Twilight: Painted Waitresses

Content Note: Rape, Surgery, Cancer, Choice, reference to BDSM

Twilight Recap: Bella is sitting in the car with Edward while Edward calms down.

Twilight, Chapter 8: Port Angeles

And now, a confession.

I'm not as familiar with Romance as a genre as I am with, say, almost anything else. (Except maybe Thrillers and Cozy Mysteries.) I tend to hew to the Fantasy / Science Fiction / Literature / Historical Fiction side of the bookstore. Oh, there's still lots of romance in the books I read, since nearly all of them have someone falling in love with someone else, but that's usually more of a by-product to a larger plot, and half the times doesn't even make good sense in the wait-how-is-this-going-to-work-long-term sense.

So while I recognize that Romance as a genre is Complicated and Complex and I'm hoping to avoid cheap-shots about it being "formulaic" (which seem especially cheap when directed at a genre that is overwhelmingly produced by-women, for-women and gods know that, say, Fantasy is never formulaic or derivative, nosiree), I do still recognize some recurring themes, what with me being tropey and all. And I *feel* like it's about time for some patterns in Twilight to be called out at this point, but I could use the help.

For the last seven chapters, we've had Edward and Bella meet and react to one another with shock (she because he's so sexy; he because she's so scentsy and un-mind-readable). They had a brief moment of romantic opportunity before he was forced to save her life while tipping his hand on the whole superpowers gig. Then there were several weeks of poorly defined longing and distancing and heartache, all of which was forgotten in the moment that Edward beckoned in the lunchroom. After which he disappeared for several days so that Bella could anticipate and think and Google.

And while I'm not going to say these things are standard (because I honestly don't know), I do recognize them. Initial Attraction, check. Deepening Attraction, check. Now we've had Saved From Rape, in all its problematic glory, so that Bella can be assured that Edward is a Good Person (because basic decency deserves cookies) and so that Edward and Bella can cast aside social norms and their own petty concerns and prides and just sit and listen to each other over a Romantic Dinner.

They're not quite coupled yet, but they're close. So it seems like now is about time for Other Women to fling themselves at Edward for the dual purpose of making Bella self-conscious and jealous and so that Edward can (by failing to react to the Other Women) reassure Bella that she is so very desirable and has no reason to be jealous because he's not like all those other womanizing vampires. He treats a lady with respect and doesn't cheat on her to her face by flirting with the wait staff.

And if you can't tell, I have a pretty high level of disdain for this scene because (a) while I appreciate (if only because I'm one of them) that some people desire a mate who isn't deeply flirtatious with other people, that really is no measure whatsoever of their steadfastedness in a relationship and it additionally strikes me as being in poor taste to deploy as a literary trope after a rape scene, but also because (b) I've worked in restaurants for years (and would sometimes enjoy going back and doing it again, were it not for my health issues) and I would like to emphasize that people whose livelihoods depend on you liking them pretty much have to be charming and gregarious and flirtatious if they want to earn enough to live on. That doesn't mean that you, Customer, should take all that banter seriously and assume that the waitress wants to have a fling with you or is trying to Steal Your Man.

So to calm myself down for a moment from the heated and frustrated memories of single men trying to take liberties because obviously the waitress is so into them and coupled women trying to stiff on the tip because obviously the waitress is so trying to steal-their-man when jesus-christ-on-a-stick-people-I'm-wearing-a-wedding-ring-and-just-trying-to-be-friendly-so-don't-push-your-issues-on-me-thank-you, I will share with you all this awesome Romance Plot Generator I found while I was looking for Jealousy Tropes, and it's fascinating. I have two favorites:

In this story, a weary witch-hunter becomes infatuated with a princess who is heir to a kingdom but doesn't know it - all thanks to a keepsake.

This story starts in a ghost town in an infamous fiefdom. In it, a withdrawn dungeon delver becomes infatuated with a peaceful occultist.

Isn't that awesome? Please tell me it's not just me. They have just a regular Story Generator, but the Romance Generator is better in my opinion.

*sigh* Okay. Enough procrastinating. Into the world of Twilight.

   "Jessica and Angela will be worried," I murmured. "I was supposed to meet them."
   He started the engine without another word, turning around smoothly and speeding back toward town. We were under the streetlights in no time at all, still going too fast, weaving with ease through the cars slowly cruising the boardwalk. [...] I looked out the window to see the lights of La Bella Italia, and Jess and Angela just leaving, pacing anxiously away from us.
   "How did you know where . . . ?" I began, but then I just shook my head. I heard the door open and turned to see him getting out.
   "What are you doing?" I asked.
   "I'm taking you to dinner." He smiled slightly, but his eyes were hard. He stepped out of the car and slammed the door. I fumbled with my seat belt, and then hurried to get out of the car as well. He was waiting for me on the sidewalk.
   He spoke before I could. "Go stop Jessica and Angela before I have to track them down, too. I don't think I could restrain myself if I ran into your other friends again."
   I shivered at the threat in his voice.

A few pages later, Bella will note that she feels safe with Edward, which is frankly pretty convenient for the text because he creeps me out. After saving her from gang rape, he drove far out of town, pulled over and stopped the car in a dark and secluded area, panted himself up into a rage, and ordered Bella to entertain him before he did something terrible to her would-be rapists. That's not super scary at all! So now Bella is murmuring that her friends will be worried, and probably the murmur is supposed to convey her reluctance to break Edward's reverie because LOVE, but I can only see it as a reluctance to disturb Edward's rage-fest because FEAR. And then we have Edward driving too fast which is probably supposed to be Skilled and Masterful, but I can only see it as Jerkish and Frightening because that is how I would feel in Bella's place and because (as someone told me this week) "[you] feminists hate everything". (I still don't know if he was joking.)

Real fast: the Italian restaurant has Bella's name in it. LOL. And Edward continues to be telepathic.

Then Edward leaps out of the car and orders Bella what to do (again), with the understanding that if she does not do what he says, he'll murder someone. This really, really is not romantic to me. At all. Because as much as I hate roving bands of gang-rapists, I hate vigilante murder perpetrated by barely-in-control vampires who think so little of human life that they could turn on an innocent at any time. And I know Edward has the mind reading, but how does that make it any better as a safeguard? Can he tell the difference between men who fantasize about rape and men who actually commit it? Can he pick out men who commit rape but convince themselves that they don't? I'm just not at all comfortable with Edward Cullen, Judge-Jury-and-Executioner.

   "I got lost," I admitted sheepishly [to Jessica]. "And then I ran into Edward." I gestured toward him.
   "Would it be all right if I joined you?" he asked in his silken, irresistible voice. I could see from their staggered expressions that he had never unleashed his talents on them before.
   "Er . . . sure," Jessica breathed.
   "Um, actually, Bella, we already ate while we were waiting -- sorry," Angela confessed.
   "That's fine -- I'm not hungry." I shrugged.
   "I think you should eat something." Edward's voice was low, but full of authority. He looked up at Jessica and spoke slightly louder. "Do you mind if I drive Bella home tonight? That way you won't have to wait while she eats."
   "Honestly, I'm not hungry," I insisted, looking up to scrutinize his face. His expression was unreadable.
   "Humor me."
   He walked to the door of the restaurant and held it open with an obstinate expression. Obviously, there would be no further discussion. I walked past him into the restaurant with a resigned sigh.

Edward forcing Bella to have dinner with him serves two purposes, both of them frustrating to me.

One, it serves to reinforce that Edward is the parent and Bella is the child. Once Bella settles in and does as she's told -- drinks her soda, eats her meal -- she realizes that she is hungry and thirsty, and she only thought she wasn't. Edward, as it turns out, knew best, and so his obstinance is born out by the narrative: Bella shouldn't be allowed to make these decisions for herself, because she's going to be invariably wrong.

A little of this, when used with discretion, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Although I am very, very, very strongly in favor of treating people like sensible adults who understand their own limitations, there is some wiggle-room for communication. Bella, for instance has just been nearly gang-raped, so she's probably in at least a mild form of shock and could probably use some fluids. But what irks me about this scene is that there is no discussion. Edward doesn't gently say, "Bella, my father is a doctor and I know you've been sweating and flooded with adrenaline and I really think you need some fluids and maybe some solid food. Can you please try that for me?" Something like that would encompass an information exchange and would underline that it's still Bella's choice whether or not to listen to him. She could still say she doesn't want to eat; she could still say she doesn't want to eat with him. (Note! Being saved from rape by a guy doesn't make him automatically safe! I'm just saying!)

And I think this override of choice is a feature for the series, not a bug. Edward literally making Bella do what is "best" -- whether it be food or chastity or whatever else -- is a means of retaining Good Girl status without having to actually suffer real deprivation. We've already seen Bella's issues in the narrative with food: when food is brought up, it's more to underscore that she's not eating it because of some trauma. Now she's once again refusing food, and it's a feature that Edward is forcing her to eat -- she gets all the yummy goodness of a dinner out without being so 'selfish' as to voice her needs. (Nor does she have to worry that she thought of the need and Edward read her mind; she's shielded!)

But if this sort of thing is taken out of the fantasy context, it can become a serious problem. Many people simply cannot handle the burden of having to guess at all times what the person in front of them needs and whether their yes really means yes and their no really means no. And I don't mean that in a sexual setting (though it can be applied there as well), so much as I mean it in the context of why Good Girlism hurts everyone.

My mother was raised -- and she subsequently raised me, too -- to take on every challenge as a means to make her stronger. She rarely voiced her wants or needs because God-Father-Husband (whichever one as applicable) would see and provide as they felt best. The result was this deep bottling up of emotion that occasionally erupted: one of my earlier memories is of her struggling to bring in groceries from the car while I obliviously watched TV. Finally she broke into tears and demanded to know why I wasn't helping her. Didn't I love her? Didn't I care? Rather startled, I asked her why she hadn't just told me she wanted help. She angrily snapped back that she shouldn't have to say anything. Chagrined, I tried to anticipate her needs more often, but rarely were they so obviously carried in grocery bags.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer and his treatment was set to run over the time allotted for my surgery, we were forced to make a difficult decision: should we delay my surgery (which would entail significant effort to do so) or should we press ahead? For myself, I wanted to press ahead, but I was most worried about the effect on my mother: could she handle taking care of both dad and me? I wouldn't need much, but for the first week or so after the surgery, I would need someone to come over at lunch and make me a sandwich. I told her that I was worried about the strain on her, but that I trusted her as an adult to tell me what she could and couldn't handle. She told me that she was fine, to not worry about her, and that God wouldn't have given her all this if she couldn't handle it. Hearing this over the phone, I flinched -- I didn't, and still don't, want this to be a burden that she shoulders unnecessarily. At the same time, I do want to treat her like the wise, capable adult I know her to be.

I don't know that the decision we're making is the best one; I certainly don't know if it's the best one for her. We've talked in depth about the pros and cons, and we've made a decision as a family that I hope we can carry out without suffering. Husband is going to pitch in a little more; I'm going to assure everyone that I don't need as much help around the house as everyone else seems to think I do. A little privation, chosen by me to help others, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Good Girlism started out with its baby toe dipped in logic and love, I'm sure.

But this, all this -- this careful discussion of wants and needs and burdens and responsibilities -- has taken place over time and through several discussions in a family so tightly knitted that we finish each others' sentences. That recognition of the tension between Chosen Privation and Real Needs is not what happens here with Edward and Bella. Edward simply strips Bella of all choice and ushers her in to take her medicine which she will, once administered, enjoy and recognize as the right thing to do. It's a fantasy that I understand, but not one that I condone being pushed on young women as the Right Way To Live.

Two, this passage marks the continued trend of Edward pushing his issues onto Bella but framing them as For Her Own Good. Edward is worried about getting food into Bella, but he's also taking her to dinner as a means of distraction from his murderous rage -- he wants to be tied down to a dining booth for a little while so he doesn't start stalking the streets. And that's creative and all, but now we're back to him only telling Bella that after she's capitulated to his will. Would it really have hurt so much for him to say, "please, this is for me"? There's this frustrating parallel to Good Girlism: a Good Girl doesn't voice needs at all, and a Good Boy pushes his needs onto her, and in a Good Relationship those needs are coincidentally one and the same. I do not like this.

   The restaurant wasn't crowded -- it was the off-season in Port Angeles. The host was female, and I understood the look in her eyes as she assessed Edward. She welcomed him a little more warmly than necessary. I was surprised by how much that bothered me. She was several inches taller than I was, and unnaturally blond.
   "A table for two?" His voice was alluring, whether he was aiming for that or not. I saw her eyes flicker to me and then away, satisfied by my obvious ordinariness, and by the cautious, no-contact space Edward kept between us. She led us to a table big enough for four in the center of the most crowded area of the dining floor.
   I was about to sit, but Edward shook his head at me.
   "Perhaps something more private?" he insisted quietly to the host. I wasn't sure, but it looked like he smoothly handed her a tip. I'd never seen anyone refuse a table except in old movies.
   "Sure." She sounded as surprised as I was. She turned and led us around a partition to a small ring of booths -- all of them empty. "How's this?"
   "Perfect." He flashed his gleaming smile, dazing her momentarily.
   "Um" -- she shook her head, blinking -- "your server will be right out." She walked away unsteadily.
   "You really shouldn't do that to people," I criticized. "It's hardly fair."

Ahhhhhhh. I am in my happy place with my plot generator. This story takes place on a desert world of magic in a star-spanning magical empire. In it, a silly peasant falls in love with a demonologist who has several nervous habits - all thanks to a holiday celebration. Ahhhh. Alright, things I don't like about this scene.

First. Hostesses in an uncrowded restaurant in the tourist off-season do not welcome guests "more warmly than necessary" because that's pretty much impossible. Hostesses are not, it's true, traditionally paid in tips, but they do sometimes share a tip pool from the servers (along with the bus staff), and (more to the point) if the restaurant collapses from lack of customers in the off-season, they're out of a job. COME ON IN, OH THANK YOU VAMPIRE-JESUS, A CUSTOMER! is not a wholly inappropriate welcome during the off-season. I realize that you, Bella, do not know this because, despite your pretensions to poverty, you never so much as consider taking a job during these books, but you can take my word on this and you can leave off assuming that the hostess is trying to Steal Your Man.

Also, "unnaturally blond"? That's a really classy observation on your part, Bella. Next you'll tell us that her makeup and nail polish are garish.

Moving on, the hostess flicked her eyes over your body language not because she wants to Steal Your Man but because customers tip better if they're placed in situations that make them feel happy and comfortable. If you're acting like you both aren't happy to be there with each other, you're going to get put in the common room so that the bright lights and happy customers will give you something to distract you and hopefully cheer you up enough to leave a decent tip. If you're hanging on one another like newlyweds, off to the more private rooms you go, assuming that there are enough wait staff to cover the floor. And if you have body language that does not stereotypically conform to your emotions and thoughts (as in this -- and many -- cases), you will still be given a choice in the matter of where to sit.

Incidentally, people with disabilities also refuse tables and ask for softer booths (in contrast to hard chairs) and/or quieter tables all the time. This is yet another why the hostess always asks "Is this okay?" before she leaves you to settle into the table she's guided you to. She's surprised here not because Edward refused the table, but because he wants to act like he has to slip her a tip in order to get his way. She is probably now going to go give the waitress a heads-up that there's a flirty guy with money to burn who enjoys throwing his money around as an excuse to touch hands with the wait staff.

   And then our server arrived, her face expectant. The hostess had definitely dished behind the scenes, and this new girl didn't look disappointed. She flipped a strand of short black hair behind one ear and smiled with unnecessary warmth.
   "Hello. My name is Amber, and I'll be your server tonight. What can I get you to drink?" I didn't miss that she was speaking only to him.
   He looked at me.
   "I'll have a Coke." It sounded like a question.
   "Two Cokes," he said.
   "I'll be right back with that," she assured him with another unnecessary smile. But he didn't see it. He was watching me.

There's that "unnecessary warmth" again and "unnecessary smile". (That's three (un)necessaries on one page!) Probably the whole restaurant is in heat, just trying to Steal Your Man, Bella. Or, just possibly, you do not know what constitutes "unnecessary" in the volatile and difficult world that is minimum wage dependence. Despite, again, the amusing insistence that you are totes poor despite all those plane trips to Seattle and week long vacations in California. Also, see above, re: necessary levels of warmth during the restaurant off-season. Your table may be the only table your waitress gets tonight.

   "Are you ready to order?" she asked Edward.
   "Bella?" he asked. She turned unwillingly toward me.
   I picked the first thing I saw on the menu. "Um . . . I'll have the mushroom ravioli."
   "And you?" She turned back to him with a smile.
   "Nothing for me," he said. Of course not.
   "Let me know if you change your mind." The coy smile was still in place, but he wasn't looking at her, and she left dissatisfied.
   "Drink," he ordered.
   I sipped at my soda obediently, and then drank more deeply, surprised by how thirsty I was. I realized I had finished the whole thing when he pushed his glass toward me.
   "Thanks," I muttered, still thirsty. The cold from the icy soda was radiating through my chest, and I shivered.
   "Are you cold?"
   "It's just the Coke," I explained, shivering again.
   "Don't you have a jacket?" His voice was disapproving.
   "Yes." I looked at the empty bench next to me. "Oh -- I left it in Jessica's car," I realized.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Bella, she is "dissatisfied" because so far tonight the hostess -- who is not a tipped employee -- has received more financial remuneration from your boyfriend than she has, and Edward is both studiously ignoring her and (by refusing to buy a meal for himself) decreasing the overall cost of the ticket and therefore the expected tip. He's also additionally being kind of rude by gazing steadfastly in your eyes and pretending like she's a servant to be not-seen and only barely-heard. I'm not saying she's right to let this show on her face, but I am saying that I understand where she's coming from more than you apparently do, who are all up in mental arms about her trying to Steal Your Man. She does not want Your Man! She wants to eat tonight, something you have apparently never had to worry about in your bizarrely charmed life where your school-teacher mother and police chief father have apparently always had money overflowing in the FOOD JAR such that you can serve fresh meat every night without thinking twice.

Moving on, Edward continues to stay classy by being disapproving about Bella not having a jacket with her. Despite the weather being warm. And her having been shopping all day and possibly not wanting to lug around a jacket the whole time. And restaurants being traditionally colder than the deepest circle of hell. And her having just nearly been gang-raped. Cripes, imagine if Bella had dropped her purse hoping that was all her attackers wanted? I'm sure Edward would deeply disapprove of that. DON'T YOU CARRY A WALLET, BELLA?

   He pushed the bread basket toward me.
   "Really, I'm not going into shock," I protested.
   "You should be -- a normal person would be. You don't even look shaken." He seemed unsettled. He stared into my eyes, and I saw how light his eyes were, lighter than I'd ever seen them, golden butterscotch.
   "I feel very safe with you," I confessed, mesmerized into telling the truth again.
   That displeased him; his alabaster brow furrowed. He shook his head, frowning.
   "This is more complicated than I'd planned," he murmured to himself.
   I picked up a breadstick and began nibbling on the end, measuring his expression. I wondered when it would be okay to start questioning him.

Annnnnnnnd, I'm out of outrage for the day. No matter how much I am annoyed that Edward routinely strips all choice from Bella as though he's one of those only-in-fantasy-Doms who immediately and perfectly intuits all her needs and wants, he's going to keep doing it. No matter how much I am outraged that Bella is using her insecurities about her looks (despite being the most sought after girl in school, she has landed a man -- in this World Of Objective Beauty -- who far outranks her) in order to think nasty thoughts at all the women who are trying to Steal Her Man, a man who is obviously employing vampire glamour in cases where he doesn't need to just for shiz and giggles, and women who are forced by wage dependence to play along to his ego, she's going to keep doing it.

No matter how annoyed I am that Edward keeps telling Bella how she "should" feel and how "normal" people are, with the clear implication that she is not "normal" and with none of the love or admiration that could soften the observation, he's not going to stop. No matter how may times the narrative insists that Bella feels "safe" with Edward and that her wondering about when it would be "okay" to question him again is based merely on respect for his feelings and not her own fear of a guy who is remarkably chill about vigilante murder, I'm going to feel differently.

So instead of one of my pithy-summing-ups that I put here and which are usually not pithy at all, I'm just going to say this:

This story starts in a coachhouse. In it, a scatterbrained prince has a chance meeting with a farmer who fears people think he/she is a fraud. What starts as mutual respect quickly becomes obsessive love - all thanks to a performance. What role will a thief play in their relationship?


Silver Adept said...

Some of those plots sound pretty good. Better than what we're getting here, anyway. What I'm curious about is why nobody had tried to game the Objective Beauty standard. Surely if beauty had become a quantifiable and measurable value, someone has cracked the formula, or at least has some hints about how to improve one's score, as with FICO.

Also, Bella continuing to call herself ordinary despite clear indications from just about every other male and female in this story is grating. I'm sure it's a necessary self-abnegation, lest she be denied Narnia, err, Edward and vampirism, but I would think after a while, she would have caught in that she's pretty in the eyes of other people.

And then there's the dinner scene. Which makes me re-evaluate some of the good times my family had had at restaurants - we like servers who get engaged and make jokes with us and look like they're having fun. Now I have to wonder how many of those times were artifices in search of giving us what we wanted so we would tip well. (We do.)

Bella should be shaking, from the shock of what happened, but hopefully also from her picking up on the not very subtle cues that Edward is still very mad about the situation, and that he's deliberately making sure that he will be alone with Bella for extended periods of time. In some other book, Dark Twilight, this is the setup where Edward tries to finish what the Port Angeles assailants started, but putting it as love. Its the scene where Bella and the audience are both shown that Edward is an abuser, beyond the shadow of a doubt. And then Bella has to convince the town that the winsome and well-connected son of a prominent town supporter has a very dark side. Anyway, I'm totally with you that the overriding of consent is a feature of this book, and the only reason it's not problematic it's because the narrative demands that Edward be right.

Last item: Since Edward can clearly turn the glamour on and off at will, why does he choose to always keep it on around Bella? I know were supposed to believe it's true love, but it only affects her when she's looking at him. She feels safe around him when he's clearly unsafe. Kind of reminds me of the supposedly hypnotic powers of snakes. Maybe Edward instinctively sees her as delicious prey and turns on the charm as the first step toward devouring her and then gains enough conscious control to not eat her, but he can't turn off the part that wants to fascinate her so she'll stand still long enough to get bit?

Makabit said...

I've read romance novels off and on for most of my life, and what strikes me most is that while these tropes are indeed Romance Tropes, they are old-fashioned, outdated Romance Tropes. This kind of shit happened all the time in the early 1960s Harlequins I read in grade and middle school.

Styles change in romance. I recall that a while back we were discussing the bad gender politics of the early Dragonriders of Pern books, and someone pointed out how early those books were published, and how much they reflect the assumptions of the day. Fantasy gradually follows the curve on this, reflecting the ideas of the writers as time goes by. Romance pretty much has to stay RIGHT on top of the curve, and trends strongly reflect current ideas about womanhood and romance, because otherwise they're not...romantic. Times have changed a lot. Regencies have sex in them now. I can't recall the last time a heroine was a nurse, and if someone's using it, it will look a lot different.

So: the angry, brooding hero, the rescue from rape, the treating like a child, the irrational fury because she doesn't have a coat, the whole high-handed approach--vintage 1966 Harlequin. I don't think you could get away with this sort of behavior, and especially the heroine's passive response to it, in most romance today. I say 'most' only because the genre has so many subgenres, and because I suspect that somewhere in the depths of Christian Romance, there may be a market still for this kind of thing. (Most Christian Romance, however, would bounce it right back, and say that they want a heroine who is stronger in the Lord, and maybe she could also have some sort of complicated problem with her mission project that the vampire could become involved in?)

What I'm curious about is why Meyers is using this. I think we're about of an age, so she may also have read stacks of vintage Harlequins at her grandma's home, and not much romance since then, or, real possibility, this may sincerely be what turns her on, and she went with it.

Amaryllis said...

This story starts in a ghost town in an infamous fiefdom. In it, a withdrawn dungeon delver becomes infatuated with a peaceful occultist.

Now I want to read that-- if only to find out what a "dungeon delver" is. A specialized kind of archeologist, who only works in dungeons? Trying to find material evidence for whatever the fiefdom was infamous for? And if the occultist used occult methods to find out the truth of the past, would that be accepted as evidence for a peer-reviewed journal article?

Of course Bella thinks that the smiles of the restaurant staffers are unnecessary. She thinks all smiles are unnecessary. She's like the inverse of Browning's Last Duchess: instead of a "a heart too easily made glad," her heart is never made glad at all. At least, I can't remember any time yet where she's either genuinely happy or going along with simple surface cheerfulness for the sake of sociability.

I've never worked as a waiter myself, so I can't speak from personal experience. I have no doubt that when servers are smiling and cheerful and engaged, it's at least in part an act to keep the customers happy. But, judging from friends and relatives who've worked in restaurants, sometimes they also enjoy the performance themselves. They like being around people-- well, polite people who treat service workers like human beings-- and they like helping people have a good experience.

Good customer service is an art. I'd never stiff a waitress on tips because I thought she didn't smile enough (or for much of anything else, given the way that restaurant employees are compensated), and there's absolutely no point in getting annoyed at a surly checkout clerk. But I appreciate the ones who take a professional pride in doing it right.

Bella, on the other hand, seems to think such niceties are unnecessary. Like, I guess, anything else that diverts Edward's attention from her for a single second. Or anything that diverts her attention from herself, maybe.

Also, minor quibble: should one drink Coke for shock? Wouldn't the caffeine in it do more harm than good?

@Makabit: you're absolutely right. Twilight is Vintage Harlequin, through and through.

Gelliebean said...

[i]The result was this deep bottling up of emotion that occasionally erupted: one of my earlier memories is of her struggling to bring in groceries from the car while I obliviously watched TV. Finally she broke into tears and demanded to know why I wasn't helping her. Didn't I love her? Didn't I care? Rather startled, I asked her why she hadn't just told me she wanted help. She angrily snapped back that she shouldn't have to say anything.[/i]

This is my husband, all over.... :-( I hate feeling like I ought to be the person with primary responsibility for his satisfaction, just because he never comes out and says anything. A couple of weeks ago, it was about how hungry he is and that his back hurt, and the next thing I knew, he was stomping out the front door in a huff to go to McDonalds because I hadn't jumped up immediately and offered to cook him something. (In my defense, I was in the middle of fighting off a zombie horde and most of my concentration was on the game.... I'm not at all good at processing two lines of input at the same time.) I forget how many times I apologized before the subject dropped. He outright says he wants people to read his mind and gets angry when they don't.

On the romance angle - I've read some romances where you get a very over-controlling-father vibe off the hero, but they're never satisfying to me. It's a characteristic that I've become very sensitive to and can turn me off a book instantly - but the rubber-necker in me usually finishes the story anyway, just to see how bad it's going to end up.

On the Plot Generator - I got one about a rat-catcher on the run falling in love with a monk, as the result of someone (possibly not either of them?) taking a bath. :-D

Cupcakedoll said...

"In this story, a dedicated missionary falls passionately in love with a withdrawn vampire. What starts as professional interest quickly becomes true love-- all thanks to sabotage."

Now I want to know if there are any Christian vampire romances.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

Now I want to read that-- if only to find out what a "dungeon delver" is. A specialized kind of archeologist, who only works in dungeons? Trying to find material evidence for whatever the fiefdom was infamous for? And if the occultist used occult methods to find out the truth of the past, would that be accepted as evidence for a peer-reviewed journal article?

No, dungeon delving is a profession only found in worlds based on Dungeons and Dragons and similar games. It consists of wandering around the countryside looking for buildings ("dungeons") occupied by "bad guys", raiding said buildings, slaughtering the inhabitants, and stealing their stuff. The definition of "bad guy" is frequently predicated on race and/or religion. Please note that "dungeon delvers" are usually considered to be the *heroes*.

(I actually enjoy Dungeons and Dragons - in fact, my current campaign has been running for two years now. But I'm not unaware of how problematic the entire genre can be when looked at from certain perspectives...)

Majromax said...

Surely if beauty had become a quantifiable and measurable value, someone has cracked the formula, or at least has some hints about how to improve one's score, as with FICO.

Allow me to be cynical, but I think that precisely the same advice applies: be white, rich, and traditionally-presented with no health, job, or personal troubles.

Makabit said...

A quick Google check indicates that there does seem to be some paranormal, and specifically vampire, Christian romance out there. Which makes sense, since the legend itself has such deep Christian referents. It always strikes me as silly to have vampire hunters and such waving around crosses and holy water, and then not being Christians. If you do not believe that the cross has power over evil, what are you DOING with it?

chris the cynic said...

This popped into my head and decided that it wasn't going to let me read the rest of the post until I got it out.


"I got lost," Bella told me sheepishly. "And then I ran into Edward," she gestured toward him, and it seemed normal enough, but something bothered me about the way she said it. There was something that I couldn't quite place, something off. For a moment I thought it felt like fear, but I brushed it off. What was there to be afraid of?

"Would it be all right if I joined you?" Edward asked.

My brain shut down. All I manged to say was, "Er... sure."

Angela apparently didn't have that problem, because she she explained to Bella that we'd already eaten. And apologized for doing it without her.

Bella took it well and said, "That's fine -- I'm not hungry." On the one hand, it was a good thing she didn't feel left out. On the other hand she seemed to skip meals a lot, and that worried me. Reflecting, I would have been willing to spend a meal watching her eat if it meant I'd know for sure she got a good meal in her. On the other hand, it wasn't my place to tell her when and what to eat.

"I think you should eat something," Edward said to Bella in a low, commanding voice. One might even say menacing. I didn't like the way he said that to her at all.

"She-" I started, weakly. He cut me off.

"Do you mind if I drive Bella home tonight?" The syntax said question, the tone of voice not so much. I felt like I shrank, and I think in a sense I probably did. My shoulders lowered, as did my gaze and with it my head, I got ready to curl up, instinctively preparing for the attack that I didn't actually expect, but I felt would come if I spoke back. "That way you won't have to wait while she eats," he finished.

On the one hand, that seemed reasonable enough. Why have us wait around for Bella to eat when someone else, who apparently hadn't eaten himself, with a car could stay with her and drive her home? On the other hand I did not like the way that he was pushing Bella to stay with him, and pushing us to leave. His low authoritative tones were there to turn suggestion and request into command, and I don't trust those who try to command their equals rather than persuade them.

And on the third hand, I was afraid. I started to talk anyway, "But..." and stalled after one word. The way that Edward glared at me made it hard to think, I got cold and an unpleasant feeling took over my stomach.

Then there was warmth as Angela took my hand. I wanted to look to her for reassurance, but I knew I had to respond to Edward so I kept my eyes on him and tried to stand up straighter, "She said she wasn't hungry, so there's no need for you to give her a ride. We can drive her home. Now."

"Honestly, I'm not hungry," Bella insisted, looking up at Edward.

"Humor me," he said, the same commanding tones. The same indication that it was an order not a request. The same attempt to push her around.

There was a moment's pause, and I broke it with, perhaps, more force than was called for, "No!" Edward and Bella both seemed surprised. "She doesn't have to humor you and you don't get to order her around." Bella looked relieved, Edward looked like the would had turned inside out and the buildings were washing up and down while the sea stayed steady as a rock. "Bella, would you like to go home now?"

Apparently she did because she came to us, and we headed toward the car, Bella between Angela and I. I tried to set a fast pace, I wanted to be gone before Edward recovered.

chris the cynic said...

See, I would have guessed that a dungeon delver is someone who goes into places that are obviously Lairs Of Evil, and scavenges the supplies lost by, abandoned by, or still attached to the dead bodies of the people who have tried to fight that evil. All the while avoiding any encounters of their own by pursuing a sensible run and hide strategy.

Sure, all kinds of people go for the glory of slaying the dragon/overlord/tentacle monster but the smart people just loot the supplies of the would be heroes who have gone before while pursuing a strategy of live and let live with the dragon/overlord/tentacle monster.

Then again I don't really play any RPGs to speak of, tabletop or otherwise.

Trynn said...

How did I miss this stuff the first thousand times I read this? Oh right, because I skimmed past all the romance parts to where we FINALLY get action. Slow as that action is...

cjmr said...

I suddenly wonder why it has never occurred to me to refuse a table because the acoustics there are too bright.

depizan said...

I rather like this. And I say that as someone who does play RPGs, tabletop and otherwise. I'm tempted to suggest it for the next D&D campaign I play or DM. I'm also tempted to turn it into fiction.

depizan said...

@Makabit: you're absolutely right. Twilight is Vintage Harlequin, through and through.

Thirding this. I think that's part of why I found the book such an odd read. What were dead horse romance tropes doing in a brand new book? O_o

Of course, as we've previously discussed, Meyer keeps doing weird things with stock scenes.

Re: Wait staff

I've never wait staffed,* but I have done plenty of customer service jobs. Being cheerful customer service is part an act and part the truth. And - at least for me - it becomes more the truth than an act, provided I'm not dealing with a parade of jerks. Be genuinely nice to customer service types and they'll probably be genuinely nice back. People tend to work that way.

Being Bella, however... OMG! Everybody wants to steal the asshole jerk hot guy who isn't even mine, but I've totally pissed on his leg, so he is even if he doesn't know it yet! This book has the most bizarre romance.

*With my memory for people, this would be a disaster. I've often joked that on a good day, I could probably get a streaker's sex right. I seriously used to lose customers in the mall book store I worked at. When there were all of two customers - not of the same gender, age, or race - in the store.

Omskivar said...

For someone who's supposed to be so suave, Edward sure does browbeat people into doing what he wants a lot.

Susan B. said...

I've been toying with the idea of a vampire setting in which the cross symbol (which is, after all, an extremely simple shape) simply has some inherent magical property that repels vampires, and the Christian religion simply co-opted it as their own symbol for that reason. The connection between the vampire-repelling symbol and Jesus' cross was just a lucky coincidence that the early church leaders took advantage of. Over the centuries, as the church gained power and influence, the original use of the symbol was forgotten as it came to be associated with Christianity exclusively.

Lliira said...

only-in-fantasy-Doms who immediately and perfectly intuits all her needs and wants

Yep, and actual good doms insist on subs talking a whole lot and being absolutely truthful. An actual good dom can untrain a sub from Good Girlism. Because a responsible person who has power over you will not pretend they can read your mind.

There are so many behaviors in this book that show that Bella is a natural sub. And that Edward is one of those people (I've only seen men like this) who pretends to be dominant, but is actually merely an abusive piece of filth who likes stealing power instead of being granted it freely.

Lliira said...

Bella needs to get on the internet. (Also, most people who are in what are called BDSM relationships are not in the local "community" for it, for myriad reasons, including the fact that most of "them" (*cough*) are monogamous. And Bella is too young anyway, any community that was not abusive would send her out the door with some internet links and a packet on how to recognize abusers.)

Majromax said...

@Silver Adept:
But I somehow suspect that even if Forks had a thriving BDSM community, the new girl in town is not going to be able to walk in and discover where all the hot spots are - too much risk in a community where everybody knows everybody and the wrong gossip is a career-killer.
Not to mention she's the police chief's daughter. Sociable BDSM tends to exist in a legally grey area anyway, so an addition to the reputational consequences of being out of the kink-closet, there would exist a very real risk of the members' freedoms.

Bella needs to get on the internet.
Alas, she has already slain her pop-ups for this novel. Also, the downside is that unless you're an extremely curious person, you'd have to know what you're looking for to find reputable information on BDSM.

And Bella is too young anyway, any community that was not abusive would send her out the door with some internet links and a packet on how to recognize abusers.
Isn't she seventeen in this book?

Silver Adept said...

@Majromax, @Lliira -

Age of "able to view sexually explicit content legally" in the United States is 18, the age of majority. As is the age of "able to make their own decisions as a legal adult" - so I would suspect any "community" activities, including the ones that are just social get-togethers for kinksters, probably have an "18+, no exceptions, and you'd better be able to prove it" rule so that they can't be shut down and arrested for any of the myriad "of a minor" offenses. So yes, Bella's too young, and will have to go looking for reputable websites on the subject until...Breaking Dawn, I think, when she actually turns eighteen?

And because of that, she may not be able to enlist, say, the public library's Internet access to go look at reputable non-explicit information, because CIPA is a pain in the ass and filtering software doesn't work. (Although, at seventeen, she might be able to get the unfiltered access - she could in my library system, anyeay.)

Which opens up an entirely different can of potential worms because Bella needs to be able to sift personalities to figure out who is actually going to give her good advice and who is going to abuse her. We...shudder is the wrong word, but a visceral reaction to the knowledge that is pained upon the thought of Bella being exposed to say, Gor, first and that becoming her baseline to make comparisons with. Since Bella is studious but lacks anything resembling proper research technique, there would have to be a lot of wheat-chaff sifting with a trusted kink-friendly person when all was said and done.

All purely speculation, of course.

Amaryllis said...

Oh, I see. And that explains why it would create story-conflict for a person like that to fall in love with a pacifist. I couldn't figure out why it mattered that the occultist was "peaceful."

Learn something new every day. Thanks!

Amaryllis said...

Being cheerful customer service is part an act and part the truth. And - at least for me - it becomes more the truth than an act, provided I'm not dealing with a parade of jerks.
Yeah, that's what I meant to say! :)

And I'm thinking of my grandfather here, among others. He used to own a bar/restaurant, when I was a kid. He was a terrible businessman, but he was a great bartender. The man could talk to anyone, and find some way to enjoy it, and to have the other person enjoying it too. And he'd remember all about it the next time the person came in.

My nephew ( his grandson) is just like him. And my daughter's pretty good at it too.

Not me, though, unfortunately.

ETA: OMG, I just checked the Romance Generator:
This story starts aboard a space warship. In it, a pragmatic airline pilot falls in love with a misunderstood reporter. What role will an angry outburst play in their relationship?
Substitute "fully-loaded 747" for "space warship" and it's Left Behind! Jenkins, your secret is out!

Guest said...

Hey all, I'm logging out to post this, because I have too many overlapping magisteria on my Discus account. Anyway.

General rambling involving BDSM, Bella, Twiverse, Gorverse, and such:

The problem with many BDSM-themed romances/other sorts of novels is that there there is such a disconnect between the realm of pure fantasy and the realm of pure reality--that disconnect being full of 'things you can safely do', and 'things you can't safely do', and 'things you need practice and training to do', and 'ethical behavior', and 'this book I read', and 'are you really IN 'the community'?' and 'your kink is not ok' and 'how to do things that are totally consensual in a safe, loving way that may appear totally nonconsensual, dangerous and/or hostile'.

How authors handle this varies greatly. Some people actually like writing and reading realistic stories about real-seeming people in real-seeming relationships who have long talks about limits and safety measures and build their own kinky furniture, and there are little infodump bits about good bondage technique that doesn't risk circulatory problems. Others want a more purely fantasy approach, where the dom really can read your mind, the sub doesn't suffer neck damage, and major physical and emotional harm to any and all parties does not result from doing stuff that would get you thrown out the door by a large, earnest young man in leather pants at any respectable play party.

The second, the pure fantasy, when it is marketed successfully to a popular audience, is nearly always attacked as potentially giving dangerous or unethical ideas to the BDSM-naive. The classic current example, of course, is the "Shades of Grey" trilogy (which, I'll be honest, I haven't read), which many people seem to be a tizzy over, with how unrealistic it is, and how it will Give the Uninitiated Bad Ideas. You can certainly do the same with Twilight, and the Beauty books, and many, many other books, and, God help us all, Gor, although Gor is currently not only a fandom, but its own little sub-lifestyle (Lord love them and keep them far away from me).

I am sort of dubious about this. Yes, such books may give people bad ideas about BDSM or sex in general, or romance, or whatever, but I seriously doubt that most people are reading them as how-to guides. Smut. It's smut. Could you do harm to yourself or your partner(s) by imitating something in these books? Sure, but then again, you could break your neck trying to swing on a chandelier like Clint Eastwood in "Every Which Way But Loose". I have some faith that people use some common sense in their sex lives, and that if they don't, it's not the fault of some book they read.

I think people often get too worried about other people's inability to tell the difference between hot trashy fiction and real life. I used to teach high school. A lot of my girls LOVED Twilight. But they also had a lot of other input about relationships and safety and self-respect, and I think the two comfortably coexisted.

JonathanPelikan said...

I love that romance generator; it legitimately generates story ideas that you can pick up and run with, and the construction is all well-done.

As to your thoughts on Bella our Viewpoint Character: This. Thisthisthisthis. I can't read a book when the person giving us their perspective on their story is so soul-crushingly unpleasant. I've gone to high school with people (boys and girls) who think like she does and it's so close to reality that it brings up Hate capital H. Maybe not 'chess club type', it would be phrased differently IRL, but that is awfully close to how a lot of folks get ridiculed.

depizan said...

People also dye their hair colors very much not found in nature, sometimes to interesting effect. There's a young woman who works in the same part of town I do (so I see her in the library and generally around) who has very dark hair that she's died parts of a very dark blue. I've literally seen people stare at her hair trying to work out if they're really seeing the blue in it. (You can see the thought bubble.)

If I were feeling kindly toward "unnaturally blond," I'd try to work out what color the waitress might be using to similar effect.

Amaryllis said...

This is just to say...
From that site: In most cases, we do not need the color wheel to help us determine what colors go great with our skin or hair or eyes. Our instincts already pick up on this automatically.

Maybe hers do. Maybe yours do, too. Maybe even most people's do. But not mine. And for that matter, I've never been able to work out that color-wheel stuff, either.

Life is much simpler since I resigned myself to being a frump.

Okay, back to Twilight.

Amaryllis said...

My daughter has what I consider to be a beautiful shade of dark blonde hair. She hates it.

In her teens, she was fond of the truly unnatural colors: pink and blue and green and a hideous shade of magenta. Then she got a job in a store where that kind of thing was frowned upon, but for a while she got away with black-with-blue-streaks. (I thought it looked terrible with her skin, but what do I know? See above.) Now she's working for a corporation and has to fit their "professional" standards, so her hair is a reasonably natural-looking reddish brown.

I keep waiting for her "real" hair to show up again, but so far, it's not happening. Oh well, it's her head.

But we're used to hearing Bella making unkind judgments about people. So when she says "unnaturally blonde," we don't think she means "interesting stylistic choice." We assume that she means "cheap and trashy attention-grabber, trying to be something she isn't."

As everyone keeps saying, Bella is hard to spend a lot of time with.

IIRC, Bella has hair of some shade of brown, which she doesn't like? But she doesn't do anything about it either; she just, Bella-style, complains about how uninteresting it is. My daughter found the drug-store hair-color aisle without any trouble at all.

Loquat said...

As I recall, Carpe Jugulum features a family of vampires that have been training themselves to resist being hurt by traditional vampire repellents, including religious symbols, even from religions that have no presence anywhere near their territory (the family patriarch figured they should cover all the world's major religions just in case - I think you're thinking of his training regimen). And then when the resistance training stops working, they start being repelled by ordinary objects that happen to resemble foreign religious symbols they wouldn't have known of without the training (cue angry rebellion against the aforementioned patriarch).

So I think that's a standard feature of Discworld vampires, to not be repelled by a religious symbol unless they know it's a religious symbol.

chris the cynic said...

On vampires only repelled when they know it's a religious symbol, does bluffing work? Or, for that matter, what about an actual religion adopting symbols for the purposes of vampire repelling. There was a time when no one would have expected bowling alleys to become vampire free setting, but now such is life. Could someone do the same to something that's everywhere?

For example, "Our religion sees doorways as an important symbol of the threshold between this life and the next and therefore vampires are repelled by doorways thus forcing them out of areas with buildings."

graylor said...

I thought this scene might be a bookend to the attempted rape scene before it. (er, rape triggers, obvs.)

If Meyers is working from the 'rape happens because men become so overwhelmed with desire' viewpoint (which she might be if she's coming from a Harlequin background? I don't know about Harlequin in particular but I read some of my mother's old pirate-y bodice-rippers and that sort of thinking seemed to be a thing there), you have Bella is so beautiful strange men lose all self-control around her coupled with Edward is so beautiful strange women lose all control around him.

Of course these strangers are utterly inappropriate; not because the men are violent (see also: Edward Cullen) but because they are low class. Seriously, aside from the possibility of rape, the men who tried to attack Bella could be easily exchanged with wild dogs without changing the story. Low class men=dangerous animals. But the author wanted the sexual element included, so they had to be men (or it had to be a very diffferent kind of book) rather than animals. She needed her heroine menaced, but in a specific way.

The women are not naturally attractive (if that's what the dyed hair means), not bright enough to pick up on Edward's disain of them, and are in touch with their animal sexuality (eeek! women in lust and willing to act on it without male permission! flee, flee!). Bella's attackers have a certain low animal cunning, but that's about it. That these scenes of lust (if, in fact, they are supposed to be scenes of lust) come off so differently is because of gender roles/real world power differentials. Obviously none of the waitstaff could threaten Edward--he sparkles! See, Bella, while you'll never be a *man*, you could aspire to be a vampire and get some of the perks of male power.

Laiima said...

That is a devastating assessment Amarie. Binary ideas of gender, how I hate you.

Amarie said...

*le gasp* W-well, if you hate me, then I'm going to kill you with kindness and love!!!! In the name of Scar, Be Prepared!!!!

*readies the teddy bears and rainbows and huggles and begins to smother you* Love!!! Nyahahaha!! >:D

storiteller said...

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse

They do not-cannot-experience the same outcome as men; that is, we’re never going to see female rapists/sexual beasts prowling about Port Angeles looking to gang rape an innocent and beautiful Mike. On the contrary, it is repeatedly shown that women who freely engage as sexual creatures without masculine permission and supervision are punished with disappointment, physical dissatisfaction, and victim blaming, among other things.

Big spoilers for characters in The Hunger Games, specifically Mockingjay


The culturally-imbedded idea that only women can be the adult victims of sexual abuse and with only men as the perpetrators was what made the treatment of Finnick in The Hunger Games so shocking and painful. Women get horribly raped and prostituted out in SF and fantasy all of the time, so the audience is used to it. But to find out the pretty boy who seems to be the ultimate charmer is only putting it on as an act because he's being sold into sexual slavery was seriously unexpected. There's so much that's cuts against gender norms in that book that I continue to be impressed by it.

chris the cynic said...

I believe that she hates binary ideas of gender, not you.

Also, "In the name of Scar, Be Prepared," is a great phrase.

Ana Mardoll said...

If only because it is impossible to hate Amarie. :D

Inquisitive Raven said...

On people using common sense in their sex lives:

It was wet;
It was wet;
It was wet when that sprinkler came down.
Disclave 97!

For several years after that, I noticed signs in DC area hotel rooms warning people not to hang stuff from the fire suppression sprinklers. I think I also saw such signs at the Boston Park Plaza (where the Arisia SF con was held for many years), but the last time I was there, I looked and didn't find one.

Laiima said...

I could not hate you, Amarie. (I do not hate any person.) But I do hate the gender binary. Only partially because I do not seem to fit into either of the two categories. I MUST HAVE MORE (AND BETTER) CHOICES!

Laiima said...

Oops, not to suggest that male or female are not good choices in themselves! Only that they do not fit *me* very well, therefore I wish an awareness of more than 2 options was more widespread. Esp since I've read that there actually 5-7 genders in human beings. Male and female are the most common, but not the only ones that exist.

Jeldaly said...

Hi Ana! Great deconstruction, as always, but I just wanted to clarify something: are you blaming Bella the character or Stephenie Meyer the author for the whole waitress thing?

Jeldaly said...

All the wins to you, good sir/madam.

Jeldaly said...

That sounds seriously brilliant.

Jeldaly said...

*awe* Very, very well said.

Will Wildman said...

Esp since I've read that there actually 5-7 genders in human beings. Male and female are the most common, but not the only ones that exist.

I'd be curious to hear more about that, especially regarding how genders would be objectively defined. I'm personally skeptical of the idea that there's any preprogrammed genders in humans, and would believe that a society could form with one/none or two or five or twenty or who knows what number.

Rakka said...

Seconding Will, here. Intrigued but as it's personally difficult for me to get how people can know their gender is well, something that would be experienced by a group of people* and not just one facet of who you personally are, I really would like to read that research.

* Excluding of course the cultural boxing aspect of it. Obviously people with similar body type and cultural environment tend to share more or less the same input from the society around them, but it's still a bit unclear to me how that maps into your gender. It seems more like "these are expectations for your social class" thing to me.
Yeah, I basically don't have a gender. I just perform one, sometimes, and keep in mind how privileged I am that I have the opportunity to say "no thanks" to certain societal expectations.

Cupcakedoll said...

The religion+vampires+plot topic is many posts behind, but I've been pondering it. Started out pondering how a vampire would fit in with the Christian romances I had out of the library, but the romance angle was more boring that possible widespread effects of the discovery of vampires. Seems like the first thing to do when vampires are discovered would be to get vamps of various faiths, people of various faiths, and religious symbols of various faiths to see who can repel who with what. If one symbol works regardless of the other factors that's evidence that that religion might be scientifically true in a way that no religion is here in the real world. Which would upset society somewhat.

Side tangent: atheists have no holy symbols, so what would one of them use to turn a vampire? A Darwinfish car decal? Maybe a humanist could repel the undead using a symbol of human awesomeness like a computer chip, moon rock, or vial of polio vaccine. "We beat this disease and it was much worse than you, bloodsucker!"

How's this: The rapture happens but only the souls of believers are taken. Their empty bodies are immediately inhabited by vampire demons who've been waiting for the chance. It soon becomes apparent that the vampires can only be turned by (faith X that includes the idea of demons) symbols. Our Left Behind heroes must face a vampiric menace and the psychological upset of learning one religion is objectively true, and it's not the one they all would've picked.

Laiima said...

@Will, @Rakka, for me personally, human genders include: male, female, intersex, trans woman, trans man, genderqueer, 'other' (agendered is the only term I'm aware of, but there are probably others). I don't separate out transgender people from cis people because I think trans* people are not 'real' women or men; I do think they have different life experiences and contexts than cis people do, and it's worth noting that in their identity labels. (To me, diversity and complexity are WAY MORE INTERESTING than simplicity.) Other people may differ, of course.

Some months ago, I read a fascinating book that got me thinking in new directions. Hanne Blank's Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality. Iirc, Hanne Blank is a woman, or maybe genderqueer; her partner looks male, but is biologically intersex. Her partner has also been taken to be female by other people. I believe Hanne Blank got interested in this topic of heterosexuality *because* she couldn't figure out if it applies to her, or not. Homosexuality doesn't quite work either. The terms themselves only work in a binary-gendered context. But that's not the context she lives in. So what is she? What is her partner?

I have a similar issue, as it happens. I'm starting to think of myself as genderqueer. I'm married to a cis man. Does that mean we are heterosexuals? homosexuals? neither? does it matter?

So that's sort of cultural (I think). From a more biological standpoint, see the work of (biologist) Anne Fausto-Sterling here:

Will Wildman said...

Side tangent: atheists have no holy symbols, so what would one of them use to turn a vampire? A Darwinfish car decal? Maybe a humanist could repel the undead using a symbol of human awesomeness like a computer chip, moon rock, or vial of polio vaccine. "We beat this disease and it was much worse than you, bloodsucker!"

This was brought up on Slacktivist once, pre-Patheos, and various atheists chimed in with objects that were representative of their areligious values and beliefs. I mentioned a little gift (a handmade keychain tag) from a friend (my first girlfriend, post-breakup) whom I don't talk to much these days, and how it represented hope and second chances and healing. Someone else talked about, I think, a pebble they were given by their little sister as a small child. We concluded that, if the symbol gained its power from faith, then yeah, we were pretty sure we could waste a vamp on the spot with these things.


I don't separate out transgender people from cis people because I think trans* people are not 'real' women or men; I do think they have different life experiences and contexts than cis people do, and it's worth noting that in their identity labels. (To me, diversity and complexity are WAY MORE INTERESTING than simplicity.)

I know what you mean; I remember reading much the same from a trans person talking about how 'trans' was an inseparable aspect of their gender. Of course, the experience of being trans* is presumably very dependent on the culture that you're raised in - in our culture we've pretty much only got two popularly recognised genders, but in the context of a culture that recognises hijras (rough list at for example) then I'm guessing it's a very different experience again if you're transitioning in any direction (e.g., being identified as a hijra but wanting to be recognised as a man or a woman).

Which is what brings me back to still seeing gender as very heavily culturally influenced, and wondering if it even makes sense to draw all the same parallels between, say, men in the context of 'men and women' and in the context of 'men, women and fa'afafine'.

It reminds me of political parties, in a way. The US really only has Republicans and Democrats (with a bit of wiggle room for independents/etc) and if we were trying to impose the same framework on Canada, both Liberals and NDP would probably be 'Democrats', but in the Canadian context it would make no sense to act like those two groups are the same party, so how far can we compare the 'roles' of our Conservatives and the US Republicans? And eventually I feel like trying to determine objective genders is a bit like trying to figure out how many real political parties there are.

I think I just got a great idea for a blog post.

Laiima said...

When it comes to categorizing, I generally default to splitting and being the fox, rather than lumping and being the hedgehog.

Funny story: Before I had ever heard of Isaiah Berlin's essay, I saw a book at my local library entitled, The Hedgehog and the Fox, and I eagerly scooped it up, expecting to learn all about natural history! Alas, it was 600 pages of very dry writing about the legal system. Then I was sad.

Amarie said...

Aww, crap! I completely read your comments wrong! Sorry, honey! I love you, too and much luvvles and huggles! In the name of Nala and Simba, Can You Feel The Love Tonight? :D

Laiima said...

Nema problema, Amarie. I was amused by your comments since they were funny :) and later, I realized you've mastered that loving-kindness thing I'm still working on. So it's all good.

j_bird said...

Side tangent: atheists have no holy symbols, so what would one of them use to turn a vampire? A Darwinfish car decal? Maybe a humanist could repel the undead using a symbol of human awesomeness like a computer chip, moon rock, or vial of polio vaccine. "We beat this disease and it was much worse than you, bloodsucker!"

I'd say the atheist holy symbol should be a universal symbol of reason, so what better than a math proof? Just carry around a little laminated card with your favorite short proof! Though that brings up the question of whether the vampire would have to read and understand the proof before he would be hurt by it. Similarly, what if the vamp didn't know it was polio vaccine in the vial? For that matter, does a vampire actually have to *see* a crucifix to be affected by it?

Makabit said...

Side tangent: atheists have no holy symbols, so what would one of them use to turn a vampire? A Darwinfish car decal? Maybe a humanist could repel the undead using a symbol of human awesomeness like a computer chip, moon rock, or vial of polio vaccine. "We beat this disease and it was much worse than you, bloodsucker!"

I am, for some reason, reminded of the great "Atheists Don't Have No Songs".

chris the cynic said...

If you're going for math then I believe what is traditional would be Euler's Identity:

Though pi is a recognizable enough symbol of math in itself.

For that matter, a corkscrew of appropriate shape would get you sign, cosine, a circle, pi, tau, one, negative one, i, -i, all the rest of the infinite roots of unity, and probably a lot of other stuff. It's a symbol just waiting to be used.

Will Wildman said...

I dunno, I feel like I've met more than enough atheists who would burn themselves if they presented a symbol of pure reason.

chris the cynic said...

I have as well.

There's also a problem of atheism having no exclusive rights to reason. If you're trying to find a symbol of atheism a lot of the things you might go for are already held in common by a lot of groups.

Christianity can claim the cross as its own mostly because no one else ever really wanted that cross. Other crosses, yes, but the cross that exists for a form of brutal execution by torture not so much.

If you want a symbol of math then Euler's identity, which I quoted in the last post, is going to be one of your best bets because it's important and elegant and has a lot of important stuff contained within it, plus it's famous so that helps too, but for atheism it might not be the best bet because Euler was a devout (and apparently jerkish) Christian.

Thus "Euler's Formula*" means, in part, "A famous Christian's Formula." If you want to show your devotion to math then it'll work, atheism not so much.


* The identity is a special case of the formula, I switched from one to the other because "A famous Christian's Identity," sounds like something else.

j_bird said...

There's also a problem of atheism having no exclusive rights to reason. If you're trying to find a symbol of atheism a lot of the things you might go for are already held in common by a lot of groups.

This is true. Perhaps, since atheism is the lack of belief in a god (and yet doesn't constrain belief in any other way), it lacks a universal symbol by its very nature. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if a vampire would be impressed by a blank sheet of paper.

Will Wildman said...

Maybe instead of scripture we could start reciting the works of Albert Camus at them until the philosophical absurdism makes them question their goals in unlife? It doesn't burn them, but sometimes around hour three they'll realise that they never really wanted to drink blood and they've just been going along with it because they figured eventually it would start making sense and provide them with clear meaning.

Will Wildman said...

Alternatively -

Atheist: Oh, no. A vampire. In my bedroom. What a horrifying turn of events.
Vampire: Hyou hhide hyour fearr well, but soon it whill not maatter.
Atheist: Are you... is that what you think purring sounds like?
Vampire: That is irrelevant! Pray to your god for deliverance!
Atheist: Ain't got any.
Vampire: Then you are damned, for you have nothing sacred to shield yourself!
Atheist: About that - do you know what 'sacred' means? It refers to that which is set apart. It divides the things that are special from the things that are mundane. And I don't see much difference, myself.
Vampire: Is it getting itchy in here?
Atheist: I figure everything is about equally set apart from everything else, which by my figuring means that everything is equally sacred. What do I believe in? Everything that exists. That deep-pile under your feet. The sill of the window you slipped through. That nitrogen you're using to talk even though you don't breathe. The valence electrons that hold you together.
Vampire: Sssso... sssssparkly...
Atheist: Every quark of your being is holy.
[The vampire is sublimated by an epiphany.]
Atheist: This would be less of a bother if they didn't keep getting dust in my deep-pile.

Rikalous said...

The idea of a vampire being able to avoid the effects of a crucifix if they can't see has some interesting ramifications for vampire hunting strategies. Since "cross hurts vampire" is fairly widely known by this point, I'd expect vampires to do their hunting blindfolded. The lucky humans that survive will catch on, and spread the word that you need to say things like "The power of Christ repels you!" and "A man walked on the moon. The literal moon. There are boot prints on that thing," in order to keep the bloodsuckers at bay. In response, the vampires will start using very good earplugs, and hunting by things like smell and heat, while trying not to think too hard about whether or not things that they're touching are cross-shaped.

Cupcakedoll said...

The awesomeness level of these atheist vs. vampire ideas is so high I have nothing to add that could measure up. Great stuff. Especially Will's scene and the mental image of a vampire fleeing from math.

hf said...

1. Christianity doesn't have exclusive rights to right angles, nor to any method of public execution.

2. Not only is atheism not a religion, it doesn't even seem like an ideal to me. (An artificial super-intelligence that just sought to maximize the number of paperclips in existence would "be" an atheist unless it found strong evidence of gods. It just wouldn't care, except to note the effect that gods or the lack thereof might have on paperclip-maximization.) But perceiving reality sounds like a plausible ideal for a particular atheist to believe in, and that seems like the relevant question here, so Will Wildman's plan should work. Humanists could also use a symbol such as this video, perhaps cued up to "This is our sun".

chris the cynic said...

1. Christianity doesn't have exclusive rights to right angles, nor to any method of public execution.

I never said that they did.

I said that they didn't. Which is the opposite of saying that they did.

I said that the only reason they are able to claim it as a Christian symbol is because historically no one else has wanted to claim the execution cross for their own symbol, not even the Romans who popularized that means of execution by torture. Which means that someone else could claim it, it's just that (as far as I know) no one else has. Which means that Christianity doesn't have exclusive rights to it.

So here's where I get confused. The way that you wrote that makes it seem like you're disagreeing, but when looked at in the context of what I actually wrote it looks like you're agreeing. Which is it?

Do you agree with my stated point that just as atheism has no exclusive rights to reason Christianity has no exclusive rights to the execution cross and thus the only reason they can claim it as their symbol is because no one else has wanted that particular shape of cross as their own symbol, or do you disagree?

Or are you saying that that cross isn't a symbol of Christianity? If that's the case then know that I don't care what the Supreme Court of the United States has said, it is a symbol of Christianity and therefore should be considered firmly on the church side of the church state divide.

hf said...

Do you agree with my stated point that just as atheism has no exclusive rights to reason Christianity has no exclusive rights to the execution cross and thus the only reason they can claim it as their symbol is because no one else has wanted that particular shape of cross as their own symbol, or do you disagree?

I think everything after the word "and" seems like a truly bizarre non sequitur.

Oh, are you approaching this by thinking what vampires fear inherently depends on some cultural stamp of approval? Society has to say first that the symbol belongs to your religion? I was thinking that vampires could probably detect bluffs, and that seems like the simplest rule for deciding what will repel/hurt them: if the wielder honestly believes it will, then it will. People know "religious symbols" will work, so they could reasonably expect symbols of what they value to work.

Even with the former approach, I see no reason a "holy symbol" for one belief system can't also count as "holy" for another. Can Arabic Christians no longer call upon Allah?

hf said...

Samurai Cat's take, while facing a vampire of philosophical bent: "I'm a Buddhist, not a Christian. And all I know is that you were trying to get me to drop this."

chris the cynic said...

Oh, are you approaching this by thinking what vampires fear inherently depends on some cultural stamp of approval?

No. It has nothing do with vampires. The post you initially responded to had nothing to do with vampires. It was about the idea to come up with a specifically atheist symbol, indeed not just an atheist symbol but the atheist symbol, by looking for a "universal symbol of reason" and the problem inherent in trying to use that as a specifically atheist symbol given that many other groups also have claims to reason.

For comparison I pointed out that the specific cross in question is a Christian symbol because it is only in use by Christianity. Unlike reason, it does not have a host of groups claiming it as their own. If 16 other religions and half a dozen secular groups were also using that particular cross as symbols for themselves then it could not be said to be the Christian symbol, it could at most be said to be a symbol in use by Christianity.

Thus the reason that it is able to be the Christian symbol rather than a symbol in use by Christians is because it isn't claimed by any other groups.

If one is looking for something to be the atheist symbol, it has to be something not already in use by other groups. Reason is in use, to greater and lesser extents, but almost all groups.

So, to go with your example, God, or if you prefer Allah, is not "the Christian term" because it is in use by multiple religions. (Theos and Deus as well.) Thus if one were looking for something to be the Christian term they'd have to look elsewhere. It cannot be considered to be the Christian term because it's the term used by many people.


Short version:

When the topic of the atheist symbol came up, I pointed out that it's not going to be useful to look to symbols already in use by plenty of groups, many of them not atheist. To be the symbol of something it has to point to that one thing, not fifty thousand things.

A Christian may very well be able to repel a vampire via mathematics, but that doesn't make mathematics a Christian symbol. An atheist might be able to do it with a copy of something written by Havel, but that certainly doesn't make Havel the atheist symbol.

hf said...

Um, OK, you can certainly change the topic if you want. (Though the phrase you quote comes from a comment about repelling vampires and need not make sense in a different context.*) Why does this new question interest you? We already have a symbol of atheism, namely a big red letter "A". Most atheists probably don't care that much about it, because it doesn't represent a fundamental ideal (at least not directly). Which may explain why nobody here seemed to think vampires would care about it.

*Of course, the Löwenheim–Skolem Theorems on the Inevitability of Puns show that no symbol can have one fixed meaning in every possible context. Perhaps every consistent set of statements about vampires must have a consistent vampire-free interpretation.

chris the cynic said...

Though the phrase you quote comes from a comment about repelling vampires

The comment to which I actually responded was not about that. That comment was itself a response to the one with the phrase, which is why the phrase mattered in responding to it, and it turned the conversation about the concept described by the phrase in a different direction. It addressed
not the applicability to repelling vampires but instead the appropriateness for the group it was intended to symbolize. (Seriously, no vampires in that post at all.)

There's a reason I didn't go to that topic when the most recent comment on the subject was specifically about vampires. When the topic was just about how atheists might repel vampires using symbols of reason, as specifically represented by math, I stuck to that topic.


Thus far you've ignored substantive parts of what I've written and ignored the context in which it was written, both of which have, unsurprisingly, changed the meanings of the things you didn't ignore.

If you're so against paying enough attention to me to actually notice what I'm saying, why pay any attention to me at all? If you're going to ignore the meaning of my posts, why not ignore my posts in their entirety?

Silver Adept said...

@majromax -

Point taken, no cynicism needed.

@chris -

Breaking the Edward Power for the win! Also, very nice that Jessica takes warmth and strength from her love - Angela.

@Lliira -

That nature of Bella's probably draws the Edward-types right to her, because they see someone they can abuse who will believe them when they say it's how Doms and subs operate. It's too bad that there isn't someone in the community there who would take Bella under her wing and teach her a thing or five about how it really works. (Or So I Hear.) But I somehow suspect that even if Forks had a thriving BDSM community, the new girl in town is not going to be able to walk in and discover where all the hot spots are - too much risk in a community where everybody knows everybody and the wrong gossip is a career-killer. (Or So I've Read.)

Danel said...

Originally, crucifixion at sunset was the punishment for the very worst vampires, but over time it gradually became adopted as a means of execution for mere mortal criminals as well.

Danel said...

"In this story, a serious broadcaster falls passionately in love with a doctor with a chemical dependency - all thanks to a tragedy. Yet, how can a xenobotanist tear them apart?"

Once again, I have to observe that the first person perspective really does Bella no favours - my one attempt to read the book before this came to a screeching halt when I found myself finding Bella repulsive and hateful. She constantly seems to assume the worst of everyone around her - and it's not something that seen as a problem or a flaw for her to overcome due to her traumatic past.

I've never worked in a restaurant, but I have some experience with customer service, and in my opinion the best and worst part of it is the customers. A pleasant customer can leave you feeling buoyant for hours... and unfortunately vice versa.

But perhaps we're all being unfair to Bella. Perhaps when she talks of their "unnecessary warmth" she's entirely correct, and we'd all agree that the restaurant staff's behaviour is beyond the pale. Perhaps Amber is licking Edward's arm.

The hostess' "unnaturally blonde" hair pulled me up short because it's an odd way of phrasing what presumably means "clearly dyed" at the best of times, let alone within any sort of speculative fiction novel. Within that milieu, I'd expect to see the construction "unnaturally x" refer more to our supernatural beasties being unnaturally strong or unnaturally fast, so when I first read it I went to a place where the sheer blondeness of the hostess' hair was her vampire superpower.

Even without that... "unnaturally red", yes, since there are shades of red hair that don't exist in a state of nature, but is the same really true of blonde?

"This story takes place in a planetary confederation on a rocky planet. In it, a driven priest gets a job with a robot hitch-hiking across the known universe. What starts as obligation soon turns into obsessive love. Yet, how can a door being opened tear them apart?"

Nathaniel said...

This post really shows how different people can really take away different things from a scene.

For me, this was yet another example of Twlight's inability as a story to be self consistent and coherent. Later on we'll have Edward telling Bella that vampires are natural hunters of humans and that most people instinctively sense this and stay away. And yet here the waitress is so obviously entranced by his sparkly hotness of handsomeness. The story wants him to claim scariness but always be attractive above all.

Majromax said...

We...shudder is the wrong word, but a visceral reaction to the knowledge that is pained upon the thought of Bella being exposed to say, Gor, first and that becoming her baseline to make comparisons with.

Huh. Reading this, I just had a thought. BDSM in Gor (by reputation, I haven't read myself) is misogynistic, severe, but explicit. Edward in the Twilightverse is not as outwardly BDSMy, but in practice he is domineering, manipulative, uses outright mind-reading, and expects his unstated whims to be catered to.

Recognizing that both are problematic, which one is actually worse? My initial thoughts are that sociologically Gor is more problematic because of its universal claims, but for an individual reader without a broad perspective Twilight might be worse because it is more easily confused for a true (rather than fantastical) ideal.

But I'd absolutely love to hear the opinion of anybody who's actually read the Gor books.

Ana Mardoll said...

This is brilliant. O.o

Grogs said...

@Makabit: "It always strikes me as silly to have vampire hunters and such waving around crosses and holy water, and then not being Christians. If you do not believe that the cross has power over evil, what are you DOING with it?"

I always thought it should be the opposite. I like the idea of the vampire hunter waving the cross around, to which the vampire just laughs and explains that he's an atheist who doesn't put any stock in religious things. I thought the book "I Am Legend" was pretty bad on a lot of levels, but it did have that concept. Christian vampires were repelled by crosses, Jewish vampires by Stars of David, etc.

Pqw said...

I agree with you on the 'unnaturally red' thing. But I think there is an added complication to both it, and 'unnaturally blonde' -- skin color. Because of the cachet of being a blonde (or a 'fiery' redhead), many people will dye their hair those colors without realizing that their skin color does not look good with that hair color. Dyed blonde might almost be easier to pull off, from an undertones perspective, because if you have a cool undertones in your skin (like most people do), you can go with an ashy or platinum blonde; warm undertones should have a more golden blonde. Since blonde is such a high value color though, if you have darker skin, the new value contrast between your dyed-blonde hair and your skin may be rather shocking. Also, possibly ugly.

Dyed red hair is tricky because the only natural shades of red are warm toned, which looks good with warm toned skin, but most people in the world have cool toned skin. So if a person with cool toned skin wants red hair, and they don't want their skin and hair colors to clash horribly, they will have to choose a cool toned red (which cannot be a natural shade), so it will be obvious (to a woman, anyway) that they have dyed their hair.

Blonde hair is partially as desirable as it is because of its rarity. It is mostly found only in people of European descent, and in that group, I think it only occurs about 14% of the time (~1 out of 7). But red hair is actually even more rare, only occurring about 7% of the time in people of European descent. (I was a redheaded child, but my hair became light brown by age 12 or so. I dyed it red for years, until it started going grey.)

Loquat said...

Also, I skipped the Romance Generator and tried out the Symbolic Story Generator on the same site, and got:

The story about gigolos where the characters map to the thirty-six righteous people (Tzadikim) of Jewish legend.

The story about vampires where the characters' births map to the three stages of the scientific method.

The allegorical story about astronomers where the characters map to the four color process of printing (CMYK).

The Science Fiction Tarot Generator was also great fun, and would make an excellent source of surreal or mystical science fiction titles. The Scientist of Disappointment and The Prophet of Gears were the best ones I got, but The Clone of Motorcycles has a nicely Dadaist ring to it, and it's hard to say no to such gems as The Knight of The Internet, The Priestess of Hovercrafts, and The Bishop of Time Travel.

Silver Adept said...

@Majromax -

If we're talking about corrupting the clueless, you have a point about about Twilight potentially being worse because it's packaged as a romance, rather than as a science fiction / pulp series, which are easier to "laugh off" the bad effects of.

I agree with the Guest, though, that out here in the Reality Based Community, there aren't that many who are Clueless enough to be corrupted by that kind of thing, even though we have more than enough Moral Guardians railing about it, whether BDSM-themed or not.

From talking to other people who are kinky, though, things like the pure fantasy feed what people already want to believe about BDSM, which can make for problems for kinky people. An analogue might be slash fiction reinforcing wrong stereotypes about gay men and giving grist for the Moral Guardians to cry about "indoctrination of the young". With the same attendant rolling-of-eyes in the Reality-Based Community.

Both of those comments, though, are a bit Doylist (I think that's the right word) for what I was shooting for in the commentary above. Bella-as-character doesn't seem to be all that critical-thinky regarding Edward and their relationship. (I think our Appropriate Austen Analogue at this point is Northanger Abbey.) Bella already demonstrates a willingness to do whatever Edward says, even when it's not in her best interests to do so. Which gives Edward an enormous amount of power regarding what Bella will think is a normal relationship for them. Which makes for a lot of "Urgh. Yikes." when it comes to all the possibilities that Edward could be that Bella will accept uncritically, because the plot demands it be a romance without complicating factors like a world-aware foil to point out all the problems and make Bella think the consequences through. And Bella's not going to be doing that thinking-through herself.

She's also apparently lacking access to good resources to help her develop the eye, ear, and mind she'll need to make those decisions for herself., despite, y'know, living with one of them. I worry for Bella-as-character, because the plot demands that she stay ignorant and acquiescent to a metric frack-ton of insinuations, abuse, and hostility.

I may have lost my original thread there, somewhere.

Makabit said...

If I were feeling kindly toward "unnaturally blond," I'd try to work out what color the waitress might be using to similar effect.

I envision a bleached platinum look, like Dolly Parton's. Or Gwen Stefani's. Or...well, a ton of people.

God I love Dolly. "It costs a whole lot of money to look this cheap," she is reported to have said. I envision her as the hostess now.

Peter said...

Night's Dawn did that as well. A priest thought he'd discovered the solution to the problem of people being possessed when he was able to cure people using the Catholic exorcism ritual, then he ran into someone being possessed by a woman who'd been Atheist in life...

Also I think Pratchett did something similar? It was a while since I last read it, but didn't Carpe Juggulum feature some vampires that weren't hurt by religious symbols unless someone told them what the symbol was, what it represented and which people worshipped it, where upon they'd be hurt despite the fact that it had been waved in their face prior to this?

Loquat said...

Peter Watts did something related to that - his vampires originated as a prehistoric subspecies of humanity with massively improved intelligence and pattern-recognition, which is a great advantage except for the problem that their pattern-recognition glitches and causes disabling seizures when they see too many right angles.

It is this glitch that doomed them from the moment humans developed Euclidean architecture. Vampires would have been barred from approaching any human dwellings that featured quartered windows, supporting crossbeams, and so on. And this weakness was likely discovered by the people of early civilization rather soon. The cross is not an exclusively Christian icon: it has been used as a religious symbol back into prehistoric times, and vampires were apparently the reason. [...] The crucifix glitch spelled the end of the vampire lineage. Suddenly denied access to its prey, the entire subspecies went extinct shortly after the dawn of recorded history, although they obviously persisted long enough to embed themselves in our cultural mythology.

He did a video purporting to be a presentation on vampire research by unethical scientists that can be found here, if anyone's interested in hearing the whole thing.

Will Wildman said...

This story takes place in a coliseum in a steam-driven empire. In it, a shaman with repressed memories is in love with a puerile necromancer - all thanks to a flashback. Yet, how can a critical injury tear them apart?

This premise generator will ensure that I never spend another moment thinking "I've got nothing to do".

So reading this post, I found myself thrown, because on the one hand, Edward is obviously a terrible person to everyone all the time, and yet he's not supposed to be read that way. And the restaurant staff are presumably supposed to be read to be as horrible as Bella imagines them, because Bella has super-intuition and her snap judgments about people are never ever wrong. So... why do both of these things work?

What bizarre combination of realism and misconception has produced this chapter wherein the waitstaff actually act in a completely reasonable manner despite being written by an author who is presumably trying to cast them as Serfs In Heat?

In tearing apart Left Behind, Fred will happily spend a while imagining someone's life - the Maligned Cookie Vendor dude who's in post-Rapture shock and terribly fatigued and just has to cope with Our Heroes being arrogantly obstinate - to make it clear just how unsympathetic and terrible they are. But that has to be invented out of whole cloth: there's nothing in-text to support that reading, though nothing contradicts it either. Here in Twilight, it seems like the waitstaff have been written with enough supporting details to actually make their (noncanonical) thoughts and behaviours make perfect sense.

Did Meyer actually observe something like this happening and replicate it with remarkable authenticity while still drawing the same conclusions about reality that Bella does about the scene? Did she (subconsciously?) understand the different perspectives at play but doesn't think Edward is flawed for his actions? Or is it simply that Ana is amazing at weaving consistent fanon? I'm so confused! I need-

In this story, a boastful prospector becomes infatuated with a circuit priestess searching for purpose - all thanks to a trial.


depizan said...

God I love Dolly. "It costs a whole lot of money to look this cheap," she is reported to have said. I envision her as the hostess now.

This would improve the story greatly.

depizan said...

Yeah, hence my not actually feeling very kindly toward "unnaturally blonde." Perhaps Bella is jealous of those who can break out of whatever's holding her back and have a blast in the hair color aisle. She might be many times happier as a blond with bright copper streaks. Or with her hair cropped short and dyed bright pink with purple tips. Or... who knows.

Makabit said...

Is a 'circuit priestess' the Wiccan version of a circuit preacher?

graylor said...

Thank you, though I can't take complete credit: Karen Nilsen and I were talking about the gang-rape deconstruction and the classism on display there on Friday. Nils suggested the rape=lust trope as a partial explanation.

Makabit said...

You do have to bear in mind what a new hair color will look like against your skin tone, but there are plenty of natural redheads who have cool skin tones. Hair does not, in the natural world, consider skin tone...women often dye or tint to make their natural hair more flattering to their complexions.

This column shows some of the possible variations, all with white women, but the variables work the same with darker skin.

It also depends on how natural you want your look to look. I see dark-skinned women with blond hair all the's not meant to look natural, it's meant to look striking.

Will Wildman said...

The overriding rule on the Disc, at least, is that belief trumps everything, so religious symbols work because people believe they should work (and the vampires build up an immunity because they believe that stress-training should allow them to build up an immunity - when the whole thing falls apart, it's because someone else gets inside their head and her belief undermines theirs).

So presumably bluffing could work as long as the person in question truly believed bone-deep that it would work, and wasn't just flailing desperately.

We've spoiled some of Carpe Jugulum already, but for the really climactic scene I will rot13: jura vg pbzrf qbja gb gur yrnq inzcver irefhf gur jvzcl-ohg-snvgushy zvffvbanel, gur zvffvbanel (jub unf whfg haqretbar Tenaal Jrngurejnk'f cnegvphyne oenaq bs snvgu-grfgvat) oenaqvfurf na nkr, naq vf ebhaqyl zbpxrq ol gur inzcver. Ab fgnxrf, ab tneyvp, whfg n enaqbz nkr ur sbhaq fbzrjurer? Na nkr vfa'g rira n ubyl flzoby! Gur zvffvbanel ybbxf pbjrq sbe n zbzrag, ybbxf hc, qrpvqrf "Yrg hf znxr vg fb", naq fjrrcf gur nkr (abj genvyvat na nhen bs ubyl yvtug) ba fhpu n pyrna phg gung gur inzcver fheivirf nf ybat nf ur qbrfa'g yrna bire - nf gung jbhyq pnhfr uvf urnq gb snyy bss.

Gur zvffvbanel va dhrfgvba raqf hc jvgu na vzcerffviryl urebvp pnerre va inzcverynaq, frggvat serr fynirf naq urycvat rirelbar ur pbzrf npebff. Ur vf fnvq gb pneel Sbetvirarff jvgu uvz rireljurer ur tbrf, juvpu vf engure zber hafrggyvat jura lbh yrnea gung Sbetvirarff vf jung ur anzrq gur nkr.

So I would call that +1 in favour of inventing holy symbols, but the applicability still depends on legitimate belief in the symbol as a symbol, which would make it harder to game the system. Presumably if the 'holy doorways' religion caught on, it could be very effective.

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