Twilight: The Tyranny of POV

[Content Note: Dysfunctional Relationships, Taking the Abuser's Perspective]

Twilight Recap: Edward has beckoned to Bella across the school lunchroom and she's joined him at his empty table.

Twilight, Chapter 5: Blood Type

So let's talk about Point of View, or POV. POV is -- for the three of you who aren't NaNoWriMo'ing right this very instant (and how are the rest of you coming, by the way? Hugs to you all.) -- the perspective from which a story is told. A book like Twilight is told from Bella's perspective; we don't, for example, see the tense scene at the Cullen house in the aftermath of the van incident where Edward explains his actions and everyone waits on tenterhooks for Alice to determine their fate.

POVs are difficult. If you go with a single POV, then as an author you're going to struggle with making sure that the protagonists see and hear everything that the reader needs to see and hear. When done poorly, you end up with the Rayford/Buck issue in Left Behind where they basically have to follow the Antichrist around, doing his laundry for him, in order to see all the action. A better solution might have been to make the Antichrist a POV character, but the problem there is that being a POV character tends to make the reader understand the character, and understanding is frequently a crucial first step in sympathizing. (Not that sympathy always follows understanding. Again, see Rayford/Buck.)

A POV isn't a perfect window into a character's soul; POVs can be unreliable, and -- I might argue -- almost should be, if we hope to capture a reasonable facsimile of human thought and experience. And we've discussed multiple times how much of what Bella says can actually be taken as fact. But what I've talked less about is getting into Edward's head, probably because I care less about his thoughts and more about his actions. (Intent! Not magic!) But the fact of the matter is, we don't really have Edward's perspective and it's possible that his interpretation of this conversation would look very different. (And yes, I know about "Midnight Sun" and we'll get there but my policy with deconstructions is that anything written in a different book years after the first can be safely ignored for the moment in favor of the text at hand.)

So! Because otherwise today's post would have been another long omg-look-at-Edward-he-is-a-jerk-and-it-makes-me-SAD post, today instead you are going to get Ana doing her best to get inside Edward's head in a way that makes his jerkiness less so. Because I like a challenge. And, er, if you did want another omg-Edward-is-a-jerk post, please rest assured that there will be many more of those in the future. I WILL NOT DEPRIVE YOU. Because trying to assume the best from Edward Cullen, for me, is a little like trying to believe that just because no one has ever managed to summon Biggie Smalls by saying his name three times in a mirror doesn't mean that it couldn't happen. What I'm saying is that I have to ignore a lot of past behavioral evidence in order to give Edward the benefit of the doubt.

But! I'm going to try.

   "So, as long as I'm being . . . not smart, we'll try to be friends?" I struggled to sum up the confusing exchange.
   "That sounds about right."

This interaction could sadden you. From Bella's perspective, she's not being promised love or romance or a rose garden; she's sort-of-kind-of wringing out a grudging willingness to be 'friends' from a person who is not being friendly at all. And she's having to insult herself, by accepting his insults as truth about herself, in order to get even that small measure of consideration.

But! From Edward's perspective, this is a rather serious concession from him. It's implied in the text that the Cullen vampires haven't had human friends in a long time, possibly not since being turned. Part of this is the implicit issues between predator and prey, but also there's always the Italian Vampire Mob hanging over everything. I'm not sure how much of a security breach is necessary in order to justify a burning of the house down, but I'm pretty confident that the Cullens have felt the need to be on their best behavior and blend in. (It's just that they're terrible at it! But maybe they're like fae -- they can't tell that they seem fundamentally different.)

So it's not that Edward is being a grudging jerk and forcing a young girl to eke out some measure of kindness from him; he's a different being on a different plane of existence taking a very dangerous and tentative step towards war with an Italian Vampire Mob. Surely we can all sympathize with that a little.

   I looked down at my hands wrapped around the lemonade bottle, not sure what to do now.
   "What are you thinking?" he asked curiously.

This interaction could frustrate you. After all, Bella is having a really frustrating day. The boy she feels inexplicably drawn to has suddenly turned warm after weeks of being painfully cold. Now he's not just offering to take her on a day-trip, he's also wanting her to sit with him at lunch. This should be a chance to celebrate her good fortune, but wrapped up in all this is the problematic fact that this boy also spends all his time in either stony silence or talkative insults. Should she be happy or sad? Should she express her boundaries and step into this potentially painful relationship or walk away now? Should she get-the-f-out while the getting is good, or should she give him a chance? (And if she walks away now, what will the gossips say? She's already turned down the second-most eligible boy in school, Mike.)

And here, in the midst of all this inner turmoil, Edward is soliciting that she speak her mind in an environment that is not safe, where everything she says is likely to be taken wrong and used against her. So you could be forgiven for feeling like Edward needs to spend less time brow-beating Bella into sharing her innermost thoughts and more time deliberately creating a safe space for her so that when she chooses to speak her mind, she can do so without fear.

But! From Edward's perspective, this is the first conversation he's had in 100 years where he couldn't immediately read the other person's mind. Bella is a blank to him, in a way that no one else has been for most of his existence. So from his perspective, he's not demanding that she open her heart and mind to him so much as he's just savoring the novelty of having to ask the question.

   "I'm trying to figure out what you are."
   His jaw tightened, but he kept his smile in place with some effort.

This behavior could concern you. After all, it's very interesting that Edward's physical reactions to his emotional mood are so obvious to Bella. You could call this a fudging of the limits around the first-person POV, but you could just as easily take it as fact that Edward has the worst poker face ever. This is particularly interesting since I'd think that 100 years of constant mental feedback would teach someone a great deal of the psychology of body language. And I would think Edward would have a good deal of motivation to learn to be a consummate liar, what with the whole Italian Vampire Mob thing hanging over their heads at all times. You'd think that Edward would be the face of the Cullen family; the point-man sent out to fix things when anyone gets too suspicious. In fact, the more I dwell on it, the more I think it's not possible that Edward is this crappy at reading people and adjusting himself accordingly.

So! The alternate explanation is that Edward is doing his barely-suppressed-rage act on purpose in order to scare off Bella. Sure, there's something deeply problematic about a lover who just can't stay away but is also going to be deliberately rage-y and off-putting so that she'll do the hard job of running away and breaking up with him. But! From Edward's perspective, this isn't a serious thing to Bella and once she gets him out of her system, he can go be miserable for eternity while she goes to college. Or... something. At least, I guess that's what he's thinking?

   "Are you having any luck with that?" he asked in an offhand tone.
   "Not too much," I admitted.
   He chuckled. "What are your theories?"

This interaction could annoy you. Edward really should not be encouraging Bella to work out all the ways he's different from others, if only for reasons of safety -- not only his, but also hers. And Edward really should not be asking Bella to work out these ideas verbally while he smirks and chuckles at her, if only for reasons of politeness.

But! If we look at this from Edward's perspective, it's possible that he's not doing this to mock Bella or encourage her to rush headlong to their shared, Italian-Vampire-Mob orchestrated doom, but because he's just so captivated by the idea of watching someone work out the oddness of the Cullens. It's really almost a longing to be in that place again, the place where one doesn't know about the existence of vampires, and trying to experience it vicariously, to revel in that delicious ignorance. Or, at the very least, it's a sort of research he's conducting for the good of his family.

   "Won't you tell me?" he asked, tilting his head to one side with a shockingly tempting smile.
   I shook my head. "Too embarrassing."
   "That's really frustrating, you know," he complained.
   "No," I disagreed quickly, my eyes narrowing, "I can't imagine why that would be frustrating at all -- just because someone refuses to tell you what they're thinking, even if all the while they're making cryptic little remarks specifically designed to keep you up at night wondering what they could possibly mean . . . now, why would that be frustrating?"
   He grimaced.
   "Or better," I continued, the pent-up annoyance flowing freely now, "say that person also did a wide range of bizarre things -- from saving your life under impossible circumstances one day to treating you like a pariah the next, and he never explained any of that, either, even after he promised. That, also, would be very non-frustrating."
   "You've got a bit of a temper, don't you?"
   "I don't like double standards."
   We stared at each other, unsmiling.

This exchange could invigorate you to the point of printing up and ordering a dozen "Team Bella" shirts in a variety of shapes and sizes. After all, Bella is finally finding her voice and standing up for herself by pointing out that Edward has been probing her relentlessly for information the entire conversation while deliberately giving nothing about himself away and then mocking Bella when she points out that she doesn't understand him. Now she's calling him a hypocrite, and she's doing it with specific examples, clearly-calmly-rationally, and with a delightfully crunchy veneer of sarcasm, just like the chocolate around a Mallomar.

And you might be tempted to see Edward as a complete jerk in this exchange for completely failing to recognize and agree that Bella is right and has a point, and for failing to take that point on board, and for failing to stop harping at her in his not-delightful-at-all whatchathinkingabouthuh manner, and going back to basics on the whole "creating a safe space" concept. No, instead he makes faces and frowns and tells Bella that speaking up for herself and establishing boundaries is having "a temper" whereas what he's been doing all year is just normal jaw-tightening.

But! What you would fail to understand there is the huge gulf that exists between Edward and Bella. From Edward's perspective, he's a greater being, with more important feelings that are more worthy of airing through words and body language. From the same perspective, Bella is a lesser being -- interesting, no doubt, and possibly worth getting to know, but only if she understands that her feelings are subject to Edward's approval, and that when her innermost thoughts are solicited, she must censor those thoughts heavily or risk being assigned a variety of labels she may not want. It's not Edward's fault that he feels this way; it's just the nature of the way he's been living for the bulk of his existence.

   "Can you do me a favor?" I asked after a second of hesitation.
   He was suddenly wary. "That depends on what you want."
   "It's not much," I assured him.
   He waited, guarded but curious.
   "I just wondered . . . if you could warn me beforehand the next time you decide to ignore me for my own good. Just so I'm prepared." I looked at the lemonade bottle as I spoke, tracing the circle of the opening with my pinkie finger.
   "That sounds fair." He was pressing his lips together to keep from laughing when I looked up.

This interaction could break your heart. I mean, here Bella is pouring out between the lines just how damaged she was when Edward turned unexpectedly cold to her a few weeks before, and she's not asking him to not do it again, she's asking him to give her some kind of warning so that she can get used to the idea of being without him and saying her goodbyes. In some sense, this is precisely how communication in a relationship should work: Bella is conveying to Edward how important he is to her, and letting him know what considerations she needs from him.

And Edward... is laughing at her. He's amused that she is already dreading his eventual mood-swing or whatever it is that has caused him -- twice! -- to avoid and aggressively shun her. And he's agreeing to her considerations, but he's either lying through his teeth or doesn't understand the spirit of the request, because if the "New Moon" movie is in any way accurate to the book, Edward's 'warning' is "we're leaving" and Bella says "when" and he says "oops, that's the car now, bye!" and that, Edward, is not a warning.

But! From Edward's perspective... uhhmmm... he had his fingers crossed?


JenL said...

if the "New Moon" movie is in any way accurate to the book, Edward's 'warning' is "we're leaving" and Bella says "when" and he says "oops, that's the car now, bye!" and that, Edward, is not a warning.

Well, if we're seeing things from Edward's perspective, "I'm leaving - bye" probably did count as a warning, compared to his usual disappearing act. Somewhere along the way, Bella *ought* to come to the realization that he's not very bright and she can't just imply things to him but instead must explain everything very, very clearly. He may think he's some advanced being, but based on his ability to understand (or at least to comply), apparently he needs things broken down into small words and explained one. step. at. a. time.

Brin Bellway said...

you end up with the Rayford/Buck issue in Left Behind

I am amused you described this using the same format as with shipping.

(No, I don't have anything about the main point to say. Not yet, anyway.)

chris the cynic said...

You might want to add a warning about taking the abuser's perspective, since that's something that's been brought up as triggering.

Hopefully I'll have more to say when I'm feeling better. For now I'll just leave it at:
It's a very nice post, thank you for making it.

hapax said...


The alternative explanation for the entire conversation is that Edward has been stuck as a teenage boy with zero experience in romantic relationships for a hundred years, and is really really clueless at the level of "how do I get girls to like me? I know, I'll pull her hair and laugh at her when she gets mad!"

Which doesn't make him any less abusive or, y'know, dangerous (in fact, more so -- there's a REASON you don't hand a child a loaded machine gun, several knives, and a bottle of poison then send him out to play with friends), but always made me wincingly sympathetic for his absolute courtship FAIL in these scenes.

(Except that he doesn't fail. Maybe Bella is irresistibly attracted to super-strong murderous woobies?)

I know you're not "admitting evidence" from MIDNIGHT SUN, but there is one detail from this scene from Edward's P.O.V. that really sends this interpretation for me:

(ROT13 Spoiler:) Nsgre Oryyn yrnirf, ur fjvcrf gur obggyr pnc sebz ure yrzbanqr naq pneevrf vg nebhaq jvgu uvz sbe gur erfg bs gur frpgvba.

I know that we're supposed to find that meltingly "romantic", but all I could think was "Awww! Somebody has a kindergarten crush!"

chris the cynic said...

I say this from observation rather than experience, because I have no personal experience with courtship whatsoever, but teenage boys can actually be pretty good at courtship. Being a teenager hardly excuses him.

Edward is a teenage boy who has 87 years experience of knowing exactly how teenage courtship works from the perspective of of all participants and onlookers. A teenager with only a few months of that kind of inhumanly in-depth experience should be doing many times better than he is.

Edward isn't failing by the standard of adults, he's failing by the standards of teenagers.

Silver Adept said...

Perhaps, charitably, Edward is still unused to the fact that he cannot read Bella's mind, and this causes him great frustration - kind of like someone who is an expert in something, only to break a hand and have to relearn all the technique that they know they have, if only the gorram hand would just cooperate... doesn't really excuse the fact that he should be able to navigate a relationship successfully through experience, but maybe he wasn't paying attention in class and has just expected to always be able to read minds to make it all work out? Like a high schooler who breezed through their classes, only to be thumped soundly upon entering Organic Chemistry and realizing what the phrase "weeder class" really means?

Actually, that's trading some malice for ignorance - not exactly an improvement, as there's still plenty of malice going around. Edward's trying to figure out what makes Bella tick in the same way one might experiment upon a laboratory creature- show it affection, she how it reacts, show it ignorance, see how it reacts, et cetera. It seems almost clinical, and is incredibly unethical and abusive to Bella (there's a reason we have informed consent forms and IRBs).

Also, not to derail too much, but notice that Bella is looking at her hands and the lemonade cap while she snarls at Edward and gives him the business. I'm still waiting for a scene where Bella tells Edward off to his face. Otherwise, I'm sticking to the theory that thrall is a side effect of the vampire-beautification process, and Edward, like with so many other things, lacks control enough to be able to turn it off when he needs to. Or, is that much of a jerk that he likes it when the minds of the people he can thrall go all melty and confused when they look at him.

Nathaniel said...

Please don't cause yourself a stroke trying to make your brain nice to Edward. Your mental health is far too important.

Kit Whitfield said...

In fairness to Edward, he doesn't read to me as mocking Bella's legitimate anger. He more reads - or at least, seems intended to be read - as laughing admiringly at her spirit. If you've ever seen the movie version of Gone With The Wind (and if you don't like racism, there are many good reasons not to), Clark Gable laughs a great deal in his interactions with Vivien Leigh, and at one point walks off saying to himself, 'What a woman!'

Likewise, in the book, Rhett teases Scarlett a great deal, and it often annoys her. The counter-balance is that he also praises her for qualities she actually has, and when he does tease, it's usually either a reaction to her lying or an attempt to distract her when she's upset.

A hero who playfully insults the heroine by way of courting her takes a delicate balance, and the problem with Edward is that the moments of positive comment have to be vague because Bella's such an open-insert character that too specific praise would undermine that. Which means we're left with just the chuckling - which doesn't work for me, but it clearly works for a lot of women, and I wonder if one reason why it does is that the laughs-at-her-affectionately-to-show-he's-confident hero is a well-established archetype in romantic fiction, and hence laughing at the heroine quickly signals that he's a recognisable type.

Ana Mardoll said...

Heh. I'm more of a Buck/Carpathia shipper, myself. :D

Ana Mardoll said...

VERY good point about the trigger warning. Added, and thank you.

Marie Brennan said...

Aw, c'mon. We've already invented depression and an inner-ear problem to rationalize Bella's behavior; can't we extend Edward the same courtesy?

(Not that I think either of them deserves it. But I was remembering Robert Pattinson's comment in an interview, before Twilight came out, saying that after reading the script he decided to play Edward as a manic-depressive who hates himself, and I was wondering if manic-depressive was the right diagnosis.)

You may have done this in the comments already; I don't always managed to read the threads after the posts. But I thought I'd bring it up.

Izzy said...

I actually find Edward Who Doesn't Get Humanity Any More, as per Ana's comments, to be really appealing on some level, far more so than Edward the Perfect Suitor of Awesomeness.

Edward who's supposed to be the paragon of romantic perfection...isn't, and having him presented that way just highlights the flaws. Edward who's spent more years not being human than he has otherwise, and who can't quite adjust, brings to mind all sorts of sympathetic characters--Spock and Data, for example, or Pratchett's DEATH and family*, or Morpheus, Jareth....

Yeah, that could rock.

I feel like I need to think about this more, but I have an appointment. Back soon!

*There's a bit in Thief of Time, for example, where Susan (Death's granddaughter) is using some supernatural power to go through someone else's desk, and there's a line " did not occur to her that there was anything *wrong* about this, although she'd quite understand that it was probably wrong if you weren't Susan Sto Helit, of course."

Rikalous said...

You could say that the last quoted section has Edward being derisive of Bella's well-founded complaints, and you in fact have.

But! People laugh for a great many reasons, including relief. And Edward, who is sitting across from the first human he's met in centuries who is opaque to him, and is fully aware that he's risking exposure and the wrath of the Volturi, has reason to be relieved about Bella's request. Heck, he probably felt honor-bound to try and grant it no matter what it was, to make up for the danger he's putting her in. "She just wants me to warn her before I try to stay away from her? Well, I don't think that'll ever come up, but it's not a big deal. I'll just have to make a mental note. Man, if that's all she wants, I think I've been worrying over nothing."

I think clueless!Edward is going to be fairly sympathetic, certainly in comparison to mindgames!Edward. I'm still going to want to thwap him in the back of the head for being such an insensitive twit, though.

Ana Mardoll said...

Pratchett's DEATH and family*

Based on the Hogfather movie, I would totally marry DEATH or Susan. They are both beyond awesome.

"You can't give a sword to a child!"
DEATH: "It's *educational*."
"But they might get hurt!"
DEATH: "THAT would be a very good lesson."

Ana Mardoll said...

But I never bought the idea that "oooh, he can read minds, he must be Mr. Suave Manipulator of Mood!". After all, just because you can read, doesn't mean that you necessarily learn anything.

The only reason I hold him to that is that we later see (don't we? I didn't imagine it, did I?) him smoothly navigating social waters. In Breaking Dawn, he plays the playboy, carefully slipping bills to people as he charters private planes and the like. He seems pretty debonair and adult... except when he's with Bella. (Maybe she brings out the 2-year-old in him?)

Izzy said...

Oh, me too. And I so recommend Thief of Time.

Izzy said...

I tend toward your point of view here...

...but I am constructing a Meta!Edward who gets society when it's something to manipulate, but gets all flustered by people when he has to relate to them as people. Perhaps *especially* so because he's so good at manipulating society. Slipping bills to people, making financial arrangements, exhibiting the sort of facile charm that gets you a seat by the window...those all reinforce the idea that this is all a game, that getting by in society is a matter of learning the right buttons to push, *and* that people who are so easily manipulated are lesser beings and not worth deeper thought.

And then gets thrown into a situation where he needs to deal with someone as a person rather than a cog.

Goddammit, why do all Supernatural Guy/Normal Girl romances turn into buddy cop movies in my head? Because...yeah.

Ana Mardoll said...

I liked this comment so much, but GO TO BED! Well, soon anyway. I don't want you to feel wretched. :(

chris the cynic said...

Thank you.

It's a bit early yet. Though maybe I will try to get to bed early which I probably wouldn't have done without you saying that. So thanks again.


Last night I just sort of got caught up over at slacktivist. I disagree with, apparently, everyone on earth about the prodigal son parable*. Also I had to take a shower before going to bed and it was so much easier to keep on typing than get up and take a shower.

I'm not really looking forward to returning to that thread, but hopefully tomorrow when I'm feeling better and better rested I'll be able to face it. I think I've had eight people directly respond to what I said in that thread (thank you email notifications) I'm not sure I've ever gotten that many direct responses in a thread before and it's happening in a place where I'm increasingly feeling like I should have kept my mouth shut in the first place. It's not that I think what I said was wrong, it's just that everyone else does. (And since it's a topic heavily interwoven with abusive relationships there's always a risk of hurting people, which would be very bad.)

* Extremely short version: I want to be on the elder son's side because I do feel like he did get shafted, but when he opens up his mouth and speaks he, in my opinion, invalidates every interpretation of his actions that would have me on his side.


Another annoying thing is that if I could write for my NaNoWriMo book the way I was writing about that, I wouldn't be stalled at all. Then again, it looks like the same can be said of Twilight.

Ana Mardoll said...

Wait, we're not supposed to be on his side? Or we're not supposed to think he's whiny about it? o.O

Ana Mardoll said...

I was REALLY tired last night. Went to bed at 9, which is pretty early for me, and slept till 8, which is really late for me, and it was wonderful. I hope the same for you. :)

chris the cynic said...

I don't want to paraphrase the people who disagree with me because I risk strawmaning them. Even paraphrasing myself probably has the effect of over simplifying things and since I did it it probably does so in my favor.

My thing is that, basically, when I read his words I really lose a lot of sympathy for him because the reason he says he's pissed off, rather than being any of the myriad things that I think are legitimate grievances, is something that strikes me as nothing more than a rude false equivalence. (Though I've recently come to the conclusion it might not be so false as I once thought it. So I need to think on it.) And I think there's a certain lack of honesty.

To use extreme hyperbole, it's similar to how I feel with Buck after he's sent to Chicago because he told the truth when everyone thought he was lying. I have sympathy for him because what was done to him was unjust, and then he opens his mouth. And that changes everything.


One thing that I think I can say about those who disagree with me without risking misrepresenting them is that there is a general feeling that he is not being whiny about it.


Also, oh God I'm derailing a second thread, on a second blog, with this topic.

Anyway, I'm going to try to get ready for bed now and we'll see how that goes.

Ana Mardoll said...

I will fling into the canonical "you stay the age you're at" discussion the fact that the Volturi have high-ranking children in the family:

Make of that whatever we will. :D

Also, if Edward knows you stay the age you're at, it's really cruel of him to insist later that he and Bella can have a normal relationship with her as an aging human and him as an immortal vampire. I always thought that suggestion was predicated on the belief that he was older in mind and spirit and could keep up with her aging. :/

From a philosophical standpoint, though, I kind of personally reject the "mentally trapped at 17" explanation because... it doesn't make sense to me. A huge part of aging is simply experience, and Edward has tons of that. Yes, there are physical changes too, but to maintain that teenagers are essentially the sum of their bodies is something I'm not prepared to do. Even if Edward was very hormonal and extremely immature at the time of his turning -- and I would honestly think that a 17 year old in his era would be much more mature than the media-average 17 year old now -- 100 years of experience should imprint on him. He has memories of that time, we know that, so he can change and learn and grow, and that's a huge part of aging.

Of course, they are magic vampires with magic static sperm and magic vampire babies, so expecting biological sense from Twilight is like expecting Ents to walk into my living room. It's a nice fantasy, but I'm not going to hold my breath. :)

Makabit said...

For some reason, Carpathia reads as very straight to me. I have no idea why.

Makabit said...

Death is a remarkable character.

I do wish we'd seen more of Ysabel and Mort as adults. Ysabel was always my favorite.

"Do you know how old I am? I'm sixteen. Do you know how long I've been sixteen for? Thirty-six years! It was bad enough the first year!"

Amarie said...

Oh my god…yes. The Volturi. I can’t…I can’t even…ugh. -__-

But I certainly agree with you, Ana! A large part of aging *is* having experiences. And, what’s even more important is taking the time to *learn* from those experiences as best you can. And it’s also important to know that you never really stop learning no matter what age you are.

As far as Edward demanding that Bella continues to grow/mature as a human, I agree with you again. Yet, the alternative that includes both of them remaining adolescents isn’t very productive/healthy either. This is because they *are* both incredibly immature in so many ways. And it’s to the point of having an extremely controlling, abusive and manipulative relationship across the board. So, I disagree with Mrs. Meyer that Bella and Edward staying in their adolescence is the best way to a ‘healthy relationship’. Besides which, if there *is* a chance of Bella ‘getting ahead’ of Edward, then that explicitly implies that Edward is actually quite immature and underdeveloped. Therefore, he’s actually on a lower level of intellect than Bella because Bella has the means with which to grow, even if she doesn’t seem to want to anymore than he does. So all of the talk about ‘Bella, I know what’s best for you and you’re being absurd’ is moot, contrived and the talk of a two-year old about to constantly go on a tantrum.

Ana, I like what you said about teenagers not being just the ‘sums of their bodies’. That encompasses the way I feel, too. Yet…that’s the prevailing sentiment/ideology in the Twilight series, isn’t it? That you are exactly as you look. If you’re white and privileged, you act calm and properly. If you’re colored and (presumably) not privileged, then you act fiery and uncivilized. If you’re plain-looking, then you’re boring and unassuming. And so on and so forth. It’s just incredibly problematic in so many ways that you could probably write an entire essay on it. >.<

And on a side note, there *are* teenagers that are mature and ready to get married. I’ll concede that they’re far and in between. But they *do* exist and there is no ‘getting too far ahead’.

Silver Adept said...

@chris -

I see your highly-compressed point in re: elder son. And that's where I'll leave it.

Regarding Edward being frozen in time - I see plenty of teenagers in my work daily that are quite capable of sane, adult decisions by themselves. Their brains are wired to seek novelty and peer acceptance, which then makes them act like stupid thrill-seekers in the company of their peers. (And we have the brain research to prove it.)

If Edward were, in fact, frozen in that frame of reference, then some of his "shun-no-wait-stalk-no-have-to-shun" behavior might make sense, as he shifts from "alone, I am a sane adult" to "In the company of these high school students, I'd like to get along with them, were it not for the filthy contents of their minds" to "I must have approval from my adoptive family" to "I want to rebel against my adoptive family and the Italian Vampire Mafia"...and then there's this strange girl that's immune to my ability to read minds - maybe I can make friends with wait, have to maintain my distance or the Mafia will get me...but I can't read her mind, and it's nice, in a way..."

All that would be kind of making sense - the novelty draws Edward in, but his adult faculties and the adults in his life) are probably screaming at him to stay away, stay away, lest the Vampire Mafia decide to descend...or as happens later on in the book, some other vampire senses a weakness and thinks that she's a way in to attacking them.

If Edward were newly turned, that might even be part of the appeal of the plot. But because he's been there before, one would think that he's had so much practice at not getting attached that he should be simply able to keep things turned off and not get suckered in by the odd girl in Forks - or to decide to kidnap her and study her somewhere else and see why she's so unique.

Yet again, potential for Darker and Edgier here that gets missed.

Brin Bellway said...

Silver Adept: I see plenty of teenagers in my work daily that are quite capable of sane, adult decisions by themselves. Their brains are wired to seek novelty and peer acceptance, which then makes them act like stupid thrill-seekers in the company of their peers. (And we have the brain research to prove it.)

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

(Also some thoughts going through my head regarding Mom's relief that "Fifteen is like five but more so" isn't always true (If this is what she's like at five...), "What does peer mean, anyway?", and how the saying about how one should strive to be surrounded by people better than oneself might relate to how when left to choose my own company, I tend to be the youngest person in the group. There's a probably a more coherent way of stating these, but I've finished breakfast and thus lost my excuse to be on the Internet rather than math-land*.)

*Either the worst or best amusement park ever, depending on your state of mind.

Silver Adept said...

Yep. I tend to do the same thing in choosing company, usually because the people at my age that are on the level I want to be at are rarer. The older I get, the less this is true, but at a younger age, I was definitely hanging out with the adults and the older kids, because I could talk to them about what they were interested in without blank looks and/or "You're really weird, you know that?"

And Math-land is every amusement park ever, it's just that you don't recognize it - physics and calculus over there in the thrill rides, statistical guessing and rigging the odds over by the barker and "skill" games, currency exchange in the tickets-to-prizes ratio of the arcade (and how rigged that game is against you...) there's all sorts of Math-Land going on there, and unlike the blackjack table, it's much harder to "count cards" to give yourself a better edge.

Ana Mardoll said...

at a younger age, I was definitely hanging out with the adults and the older kids, because I could talk to them about what they were interested in without blank looks and/or "You're really weird, you know that?"

This was true for me as well, but I wonder how much of this is confirmation bias. My husband is 12 years older than me, which means I needed a TOTES MATURE MAN to talk to (*wink*) but I'd rather hang out with Brin and Amarie (who are, I think, younger than me) than a lot of the 30 and 40 year olds at work.

I think it's easy for the brain to see Young Mature People as an exception and Old Immature People as a statistical outlier. I suspect that it's more true that about 30% of any age-group are awesomely mature to be around, and the remaining 70% is divided into varying degrees from "fine, but not my thing" to "Jerky McJerkface". I'm guessing, though. :)

Brin Bellway said...

On my latest Girl Guide trip, the other girls took to chatting rather than going to bed. I slept through about 2/3 of it, thinking a night in-between two long days and spent on a very hard mattress wasn't the best time to stay up late. The first third was mostly about celebrities and random people on the subway they found sexually attractive. I felt like I was doing some anthropological study, probably about language. (They use word-combinations I don't use to describe feelings I don't have, though the words individually are ones I use. How intriguing.) (They probably assumed I was straight but unwilling to volunteer information about specifics. They never asked, so I didn't say.)

Brin Bellway said...

I'd rather hang out with Brin and Amarie (who are, I think, younger than me)

According to my mental file, Amarie said not too long ago she was twenty. You were at the Internet manifestation of my eighteenth birthday party a couple weeks ago.

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh, good, my memory is still going strong, then. I have a LOT of trouble with ages. :)

depizan said...

I have trouble with the idea that vampires don't change (mentally) once vamped, because it doesn't seem to fit with what actually happens - it's not just philosophically and (probably) physically impossible, it's directly contradicted in story. That is to say, they have all learned things (many and varied things) since being vamped. How can you learn if you can't change? How can you not change if you can learn? If they were truly fixed, Carlisle wouldn't be a surgeon (or any kind of doctor), none of them could drive cars, they wouldn't speak modern English, zippers would baffle them, the list goes on and on.

Is there a brain expert in the audience? Is there any way that they could learn things, but not change or learn in an emotional sense?

Amarie said...

Oh my GOODNESS. Thank GODDESS (I feel like worshipping a woman today) that I wasn’t the only one that wanted to hang out with adults. I was the kid that everyone picked on because I was ‘all brains and no looks’. I wasn’t very appreciated among my age group, so it was natural that I wanted to be around people where my ‘nerdiness’ would be accepted. What was more was that I found that adults didn’t mind so much if I wanted to quietly blend into the background for a while (I’ve always been an intense thinker and my thought processes start immediately after a conversation). Meanwhile, kids my age would all but throw tantrums if I so much as looked at a book while we were eating lunch. All in all, I’ve always felt…less stifled when I was around people that were older than me.

But then again, maturity varies because people vary. As such, I can say that who I wanted to hang out with, well…largely depended on the person. I’ve met a lot of kids that have impressed and enlightened me…and I’ve met a lot of adults that have saddened and appalled me. Age truly is just a number, yes?

*sniffles and dabs at eyes* A-Ana and Brin…I-I love you guys, too. *sniffles again* I love you b-bigger than Twilight’s fan base. *sniffles again* Beat THAT, Twilight!!!

chris the cynic said...

In real life I've tended to keep to myself, on the internet I always used to be around older people, but now I have brilliant individuals like Brin and Amarie changing that. Presumably the older I get the more it will be the case that I hang out with people younger than myself.

I definitely understand not being interested in the same things other people your age are, though I think it's likely actually the case that it's more that you don't know the people your age who are interested than it is the case that no one else your age is interested in the same thing.

Got into The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy because an adult friend I had in, I think, middle school was a fan.


I felt like I was doing some anthropological study, probably about language. (They use word-combinations I don't use to describe feelings I don't have, though the words individually are ones I use. How intriguing.)

I am fascinated. Is this something you'd be interested to share more about?


That is to say, they have all learned things (many and varied things) since being vamped. How can you learn if you can't change? How can you not change if you can learn?

That's basically my take on the matter as well.

Brin Bellway said...

Amarie: *sniffles and dabs at eyes* A-Ana and Brin…I-I love you guys, too.


chris the cynic: but now I have brilliant individuals like Brin and Amarie changing that.

Also aww! Hugs and Ramblite fistbumps* all 'round!

Presumably the older I get the more it will be the case that I hang out with people younger than myself.

I suppose, since we are not immortal vampires**, there's only so much of an age range we can span. (How much do we span? Three decades? Four? Five?)

Got into The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy because an adult friend I had in, I think, middle school was a fan.

For me it was Dad's idea. I was eight. Our copy was/is only mostly localised and it took me nearly a decade to find out "zebra crossing" = "crosswalk".

(We've discussed both this and wanting to hang out with adults as children before. *shrug*)

Is this something you'd be interested to share more about?

About what? Asexuality or word usage?
(I don't think I could talk much about the word usage. Despite it being only a week ago, I don't remember the details. Just my thinking that none of the pieces were sexual, only the whole. I don't think they even used words like "hot", which have an established sexual meaning even though it's not the only meaning.)
(Oh, hang on, I remember them talking about people without using any verbs ("Would you rather [x person] or [y person***]?"), with the implied verb being "sleep with" or at least "make out with".)

*Is it a fistbump? Do we even have a special gesture? (Slacktivites throw non-fatal sheep at each other and/or shake with blue feet instead of hands, I think.)

**Or are we?

***Well, x or y man.

chris the cynic said...

About what? Asexuality or word usage?

It was the word usage that I was thinking of.

I've always assumed, rightly or wrongly, that asexuality is something that doesn't need to be explained simply because, as near as I can tell, everyone is in a sort of asexual-mode at least some of the time. (If you think that's wrong, please correct me.)

Our copy was/is only mostly localised and it took me nearly a decade to find out "zebra crossing" = "crosswalk".

(We've discussed both this and wanting to hang out with adults as children before. *shrug*)

We have, which means that you already know it took me even longer.

P.S. The first time I talked about "zebra crossing" = "crosswalk", somebody said "Well, it's a type of crosswalk" and linked me to an article about the many kinds, of which I have only seen one or two in the "wild". I wonder if I can track that article down.

I tried to look it up but when I got to the Speeding Bullet thread disqus said, "Hey, someone said something to you, wouldn't you like to take a look at that?" and by the time I got undistracted you'd located it on your own.


Hugs and fistbumps.

Brin Bellway said...

Re: crosswalks

Last week (the same Girl Guide trip) I saw my first pedestrian scramble in Toronto. Unfortunately, I did not have an excuse to use it.

everyone is in a sort of asexual-mode at least some of the time. (If you think that's wrong, please correct me.)

Seems likely, but I think we'd need more perspectives to tell for sure*. I wouldn't have thought sexuality was at all relevant for anyone when on that bus, but apparently for some people it was (I think I was sitting next to the man they were later discussing, which made their very different reaction seem more surprising than it otherwise would have). You can't know what's going on in other people's heads unless they tell you.

*More sure, anyway: "everyone" makes it subject to the black swan effect.

Amarie said...


Just wanted to let you know that I love you, too! *hugs tightly* :D

I apologize for the late reply. I just woke up from a nap. Damned migraines...>.<

Pthalo said...

*hugs Amarie* I get migraines too. They sure do suck, don't they?

Amarie said...

*hugs back tightly*
Oh my god, YES. And they just came back. It's four o'clock in the morning on my side of the world and I have to be at school at eight. Argghhh...>.<

Pthalo said...

poor thing *hugs more* I don't suppose you could call in sick?

Amarie said...

Haha! Well, my grades are fine enough that I could if I wanted to...

But I have a few things to turn in and I want to finish up my work in my computer class. That, and staying home another day (it's been Thanskgiving holiday week) would just throw me off schedule even more. So, I think I'll be alright. If it gets really bad, I'll just plop in the bed first thing when I get home. Thank you, Pthalo! ^ ^

*hugs even more*

Pthalo said...

Good luck, Amarie, and I hope the headache lessens throughout the day.

Isator Levi said...

"From a philosophical standpoint, though, I kind of personally reject the "mentally trapped at 17" explanation because... it doesn't make sense to me. A huge part of aging is simply experience, and Edward has tons of that. Yes, there are physical changes too, but to maintain that teenagers are essentially the sum of their bodies is something I'm not prepared to do. Even if Edward was very hormonal and extremely immature at the time of his turning -- and I would honestly think that a 17 year old in his era would be much more mature than the media-average 17 year old now -- 100 years of experience should imprint on him. He has memories of that time, we know that, so he can change and learn and grow, and that's a huge part of aging."

This comment is a bit old, but it struck me.

An interesting comment I once got from the developer of a certain vampire RPG is the idea that vampires (and possibly immortals of various stripes) across multiple depictions and media amount to "creatures of theme". The idea that being a vampire doesn't mean that you get a century older, but that you're the same person a century later. You're not long lived so much as eternally similar.

Nick Knight obsesses over right and wrong. Spike engages in bloody devastation for women who barely know he's there. Louis... has some daddy issues. What drives them to good and evil deeds remains the same, decade after decade.

It's an interesting way to look at vampires, and what being "undead" might wind up actually meaning.

Edward may have lived out the 20th century, but perhaps that might mean that he just ends up looking at everything that happened then from the same perspective, because of some stasis inherant to his condition.

He still experiences things, and perhaps he still changes. But maybe his unlife is eternally defined by his life.

Or maybe not. I still think it's interesting for other vampires.

Kat said...

Reading this post was like listening to GLaDOS defend Chell. And it was beautiful.

hapax said...

teenage boys can actually be pretty good at courtship.

Oh, they certainly *can*. For that matter, I've known six-year-olds who were quite skilled at evoking the desired emotional responses they want from others -- hapaxson, for example. I rather worry about when he decides to take up dating.

But my point was that Edward doesn't seem to have been -- we don't get any indication that he had the slightest romantic interaction before he died -- what little we know indicates that he was fixated on martial "honor and glory", and perhaps a bit of a mama's boy.

And while he certainly COULD have used the last nine decades to learn about how people interact and think, we've been given every indication that he *hasn't*. He spends as little time in human heads as he possibly can -- skims the surface looking for potential threats, then moving on. He also seems to have a very low opinion of people in general -- I'm not playing Junior Psychologist here, he tells us up front that he mostly looked for the most violent, nasty, and cruel brain-patterns to permit himself some sort of justification for being a preying on humans; and any pleasant, beautiful, and loving thoughts he observed he pretty much used as whips for his favorite pastime of flagellating himself for his unworthiness.

Neurologists tell us that the human brain during adolescences is pretty much a firestorm of random pattern-formations and extreme emotions. If we postulate that Edward stayed in that phase a little later than average, was socially awkward but also hypersensitive towards the moods and thoughts of others (all plausible considering what we've been told about vampirism accentuating inherent traits) and that he's been stuck there for eighty-seven years, unable to process, integrate, and mature ...

.well, he strikes me as a rather pitiable woobie, indeed.

Not my preferred romantic interest, mind you. And still unfathomably dangerous and abusive (but not *deliberately* so). But there are an awful lot of people who find the "Oh, poor damaged baby, I can FIX HIM" fantasy somehow appealing.

But I never bought the idea that "oooh, he can read minds, he must be Mr. Suave Manipulator of Mood!". After all, just because you can read, doesn't mean that you necessarily learn anything.

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