essentially a fantasy.

But it isn't, and this is presented as TEH PERFECT ROMANCE 4EVAH!

And that makes me sad.

hapax said...

Y'know, I know that bit with Edward doing the beckoning thing is supposed to be so-o-o-o sexy and suave, but all I can think of when I read it is the library I used to work in, where the internet computers were right next to the Reference Desk. And we had a a certain subset of patrons (all male) who, when they had a problem, used to sit on their privileged rumps and (without even turning their heads) raise their hands in the air and snap their fingers.

I am serious. They just barely restrained themselves from calling "Girl! Oh, girl!"

I would get up and go help them, because I am a Good Librarian and thoroughly steeped in the ethos of Patron Service, but it was really really hard not to remotely crash their session and laconically respond. "Whoops. Oh, darn."

Edward doesn't deserve anything so subtle. He "motions with his index finger"; Bella should answer with her middle finger.

Amarie said...

...That's it. I can't do italics. Or bolds. Or any other formatting. -____-

Ben said...


@Ana: "oh my dog"

Have you been reading Homestuck?

Ben said...

In other news:

@Chris: Wow, that's some pretty inter-BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

@Nat, et al: Yeah. Clearly violence. Murder on the horizon. Death, destruction, prison term for Edward-oh. Wait. Twilight.

Nathaniel said...

Poll: Should Ana now end very paragraph about Twilight with the phrase: "And that makes me sad?"

1. Yes
2. No
3. COOKIES!!!!!!

Lunch Meat said...

"Yes -- giving up trying to be good. I'm just going to do what I want now, and let the chips fall where they may." His smile faded as he explained, and a hard edge crept into his voice.

I'm with you, Ana--just flabbergasted and saddened by this passage. This quote in particular is creepy, possessive, objectifying and threatening there's no way around it. As a reader, I have no idea whatsoever what attracts Bella to Edward enough that she comes when he beckons and doesn't leave immediately. There is nothing attractive or sexy about this situation.

Now, when Husband starts talking about taking what he wants, and hard edges get into his voice, that's another story. But Edward is--Bella barely knows him, for crying out loud, they've hardly had any interactions that weren't hostile, aggressive or defensive. Bella has no reason to trust him and every reason not to. He's lied to her repeatedly already. If Bella isn't thinking "supernatural monster" she ought to be thinking "something very wrong with how he sees himself and the people around him."

Rikalous said...

I vote No, in the hopes that there will be something in the next three and a half bits that doesn't make Ana sad. I am an eternal optimist.

Wait, Cookies is an option? Can I change my vote.

Rikalous said...

Wait a second. Didn't the meadow scene include Edward saying that his Bishie Sparkling* Beauty was a way to lure in victims (and that it was redundant considering his physical abilities)? Did he contradict himself in the same damn scene?


Jules said...

So, imagine Edward as James Spader and Bella as Maggie Gyllenhall?

Kit Whitfield said...

Well, consent being a Good Thing, it's probably the easiest way to read chemistry into the scene.

Also, no disrespect to Robert Pattinson, but if you imagine Edward's insulting lines delivered with that awkward, buttoned-up, can't-quite-stop-myself-saying-these-awful-things-oh-my-what-is-she-really-letting-me-do-this? way that Spader performs in Secretary, it makes him seem nicer.

Amarie said...

Well...I vote for number 3. Perhaps cookies would make Ana happier...:D

Ana Mardoll said...

@Ben, no I haven't been reading "Homestuck" (I've not heard of it before, to be honest), I've been using "oh-my-dog" lately since Mercury Blue's wonderful post on theist everyday language, and since I started writing a NaNo book with a Jewish atheist teenage protagonist. She says it and I personally find it adorable.

@Nathaniel, COOKIES?? COOKIES! Cookies. *nods sagely*

@Hapax, they snapped their fingers at you?!?!?!?!?!?!?! I just can't even imagine doing that. o.O

Husband was flipping through channels a couple of nights ago and landed on Twilight. Before I made him change it (it was that AWFUL googling scene), I noticed two things. Robert Pattinson wasn't quite as bad as I remembered (maybe because I now think of him as desperately trying to tone down the awful) and Kirsten Stewart really only ever seems to have the same facial expression at all times. It's very unnerving, and I can't help but wonder if that was HER reading of Bella? (To wit: the character is blank, so that is what I must become!)

Nathaniel said...

From what I've read of Pattinson, he hated the character so much on reading the script that he decided to play the character as utterly, constantly self loathing for the audition.

It got him the part. And I have respect for his utter disgust with the character.

And as I thought, number 3 was the winner by far. Cookies for everyone!

chris the cynic said...

Kirsten Stewart really only ever seems to have the same facial expression at all times. It's very unnerving, and I can't help but wonder if that was HER reading of Bella? (To wit: the character is blank, so that is what I must become!)

Someone, I think it was Kit, pointed out that Bella doesn't really emotionally respond to things. She definitely has emotions, but they're always the same emotions in the same quantity expressed in the same way. Whether she's listening to Jessica or being saved from a rampaging van or being called an idiot by Edward, she doesn't seem to change. I think we can probably locate a couple of exceptions, but thus far they've been relatively minor and have not changed her overall mood so much as individual portions of it's expression.

Now as is so often the case my temptation is to talk about this fits with the idea that Bella is dealing with depression, though in this case there's also a temptation to quote the song Desperado ("You're losing all your highs and lows...") but the reason I bring this up doesn't have to do with either of those things. It is simply this: maybe having the same facial expression at all times is a good way to communicate Bella's unchanging internal monologue. If the tone inside her head is always the same, perhaps the expression on her face should reflect that by being equally static.

Of course, never having watched Twilight, I say this based on you describing it for two sentences.

Nathaniel said...

There's also the fact that apparently many directors tell young actresses not to make facial expressions because it would make them look "ugly" in the shot.

Kit Whitfield said...

I enjoyed the movies; I think they're fun. I have to say, though, that the main thing I enjoy about them is the supporting cast. Bella and Edward are permanently down, but everyone else if Forks seems like a laugh.

bekabot said...

Experiment FAIL (I said it first).

bekabot said...


redcrow said...

Or did you want to *actually* delete the text?

Ana Mardoll said...

Looks like it's < strike >, not < del > to get the strikethrough effect.

bekabot said...

Nope, I plead guilty to formatting fail.

bekabot said...

"Looks like it's < strike >, not < del > to get the strikethrough effect."

I'll try that next time (if there is one). Thanks.

Ellen Brand said...

The problem with saying there's no "swearing" in Japanese is that swearing is a fairly nebulous concept. There's not a lot of blasphemy in Japanese, the spiritual/religious setup doesn't work that way. But then you've got words like "shimatta" which usually translated as "damn," or things like "yarou" and other insulting terms that are pretty close to our usage of "bastard," even if they don't really translate the same. There's also rude speech, and using the wrong form of address can be an insult, and there's CRUDE speech, which can be scatological or sexual.

Pthalo said...

And then you have languages like Hungarian where swearing is easy and colourful. My favourite is probably "underneath the frog's arse" which means "doing poorly economically"

It is also ridiculously easy to say something embarrassing in Hungarian. When I was first learning Hungarian I managed to say "clitoris" when I meant "ticklish", and "vagina" when I meant "thumb." The city I live in is commonly mispronounced by foreigners in a way that means "your arse." And the expression "to your health" used when someone sneezes or in toasts is often mispronounced by foreigners to mean "to your entire arse." And there are innocent English words which you shouldn't say in public, like "bus", because it's pronounced the same as the Hungarian word equivalent of the f word.

The f word is almost always used with a prefix, though. We have prefixes meaning: in, out, completely, away, apart, up, down, together, in a circle... and they can be used with the f word to create various meanings, many of them figurative.

Pthalo said...

Also, one thing that's interesting: Syphilis!

In Hungarian, it's called szifilisz, but it's also called "the french disease". This is the case in Italian, German, and Spanish as well. In French, it's known as the Italian disease. In Portugal and the Netherlands, they blame the Spanish. The Russians blame the Poles. The Turks call it the "Christian disease" and in Tahiti it's the British disease.

In Hungarian, we still say "go to France!" as an insult that means "get syphilis!"

Also "That's Greek to me":

Portugese, Swedish, and English say: "that's greek to me"
In Czech, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, German, they say "it's a spanish village to me!" or "that's spanish to me"
In Dutch, Hungarian, Greek, Hebrew, Polish, Spanish, it is said "that's chinese to me"
In Finnish, Icelandic they say "that's hebrew"
French and Russian say both "that's hebrew" and "that's chinese"
In Italian, they say "it's arabic"
In Turkish they say either "it's arabic" or "It's French"
and in Vietnamese they say it's either Khmer or Lao
The Japanese say "it's jibberish" and the Chinese just say they don't understand you.

chris the cynic said...

I remember that in some country, I think it was Romania, the local (extremely scary) dictator's name was very easily misspelled to mean ... oh I wish I could remember for sure because if I get this wrong I'll look like a complete idiot. Something penis related, I think it dickless, but it might have meant small penis. The newspaper editors lived in a constant state of fear because if they let even one misspelling slip through they might be thrown in jail or worse.

Pthalo said...

The Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian/Montenegrin words for "Tito, our pride" mean "Tito, our diarrhoea" in Russian.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

Ana, this post made me sad.

Actually, it made me giggle almost hysterically. Thank you so very very much.


Ana Mardoll said...

Sad giggles are the best. Or the worst. I'm not sure which.

Brin Bellway said...

Majromax: (@Brian from last week's Twilight thread: don't sweat Calculus.

Thought process: “Are they talking to me? No, there's an “a” in there. *reads further* No, wait, they do mean me.”

The first month to six weeks in University is mostly a review of things like trig anyway.

That's a ways off yet.

Pthalo: And there are innocent English words which you shouldn't say in public, like "bus", because it's pronounced the same as the Hungarian word equivalent of the f word.

Surely I can find a use for this information. (Muahahaha...)

Makabit said...

I'm almost wondering more about a personality disorder of some sort, rather than depression.

Silver Adept said...

Oh, man. This is a highly Sad-Inducing sequence.

Edward can read the minds of everyone else around him. When he mentions that Bella's group might be worried about him and her, what he should be doing is occasionally laughing at the infinite creativity (or lack thereof) of high school students in their curses.

Also, why is Bella's warning system suppressed in the presence of Edward Cullen again? Even when he's been basically giving her every sign that he can for her to run away, run, run, run!

Oh, right. Because Jasper. And I suspect there is a bit of a nonconsensual game going on here, with all the Cullens involved in trapping the new girl and then recruiting her to the family. Since she won't be missed, and Charlie can be persuaded to look the other way, even with it being his daughter. Now, all she has to do is avoid falling in love with anyone else.

I can't see this as any sort of consensual anything, because Bella's a minor, for one thing. I think that someone involved in BDSM would have the good sense not to get involved with anyone underage, because the risk there would be, well, huge. Although, I suppose if Edward also looks like a minor, then thy could play nice without arousing suspicion...

...but if that's the case, shouldn't Isabella be a bit more happy at times that such a beautiful man is doing these things with her? I mean, if the point is ostensibly a relationship where both of them get something pleasurable out of it, shouldn't Bella be getting an Aslan-like thrill every time Edward talks to her?

Also, I have also seen and had to deal with the people hapax mentions - finger-snaps, waves, and other bits of "I can't be arsed to actually approach the help desk and ask for your help, but I expect you to come over to me and help." Those people, I suspect, end up getting help at a slower pace than we might normally give, though if you ask, we deny it, and mention that those people are often the ones who ask in-depth questions and expect us to do it for them, so it's very hard for us to help them and still be able to help everyone else...

Kit Whitfield said...

Bella's a minor, for one thing.

One could argue that Edward's lived long enough to see ages of consent change. It varies from country to country - it's sixteen in the UK, for instance. But based on the book, Edward does manage to stick to his no-sex principle, so presumably the legalities don't apply because it's not illegal to flirt with someone.

Well, unless you're a paedophile grooming a child. And while Edward is older than even the dodderiest peodophile, Bella's almost an adult, so I'm not sure you could apply it. She's young enough that one does have to wonder what a man his age sees in a girl hers, but still.

Bificommander said...

TW: Rape
"I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly."
"Yes -- giving up trying to be good. I'm just going to do what I want now, and let the chips fall where they may."

Okay, if a guy who's been acting, at various moments, either agressive, flirty or dismissive of your opinions or rights do decide what you want to do for yourself tells you this, I think it's safe to say no jury would convict you for tazering the guy in pre-emptive self defense. Dear lord, I'm not sure he could sound more like a rapist if he tried. The hell comment is especially baffeling. Yes, we know he's a vampire so we know he's talking about killing people for food, but Bella hasn't connected the dots yet. And Bella is still planning to get into the car with this guy for a long trip away from everyone else she knows. That's... not a very good idea.

Kit Whitfield said...

The hell comment is especially baffeling.

It's curious in the context, no? He's immortal; his choices are either to stay alive for ever, so hell isn't an option, or else die at some point, and you'd think that vampirism would be a bigger factor in his salvation than whether or not he dated someone. I think it's probably just supposed to be a figure of speech ... but I wonder if you could read a case that he's decided he's damned because he's a vampire, so there's no point trying to be good? Vampirism as Calvinism rather than Mormonism...


That's literally what it says in the text: "and I hated it."

WIth Bella's narrative, though, that's pretty much tantamount to saying 'and I noticed it.' With her emotional tone, negativity is so constant that a word like 'hate' doesn't carry its usual impact, I think.

kirenos said...

I just could not resist -

also, in German (or Austrian German) - "ich versteh' nur Bahnhof" - I only understand "train station".

FWIW - ciao.

Mmarple26 said...

Uh, no. there are entire books dedicated to swearing in Japanese at your local bookstore. Baka and Kuso are only the most commonly used in anime. there are entire varying degrees of being insulting that even include the way you address someone ---> four years of Japanese language and culture tells me so.

bekabot said...

"But nice things? Things that forced me to honestly feel good? Ice cream, an unexpected compliment, a kiss from a lover, anything viscerally pleasant and unprepared for? Oh yes, I hella resented those! How dare they drag me out of this miserable but stable place? If you make me start to feel, feel ANYTHING, then how can I protect myself from feeling all the pain that I KNOW is out there?"

There's a passage in Shadowfever in which MacKayla Lane has a similar reaction. (I'm not trying to quote the passage exactly, please be aware.) One morning she walks out into a beautiful, fresh-washed, transformed-earth day, and thinks (more or less): "Of course, when you're not feeling terrific, super weather doesn't do that much for you. It's like the world is saying, "Hi there!! I'm all bright and shiny; too bad you're not!!"

Been there and done that, though not (of course) in a world that's been openly taken over by fairies.

Brin Bellway said...

That's not something I'm used to. "Jesum crow," yes, "Holy cow," yes. "Holy crow," no. Is this a common thing I simply haven't encountered?

I'm not sure if I've ever heard "holy crow" used before, but I wouldn't find it that odd. I would find "Jesum crow" odd.

chris the cynic said...

I would find "Jesum crow" odd as well. I've heard it, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't throw me to hear it again. It just sounds weird to me, but to my ears "holy crow," sounds weirder. Well, weirder as an exclamation. I'd have no trouble with the idea of people talking about the holy crow as an object of worship or reverence.

Will Wildman said...

I have no brilliant insights on hand at the moment, but I wanted to note that this:

It is also ridiculously easy to say something embarrassing in Hungarian. When I was first learning Hungarian I managed to say "clitoris" when I meant "ticklish", and "vagina" when I meant "thumb." The city I live in is commonly mispronounced by foreigners in a way that means "your arse." And the expression "to your health" used when someone sneezes or in toasts is often mispronounced by foreigners to mean "to your entire arse." And there are innocent English words which you shouldn't say in public, like "bus", because it's pronounced the same as the Hungarian word equivalent of the f word.

-is easily the most magnificent thing I have heard in days and fills me with joy and philosophy.

Ana Mardoll said...

I could not agree more, and I additionally think that this needs to be used in a book. Somewhere, somehow, I want a heroine who cheerfully stutters out "to your entire arse" when she proposes a toast at a wedding.

redcrow said...

Re: Twilight and BDSM - someone reworked their Twilight fic into the "original" trilogy and published at least two books of it. Out of curiosity I've read the first three chapters of a second (I guess) book (skipped the prologue - glanced enough of it to be sure I don't want to read it). "Edward" comes off as a nasty controlling jerk who acts possessive of heroine rira nsgre gurl oebxr hc va cerivbhf obbx. "Bella"'s name, I'm sorry to say, is Ana.

Ana Mardoll said...


Silver Adept said...

@chris the cynic

Bella's inability to talk while staring at the Sparkly vampire suggests that even Twilight vampires have the power of thrall against humans. The implied jealousy of Bella's table when Edward pulls her away suggests that even when he's not fully sparkly, his beauty draws people into thinking about him in romantic terms. Regardless of how much of a jerk he is. So when he's fully unveiled...or after repeated uses of thrall against Bella, he's able to make her completely silent and obedient just by her looking at him. Apparently, however, it only works when she's looking at him, because when she looks away, her faculties return, along with her biting wit.

Which sort of makes him the visual version of a siren. (I'd normally say a Gorgon, but all of them have the problem of turning their admirers to stone.)

Kit Whitfield said...

Am I the only one who thinks there's something heartily friendly and body-positive about 'to your entire arse' as a toast?

Kit Whitfield said...

On a similar subject - I used to edit an author who wrote novels from the point of view of World War II German soldiers. One of his favourite expressions for them to use was 'Heaven, arse and cloudburst!' - sometimes extended to, 'Heaven, arse and cloudburst, the captain's got a hole in his arse!' If anyone is a German speaker, perhaps you can enlighten me as to whether this is an actual German saying or whether he was making it up.

My favourite phrase he used was a term of address to junior soldiers: 'Hey, arse-with-ears!'

kirenos said...

"Himmel, Arsch und Wolkenbruch" sounds much better in German; rather lame when translated to English.

I also remember learning "HimmelGottVerdammteDonnerWetterischeSchweineHund", but that may have been my father making a joke about the longest word in the German language.

Makabit said...

OK, I officially like that interpretation (she's eating something because she's responsibly taking care of her body!) better than mine -- even if it's still FOOD FAIL, it's *slightly* better than "if you don't eat during times of stress, you win more boys!" Although I suppose it's probably both/and. *sigh*

One of the things I love about Jennifer Weiner's "Good In Bed" is that the fat heroine loses a lot of weight through being stressed and not eating when her child is in the hospital, and it's not considered a wonderful development that changes her life in a good way. She's in a deep, horrible depression, and loses an absolute ton of weight, and comments at one point, that if she weren't wearing dirty sweats, or had washed recently, she would be 'an actual babe'.

Then her baby gets better, and she gets the guy, and gains all the weight back, because she's feeling OK and can eat again.

I like Jennifer Weiner.

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