Twilight: Lying Liars Who Lie

Content Note: Emotional Manipulation

Twilight Recap: Bella has arrived at the weekend beach get-away and has met Jacob, a young man from her distant past. Lauren the Evil Blond has needled Bella about her young conquest. 

Twilight, Chapter 6: Scary Stories

Before we go any further, let's get one thing absolutely straight: Bella Swan is a bad liar.

   "I want to go," I lied. I’d always been a bad liar, but I’d been saying this lie so frequently lately that it sounded almost convincing now. ~ Bella Swan, Chapter 1.

Not only is she a bad liar, she doesn't like to lie.

   "It matters to me," I insisted. "I don’t like to lie -- so there'd better be a good reason why I’m doing it." ~ Bella Swan, Chapter 3.

You guys got that? Good. It's going to be on the quiz later.

   "Bella," she called again, watching my face carefully, "I was just saying to Tyler that it was too bad none of the Cullens could come out today. Didn't anyone think to invite them?" Her expression of concern was unconvincing.

When we last saw Lauren, she was being catty to Bella behind her back, asking why Miss Popular wasn't sitting with the Cullens from now on instead of burdening the rest of them with Bella's presence. Probably this snottiness from Lauren is meant to convey her legitimate concern that Bella might continue to steal the attention that Lauren sees as rightfully hers, but I harbor a mischievous hope that Lauren is just trying to corral all the narcissistic people in school at the same table together. I mean, Bella makes it perfectly clear that she doesn't consider anything anyone says worthy of her attention (unless it's about Edward), so she might as well go sit with the aloof Cullens, right?

Now Lauren seems to be attempting to needle Bella about her obvious crush on Edward with the embarrassing (for Bella) fact that Edward didn't bother to show up to the outing in order to make moony eyes at Bella. Of course, this is really only "embarrassing" if you believe that couples should do every little thing together, so ten points for codependency to everyone on the outing. And to Slytherin, because Lauren has blond hair and we all know what that means in Tropeland.

   "You mean Dr. Carlisle Cullen's family?" the tall, older boy asked before I could respond, much to Lauren's irritation. He was really closer to a man than a boy, and his voice was very deep. [...] "The Cullens don't come here," he said in a tone that closed the subject, ignoring her question. [...]
   I stared at the deep-voiced boy, taken aback, but he was looking away toward the dark forest behind us. He'd said that the Cullens didn't come here, but his tone had implied something more -- that they weren't allowed; they were prohibited. His manner left a strange impression on me, and I tried to ignore it without success.

It's sad, but hardly surprising, that it takes a Very Important Message about the Cullens to shake Bella from her reverie. She's only been thinking about Edward all day, and musing on the fact that Edward's very presence is what defines her existence and whether or not she notices the details around her, so I suppose it's natural for her to perk up at this Very Important Clue. And, remember, S. Meyer has specifically said that this entire chapter -- and all the Quileute characters in it -- were created for one purpose: to tell Bella about Edward's nature.

So, naturally, she's going to have Bella wheedle the information out of a barely-fifteen-year-old kid using the most manipulative means possible. Nice to see a blow struck for feminism here.

   I was still turning over the brief comment on the Cullens, and I had a sudden inspiration. It was a stupid plan, but I didn't have any better ideas. I hoped that young Jacob was as yet inexperienced around girls, so that he wouldn't see through my sure-to-be-pitiful attempts at flirting.

The deep-voiced boy spoke to Lauren in a voice that seemed to imply the subject was closed, but Bella doesn't consider once speaking up to ask him more directly what he means. He wouldn't tell her, of course, because it is an Ancient Mystical Secret, but if that were the case, he shouldn't have said anything to Lauren in the first place.

"The Cullens don't come here" begs the question of "Oh? Why not? I thought they loved camping," and then what do you say? You don't say anything, because if you'd thought enough in advance to come up with a plausible backstory as to why the Cullens don't come here, you would have immediately realized that the simplest way out of this problem would be to not talk about the Cullens at all. And so once again we run into the problem of creating minority characters to service the white protagonists: they come off seeming extraordinarily stupid or fumblingly inept. Unfortunate Implications!

So rather than Bella choosing to question the deep-voiced boy (who is probably Sam, but I'm not going to bother to look it up), which would muck up the whole premise and write the author into a corner, we're just going to have her get the information out of Jacob. And Bella, as someone who hates to lie and is incredibly bad at it, is going to quietly hope that Jacob is so inexperienced with girls that he'll fall for her act hook-line-and-sinker, without considering for a moment that this just might be kind of unethical and hurtful to this boy she sort of knows from her childhood.

And you all wondered why Bella didn't have friends back in Arizona. 

   "Do you want to walk down the beach with me?" I asked, trying to imitate that way Edward had of looking up from underneath his eyelashes. It couldn't have nearly the same effect, I was sure, but Jacob jumped up willingly enough.

No, it's not creepy that Bella is modeling her seduction techniques on Edward's behavior to her.

The behavior that makes her angry, furious, and sputteringly incoherent with rage.

The behavior that has left her nervous, anxious, and in anguish as to when she'll see him again.

The behavior that has made her feel toyed with and used and conflicted.

This is obviously very romantic behavior that should be modeled onto passing fifteen-year-olds.

And Bella is not a terrible, terrible person for failing to consider any of the above and for excusing herself with the cop-out excuse that obviously Jacob wouldn't be as taken with her as she is with Edward. Which is totally not victim-blaming tripe on a stick dipped in hypocrisy and fried in jackwagonry on her part, for her to say that it doesn't count when she abuses Jacob because Jacob should know she's not serious. No, sir. 

   "Who was that other boy Lauren was talking to? He seemed a little old to be hanging out with us." I purposefully lumped myself in with the youngsters, trying to make it clear that I preferred Jacob.
   "That's Sam -- he's nineteen," he informed me.

(Ha! It was Sam. I'm not editing what I said earlier; let it stand as a monument to how few characters there are in this epic saga of epictude.)

Also, for being bad at lying, Bella certainly is very skilled at emotional manipulation. At sixteen, I would not have thought to purposefully lump myself into a younger age group in order to more easily prey on their emotions. Perhaps our endearingly clumsy and emotionally manipulative Bella has made some of her elusive financial funds through baby-sitting. Let that thought sink in for a minute. You're welcome.

   "What was that he was saying about the doctor's family?" I asked innocently.
   "The Cullens? Oh, they're not supposed to come onto the reservation." He looked away, out toward James Island, as he confirmed what I'd thought I'd heard in Sam's voice.

I know Bella is just echoing the "doctor" framing from what Sam was saying, but I find it interesting because any reference from Bella to Carlisle over the children implies more knowledge of the subject matter, rather than less, since her most obvious link to the Cullens would not be to their father, but rather to them as schoolmates. Jacob doesn't pick up on this, and that could well be because he hasn't thought ahead to realize that Bella would know the Cullen children better (on a daily awareness level) than he or Sam. Then again, perhaps the goal here is to focus interest away from peer!Cullens and towards adult!Cullen to intimate that this is all very nebulous gossip about a faraway grown-up and it won't hurt to tell.

   He glanced back at me, biting his lip. "Oops. I'm not supposed to say anything about that."
   "Oh, I won't tell anyone, I'm just curious." I tried to make my smile alluring, wondering if I was laying it on too thick.
   He smiled back, though, looking allured. Then he lifted one eyebrow and his voice was even huskier than before.
   "Do you like scary stories?" he asked ominously.
   "I love them," I enthused, making an effort to smolder at him.

Remember when the Purple Prose was bad during all the Edward descriptions? This is so much worse than that was.

This is not cute. This is creepy. For all the times we've accused Edward of having super-hyno-powers with his manipulation of Bella and various (female) staff and students, the supposition made sense. Edward is a vampire; vampires come with glamour powers. It's part and parcel. But Bella is not a vampire. She should not have glamour powers. And yet, narratively, she does. THIS IS HOW PEOPLE WORK IN THE TWILIGHT VERSE. You gaze at them through your impossibly long eye lashes and smile at them, and then they do your will forever. Because Jasper.

But this is creepy beyond a world-building perspective. Jacob is barely out of fourteen, and comes from (in the Twilight-verse) an isolated background and culture where he knows everyone he meets, knows the liars from the truth-tellers, and based on the surrounding text is a little naive and trusting. Bella is seventeen, from a complicated background of parental neglect and big city anonymity, who deceives at the drop of a hat while all the time insisting that she doesn't, she couldn't, she's awful at lying. She's cynical and quietly manipulative, and while I was able to give that behavior a pass when it seemed like a survival strategy, it's another thing entirely when she's pumping a young boy for information about an older boy that she intends to chase after just as soon as she gets what she needs from the younger one.

Maybe S. Meyer didn't intend this behavior to be condoned by the text, but she obviously condones it herself from a narrative perspective, since the giving-of-information-about-Edward is the entire reason Jacob exists. Nor does Bella learn anything from her misuse of Jacob here: in the next book, she'll be off to the races to use him again while pining for Edward. None of this is even remotely appropriate behavior, but it's behavior that is condoned in the text at least by having it (a) work unfailingly to get Bella what she wants and (b) never lead to any growth or condemnation from Bella over time.

   "Do you know any of our old stories, about where we came from -- the Quileutes, I mean?" he began.
   "Not really," I admitted.
   "Well, there are lots of legends, some of them claiming to date back to the Flood -- supposedly, the ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark." He smiled, to show me how little stock he put in the histories. "Another legend claims that we descended from wolves -- and that the wolves are our brothers still. It's against tribal law to kill them.

Last week, I ranted at brief about my pet peeve of the conservative Christian community latching on to any flood myth and recasting it as "like Noah's ark" with the implication that the Noah's ark myth actually happened and it's just the Christian white people who have preserved the story correctly while all the other cultures have mucked up all the details. But that was when S. Meyer was talking. Now this is Jacob speaking to Bella, and I find the interaction interesting and very possibly tragic.

Later in the conversation, Jacob will anxiously ask Bella what she thinks of his tribal legends, and if she thinks they're a 'bunch of superstitious natives". He conveys his stories with obvious anxiety, worried about being accepted and fitting in with the pretty white girl before him. Jacob doesn't believe in a worldwide flood anymore than he believes in vampires and werewolves, but he frames the flood story deliberately in the trappings of "The Flood" that Bella is most likely to be familiar with. He doesn't say we have many legends, including our own flood myths like your Noah's ark. He says some of our legends claim to date back to The Flood. Not "your" flood, but "the" flood.

In the voice of S. Meyer, it's cultural appropriation; in the voice of Jacob, it sounds like an attempt to distance himself from his tribe. Earlier, Bella cast herself as Jacob's age in order to allure him; now, Jacob is cloaking himself in the verbiage of the mainstream for protection and approval. It's almost certainly unintentional or the part of the author -- like Tim LaHaye, she can't see to imagine a point of view that doesn't buy into all Christian myths and values like, for example Noah! or Virginity! -- but it's there in the text nonetheless.

   "Then there are the stories about the cold ones." His voice dropped a little lower.
   "The cold ones?" I asked, not faking my intrigue now.
   "Yes. There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandfather knew some of them. He was the one who made the treaty that kept them off our land." He rolled his eyes.

This entire exchange will be punctuated with body language from Jacob that self-consciously conveys how much he doesn't believe this stuff, but I'm not entirely sure why he doesn't.

From a narrative perspective, Jacob can't believe it because that would undermine the white protagonist realizing that it's true. And, perhaps, from a narrative perspective he also can't believe it because then he wouldn't tell Bella, seeing as how doing so would break the treaty-of-silence with the Cullens and endanger the entire tribe.

But from a character perspective, I accept that Jacob doesn't believe while still not understanding why. Alright, lots of kids believe things differently from the older generation... but 19-year-old Sam over there believes it. And lots of tribal beliefs can change and evolve and dilute over time... but Billy believes the story so strongly, he's actually endangered his relationship with Charlie over it. (Hey! Wouldn't that have been a great thing to foreshadow, seeing as how Billy has been mentioned several times in-text as the Giver Of Protagonist Transportation and the Keeper Of The Inconvenient Father-Character Out Of The House? Never mind, magical minority characters just do whatever the heck you need them to whenever you nee it, no foreshadowing needed. Now let's spend a few more pages subtly pointing out that Edward is a vampire.)

And this is the thing I hate about Tribal Legends as a narrative device: the author rarely considers the transmission of same. The legend just starts however many generations ago, is transmitted perfectly, unquestioningly, and unaltered through the intervening generations, and then it is summarily dismissed by the "modern" love interest or protagonist or magical minority character. Jacob's tribal legend includes how many Cullens there are, for crying out loud. They stop just short of including shoe sizes. None of that has been lost. All of it is accepted with complete reverence and belief.

Except by Jacob. Because he's speshul.

This could work with some kind of in-text explanation, but there isn't one so it doesn't. Bella comes out like diamonds for being more intelligent than the native non-believer in front of her, Jacob comes out looking like a cardboard atheist for not believing that the Obvious Vampires are obviously vampires, and the tribe comes out looking foolish for not showing Jacob a desiccated bear corpse* or two and saying, "look, this is what we've been talking about."

* I refuse to accept that the Cullens -- who practically wear T-shirts to school saying WE ARE VAMPIRES -- clean up after their meals.

   "He was a tribal elder, like my father. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf -- well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them werewolves."
   "Werewolves have enemies?"
   "Only one."
   I stared at him earnestly, hoping to disguise my impatience as admiration.

Impatience during a cool story actually doesn't need to be disguised. This is an awesome story, don't stop is actually a kind of compliment. But Bella hadn't told us about her deceitful body language in, like, three sentences so here you go.

   "So you see," Jacob continued, "the cold ones are traditionally our enemies. But this pack that came to our territory during my great-grandfather's time was different. They didn't hunt the way others of their kind did -- they weren't supposed to be dangerous to the tribe. So my great-grandfather made a truce with them. If they would promise to stay off our lands, we wouldn't expose them to the pale-faces." He winked at me.

It's interesting to me that one of my biggest pet peeves with the Twilight series probably stemmed from the author not really thinking through her world-building first.

The tribal leaders bargained the Cullens into a position of semi-weakness with a draw card: information. The tribe knew the Cullen's true nature and they could, if they needed to, spread the word. And they would do so if they heard one word about the Cullens hunting anyone on their lands -- including white people. The Twilight!Quileute are super-amazing guardians for humanity, not unlike the Magi in the Mummy movies. They're standing against the tide to protect Forks.

All of this works fine, if you're dealing with Dracula vampires. Dracula vampires fear information, because information is their weak point. Garlic. Crosses. Communion wafers. Stakes. These are the ways you battle Dracula. And it makes perfect sense to hold that information over their heads. You say you mean no harm, that you're a marginalized minority like us? Fine. We won't tell the white people how to murder you. But if you slip up, we won't just bring you into line -- we'll bring them in with us. Fine.

But Twilight vampires aren't Dracula. I think they were meant originally to be (well, but with sparkles, obviously), but things got out of hand and before you knew it, suddenly the Magic Fantasy Vampires had no weaknesses whatsoever and they could really only be killed by their own kind. So now what? How do you justify "we'll tell the white people on you" as a meaningful threat to the Cullens?

Easy! Volturi. We'll create a ruling council of vampires who are so opposed to being known to the humans (Why? Because shut up, that's why.) that they assassinate anyone who drops the masquerade. So when the Quileute threatened to tell the white people, the real threat wasn't the white people knowing, it was the Volturi knowing that the white people know.

Wasn't that easy?

Of course, in order for that to work, you have to basically ignore that apparently the Volturi don't care that a whole lot of brown people know. Like the Quileutes, not all of whom are supernatural werewolves. Or the people employed (owned?) by the Cullens on Isle Esme. But the important thing is that the white people don't know.


And before someone says, "well, clearly the Volturi are racist", that is not a hand-wave. Information is fluid. It doesn't matter if Racist Volturi Voltronsalot doesn't care whether or not a brown person knows that he is a vampire. He is still going to care that the brown person could tell someone. So, no, the Volturi being racist doesn't solve the problem one little bit, even if it were hand-waved that way in-text which as far as I know, it's not. It's just world-building that was written by someone who forgot that when crafting the vampire rule of "people can't know", that said framing didn't take into account that actually quite a lot of people already know, it's just that apparently you sort of failed to think of them that way because they're magical minority characters designed to dispense information and do the wash.

   "There's always a risk for humans to be around the cold ones, even if they're civilized like this clan was. You never know when they might get too hungry to resist." He deliberately worked a thick edge of menace into his tone.
   "What do you mean, 'civilized'?"
   "They claimed that they didn't hunt humans. They supposedly were somehow able to prey on animals instead."

Interesting that Jacob used the term "civilized" rather than "humane".

Chief Crazy Horse (1840-1877) is credited as saying:

"We did not ask you white men to come here. The Great Spirit gave us this country as a home. You had yours. We did not interfere with you. The Great Spirit gave us plenty of land to live on, and buffalo, deer, antelope and other game. But you have come here, you are taking my land from me, you are killing off our game, so it is hard for us to live.

Now, you tell us to work for a living, but the Great Spirit did not make us to work, but to live by hunting. You white men can work if you want to. We do not interfere with you, and again you say why do you not become civilized? We do not want your civilization! We would live as our fathers did, and their fathers before them."

I feel like Jacob's fictional great-grandfather -- who he is largely cribbing from, given how perfectly this legend has been preserved -- would have had a very different understanding of the word "civilized" than someone like S. Meyer. I feel like a tribe of supernatural beings who don't eat humans (Werewolves) describing another tribe of supernatural beings who don't eat humans (Vegetarian Vampires) as "civilized" when the first tribe probably wouldn't claim that term for themselves due to pesky little historical reasons is the sort of thing your editor ought to look out for.

   I tried to keep my voice casual. "So how does it fit in with the Cullens? Are they like the cold ones your great-grandfather met?"
   "No." He paused dramatically. "They are the same ones."
   He must have thought the expression on my face was fear inspired by his story. He smiled, pleased, and continued.
   "There are more of them now, a new female and a new male, but the rest are the same. In my great-grandfather's time they already knew of the leader, Carlisle. He'd been here and gone before your people had even arrived."

This book. This book! THIS BOOK.

Jacob's tribe has the number and names of the Cullen coven memorized. They knew Carlisle. They must have known at least by sight Esme and Rosalie and Edward. (Alice and Jasper are the two new ones. And, no, the Quileute have no reason to believe that Carlisle didn't turn them himself. But they do anyway because they're trusting like that.) They told their names to Jacob, presumably from childhood. They sit around their NATIVE AMERICAN fire roasting NATIVE AMERICAN s'mores and they tell NATIVE AMERICAN legends about that white guy Carlisle and his wife and two kids who didn't eat humans.

Jacob didn't believe these stories, of course, because he's a rebellious, fun-loving, modern kid with rebellious fun-loving modern ideas. Until, of course, a guy named Carlisle drifted into town, matching every description to a point, with his wife and four kids. See? The legend is obviously bunk -- there are two more than you guys told me about! I want my NATIVE AMERICAN s'mores back.

   "And what are they?" I finally asked. "What are the cold ones?"
   "Blood drinkers," he replied in a chilling voice. "Your people call them vampires."

I'm including this to show how dense Bella is. They were cold, immortal, and hungered for humans? What were they? You've only got about three options, Bella, one of which requires passing familiarity with tabletop gaming (Lich), one of which requires passing familiarity with pop culture trends (Zombie), and one of which requires only a vague awareness of literature trends for the last hundred-plus years (Vampire). You should have been able to satisfy the last requirement.

   "You're a good storyteller," I complimented him, still staring into the waves.
   "Pretty crazy stuff, though, isn't it? No wonder my dad doesn't want us to talk about it to anyone."
   I couldn't control my expression enough to look at him yet. "Don't worry, I won't give you away."
   "I guess I just violated the treaty," he laughed.
   "I'll take it to the grave," I promised, and then I shivered.

This is a lie.

Bella will actually use this story, will use Jacob Black's name, to lead up to confronting Edward with the accusation that he's a vampire. She will essentially say "Jacob Black told me that you were a vampire." She says this to a man who has a temper, a man who acts abusively to her, a man who may or may not be capable of slaughtering the entire Quileute tribe overnight. She says it with zero understanding of the treaty, of any threats that might be enacted in the event of breach. She says it not under duress, but eagerly.

Bella Swan is far, far more guilty of betrayal than anything Edmund Pevensie ever did.

   "Seriously, though, don't say anything to Charlie. He was pretty mad at my dad when he heard that some of us weren't going to the hospital since Dr. Cullen started working there."

Charlie Swan has -- for all we can tell -- grown up in Forks. He has been friends with Billy Black since Bella was a child, probably even before that. They've known each other for maybe twenty years, spent numerous weekends sitting back drinking beers and fishing all day long, reveling in each other's silences and probably confiding in each other about their difficulties, what with Charlie's wife leaving him and Billy's wife dying in an unnecessarily horrible tragedy.

So naturally when a rich white stranger with odd behavioral habits and a strange group of suspiciously pretty foster children who are all dating each other shows up at the local hospital and Billy explains that he won't attend the hospital anymore because the new doctor is dangerous in ways that Billy can't explain for the safety of the tribe, Charlie gets mad at him.

   "So do you think we're a bunch of superstitious natives or what?" he asked in a playful tone, but with a hint of worry.

It's worth pointing out that Bella doesn't say "no". She just changes the subject. Sure, Jacob pretends not to notice, but you know he went home to his NATIVE AMERICAN TEEPEE and thought about it all night.

She doesn't say "no" because she doesn't want to accidentally cast aspersion on the Cullens. She wants to keep their secret! Except, of course she doesn't keep anyone else's secret, including Jacob's. So either she's unutterably hypocritical or the truth is like kryptonite and it burns her to speak honestly.

   "There you are, Bella," Mike called in relief, waving his arm over his head.
   "Is that your boyfriend?" Jacob asked, alerted by the jealous edge in Mike's voice. I was surprised it was so obvious.
   "No, definitely not," I whispered. I was tremendously grateful to Jacob, and eager to make him as happy as possible. I winked at him, carefully turning away from Mike to do so. He smiled, elated by my inept flirting. [...]
   "So when I get my license . . . ," he began.
   "You should come see me in Forks. We could hang out sometime." I felt guilty as I said this, knowing that I'd used him. But I really did like Jacob. He was someone I could easily be friends with.

"I was tremendously grateful to Jacob, but not so much that I wouldn't narc him out to Edward Cullen, Professional Vampire, at the first chance I got. I expressed this gratitude by openly expressing an attraction I didn't feel towards a young man I had no intention of ever seeing again. I felt a twinge of guilt for knowingly using him and willfully hurting him, but I consoled myself with a let's-be-friends speech that I composed quietly in my head without leaving him with any impression that I felt that way. The important thing was that I would go home feeling better about myself."

   "It was nice to see you again," Jacob said, and I could tell he was taunting Mike just a bit.
   "It really was. Next time Charlie comes down to see Billy, I'll come, too," I promised.
   His grin stretched across his face. "That would be cool."
   "And thanks," I added earnestly.

I honestly don't know if this promise to visit the next time Charlie drives down to see Billy is a lie or not, but I feel 100% safe declaring that it is.


Yamikuronue said...

How does a human being make a smolder face anyway? It occurred to me while reading this that I'd only seen it on animated faces. I attempted to make a smolder face at my partner but he told me never to make that face again >.>

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL! This made me run and grab Husband and make my attempt at a smolder. He called it an "I'm going to kill you while you sleep" look.

I call that a win for Edward Cullen, but not one for me.

GeniusLemur said...

And Jacob doesn't drop a hint or give some information that Bella can later realize the significance of. No, he just spells everything out, very explicitly in small words. It's like S. Meyer doesn't want Bella to do ANYTHING for herself. I couldn't make a protagonist this passive if I tried.

Epic fail on the worldbuilding there, but hardly shocking. Author after author has thought that vampires need to be more powerful and less vulnerable. Twilight vampires are just the culmination of a long trend. It's one of the many reasons I refuse to touch any book/movie/tv show that has vampires.

Ana Mardoll said...

But! But! Are you forgetting that she googles?! *snerk*

hapax said...

It would have been funnier* if she DuckDuckWent.

*but alas, impossible in that time

jill heather said...

Just so you know, Noah's Ark isn't just a Christian myth. SM may consider it only that, but in reality that specific instantiation of the flood myth is shared by multiple religions, and it's actually sort of offensive when it's described as being Christian. It predates Christianity.

I find Bella as reluctant liar interesting, because actually this all makes sense to me. She doesn't like to lie -- she's forced to! By the Cullens, for hiding from her; by her parents, for not parenting her; by people for not just telling her what she needs to know and doing what she wants them to do. She intends well, after all. Don't they understand that? She wouldn't have to lie if everyone just trusted her. This is typical of a common teenage narcissism.

And, of course, all that stuff aboutu her not lying often, or not lying well, or not liking to lie: people, especially liars, have been known to lie to themselves.

But Bella is not a vampire. She should not have glamour powers. And yet, narratively, she does.

With Jacob, isn't it because he imprinted (was that the term?) on one of Bella's eggs but was confused about it and thought it was Bella?

Bificommander said...

With Jacob, isn't it because he imprinted (was that the term?) on one of Bella's eggs but was confused about it and thought it was Bella?

While I strongly doubt Meyer's claims that she hadn't originally intended Jacob to be a werewolf (I mean, look at this crap he says. Even the Cullens hide their vampirism better than Jacob hides his werewolf-nature. And even if he doesn't believe the Cullens are vampires, I suspect he might have noticed at some point that he and his family kinda ARE werewolves. And that he probably SHOUDN'T tell these the, ugh, palefaces.), I doubt she'd planned the imprinting on the baby this far ahead. I fully expect that was a last minute patch job once Meyers realized how big Team Jacob had gotten, despite the awesome perfection of Edward. So she needed some narratively plausable way to make Jacob happily drop his crush and be given a happy ending. And hey, why not do so by implying that Bella's baby will have no choice but to end up with a guy nearly two decades his senior who will be obsessing over her throughout her childhood untill she's old enough.

Bificommander said...

Ehm, that should be HER senior of course.

chris the cynic said...

While I strongly doubt Meyer's claims that she hadn't originally intended Jacob to be a werewolf (I mean, look at this crap he says.

If you believe Meyer's description of Jacob's development, and I do, it means that the "not intended to be a werewolf"-Jacob was never released to the public.

Meyer started on New Moon before Twilight was released to the public and revised Twilight in light of what she was doing in New Moon.

According to her the development of Jacob was that there originally was no Jacob, she wrote the second half of Twilight first, and it was only when she went back and had to answer the question of how Bella learned that Edward was a vampire that she created Jacob, and only then because Edward wouldn't tell.

In the original complete version of Twilight, Jacob only appeared in this chapter. That was it. But then after the book was picked up she realized that the sequel she had been writing was not a young adult book, and started on a young adult sequel, that being New Moon. At the same time she was writing New Moon she was revising Twilight, and in the process of doing that she put a lot more Jacob and Billy into Twilight.

Which is to say that what we're reading now is the product of a revision that took place after New Moon was in the works. She didn't intend Jacob to be a werewolf when she first wrote him, but this isn't when she first wrote him. This version is the result of a revision process that took place after she knew.

Jenna Moran said...

> Author after author has thought that vampires need to be more powerful and less vulnerable.

I'm thinking about a version of vampires that actually get _stronger_ when you stake them. The most powerful of them is naturally Claude Winston Victorios Duckham, the Sheriff of Nottingham, who was shot through the heart by a wooden stake, and then another wooden stake (splitting the first one), and then a third, and then a fourth, before Robin Hood realized at last his terrible mistake. You can still see the stakes jutting out from him now.

If you could pull them out---

Though ha! Like any mere mortal could pull the stakes from Claude Winston Victorios Duckham! Sheriff of Nottingham! Vampire King!---

Then he might become merely immortal, super-strong, and super-fast again. Then again, he could probably just expose himself to sunlight---or the _reflected sunlight that is the moon_ to regrow the stakes and bristle once more with the fine wooden chest-candy that sets him above all other vampires and makes the name of Duckham, Sheriff of Nottingham, truly great!

Yet he is so terribly alone.

Those he loves live forever, of course---their aging slows as his heart grows fonder for them, until they are lesser vampires themselves---but tragically his dearly beloved grandmother Preposterosa Duckham died before vampirism's curse took him and so he must forever mourn. He must have people cross their fingers in his direction, or otherwise see things that are shaped like a cross, twelve times before each time her spirit can take the journey to this sad vampiric soul and give him spiritual cookies, warn him somewhat belatedly about the outlaws of Sherwood Forest, and provide useful tidbits of grandmotherly advice.

Also he is a stockbroker and a ninja. He jumped off of a building in the great stock market crash only to land on the roof of another building.

Dav said...

Please, please, please let this become an actual thing.

Susan Wilbanks said...

Just a quick aside from a mostly-lurker about the Quileute flood stories...I believe they're considered oral history of a massive earthquake and tsunami back in 1700, similar to the one that struck Japan a year ago. Maybe it's just because I live in the Pacific Northwest and take a natural interest in the ways Mother Nature might kill me, but to me the flood stories are a lot more interesting as survivor tales of a great natural disaster than as "Look! More Noah's Ark!"

Ana Mardoll said...

I had originally written "Judeo-Christian", but when I triple-checked the spelling (Firefox underlines it), Wikipedia led me to believe that very possibly some Jewish people object to the term, and since I really only ever hear Christians use Noah's Ark as a reason to appropriate other culture's flood myths, I dropped the "Judeo-" in hopes of avoiding offense. I apologize if I erred.

Ana Mardoll said...

Meyer started on New Moon before Twilight was released to the public and revised Twilight in light of what she was doing in New Moon.

Oh! I didn't know that, or I'd forgotten, and that does clear things up a bit, because yeah MY PEOPLE ARE WEREWOLVES LOL does seem pretty dang in-you-face about a facet that was "unplanned".

Ana Mardoll said...

Preposterosa Duckham

OMG. Now I want a new cat just so I can give her this name.

Ana Mardoll said...

It really would have been!

I'm still sad, though, that "lich" isn't treated as a viable option in-text. *sad*

Majromax said...

But then after the book was picked up she realized that the sequel she had been writing was not a young adult book, and started on a young adult sequel, that being New Moon.
So what, she skipped straight into the pregnancy horror or something? I'm morbidly curious about what got written that was so inappropriate as a sequel it actually got canned.

chris the cynic said...

She says she'll never release "Forever Dawn" her original sequel, but it looks like it was pretty similar to Breaking Dawn in outline, and apparently she had already decided to develop the tribe into werewolves for that but she hadn't developed them very much (at that point Jacob was still a minor character who was mostly a plot device.)

It's worth mentioning that she was the one who chose not to do it. The story she tells it isn't that someone told her, "You can't have this be a young adult book," it's that she was writing the second book for herself, and then when Twilight was picked up as a young adult book she realized, "Forever Dawn isn't a young adult book."

On the Breaking Dawn FAQ on her site there is info on how that differed from Forever Dawn. I didn't actually know about that until I saw it when checking facts for this post. When I started writing this the only thing I knew was that she said she'd never release Forever Dawn and that she said it might be used for the outline of the (then unnamed) fourth book.

The fact that Forever Dawn included werewolves at all surprised me because I had always figured that was an invention for New Moon.

GeniusLemur said...

It's scary how well that holds together.

Nathaniel said...

Thank you thank you thank you Ana. "I don’t like to lie" no no no you horrible liar lying twerp. I actually started to count in the margins of the book how many times Bella lies. Its over a dozen, in about 40-50 pages.

Bella, you suck.

"No, it's not creepy that Bella is modeling her seduction techniques on Edward's behavior to her.

The behavior that makes her angry, furious, and sputteringly incoherent with rage."

This is a good point I never would have considered. But it goes to show just how fail the world building and characters are. A better author would have Bella attempt Glamor-Powered seduction techniques, and then quickly improvise when they were met with a mixture of disbelief and awkwardness.

"Maybe S. Meyer didn't intend this behavior to be condoned by the text, but she obviously condones it herself from a narrative perspective, since the giving-of-information-about-Edward is the entire reason Jacob exists. Nor does Bella learn anything from her misuse of Jacob here: in the next book, she'll be off to the races to use him again while pining for Edward. None of this is even remotely appropriate behavior, but it's behavior that is condoned in the text at least by having it (a) work unfailingly to get Bella what she wants and (b) never lead to any growth or condemnation from Bella over time."

Anyone who read Left Behind is getting some intense Deja Vu here.

BTW, thank you for not using the term Judeo-Christian. Its an entirely bullshit term made up by Right-wingers in an attempt to include Jews in their persecuted hegemony after that nasty business with Hitler made the right wing's historic chumming with Anti-Semites a tad too awkward.

Ana Mardoll said...

I love this so much, but especially this:

“Carries off elephants for snacks, AC: 4 and 18 hitdice, I know what a roc is. I guess Tistilal is like one, though I never really of him that way. I thought you said rock with a k, and was confused.”

It's really hard for a lot of authors to remember that certain words in certain accents SOUND the same even if they don't look it. :D

Ana Mardoll said...

BTW, thank you for not using the term Judeo-Christian. Its an entirely bullshit term made up by Right-wingers

I'm glad to know that Wikipedia didn't lead me wrong on terminology usage, but I do feel awful that I've heard (and used) the term for years and had never known that the term was offensive. Thank you for explaining this further for me and I'm going to try hard not to use the term again in the future.

Nathaniel said...

No problem. Heck, I'm jewish, and I didn't know what crap a term it was until recently.

David said...

The thing is, it wouldn't be have to make Bella work for her knowledge. (While we're talking about ways this book is like Left Behind...the protagonist is supposed to actually work to accomplish things. And this work is supposed to be hard, not a five minute discussion with a random person.)

Oh, look, the Cullens seem to be worried about people asking questions about them, and seem to have forged identities. That raises some interesting thoughts.

Oh, they sparkle in the sun. That's very very strange.

Oh, look, Edward seems to have mind-reading powers. Are the Cullens it a secret group of telepaths or something?

Oh, wait, just how old are these guys, anyway?

Oh, the Natives think they're Made-Up-Native-Word, which is a monster that, to make something up, lives underground, glows in the suns, and eats people. Presumable, if vampires are distorted in one way in European history, they can be distorted in other ways in Native mythology, or even confused with an actual possible extinct supernatural predator native to that area, giving a nice bit of confusion. And by 'actual', I mean 'in the Twilight-verse, obviously. Either a real legend, or just make one up. (Frankly, I suspect people would be a lot more annoyed by the writer appropriating their creation mythos than by just making up a story they tell about a dangerous predator.)

There's really only three ways to do vampires in a story. Either 1) the protagonist knows about them to start with (Like most urban fantasies), 2) the protagonist gets thrown into a nearly unsurvivable situation and vampires are revealed to exist during it, or 3) the protagonist figures it out slowly as part of the plot, although half the time they don't really believe it until #2 happens anyway.

Here, we've almost got the third option in Twilight, where things start being pieced together, eventually turning 'Yes, these are actual vampires, almost exactly like the myths.'...but then, after one oddity (They seem anti-social.) and one impossibility (The car accident.), the story just gives up and _tells_ Bella. In chapter six, no less.

Rikalous said...

The love interest in Tangled demonstrates "The Smolder" early on.

Also relevant:

Rikalous said...

Another option for cold, immortal human-eaters is ghouls. That would require familiarity with the same kind of fantasy you'd find liches in, or possibly Middle Eastern myths. I'm not sure if the original ghuls were cold or not, but they could be immortal.

chris the cynic said...

I'm actually watching Tangled right now. I'm at the lantern scene as I type this. It's a really good movie, and I'm glad I happened to bump into it when I had a free preview of HBO because I would have never would have guessed it'd be as good as it is, and thus never would have seen it.

Worth noting that, since Eugene is not a vampire, the smolder doesn't work for him.

jill heather said...

Judeo-Christian is problematic in things like "Judeo-Christian values" when they're referring to anti-birth control or anti-abortion stances (both are explicitly okay in Judaism), or in general when it's being used to erase Jewish values and pretend they're the same as Christian values (they're not), or specifically when it's being used to pretend Jews are just future Christians, but when talking about a foundational Jewish myth, I don't think it's problematic to use the term, or at least not in comparison to actually ignoring the Jewish part of it. (I have no doubt it wasn't intended to be an erasure, and I am also sure you were not intending to say that Judaism is the same as Christianity.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Well, I didn't call Noah's Ark "Christian" any more than I called it "Judeo-Christian", I don't think. If you look at what I wrote, I said:

Last week, I ranted at brief about my pet peeve of the conservative Christian community latching on to any flood myth and recasting it as "like Noah's ark" with the implication that the Noah's ark myth actually happened and it's just the Christian white people who have preserved the story correctly while all the other cultures have mucked up all the details. But that was when S. Meyer was talking. Now this is Jacob speaking to Bella, and I find the interaction interesting and very possibly tragic.

So I said I have a "pet peeve of the conservative Christian community ... recasting [flood myths] ... with the implication that ... it's just the Christian white people who have preserved the story correctly ..."

I do feel that many in the conservative Christian community act this way. I do apologize if this read as if I were saying that Noah's Ark is a Christian, rather than Jewish, myth. That my words apparently left that interpretation is unfortunate because that was kind of my point: that the Christians are appropriating Noah's Ark almost as much as they are the other flood myths.

That was also why I wrote it the way I did and specifically left out the "Judeo-" prefix because I have not observed a similar trend in the Jewish community (possibly from lack of awareness) and, coupled with the potential offensiveness of the term, it seemed best to be clear. I'm sorry that I apparently wasn't.

Rikalous said...

It works just fine for still-human Bella, though.

Unless that's just one more vampiric trait she already possesses, like the paleness and hypersensitivity to blood.

Susan B. said...

I'm trying and failing to find the Lackadaisy page which explains how to draw faces--with lots of the usual delightful images of all the characters making every face imaginable. There's a little aside warning against the dangers of "smarm brow", which features Rocky's aunt threatening to slap the eyebrows right off his face!

I can't look at or read about a smoldering look without thinking "smarm brow" now.

Dav said...

The Lackadaisy expression tutorial is one of the best things ever.

Silver Adept said...

I like this new Jessica and Ben episode. And not just because Jessica is the leader of a very successful Dungeons and Dragons group and can describe a roc in terms of AC and Hit Dice. I like her friendship with Ben more than the deceit of Bella getting Jacob to tell her what she wants to know.

Which is an awful, awful scene. While the Cullens fail at the Masquerade (deliberately or no), apparently, nobody should trust any of these people with any sort of vital secret, as they'll tell the legends to anybody who asks after insinuating that they have a secret to tell.

Not only are they cardboard cut-outs, but from stuff that I heard, veracity unknown, there are certain stories that aren't told outside certain times of the year. Vampire stories might be summer stories and not winter/spring ones...

And then there's you, Isabella. You lie, you manipulate, you try to take advantage of someone to ply them for their secrets. And you don't intend on being social when your fathers get together to be social. Despite our viewpoint character telling us how much everyone around her is being mean to her or trying to take advantage of her....she's not much better.

If I were in the rewriting mood, I'd be showing off Jacob's POV, where it turns out that he's very savvy to her clumsy attempts, but plays along because she's trying so hard, and because laughing at her would basically end any chance he might have at hanging out with someone other than all the guys in the future. And possibly with a little more play-resistance to make her feel like she's succeeding in pulling a great secret out of her...

All in good fun, of course. At least until Mike arrive and tries, once again unsuccessfully, to assert that Bella, like all the women in Forks, is his.

Marie Brennan said...

I don't know if the seasonal-story thing is true of the Quileute, but it is definitely the case with the Navajo, and other nations I'm forgetting right now.

But then, Meyer's entire approach to this bit of "worldbuilding" (I'm sorry, I can't debase the word by applying it to this without the sarcasm quotes) makes it abundantly clear she has never been within shouting distance of an actual, folkloric legend. They don't sound anything like this.

[Full Disclosure: I have an undergraduate and most of a graduate degree in folklore. So not only do I have familiary with this, I have Very Strong Feelings.]

Rebekah said...

Another Jewish reader saying thank you for researching and being aware of what a crap term "Judeo-Christian" (99% of the time) is!

David said...

But then, Meyer's entire approach to this bit of "worldbuilding" (I'm sorry, I can't debase the word by applying it to this without the sarcasm quotes) makes it abundantly clear she has never been within shouting distance of an actual, folkloric legend. They don't sound anything like this.

Heck, they don't even sound like something I'd come up with, and I'm hardly the expert, just someone who likes to read Wikipedia.

Firstly, you can't really have 'legends' that are brand new. I mean, Carlisle shows back up and the old people nod and say 'Hey, it's that guy from 80 years ago and his kids, plus some'...and how exactly does that work? I mean, there was a 'treaty', so we're forced to assume that back then this was believed at least by the leaders of the place, and _someone_ must have reidentified them when they showed back up. You can't have legends about impossible current events that people claim to have personally witnessed! You either believe them, or you think they are crazy.

Also, no one would say 'Your people call them vampires'. No, white people don't call them vampires, because white people, in fact, do not actually call anyone vampires, because white people think vampires are not real. That's very strange phrasing. They _are_ vampires, and we'd call them that if we believed they were that, but we don't run around calling them that, because we don't believe that.

It's hard to pinpoint it, and I'm not saying the Masquerade has to be 100% perfect or anything, but it really seems a little confused here. This is a very strange conversation and doesn't work well regardless of Jacob's level of actual werewolf and vampire belief, and it leaves us utterly confused as to how much the tribe actually knows about this. There's an agreement made in recent history with a specific individual that actually exists...and everyone thinks it's a myth?

Secondly, WRT world building: Authors, if you have a world with supernatural species in them, either you can completely ignore the legends, dismissing them as singular instances misunderstood and blown out of proportion, or you can work them into your universe. But if you're going to work them in, you should work them in a reasonable way. So you need to look at where and when legends arose. 'Current' werewolf stories date back to ancient Greece, where you can find people being cursed to turn into wolves a few days each year. (No mention of the moon, though.)

Native Americans have _entirely different_ stories about shapechanging into animals. Skinwalkers, Nagual, probably more. This is generally not a curse or punishment, usually lets them pick any animal, and is voluntary and controlled by them. (And a lot of European legends have this true also. 'Shapeshifting' legends are fairly common.)

Having Natives Americans secretly be European-style cursed werewolves (At least, having their _creation myth_ say they were, as opposed to 20% of the tribe being turned in 1726 by a settler and the entire tribe has been hiding it since, which would work fine as a premise.) makes no sense, unless you can explain in some manner how there were also the same things in Europe at that time, which requires you to go back thousands of years. At which point you've built a world-wide _secret_, which also makes no sense without a Ministry of Magic Obliviating people.

And the same problem exists with the vampire stories. When exactly do the original 'Old One' stories date from? Modern stories about vampires are pretty damn recent and date back _maybe_ 400 years (Anything prior couldn't possibly be the sort of vampire that the Cullens are.), and there's not really any Native American legends that fit 'vampires' at all.

Silver Adept said...

Ooooh, that's just neat (a degree, soon to be two, in folklore). From what I've been exposed to, folklore isn't like that, either. But you're right - in terms of "worldbuilding", this whole interaction is rife with Oh No, Oh Hell No. Which is one in the long series that is Twilight so far.

Marie Brennan said...

All right, as I was going to sleep last night, my brain insisted on taking a stab at how to do this "legend" right. This is only half-baked, but it's a lot closer than what Meyer did.

Chuck the stuff about the Flood. It serves no purpose, except to mark Christianity as the One True Truth.

Cold Ones: nothing to do with the name "Cullen;" it refers to body temperature, or some people say they came from the north, or maybe our fictional tribe, the Etueliuqs (I'd rather make up a tribe than ascribe my inventions to a real one) has a cosmology that separates the world into "hot" and "cold" classes of being (this sort of thing is real, though possibly not in this region; I'm not sure).

The Cold Ones are said to be monsters that hunted and killed the Etueliuqs and threatened to destroy the world around them, until some great hero of the tribe did [insert something awesome] to petition the spirits for assistance. Four of them agreed (four being a common number for narrative sets in North American stories):

The sun agreed to mark the Cold Ones for what they are, making their skins glitter like crystals of ice.

The earth agreed to starve the Cold Ones, so they could not eat the flesh of any plant that grows within the earth, nor the flesh of any animal that burrows or walks or swims or flies. (Which is why they drink blood: it isn't flesh.)

Fire agreed to be a weapon against the Cold Ones, something that could destroy their bodies forever.

And a great wolf spirit made some of the Etueliuqs the defenders of the tribe against the Cold Ones. The mundane explanation of this would be that there was a warrior society in Etueliuq culture (it could still be around) which took the wolf as its symbol, but the story would be that when the Cold Ones came near, members of that society were supposed to become enormous wolves, capable of tearing apart the monsters so they wouldn't destroy the world.

And of course, the youngsters wouldn't believe this, because when's the last time anybody saw a member of the tribe fursplode? Hahaha, werewolves, shyeah right.

That doesn't get you to the "and btw there's a treaty with the Cullens who btw are Cold Ones but it's okay they're vegetarian" part of the original, but honestly, you shouldn't need that. Or at least you don't dump it on Bella in the same scene that she hears this story.

It's a start, at least. I'd have to go read more actual Pacific Northwest material to get the right style in my head (I'm more familiar with other regions), but this sounds more like a proper myth, rather than an expository infodump called a "legend" in a vain attempt to make it easier for the reader to swallow.

Ana Mardoll said...

I love this so much (not the least of which for "fursplode", but I especially like that it's a decent rendering of the sparkly skin. Nice.

Marie Brennan said...

I can't take credit for "fursplode;" I think that's from the Movies in 15 Minutes writeups? That's where I got it from, anyway, though it may have originated elsewhere.

Ana Mardoll said...

Heh. Then I shall give you credit for introducing me to it. Such an awesome word. :D

Brin Bellway said...

Then I shall give you credit for introducing me to it.

You didn't know about fursplosions?

David said...

@Marie Brennan
Stephenie Meyer discovered the whole 'wolf origin' story that is actually a story of the tribe she used, and decided to make werewolves because of that. I.e., she wanted to use the existing legend.

Although what you said could be trivially modified to say that the wolf spirit allows them to turn _back_ into wolves to defend the tribe, which would indeed make more sense than turning 'We came from wolves' into 'We're actually werewolves.'.

And, as you said, there's no reason to ascribe these beliefs to an actual tribe, although at some level, you have to ask 'Why would it be wrong to use an actual Native American tribe, but not wrong to use an actual American town?'. At some point, readers understand that 'All specific depictions are made up, even if they share the same name with real things', and they certainly understand that when those things are supernatural. My only issue there is presenting actual creation stories and then claiming they say something else. If you want a werewolf legend, and there isn't one in the culture you're using, at least _make one up_ instead of claiming an existing story is that when it isn't.

And, yes, this should have at least been a _two_ step explanation. With the first part not from Jacob, but from a myth read out of a book or a lecture or something. Then Jacob talking about how he'd been inexplicably warned away from the Cullens and how some members of the tribe don't use the hospital because of them. And also the Cullens weren't allowed on tribal land under some sort of vague 'agreement'.

But leave out the 'The Cullens are the mythological monster we were talking about' to allow our protagonist to add the two things together later. Nor should this monster be revealed to be 'vampires' until later.

And, frankly, the fact they're 'vegetarians' should be kept for the very end of the book, because part of the tension should be the fact someone she suspects is a vampire is showing interest in her and might want to, you know, eat her. Instead of just 'Oh, yeah, they're vampires. Don't worry, these vampires are not dangerous.'

Marie Brennan said...

@David -- oh, yes; my invented Etueliuqs live in the invented town of Spoons, too. :-)

More seriously: I think there's nothing wrong with writing about a real location (or real group of people), so long as you're actually writing about them. I wrote a whole series set in very real parts of London, with real historical people showing up. But I did that because I wanted to use the truth as much as I could in my fiction -- to the point where I frequently changed aspects of my plot to fit the real history better. Borrowing the name and the weather, or the animal that appears in one legend, and then making the rest up? Not cool. It says, "you're not actually interesting to me. I just find this bit useful, and will discard the rest, which is boring."

I know Meyer was inspired by a real story, and you could definitely work the wolf-origin into my invented version, too. (It would explain why it was a wolf spirit who helped out, and not, say, a bear.) (Dammit, now I want the werebear version of Twilight!) But I was mostly looking at it from the "cold ones" angle, rather than the wolf one: how can you work a creature from European folklore into a Native American setting, and cast it in terms that make it a Native American creature instead? Assuming you don't give up on the latter and make this an obviously more recent story about a monster the invaders brought with them, you have to come up with local reasons for the vampiric traits. Hence me casting them as the result of something the Etueliuq hero did.

As for the tension . . . it's abundantly clear that Meyer has no idea how to manage narrative tension at all. Half the time she cruises along without any, and then when it shows up, she usually gets rid of it as fast as she can.

Ana Mardoll said...

I don't think so! I knew about crowsplosions, though! (Unskippable.)

Amarie said...

*shudders* And to think that, when I was a fan, I thought Bella Swan was all big and bad and smart for being able to flirt like that…

Ana, you’ve said so many things that I wholeheartedly agree with and I don’t think I can add anything else. So I’m coming to this thread with a question. I sincerely have *no* idea what the answer is anymore than I know how to word it best:

Stephenie Meyer is devoutly religious. So much so that, even when she didn’t intend to, [problematic] elements of her religion bled onto her pages. My question is targeted at your phrase: “Not *your* flood, but *the* flood”. I suppose what I’m asking is…is there a point at which it’s not so much cultural appropriation, but about an author’s personal, religious views? And is that so wrong that their religious views take over their work? Or, should an author be more responsible and sensitive by being careful of their wording and remember that not all of their audience follows and/or understands their religion? Are we allowed to give Mrs. Meyer a pass for her beliefs, or is there no excuse for appropriating another’s culture?

This is a pretty new concept to me (even though I live in Georgia…’nuff said…), and I’m just not sure of the answer…

chris the cynic said...

Dammit, now I want the werebear version of Twilight!

Well, if we go with the theory that the entire town of Forks is populated by non-humans trying to blend in, perhaps there are already some. I was thinking that Jessica was a lizard person, and beyond that I hadn't really thought of anything beyond wanting there to be weresloths involved, maybe Eric was a weresloth, and Lauren has fish eyes so she should be something sea related but probably not a mermaid since the eyes are among the least fish-like aspects of a mermaid.

That leaves a lot of options still open. Maybe Angela could be a werebear.

GeniusLemur said...

The whole "We descended from wolves" meaning "we're stock hollywood werewolves" bit reminds me of the movie "Werewolf" as mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000. There's a scene early on after they've dug up what looks like a werewolf skeleton where one of the characters gives the lowdown on "yetiglanchi" (they're in Arizona, and think that's what they've dug up) and how it's not the "traditional white man's movie monster." Then, when live werewolves start appearing, guess what? Full moon, silver bullets, the whole nine hollywood yards.

GeniusLemur said...

Yes, but werebears would involve actual creativity on S. Meyer's part, so the chances of that happening are effectively nil.

chris the cynic said...

I just wanted to second Ana's praise of the explanation for sparkling. They're cold ones so they are cursed to sparkle like ice is a really nice way to make it work.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Amarie, thank you. :)

And is that so wrong that their religious views take over their work?

Well, I don't think there would be anything wrong here if Jacob believed in the Flood because he was a convert to Christianity or Judaism. In fact, I seriously considered that the whole family might be, what with the Jacob/Rachel/Sarah/Rebecca/Leah naming scheme.

But based on his character, he doesn't seem to believe anything else having to do with the Bible, so this becomes this weird Wallpaper Bubble that an editor maybe should have caught.

So TL;DR: I think there's absolutely a sensitive way to write a Native American boy who converted to Christianity four summers ago at a church Bible school, but I don't get the impression that was what we were supposed to get from this.

Then again, it's hard to tell with this book. o.O

Ana Mardoll said...

Love, love, LOVE this, but especially:

Bella: Better if you realize that I'm just interested in you as a friend, worse if you become my fifth suitor.

*standing ovation*

Ana Mardoll said...

I think Angela would make a terrific werebear. She strikes me as very quiet and cuddly.

Can Jessica be a Yuan-Ti?

Lauren, bless her heart, can be from my favorite Lovecraft story, "Shadow Over Innsmouth", if she wants.

chris the cynic said...

Can Jessica be a Yuan-Ti?

I note the "usually evil" and I'm not sure if I should place my focus on the "evil" or the fact that "usually" means "not always".

I see Jessica as being a genuinely nice. Some of that is probably due to trying to compensate for her nature by going out of her way to seem warm and... you know, mammalian. But a lot of that is just the way she is, she likes people and wants to be part of a group and wants the group to be happy.

As a result she is constantly struggling with the fact that her circle of friends doesn't actually like each other, and she wants the new girl to be happy but the the new girl never seems to be, and that cute boy doesn't even notice her most of the time, and she's always worried that she's moving in an overly reptilian fashion but when she tries to stop doing that her movements all look forced, and she'll get herself bent out of shape over that only to realize that absolutely no one pays attention to her anyway so it doesn't really matter, and that makes her sad.

And a random thought that occurs to me, under this way of looking at things maybe the reason that everyone is so interested in Bella is that she's different from everyone else in the school in a very special way: she's the only one who is actually human. So in the eyes of everyone else she has this strange almost indefinable quality that they're entirely unfamiliar with, which comes from actually being what she pretends to be.

Everyone else is constantly working to maintain the masquerade, and even if they do it perfectly some sense of their inhuman nature probably bleeds through on some level of perception, even though it's probably not conscious, but Bella... Bella just is. She's the only one in the school who is being herself.

jill heather said...

it seemed best to be clear. I'm sorry that I apparently wasn't.

In fairness, I am also sensitive to this ("Hi, lots of people! Let me be THE ONLY JEW YOU HAVE EVER MET!").

Bear in mind that I am truly not annoyed at you, I am trying to be clearer than I have been. My issue was with the "Christian white people who have preserved the story correctly" -- the story has been preserved pretty much identically in Judaism and Christianity (the interpretations differ), based on the shared text.

I don't know enough Native history in the US, but there are lots of authentically Christian First Nations people here (due to forced assimilation in the more or less recent past), so a Christian Native person who keeps some Native traditions but was brought up Christian seems reasonable as a character. However, as far as I know, the ACTUAL Quileute tribe has not converted/been converted, and Jacob is fairly clearly placed as a non-Christian.

I'm not the only person who imagines Werebears as something like Care Bears, am I? I'd really like to see the Were Bear Stare described.

Marie Brennan said...

The Were Bear Stare would kill you where you stand.

chris the cynic said...

The concept of a werebear carebear is just to rhymey to ignore, so it has been on my mind.

Fluffy_goddess said...

It's funny, but one of the things that bugs me most about this section is Bella saying, "I felt guilty as I said this, knowing that I'd used him. But I really did like Jacob. He was someone I could easily be friends with."

She hasn't actually used him yet. I mean, she's asked him to walk with her and tell her a story, and she's thinking of that as flirting, but where I'm from asking someone to hang out and talk about stuff is a fairly normal way of befriending someone. If she really doesn't think she's good at flirting, she can drop feeling guilty about practicing her flirtation skills -- most of the people I know practice flirting. Sometimes with people they're interested in. And also with people they're temporarily interested in because they (the flirtees) might be into this other interesting stuff, but it turns out they (either) aren't, so then they (the flirters) stop flirting. Batting your eyelashes and asking for a story is pretty mild flirtation to be feeling guilty over. If you don't like the story, you drop the flirtation in future, no harm no foul; I just don't see being angsty about this.

Feel guilty when you actually betray Jacob, not now. The mistimed angst just feels out of place to me here.

Marie Brennan said...

Ah, but remember the moral context: Bella has a One True Love she's destined to be with. Flirting with anyone else is a grave sin, a betrayal of her destiny. We're spared the unpleasantness of watching her be slut-shamed for batting her eyelashes at another guy, but still, she has Done Wrong by trying.

(Also, am I the only one who finds it weird that her first tactic is to look through her eyelashes at Jacob -- or rather, that she got that tactic from Edward? It's extremely feminine body language, and not what I'd expect from Edward at all.)

Gyroninja said...

I'm not the only person who imagines Werebears as something like Care Bears, am I? I'd really like to see the Were Bear Stare described.

I imagine them as costing 1G for a 1/1 that taps for green mana, and gets +3/+3 whenever you have seven or more cards in your graveyard.

Fluffy_goddess said...

So Bella is misinterpreting her own misery as guilt over using Jacob (which she hasn't actually done yet; is she planning to tell Edward who told her this story? I thought I remembered that as more of a spur-of-the-moment thing, but it's been awhile), when really she is miserable because she is so much the perfect Good Girl that she can't even sort-of flirt with a guy who isn't her True Love?

...I knew I would be headdesking this chapter. I did not realize I would pound my way through my desk and wind up needing stitches.

Jenna Moran said...

> OMG. Now I want a new cat just so I can give her this name.


Jenna Moran said...

It doesn't _have_ to destroy that fantasy!

See, it's possible that he's telling this story to a mumbling, semi-comatose Bella---she hasn't been the same since she got hit by that truck in the parking lot. She keeps talking about the Cullens, and, really, it's only natural that Jacob would riff off of that. He doesn't know that she's dreaming of a relationship with Edward. He doesn't know that Edward comes in at night, sometimes, and just sits there, staring at her hospital bed.

Sometimes when she is almost awake she sees the sparkling surface of the hospital linoleum, cold as stone, and it comforts her.

Jenna Moran said...

(Er, that was in re: hapax's
"I like to pretend in my head that Jacob was just indulging in that age-old pastime, . . .")

Androgyn141 said...

I've always wondered what would have narratively happened if she'd chosen to conceive a different month. Would he have been longing over a toilet instead? Mooned over a sewage treatment plant? Gotten a houseboat and moped on the water?

chris the cynic said...

That is the single most disturbing interpretation of Twilight I have ever read, and I would like it out of my head.

Jenna Moran said...

> That is the single most disturbing interpretation of Twilight I have ever read, and
> I would like it out of my head.

If it helps, I bet that if you buried the Color Kids from Rainbow Brite in Murky Dismal's Pits long enough for them to go all pale, the star sprinkles they've worked with all those years would have ground their way into their skin and made them glitter in the sun. They all probably have to drink human blood to live anyway.

Also, it occurs to me that if you drop a gamma bomb on Rainbow Land, you'd probably create the Burnt Umber Hulk. This might have something to do with the origin of werewolves.

You're welcome.

Launcifer said...

I read this and couldn't get Miracle Max out of my head. Turns out he had the right diagnosis for the wrong character in the wrong story. It's not "true love": it's "to blathe" which, as we all know, means "to bluff". Bella simply sucks at it.

Actually, it feels like there's a weird combination of guilt and pathology involved. It's like Bella's self-aware enough to know, on one level that she's a pathological liar, but she's so caught up in the lies that she obsesses over the few bits that aren't, technically, outright fabrications.

Or something. It's hard to concetrate on this dreck when you're playing a computer game that's better scripted than 90% of the books and films you've ever enountered.

Will Wildman said...

Vast swathes of this thread are magnificent.


I'm sure it's been mentioned before that Meyer wrote the second half of Twilight before the first, but it's only today that it's occurred to me that this possibly contributes to why Bella and Edward are so automatically Involved, rather than having a more extended falling-for-each-other sequence - from Meyer's perspective, she would already have been quite used to writing them as 'in love', and when something is Really Obvious to the person writing it, it can be hard to remember that the reader might be expecting an illustration. I've done it; far more skilled and popular authors than me have done it. Do we know where the 'cutoff' point is, where the 'second half' starts? I'll be curious to see if there's much shift in style or tone, or if it will have been thoroughly smoothed out.


making an effort to smolder at him.

This kind of exemplifies something that I felt throughout reading this chapter, which was: large parts of this are stuff that I would like to have written, but for completely different reasons. I use phrases like 'making an effort to smoulder' all the time in my writing, but in that case it would be emphasising the person's total ineptitude and failure, with a large dash of 'how exactly does one smoulder, anyway?' and it might have immediately degenerated into that Lackadaisy scenario from earlier (I love the Lackadaisy art and must start reading). It would not include how-to stuff like the under-the-eyelashes retinal gymnastics unless immediately followed by "Ow! How the @#$% did Edward do that? I think I sprained something!"

Additionally, I find I quite like Jacob here - his dialogue suggests that he's in a lot of cultural conflict, because he knows all of these legends in exacting detail (which suggests he's invested some meaningful time in Being Quileute as part of his identity) but he's also willing-to-eager to dismiss and mock all of that as 'silly mythic stuff' in order to amuse and impress Bella with how he's not all that Quileute. He throws in 'paleface' as a bit of comedy, which is always helpful because it references (and minimises) harsh racial histories without the kind of offence that a 'real' racial slur would cause. "Ha ha, my ancestors sure did fight with and die by the hands of your ancestors and/or the pioneers who cleared the way for you! Now let us never speak or think of race again in this series."

And on the surface of all that conflict, he's just a dude who wants to spend some quality time with a cute girl, which is its own kind of adorable (when she's reciprocating) and unfortunate (later when everything gets ruined forever).

I already find Jacob a vastly more complicated and interesting character than all of the vampires combined, and I haven't even had to make up any hobbies or histories for him.

Marie Brennan said...

Yeah, I think the "second half first" approach explains a lot in this case. I was saying yesterday that when I was in high school, I used to write my books out of order, and that's why I never finished any of them: because when it came time to write the stuff necessary to make those random scattered scenes go, it always ended up being bland filler, designed only to get me to my destination. Not to mention that the random scattered scenes themselves were always borderline nonsensical, since I hadn't done the work to figure out who the characters really were and why they were taking those actions. It feels a lot like Meyer has the same problem here.

Which is not to say that writing out of order can't work. I have a very good friend who will say things like "started work on the new book today; got Chapter 17 mostly done." I have no idea how she does it, except that I know it requires a detailed outline; she actually *knows* what Chapter 17 will consist of, as well as Chapters 1-16, so she's done all the groundwork I failed to do in high school. (But man, if I had to work that way, I'd rip my hair out.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Do we know where the 'cutoff' point is, where the 'second half' starts?

I believe that's the Sparkly Meadow Scene. :)

Fluffy_goddess said...

This is also how I write, though I usually end up having to scrap a certain number of later scenes and rewrite them completely, as there will be little niggly details that change. It's epically useful whenever I run into a plot I desperately want to write without having the time to focus on it -- I write a few of the scenes that are incredibly vivid in my head, draft an outline and some character bios, and put it aside. If I ever have time to get back to it, great; if I don't, it's all practice.

Amarie said...

Ahhh...I see what you're saying, Ana! It would be alright if we actually saw that Jacob was a convert or the like. But he's not's a little rude and insensitive for the author to use their religion as default, right? At least, in the context of having a character that comes from a culture that *most likely* doesn't believe in what you believe in. Is that what you're saying, Ana? :D

Rikalous said...

If fish-eye Lauren weren't already a Deep One, I'd suggest that Tyler, Mike, and Eric be a mummy, gillman, and Frankenstein's monster to complete the Classic Movie Monsters Crushing on Bella Pentet. Instead, I'm going to say Tyler's a Mothman. He's not a bad driver, he's just used to compound vision.

Randall M said...

As Meyer is a Mormon, and the Mormons allegedly believe that the Native Americans are one (or more?) of the Lost Tribes of Israel, might that explain why she has Jacob believing in "The Flood"? Or am I oversimplifying?

GeniusLemur said...

I think that's way more thought and research than Meyer put into it.

GeniusLemur said...

When I first started writing, I wrote the pieces that I found inspiring and added on to them, assuming that eventually the pieces would naturally join together. As it turns out, they never did.

I changed my strategy after a while.

Marie Brennan said...

Yup. So now I make myself write things in order. I'm allowed to type up notes and even snippets of lines for future scenes, but that has to be in a separate file, and then when I get to that point in the narrative I can ignore it if it doesn't fit anymore.

bekabot said...

"The Were Bear Stare would kill you where you stand."

Werebear Carebears don't stare and smile and stare, Carebear Werebears stare and smolder. Neither humans nor vampires can imitate this trick. It looks super weird. Immediate death has been known to occur in mortal observers b/c the human brain can't process that much contradiction. It's the contrast between "eldritch" and "adorable" which causes the most trouble: only professionally trained cutesterminators can withstand it, though their training occasionally fails them. (Mere glamor, by comparison, is as the bite of a flea.)

The vampire knows and fears the Werebear Carebear, because (due to his smoldery ways) just when you'd expect a Carebear Werebear to fursplode as per usual, he's got a pesky habit of blowing up like a bear-sized wodge of gelignite and taking the whole neighborhood with him. (A fact little known to any but a few hermit vampires and Bering Strait Natives is that the Siberian devastation of 1908 was the result not of a meteorite or crash-landing UFO but of a CareWereBear convention which got out of hand when the attendees were overcome with good feelings and homemade vodka.) When the telltale curls of smoke start to rise from the WereCareBear's colorful fur, the vampire typically makes tracks, as well he might, for he is in the presence of a fearsome creature. (When the CareWereBear decides to look upward from underneath his lashes, the Medusa herself averts her gaze.)

The vampire (of course) will destroy the Werebear Carebear whenever he can, which is seldom. But the Carebear Werebear's greatest enemy, next to whom the Werebear Carebear holds the vampire of little account, is the valiant Smokey, who has sworn to squelch all creatures who look like bears yet are not bears, and who smolder unguarded in the woods. The history of this conflict is too long to be related here: suffice it to say that the contest is still undecided, since though Smokey is indefatigable, the WereCareBears are many (coming to a ToysRUs near you!!) and their wiles and smarm pose a danger and temptation even to the canny and informed. Needless to say, the fate of the world hangs in the balance. In the meantime it''s best to remember not to pick up stray toys in the woods and never to burn your own trash.

Marie Brennan said...

Congratulations! You have won today's Internet. Where would you like me to mail it?

bekabot said...

I'm very flattered. For what it's worth, I accepted your retelling of the Quileute Cullen legend as the One True Version from the moment I read it.

Silver Adept said...

@Amarie -

If, by "little" you mean "the approximate distance of the Kessel Run from Star Wars, without Han's boast", then, yes, it's a little rude and insensitive to do that. Otherwise, spot on. The "Default Christian" attitude grates pretty hard when you're talking about someone with a culture that has been in conflict with Christians for several centuries.

Amaryllis said...

You remember how, a few threads ago, we mentioned The Left Hand of Darkness?

Well, sure enough, I couldn't resist digging out my ancient copy and starting to read.

It's 78F here today and the daffodils are out: entirely the wrong atmosphere to be reading about a world called Winter.

And, y'know, what everybody remembers about that book is the gender thing. I'd forgotten how fine the language is, and I'd forgotten the cold.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

Good grief this thread is full of awesomeness.


Amarie said...

*giggles* Hey there, Silver and everyone!! Just a heads up that I'm kind of going on haitus. Loooots of work and studying and tests. x.X
But I'm pretty sure it'll end...this weekend? So I can't wait to hang out with all of you guys soon!!!

And, LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!! Silver, you crack me up!! And yes, I know what you're saying. But...this isn't the first instance of Meyer's religion taking extreme default, right? I mean, we have that loverrrrly argument against Bella having sex before marriage...

Silver Adept said...

Do well on your examinations, Amarie.

Chronologically speaking, actually, this could be the first obvious example. The really big one isn't for three more books, after all.

hapax said...

I mean, look at this crap he says. Even the Cullens hide their vampirism better than Jacob hides his werewolf-nature. And even if he doesn't believe the Cullens are vampires, I suspect he might have noticed at some point that he and his family kinda ARE werewolves. And that he probably SHOUDN'T tell these the, ugh, palefaces.

I like to pretend in my head that Jacob was just indulging in that age-old pastime, "Let's see how ridiculous a 'legend' I can get the clueless outsider to swallow" (in the fine tradition of the Trobriand Islanders with Malinowski and the Samoans with Mead). Hmm, we'll start with Noah's Flood. Okay, she bought that; how about conflating "Cullens" with "Cold Ones", even though we weren't speaking English that far back. Wow, she's pretty dim... okay, I'll tell her we hold wolves sacred. No, better, we're werewolves! Yeah, werewolves, the natural enemy of .... hang on, do you think she'd buy that these are the SAME Cullens? Score! But man, looks like I have to spell it out for her: V-A-M-P, c'mon, say it with me, airhead ...

Of course, the rest of the series totally destroys that fantasy. :-(

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