Twilight: Fevered Dreams

Twilight Recap: Bella has gone for a walk after an intense round of googling.

Twilight, Chapter 7: Nightmare

   I forced myself to focus on the two most vital questions I had to answer, but I did so unwillingly.

My biggest gripe with Chapter 7 so far is that it is almost entirely without action. Bella had a dream about vampires, then she googled vampires, now she is sitting on a tree outside thinking about vampires. GRIPPING ACTION!

And, honestly, that would not be so bad really -- I don't demand constant stimulation from my reading, I swear -- except that I feel like the narrative is trying to fool me into thinking something interesting is happening. We already talked about the Exciting! Pop-up! Ads! already, and now this is the third or fourth time that Bella has had to 'force' herself to consider things she is 'unwilling' to consider.

I feel like that's cheating. Bella is clearly not unwilling to think about Edward -- she literally obsesses over him during her waking moments and most of her sleeping ones. Of course, she's unwilling to think of him as a vampire since she'd rather he just be normal and moody and head-over-heels in love with her, but for all her 'forcing' of the issue, she's going to essentially come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter what Edward is because she loves him. So all this hand-wringing feels like fake action under false pretenses and it chafes my chaps.*

* Probably not a real aphorism.

   First, I had to decide if it was possible that what Jacob had said about the Cullens could be true.

In case you don't remember from last week, the point-list from Jacob was:

  • Blood-drinkers
  • Enemies of werewolves
  • Cold-skinned
  • Immortal

If Bella has the tools available to evaluate any of those, I'm not sure what they would be. I suppose we have the data point that the Cullens have never been observed to eat food in public, but that's not the same thing as "and therefore they drink blood". Bella doesn't apparently consider werewolves to be real, so that just leaves cold skin and immortality. The cold skin should be easy enough to verify, but once again there are a lot of Occam's Razors in between "cold skin" and "vampire".

So we're left with immortality. And here's where I really think Chris the Cynic's Edith-and-Ben narratives excel, because he's done a really wonderful job of working in the characterization of Edith as being an walking anachronism. Her voice, her speech, her hobbies, and her interests are all dated. Probably her manner of dress is gently dated. Everything about her is a curious mix of modern and ancient, and this is where something like "is this person very possibly immortal?" can really be evaluated in a meaningful way.

Back in Twilight-land, we have Edward. Who Bella accuses of speaking in an old-fashioned way, and yet no more so that I can tell than any other articulate young adult. Who appears to have a stronger grasp (and love) of modern technology than Bella, given his vast CD collection, shiny stereo player, and pretty car. (No vinyl records? I'm disappointed.) Who blends perfectly in at high school, and is segregated not by his dated speech or odd clothes, but rather by his unattainable perfection. Is this guy immortal? WHO KNOWS.

Anyway, Bella is going to evaluate it anyway. Why not.

   Immediately my mind responded with a resounding negative. It was silly and morbid to entertain such ridiculous notions. But what, then? I asked myself. There was no rational explanation for how I was alive at this moment. I listed again in my head the things I'd observed myself: the impossible speed and strength, the eye color shifting from black to gold and back again, the inhuman beauty, the pale, frigid skin. And more -- small things that registered slowly -- how they never seemed to eat, the disturbing grace with which they moved. And the way he sometimes spoke, with unfamiliar cadences and phrases that better fit the style of a turn-of-the-century novel than that of a twenty-first-century classroom. He had skipped class the day we'd done blood typing. He hadn't said no to the beach trip till he heard where we were going. He seemed to know what everyone around him was thinking . . . except me. He had told me he was the villain, dangerous. . . .

I count something like three flags on the play here.

First, if Edward Cullen is using unfamiliar phrases prior to this mention, I HAVE NO AWARENESS OF IT. Maybe he has. I've been doing this deconstruction for a year, it's possible I've forgotten something. I should re-read Twilight just to be sure! But I have zero memory of Edward using a strange colloquialism and I have even less memory of Bella calling him on it.

Second, I object to Bella not only bringing up heretofore unmentioned "unfamiliar phrases" but also unfamiliar phrases that precisely fit Edward's time period of origin (assuming by "turn-of-the-century" is is referring to the 1900s, and not the 2000s). Does she have access to the Twilight: Official Illustrated Guide? She does, doesn't she? I know she's not basing her knowledge on her extensive turn-of-the-century novel reading, seeing as how she's utterly unfamiliar with Dracula which was published in 1897.

Third, since when does Edward know what everyone around him is thinking? Edward and Bella have not yet been in conversation with a third party, and I'm pretty sure that Bella has not even observed him interacting with anyone other than his own family members. The one symptom of telepathy shown so far is that Edward mysteriously knew that Isabella preferred to be called 'Bella', but that wasn't terribly mysterious given that he'd had a couple of days to be informed of this through the grapevine.

Apparently all this stuff just sort of happened in the time while Edward was aggressively ignoring Bella in the wake of the van incident. And, of course, that was the time during which they fell into longing love with each other from across the gulf of silence that separated them. It all sounds very fascinating; I'm sorry we had to miss it in favor of all the googling.

   And then the most important question of all. What was I going to do if it was true? [...]
   Only two options seemed practical. The first was to take his advice: to be smart, to avoid him as much as possible. [...]
   I was gripped in a sudden agony of despair as I considered that alternative. My mind rejected the pain, quickly skipping on to the next option.
   I could do nothing different. After all, if he was something . . . sinister, he'd done nothing to hurt me so far. [...]
   There was one thing I was sure of, if I was sure of anything. The dark Edward in my dream last night was a reflection only of my fear of the word Jacob had spoken, and not Edward himself. [...]
   And I knew in that I had my answer. I didn't know if there ever was a choice, really. I was already in too deep. Now that I knew -- if I knew -- I could do nothing about my frightening secret. Because when I thought of him, of his voice, his hypnotic eyes, the magnetic force of his personality, I wanted nothing more than to be with him right now.

I don't honestly know how I feel about this passage.

Well, I mean, it's over-wrought and that bugs me, naturally. Sudden agonies of despair should be used a little more carefully and sparingly than this, in my personal opinion. But getting past the verbiage and digging into the content, I'm still a little ambivalent.

Girl loves boy. Nevermind that we've had little build-up or justification to it; I'll accept it at face value for the moment. Girl loves boy. Boy might be dangerous. What does girl do?

She could avoid him in favor of her own safety. And depending on the reality of the threat level, this may very well be the best plan. But this is something she's going to have to determine for herself: what constitutes a threat and how serious that threat is will to a certain extent vary depending on the couple.

She could continue to build a relationship with him. She could extend trust to him, hoping that he won't abuse that trust, believing that he's a good person unwilling to hurt her. To a certain extent, we all do this every day -- we believe that the people we daily interact with won't deliberately harm us.

In that sense, yes, there really are two choices here. And yet... it seems so much more complicated than that. Bella has a family, a mother and father who love her. On the one hand, I don't think she should be shamed for not considering their safety at all times when choosing who to associate with. No one can or should have that burden thrust on them. Edward, Mike, Tyler, Eric, and Jacob are all responsible for their own actions: if they choose to hurt Bella or her family, it is not her fault for associating with them.

And yet... vampires. I would kind of expect any genuine "should I get involved with Bob, considering that he is very probably a vampire" evaluation to at least consider "even if I don't mind losing my own life, do I want to get my family involved in this?" I don't think Bella should have to consider this, but it strikes me as unnatural that she doesn't. I... is that victim-blaming? I really don't know. Call me out on it if it is, Ramblites.

And yet... vampires. I've already said that if we grant Edward free will and agency and moral understanding -- things he seems pretty clearly to possess -- then we may deduce that he has enough control over his self and his actions to the point where Good and Evil stop being valid categories for whatever kind of vampire he is and he joins the ranks of us ambiguous regular folks. Is Bella simply making the logical leap that Edward is essentially no different from any other suitor, and therefore lies her lack of concern that a sharp-toothed avatar of Satan will slaughter her family while she sleeps?

And yet... vampires. One of the myths that stood out to Bella as plausible in the light of her circumstances was "a creature so strong and fast it could massacre an entire village in the single hour after midnight". Bella is essentially considering entering into a relationship with a demonstrably capricious person who might well have the powers of a demi-god. I would feel uncomfortable dating my boss on the grounds that he might fire me; I have to think I would feel uncomfortable dating Thor, God of Thunder on the grounds that he might raze my home town. Is it natural for Bella to just disregard the power disparity between her and her suitor? I just don't know.

Bella has two options: she can continue to associate with Edward or she can avoid him. But... if this is going to be a thinking novel, full of feelings and thoughts and longings and desires, I'd like to see at least a little of that time dedicated to actually dealing with the real feelings of a real girl looking at the real possibility of dating a real vampire. I'm not demanding a full feminist deconstruction, but I do think there's a lot of material that could have been here and yet sadly wasn't.


Samantha C said...

I think the power disparity is just about the whole point of some of these fantasies. When I play with vampire thoughts it's always about getting drawn in, despite one's better judgement. About a person who has such control and such power that not only are you going to do what he wants, you're going to WANT to do what he wants. Whether or not you want to want to. (Incidentally, for similar reasons I always think of the Phantom of the Opera as a fey-like character with that magical appeal.) It'd destroy the fantasy for me to spend too much time worrying about logic, because for me most of the point is I'm brainwashed and hypnotized and don't have to make any hard choices. Not that I think it's victim-blaming to want her to think, just that I think it's outside genre expectations.

Laura said...

While googling "vampire" does suggest someone who kills people to feed on, I think that the fact that the Cullens have been living here for a while and there aren't bodies turning up left and right (this isn't Sunnydale) suggests that they don't do that; the people she knows are already in danger (or not) whether she dates Edward or not, because they're already in the ecosystem as potential prey. She could assume that vampires only eat close kin of their girlfriends, but that might be a stretch to conclude.

(Similarly Thor might destroy my home town if he lived in it and was dating someone I didn't know, or if he was cranky because nobody would go out with him...)

Ana Mardoll said...

That makes sense from a prey perspective.

Still... maybe I've just been watching TRUE BLOOD too much, but being involved with a vampire has definitely adversely affected Snooki's friends and family. It just seems like something I'd think about, myself. O.o

Brin Bellway said...

Because when I thought of him, of his voice, his hypnotic eyes, the magnetic force of his personality, I wanted nothing more than to be with him right now.

...are you sure Bella's not canonically a thrall? Because that sounds pretty blatant to me.

Amaryllis said...

Don't know anything about True Blood. I read this as "did Bella consider the grief of her parents if she gets too close to the vampire and he loses control and kills her?" Which, probably not.

As you say, I don't expect a young woman to renounce the company of men because a few of them are untrustworthy. Okay, I don't expect my daughter to renounce the company of young men, or stop going to places where men are. I just hope she exercises reasonable caution (and I won't blame her if God forbid something happens to her anyway).

(Can I be a worried Mom without being a victim-blamer? I hope so.)

And yet...vampires. The known danger is a lot higher from vampires than from the dude she met in class, surely? What counts as "reasonable caution" with an unreasonable creature?

Ana Mardoll said...

but Bella is able to make the same determinations just by looking at Mike so that doesn't seem to be very strong mind reading evidence.

And Jessica seems to have a clear idea of Mike's thoughts, too. I'm to the point where I think Mike has an EXTERNAL monologue that everyone can hear: "I walked into biology today and my eyes stared a moment too long on Bella. I ruefully turned my attention back to Jessica, but too late..."

It's worth also adding that the biggest argument against MIND READING VAMPIRE is that Edward quite clearly can't read Bella's mind. Since she's shocked and awed when she learns that she's a special exception, it seems anachronistic for her to have already settled on the I'm A Special Butterfly theory. Really, this whole passage I call shenanigans on.

True Blood spoilers:

Nf n qverpg pbafrdhrapr bs qngvat inzcverf, Fabbxv'f tenaqzbgure unf orra zheqrerq ol na nagv-inzcver rkgerzvfg, ure orfg sevraq unf orra genhzngvpnyyl xvqanccrq ol n eviny inzcver snpgvba, naq ure oebgure unf wbvarq n enqvpny nagv-inzcver tebhc naq arneyl orra xvyyrq va gur cebprff.

Va zl zvaq, gur Ibyghev ner zber qnatrebhf guna nal bs gurfr. Tenagrq, Oryyn qbrfa'g xabj nobhg gur Ibyghev lrg.

Fluffy_goddess said...

Edward certainly seems to have Bella under some form of glamourie, though we don't get proper build up to it. To me, this scene reads like an expanded version of,

"Well, he could be a vampire, couldn't he? I had no definite proof otherwise. I had no proof either way, really -- and maybe Jacob's family really were werewolves, and Mike was secretly a zombie, and Lauren was the last in a line of evil witches. It's not like it'd be printed on his student i.d.

So maybe he was. In which case... Nothing changed. I still wanted to spend time with him, if only because the idea of not spending time with him seriously sucked. And if he wasn't a vampire, eventually I'd find that out, and it'd be a good joke that I'd even thought about this."

Except, of course, that the tone's wrong.

chris the cynic said...

I wanted nothing more than to be with him right now.

This bugs me. The tense doesn't fit. The story is told in past tense. "Now" is not past tense. To be in one tense it should be "I want nothing more than to be with him right now," or, "I wanted nothing more to be with him right then." It isn't those things. Now that's not a problem in itself, the sentence as written is completely legitimate, but it does not mean what I think it is meant to mean.

As written it means that past Bella was looking forward to the present, what she was wanting was not primarily to be with Edward at that time, but to be with him later on when the narration took place. This could be a very meaningful thing if we knew when the hell the narration was taking place.

If Bella were telling this story while alone and Edwardless then saying, "I wanted nothing more than to be with him right now," would mean that she was working toward a goal that didn't work out. Her story was about how she tried to arrange things so that in the end she could be with Edward yet here she is at (what appears to be) the end, and that hasn't happened. (And then after she finishes telling the story, Edward shows up and it's a happy ending, assuming Edward isn't a jerk in this version.)

So in another story it could make sense, but as is it really makes no sense because what it really says is, "When I was thinking about whether or not Edward was a vampire I wanted nothing more than to be with him at what was then an unspecified time in the future which happens to precisely coincide with when I am telling this story." And somehow, I don't think that's what it's supposed to say.

It bugs me.

chris the cynic said...

And Jessica seems to have a clear idea of Mike's thoughts, too. I'm to the point where I think Mike has an EXTERNAL monologue that everyone can hear: "I walked into biology today and my eyes stared a moment too long on Bella. I ruefully turned my attention back to Jessica, but too late..."

I'm now imagining it as being everyone has a story that can be read, some more accessible than others. Mikes is distributed so widely that you can't miss it even if you're not much into reading, Edward can read minds because he's signed up to get updates on everyone's story, but he can't read Bella's because hers is the only one that's subject to copyright restrictions. He has to wait until the books come out to buy it, and by then the events will have already gone by.

It's like everyone has this computer window above their heads, most say you have to sign up to read, Mike's goes straight to the content, and Bella's reads, "Content removed due to copyright violation."

Omskivar said...

Quick nitpick: It's Sookie, not Snooki.

I don't know if it's victim-blaming to expect Bella to consider the possible ramifications that dating a vampire would bring to her family. On the one hand, whatever Edward does is on his head, not Bella's - if he harms Charlie or Renee, he's clearly at fault and Bella is not to blame. On the other hand, Bella suspects that he is capable of slaughtering people in seconds and still willingly puts him in a position where he can get to her family. To say that she bears no responsibility for what happens seems disingenuous. (I would have an analogy ready, but it's pet-related and I'm not really comfortable reducing people to animals and/or property for the sake of proving a point.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Quick nitpick: It's Sookie, not Snooki.

Thank you. There's another character on another show they keep running commercials for (Jersey Shore? Maybe?) and I get character names mixed up badly.

Were it up to me, she'd be referred to entirely as "Rogue From X-Men", but.

Omskivar said...

It is, indeed, Jersey Shore that has Snooki on it.

Nathaniel said...

Awhile back Ana mentioned the dreamlike qualities of this book. Bella doesn't weigh the danger or the potential fallout of her family because this is a dream, a sex dream, and such things don't turn out badly.

Marie Brennan said...

I don't think it's at all victim-blaming to say Bella ought to consider the consequences for other people before she makes dangerous decisions whose effects go beyond herself. I mean, if a man or woman with a family decides to join the army and go off to war, without a moment of thought as to what that will mean for their wife/husband/children, wouldn't we think that was awfully selfish? Or, to pick an example that involves direct danger, rather than other consequences: if a doctor decides to start performing abortions, knowing this means their address will probably be posted on the internet, that people will harass their family and make death threats and maybe throw a bomb through the window of their house . . . anybody who doesn't take a moment to think, "well, even if I'm okay with the risk to myself, what about the risk to my family?" is, in my opinion, a pretty terrible human being.

Victim-blaming would be if Charlie gets killed and et by Edward and everybody says, "it's totally Bella's fault for dragging her father into this," rather than "holy crap it's Edward's fault for, y'know, killing and eating people." (Well, I guess the *real* victim-blaming would be if they pin it on Charlie for -- I don't even know -- having a daughter so easily distracted by the sparkly. He should raised her better, etc, etc.)

But we already know from Bella's narration how self-centered she is. Other people are basically only props in her Great Angsty Romance. Since we can't have real angst, though, nobody's actually going to get hurt by her obsession and stupid decisions, apart from maybe a few broken hearts. Maybe she knows that (the way she knows all kinds of other things, like Jacob being a werewolf and Edward sparkling in sunlight), and that's why she doesn't bother to think about anybody else.

Smilodon said...

"He hadn't said no to the beach trip till he heard where we were going. He seemed to know what everyone around him was thinking . . . except me. "

An author really should put something distracting between two contradictory sentances. If he can read minds, why didn't he know where the beach trip was already?

Marie Brennan said...

@Amarie -- what I don't get about the self-insertion fantasy angle is what draws the reader in to begin with. I don't see any hook, any magnet, to pull me toward imagining myself in Bella's position. Her position is boring. She has no hobbies and no life. She doesn't care about her supposed friends. She lacks, not only a warm and loving family, but any family to speak of; so far Renee has been Mrs. Not Appearing in This Novel, and Charlie has been almost as much of a non-presence. She shows no particular interest in anything whatsoever -- except Edward, and even then, her reactions to him are so inconsistent, illogical, and badly written, I can't invest in them, either.

All I can figure is that my reaction on that last point (obviously) differs from that of fans. You're right that if Bella responded to Edward as she should, then the fantasy would be in pieces on the floor. But the response she does show isn't even offensive to me; it's tedious and uninteresting. I keep trying to understand what about it is appealing to so many people, and I still just . . . don't get it.

Johanna said...

I have an idea how it could be possible that Bella heard Edward use unfamiliar phrases. They are in school and have classes together, so maybe he was talking to the teacher.

Anton_Mates said...

the eye color shifting from black to gold and back again, the inhuman beauty, the pale, frigid skin

So I always wonder about this "inhuman beauty" dealie.

Romantic-story vampires are usually hot. Twilight vamps are, as I understand it, physically beautiful--it's not just that they're glamouring all the humans into thinking they're prettier than they are.

But in what way are they beautiful? They're obviously not all clones of one particular beautiful person, because Bella makes a big deal about how each of the Cullens looks totally different than the others. So what are the actual traits that make them hotter than any human could be? And how does the vampirizing process manage to give them all these traits while preserving their individual distinctiveness?

If Twilight vamps actually were demonic beings, then it would make sense for their physical remodeling to be an intelligently guided process. The Dark Powers that create them could mindread the aesthetic preferences of all nearby humans, then adjust the new vampire's face to hit a local maximum for sex appeal. Of course, that would mean that not all vampires are skinny and pale, since not all cultures are impressed by that look. Even marble-smooth, indestructible skin is hardly an asset if the locals are turned on by ritual scarification.

Otherwise, if it's not a guided process and just makes the same tweaks on everybody, what would they be? All faces are rendered left-right symmetric? Eyes are enlarged by 10% and pupils perma-dilated? All waist-to-hip ratios set to .85 or whatever the magic number is? Faces slightly morphed toward an average of all human faces in the area?

BrokenBell said...

Maybe it has something to do with the (amazingly fitting but apparently non-canon) vampire glamour thing? As in, it's not that each vampire's appearance automatically adjusts to whatever is most beautiful in their current surroundings, but that people will always find a vampire to be the most beautiful thing imaginable, entirely bypassing what their actual preferences are? Like a person could go their whole lives being almost exclusively attracted to chubby older men, but they'd still find Edward to be the most maddeningly desirable person they'd ever seen, even though the general idea of pale, arrogant seventeen-year-old boys continues to leave them cold and uncomfortable.

Melidomi said...

For the beauty thing, I would go with one or both of the following:
1) erasing all environmentally caused imperfections, where environmental includes in-utero. So, all scars, sun damage, asymmetries, etc are erased. This would leave you with the 'perfect' version of yourself.
2) your own mental image of the Perfect you. So, if you'd always wished you had longer eyelashes, or a smaller nose, or whatever, you got it. Of course, this would probably not work out so well.

chris the cynic said...

In the Twilight-verse there is an objective standard of beauty, we've never told what it is, but it exists and people can be ranked on it. (Lauren is objectively more beautiful than Bella, somehow. Maybe fish eyes are beautiful on said standard.) Since the standard exists it's simple enough for vampirification to increase the beauty stat.

Trying to put this into any terms that apply to the real world is doomed to fail and fail badly. And also fail in almost all possible ways. One of the most obvious, considering that the beautification process involves becoming a whiter shade of pale, is the racism. Another is that there's no variation for individual tastes, if someone doesn't think the objective standard is correct, it's not that they have their own personal idea of what makes someone beautiful, it is that they are wrong.

And I just noticed that Amarie already brought this up.

Anton_Mates said...

But even then, how do we define the ‘standard’ of beauty? Especially in a place like America, where so many different cultures blend and diverge and have their *own* ‘standards’? Then, from each culture, you have subcultures with their own ’standards’.

I like the idea that in, say, Ghana or the Fiji islands, vampires are common knowledge because they're just so obvious. Everyone knows about the unattractively scrawny, albino folks whose skin won't hold a tattoo or a cosmetic scar, and who sparkle whenever they step out from behind a tree.

(Not that Twilight vamps are particularly endangered by common knowledge, since they're superpowered and have no weaknesses.)

And then you add in the fact that the Cullen’s all have ultra-white skin, and the amount of Unfortunate and Offensive Implications just keep piling up.

It's also amusing, since of course traditional vampires weren't thin and pale because that was hot, but because they were dead. A well-fed, "healthy" vampire would become plumper and rosier, as it could more accurately mimic a living human.

Clearly Stephenie Meyer, Anne Rice, and Ralph Lauren were hired by vampires to manipulate social standards of beauty, so that we'd go "ooh, sexy" at starving vamps instead of "agh, walking corpse."

Silver Adept said...


If memory serves, one's desirability as a bride in previous times was linked to how pale one was, because the paleness indicated that one did not spend much time outdoors, with the vulgar classes, doing actual work, and therefore had sufficient money in the dowry to be worthwhile to marry. That might be the "objective" standard at which the Cullens clearly excel - they're quite wealthy, they rarely go outside, and so they have this lovely shade of pale that makes them instantly desirable to everyone around them, because it exudes their wealthiness. If that's the case, though, then it's not just Edward who is mysteriously stuck in the past while being utterly modern in all other ways.

@Ana Mardoll - That would be Anna Paquin, and in both of those roles, she looks a bit under-fed to me. Might just be her body type.

Re, the original post (Possible TW for abusive behavior- Thrall is a good shorthand, and if we're going the Darkest Sketch route, we don't even need a supernatural explanation as to why Bella is despairing at the thought of not being with Edward - it's because she's already well into the abuse cycle, having been primed right from the start by Edward's alternatingly jerkish and standoffish behavior. It's intermittent rewards so far for Bella, and there are enough of them for her to start thinking, "well, if I'm just the perfect girl for him, of course he'll love me and we'll be happy together." The "vampire" comment from Jacob could just be an offhand remark about how Jacob's already seen Edward go through other women and destroy their inner selves. Of course, when it turns out that Edward really is a vampire, that just ups the stakes - now Bella knows that he could kill her if she doesn't stay that perfect girl for him, and it locks her further into the cycle. Brrr.[End TW]

As for why others don't come into her consideration, well, as mentioned above, Renee is parent in absentia and Charlie is present parent in absentia, so really, if she disappears or gets killed, it's not like anyone's going to miss her or Charlie's going to come looking for her. (Well, he will, but it won't be hard to push him away from looking too hard when the evidence clearly shows that she was mauled by a wild animal.) And she's not really good firends with any of the other residents of Forks, so there's no danger of them getting into trouble as the Scooby gang to her Slayer-self. Blla's the girl who disappears without a trace and nobody really remembers who she was when she's gone. Perfect vampire bait.

Marie Brennan said...

@Amarie -- Thanks for the answer . . . even if I still don't get it. <g> I mean, I understand it intellectually. (Maybe.) But the appeal is 100% lacking for me. I'd rather have an honest-to-god Mary Sue (and that's not a term I throw around casually) than a protagonist who offers me the fantasy of not doing anything.

Will Wildman said...

He had told me he was the villain, dangerous. . . .

I have a fascination with people who confound the concept of 'villain', so it's perhaps not surprising that this particular line would catch my attention. Did Edward use those exact words? I know he's said he's dangerous, that she should stay away from him, that he should stay away from her, but 'villain' is a very specific term, because it really can't exist in a vacuum - it implies that there is or needs to be a hero. As literary as it is, it implies a long arc: regardless of what he looks like right now, his story is that of causing evil. That's not the kind of sentiment I would associate with an actual evil person - dangerous, yes, but sufficiently self-aware and overwrought that they probably really need help, support, therapy, because they feel trapped and fated to terrible things. It vexes me that it's treated as simply another tally mark on the 'Edward is a monster' side of the board, because it seems instead to be a nigh-conclusive indication that he is not an unthinking killer, but in fact a rather tortured individual.

Of course, knowing as much more about Edward as I do, I know he doesn't really think of himself as a villain, because he never really tries to reform - his position merely changes from 'I am evil and therefore cannot have nice things' to a morality-free 'I can have ALL OF THE THINGS'. But from this starting position, it's really quite a heartening statement.

being involved with a vampire has definitely adversely affected Snooki's friends and family.

For a gleeful moment, I thought I finally understood why anyone would watch Jersey Shore. =)

For example, Rosalie is what we would call beautiful today, whereas Esme may have been what we would have called beautiful back in her time (the twenties or thirties, I think).

If I recall correctly, isn't Rosalie's super VamPower supposed to be her supreme beauty? Of everyone in the cast, it seems like at least she should either have mind-bending glamour or constantly-shifting features that ensure she always appears at whatever the absolute height of beauty is considered to be.

Caravelle said...

If memory serves, one's desirability as a bride in previous times was linked to how pale one was, because the paleness indicated that one did not spend much time outdoors, with the vulgar classes, doing actual work, and therefore had sufficient money in the dowry to be worthwhile to marry.

... Whereas once holidays at the beach became more of a thing than working out in the fields, being nicely tanned became a sign of beauty.
The funny thing is this isn't true everywhere. I was complimented one summer for my pallor by a woman in Japan, and I immediately went "yes it's terrible I work indoors all the time so I haven't gotten a chance to tan at all", and she was so confused. Why would I want to be tanned ? I explained Western European standards of beauty which confused her even more : aren't we worried about skin cancer ?
I had no answer to that :-p

The Cullens do show that the whiteness ideal of beauty is still alive and well even in the West though.

chris the cynic said...

Did Edward use those exact words?

According to Google Books, no. This is the only time the word villain appears in the book.


In ancient Greece (by which I mean ancient Athens), where wives were kept inside almost constantly unless one couldn't afford slaves to go to the spring to get water for them, white skin was considered beautiful in women. Not what we mean by white skin. Not light skin, not pale skin, white skin. They had makeup. It made them white. In vase paintings, you can immediately tell who the women are because they're white.


When I see images of the movie vampires I am unreasonably annoyed at the fact that whoever was in charge of how they looked apparently decided, "Screw the books, I'm giving them color." A big deal is made of how extremely pale Bella is to the point that she refers to herself as "the albino" a bigger deal is made of how much paler the Cullens are. I see a picture of movie-Edward and for fuck's sake there've been plenty of times in my life where I've been much much lighter skinned than that. I call bullshit.

Of, course, given that this is closer to what something would need to look like to be faithful to the book, I can see why they decided to ignore what was written.

Anton_Mates said...

If memory serves, one's desirability as a bride in previous times was linked to how pale one was, because the paleness indicated that one did not spend much time outdoors, with the vulgar classes, doing actual work, and therefore had sufficient money in the dowry to be worthwhile to marry.

True, but that was the attitude of a relatively small group of high-class folks. Most people were in the vulgar classes, and they needed a wife who could work and wouldn't die at her first childbirth, so the consumptive look was generally undesirable.

Of course, the vulgar classes usually weren't the ones writing down their standards of beauty in literary works that became classics.

Amarie said...

At Chris:

Oh dear…sorry if I upstaged you in terms of talking about the beauty!! D:

At Anton_Mates:

Huh…I actually forgot about how, in classic vampire lore, pale skin pretty much equals death, unhealthiness, etc. Funny how themes and archetypes evolve over time…and not always in the best way…

At Marie:

Oh, you’re more than welcome! Being a fan was certainly an experience. All I can say is that I’m so glad that I had my eyes open to the true problems in the series. And I certainly agree with you; *strong* women actually do something with their lives and get results that way. Feminism for the win!!! :D

And, on a side note, if you go to, Bella Swan is almost *entirely* defined as a Mary Sue. Simultaneously, Edward is entirely defined as a Gary Stu. *evil giggles*

At Will, Caravele, Anton Mates & Chris:

And didn’t those women (mostly in Europe, I think?) apply a lot of disease-and-deformity-inducing lead to their skin…?

chris the cynic said...

The white paint Athenian women applied to their sink as makeup was lead based. (I first learned about the practice when I came across the phrase "she painted herself with lead" in a Greek speech I was translating for a class.)

No idea of the health effects.

swanblood said...

Just thought I would mention something: there's an otherkin fic fest happening at and one of the prompts is based on your idea that Bella is vampire otherkin.

Just thought you would like to know that, and, maybe someone here would like to write it! I think you people are the best people for the job.

Marie Brennan said...

@Amarie -- that's one of the reasons I dislike the term "Mary Sue;" these days people use it to mean a bazillion different things, which often boil downto "I don't like the character." And I'd rather we talked about why people don't like a given character, rather than slapping on a label with so many variant meanings, which is so often used to tar any popular female character.

Within the bounds of how I think the term should be used, Bella is not remotely a Mary Sue. For me to call her that, she'd have to be head cheerleader and a brilliant student and drive an awesome car and give everybody fashion advice and save kittens on the weekends. Charlie would have to come to her all the time, begging her to help them solve problems that have confounded the police. Etc. The one Mary Sue-ish quality Bella possesses is that practically everybody likes her (either as a friend or potential love interest), but if I had to actually classify her in TV Tropes terms, I'd call her an Anti-Sue -- because she has almost nothing going for her, and yet everybody likes her anyway.

bekabot said...

Clearly Stephenie Meyer, Anne Rice, and Ralph Lauren were hired by vampires Jasper to manipulate social standards of beauty, so that we'd go "ooh, sexy" at starving vamps instead of "agh, walking corpse."

(My 2¢)

Steve Morrison said...

The white paint Athenian women applied to their sink as makeup was lead based.
Well, the sink was the appropriate place for it then!

chris the cynic said...

Apparently having all the right letters isn't enough for you people, I have now updated my post so that, in that word at least, the letters are also in the right places.

Dav said...

Health effects were not good, IIRC from a lecture some years back. Both local and systemic results, made worse by the fact that lead was common and easy to work. Of course, the ones who got it in the neck were the Greek slaves who worked the mines, refineries and metals. Athens built a lot of wealth off their lead mines, coupled with slave labor. It was known to be a cause of health problems - sort of an early environmental crisis.

The really chronic lead poisoning of the upper classes came from the addition of lead sweetening (sapa) to wines and foods, which I *think* was largely a Roman thing - but I admit I'm fuzzy on that point.

Ana Mardoll said...

I love that idea! That's certainly how the movies read to me, and often the book, too: that the attraction is less EDWARD and more VAMPIRE (as in, "what I was always meant to be"). (Also explains why she has zero problems adapting to the thirst, which is handwaved in the book as being something she mentally prepared for, a much less satisfying explanation, I think.)

Silver Adept said...

Romans, if I remember rightly, were also of the opinion that carrying the currency of the realm in one's mouth was a good idea to protect against bandits and thieves. Which would not be a good thing if the coins were made of lead, as I think many of them were.

Then again, as @Anton_Martin pointed out, history is written by the winners, and so not everything that actually was is what gets written down in the books. Sometimes you have to study the graffiti instead.

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