Twilight: Rape Narratives, Good and Bad

Content Note: Rape, Victim Blaming, Profanity

Twilight Recap: Bella and Edward are having dinner in Port Angeles.

Twilight, Chapter 8: Port Angeles

And so here we are. The last day of Chapter 8 and do you know what? I don't want to talk about it. No, don't look at me like that, not with the puppy eyes. You've no idea how dull and repetitive I feel over here. Oh, look, Edward is victim blaming Bella for her own near-rape. Oh, look, Bella is ignoring her own near-rape and Edward's crappy behavior to focus on her personal self-loathing and to slut-shame the waitress for doing her job. Oh, look, these are terrible people and they richly deserve each other and their dull, passive-aggressive romance. *YAWN*

So, there you go, these are terrible people and they richly deserve each other. We've known that, to a certain extent, from the start, and no matter how hard I and others (you know who you are, bless your beleaguered hearts) try to rehabilitate them within the confines of the narrative, we'll still always have Chapter 8. And Italy.

Instead of doing my usual thing where I quote some text, talk about it, quote more text, talk about it, etc., today I'm going to quote some text, YELL ABOUT IT, and then talk about something more interesting: Rape Narratives and the differences between Authorial Approaches and Reader Responses! Because that interests me.

   "Usually you're in a better mood when your eyes are so light," I commented, trying to distract him from whatever thought had left him frowning and somber.
   He stared at me, stunned. "What?"
   "You're always crabbier when your eyes are black -- I expect it then," I went on. "I have a theory about that."
   His eyes narrowed. "More theories?"

IT CANNOT JUST BE ME THAT 90% OF ALL EDWARD BODY-LANGUAGE SIGNALS ARE ANGRY AND/OR VIOLENT ONES.

Chapter 8 contains a rape narrative, more specifically the Rape Rescue. And we've gone on at length about why this is incredibly cliche, harmful, packed-with-unfortunate-implications writing, but I'd like to summarize those a little. (I'll probably miss some.)

   "I hope you were more creative this time . . . or are you still stealing from comic books?" His faint smile was mocking; his eyes were still tight.
   "Well, no, I didn't get it from a comic book, but I didn't come up with it on my own, either," I confessed.
   "And?" he prompted.
   But then the waitress strode around the partition with my food. I realized we'd been unconsciously leaning toward each other across the table, because we both straightened up as she approached. She set the dish in front of me -- it looked pretty good -- and turned quickly to Edward.
   "Did you change your mind?" she asked. "Isn't there anything I can get you?" I may have been imagining the double meaning in her words.

YES, BELLA, YOU ARE IMAGINING THAT THE WAITRESS IS TRYING TO STEAL YOUR MAN JUST BECAUSE SHE'S POLITE TO HIM. STOP PERPETUATING HARMFUL PATRIARCHAL MEMES.

1. Rape Narratives are cheap to use and can cheapen real rape. Rape narratives were aptly compared in the comments to a "Random Personal Tragedy" chart in a dice-based role playing game, because it's quick and easy to reach for (Rape is a thing that exists, right?) and can be inflicted on pretty much any (usually female) character for immediate drama. Drama To The MAX! Except that this cheapens the narrative impact of the event, if it's something that everyone uses as a sort of "tragedy shorthand" and which either doesn't affect the character at all (Bella) or affects them deeply and permanently (Rosalie).

Basically, as an author, you're in a Tragedy of the Commons situation where all the other authors are using rape flippantly, and you have to decide whether or not to participate. My advice is that if you're going to use rape, use it carefully and wisely, and understand that rape usually has some effect on the victim, but may very well not change their entire character or become a defining life moment. And that the repetition of rape either being meaningless or a character event horizon is considered by many rape survivors to be insulting.

And another thing: using rape as a bad thing that happens to all your female characters is lazy. Women have lots and lots of bad things available to happen to them; if you really want a dark, grim, gritty novel, try using a little variety. Yes, 1 in 4 women are victims of sexual violence and yes, that's a really horrific number. But you'll note that it's not 1 in 1. I can kind of buy this for Bella and Rosalie because they're so obviously literary foils for each other, but in general if a novel has a critical mass of raped female characters for no self-selected reason (i.e., they all met in a survivors group meeting), then something has gone terribly wrong. 

2. Rape Narratives are (often) unrealistic and can perpetuate falsehoods about rape. Most authors aren't willing to handle rape realistically; if your book is an escapist novel -- as Twilight undoubtedly is -- there's very little that is escapist about Bella's Best Friend Mike or Dear Father Charlie being her rapist, no matter how much more likely those scenarios are than, say, gang rape in the middle of the street in the early evening of a small tourist town. So what, right? Vampires aren't real, either!

But the thing is, rape is a real thing. So by contributing to the avalanche of rape narratives that only portray a very specific type of relatively rare rape, you're also contributing to the persistent and systemic invisibling of rape victims who have been raped by family, friends, and close acquaintances. Yes, stranger-rape happens, but it's not anywhere close to comprising 90% or more of rapes, which is a rough guesstimation of what we see in fiction. This is a problem.

Furthermore, when we have roving bands of working-class men committing the majority of rapes in fiction, we lose sight of the fact that a good number of rapists are "respectable" white, older (as in, older than teens and twenties), married-or-partnered men who are, yes, known to the victim. When the only rapists we see in fiction are young men in their early twenties, prowling the warehouse district in flannel shirts and cut-off jeans, we are seeing the perpetuation of a number of ugly classist stereotypes.

   "Okay, then." I glared at him, and continued slowly. "Let's say, hypothetically of course, that . . . someone . . . could know what people are thinking, read minds, you know -- with a few exceptions."
   "Just one exception," he corrected, "hypothetically."
   "All right, with one exception, then." I was thrilled that he was playing along, but I tried to seem casual. "How does that work? What are the limitations? How would . . . that someone . . . find someone else at exactly the right time? How would he know she was in trouble?" I wondered if my convoluted questions even made sense. [...] "Let's call him 'Joe,'" I suggested.
   He smiled wryly. "Joe, then. If Joe had been paying attention, the timing wouldn't have needed to be quite so exact." He shook his head, rolling his eyes. "Only you could get into trouble in a town this small. You would have devastated their crime rate statistics for a decade, you know."
   "We were speaking of a hypothetical case," I reminded him frostily.

ARGH, EDWARD, YOU ARE THE WORST. YOU ARE SERIOUSLY BLAMING BELLA FOR THE "CRIME RATE STATISTICS" IN THIS FICTIONAL TOWN BECAUSE SOMEONE NEARLY RAPED HER?

BEYOND ALL THE AWFUL IN THAT, WHY DON'T YOU EVER BLAME YOURSELF FOR ALL YOUR MURDERY MURDERS? OH, RIGHT, YOU ARE A SPECIAL VAMPIRE BUTTERFLY. F! O! A! D!

3. Rape Narratives (often) misrepresent rape in ways that reinforce victim-blaming. Twilight is some kind of poster child for this; it's Bella's fault for being nearly-raped because she should have known better to be young, attractive, unaccompanied, and not "paying attention enough" to keep from stumbling into the clearly-marked Rape Zone. All of which assumes that Bella has control over her age and attractiveness, all of which assumes that companions aren't also rapists, all of which assumes that rapists obligingly remain in their clearly-marked-by-classism districts and never venture beyond the warehouse limits, all of which assumes that Bella has the ability to "pay attention enough" to all these things.

That's a LOT of assumptions that victim-blamers push on women and it basically adds up to one big Rape Is Your Problem being levered onto the shoulders of women. Raped? Your fault. You shouldn't have been dressed so attractively. You shouldn't have been in the wrong place. You shouldn't have been with the wrong person. You shouldn't have been alone. You shouldn't have stopped policing every little detail of your environment for even a moment. You shouldn't have left the house without a weapon. You shouldn't have had the weapon with you. You shouldn't have gotten raped.

And that -- pardon my speech -- is fucking bullshit.

If you were raped, the only person(s) responsible for that rape is the rapist(s). That's it. Period. Anyone who wants to hem or haw differently about how well, technically, yes, but for future reference is a person who has absorbed toxic patriarchal attitudes and needs to immediately read up on victim-blaming and how not to do it. And if that anyone is also a mind-reading vampire, then they are a terrible person because I refuse to believe that it is possible to be in the minds of more than 10% of the population (including a close family member who was raped to death) and not come to a more enlightened view of rape than this.

   His voice was almost a whisper. "I was wrong -- you're much more observant than I gave you credit for."
   "I thought you were always right."
   "I used to be." He shook his head again. "I was wrong about you on one other thing, as well. You're not a magnet for accidents -- that's not a broad enough classification. You are a magnet for trouble. If there is anything dangerous within a ten-mile radius, it will invariably find you."
   "And you put yourself into that category?" I guessed.
   His face turned cold, expressionless. "Unequivocally."

"I GENUINELY BELIEVE I AM A DANGER TO YOU, BUT I AM GOING TO HANG OUT WITH YOU ANYWAY AND TALK MYSELF INTO BELIEVING THAT I'M JUST BEING COMPELLED BY A MAGNETIC FORCE I CAN'T RESIST. I'M EDWARD AND I SUPPORT RAPE CULTURE!"

4. Rape Narratives obscure why rape happens. Rape doesn't happen because men can't control their penises when presented with desirable women. Rape doesn't happen because women walk into vulnerable positions that they could have and should have avoided. Rape doesn't happen because women have magnetic personalities that draw danger and penises and dangerous penises inevitably toward them. Rape doesn't happen because of any of these reasons.

Rape happens because rapists want something -- power, sex, gratification, acceptance, prestige, respect, whatever -- and they've absorbed a message from society that their desires are more important than the safety of their victims. They don't care that their victim is being seriously and deeply harmed by their selfish actions. Many of them are convinced that they don't need to behave differently, and will even admit their crimes when presented with detailed descriptions because obviously they were justified in their actions. And this is why many people view rape as a hate crime, because so many rapists Other their victims and de-personify them into Un-Persons whose needs and consent and autonomy do not have to be acknowledged.

And this Othering and Un-Personing is pretty much precisely what Edward is doing here. He's treating Bella as a magical magnet for trouble, rather than a normal young woman in a world with teen drivers and buckets of rape culture. And he's doing that othering precisely so he can justify the gratification of his own wishes (dating her) at the expense of her own safety.

Edward and Bella's relationship is complicated. I assert that she should and does have a choice to agree to be with him, that she can and should be told the risks and give her judgement on the situation. (Which isn't to say that if she wants to take the risk, Edward should be forced to comply. He has a choice to not risk murdering the woman he loves. Choices for everyone!) But that choice should be treated openly and honestly between them as a couple, and not justified in this overwrought othering that Edward just can't help himself Because. Because pretty. Because scentsy. Because sexy. Because magic. Because that shiz is rape culture, plain and clear.

Make a choice, Edward. Own it. You are an adult. Act like it. Stop blaming Bella for your decisions. NOW.

   "I followed you to Port Angeles," he admitted, speaking in a rush. "I've never tried to keep a specific person alive before, and it's much more troublesome than I would have believed. But that's probably just because it's you. Ordinary people seem to make it through the day without so many catastrophes." He paused. I wondered if it should bother me that he was following me; instead I felt a strange surge of pleasure. He stared, maybe wondering why my lips were curving into an involuntary smile.
   "Did you ever think that maybe my number was up the first time, with the van, and that you've been interfering with fate?" I speculated, distracting myself.
   "That wasn't the first time," he said, and his voice was hard to hear. I stared at him in amazement, but he was looking down. "Your number was up the first time I met you."
   I felt a spasm of fear at his words, and the abrupt memory of his violent black glare that first day . . . but the overwhelming sense of safety I felt in his presence stifled it. By the time he looked up to read my eyes, there was no trace of fear in them.

HOW SICK AM I THAT ONCE AGAIN WE ARE MORE WORRIED ABOUT EDWARD'S FEELINGS (WILL HE SEE THE FEAR IN HER EYES?) THAN BELLA'S (DOES SHE HAVE A FALSE SENSE OF SAFETY FROM GLAMOR?)? SO SICK.

So now that I've ranted about all the ways to not write Rape Narratives, I want to talk about my thoughts on why readers (and authors) find them appealing and why that's not necessarily a bad thing.

A. Rape Narratives can point out the elephant in our lives. Women get raped. Even those of us who haven't been raped live under the threat of it, whether it comes in the form of patriarchal "advice" on how to protect ourselves or if it comes in direct "how dare you be female in public" threats deliberately framed in rape language. Rape Narratives point this out in an attempt to confront reality -- rape exists, it affects women and their lives, and it sucks. Rape ended Rosalie's life; it could have ended Bella's. Rape is serious, and narratives like this attempt to take it seriously.

There exists a subset of Privileged People who don't realize this. I have absolutely known people who believed that rape was something that happens in other countries, in other cultures, by other people. Certainly not here! When confronted with personal narratives and solid statistics, these people can react with anything from shock to denial. And so narratives like these also attempt to get in those peoples' faces and aggressively point out the elephant in the room: that we live in a culture saturated with rape and with contempt for consent and bodily autonomy.

This doesn't mean that rape narratives are automatically feminist and awesomesauce. A badly-written rape narrative, as pointed out earlier, can cheapen rape by making it seem like something easily avoidable (just don't go to the warehouse district!) and obvious. But it does mean that a reader can and may see a rape narrative -- even a badly written one -- as a wake-up call to those dense people who persist in believing that rape just isn't a thing that happens, not really, not often, not here.

   "I started to drive in circles, still . . . listening. The sun was finally setting, and I was about to get out and follow you on foot. And then --" He stopped, clenching his teeth together in sudden fury. He made an effort to calm himself.
   "Then what?" I whispered. He continued to stare over my head.
   "I heard what they were thinking," he growled, his upper lip curling slightly back over his teeth. "I saw your face in his mind." He suddenly leaned forward, one elbow appearing on the table, his hand covering his eyes. The movement was so swift it startled me.
   "It was very . . . hard -- you can't imagine how hard -- for me to simply take you away, and leave them . . . alive." His voice was muffled by his arm. "I could have let you go with Jessica and Angela, but I was afraid if you left me alone, I would go looking for them," he admitted in a whisper.

YES, LET'S CONTINUE TO MAKE THIS ALL ABOUT EDWARD! THERE IS NOTHING I LOVE MORE THAN HAVING A WOMAN'S FEELINGS ABOUT HER NEAR-ASSAULT TAKE A BACKSEAT TO A MAN'S ANGST AT NOT BEING ALLOWED TO TRAUMATIZE HER FURTHER BY COMMITTING BRUTAL MULTIPLE MURDER IN FRONT OF HER.

B. Rape Narratives can let us confront the worst -- and win. Because rape really is a threat that women face, and a threat that can come from any place at any time, rape narratives provide readers an outlet to face this threat and defeat it. Whether the woman breaks out with the martial arts, or hoofs it successfully for the hills, or is rescued by the Hot Guy from school, or even -- yes -- raped and left with all the scars that can leave, the reader has voyeuristically confronted something terrible and survived. That survival in the face of the hate crime that is rape is a form of triumph.

Rosalie survived her rape and took slow vengeance on her rapists. Bella escaped her rape by the timely intervention of Edward. Both of these narratives offer an escape clause, of a kind: rape and the threat of rape is not the end. You don't have to be afraid. You'll either escape or you'll survive. That doesn't make the situation any more pleasant, but it does give it an air of manageability. The loss of control that accompanies rape has been literarily wrested back by the author and reader: This is my narrative to make, not yours

This "rape fantasy" is essentially about taking something that threatens women with a loss of their control and it's putting them in ultimate control. Whether the women emerges from the experience stronger (Rosalie, Red Sonja) or battered-but-breathing, she still emerges having faced the worst and survived. And since vicarious experiences can potentially build our self-esteem and confidence, this is something that can be very powerful indeed.

   "We're ready for the check, thank you." His voice was quiet, rougher, still reflecting the strain of our conversation. It seemed to muddle her. He looked up, waiting.
   "S-sure," she stuttered. "Here you go." She pulled a small leather folder from the front pocket of her black apron and handed it to him.
   There was a bill in his hand already. He slipped it into the folder and handed it right back to her.
   "No change." He smiled. Then he stood up, and I scrambled awkwardly to my feet.
   She smiled invitingly at him again. "You have a nice evening."
   He didn't look away from me as he thanked her. I suppressed a smile.
   He walked close beside me to the door, still careful not to touch me. I remembered what Jessica had said about her relationship with Mike, how they were almost to the first-kiss stage. I sighed. Edward seemed to hear me, and he looked down curiously. I looked at the sidewalk, grateful that he didn't seem to be able to know what I was thinking.

YOU ARE BOTH TERRIBLE PEOPLE.

EDWARD, YOU ARE TERRIBLE FOR BEING PERSISTENTLY RUDE TO THE WAITRESS AND TREATING HER LIKE A SERVANT. BELLA, YOU ARE TERRIBLE FOR BEING PLEASED THAT EDWARD IS RUDE TO THE WAITRESS.

I HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE RELATIONSHIP OF RUDE RUDITY.

C. Rape Narratives can establish a person as Not-a-Rapist. This one doesn't carry over to real life very well, but in fiction a character who is genuinely appalled at rape is usually not themselves a rapist. And this is kind of important, in a world where 73% of rapists are known to their victims. In the real world, there's really no way to tell in advance whether the waveform will collapse into rape until it's actually happened, but rape narratives provide a way to single out a potential friend / suitor / mentor as most definitely not a rapist.

This is important. Handled badly, it comes across like the gut-churning no-no-no-no mentality that men should be given cookies for meeting the bare minimum bar of Not Raping People. But handled carefully, it can be a way to establish that this man is a man of character, who not only won't join in on a rape, he'll also take on risk to himself to help a victim rather than silently drive by and console himself that there was probably more to the situation than was immediately apparent. Rape narratives can be a way of establishing, clearly and upfront, I am an ally and I will fight this fight with you.

The narrative can't stop there. It's not good enough, not be far, to simply be Not-a-Rapist. Narratives which do stop there and proclaim the person a noble soul and gentle spirit and truly worthy of All The Things merely because they haven't raped anyone are highly problematic indeed. But for narratives that are written with that in mind and with careful judgment, the act of stopping the rape -- or of truly deploring it if it cannot be stopped, and of making it about the victim and not about the Very Upset and Super Angry man-confronted-with-the-existence-of-rape -- can be a valuable starting point to show that this person can be given a bare minimum of trust and allowed to earn more from there.

Of course, and again, this doesn't carry over into real life very well. But that's why it's a fantasy.

   Once inside the car, he started the engine and turned the heater on high. It had gotten very cold, and I guessed the good weather was at an end. I was warm in his jacket, though, breathing in the scent of it when I thought he couldn't see.
   Edward pulled out through the traffic, apparently without a glance, flipping around to head toward the freeway.
   "Now," he said significantly, "it's your turn."

And that's the end of Chapter 8.

THANK ALL THE TREES AND MOST OF THE ROCKS.

28 comments:

Majromax said...

TW: Rape

He smiled wryly. "Joe, then. If Joe had been paying attention, the timing wouldn't have needed to be quite so exact." He shook his head, rolling his eyes. "Only you could get into trouble in a town this small. You would have devastated their crime rate statistics for a decade, you know."

Bullshit. The certainly at odds with Port Angeles even having a gang of hoodlum-types who herd vulnerable young protaginists into victimizing positions. Either they don't exist (and these mythical crime rates are indeed zero) or they're remarkably ineffective at their job.

But let's assume that this is a strictly fictional Port Angeles, not one populated by real people. Instead of wandering into a bad area, Bella really just wandered away from the perfect little Utopia of the touristy-area (Population of ~18k in 2005 -- is there a tourist area?), and onto the back-lot that consists of nothing but building facades to make the satellite photos look pretty.

There, she encountered some off-duty cast members, taking a smoke break. They initially were herding her -- since they're dilligent little working drones, they know they'll ever get fired if they break character around a tourist, even off duty. But they were herding her back to the main streets, since that's where she was supposed to have been in the first place.

"I started to drive in circles, still . . . listening. The sun was finally setting, and I was about to get out and follow you on foot. And then --" He stopped, clenching his teeth together in sudden fury. He made an effort to calm himself.
"Then what?" I whispered. He continued to stare over my head.
"I heard what they were thinking," he growled, his upper lip curling slightly back over his teeth. "I saw your face in his mind." He suddenly leaned forward, one elbow appearing on the table, his hand covering his eyes. The movement was so swift it startled me.


TW: Victim blaming

Magical victim powers activate! Our well-meaning off-duty cast members take one look at Bella Sawn, and the rape switch just flips on. Nothing for it, really -- it's just that her face has that effect on people. Some people have faces you want to trust, some people have faces that seem friendly, and Bella here got dealt the genetic suck-hand and has a face you want to victimize.

Danel said...

I interpreted Edward's line here as being the kind of thing I've seen elsewhere (though I can't remember where) as a "message from Fred" - a moment of self-awareness that the scenario the author wrote there was utterly ridiculous and implausible, and a half-hearted attempt to justify it on the grounds that Bella is Just That Unlucky.

It's strange, but I find Edward's barely restrained violence even creepier than in other media or other vampires where it's even rather more apparent and less restrained. In those cases, the danger seems to be part of the charm; here, it's accepted, normalised or even ignored, which is what I think tips it over the edge for me.

Laurel_Cz said...

(My first post!) So, I've read the loathed "Midnight Sun" before, and all the catty and licentious thoughts that Bella assumes the waitress is thinking is actually accurate, because Edward can hear it all. So once again, Bella is oddly all-knowing in this universe.

Great post. I never put that together before, regarding rape victims and Edward's telepathy. He must have overheard the trauma of thousands of rape victims over his century (many fresh, since he helps Carlyle in various hospitals so often); he also has undoubtedly heard all the rapey thoughts of potential and actual victimizers. Back during that summer he actually ate people, he targeted men who were rapists or murderers, which means he actually had to put thought into the methodology sexual predators use...he should not be this ignorant! If he can react this same way after all that life experience he really is either dumb as a bag of nails or born without an empathy bone (or very badly written).

I can think of another reason why rape narratives are wanted by readers....it demonstrates that the protagonist is desirable. LOADS of fucked-upeness inherent in that, and I can't wait to live in a world where that's not true, but. Bella is the reader's insert, the reader has presumably lived in a rape culture that tells her rape is a compliment, men want to rape Bella, so Bella (as the reader) is therefore desirable. So gross.

JonathanPelikan said...

Ana, I've been following all the Twilight decon, but even for your usual level, this post was great. My own opinion of Twilight is clear ("I hate you and I hate the bands you like") so I am a little biased into liking this post, of course, when the levels of Wrong just spill over all forms of containment and begin burning through the floor and walls.

Well, and all of this chapter; you were right, by the way, annoyance at Bella's lack of empathy or soul or shock at how accurately, and approvingly, Meyers portrays Rape Culture with other characters doesn't even hold a candle to this chapter; it's so damn in-your-face with the bad business. It gets to that Left Behind moment where one goes 'wait, there's no way the author didn't intend this to be an over-the-top badfic. You can't write this genuinely bad. You can't.' Oh, but you can.

(See, Indoctrination Theory. One of the major driving forces of that whole thing was the fans' complete 'there is no possible way that this is IT. This is what the whole series has been building to.' Flat denial. There must be more. Plus, conspiracy theory-type stuff is always fun and appealing to broad swaths of folk.)

((Yes, a true Mass Effect fan can find a way to make any topic into at least a mention of The Ending))

depizan said...

Nonsense, Left Behind is still far worse. I can actually see how people miss the bad in this. Left Behind, however...

And how do I think people miss the bad in this? Reading quickly, and through a heavy filter of EXPECTATIONS. They've read the back of the book, you see, and know that Edward is The Love Interest. They've read other romance novels and know that The Love Interest is a good person, therefore, Edward is a good person. And so on and so forth. Hell, I didn't even notice how horrible a lot of the (sub?)text in Twilight is until this deconstruction, and I didn't like the book.

Of course I was distracted from a lot of the yuck in this scene by the fact that Meyer had botched her plausibility roll on both passage of time and behavior of people immediately before this. I cannot believe that Bella was lost and/or calming Edward down for long enough for her friends to finish, go to the restaurant, give up on Bella arriving, and eat dinner. Nor can I believe that her friends would actually eat dinner without her. That's something crappy people in bad teen comedies do to the Unpopular Girl, not something friends do in real life. (At least, I can't imagine any of my friends - or myself - splitting up while shopping, failing to get back together and having the response of "meh, guess we'll eat without them." The response would be more on the order of "This can't be good," followed by investigating their non-reappearance.)

Edward and Bella are doing a good job of being Left Behind levels of awful as people, though. Yeesh.

chris the cynic said...

I could see a situation like this playing out in a way that non crappy friends might end up eating without Bella.

Bella has been wanting to go to a bookstore since she first got to Forks, which is about two months ago at this point. So she's been waiting a long time for this. She's been waiting for this for the entire time that Jessica and Angela have known her. Now she is finally making her pilgrimage to the mythical place of books she holds in such high esteem.

If Bella has a history of getting lost in books and zoning out the world, it might be expected for her to disappear for a long period of time when she went to a bookstore, and how much trouble can she get in in a bookstore?

Now the logical solution would be to walk over to the bookstore and say, "Hey, it's time for dinner now," but maybe they didn't want to interrupt her ecstatic experience or something.

It's not something I would do, because I worry, but I can imagine someone doing it.

Fluffy_goddess said...

This would make total sense, especially if either Jessica or Angela are secretly diabetic/hypoglycemic offpage.

"Ok, look, I know we need to go find her, but she *said* she would probably be distracted with books but would meet us here, and I can't wait any longer to eat. Let's order, and hope she gets here soon. ...[dinner passes]... How is she still not here? We should go find -- Hey, Bella, where've you been?"

depizan said...

Good point. With better characterization, it could make total sense.

Bificommander said...

TW:Rape.
So in Meyers idea, there are no rapes ever in Port Angeles, yet 4 men walking on the street pull of a complex herding maneuver with zero conversation neccesary? Or even a conversation about if they all even want to do this? These 4 men all knew with but a wink that all of them were willing to commit rape on the first young woman they saw, yet a single rape case would be something noticable in the statistics for decades? Even though Majromax showed that's nonsense.

And all the 'Lol Bella, it's so funny you always get in trouble. You trip, you slip, you get harrassed by classmates, you get crushed by cars, you get raped, you get devoured.' commentary really seems unwise, since it highlights just how hackneyed the writing by Meyer is.

On the point of Rape narratives, I had a question that came up a bit after your Penny Arcade Dickwolf-post. It's about another webcomic, also in an MMO setting, with another punchline that refers to rape. But... I'm actually of the opinion that this case is acceptable, because of why the rape is included, and at who's expense the punchline is: The people who use rape of someone else as a shorthand for drama. But I wonder if those with less privilige on this particular subject agree with me. Obvious TW, the comic is here: http://thenoobcomic.com/index.php?pos=248

Silver Adept said...

[Warnings of post apply, including rape and victim blaming]

Ah, Edward. How do we loathe thee? Let us enumerate the ways...


I'm still trying to figure out, without resorting to Authorial Fiat and/or True Love, why Bella is still with Edward after this scene. Bella suffers a traumatic experience, and the person she thinks might be boyfriend material victim-blames her for the experience and basically tells her that he will always victim-blame her for any subsequent traumatic experiences she has in the future, including the point where he kills her because he just can't help himself. Then he demands that she assuage his homicidal feelings (that are also her fault) and he tries to further isolate her from her friends.

I can understand Bella being placating and making appropriate noises because she doesn't feel like she can RUN VERY FAST AND VERY FAR AWAY. But "overwhelming sense of safety"? That's the glamour talking, yet Bella seems unwilling to really analyze what's going on when she's not around Edward, and to replay the events an what he said in her mind when she's away from him. Since she seems to have all this wonderful power to know what everyone is thinking from their body language, she should be able to understand what's going on. The narrative, it suffers greatly.

Maybe we should be thinking of vampire glamour more like the Neuralyzer from Men in Black - not only does it wipe her short-term memory after the event, it leaves her with a feeling or story that is entirely of the MiB's construction. Perhaps she can't remember the details and only has a warm fuzzy feeling related to Edward. It's only after she becomes a vampire and starts chronicling the process that she finds she can remember. If that's the case, though, shouldn't we be hearing more cynicism in older-wiser-vampire Bella as she tells the tale?

Argh. I cannot understand, without having to resort to breaking the fourth wall or introduce something not explicitly in the narrative, as to why this happens.

As for the main point of the post, I think about what Laurel_Cz and have to agree, although I see it differently. Yes, in most stories, the victimized woman is attractive, but I think that's mostly the same reason why everyone on television and in the movies (adult or not) are attractive - we like having pretty people to look at. Ugliness is either a sign of evil or a precursor to the duckling-swan transformation.

I'd take that thought - "the protagonist is desirable" and add something to it - most rape narratives are about having power over a desirable person. It can be a revenge fantasy for slights, real or imagined, or a power trip of being able to exert control over the bodies of the desirable women. The question of whether this is a dudebro paean of triumph or a horrible trauma (to be coarse, a question of whether it's a porno or a Lifetime movie) depends on whose perspective we're watching from. That there's power involved helps some of the things discussed in the original post work - even after a situation where someone's power has been removed, they're able to persevere and reclaim that power. But it also involves all of those other parts where the narratives get distorted to fit the story.

Twilight thus becomes an exemplar of what goes wrong with these narratives, and what's kind of okay about them.

I still wish they had handled it better, though.

Amarie said...

I apologize for not having more time to post something substantial and derailing a bit (I'm about to go exercise, wish me luck!), but I was just wondering...

Isn't this the second or third time that Bella seeks out a book supply, and then rejects that book supply without so much as exploring a little? For someone who supposedly enjoys reading, it's certainly beginning to stand out. The first time we saw it, if I remember correctly, was when she dismissed the Forks' library. And now we have this time when she dismisses a bookstore because, err...its more 'voodoo' than anything else.

With the library, we went over how she could have gone with the inter-loan library system; with the bookstore, we went over how the shop's owner probably wasn't 'black' enough (*snerk*) for Bella to even take seriously...which is a Can-of-Worms implication, considering how seriously she took Jacob's tribal legends.

But, perhaps her particularity about her book choice is yet another sign of Good Girlism? Stephenie Meyer herself has said that, while she read quite a lot, her parents were extremely strict on her reading choices. I've been an avid reader and writer pretty much all my life and, from my experience, when you read your mind expands invariably. It travels countries far across the sea. It goes back in time. It experiences arousing, sexual experiences. It dwells in other ideologies. It kicks the bad guys' butt. It meets historical figures. And so on and so forth.

Now, if you're looking at a Good Girl, the problem with that mind expansion is, for the most part, that it threatens the consolidation that is imposed upon the reader. The more that mind expands, the more it's going to inevitably question. And questions-sometimes with answers-are not a Good Girl's friend if she wants to survive in her community.

So then, perhaps that's the dissonance that the text struggles and fails to assuage? That is, the author *wants* Bella to be intelligent (and, certainly, being an avid reader is one of the best ways to get there), but then she can't be *too* intelligent. If she's *too* intelligent then, as Ana previously mentioned, she would call out all the misogyny she experiences. She would note that Edward's behavior is abusive and controlling no matter what his face looks like. She would do the math in her head and wonder how the hell Esme and Carlisle adopted all those kids at such a young age. She would have more problem-solving and critical thinking skills that go beyond obsessive martyrdom that helps no one.

In essence, she just wouldn’t be a Good Girl because she’s *too intelligent*. If she is to survive, she must be ignorant as possible. And that is, unfortunately, the kind of balance that Twilight strives for: a Good Girl *can* be intelligent, but only a certain kind of intelligence within a certain kind of boundary is allowed.

hf said...

and no matter how hard I and others (you know who you are, bless your beleaguered heats) try to rehabilitate them

Are their heats that beleaguered? Well, maybe.

hf said...

With better characterization, it could make total sense.

Doesn't that hold for anything?

Asha said...

@JonathanPelikan
I agree with you on IT, and I'm a happy Indoctrination Theorist. I don't believe its what was intended, but hell. Again, better than what we've got.
(As another long-suffering fan, I keep hoping that the EC will help the ache. But I'm not holding my breath)

I do agree with the idea that Twilight is one of those series that people can read into it whatever they want, and don't look at what's actually there. We want there to be more, so we head-canon everything.

Beroli said...

So I just discovered that, apparently, Midnight Sun includes the following passage in reference to the leader (only) of the gang of rapists stalking Bella.

"Alonzo Calderas Wallace, suspected serial rapist and murderer wanted in the states of Texas and Oklahoma, was apprehended last night in Portland, Oregon thanks to an anonymous tip. Wallace was found unconscious in an alley early this morning, just a few yards from a police station. Officials are unable to tell us at this time whether he will be extradited to Houston or Oklahoma City to stand trial."

Edward is hoping that he'll be extradited to Texas, because they're more likely to execute him there. The rest of the gang appears to have emerged from the ether at Alonzo's call and disappeared back into it when Alonzo was knocked unconscious.

chris the cynic said...

If the guy has the power to summon three gang members from thin air then what are the odds he stays in custody long enough to be extradited?

Seriously, If you've learned that you an input, "spawnmass gangmember 3" into the console you've definitely learned that you gain the power to float and move through walls by inputting, "ghost".

To even get the gang members he needed game specific commands because the engine likely doesn't have a gang member class in it already.* If this guy has figured out the cheat codes to Twilight you need to do something beyond just dropping him off at a police station.

I'm not even sure what you'd do, once they've accessed the console their powers are near limitless. Maybe the only solution is to crash the game.

-

And on a side note, why Portland? Is the Port Angeles police department not good enough for Edward? If it isn't, doesn't he know that Seattle is closer?

-

* Ok, so technically if you follow all of the bad assumptions in this post using spawnmass instead of using summon three times means that he's already beyond the bounds of engine codes and into the land of game specific even if gang member is a class that came with the engine. But "spawnmass gangmember three" is more aesthetically pleasing than "summon gangmember" three times.

Ana Mardoll said...

Seriously? The one thing -- the ONE 'good' thing - about this passage to me was at least the men were local northerners and not people of suspiciously Furr'ner origins.

depizan said...

I dunno, he sounds like he might be Hispanic.

Ana Mardoll said...

From this, yes, I agree! From "Twilight", he just seemed like any other (presumably white) local, but now thanks to "Midnight Sun" he has a Furr'ner name and is therefore probably a Brown Wan Who Wants To Rape White Women. UGH.

depizan said...

Ah, I misunderstood. You were saying "Augh! 'Midnight Sun' undoes the one 'bright' spot in this whole mess." Which, yes, it apparently does.

Though I am somewhat entertained that Edward (or Meyer) forgot Seattle existed.

Silver Adept said...

Wait, so the suspected serial rapist travels with a pack? That seems highly unlikely - more people means more witnesses and people that can rat you out. Wouldn't he want to be sure that nobody else sullied his special prize?

Also, ARGH on yet another instance of the "nonwhite people are animals driven by base instincts and Always Chaotic Evil impulses."

Amarie said...

I apologize for not having more time to post something substantial and derailing a bit (I'm about to go exercise, wish me luck!), but I was just wondering...

Isn't this the second or third time that Bella seeks out a book supply, and then rejects that book supply without so much as exploring a little? For someone who supposedly enjoys reading, it's certainly beginning to stand out. The first time we saw it, if I remember correctly, was when she dismissed the Forks' library. And now we have this time when she dismisses a bookstore because, err...its more 'voodoo' than anything else.

With the library, we went over how she could have gone with the inter-loan library system; with the bookstore, we went over how the shop's owner probably wasn't 'black' enough (*snerk*) for Bella to even take seriously...which is a Can-of-Worms implication, considering how seriously she took Jacob's tribal legends.

But, perhaps her particularity about her book choice is yet another sign of Good Girlism? Stephenie Meyer herself has said that, while she read quite a lot, her parents were extremely strict on her reading choices. I've been an avid reader and writer pretty much all my life and, from my experience, when you read your mind expands invariably. It travels countries far across the sea. It goes back in time. It experiences arousing, sexual experiences. It dwells in other ideologies. It kicks the bad guys' butt. It meets historical figures. And so on and so forth.

Now, if you're looking at a Good Girl, the problem with that mind expansion is, for the most part, that it threatens the consolidation that is imposed upon the reader. The more that mind expands, the more it's going to inevitably question. And questions-sometimes with answers-are not a Good Girl's friend if she wants to survive in her community.

So then, perhaps that's the dissonance that the text struggles and fails to assuage? That is, the author *wants* Bella to be intelligent (and, certainly, being an avid reader is one of the best ways to get there), but then she can't be *too* intelligent. If she's *too* intelligent then, as Ana previously mentioned, she would call out all the misogyny she experiences. She would note that Edward's behavior is abusive and controlling no matter what his face looks like. She would do the math in her head and wonder how the hell Esme and Carlisle adopted all those kids at such a young age. She would have more problem-solving and critical thinking skills that go beyond obsessive martyrdom that helps no one.

In essence, she just wouldn’t be a Good Girl because she’s *too intelligent*. If she is to survive, she must be ignorant as possible. And that is, unfortunately, the kind of balance that Twilight strives for: a Good Girl *can* be intelligent, but only a certain kind of intelligence within a certain kind of boundary is allowed.

hf said...

and no matter how hard I and others (you know who you are, bless your beleaguered heats) try to rehabilitate them

Are their heats that beleaguered? Well, maybe.

hf said...

With better characterization, it could make total sense.

Doesn't that hold for anything?

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