Twilight: When Rape Plays Matchmaker

Content Note: Rape

Twilight Recap: Bella is on her way to Port Angeles to help Jessica and Angela pick out dresses for the school dance.

Twilight, Chapter 8: Port Angeles

Oh my gosh, ya'll, do you know what day it is? It's CHAPTER EIGHT DAY!

You may not immediately see why that is so very exciting, but let me assure you in advance that Chapter Eight is one of the very worst things I've read in my entire life. It is a carefully packed present of misogyny wrapped with a ribbon of loathing and addressed with a card filled with victim-blaming and a coupon for a free conservative nightmare lecture. Christmas has come early!

False cheeriness aside, this is the chapter where Bella and Edward will finally get together, have a nice lovely dinner date, Edward's secret about being a mind-reading vampire will come out, and then there will be no more secrets between the two of them and love will flourish and blossom forever. And all it takes in order for that to happen is for Bella to very nearly be brutally gang-raped.

Yes, saving the heroine from rape is a common trope in romance novels. Yes, even the For Better Or Worse comic author did it with Anthony and Liz. And, yes, Edward and Bella will manage to amp the creep factor up to eleven. How could they not?

   JESS DROVE FASTER THAN THE CHIEF, SO WE MADE IT TO Port Angeles by four. It had been a while since I'd had a girls' night out, and the estrogen rush was invigorating. We listened to whiny rock songs while Jessica jabbered on about the boys we hung out with. Jessica's dinner with Mike had gone very well, and she was hoping that by Saturday night they would have progressed to the first-kiss stage. I smiled to myself, pleased. Angela was passively happy to be going to the dance, but not really interested in Eric. Jess tried to get her to confess who her type was, but I interrupted with a question about dresses after a bit, to spare her. Angela threw a grateful glance my way.

So much just in that sentence alone! Where do I begin?

You know how I'm always banging on about how Bella's internal narrative constantly sounds off because she's always putting herself down with her word choice? Well here it is again in spades. Jessica "jabbers", which is a word that could be used to convey "talked excitedly and at great length" but conveys all kinds of connotations of a girl who just won't shut up no mater how much her companions want her to. Angela is "passively happy", which could be a way of revealing that she's looking forward to the dance in her own quiet, restrained way, but leaves the impression that she's been tossed by Bella onto the Eric-grenade and isn't proactive enough to roll off because, hey, at least she gets a date to the dance out of it, and that's all a girl really wants, no?

Beyond the weasel words, this passage just sounds so bizarre to me. Maybe I'm a unique special butterfly, but I just cannot imagine talking like this as a teenager about myself and my activities. Look, I'll prove it. Here is Teen Ana:

[Teen Ana] "Estrogen rush"? Okay, um, estrogen is for, like, old ladies like my mom, and also is associated with her lady-bits and menopause so, um, ew. I mean, really, I have to, like, eat tonight, so try to keep that in mind. Also? My rock songs are not "whiny" no matter how many times you insist that they are. Oh, yeah, like your music is so deep because Creedence Clearwater Revival churned out meaningful treatises on the human soul and N'Sync is bland garbage, whatever, denial is not just a river in Egypt. And can you please stop referring to, like, important stuff as "stages"? Kisses are, um, a big deal, and good grief you sound like the jerks at school when you talk about it like it's some kind of hurdle to get past in a race. Geez, don't you know anything? [/Teen Ana]

Ah, Teen Ana. She was a firecracker, she was. /nostalgia

Beyond that, I'm amused that Jessica -- She Who Has Already Dated Mike -- is so anxious about this whole first-kiss business. Haha, continuity! We lacks it. I'm just going to put The Guide in the garbage for the moment and press on. Beyond that, it seems a little... sad, I guess, for Jessica to be so highly amped about her relationship with Mike, considering that we know that Mike only went out with her because he finally accepted that a relationship with Bella wasn't in the cards. And for Bella to be over there smirking with joy because she's finally gotten rid of Mike is just a really sour cherry on top; even if she's supposedly just happy that Jessica is happy, wouldn't she feel a little concern that Mike may not treat her well if he's only interested in her as a consolation prize?

Also, it's interesting that Bella sees herself as useful to Angela as a deflector of invasive questions. I'm tempted to wonder if this is a bit of projection on Bella's part -- one suspects that Angela may be closer friends with Jessica than is being portrayed if they've grown up together, and possibly Angela doesn't find these questions as invasive as Bella does -- but if it isn't projection, Bella and Angela seem like perfect candidates for best friends. Angela draws Bella out of her shell with questions about homework and they can each protect the other from invasive, unwanted questioning. It's almost a shame that Bella isn't narratively allowed to have friends.

Random: Charlie is now "The Chief"? That's a thing now? Because that seems like a very strange framing. Does Bella call him that anywhere else, ever?

   Port Angeles was a beautiful little tourist trap, [...] But Jessica and Angela knew it well, so they didn't plan to waste time on the picturesque boardwalk by the bay.

Well, if they decided to accomplish their errands right away and didn't choose to waste time on the heart-rending scenery, they must be absolute Philistines! I'll bet Edward would have stopped to enjoy the picturesque boardwalk by the bay whilst gently holding Bella's hand, gazing into her eyes, and somehow managing both to drink in the untamed beauty of the ocean and worship every pore on her face all at once! (It's just a shame he can't do all this in the daylight.)

   Both Jessica and Angela seemed surprised and almost disbelieving when I told them I'd never been to a dance in Phoenix. [...]
   "Really," I tried to convince her, not wanting to confess my dancing problems. "I've never had a boyfriend or anything close. I didn't go out much."

This is as good an excuse as any to recommend Melissa McEwan's absolutely incredible two-part post on disabilities and why failing to remember the existence of a disability is a really dreadful thing to do to a disabled person (assuming, of course, that a disability of memory is not part of the equation). And I know I recommend everything Melissa writes, usually twice over, but these really are incredibly powerful posts because forcing a friend or family member to continually explain the existence of their disability is incredibly demoralizing. There's a difference between "not fully understanding all the ramifications of a specific disability" and flat-out choosing not to remember that there's a disability in the equation.

(And while we're on the subject, I'm incredibly grateful to all the people on the board who have so patiently educated me on food allergies -- I took a casserole to a neighborhood block party after we moved in and was ready and able to rattle off everything in the dish, and as "cream of chicken" was one of the ingredients a vegetarian in the neighborhood was happy to be informed beforehand.)

So here's my obligatory "oh, look, Feminism in Twilight" moment for the week: Jessica's failure to remember Bella's balancing disability or to consider that such a disability might not be something Bella wishes to continually talk about and justify to others is demonstrated here as a damaging means of relating to Bella.

(Maybe I need to make a Feminist Twilight tumblr.)

But I'm pretty sure that's all the feminism you're going to get in this chapter. And even this isn't that feminist, because I have a sneaking suspicion that this conversation is just laying more groundwork to the characterization that Bella is a Pure Unsullied Virgin, which (again) is a common romance trope, but it's also in my opinion a damaging trope in the constant repetition, since it contributes to a harmful cultural fetishization of virginity.

   She looked skeptical. "People ask you out here," she reminded me, "and you tell them no." We were in the juniors' section now, scanning the racks for dress-up clothes.   "Well, except for Tyler," Angela amended quietly. [...]
   "Tyler told everyone he's taking you to prom," Jessica informed me with suspicious eyes.
   "He said what?" I sounded like I was choking.

This is one of those aspects of Twilight which strikes me as super-creepy and yet I can't tell if the narrative expects me to feel that way.

Tyler nearly killed Bella with his van. Arguably, the incident may not have been his fault, but whether it was or wasn't, it's a fact that without the supernatural intervention of Edward, Bella would be dead right now. To the best of my knowledge, this incident never directly affects Bella within the narrative except as a means of revealing Edward's true nature. But for some people in real life, an incident like this would have the potential to be highly traumatizing. It wouldn't be unusual at all for Bella to transfer some of the trauma from the accident to her feelings about Tyler. His presence could remind her of her mortality, of how nearly she came to being dead.

(Indeed, in a more nuanced vampire novel, the Van Incident would be directly linked to Bella's fervent desire to be vampire'd as soon as possible: the issue isn't merely her constantly-advancing age, it's that she should already be dead. What's to stop a thousand other fatal accidents from happening at any moment? Edward's selfish reassurances that his life would still be complete, having known her, doesn't change the fact that Bella would be dead and gone. Bella should be allowed within the narrative to have an opinion on that -- ideally one that has nothing to do with Edward and everything to do with her own wants and needs.) 

Tyler seems to have taken this incident as proof that he's in some kind of heart-warming romantic comedy, and so naturally he's decided to act like a creepy and terrifying stalker because that sort of thing is sweet in romantic comedies, amiright?

Bella has decided to react with her trademark emotion spice-blend: absolutely justifiable anger mixed with a childish and ineffectual expression of same. Great. Everyone else seems to react with a Rape Culture sanctioned attitude of amused indulgence. Wonderful. Apparently including Bella's otherwise excessively protective and abusively jealous vampire lover, which implies that he does not consider this sort of stalking behavior to be dangerous, inappropriate, or upsetting to Bella. Probably because he engages in stalker tactics himself. Stellar.

   "That's why Lauren doesn't like you," Jessica giggled while we pawed through the clothes.   I ground my teeth. "Do you think that if I ran him over with my truck he would stop feeling guilty about the accident? That he might give up on making amends and call it even?"

And once again, we see that the young women of Forks engage in petty rivalries over the bad behavior -- notably infidelity in the face of the irresistible Bella -- of their menfolk. In case you're keeping score at home, this is Not Feminist.

   "Angela?" I began, hesitant, [...] I tried again. "Is it normal for the . . . Cullens" -- I kept my eyes on the shoes -- "to be out of school a lot?" I failed miserably in my attempt to sound nonchalant.
   "Yes, when the weather is good they go backpacking all the time -- even the doctor. They're all real outdoorsy," she told me quietly, examining her shoes, too. She didn't ask one question, let alone the hundreds that Jessica would have unleashed. I was beginning to really like Angela. [...]

This is a digression, but I include the above for reasons of world-building. One, apparently this is the first time Bella has put together that the Cullens are absent frequently and that their absences correspond to sunny days. This is way too late in the narrative for Bella to learn this, considering that she has apparently been at school for weeks (what, there were no sunny days in all that time except the handful of plot-specific Edward-Cullen-Didn't-Come-To-School-Today days?) and has been obsessed with Edward Cullen pretty much this entire time. Presumably this is why the information was moved up considerably in the movie.

Two, this is yet more evidence that Angela and Bella could be very good friends, were they not in a novel (or, to be more meta, in a culture) that treats female friendships as a frivolous diversion from the "real" matters of finding a husband, bearing him children, and being turned into the walking undead. Indeed, the two seem almost a match made in heaven: they're both quiet, studious, caretakers (Angela of her younger brothers, Bella of her immature mother), who seem to hold similar Good Girl values of modesty and polite behavior. Bella feels awkward because of her problems with balance; Angela apparently (according to The Guide) feels awkward because of her unusual height. Of course, Bella and Angela aren't obligated to be friends simply because they share some similarities, but it seems like such a shame that they're not closer throughout the series.

Three, here is the world-building that we already knew and yet still does not make very much sense to me: sunny days (or, more accurately, days with sunny moments) are so rare in Forks and the Cullens are so privileged in town that they can take off from school and work any time they want. And not just when it's sunny -- they also have to take off when it's going to be sunny, and you'd really think that someone would tweak to the fact that the Cullens literally have to be psychic in order for this to work. Cult leaders Jim Jones and Warren Jeffs, if I recall correctly, both used isolation of their followers and access to weather predictive services to convince people they were divinely able to predict the weather; surely someone would notice after awhile that the Cullens take off every time there is nice weather, even when the day started cloudy and the weather channel was predicting storms.

   I had no trouble finding the bookstore, but it wasn't what I was looking for. The windows were full of crystals, dream-catchers, and books about spiritual healing. I didn't even go inside. Through the glass I could see a fifty-year-old woman with long, gray hair worn straight down her back, clad in a dress right out of the sixties, smiling welcomingly from behind the counter. I decided that was one conversation I could skip. There had to be a normal bookstore in town.

Considering that Bella has been trawling Google for any and every Ancient Mystical Legend about vampires, no matter how vague or ambiguous or ludicrous (I mean, really? Vampires whose heads fly about at night, entrails dangling after them? That doesn't precisely strike me as... helpful here, Bella.), you might be surprised that she would so quickly turn up her nose at the golden opportunity presented here.

But here, for the record, is one of many reasons why Twilight is racist in general and why the appropriation of the Quileute peoples' legends was racist in particular. Bella isn't interested in the Ancient Mystical Legends of white people, because white people (or so goes the stereotype) don't have valid Ancient Mystical Legends. White people who claim to be in touch with nature or to have insight into the supernatural are aberrations, fakes, poseurs, or mentally ill. Real Ancient Mystical Legends come from dark people, who are defined by their heritage and statically roped to their past in ways that white people -- who represent the norm, the baseline of human experience -- are not.

The last time Bella spoke to someone with Ancient Mystical Legends, she was given valuable information about the man she loves and the race of beings that he belongs to. She accepted and encouraged this information because the person dispensing the information was dark-skinned and therefore a valid provider of Ancient Mystical Legends. Now Bella is facing another person who may have insight into the world that she is struggling to understand. She is looking directly at someone who might not mock her for her theories, someone who could perhaps offer valuable advice and worthwhile reading outside of The Google. But Bella turns away with a sneer because she knows that Ancient Mystical Legends dispensed by white people cannot possibly have value.

The reason she knows that is because of the stereotype -- here born out by the power of the narrative -- that dark-skinned people are tied to their cultural beliefs, whereas white-skinned people have transcended their past cultural beliefs to fully embrace modern culture. And, indeed, Bella as a white-skinned person in the pages of Twilight doesn't have a culture, in the same way she doesn't have an American accent, and in the same way that she is objectively beautiful, because her culture and accent and standards of beauty are considered so much the norm that they are rendered invisible and omnipresent, laying claim to everything that isn't expressly different. And of course such an attitude is both factually incorrect and packed with racism implications.

   I meandered through the streets, which were filling up with end-of-the-workday traffic, and hoped I was headed toward downtown. I wasn't paying as much attention as I should to where I was going; [...] I started to realize, as I crossed another road, that I was going the wrong direction. [...]
   A group of four men turned around the corner I was heading for, dressed too casually to be heading home from the office, but they were too grimy to be tourists. As they approached me, I realized they weren't too many years older than I was. They were joking loudly among themselves, laughing raucously and punching each other's arms. I scooted as far to the inside of the sidewalk as I could to give them room, walking swiftly, looking past them to the corner.

Despite the horrible, horrible squickiness that is involved any time an author bases a romantic relationship on a near-rape (see above, re: Tyler and why his presence could be residually distressing), I want to like this chapter. Not because I like chapters with gang-rape in it, mind you, and not because I appreciate that the portrayal of rape in Twilight to be limited to the rare-and-unusual case of gang-rape on a bright city street in America as opposed to common-and-invisible acquaintance rape of the kind that I strongly suspect Mike is capable of. Because I don't.

No, I want to like this chapter because -- frustratingly, considering the subject matter -- it contains more action on the part of Bella and more revelation of her underlying character than probably any other chapter in this book. Bella is realistically fearful, Bella reacts with realistic doubt and caution, Bella prepares to fight with both courage and intelligence, Bella keeps her head and doesn't panic. Considering how much rape and sexual violence is a part of our culture, I want to like that Bella meets the inevitable head-on, with grim determination to survive. Strong! Female! Character!

But... I can't like this. It's served with so much awfulness that I can't stomach the parts that, in another novel, would be more palatable. Already we see a hint of the victim-blaming to come: Bella gets in to trouble because she "wasn't paying as much attention as [she] should".

And this is the seduction of victim-blaming, the idea that sensible people can agree that Bad Things just happen, like the tides or tsunamis, and there's nothing we can do about them except insist that the potential victims of Bad Things police their every little movement and action in an attempt to avoid the unstoppable Bad Thing. Surely that's totally reasonable and logical and based on factual inference! And it kind of is, in the sense that yes, there will always be rapists. There will. No matter how much we push back against Rape Culture, no matter how much we educate people to stop raping, no matter how much headway we make statistically, there will always be at least one person out there willing to rape. So doesn't is make sense to try to avoid that guy?

But that's not how it works. Once that "should" framing creeps into the narrative, it's a steady and inevitable road to victim-blaming. A few pages from now, Edward will blame Bella for her own near-rape, and that blame is based on the framework being laid in the narrative now: Bella "should" have been paying more attention to where she was going.

It's a game she can't win. It doesn't matter if she's a stranger in a strange town. It doesn't matter if she has a disability that keeps her eyes focused on the ground (so she doesn't trip and hurt herself) instead of on the scenery. It doesn't matter if the city planners for Port Angeles took the concept of "tourist trap" a little too literally and designed the city to be an inescapable maze of no return. The situation is tautologically built against her: if someone is nearly raped in the streets of Port Angeles, she "should" have paid better attention. If she wasn't nearly raped, then she did something right. Logic!

   I'd wandered far past the part of Port Angeles that I, as a guest, was intended to see. [...]
   The sky suddenly darkened further, and, as I looked over my shoulder to glare at the offending cloud, I realized with a shock that two men were walking quietly twenty feet behind me.
   They were from the same group I'd passed at the corner, [...] My purse was on a shoulder strap and I had it slung across my body, the way you were supposed to wear it so it wouldn't get snatched. I knew exactly where my pepper spray was -- still in my duffle bag under the bed, never unpacked. I didn't have much money with me, just a twenty and some ones, and I thought about "accidentally" dropping my bag and walking away. But a small, frightened voice in the back of my mind warned me that they might be something worse than thieves.
   [...] Breathe, I had to remind myself. You don't know they're following you. I continued to walk as quickly as I could without actually running, [...] A blue car turned onto the street from the south and drove quickly past me. I thought of jumping out in front of it, but I hesitated, inhibited, unsure that I was really being pursued, and then it was too late.
   [...] They sounded farther back, though, and I knew they could outrun me in any case. I was sure to trip and go sprawling if I tried to go any faster.

One of the very few things I like about this passage is that it captures -- intentionally or not -- the Can't Win framing that the Patriarchy imposes on women. If Bella throws her purse to the ground, tears off in a run, and flings herself into oncoming traffic, she's going to be viewed as over-reacting to a perceived threat, even if she is right. Because if she is right that the men behind her are rapists, and if she acts on that belief and stops traffic, no one will ever know that she was right. And what is she going to tell the driver of the car she stops? "I'm so sorry, I must have tripped, but can I trouble you to take me into town with you?" And if that driver then rapes her, well then that was her fault too, for getting into a car with a stranger.

And this is a microcosm of the doubt applied to women and oppressed peoples all the time. A woman who is getting troll-vibes from a hostile commenter and who reacts strongly is at risk of being shouted down and chastised by the other commenters. After all, she couldn't psychically know the commenter was a troll, could she? And, yes, he did eventually start spewing utterly inappropriate sexist slurs, but we don't give out points for being right in hind-sight, now do we? And the very idea that maybe there are sexist and racist and ableist and homophobic dog-whistles that some people are more sensitive to than others is just completely disregarded because that would mean that the unattuned people aren't as insightful as they previously thought. And no one wants to hear that.

Bella lives in a society where the burden of Not Getting Raped is unfairly placed on the victim. Pepper spray isn't going to be effective against a group of four determined men, especially not when she's lost and can't run without falling down, but that doesn't mean she won't be blamed for not carrying it. Throwing down her purse or flinging herself into traffic are serious decisions made with real risks involved, but that doesn't mean she won't be blamed for making the wrong choice regardless of whichever choice she ends up making. I want to give points to the narrative for accurately portraying how harmful victim-blaming is, but I can't when both hero and heroine are nodding along to the victim-blaming.

   It seemed to take forever for me to get to the corner. I kept my pace steady, the men behind me falling ever so slightly farther behind with every step. Maybe they realized they had scared me and were sorry. I saw two cars going north pass the intersection I was heading for, and I exhaled in relief. There would be more people around once I got off this deserted street. I skipped around the corner with a grateful sigh.
   And skidded to a stop.
   [...] Because lounging against the western building, midway down the street, were the other two men from the group, both watching with excited smiles as I froze dead on the sidewalk. I realized then that I wasn't being followed.
   I was being herded.

And now is as good a time as any to tell you how utterly frustrated I am that the only real treatment of sexual violence in this novel is here, as a carefully orchestrated gang-rape on the open streets in the early evening of a quiet northern American tourist town.

Gang rape isn't (or doesn't seem to be; I'm struggling to find firm statistics) a rare thing. One source online states that 43% of rapes involve more than one assailant (a very large number of these seem to be perpetuated on college campuses by fraternities, but again I'm struggling to find firm statistics). But stranger rape comprises only 27% of rapes, and blitz rapes like the one here in Twilight would seem to be even more the exception rather than the rule. None of which means, of course, that this kind of rape doesn't happen because it does. And because it does happen, I'm not about to say that it shouldn't be portrayed in a novel, because survivors of gang-rape deserve to have their stories told in narratives too.

But the only rape we see in Twilight seems to be gang-rape: Bella is nearly raped by strangers in the middle of the street; Rosalie is raped by strangers in the middle of the street, an attack orchestrated by her fiance who is, himself, something of a stranger to Rosalie (they've only really been with each other at public events). In each case, there's a strong implication that the problem is that the women were alone. Bella is saved because Edward was following her; Rosalie regrets that she wasn't saved by the presence of her father. Both the narratives conveniently forget that, statistically speaking, Bella is far more likely to be raped by her boyfriend Edward and Rosalie is far more likely to be raped by her father than either young woman is of being raped in the middle of the street. Both narratives conveniently gloss past the fact that no matter who perpetuates the rape, the victim is the one blamed for being without the "right" person, with no earthly way to know for sure who the "right" person is.

   My steps had to slow now. I was closing the distance between myself and the lounging pair too quickly. I had a good loud scream, and I sucked in air, preparing to use it, but my throat was so dry I wasn't sure how much volume I could manage. With a quick movement I slipped my purse over my head, gripping the strap with one hand, ready to surrender it or use it as weapon as need demanded. [...]
   I braced myself, feet apart, trying to remember through my panic what little self-defense I knew. Heel of the hand thrust upward, hopefully breaking the nose or shoving it into the brain. Finger through the eye socket -- try to hook around and pop the eye out. And the standard knee to the groin, of course. That same pessimistic voice in my mind spoke up then, reminding me that I probably wouldn't have a chance against one of them, and there were four. Shut up! I commanded the voice before terror could incapacitate me. I wasn't going out without taking someone with me. I tried to swallow so I could build up a decent scream. 
   Headlights suddenly flew around the corner, the car almost hitting the stocky one, forcing him to jump back toward the sidewalk. I dove into the road -- this car was going to stop, or have to hit me. But the silver car unexpectedly fishtailed around, skidding to a stop with the passenger door open just a few feet from me.
   "Get in," a furious voice commanded.

The car is Edward's, the voice is his own. Edward is furious at the men trying to rape Bella, but he's also upset with her for being a "magnet for trouble". This framing once again mirror's Rosalie's story, for Rosalie blames her own beauty for her rape, as if the one had anything to do with the other. In both cases, the narrative takes the responsibility from the guilty perpetrators and places it on the innocent victim who had little choice in their victimization: Rosalie did not choose to be beautiful and Bella did not choose to be clumsy.

Over the new few pages, it will be Edward's emotion, Edward's fury, that receives the bulk of the narrative attention. Bella's emotion is an afterthought, and when the afterthought comes it will turn out that she has nothing really to add. Her emotion is repressed in favor of Edward's. After all, Bella was only very nearly gang-raped for the first time in her life; Edward, on the other hand, was forced to struggle with his murderous impulses and barely restrained temper that has been with him for more than a century.

I think we all know what's more important here. Edward certainly does.

69 comments:

Amaryllis said...

She is looking directly at someone who might not mock her for her theories, someone who could perhaps offer valuable advice and worthwhile reading outside of The Google. But Bella turns away with a sneer because she knows that Ancient Mystical Legends dispensed by white people cannot possibly have value.

No doubt you're right about Bella's assumptions. But I think there's probably another assumption in play here as well: the woman is described as fiftyish, graying hair, looking like a leftover from the Sixties. And of course an older woman, especially an older woman who isn't even trying to keep up with contemporary standards of feminine fashion, has nothing of value to say to anyone. She's not, in fact and as Bella would put it, "normal."

Good post on the rest of it. I to am sick of the "rescued from gang-rape" scene.

Majromax said...

And of course an older woman, especially an older woman who isn't even trying to keep up with contemporary standards of feminine fashion, has nothing of value to say to anyone. She's not, as Bella would put it, "normal."

I wonder if it isn't a type of dog-whistle. Even more than the secondary implication of racism re: Old Legends, it sends a message about what sources are authoritative.

"Yes," the story says, "we have a plot about a teenager and vampires. But we're not that kind"of story with all the hippy voodoo witchcraft magic."

TW: Discussion of rape in fiction and patriarchal standards related to rape
Good post on the rest of it. I too am sick of the "rescued from gang-rape" scene.

Because narratively, it's cheap. It's being used as a token Traumatic Event, like an inexperienced Dungeon Master just rolled 3d10 and selected from the Personal Tragedy table. In poorly-written examples like this, not even the characters involved respond with a realistic emotional range. The typical, uncritical reader is just left out in the cold.

The gang part of the trope just intensifies the fail. If we're going by a patriarchal "hierarchy of rapes," then manipulated/ignored consent from a romantic partner would be the least-rapey, and violent, sudden, stranger-rape would be the most rapey. Adding "gang rape on a deserted public street" hits all the most rapiest rapetastical rapitude buttons, without the discomfort of actually resonating with readers. It wins the rape bingo without sparking uncomfortable emotions in most readers.

TW: Hypothetical rape scenarios in Twilight

Imagine if Schrödinger's Rapist Mike had collapsed his wavefunction differently: suppose instead of being interrupted by Edward when Bella was passing out, he'd taken her into a deserted classroom and began loosening her shirt "so she could get some more air" before Edward came along. Suppose that the reason that Bella doesn't talk too much to Charlie is that he's always giving her uncomfortable stares and buying her slinky lingerie "to be more comfortable around the house."

Those would be overtly creepy, disturbing, and unsettling, demanding realistic responses in both the characters and readers. This, though? It's diminishing rape to nothing but a trope; it's disrespectful of both women and literature.

Cupcakedoll said...

"Yes," the story says, "we have a plot about a teenager and vampires. But we're not that kind of story with all the hippy voodoo witchcraft magic."

That's how I read that bit too; Meyer telling the readers we're having THIS type of story not THAT type of story. Titles escape me, but I know I've read one or two YA paranormals in which the local pagans/hippies/newagers are useful allies and sources of wisdom.

Poor Bella, troubles by supernatural creatures but unable to ask for help from the one type of supernatural that keeps business hours and advertises in the phone book!

Caretaker of Cats said...

"Angela was passively happy to be going to the dance, but not really interested in Eric. Jess tried to get her to confess who her type was, but I interrupted with a question about dresses after a bit, to spare her. Angela threw a grateful glance my way."

New In-My-Head-Canon: Angela has a crush on Bella and Eric functions as her beard for the dance. Jessica is suspicious but isn't going to outright call her on it, hence the teasing.

Ana Mardoll said...

Poor Bella, troubles by supernatural creatures but unable to ask for help from the one type of supernatural that keeps business hours and advertises in the phone book!

And (assuming magic can be learned), it would provide humans with a source of power and agency in a story where they currently have none.

Brin Bellway said...

It had been a while since I'd had a girls' night out, and the estrogen rush was invigorating.

I was just at a Girl Guide sleepover, as it happens, so perhaps I can draw from that experience.

Jess tried to get her to confess who her type was, but I interrupted with a question about dresses after a bit, to spare her. Angela threw a grateful glance my way.

Weird. Maybe just a different group. Sex talks were strictly volunteer in the two chattings with groups of teenage girls I've had that I can think of off the top of my head (both with roughly the same people involved). I probably would have answered if anyone asked*, but nobody did.

*Maybe even tried to explain why I was wearing a hematine ring on my right middle finger, if I was feeling brave. (Oddly enough, despite having very little jewellery, I already owned a black ring.)

"Estrogen rush"? Okay, um, estrogen is for, like, old ladies like my mom, and also is associated with her lady-bits and menopause so, um, ew.

I don't know, it doesn't really seem off to me. We used to call the group of boys at the playground the "Tribe of Y", because chromosomes.

silveradept said...

Is anyone perturbed by the fact that, apparently, Lauren has been cold-shouldering and evil-eying Bella for this long over Tyler and noobody has mentioned the reason for Lauren's malice to this point? And further perturbed that nobody has asked Bella what she thinks about taking Tyler to the dance? Tyler has said "I'm taking Bella to the dance" and nobody has thought to question this? Or to ask Bella whether she's taking Tyler as a sympathy date or whether she actually wants him? Is Twilight-Forks so steeped in...Patriarchy?...that anything a man says is automatically taken as fact, even if women are directly involved in that statement, and nobody bothers to check?

Maybe that's another reason why Bella dismisses the bookstore owner as without merit, because not only is she clearly a hippie pagan and We Don't Truck With That, but she's a Woman, and we know that women are automatically inferior when it comes to the veracity of anything.

I think Caretaker of Cats is on to something - not that Ms. Meyer would necessarily even put hints that everybody in Forks isn't absolutely cis and straight. That might be my head-canon, too.

TW for Rape, Patriarchy, Rapists, and Authors in Darkest Sketch Territory.

Of course, if that's the case, based on the fact that we have random strangers doing a lot more than saying "Ni!" to old ladies in Port Angeles, I can guess that Angela is trying to stay firmly closeted, lest she come across the unwanted attentions of Mike or others in Forks who would believe that it's their job to "correct" Angela's orientation to its "proper" place through repeated gang-rape. That, statistically speaking, is still more likely than Bella's random-strangers-as-rapists scenario that we get instead.

Also, Bella's internalized victim-blaming is really sad. Makes her a great target for Edward's abusive self, but it's very sad. I'm also betting that the pepper spray can is going to be mentioned, too, as something she should have always had with her if she didn't want to be victimized.

One other interesting characterization to note here - while Bella is blaming herself, and is downplaying her ability, but there's this core of determination - when her back's against the wall, figuratively or otherwise, Bella gets very decisive and almost aggressive about pursuing what she wants. It's like she has to feel like she doesn't have any other choice before she feels like she can act. "I may be a helpless female against four concerted men ready to rape me, but I'll be fragged if I don't make at least one of them hurt and suffer for it."

This chapter sort of shows what Twilight-as-horror-story could be, but it chooses to go for the dehumanizing "stranger-danger" thing rather than for the thriller of people close to you turning out to be rotten at the core. Not to mention how much extra darkness you can get out of trying to figure out how far down the conspiracy goes and how many townspeople are part of the Stepford experience.
[/TW]

Silver Adept said...

One other thing of note - Lauren has apparently been giving Bella the evil eye and the nasty behavior for quite some time now over Tyler's comment, and yet nobody seems to thought it important to inform Bella about the reason for this attack?

Or worse, nobody seems to have thought it important to inform Bella that Tyler was telling everyone that he was taking Bella to the dance, to ask her whether or not she was doing it as a sympathy date for Tyler, or whether she saw something in him after he nearly ran her down. Are we so steeped in...Patriarchy?...here in Forks that anything a man says is automatically taken as truth, even if it involves other people?

Maybe that's another reason Bella ignores the potentially good source in the bookstore owner - she's a Woman, and that automatically means she can't be full of always-true knowledge - that's the Menfolk Department.

I think I'm with Caretaker of Cats on the question of Angela. S. Meyer would never provide any sort of hint that might suggest anyone wasn't completely cis and straight, but we can speculate. If Angela does have a crush on Bella, though, that probably means Angela is also trying to stay firmly closeted, because...

TW for rape

...if Twilight-world has roving bands of young men willing to gang-rape any young woman they come across, there's a high probability that small-town, probably-conservative Forks would have some attendees at the high school (or people outside the town) that believes that Angela would need to have her sexuality "corrected" through the application of repeated gang-rape. Darkest Sketch interpretation suggests Mike and his band of popular kids are the likely culprits, although that may not need to be nearly as Dark Sketch after what we learned of, say, Mitt Romney in his college days with someone he believed to be gay. In any case, Angela being quiet and shy might have to do with her height, sure, but it also might have to do with what sort of homophobic slurs might accompany a tall woman, especially if she doesn't fully embrace the sexist culture that says she should be eye candy and exhibitionistic about it.

[/TW]

Marie Brennan said...

And (assuming magic can be learned), it would provide humans with a source of power and agency in a story where they currently have none.

I think that's spot-on. Humans are the most uninteresting creatures in the world, in this book. Only vampires and werewolves are worth spending time on, and only vampires are something you should want to be.

bekabot said...

"And (assuming magic can be learned), it would provide humans with a source of power and agency in a story where they currently have none."

I have lots of decided opinions about this scene. The shortest-form one is that it's like an outtake from The Craft in which Bella's initiation as a witch fails to come off, necessitating her eventual initiation as a vampire.

(I just watched Dark Shadows and enjoyed the heck out of it despite the fact that it's super dumb. Shrug.)

Loquat said...

I too am sick of the "rescued from gang-rape" scene.

When I heard there was going to be a new Spider-Man movie with totally different actors, I was intrigued. When I saw the trailer for it, which centered around Spider-Man saving Mary Jane from gang rape by strangers, I facepalmed.

depizan said...

TW: rape

When I read Twilight I missed that this was happening at getting off of work time and imagined it was well into night. That doesn't really help, but my brain just completely rejects the scene as written. Not because it's impossible, but because it's so incredibly bloody implausible. And because it plays into a horrible victim blamey, all-rape-is-stranger-rape, women shouldn't go anywhere unaccompanied, be sure to live in fear mentality. If you, as a woman, have the gall to go into the "wrong" part of town (and do we even want to think about why the part of town is "wrong"?), rape gangs will just burble out of the woodwork and get you. Unless a man is around to save you.

None of what follows applies to reality or should be assumed to speak to what a real person should do/should have done. Fiction is different, because it is written by someone in total control of all the players and the setting and all.
How, if it's only 5pm-ish, are there no other people around? No store, no restaurant, no 7-11, no anything? (Even a bar, though I'd totally understand why a person wouldn't feel that was a safe haven.) Why does this group of people feel so safe in their pursuit of her? What were they doing there before they saw Bella? What the hell kind of part of town is this? The whole thing is giving me a "how convenient for the author" error. And I am not inclined to accept convenience when it's in service of this kind of thing.

Makabit said...

TW: Rape

The problem I have with this is that if Edward is going to save Bella from a gang rape, the logical place for it to happen, and people to perpetrate it, as folks have pointed out, is back home, at school or someone's house, and her classmates. (I would, however, for the record, like to point out that, despite his bad reputation here, I don't see Mike as a probable perp. I persist in seeing Mike as a nice, rather idiotic young man who was never taught not to be a patriarchal asshole, but has limits. If he were actively contemplating rape, I think Edward would be less amused with him. At least, I certainly hope so.)

It makes more sense that way. It makes more sense because it's statistically more likely to happen. It makes sense because Edward knowing what's up and arriving on the scene makes more sense that way. It makes more sense because...IT MAKES MORE SENSE. Also, it makes more sense in terms of Bella wanting to be a vampire. If the humans in your world--the people you're meant to identify with, seek friends and romantic partners among--are able to do this to you, hells yeah, who wouldn't want to be undead, and BTW, able to rip any of their throats out?

I do have to say that the line about 'I was being herded' gave me a shock of recognition. I've had that realization, although there was only one guy, that I saw, anyway. I was in a position to move into a much more heavily-travelled area, and lose him.

But it's just...it's too perfect. She's a complete stranger in this town, she just goes off for no apparent reason--she's not trying to find anything, she's just marching around--and walks until she finds a poorly described random part of town...where is she, the docks? Conveniently, a group of men show up and stage a scary and threatening display of power, but never actually say anything crude to her, or get close enough to touch--their intentions are, in fact, almost Victorian in their 'we get it, but they never actually say so' quality and then Edward swoops out of the heavens like a deus ex machina glitterball...

It's not that all the different parts of this haven't happened to many people, if you know what I mean, (besides Rescue Vampire) it's that it's a hard sell that this particular combination of events happened to Bella Swan. And the event as it stands makes absolutely no sense in terms of the plot.

depizan said...

TW: rape

Exactly. Right down to it making more sense for her to get cornered by classmates - a party gone bad, whatever. That's not a hard sell at all. This is just, well, too perfect.

Of course, the plausible version would have to have fallout and it's clear that Meyers didn't want to deal with that.

Smilodon said...

TW: Rape, manipulation/isolation (gaslighting?)

Makabit made me think of something. Other than Bella's fear and Edward's word, do we have any proof that they actually are rapists? I mean, the herding doesn't even make sense - she turns a corner and sees the second group of men. How did they possibly make her turn, instead of continuing straight on? Unless there's something missing in the section that Ana posted, I can see in another book that this section would be about the way we teach children (especially girls) to be afraid.

(I remember as a child/teen being in situations where I needed help, and being frightened to ask a stranger for directions, or for help walking when the sidewalks were sheer ice, because Stranger Danger.)

If that was the case, then Edward is pretty scary. He isolates her from her friends. If she wants to eat lunch with him, she does it at his table with his friends, not at hers. If she skips a school dance with her friends, he rewards her with a day with him. And now he isolates her from strangers on the street, telling her that anyone she meets might be a threat, that she'd better not go anywhere alone or responsible for anyone he kills.

I don't want to minimize anyone's experiences - I know that sometimes strangers are dangerous, and that fear is often a sign to be careful. I just wonder here how much Edward is making Bella scared of dealing with the world without his protection.

Launcifer said...

TW: Random acts of violence:

There's something that's been bugging me about this whole scenario since I read it yesterday, but it wasn't until I read through Depizan's and Makabit's posts that I started to put my finger on what it was. Other people have already articulated my thoughts on the sheer strangeness of the scenario as written more eloquently than I ever could, but the thing that worries me most is the fact it seems to come with the inbuilt notion that there's somehow a "right" place to be and that if Bella had only known that then things would've been hunky dory. I don't think such a place exists I find the idea that Meyer thinks it does frankly disturbing.

Little story that might better illustrate the thought buzzing around in my head. I was waiting for a lift along with my best friend in the early hours of saturday morning. We'd just been to a club - pretty much the only rock club in my city - and there were probably a hundred people on the street, most of them looking pretty much like I do. There was a group of street pastors handing out various pastory things by the front doors and four or five police officers about five metres up the road.

Four very drunk blokes crossed the street, pushed through the crowd around me, declared my hair to be gay and started taking swings. Nobody offered me any help, not the police, the pastors, the people on the street or the doorstaff to the club I'd just left. The only person who helped me out was the friend I'd been out with. Nobody bothered to help her, either, when the men decided to split their attentions between the two of us.

Thankfully, we weren't badly hurt, but the point of it is that I was in the sort of place I think someone Meyer would mean when they get into the victim-blaming spiel: I was a face in the crowd amongst people from my - subculture - I guess, with police on hand alongside other people who might be expected to intervene either by dint of profession or vocation and even people who'd known me for years. I wasn't drunk and I was happily considering the end of my cigarette, thoroughly minding my own business - and someone else still thought it would be fun to try and give me a pasting.

Maybe it's the after-effects of my weekend, but I don't think there's a single aspect of this passage of the novel that doesn't fill me with a host of worries not only concerning the author's worldview but also the simple fact that I don't think we inhabit the same planet.

[/ramble]

Randomosity said...

I've been to Seattle. The piers are a tourist attraction and there are way cool awesome shops all along the pier area. I highly recommend the clam chowder at Ivar's. This is a safe, well-lit, busy place and there is no way Bella would be alone there, out of sight of potential witnesses.

My issue with this bit is not so much the potential rape, but the shifting focus on Edward's feelings and not Bella's. She was the one who was in danger but it's all about Edward. It turns the rape into a property crime and not the crime of personal assault that it is.

This brings up a serious peeve of mine and of a friend. We were discussing this with her boyfriend, who in all obliviousness, didn't see how objectifying it is when men take vengeance against men not by acting directly against the man, but by attacking his female relatives. He seemed to think that was the best way to attack a man and we double-teamed him into seeing our point of view.

His point of view was that to hurt a man, instead of going after him directly, you go after what he cares about the most, and that is often a family member. Our point of view is that crimes of violence are not property crimes, when you kidnap/rape/murder someone, it's a crime against the person who was kidnapped/raped/murdered, not the closest male relative, who now gets to seek vengeance.

I'm tired of the female victim/male avenger trope.

Here is a refreshing exception to that. Serious spoiler warning, but I can't for the life of me remember the title of the movie. I want to own it and my IMDB-fu skills are not equal to the task.

In the 1980s, my dad and I saw a movie in the theater about a man trying to catch a serial killer who was killing men and mutilating their genitalia. Turns out the killer was a woman who was gang-raped by these men. As soon as that was revealed, my allegiance shifted to the serial killer. I was rooting for her instead of the protagonist. Finally a woman seeking vengeance her own self! And she's doing the world a service by getting rid of rapists!

depizan said...

I've been to Seattle.

They're not in Seattle, though, they're in Port Angeles. Not that that detracts from the "where the hell is everybody, two sentences ago it was getting off work time" problem.

I'm tired of the female victim/male avenger trope.

Oh hell yes. I'm not all that thrilled with the female victim trope, period - regardless of what sort of victimization we're discussing. Mostly because it's used so often to punish characters or remove their power. (Or at least that's how it comes off to me.) Too often, there's a...a nastiness to it that bothers me. It never comes off the same as, say, The Rockford Files, where the male protagonist is often beaten up, kidnapped, etc, but it never feels like the universe is saying "you shouldn't be a PI."

This just fits into that. Bella isn't allowed to save herself, she has to be saved by Edward. She did something by herself and the universe when "nope, you shouldn't do that."

Randomosity said...

Dezipan: Right you are! I saw references to piers and docks and instantly my mind conjured up the Seattle waterfront.

cjmr said...

I read that scene as occurring around or maybe a bit after dusk, not in full daylight.

I grew up near Metro Detroit, and the 'touristy waterfront' and 'cultural corridor' areas downtown *were* literally 2-3 blocks away from other areas that were poorly-lit and full of abandoned warehouses and shops that got 'caged' for the night. (Mind you, as long as it weren't winter, they'd still be only slightly off-putting at 5 p.m.) I think that the casinos and the new ball parks have cleaned up that area quite a bit...

depizan said...

Oh, hell, yes, there are cities like that. Even Omaha, who's metro area I lived in for years, was a bit that way. There were parts of town where one could wander from perfectly nice to WTF am I doing here? in a matter of blocks. There are a few places like that in the city I currently live in.

But in Port Angeles, WA? Great metropolis of 19,000 people? It's possible, sure, (anyone from the area care to report in on this?) but this is fiction we're talking about. It doesn't matter what's real, so much as what sounds right. This scene just reads as convenient rather than believable. At least to me. Especially with the description going from streets filled with people getting off work to OMGBBQ scary people and no one else in a matter of paragraphs. This is horror movie reality.

DavidCheatham said...

JESS DROVE FASTER THAN THE CHIEF, SO WE MADE IT TO Port Angeles by four. It had been a while since I'd had a girls' night out, and the estrogen rush was invigorating.

I'm glad I'm not the only person who thought 'estrogen rush' was a little odd.

First I understood it as 'Doing something that caused a rush of estrogen', and I couldn't figure out what, exactly, that was supposed to be. 'Hanging out and talking to other women' causes a rush of estrogen in women?

That seems somewhat sexist. Men are programmed by their hormones to be aggressive, women are programmed to talk with other women! Uh...no. Let's not go there.

So I was going to post this, and then halfway through I realized that Meyer's _might_ mean 'the rush of being surrounded by estrogen[-containing people]', which does make reasonable sense as a metaphor. But if so, it's fairly clumsy writing.

I grew up near Metro Detroit, and the 'touristy waterfront' and 'cultural corridor' areas downtown *were* literally 2-3 blocks away from other areas that were poorly-lit and full of abandoned warehouses and shops that got 'caged' for the night.

This. There's an area of Atlanta, the South end of Midtown, that is fairly nice...it has Georgia Tech, the Fox Theatre, the Woodruff Arts Center, the High Museum of Art, etc, along with the new Atlantic Station. But walk two blocks away in one of various wrong directions, and you are in some very dangerous residential areas. (Or, at least, they used to be, I have no idea if that's still true.)

Same with Buckhead, which is another district of Atlanta. There's a safe area that consists of all the nightlife...and there's an unsafe area that surrounds it. (Granted, the 'safe' area isn't always safe either.)

depizan said...

Er, every time someone sites a large metropolitan area to back up the idea that Bella could wander into a bad part of town in Port Angeles*, it just confirms my belief that the scene is convenient. Because Bella is not in a large metropolitan area, and yet, this is what people are imagining.

I make no claims about reality, but there is something really disturbing about an author who writes about a character who hails from a genuine large metropolitan area, yet is shown to be incapable of wandering around a town safely. The whole scene just drips with icky implications to me.


*Which may well have bad parts of town out here in reality. In a book, if your town suddenly morphs into a large city, you've probably done something wrong. Unless it's that kind of a book.

Ana Mardoll said...

The thing that irks me that I didn't touch on in text yet is the classism inherent in Edward/Mike/Tyler/Forksians are not rapists, but warehouse-workers are. Yeeech.

(And, to above, it is an assault. I'm sorry my cuts were unclear, as I should have thought of that. I was thinking of triggers.)

depizan said...

Yep, there's an undercurrent of classism to it as well. There's just so much wrong in so little space. And most of the wrong could've been avoided if Meyer had used a different scenario. Granted, I'd rather she hadn't included any kind of assault/rescue scene. I don't like them to begin with, for reasons already mentioned.

And the chapter just keeps getting better. Oh, no, wait, I mean the other thing.

cjmr said...

Not everyone does research to read a novel, though. I had no idea of how big Port Angeles is. Population-wise, apparently it is the same size as the town I live in now, which doesn't even have tall enough buildings to *have* a scary part of town. And is rural-sprawly enough to not even really have blocks. (Although the Indian cemetery *is* said to be haunted...)

Now that I know more about the town, the situation becomes more implausible sounding.
----
Re: classism against warehouse workers

Does Bella/the author ever come out and say they are warehouse workers? Or are they just guys who happened to be hanging out at the waterfront who hatch a hasty plan to try their luck since Ms. "Clearly Oblivious to Her Surroundings" has wandered into an area where there may be no one around to hear her scream?

chris the cynic said...

Granted, I'd rather she hadn't included any kind of assault/rescue scene.

On the one hand, I agree entirely especially given the type of assault and the context of the book. On the other hand, if Edward had turned out to be a superhero as was originally floated* and the attempted assault had been non-sexual, and the result hadn't been, "Let's get together now," but instead, "Am I just imagining it or did Marble Man seem a lot like Edward?" I think it could sort of be kind of defensible if still extremely lazy.

Because then you have reasons to do everything.

The sudden threat of violence and Bella's later lack of real response to it would illustrate why there was a need for Edward to dress in a silly suit and fight crime instead of putting his powers to use advancing the field of psychiatric medicine by using his powers to introduce the first objective means of comparing the mental conditions of patients. It wouldn't just be "Crime: it can happen to anyone," because Bella's non-response would indicate that it's reached the point where it's so bad that even when it happens to you personally it's really not surprising and you just act like nothing happened because that's the new normal.

Edward's saving her wouldn't be so much, "I've saved your life twice, stick around and maybe I can get a turkey," as giving Bella an opportunity to see Marble Man up close so that her belief that there's some kind of connection could be based on something more likely to show recognizable similarities (beyond biped with two arms and a head) than newsfootage and shaky cellphone videos on youtube. Thus her belief that Edward and Marble Man: The Cold Hand of Justice might be the same person seems less like convenient first person omniscience.

I was going to write rather more, but I forgot all of it.

-

* Which seems a bad idea to me because it then invites one to compare, "With great power comes great responsibility," with Twilight's alternative of, "With great power comes great apathy and feelings of superiority." Twilight does not emerge from that comparison favorably. Edward et al.'s total disregard for human life outside of their personal dietary concerns is deplorable.

Brin Bellway said...

Firefox is doing that thing it does sometimes where it loads enough for me to read the comments but not like or add to them, so I logged in using Opera just to like Chris's post. I was worried by the time it started working again I would've forgotten I hadn't already done it.

(Marble Man: The Cold Hand of Justice.)

bificommander said...

They might not say they're dockworkers, but there's the line about their clothing. They're dressed SOOO lowerclass, all grimey and not fit for a respectable office job at all.

TW: planning assault, rape
I realize this is a minor point on the sheer volume of horror here but speaking as someone who admittedly never worried about being 'herded' nor ever planned to do so himself, how does this work? Two are behind Bella. Bella walks away from them. She decides which direction she walks in. How do the men behind her control that? Is it just to keep her nervous while the other two anticipate which direction would appear safest to Bella, and run to the unsafest spot between their starting point and actual safety? Because that sounds like a sizable amount of planning for this group. They passed Bella and without time or opportunity for a long, spoken-out-loud planning session, split up with half of them going to the exact place she would be going, fast enough to be lounging right when an already quickly walking Bella will most likely be, but not so fast as to make their running audible. Even if it is their home town, that seems like a very intricate strategy to just come up with during a chance meeting.

Beroli said...

They might not say they're dockworkers, but there's the line about their clothing. They're dressed SOOO lowerclass, all grimey and not fit for a respectable office job at all.

TW: planning assault, rape
I realize this is a minor point on the sheer volume of horror here but speaking as someone who admittedly never worried about being 'herded' nor ever planned to do so himself, how does this work? Two are behind Bella. Bella walks away from them. She decides which direction she walks in. How do the men behind her control that? Is it just to keep her nervous while the other two anticipate which direction would appear safest to Bella, and run to the unsafest spot between their starting point and actual safety? Because that sounds like a sizable amount of planning for this group. They passed Bella and without time or opportunity for a long, spoken-out-loud planning session, split up with half of them going to the exact place she would be going, fast enough to be lounging right when an already quickly walking Bella will most likely be, but not so fast as to make their running audible. Even if it is their home town, that seems like a very intricate strategy to just come up with during a chance meeting.
I get the impression that, in Stephenie Meyer's view, rapists don't really do anything but rape. Of course they're never anyone you really knew beforehand; any more than the most casual conversation with them would reveal what they are. Bella was perfectly safe being alone and fainting with Mike or being dragged to Edward's car; she knew them well enough to know that they're clearly people, not rapists. Rapists roam around in packs looking for victims, rather like vampires in a different kind of novel.

bificommander said...

Yeah, that was the impression it left on me. That this pack of poorly dressed men are in fact such "professionals" (there are no air quotes big enough) that they have pre-planned maneuvers all worked out, depending on where they first see a woman and where she's likely to go.

cjmr said...

Does the Bella-verse have cell phones with texting at this point? It would seem simple enough to me to stay in contact with the other half of the 'trap' that way and send them where they needed to be. Also, streets that have 'T' or 'L' intersections in an area where all the properties are fenced would work well as a 'cattle yard'.

(Not saying that Port Angeles has these, just saying this isn't the implausible part, IMO.)

(Suddenly wonders if part of the division in the plausibility of the situation works out to whether the person reading the scene has ever lived where there is a fair amount of gang activity.)

chris the cynic said...

Port Angeles seems to be built on an extremely consistent grid with just about every possible intersection being four ways. The obvious exceptions being the around the edges and around the edges of large things. If she'd come up against the golf course, for example, then we could say two things, one is that she's surrounded by people's houses, the other is that she's hitting a T intersection.

In fact, looks like just about any T or L intersection she might find would be in a residential area.

Now, one could try to use that to argue that she's not running up against a T or an L intersection, because she's not in a residential area, but the truth is that I think we have to ignore Port Angeles entirely. Bella is very clearly stated to have left the right part of town by heading southerly. On the one hand this is probably wise since if Meyer had sent her northward that would have left her in the water, on the other hand the only thing for her to find to the south are houses. Lots and lots of houses. Depending on exactly where she is she might also encounter a fire department or a Starbucks, but mostly what she'll find are houses.

Unless the satellite photos are wrong/unbelievably misleading, or the town has changed a lot in the past seven years, Bella's adventure is geographically impossible. Port Angeles is composed mostly of houses which reach to, and in areas intermingle with, the shops. As soon as she was south of the shops she'd be surrounded by people's yards, not warehouses.

When I saw the name "Bella Italia" on the map and remembered that there was a plan for an Italian restaurant I checked, and that was where the three of them planned to eat, and the only reason they didn't do so immediately was that the shopping took less time than they expected. That means that Meyer has indeed placed Bella in downtown. Bella meanders a bit after that, so we can't say exactly where she goes or what she does before turning southward, but there is nowhere she could go where her fateful journey southward wouldn't place her in the middle of houses instead of warehouses. Unless she's at the edge of some obstruction, the streets she'll find in her journey through these houses will be laid out on a very regular grid.

Thus the area she finds herself in doesn't exist, not even a little.

Also, as noted by others, Port Angeles is fracking tiny. I don't have a figure on the population when Bella was there, but it's chronologically halfway between 18,397 and 19,038*.

I thought where I lived was small.

-

* So one could guess around 18,717 and Eric the Half a Bee, but that assumes steady growth which there is no reason to assume.

kbeth said...

The "estrogen rush" seemed to me to be more about what they were discussing -- not that it was just hanging out and talking to other women, but that they were a group of women gossiping about clothes and romance. Whenever I got into this kind of conversation with my female friends as a teenager, one in particular would always say something like "Guys I'm drowning in all the estrogen here." I think it rings true in this passage because this is exactly the kind of situation in which a teenager would use that kind of language -- to acknowledge that what's going on is very stereotypical, with the hope that that acknowledgement will defuse the awkwardness of acting according to stereotype and stop others from judging too much. (I think this also explains the usage of "whiny" to describe the music.) Of course, this tactic works much better in the real world than in a book where the author, you know, controls everything that happens.

cjmr said...

So apparently Stephanie Myers is as familiar with the street layout/geography/traffic patterns of Port Angeles as LaJenkins are with the street layout/geography/traffic patterns of Chicago and Manhattan. Which is to say, not at all.

depizan said...

Oh dear.

I'll forgive geography fail sometimes (though I vastly prefer authors not engage in it when at all possible), but I absolutely won't forgive it for a scene like this. This is not a scene that grew out of the story she was telling, this is a scene Meyer plopped into her story with no regard for whether it fit. Ten point from Gryffindor (or whatever house Meyer would belong to).

Of course, as we progress we're going to be subtracting more points for time fail and people fail. And that's just this chapter. *sigh*

chris the cynic said...

That explanation makes me even more confused. Bella doesn't like gossiping about clothes and romance. It's something the consistently disses and dismisses to the point that her detesting such talk is the primary reason that we know that the prattling babbling jabbering Jessica talks all the time but know almost nothing of what Jessica actually says.

All of a sudden this bit of consistent characterization has been turned on its head and she suddenly finds it invigorating?

Ana Mardoll said...

(Suddenly wonders if part of the division in the plausibility of the situation works out to whether the person reading the scene has ever lived where there is a fair amount of gang activity.)

Interestingly enough, what I could find in terms of gang-rape statistics was that actual rapes by actual Gangs (as opposed to merely a "group") are apparently largely directed at internal- or rival-members. (Bella, of course, is neither.)

That surprised me a little.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'll forgive geography fail sometimes (though I vastly prefer authors not engage in it when at all possible), but I absolutely won't forgive it for a scene like this.

I'm in a similar boat. I really prefer authors just make up their own towns since while I do not usually check, if they suddenly pop out with something I know about, it flings me from the narrative.

Take Texas. It's a standard trope to treat the whole place as a cowboy infested desert, and there ARE PLACES LIKE THAT. But if you set your cowboy infested desert in [insert several Texas towns here], I am going to feel a big waahey??

Better to just set everything in Bouston, Odetta, Mallas, Laustin, etc. In my opinion, as a reader.

Someone asked about cell phones: they exist because the Cullens own them. HOWEVER, apparently (buh??) Carlisle keeps everyone's cell phone on his person and hands them out in emergencies. Which is totally not weird and creepy and jarring to me.

cjmr said...

Yes, mostly gangs 'herd' rival gang's members (for fights generally, not rapes) or members 'in need of punishment'. Mugging/purse snatching victims sometimes are also 'herded' though.

kbeth said...

Oh, I definitely agree, that Bella would find it invigorating doesn't make any sense at all. I was just commenting on the discussion about whether or not it's realistic that teenagers would use words like that, since no one else had said anything about the implied tone that I thought was relevant to the scene. Although now that I think about it, that we'd get such words from Bella both fits with what we know of her and also makes the tone a bit harsher: phrases like "estrogen rush" become less about acknowledgement and more about dismissal. Though maybe there's always an element of implied dismissal in there, and that's why the acknowledgement tactic works at all. Still doesn't explain why Bella suddenly enjoys it even as she dismisses it, though.

Caretaker of Cats said...

This scenario makes more sense if I imagine Meyer's search engine back in the day popping out a picture of the Port of Los Angeles instead of Port Angeles.

Gelliebean said...

This is what bothers me the most about it:

"My steps had to slow now. I was closing the distance between myself and the lounging pair too quickly. I had a good loud scream, and I sucked in air, preparing to use it, but my throat was so dry I wasn't sure how much volume I could manage. With a quick movement I slipped my purse over my head, gripping the strap with one hand, ready to surrender it or use it as weapon as need demanded....
I braced myself, feet apart, trying to remember through my panic what little self-defense I knew. Heel of the hand thrust upward, hopefully breaking the nose or shoving it into the brain. Finger through the eye socket -- try to hook around and pop the eye out. And the standard knee to the groin, of course.... I wasn't going out without taking someone with me. I tried to swallow so I could build up a decent scream."

This could have been so, so perfect.

In a world where Bella interacted with her father at all, it wouldn't be "what little self defense" she knows, it would be "what Dad said to do if this ever happened." Charlie Swan is a lifetime cop. You can betcher sweet patootie he would be showing Bella everything he can think of to keep her from getting hurt the way people he sees at work do.

Leaving aside the question of whether it makes sense for her to wind up in the situation in the first place, there is still so much potential. Bella recognizes a potential threat to her own safety. She prepares mentally and physically to defend herself. I'm not saying she has to be SuperActionGirl, but she's aware of her surroundings and actually exercising some agency on her own behalf! This is an enormous step forward from everything we've seen of her to date....

And then right before she has a chance to do anything at all, Sparkleboi pops in to sweep her away and growl at her. Epic Fail right on the cusp of greatness. :-(

Lliira said...

That makes me think that those four men should have been vampires. It would have made sense for them to "herd" Bella, to work in concert like that whenever a yummy-smelling human came along. It would also have made for a more exciting scene that was dangerous for Edward as well as for Bella, as wading into a situation like that normally would be. And there would have been no question of victim-blaming. (I hope.)

Lliira said...

That never happened to me as a teenager. My groups of friends were hardly perfect, but we didn't make fun of ourselves for being girls who liked feminine things. I think femininity wasn't as despised then as it tends to be now, or at least it wasn't where I grew up.

The one time in my 35 years I can remember being with another women and both laughing at ourselves for doing something stereotypically "girly" was when my mom and I both shrieked and jumped up on chairs because there was a field mouse in the kitchen.

Ice said...

"Heel of the hand thrust upward, hopefully breaking the nose or shoving it into the brain. Finger through the eye socket -- try to hook around and pop the eye out. And the standard knee to the groin, of course...."

TW: violence, hypothetical results of attempted violence (as self-defense), hypothetical ableist questioning of clumsiness as a disability(Ana, please tell me if I'm doing this wrong)
Wow, it's almost as if SMeyers googled the most common self-defense techniques that anyone can learn from watching any single action movie or television show, and used only those moves. If Charlie were any good as an overprotective parent*, he would have taught her things like using her own mass as leverage, how to break out of the grasp of someone trying to restrain you by breaking their thumbs, or maybe how to hit the throat or the solar plexus, which are less common self-defense techniques (as far as what you see in the movies) and thus less commonly defended against.

Plus, if the only thing she does is try to kick one of these dudes in the groin, A: she would still have three other dudes to contend against and B: we would have to ask, does she even have the balance/technique necessary to strike without injuring herself in a "cute", "feminine", and/or infantilizing manner?

This is just a painfully implausible scene, and it makes my head hurt.

*which we've already established he isn't, but still, IF

Ana Mardoll said...

The one time in my 35 years I can remember being with another women and both laughing at ourselves for doing something stereotypically "girly" was when my mom and I both shrieked and jumped up on chairs because there was a field mouse in the kitchen.

LOL! My mother and I did this, too, and it is imminently sensible. The jump-on-the-chair keeps the mouse from biting your feet or running up your leg, and the scream alerts the other members of the house and (hopefully) the house cat. :)

chris the cynic said...

And here I thought that was an invention of fiction.

My sister would want to keep it as a pet. My mother would try to get it out of the house. I have no idea how any other woman I have ever met in person would react, since it's not the kind of thing that generally comes up in conversion.

Ana Mardoll said...

Heh. I'm very much a "keep it as pet" person, but wild mice are creepier in person than I'd expected. They can move FAST, like a blur, and there's something a bit unsettling about a wild creature with teeth that you can't easily track with the eye.

In the case where we did the chair-leap thing, our house cat came tearing in to see what all the fuss was, and he was delighted with his new meal. The mouse got away, but we boarded up the crack so he couldn't get back in.

Ana Mardoll said...

Come to think on it, we had a bird in the house once, and that was a "duck and yell" situation. So it would seem that I have some kind of Go-High/Get-Low and Holler instinct when it comes to wild animals.

Amarie said...

*sigh* ...Reading over Ana's post and all the comments makes me feel like a very, very terrible person. And I feel like a terrible person because I used to luuuuurve chapter eight simply because of the Thrilling, Damsel In Distress Trope. -___-

Granted, I was 14 when I first read "Twilight", but...forgive? : /

Ana Mardoll said...

Don't feel bad! For one, we like what we like. That's okay, and how it should be.

For two, I have Thoughts about "rape rescue" tropes and why they can be an appealing fantasy, and I intend to explore them later in this chapter. But essentially, there's a difference between "Authors! Stop doing this!" and "Readers! Stop liking this!" :)

Nicole Resweber said...

Ana got low, low, low, low... er, sorry about that.

Asha said...

Been lurking lately, but I must chime in about mice climbing legs. It happens. My cat was chasing a mouse and said mouse decided that the loose pants I was wearing were a perfect place to hide. It climbed the inside of my pants, and I didn't realize what had happened until I felt it's fur against my leg.

Lliira said...

There is nothing wrong with enjoying reading and writing rape rescue stuff. In writing, it's all about how it's executed. There are good ways and bad ways to do everything. Victim-blaming and having your "hero" be a gigantic douchecanoe who is treated like a perfect being are bad ways.

And there's nothing to forgive. It's an appealing fantasy, and not one you should feel bad for. It's done well quite often. I bet you could write one far better than Meyer's.

Amarie said...

At Ana and Lliira:

D'awww!! Thank you! Honestly, a lot of intensely problematic elements, themes, etc. in Twilight were my FAVORITE parts when I was a fan. For example, I luuuuurved how Edward handled Jacob after Bella's sexual assault and broken hand in Eclipse. And now that I'm older, I see all the Icky Yucky Objectifying Patriarchy (among other things) for what it is.

Age is funny like that. You see the same thing, but feel about it a whole new, different way. Lifted blinders are amazing. ^ ^

And, err...I don't know if I could write it better. Because then I would have included Mike, Eric, and/or Tyler to keep with specifics. And then I would have had Edward be, 1.) calm (as possible...not saying anger wouldn't be justifiable, since he cares about Bella), 2.) focused on Bella and any signs of panic attacks, hyperventilation, etc. that she may have, and therefore, working to get her to a place of privacy while making sure she's comfortable with him and 3.) intent on calling her POLICE CHIEF FATHER OR SOMEONE ELSE to deal with the potential rapists...before another woman falls prey.

*ahem* Well...thank you, guys!! :D :D :D

Ana Mardoll said...

Ironically, having read that Eclipse scene recently, Edward IS the best available reaction, unfortunately (imho). That's my opinion, anyway, based on the fact that:

1. He agrees that Jacob's behavior was wrong.
2. He agrees that Bella's behavior was justified.
3. He agrees that Jacob should be punished for what he did.
4. He chooses not to escalate to murder.

Yes, Edward is dreadful in that scene, but he's honestly the LEAST dreadful in that scene, I think. *sigh*

And age/experience/perspective is a weird thing. I used to adore Piers Anthony books, but now they squick me out quite a bit, since I've put together more coherent thoughts on his apparent gender views.

Joshua said...

I had a mouse climb my leg inside my trousers to escape the cat only two nights ago. I was programming, so didn't notice what was going on at first. It was about midnight. I yelled when I noticed it going past knee level, and woke two other people in the house.

At least I didn't climb anything though.

Joshua said...

I read a couple of Piers Anthony books once. They were in a series. I did want to find out how the story ended, but I'd be far to ashamed of myself to actually spend money on the rest. Even second hand. And also someone might see me. Erk.

GeniusLemur said...

He just drives up, gets her in the car, and drives away? I was expecting a righteous smackdown. That's how a scene like this would usually end (especially when the hero has superpowers), and just driving away is sort of a letdown. It's weird how S. Meyer does all the cliches, and then at the end, when she does something different, it's doesn't work as well as if she'd just stuck to cliches.

depizan said...

She got her cliches crossed, I think. See the "come with me if you want to live" kind of thing works great if the enemy is after that specific person. With this, one is left going "wait, what about the next person to encounter those guys?" A righteous smackdown would at least put them out of circulation for a bit.

Makabit said...

Next person? You think those guys will go on existing after Bella leaves the scene? I thought they had magically appeared out of the ether--six scruffy rapists, made to order. They'll go back to Central Casting now.

depizan said...

Ha! Silly me. You're quite right, of course.

Though... That suddenly gives me the horrible image of Edward paying them off for scaring Bella into his arms.

Bificommander said...

Wait,6? I thought there were 4, who then split up, two chasing Bella and two heading her of.

Actually, they might continue existing, it's just that we've widely established that all humans except Bella are insignificant insects. Neither Bella nor the narrative care about her alleged friends, so how much can we expect anyone to care about the next random tourist girl that takes a wrong turn? That's not a retorical question, BTW, the second book provided an answer with the group of tourist that took a wrong turn and were being led into the Volturi lair past our protagonists who shrugged and moved on. After all, Bella and Edward were safe, that's all that mattered.

Amarie said...

Oh, I do NOT blame you for that perspective, Ana! I mean, when it comes to a lot of things in the Twilight Series...you kind of have to take what you can get, yes? : /

And I tell you, I sincerely hated Chief Charlie Swan in these scenes. They were just IT for me. And you should see the conversation he has with Bella while he's driving her to her graduation party. You will L.A.U.G.H. -_____-

Ooohhh...I've never heard of Piers Anthony. *goes to research* :O

Silver Adept said...

@Amarie - [Miracle Max]Have fun with the Piers Anthony.[/Miracle Max]. Start with the Apprentice Adept series (but stop after book six, if you get that far).

@Gelliebean and @Ice - It's kind of a Thing how ill-prepared Bella is for this, considering she's the daughter of a police chief. Even with her balance issues, Bella should probably have some form of akido or judo (maybe even capoeira?) Training so that she can protect herself in a crowd or against Edward. The secondary weird here is that Bella clearly does not take the pepper spray with her as a means of personal protection, but is suddenly able to recall some amount of self-defense training when actually in the pinch? One of these things is not like the other, really. Not to mention knowing you want to hit someone in the solar plexus and actually executing it are different things...

Also, if Charlie is truly Overprotective Parent, Bella should look in her purse, to find that Charlie dropped a mace container in there before he let her out of the house. Just In Case.

I'd also be inclined to run with the theory that Edward paid the men to herd her, except I think we've already established he sucks at gaslighting. Maybe in Darkest Sketch world?

Dav said...

He is completely lost and possibly has a distinctive accent, though I confess a total lack of knowledge about the relative accents of Phoenix and Port Angeles.

Southwesterners sport a very neutral American accent, akin to Californians and, indeed, Northwesterners. I made the transition from SW to NW without noticing any difference at all, although it was not Phoenix to Port Angeles, and I never got called out for any accent at all.

The only thing that would stand out would be place names; if you're from the SW, you'll probably tend to use Spanish pronunciation for certain spellings. The Pacific NW has a much lower concentration of Latin@s, which means you may get funny looks when you refer to, say, the Dai-yaes Dam, rather than the Dalls. ("Dalles Dam" still begs for a y sound in there to my ear, but whatever.) That's in addition to the normal local pronunciation traps, which are usually locations. Do you know how to pronounce "Couch Street"? Local rivers? Know what the bridges are called? That kind of stuff will mark you as an outsider, but it's not regionally distinctive.

JonathanPelikan said...

History and Culture of the Romance Genre: I've got a troublesome and insulting trope as old as dirt!

Twilight: Oh yeah? You think that's troublesome! Wait until we add patented Edward Cullen(TM) to the mix!

Phoenix said...

I skipped the comments, but I have to tell you that this is such a refreshing and excellent read on rape culture that I had to share it.

Excellent, excellent work all the way through and I thank you.

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