Twilight: The Fantasy of Being Beautiful

Content Note: NSFW Image Link, Body Acceptance, Arbitrary Social Beauty Standards

Sooner or later, I'll have to admit that Firefly is really the first Joss Whedon franchise I've really followed. Buffy was riding high during a time in my life when I was just too busy to watch television, and by the time I was in a place where I felt I could catch up, I was daunted by the sheer volume that had come before and the impossibility of coming up to speed quickly. I did watch a dozen or so episodes of Angel, though, largely because it was aired around the same time as Charmed (which I watched for awhile out of desperation for positive portrayals -- however mismanaged -- of Wicca in the media).

I didn't really care that much for Angel, but one episode stuck with me well enough that years later I was able to pull up an episode synopsis with very little effort. In this episode, Cordelia (who is plagued with painful and debilitating visions) pops into the astral plane to have a heart-to-heart over this whole painful-and-debilitating-visions business. Her spirit-demon-guide-buddy gives her the once over and remarks in surprise and admiration that she must have unusual self-confidence because most other people present an idealized version of themselves on the astral plane.

[nsfw] This was really more than enough prompting for me to roll off the couch laughing hysterically because I would rather imagine that I too would have decent self-confidence if I looked like Charisma Carpenter. It's a pretty decent bet, after all, that if you're asked to pose nude for both the cover of Playboy and a ten-page nude layout, that at least according to society at large, you're doing okay in the looks department. [/nsfw]

But it was while I was confirming via Wikipedia that Charisma Carpenter had in fact posed for Playboy (because I do try to double-check the stuff I write), that I found this quote:
In the June 2004 issue of Playboy magazine, Carpenter appeared on the cover and in a ten-page nude layout. When asked by People magazine in 2005 about her nude pictorial and whether or not she would ever pose for Playboy again, she replied, "I don't know. I did Playboy for a very specific reason. Not only was it a good financial move, but it was about the place I was at in my life. I had just had my son and I'd gained 50 lbs. during pregnancy. I wanted to get back to my old self. I wanted to feel desirable and sexy. So I thought, 'What if I went full throttle?'"
Which I guess just goes to show that even "looking like Charisma Carpenter" is not a full-fledged guarantee of feeling desirable and sexy all the time.

Now, I've no idea if canon!Cordelia in Angel is supposed to be beautiful all along, but I do know that Twilight is supposed to be the story of an "average girl" and the beautiful boy who loves her. Stephenie Meyer has consistently reaffirmed that Bella is average looking and not Barbie-beautiful, and that the surplus of her admirers in Forks are the result largely of her newness and subjective standards of beauty that vary from place to place. Bella is not supposed to be impossibly gorgeous, and this makes her easier for the reader to sink into the character: hey, I'm not impossibly gorgeous either, so this could be the story of my life.

And yet... there seems to be a tension in fantasies that we both want our reader insert character to be as plain and unattractive and average as necessary for us to sink into and yet still astonishingly lovely should we ever actually have to look at them. On the silver screen, the most "average girl" suddenly is filled in with a Hollywood Homely or, in the case of Bella Swan, Kristen Stewart. And, yes, beauty is subjective and very much within the eye of the beholder, however, Ms. Stewart definitely meets many of the mainstream American "standards" of beauty.

But isn't this just what Hollywood always does? Buying up intellectual property describing plain or homely people and casting them all as drop-dead gorgeous knock-outs is part of the standard operating procedure for Hollywood movies. Maybe so. Except that there's this book that I got my hands on this weekend: The Twilight Graphic Novel.

This is a real thing in the real world.

The novel is not actually in color except for about 3% of the book. That disappoints me.

Drink that in.

The cover is not, as you might wonder, vampire!Bella. That is, in fact, human!Bella holding hands with Edward in the forest meadow in the first book, Twilight. Bella, as pictured here, is white-as-the-driven-snow, with big brown eyes, thick lips, and a cavern between her breasts that is apparently so deep that it is sucking her sweater into gravitational collapse. (That's the only explanation I can give for the way her sweater is arranged.) Her hair reaches down to the small of her back and additionally seems to have been coated in whatever they give the Pantene Pro-V gals in the commercials.

This Bella is "average" in the same way that Kristen Stewart is "average", which is to say "not average at all". There isn't a single spot on her skin, not one mole or skin tag or birthmark or even pores. Her face is perfectly symmetrical, her eyebrows are as thin and straight as if she'd spent that very morning being waxed and penciled. Her eyes are heavily shaded with mascara and eye shadow. It's a look that can be attained naturally or can be acquired with makeup and wax and skill, and there's nothing wrong with those things, but I'm not sure it's the Bella we were sold in Twilight. But it seems to be the Bella that the author, the artist, and (presumably) the fans want.

Or maybe not. That's just the graphic novel, right, and we all know how much those artists are influenced by anime these days. Let's pull out The Twilight Saga Official Illustrated Guide and see what Bella really looks like, pre- and post-vampirism.

Please tell me: is that a gold brick chained to her hand? Is it some sort of MP3 player? I need to know.

Outside of the shinier hair, I honestly cannot tell a difference between human!Bella and vampire!Bella.

I think part of the appeal of Twilight lies in it being the story of an "average girl" (just like you!) who has all her fantasies come true, including the fantasy of being as incredibly beautiful on the outside as her soul-mate recognizes she is on the inside. Of course, in order to become beautiful, she has to start as "not-beautiful" (just like you!), even if we don't want to actually see that reflected in the movies and visual media accompanying the Twilight 'verse. So lip service is made to the fact that she's a little average, a little homely, a little plain, and we sit back and believe the words without dealing with the reality that the images being presented to us don't mesh with the words themselves. Why should that bother us? We've been dealing with Hollywood Homely all our lives, after all.

The fantasy of being beautiful, however, strikes me in some ways as being similar to the Fantasy of Being Thin. In 2007, Kate Harding wrote:
But exhortations like that don’t take into account magical thinking about thinness, which I suspect — and the quote above suggests — is really quite common. Because, you see, the Fantasy of Being Thin is not just about becoming small enough to be perceived as more acceptable. It is about becoming an entirely different person – one with far more courage, confidence, and luck than the fat you has. It’s not just, “When I’m thin, I’ll look good in a bathing suit”; it’s “When I’m thin, I will be the kind of person who struts down the beach in a bikini, making men weep.”
If the fantasy of becoming beautiful is a fantasy of changing the self instead of changing looks, then it doesn't matter if Bella Swan is beautiful all along. The difference between human!Bella and vampire!Bella becomes a difference not of skin texture or eyebrow size or hip-to-waist ratio or bust measurements or anything else that our society largely arbitrarily defines as "beautiful" and "not-beautiful". The difference becomes something as intangible as the elusive vampire sparkles: a magical transformation into a different person. Human!Bella stumbles into school and the boys turn their heads to gawk at the new toy; vampire!Bella struts confidently around the world making grown men fall to their knees and weep in her wake.

Twilight is a fantasy, and I've said before and will say again that fantasies are well and good and healthy. But it's worth remembering -- because there are quite a few industries out there that pay good money to coax us to forget -- that the fantasy of magically becoming a new person overnight, whether via acquired beauty, acquired thinness, or acquired vampirism is not something that can be realistically realized. All these things will open doors and grant social acceptance, and that's the unfortunate nature of the world we currently (as of writing) live in, but they won't make someone a different person.

The flip side is that 'different personness' can be achieved without having to resort to magically-acquired body changes. Or, it's just possible that 'different personness' isn't even really necessary once we look past the constant demands of society to be more of whatever the exhorter-of-the-hour wants us to be.

Or, as Kate put it:
The reality is, I will never be the kind of person who thinks roughing it in Tibet sounds like a hoot; give me a decent hotel in London any day. I will probably never learn to waterski well, or snow ski at all, or do a back handspring. I can be outgoing and charismatic in small doses, but I will always then need time to recharge my batteries with the dogs and a good book; I’ll never be someone with a chock-full social calendar, because I would find that unbearably exhausting. (And no matter how well I’ve learned to fake it — and thus how much this surprises some people who know me — new social situations will most likely always intimidate the crap out of me.) I might learn to speak one foreign language fluently over the course of my life, but probably not five. I will never publish a novel until I finish writing one. I will always have to be aware of my natural tendency toward depression and might always have to medicate it. Smart money says I am never going to chuck city life to buy an alpaca farm or start a new career as a river guide. And my chances of marrying George Clooney are very, very slim.

None of that is because I’m fat. It’s because I’m me.
One of the very few things I like about Twilight is that -- if you squint at it in just the right light -- it tells the story of an unhappy girl who takes steps to improve her life and get the future she wants. What I don't like about that message is that she does this via fantastical means that simply aren't available for the rest of us. It's a fun and compelling fantasy if you like that sort of thing, and that's great. But I'd just as soon have had Bella come to love her own self instead of exchanging her self overnight for a 'better' self.

Final note: I really very much wanted to work this Monty Python clip into the post, but the occasion never presented itself. Here it is, anyway. 


Kish said...

Yes, Cordelia Chase is supposed to be both beautiful and narcissistic.

There's also an episode of Buffy where Buffy gets the (uncontrollable) ability to hear thoughts. Everyone else around her thinks things that are at odds with what they're saying to greater or lesser extents, including her Rupert Giles trying to keep from her the information that if she isn't cured soon she'll go insane, and there's one scene where, one by one, all the other people there realize she's hearing things they don't want her to know, and they all run away...except Cordelia. Cordelia says everything she thinks, so the only effect of Buffy's new ability to hear thoughts is that she hears everything Cordelia says in stereo, and in the scene where everyone else runs away, the punchline is Cordelia, still sitting there, thinking-and-asking, "Where is everyone going?"

Ana Mardoll said...

Ha, that's hilarious. I mean, I rather think it wouldn't be in real life -- we've talked about Brutally Honest Person before -- but I like it as a comedic TV moment. :)

Loquat said...

That gold brick is totally some variety of mini-purse I can't remember the name of. Handclasp? It's just big enough to hold money, keys, a few different fake IDs, and makeup. Also, vampire-Bella seems to have smoother shading, with less visible pencil lines.

Amaryllis said...

Her lips are a little out of proportion, a bit too full for her jaw line.
If I had a nickel for every heroine who had "lips too full for proportion" or "a mouth too wide for beauty," I wouldn't have to wait for the Daily Deal, I'd just go nuts in the Kindle Store. Why is it never "lips too thin for beauty"?

Loquat said...

I suspect thinner-than-average lips are one of those things humans tend to find unattractive. All the characters I can think of that are explicitly described or drawn with thin lips are unlikable in some way - often outright villains, or unpleasant authority figures who try to suppress the protagonist's individuality.

Amarie said...

Ana, I wanted to stress something in terms of what you said about Charisma Carpenter. Or rather, I want to note something from Ariel Levy’s book “Female Chauvinistic Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture”:

Mrs. Levy goes to interview one of (the many) women who work for Playboy. She’s Christie Hefner, daughter of founder Hugh Hefner. Like Mrs. Carpenter, Hefner declares to Mrs. Levy that Playboy is a sign of female sexual freedom/revolution in a nutshell. In response, Mrs. Levy writes:

“The more basic way Playboy undermines the female sexual liberation Hefner claims to promote is this: The women who do go into careers outside the sex industry will never be seen by the millions of men-and the growing number of women-who read Playboy as actresses or mothers or lawyers or executives; they will never be seen as themselves. They will only ever be seen spread out, in soft focus, wearing something slight and fluffy and smiling in that gentle, wet-lipped way that suggests they will be happy to take whatever is given to them. They are expressing that they are sexy only if sexy means obliging and well paid. If sexy means passionate and invested in one’s own fantasies and sexual proclivities, then the pictorials don’t quite do it.” (pgs. 41-42)

As part of her conclusion for that chapter (called “Raunch Culture”), Mrs. Levy writes:

“Why can’t we be sexy and frisky and in control without being commodified? Why do you have to be in Playboy to express ‘I don’t think athleticism in women is at odds with being sexy?’ If you really believed you were both sexy and athletic, wouldn’t it be enough to play your sport with your flawless body and your face gripped with passion in front of the eyes of the world? Rather than showing that we’re finally ready to think of ‘sexy’ and ‘athletic’ as mutually inexclusive, the Olympian spread revealed how we still imagine these two traits need to be cobbled together: The athletes had to be taken out of context, the purposeful eyes-on-the-prize stare you see on the field had to be replaced with coquettish lash-batting, the fast moving legs had to be splayed apart.” (pgs 43-44)

I’ll let you guys just respond to that. Rest assured that I love Ariel Levy. ; )

Ana Mardoll said...


I never would have thought of that. Makes sense, though. Thank you!

Ana Mardoll said...

*sigh* I don't think I have to point out all the things ethically wrong with that.

I don't know that it's wrong to have two boyfriends that don't know about each other specifically, as long as you haven't agreed to exclusivity. I mean, I'm a serial monogamist, but I did date a guy once who was dating other girls. I was alright with that. He was open about it, but I didn't know their names.

Of course, I guess she's saying something a step farther -- that the boys didn't know the existence of the other. I can see how it could easily be a problematic situation, but I can also see how it could be alright. If that makes sense? Not sure.

Ana Mardoll said...

Favorite TV Trope line ever. (Been saving this one. *grin*)

There are so many heroines who are said to be "not beautiful", but are then described in such a way to make it very clear that they are only not beautiful to the most unsophisticated viewer. Any girl who's said to be "too thin" with eyes that are "too big" and sometimes a "mouth too wide" for true beauty is either already gorgeous or is going to be as soon as she hits adulthood. It was already such a trope by 1911 that it's parodied in Zuleika Dobson: "Zuleika was not strictly beautiful. Her eyes were a trifle large, and their lashes longer than they need have been...She had no waist to speak of." (Zuleika is a hilariously exaggerated Femme Fatale, whose allure drives so many men to suicide that she depopulates an entire town).

depizan said...

The fantasy of being beautiful has always disturbed me because we live in a society that presents an unreal and absolutely unattainable standard of beauty. Not only do our celebrities have personal trainers and god knows what else, but every magazine picture of them has been photoshopped. And don't get me started on comics. I love comics, but there's a reason I like the eschergirls tumbler - comics women are, 9 times out of 10, impossible. (And part cat, if you go by the poses they're somehow able to make.) So of course Bella has to resort to magical means to achieve beauty. No other method works.

There's also the problem that it suggests that beauty is objective. Which it's not. (See my reading romance novels and trying desperately to ignore all physical description of the leading man - and sometimes the leading lady - because they're usually so very not my type.) I'd rather have people decide that they are, in fact attractive, rather than find that they were beautiful all along.

But I have to admit that attractiveness is important to me in fictional characters. (And video game characters. It may be shallow of me, but I won't play MMOs in which I can't make an attractive looking character. This is remarkably difficult, especially when it comes to male characters because what's attractive to me doesn't match the male power fantasy.)


Still... I keep thinking about a picture an artist I know on line drew. It's of a woman bathing, from the back, in kind of a pin-up pose. But the woman is a little bigger than you usually see drawn - maybe a little plump, definitely more muscular - and she has these nasty scars everywhere, because she's a fighter (or monster hunter or some such). But somehow the artist conveys that she is an attractive and desirable woman, scars and all. I keep thinking that we need more of that. Because most of us aren't perfect. And isn't it better to say that we can all be attractive than to say we can all be beautiful?

(As an aside, and this is just me, but I think pre-vampire Bella looks prettier than post-vampire Bella in the pics up there. Vampire-Bella has disturbing eyes and looks... less real? I can't put my finger on it, but, even though I acknowledge that she's more beautiful by society's standards, she's less attractive by mine.)

Ana Mardoll said...

@Dezipan, I feel like I've seen that picture or one like it. It stuck with me too.

Cupcakedoll said...

Quick post: this entire post is summed up in pretty much every magical girl anime out there. "Ordinary" girl receives magical item, instantly (and nakedly!) transforms into older, more physically developed, longer-haired young woman with poise and confidence.

This realization has not dimmed my love for the genre one bit, but you gotta wonder what it does in the psyches of all those Japanese kids!

More thoughts on beauty, transformations, Buffy, and purses that look like bricks after work! (Or maybe it isn't a purse! Maybe B & E robbed Fort Knox with their vampire powers!)

Loquat said...

Further research reveals that the brick-purse is called a "clutch". Additional examples of the type may be seen at Nordstrom if you desire additional confirmation.

The clutch is very clearly a purse for women who don't have to carry much stuff - once you've got money, credit cards, ID, and maybe keys and some makeup in there, it's full, and there'll be no room for books, tampons, snacks, pills, or any of the other miscellaneous items larger purses tend to contain.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

It looks like the graphic novel was drawn manga-style--in which case, all the characters are stylized pretty-boys and pretty-girls, and it's hard to say what they are supposed to look like in real life.

chris the cynic said...

I don't think that Meyer means that beauty is subjective in that there are multiple legitimate standards of beauty. I think that what she means is that there is one standard of beauty but it is graded on a curve. Sticking with her ten point scale, if you're a objective nine where everyone else is a ten, then you've just been kicked down to the bottom of the scale and gotten a grade of a local one. If you're a two where everyone else is a one, you're at the top of the local scale and you get to be a ten.

But if those two people should both move to a place populated by numbers two through eight they will find their positions reversed.

Or, in other words, I think she believes that there is an objective standard so that if you were to rank every woman on earth there would only be one appropriate order, but that whether someone is considered beautiful or not depends entirely on how they compare to the other local girls. "Is X beautiful?" isn't objectively answerable because it depends on where X happens to be standing, "Is X more beautiful than Y?" does have a single objective answer.

There are all kinds of things wrong with that, but I don't think it's inconsistent.


I think prevampire Bella is prettier, for whatever that's worth. Then again I also think the purse looks like a gold brick she happens to carry around for no apparent reason.

chris the cynic said...

Ana did address that in the original post:
Or maybe not. That's just the graphic novel, right, and we all know how much those artists are influenced by anime these days. Let's pull out The Twilight Saga Official Illustrated Guide and see what Bella really looks like, pre- and post-vampirism.

Rikalous said...

Agreeing with chris and depizan: Vampire Bella's shadowed eyes and unshaded skin and utter lack of expression don't make her look like beautiful, desirable vampire. They make her look like beautiful, creepy, uncanny valley vampire. Specifically, she makes me think of the corpselike, predatory Snow White vampire from my new Gaiman book where Snow White is a horror story from the perspective of the stepmother. I think it's the expressionlessness that really nails it. Human Bella looks worried or apprehensive, but Vampire Bella looks like an emotionless mannequin.

@Amarie: One character that makes the beauty superpower work is Desire of the Endless. Zie's the god/personification of, well, desire and thus looks like whatever the viewer finds most attractive*. For the audience's convenience, zie's always drawn the same, but a strictly print medium wouldn't require that.

*Gender is one of the variable characteristics, which is why zie's never referred to using gendered pronouns.

Ana Mardoll said...


cjmr said...

I think the little 'gold-brick' purse is probably a minaudiere--an even tinier version of a clutch that is usually made with more than one 'hard' side.

The things you learn watching Project Runway and its spinoffs...

Rikalous said...

It's a short story collection called Smoke and Mirrors.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you muchly!

Fluffy_goddess said...

I think the expression on Vampire!Bella's face is supposed to be that slightly-blank, slightly inhuman look a lot of actresses pick up for when they're playing Inhuman (Instinct-Driven) Monsters. She holds her eyes very wide, looks very straight at the viewer (which, let's face it, is rare -- a lot of us look at people from all the other angles possible more often than we look at people straight on), and moves either very quickly or very slowly. It's a little bird-of-prey-ish in effect.

I find her more attractive than the picture of Human!Bella beside it, though. Her human self looks to me like she's terrified or about to burst into tears. Maybe both. I'd rather look at a predator than a victim, but that may just be me.

Darth Ember said...

She does say "I was the only one who knew about it." Which pretty strongly suggests that each of them thought he was her one and only boyfriend at the time.
To me, that crosses over into wrong, to mislead people that way.

I don't see anything wrong with someone dating multiple people, as long as everyone involved knows what's going on. They don't even have to know specifically who else; they just have to know the situation.

Nothing in that quote suggests SMeyer bothered to let any of the guys in on the matter.

The existence and validity of open relationships does not erase the existence of cheating. Doing it one way is one of those; doing it the other way? Well, I'm seeing it marching steadily toward being the other.

Izzy said...

Weirdly, finding myself defending Meyer here.

I'm of the opinion that if you haven't either discussed exclusivity or been sleeping together regularly for a month or so, exclusivity should not be assumed. That said, I'd *advise* people to discuss it, and to be honest with partners about other partners, and so on--but when push comes to shove, I don't really care. Known people who've stepped out on their SOs--was the "other woman" in college once or twice, for that matter--and they're still good human beings and good friends. Wouldn't advise someone who values monogamy to date 'em, but cheating in and of itself doesn't make me think less of a person. So that particular quote doesn't bug me...

...although given the values SMeyer espouses in Twilight, and the Jacob-v-Edward thing in particular, it's more than a little weird.

The "barbies" thing is odd and hostile--like, your thirties is a good time to get the fuck over not having a prom date--but I sort of know what she means there as well. In my observation, it's less about being a five in a crowd of twos, and more about your appearance matching up better to the ideals of one crowd or another. Also the fact that college is bigger than high school, people change a lot in four years and a new crowd's more likely to see you-as-eighteen than their you-as-fourteen memories projected, and so forth. But I remember going back to SoCal from boarding school in MA, where I was decent-looking, and feeling all sorts of ugly.

Ana Mardoll said...

I feel awkward because I hate it when people knee-jerkedly defend with the "we don't know the whole story" defense, and that's what *I'm* doing, but at the same time I don't think that the vague story she posted is something automatically unethical. :(

Relationships are complicated. I know that how I use the term "boyfriend" and how other people use it is not regulated or heavily defined. I've used "boyfriend" in college to include a classmate that I went to the park with once a week so we could sit on a bench and hold hands and talk. If I had three of those and they didn't know about the other for a month or two until I picked one, well, I wouldn't consider that cheating at all, and I probably would tell the story that way.

I was pretty conservative, and -- I think -- Meyer was raised to be conservative as well, so I'm reading that quote and wondering if maybe her "boyfriend" doesn't mean something a little different than what many people would read it as. Especially the "oh, now that I think on it, there were THREE boyfriends that didn't know about each other!" line at the end. That all sounds like either she's defining "boyfriend" very broadly (in which case I don't see this as a serious breach of trust) or she was having a VERY fun time in college, which is not something I would expect her to allude to in an interview aimed at a pro-chastity audience. :P

But even if they were sexual relationships and very serious, that doesn't mean that what she posted was automatically unethical. Hence, Ana being knee-jerky. I'm pretty sure that some people do couple up saying "Let's have fun, this is not monogamous, I don't want to hear about it if it's not, though, because EWWW." I think that would still fit within what she said, but maybe that's just me.

And even then, I don't know that I automatically think all 'cheating' is unethical. I can pretty vividly imagine a few situations where I would not consider cheating to be unethical at all, so... there's that. :/

(If her books are meant to be autobiographical, the thought occurs that for the first two books, Edward and Jacob barely know about each other. In Book 1, Edward doesn't know Jacob is crushing hard on Bella and in Book 2 Jacob thinks that Edward is long gone and he has a chance with Bella. And I'm pretty sure that Jacob and Mike don't really know about each other, certainly not in Book 1. Maybe when Jacob accompanies them to the movies.)

Anyway. I don't know. Maybe she's a horrible person who cheats like water flows, but I kind of prefer to give Real Life people the benefit of the doubt when they say something totally vague like that in a candy-floss interview. She's not Bella, she's a person, and I'd feel kind of bad if she visited here one day and saw her "I had three boyfriends" quote devolve into a discussion of how unethical she is/isn't. :(

But that's just me.

Ana Mardoll said...

Izzy, can you believe I actually wrote in my comment "I wish Izzy could weigh in on this" but then erased it because I didn't want to make you express an opinion if you didn't feel like it. :D

Izzy said...


I'm all about expressing the opinions. ;) But yeah--mine tends to be, even if I know that infidelity occurred, that it's not anyone else's business or place to judge *unless* the person in question goes off about the sanctity of marriage or family values.

Like, Tiger Woods? Fine by me. I can understand why his wife left, but whatever: I'd still buy his stuff, if his stuff were the kind of stuff I bought, and I'd still hang out with him if I knew him personally. I'd still vote for Weiner. (Assuming the sexting was consensual--I've heard both ways.) But Gingrich and Craig and that guy from South Carolina can collectively get bent.

"Dealbreakers in romantic relationships aren't the same as dealbreakers in friendships*," is probably my basic policy. That and "don't be a giant flaming hypocrite, HALF OF THE GOP."

*Not that cheating always is or should be a dealbreaker for romance. Just that I can understand if it is.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ha. I was actually pretty annoyed at Tiger Woods, but that's sort of the thing... I kind of realize that's me. I know a lot of people who feel otherwise, and I'm not at all sure that the ethics of the situation are cut-and-dried. Especially if we start getting into illness/addiction issues which are INVARIABLY COMPLICATED and I do not feel qualified to issue an opinion on. At all.

So I will just say that, had I been TW's wife, I would have been right narked about the whole thing. Grr. And as a consumer I didn't want to see him on TV or buy his stuff. But those are kind of my attempts at a Me statement. :/

Darth Ember said...

I doubt she'd visit anyway. That would involve getting opinions that haven't been filtered by her brother. (No, seriously. He prereads her emails, and only passes on the fawning praise if he feels like it. Actual Twilight fans put together a petition to ask him very politely to send on their email to Meyer, to express some of their concerns and bewilderment about plot points in the novels. They got back a very jerkish, very patronising reply.)

In an attempt to keep the books clean and not make young girls think about things that they don't need to think about, no other book mentioned anything about reproductive systems.
Well gosh, Seth Meyer, aren't we all so GLAD you're here to tell us what girls don't need to think about?

Izzy said...

Yeah, I'd have been pretty pissed if I were his wife: like, if you agree to monogamy and then bang a bunch of people on the side, I don't think you *are* an asshole--like I said, known people like that who have been great friends and good people--but I think your SO has good reason to *call* you one, if that makes any sense at all, and also to never talk to you again.

Where I draw the line is when the SO, or friends of the SO, or whatever, do the whole "if you're still friends with her, you are DEAD TO ME" deal with third parties, because dude: no. Generally speaking, if one party in a fight insists that I take sides, I'm gonna side with the non-ultimatum-issuing person. There are circumstances which are exceptions, but sleeping around ain't one of 'em.

Ahh, memories of College Drama. Nice to recall whenever I start wishing I was twenty-one again.

Darth Ember said...

Well, it'd sure as hell better be safe sex. Because otherwise...
If someone thinks they're getting monogamy, they may well have stopped with condoms etc in favour of other contraception, if pregnancy is a risk at all. Because they believe that they are both only having sex with each other.
Someone who ventures outside those boundaries without telling their partner, and who does not take precautions, is wilfully exposing their partner to any STDs and so on that they may contract from other parties.
And that is being a bad person.

Charity Brighton said...

For a second there, when I saw that and I thought that the author's brother was Seth Meyers.

depizan said...

I don't have a lot of room to weigh in on sexual/romantic relationships, since I've never actually had one, but... I really think honesty and communication are important in relationships. If you're not exclusive, you should be up front about that. And, if you think it's an exclusive relationship, you should be upfront about that. Everyone really should be on the same page, otherwise feelings are going to get hurt. Darth Ember has a very good point about STDs, too.

I'm pretty put off by cheating because it is lying to and deceiving someone you supposedly care about. And trust, which I'd consider pretty important for a relationship, is all about not lying to or deceiving people. If your spouse/supposedly monogamous significant other can't keep it in their pants after promising you're the only one in their sex life (besides themselves), what else are they lying about? And that's what would make me uncomfortable as a friend, too. There'd always be this little question in the back of my mind: "Is zie telling the truth?"

Open relationships are completely different, of course. I don't care if you've got one significant other or one hundred, as long as everyone's on the same page.

Kit Whitfield said...

I'm of the opinion that if you haven't either discussed exclusivity or been sleeping together regularly for a month or so, exclusivity should not be assumed.

I have the impression that this may vary from culture to culture; from what I've read, 'dating' in America is more like an audition than a relationship, and hence dating more than one person at once is more acceptable. In my undergraduate time and place, dating more than one person at a time without their knowledge would have been considered straightforward cheating. But on the other hand, that was a situation where dating turned into sex in a fairly straightforward progression; the Christian Union people might date without sex (and possibly the JSoc people as well, though I wasn't nosy enough to ask), but the majority of people took the line that if you're going out with someone that means you're having a sexual relationship with them. People moved from 'going out' to 'having sex' at different speeds, of course, but having a boyfriend was not considered something you could multi-task without consent.

Cupcakedoll said...

1) Give Buffy a chance. It’s good. =) Not perfect, you can tell Whedon is still tuning up his Whedonosity before doing Firefly so there are some dumb bits, and David Boreanez is so much less cool than he is in Bones, but all that is made up for by “Wiccan” Willow and the occasionally shirtless James Marsters.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cordelia scene was supposed to show that her ego is such that she knows how hot she is so she has no need to idealize further in the astral plane. She thinks she is already perfect. That may be the intended reading of that line, unless Cordie’s ego deflated between the two shows.

2) They both have yellow eyes in that manga. And Bella's cover picture has yellow lips. Which is weird.

In defense of manga-pretty I have to say that drawing people with even features is easier than not, because you just draw the basic eyes-on-this-line, nose-at-this-height etc. If you try to give them irregular features you end up with a mutant rather than a normal looking human. (or at least I do.) Chubby people are not as easy as you think either; if the bulges are in the wrong place it looks like someone carrying pillows under their clothes or, again, a weird mutant. So that unnatural prettiness in manga could be partly just artist laziness.

3) re pretty ladies in video games: in Fable 2 your character grows taller and buffer as he or she levels up, so by the end of the game you’ll be two feel taller than all the NPCs and built like a fridge. I suppose this is manly for the male character but the female character is extremely unfeminine and unattractive, especially towering over your NPC husband. This annoyed the heck outta me-- I want to be a pretty hero!-- and I fully expected them to change it in Fable 3. They didn’t. I eventually stopped minding, but I think the whole question of the heroine's appearance is interesting.

4) I’d never seen a picture of Ms. Meyer. Wow, that’s some blatant basing on yourself. Not a criticism, just an observation.

Izzy said...

Hm. When I was in college--and, indeed, when I was dating outside college--it was sort of the other way around: sex turned into dating, and in a not-that-straightforward progression. So if you'd just slept with someone once or twice, assuming exclusivity was kind of unreasonable; if you'd just made out with them, it definitely was.

Usually exclusivity happened around the time you stopped using condoms, because--yeah, what Darth Ember says about STD protection. Or the time you started using "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" officially. Which, actually, was the other weird thing about Meyer's comment, for me: sleeping with a couple boys who don't know about each other is just the dating scene as I know it*, but most people who don't have open relationships wouldn't describe themselves as "having two boyfriends."

*Conversation with a friend: "What do you call being poly, but without being in a relationship with someone? Like, you can see other people but you're not his girlfriend but you're sleeping together? What's that?"


Izzy said...

Ah, yeah--I guess it's one of those things where it's never occurred to me to wonder about friends telling the truth, because...I don't know what they'd lie to me *about*, I guess. Can't think of any monogamy-analogous requirements in friendships: helping me move, keeping my secrets, and telling me if I have spinach in my teeth are different things. So it doesn't bug me.

I think honesty is the good and ethical thing to do in relationships, don't get me wrong. (Well, up to a point. Nobody likes Compulsively Honest All The Time Guy.) And I think someone who finds monogamy too much of a thing should be in an open relationship, that ninety percent of the time, it's better to leave than to cheat, and that people who can't or won't do either monogamy or honest non-monogamy are bad SOs.

But I put "bad SO" and "bad person" in different categories, for the most part.

Ana Mardoll said...

Dating definitely varies by culture. I grew up in a culture where male/female communication was... very stifled. This was a "Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too!" situation, because the situation that Meyer describes could have easily happened to me and other girls I knew, but it was a patriarchy issue. For us, dating most definitely did NOT mean sex -- you could be literally expelled from my college for having sex, and at one point my college attempted to do just that to me because I wasn't fitting into the culture. It's very hard to prove you aren't having sex with someone, incidentally. Most of my friends were virgins on their wedding night, and we all got married in junior or senior year of college. To put it more bluntly: I was married before I could legally drink.

I'm 100% in favor of totally open communication at all times with all partners to the degree they are comfortable with. But people being complicated like they are, I can see where that final line -- "to the degree they are comfortable with" -- might result in a situation like that above. And when you add in the vagueness of an anecdote and the fact that that was in college, meh.

In defense of manga-pretty I have to say that drawing people with even features is easier than not, because you just draw the basic eyes-on-this-line, nose-at-this-height etc. If you try to give them irregular features you end up with a mutant rather than a normal looking human. (or at least I do.) Chubby people are not as easy as you think either; if the bulges are in the wrong place it looks like someone carrying pillows under their clothes or, again, a weird mutant. So that unnatural prettiness in manga could be partly just artist laziness.

Thank you for explaining that, actually. I've hired some Deviant Artists in the past for character portraits and been a little frustrated that I have to really push back with "no, I said fat, like this picture here" when I get back... average. I hadn't realized that it made the drawing harder -- I thought it was SOCIAL STANDARDS MEANS WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS.

I’d never seen a picture of Ms. Meyer. Wow, that’s some blatant basing on yourself. Not a criticism, just an observation.

Ha. A fear I have as a writer is that my Mom will read my books and think I hate my parents. (The parents in my stories are not always perfect people.) I'va actually had the conversation, "OK, I know she looks a little like me, and sounds a little like me, and has some background details that you will recall from my own life, but she's NOT ME."

Writing things you know -- especially body things -- is easier, imho. Three of the women in my novel are black women, and it was only AFTER I'd had the portraits commissioned that a close friend pointed out that the reference models' hair was probably either a weave or only attainable with modern science. Cue me feeling like a fool. :)

Lea Rebecca said...

@Ana and Rikalous: The Neil Gaiman story, ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’, is also available online here.

Lonespark said...

I was also married before I could legally drink. For completely different reasons, but like, in case you start a club or something. And before I started college, which I do not recommend at all, but it sure helps with financial security, and health insurance.

Ana Mardoll said...

*wedded whilst underage for drinking high-five* :D

Ana Mardoll said...

Hey, thank you!!!

Cupcakedoll said...

To further confuse the definition of beauty, there are different kinds. One is just what people look like, still photo style (Nathan Fillion huh? Nice looking I guess, his nose is weird though.) and then there's what people 'look like' after you know more about them. (The way he delivers those lines! I want to have a million of his babies! *swoon*) They're different things but the brain can't pull 'em apart.

Rikalous said...

Naoki Urasawa's the only manga artist I can think of who's an exception to the "unnatural prettiness" thing. Behold:

Speaking of non sequiturs, I've discovered a barely-still-seasonally-appropriate excerpt from the Gaiman book here:

Silver Adept said...

This goes in so many awesome directions, it might be tough to get them all together.

First, it must be nice to be Charisma Carpenter, to be able to do Playboy after one has had a child. (That said, the airbrushing and image manipulation that goes on to transform models into objects of fantasy is extensive.) Some part of me wonders whether such an invitation would ever be extended to Stephanie Meyer, or whether the image manipulators would believe she'd have to undergo a vampiric transformation of her own before she would be presentable to the audience.

Second, regarding the differences between high school and university, "ugly ducklings" finding themselves suddenly able to get dates and attract attention has a lot to do with not having a history at university, not having to come home to one's parents, and not having a small amount of people in the pool of potential dates. Thus, freed of the constraints of having been around all the same people for the last four years and not having to sneak around one's parents, we suddenly find ourselves much more able to find compatible people and people who find us attractive.

And as for the rest, about the ethics of open relationships, monogamy, cheating, dating, and the like? I'm very much in favor of full communication with all parties involved. I also wonder if more of us are inclined to something other than monogamy, now that we're supposed to be dating for love rather than property, but it's an unfounded suspicion.

Oh, and on the actual matter of the post? I find that even the supposedly ugly people of Hollywood are more beautiful than most of the people we meet. That's makeup at work, certainly, but even when Hollywood is trying for the "ugly duckling" story, we see that it's makeup and prosthetics that turns the beautiful person ugly. It's not that we find someone who is normal and then makeup them into Hollywood beautiful.

Then again, the fact that Bella is universally head-turningly attractive, despite supposedly being average-looking, I think, is the same effect, done literarily instead of visually, that Hollywood does. (And it still doesn't jibe - as Amarie points out above, Rosalie is supposed to be perfectly beautiful. People have to have seen her about in the town, so they can't be suddenly "Wow, Bella's so beautiful" - they have Rosalie to compare her to. Unless the residents of Forks have relegated Rosalie to the same status that they would relegate a model in Playboy or a pornographic film...)

Timothy (TRiG) said...

As a story, it works better if you don't know what it's doing before it's done it, but too late now. Neil Gaiman's short stories are all a bit disturbing. I have Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things. I also own a few of his novels which I've not yet read.


Izzy said...

I'm a Dan-Savage-reading, Sex-at-Dawn fangirl, so I'd say that most of us are to some extent. My experience makes me theorize that there's a Kinsey-like spectrum, where 0 is "only has sexual thoughts about the person one's dating, for the most part, wants a completely monogamous partner who doesn't even flirt with others", 6 is "absolutely must have multiple relationships going on", and most people fall into the 2-4 range: "I'd prefer (mono/poly), and it may even be a dealbreaker for me, but I do have those inclinations."

I'm with you on college, and I'd also note that part of it is age and biology. Puberty is a pretty rough time for most of us: most 18-year-olds are starting to come out the other end, with fewer pimples and straighter teeth and tits/a voice that doesn't crack every three seconds, not to mention a better dress sense and more perspective on life (hopefully). So that helps a lot--particularly if you then go and enter a crowd whose mental image of you isn't derived from the awkward stage.

depizan said...

But I put "bad SO" and "bad person" in different categories, for the most part.

And you may well be right to. Seen from a distance, it does seem like people treat their significant others differently than their friends, for better or worse. So thinking there's a connection may be my lack of experience talking.

cjmr said...

Another vote for the 'married before legal drinking age' party. Although in our case it was husband who wasn't legal yet--I'd been legal for six months...

Timothy (TRiG) said...

I'm having to remind myself that you have an absurd legal drinking age (seriously, you can drive before you can drink? WTF?), so you weren't necessarily married that young.

Still pretty young, though.


Ana Mardoll said...

I agree, it is absurd.

In my case, I was married officially at 19 and in a religious ceremony at 20. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

Disqus isn't letting me edit. I should clarify that in my opinion the legal drinking age should be lowered. I know that some people have valid personal reasons for feeling otherwise and I don't mean to imply that THEY are absurd.

I cannot COMMUNICATE tonight, I swear. :(

Launcifer said...

I've always found that one rather confusing, actually, though my main concern is somewhat different. I mean, where I come from you can marry, bear children, drink and get shot by some guy you'll never meet and might even quite like if you did, all before you can vote for your local MP. Seriously, what's that about?

Brin Bellway said...

Ana: I should clarify that in my opinion the legal drinking age should be lowered.

I have this whole angsty rant about having been utterly sober since the age of twelve* (counting sex-related stuff and caffeine sources stronger than chocolate**, not counting chocolate and the occasional interesting dream) and the toll it's taken on me. I worry I'll find out in ten and a half months that I'm one of the people for whom alcohol sucks and I'll be stuck like this until and unless I get both the opportunity and the nerve to obtain illegal stuff.

*Nitrous oxide as dental anesthetic. I don't think it's a coincidence my dental hygiene greatly improved when we moved and got a new dentist who is much less drug-happy, though it wasn't really a conscious thought-process on my part.

**Can't choke down enough soda to have any effect. Coffee smells so bad I don't want to know how it tastes.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

"Liked" mainly for the mention of Chomskyan Bingo. I'll enjoy watching that meme spreading.


Timothy (TRiG) said...

"Liked" mainly for the mention of Chomskyan Bingo. I'll enjoy watching that meme spreading.


Anna said...

I've hired some Deviant Artists in the past for character portraits and been a little frustrated that I have to really push back with "no, I said fat, like this picture here" when I get back... average. (warning: website may contain NSFW images) might be relevant to your interests, and might help you to find comfortable-drawing-fat artists should you wish to commission future character portraits.

Anna said...

And speaking of fat... it might just be the loss of the loose-fitting jacket, but Vampire-Bella looks thinner than Human-Bella, at least to me. Because, of course, the fantasy of being beautiful and the fantasy of being thin are very nearly one and the same: our culture expects us to equate thin with beautiful.

depizan said...

It's worth noting, I think, that the male power fantasy varies enormously from male to male. If you're familiar with World of Warcraft, the human males are giant shaved gorillas with oft-unfortunate facial options, whether they're supposed to be footsoldiery brutes or the frailest bookworm. I for one vastly preferred the 'pretty' blood elves, who get targeted with plenty of homophobic slurs for daring to look more like they have the standard human skeletal structure and muscle mass. I have yet to fantasise about how awesome it would be to have wrists thicker than my neck.

Ah, yes, I meant the male power fantasy in the same sense as the societal standard of beauty. Obviously everyone's got their own standard of beauty and every man has his own power fantasy (if they even have a power fantasy and don't fantasize about something else entirely), but there does seem to be a belief in MMOs that men (in the general sense) fantasize about being tall, hugely muscled, and rock jawed. (Though the human males in WoW go too far for most people. Even while the blood elves get picked on for...I've no idea really since they look a good deal more human than the humans. Though the female blood elves are a bit on the tiny side comparatively. All the WoW races have that problem.)

Even in SW:TOR (awesome game, btw) which I just started playing, the body options are a little odd. About half the male faces look like they were carved from silly putty (not a problem in the women's faces) and the body types are...slightly off. The smallest male option looks almost childlike - not teen like, but pre-teen like*, while the smallest female option just looks very thin. Then there's the normal option. (Which actually does look pretty normal, but, weirdly, some of the male faces - which are just a bit different on each body type - don't look right on the normal body.) Then there's the superhuman option for men or tall and slightly more muscular for women. (It's not bad but it's not quite equivalent to the male version.) And then there's the fat option/slightly plump version. Why the men get to be actually fat (if maybe a bit linebackery) while the women are plump, I don't know. I'm glad there is a fat/plump option, though. Non standard heroes, yay! I wish the small options were better, though. And I wish the options were more equivalent across the genders.

*Unless it's just that the "normal" male option is less normal than it appears. But normal is still - by video game standards anyway - somewhat thin, so I don't think that's it. I don't know.

Marc Mielke said...

Do you one better!

Inquisitive Raven said...

Gaiman, eh? I wonder how it compares to Tanith Lee's "Red as Blood." She did Snow White as vampire first.

Will Wildman said...

And then there's the fat option/slightly plump version. Why the men get to be actually fat (if maybe a bit linebackery) while the women are plump, I don't know.

I just got TOR last week, and noticed exactly the same thing. My Chiss dude's 'fat' option was bulky to the point of self-parody (relative to the three skinny ones) whereas when I went to make a human woman, the 'fat' option was barely noticeably different from the 'large and muscular' option. I mean, yes, very curvaceous, but she still has a waist smaller than most real people (with, as my new midriff-baring armor showed me, some reasonable muscle definition showing as well).

The petit male build cracked me up on my Sith, though. He got a new black tunic with a hood, already appearing to be wearing jeggings - I looked at what I had wrought and said "Oh good lord, I'm a hipster Sith!"

Izzy said...

Playing it at the moment, and sort the female romance options. You do okay if you're a smuggler, but otherwise, your options seem to be Hairless Catboy (I mean, I like Jorgen's personality,, am I not in whatever demographic they drew the focus group from on that guy) and two varieties of PornStache.

Which wouldn't irk me thaaaat much--if I'm spending my credits buying presents for a dude, he'd better be at least an 8.5, but I'm sure they'll come out with new companions and appearance mods--except that the male PCs get Hot Chicks in Space as their companions. And I am really tired of people assuming that my gender is/should be "less shallow" and "into personality" and other such stereotypes. (Like, a fair number of the guys I know--of which you are one, IIRC--dig personality more than appearance, whereas a fair number of my female friends in RL have voiced sentiments similar to my own "...well, he's a great guy, but physically, nah, not my thing.")

depizan said...

@ Will

I'm still puzzling over the male builds. My agent is the second body type, the one that, for lack of I better term, I called "normal" (average might have been a better choice, I didn't mean to imply the others are abnormal, or maybe just describe it as "apparently average height and a bit slender"). He seems to be of a height with most of the typical NPCs - military officers, other intelligence folks - but the bad guys tower over him. I can't even imagine what those cut scenes look like with the petite male build. "Ah, Mr. Villain, let me address your navel."

I do think the superheroic build will also look ridiculous if it weren't for the fact that most superheroes look exactly like that. But if you watch the heights in the character creation screen, superheroic appears to be an entire foot taller than option two. Possibly more. I think some kind of growth hormones were involved.


The romance options - or apparent romance options are, well, odd, so far. My male totally light side Imperial agent is not going to engage in an actual romance with a semi-sadistic assassin (Kaliyo), even if she is watching my back. He's a good guy, she's a bad guy. They're just allies in a vastly messed up world. (Keep her happy so she doesn't ditch him or turn him in, yes, but fall in love with her? Are you kidding me? And, yes, I realize the game won't have her actually stab him in the back, figuratively or literally, but I can't not role play him.)

Likewise, even if my smuggler showed some signs of a sex drive (I haven't had any flirt options, anyway, but her focus is "My ship. I want my ship back. NOW." at present, so I doubt I'd have taken them if I had. Can't not role play her, either.) I just can't see her getting it on with Corso. He's kinda cute looking, but he's also a complete sexist. If she did have a romance with someone, it wouldn't be with a sexist farm boy.

On the bright side (sort of - it doesn't help the options for straight women characters), those Hot Chicks In Space (or some of them, anyway) will eventually be romancible by female characters. At least that's the most sensible way I can think of for them to add same sex romance. Which they have promised to add. (Maybe my smuggler is a lesbian? ... ... No, I just don't think she's interested in romance.)

Oddly, so far the companion I like best is Qyzen. But I'm pretty sure my Jedi Consular is not going to have the option to romance him. (I have not met - in game - the first companions for Jedi Knights, Troopers, Bounty Hunters, Sith Warriors, or Sith Inquisitors. Though I will.) I also apparently cannot play Jedi without racking up dark side points. Jedi, your orange and blue morality eludes me.

Post a Comment