Twilight: Carried In The Arms Of Assholes

[Content Note: Disability Appropriation, Infantilizing Women, Virginity Fetishization]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 12, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 12: Balancing

Let's wrap up Chapter 12 today; I know you're all anxious to get to the sparkle-scene in Chapter 13.

   I locked the door behind me while he walked to the truck. He waited by the passenger door with a martyred expression that was easy to understand.
   “We made a deal,” I reminded him smugly, climbing into the driver’s seat, and reaching over to unlock his door.
   “Where to?” I asked.
   “Put your seat belt on — I’m nervous already.”
   I gave him a dirty look as I complied.
   “Where to?” I repeated with a sigh.
   “Take the one-oh-one north,” he ordered.
   It was surprisingly difficult to concentrate on the road while feeling his gaze on my face. I compensated by driving more carefully than usual through the still-sleeping town.
   “Were you planning to make it out of Forks before nightfall?”
   “This truck is old enough to be your car’s grandfather — have some respect,” I retorted.
We were soon out of the town limits, despite his negativity.

I may have mentioned this before on this blog, but Edward Cullen is an asshole. Bella has maybe one thing in her life, besides Edward, that brings her pleasure and happiness: her beautiful bright red vintage truck, restored lovingly by Jacob Black and gifted to her from her father Charlie.

And this is important. Bella's cheery cherry-colored truck is the one spot of color in her life now that she's moved to dreary S.A.D.-inducing Forks. It's the one link she has to the people around her who care about her, the thing that reminds her that her father loves her and that she has friends outside of the Mike-and-Jessica clique at school. And it's a possession that provides her with agency: having her own vehicle means that Bella doesn't need to rely on a father or boyfriend to ferry her wherever she needs to go. Her truck provides her with agency, independence, and mobility.

So naturally Edward never misses an opportunity to complain about it.

Edward's complaint here takes the form of a safety lecture -- with his "nervous" reaction and his exhortation to Bella to put on her seat belt -- but we already know that Edward is cavalier about car safety since he had to be grudgingly brought to admit that maybe he shouldn't drive at ridiculously fatal speeds when he has a mortal passenger in his car. A few sentences later, Edward drops the safety facade here and shows his real issue with Bella's car: the car is too slow and Bella drives too slow. Not according to any objective measure, mind you, but according to Edward's "Drive Like A Cullen" personal preferences. 

We've already noted the peculiar preference of our protagonists to relate to each other with very prickly dialogue: conversations between Edward and Bella often sound more like sparring matches than the utterings of True Love. I harbor a suspicion that this is an attempt to mimic classic literature like Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but I can't help but feel that a good deal has been lost in the translation. It's been a long time since I read a version of Pride and Prejudice that didn't have zombies in it, but I'm pretty sure that the snippy dialogue cleared up once Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy acknowledged their mutual attraction and formed a formal romantic relationship. And I'm pretty sure that the reason for this is that the blush of new love usually isn't characterized by constant verbal sparring.

Here Edward is snarking at Bella because she's not driving fast enough to their destination. But their "destination" is a woodland meadow where they plan to spend the day lounging romantically in each other's arms and teasingly tantalizing the other with purity games and blood lust. In other words, they don't have a deadline to meet here. I'm pretty sure the woodland meadow doesn't stop taking tickets at the door once the show starts. So we have the curious situation where Edward and Bella have arranged a day to privately enjoy each other's company and Edward is furious because Bella won't hurry up and get there. As opposed to, you know, sitting back in the gently-swaying truck and just ... enjoying her company.

Call me crumpets, but that attitude doesn't strike me as particularly romantic. It might be realistic -- we've probably all had that one road-trip with that one person who wants to hurry up and get there come hell or high water and bathroom breaks are considered a sign of disloyalty -- but this sort of attitude doesn't, in my mind, mesh well with the flutterings of new (and indeed, first) love.

Anyway. Last time, we noted that Bella had an unwelcome surprise for Edward; this time it's Edward's turn to have an unwelcome surprise for her.

   “Now we drive until the pavement ends.”
   I could hear a smile in his voice, but I was too afraid of driving off the road and proving him right to look over and be sure.
   “And what’s there, at the pavement’s end?” I wondered.
   “A trail.”
   “We’re hiking?” Thank goodness I’d worn tennis shoes.
   “Is that a problem?” He sounded as if he’d expected as much.
   “No.” I tried to make the lie sound confident. But if he thought my truck was slow . . .
   “Don’t worry, it’s only five miles or so, and we’re in no hurry.”
   Five miles. I didn’t answer, so that he wouldn’t hear my voice crack in panic. Five miles of treacherous roots and loose stones, trying to twist my ankles or otherwise incapacitate me. This was going to be humiliating.
   We drove in silence for a while as I contemplated the coming horror. [...]
   He stared at me, bewildered by my tortured expression.
   “Do you want to go home?” he said quietly, a different pain than mine saturating his voice.
   “No.” I walked forward till I was close beside him, anxious not to waste one second of whatever time I might have with him.
   “What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice gentle.
   “I’m not a good hiker,” I answered dully. “You’ll have to be very patient.”
   “I can be patient — if I make a great effort.” He smiled, holding my glance, trying to lift me out of my sudden, unexplained dejection.

And there it is again. Edward has to make an effort -- a great effort -- in order to patiently wait up for his inconveniently slow-moving True Love. That's not true love to me; that's basic decency. And do please note: if you are impatient with someone who has a movement disability and you somehow manage to rope in that impatience so that it doesn't show with every thought, word, and deed, you are not actually worthy of cookies for that. You are just practicing basic decency at that point. Or, if I may quote George MacDonald:

   'But, please, ma'am--I don't mean to be rude or to contradict you,' said Curdie, 'but if a body was never to do anything but what he knew to be good, he would have to live half his time doing nothing.'
   'There you are much mistaken,' said the old quavering voice. 'How little you must have thought! Why, you don't seem even to know the good of the things you are constantly doing. Now don't mistake me. I don't mean you are good for doing them. It is a good thing to eat your breakfast, but you don't fancy it's very good of you to do it. The thing is good, not you.'

And there I've gone and called Bella's disability a disability again, even though it's more complicated than that. And that is what I want to talk about today.

I've been writing about Twilight since the autumn of 2010. The first post on this Blogger site marked as "deconstruction (twilight)" went up on 12-31-2010, and I'd been doing the series elsewhere on an earlier incarnation of my board for several weeks before that. So by a rough estimation, I've been talking about Bella Swan on a nearly-weekly basis for two years. And her problem with tipping over has been a major part of that discourse because her problem with tipping over is a major part of Twilight. One of my first dedicated posts to the subject went up last November -- "Sound Effects Added To Lessen Tragedy" -- where I said this:

And now we come to the issue of Bella's clumsiness.

When I started reading Twilight, I was actually surprised at how many references to Bella's clumsiness are jammed into the first few pages. I mean, we're not 40 pages in and she's already beaned people in the head at volleyball and fallen over several times and been tacitly acknowledged by the entire school after one week that she's a klutz beyond all possible imagining. And it's only going to get worse from here.

At first I thought it was a sort of Every Teen characterization: many teens feel awkward as their bodies change and develop, so it seemed like this fit the pattern of Bella-the-Reader-Insert. But then the characterization started getting more and more in your face to the point where Edward will actually claim that Bella can't walk in a straight line across a level room without falling on her face. And I don't think we're meant to read that as an exaggeration. I figured S. Meyer was being heavy handed and didn't know when to reign Bella's One Defining Character Trait in a little to more subdued, realistic levels.

By the end of the novel, however, my cynicism had kicked in full force and I now firmly believe that Bella is a Walking Disaster Area merely so that beefy wolfmen and shiny vampires can have an excuse to pick her up and carry her everywhere like a handbag. Plus, it's great comedy for the whole family! [...]

The thing is, Bella doesn't actually have a chronic condition of falling down, because no one takes it seriously. It's the tree falling in a forest issue -- if Bella fell down all the time, someone would take it seriously. Maybe not everyone. Maybe not her neglectful parents or her narcissist boyfriend or her self-absorbed friends or her overworked teachers. But Bella would notice. Bella would have to notice, because Bella would be in pain constantly. Bella would take the falling seriously, and therefore the narration would take the falling seriously.

People who are in pain constantly think about their pain. They think about minimizing it as much as possible. Their thoughts will be occupied by their surroundings, their own actions, the actions of others, they way they stand, the way they walk, the way they carry things. There will be a constant internal battle for control and management and prevention of the pain. They may never be able to prevent falling with these mental exercises, but they'll still try because that's how humans are wired -- we want to minimize pain, cuts, bruises, and twisted and broken limbs.

Bella doesn't do this, ever. Her constant tumbles in Twilight are as serious to her as they are to a court jester. Whoops! There goes Bella! Oops! Bella falls again! It's slapstick comedy, over and over and over again. Haha! Bella beaned someone in the head with a volleyball! Will she never learn? Hahaha.

To someone with chronic pain, this is insulting. S.Meyer is taking something that many people have to live with and she's shining it up into a lovable and amusing character trait. Bella's trips and tumbles aren't serious things that cause serious harm; they're just a cutesy characteristic to make her seem flawed and lovable. It's the equivalent of making a character who is supposedly suffering from cancer and then discarding all the icky cancer bits to talk about her adorable bald head and oh she gets cold at night so she needs a fluffy-wuffy werewolf to warm her up and isn't that adorwuble? Oh, but that's different because falling doesn't kill people, right? Well, not quite.

Beyond the issue of pain and privilege, though, Bella's not-really-chronic condition is troubling for what it represents. If the issue was isolated to sloppy characterization (She's clumsy!) and slapstick (...and it's funny!), without ever having consequences then it would merely be insensitive. However, it's worth noting that Bella does in fact hurt herself, and there are in fact consequences to her tumbles. The issue here, though, those "consequences" are actually presented as wonderful benefits.

When Bella seriously hurts herself for plot-convenient reasons, her pain isn't a source of sorrow but rather a source of joy because it becomes an excuse for her to be coddled, loved, carried, babied, and protected. Edward will at one point literally carry Bella because he doesn't trust her to walk without hurting herself. This isn't presented as a bad thing, as a chronic condition like this would most certainly be, but rather something advantageous. And because we have so few women in the Twilight novel, Bella enlarges to a sort of Every Woman in the narrative. Since her romance with Edward is supposed to be a pure example of True Love, a platonic ideal for the rest of us to aspire to, her actions and attributes become more than descriptive -- they become (intentionally or not) prescriptive.

Bella's clumsiness becomes not something to lament and avoid, but rather something to envy and emulate. Just think, girls! You, too, could fall at the drop of a hat and then you could have your very own strong Edward to sweep you up, kiss your (very tiny! and not really painful at all!) bruises and carry you away into HappyLand. And all you had to do was pretend to have a serious condition that kills people yearly!

I still believe what I said, but over the past year since I said that, I have been focusing more on the disability side of things because there have been a lot of passages with people forgetting Bella's disability. Mike, Charlie, and even Edward only really remember Bella's condition when it's convenient for them to do so. And while this selective memory ties in with the fact that Bella's disability is extremely situational (and therefore not really a disability, as far as the author appears to be concerned, but rather a plot device), it also ties in neatly with the fact that this selective memory is something that People With Disabilities have to face on a near-daily basis, and I've wanted to talk about that, so I have.

Furthermore, I call Bella's habitual falling-over a "disability" because effectively that is what it is. But! That does not mean that I think S.Meyer intended Bella's disability to be an actual disability, or that she thought she was writing a disabled character. Nor am I trying to convey that Bella is a successfully-portrayed disabled character, nor am I trying to erase all the many other problems with Bella's falling-over beyond plain old disability appropriation. No, I call Bella's falling-over a "disability" because we must use words in order to communicate, and that seems to me to be the best way to characterize her habitual falling-over and plot-convenient clumsiness.

Still! By popular request, today we will again talk about Bella's disability not just from a disability appropriation perspective, but also from a trope-perspective. More specifically, we will discuss the fact, as outlined above, that Bella's disability is presented in text as something desirable because (a) it makes her both approachable as a "flawed" character and (b) it means that all the sexy man-beef in Forks has ample opportunity to sling her around like a sack of flour at a moment's notice.

Falling As Flaw

Last year, reader Justin sent me this article:

But if you make your lady character too perfect, nobody in the audience can identify with her. You can't compromise on the looks or the weight, obviously. You can't compromise by giving her a realistic job. She can't be a jerk, or the audience won't root for her. If you're doing one of those career vs. personal life plots, then her flaw is that she loves her career too much, so you got that cut out for you. Any other plot, the only option you've got left is to make her clumsy.

That's why pretty much all romantic comedy women are clumsy. Like Jessica Alba in Good Luck Chuck, Amy Adams in Leap Year, Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality... oh hell here's a montage.

In my article from last year, I wrote:

The clumsy thing? The she-falls-over-and-it's-hilarious thing? The informed flaw that lets Edward and Co. pick Bella up and carry her around like a toy doggie and additionally acts up to put her in implausible danger as needed? This thing is a trope. 

It's a perfect-pretty-women-need-something-wrong-with-them trope. It's a trope to make them less perfect, more flawed, more accessible. It's a trope to make them more likeable by the women in the audience and more attainable by the men. It's a trope to make them less competent, less frightening, less intimidating.

Let me just repeat that. In order for a woman to be more likeable and less intimidating, she has to hurt herself a lot. She has to nearly die because of her clumsiness, as with Jennifer Lopez and the shoe and Random Actress I Don't Recognize in the tree. The on-screen shorthand for "approachable woman" is someone who falls over frequently to the point of seriously injuring herself or even dying.

It's important to realize, though, that this "flaw" isn't really a flaw. I don't mean that in the sense than having a disability isn't a flaw (though I would argue strenuously that it is not), but rather I mean that this "flaw" is actually a stealthily desirable trait in many fictional women because the "flaw" makes her more approachable, more relatable, and more desirable to the men in her fictional world and to the audience watching her. Since the "flaw" in this case actually improves the character (according to her audiences, both fictional and otherwise), it becomes a non-flaw, and a mandatory feature on the road to perfection. 

Bella herself notes that her "flaw" actually contributes to her desirability, believing that her "crippling clumsiness" is endearing and casts her in the role of a damsel in distress. She's not wrong; the men in her life over the course of this series will frequently leap at the chance to carry poor-little-Bella any time that the situation even remotely warrants it. (I was actually surprised to see that in the hiking passage above, Edward doesn't carry her yet. But he will soon enough.)

There are tremendous problems with casting a disability -- particularly a movement disability -- as sexy and desirable in itself. Certainly people with movement disabilities can be sexy and desirable, but they are not sexy and desirable because they have a movement disability. Yet that is what this trope does: it takes an attractive woman, layers over a disability, and *poof* now she is even more perfect and desirable. Not because of who she is, but because she has a weakness -- and, more specifically, she has a weakness that means she must rely on the men in her life in order to even move.

In this worldview, the most attractive woman is the one who physically cannot leave a man, and who cannot accomplish the most basic of tasks without his help. Helplessness becomes sexualized, and agency is treated as something undesirable and unattractive. And because this mentality is pushed so hard, from so many directions, we in the audience are in danger of internalizing what Erma Bombeck called "the helpless routine":

   I was silent a moment, then I pulled my chair closer. "Let me tell you a secret. I have always resented the helpless female. I resent her because I am secretly jealous of her ability to train grown men to 'heel' and sick and tired of having her feel my flexed muscles at parties.
   "If I had it to do all over again,I would be one of those helpless females who faints at the sight of antifreeze. But I was the big mouth who, early in marriage, watched my husband try to start the power mower and said, 'If you are trying to start that power mower, Duckey, you had better attach the spark plug, open the gas line so you can get fuel to the distributor, and pull the choke all the way over. Also, if you don't stand on the other side of the mower, you'd better lean against that tree for balance because you are going to lose your right foot.'"
   "How masterful," she said, dabbing her forehead with a lace handkerchief.
   "Not so masterful," I said. "From that day forward I was awarded custody of the mower. I also had to repair spoutings, clean out the dryer vent, repair the clothesline, build the rock garden, drain and store the antifreeze, and wash the car."
   "My goodness," she whispered, "I'm so addle-brained about cars I scarcely know how to turn on those little globes in the front...the..."
   "Lights," I prompted. "Incidentally, what's that pet name your husband calls you?"
   "You mean, 'Satin Pussy Cat'?"
   "That's the one. My husband calls me 'Army,' after a pack mule he had in Korea. You're the one who's got it made. I'll bet you never fertilized a lawn, changed a fuse, plunged a sink, hosed out a garbage can, or hung curtain brackets."
   She threw back her head, revealing her slim, white throat, and laughed. "Why I get lightheaded whenever I step up on a curb."
   "Take today. I've got this clogged-up washer. I can either ring for Rube Goldberg and his wonder-wrenches, or I can try to fix the thing myself."
   She smiled slyly. "I'll bet it's your turbo pump that's clogged. All you have to do is remove the back panel, take out the pulsator, disconnect the thermoschnook, and use a spreckentube to force out the glunk. Then put on a new cyclocylinder, using a No. four pneusonic wrerrch, and you're back in the laundry business."
   "Why you helpless little broad-er fraud! you could run General Motor from a phone booth. You're faking it, aren't you? That helpless routine is all show. And what does it get you? Nothing but dinner rings, vacations out of season, small fur jackets, and a husband standing breathless at your elbow. Do you know the last time my husband siood breathless at my elbow I had a chicken bone caught in my throat? Is it too late for me? Do you suppose a woman over thirty-five could learn to be helpless?"

Erma Bombeck was making a point with humor, but it's a point that Twilight is trying to make in all seriousness: Helplessness is sexy, and independence is not. So if you want to catch your very own Edward Cullen or Jacob Black, you'd better get cracking on that whole helplessness thing. If you're not falling over at the drop of a hat, or fainting because you deliberately forgot to eat today, or daintily dropping your books for the gallants to pick up for you, then you're not going to get very far on the marriage market. That's the lesson that Twilight teaches.

Carried Closeness

Twilight is a purity text with a strong fetishization for virginity. Something like 80% of the tension in the series will be over whether or not Bella and Edward will have sex. And I'm pretty sure that the other 20% is largely over whether or not they'll have sex a second time. Most of you have already seen this virginity fetishization approach before, if you've been following Fred Clark's Left Behind deconstructions and the chaste romance between Buck Williams and Chloe Steele. Of the couple's epic struggle to reach "the hand-holding stage", Fred says:

[Buck] also needs to stop obsessing over the propriety of premarital hand-holding. This fixation on sexual morality winds up hypersexualizing everything. Holding hands is not sex. It's not even sex-ual. But in the RTC moral code that Buck magically internalized upon conversion, all affection is sexual. For Buck and the authors and the formal and informal censors at Tyndale House publishers, holding hands is lascivious.

That's perverse. Or, at best, immature. There's something junior-high-ish about Buck's apparent notion that hand-holding constitutes first base (second base: holding hands with fingers interlaced). And if that seems like naive innocence to you, then you don't know what it means to be a boy in junior high.

There's a difference, I think, between writing a novel that simply happens to be about some virgins, versus writing a novel for an audience that considers virginity to be a moral imperative. In the former case, the characters will simply be virgins until they're not. (And how they chose to define that "not", may or may not be a big deal to those characters.) They may consider the new things they experience fun and interesting and noteworthy, but they're probably not going to mentally turn every single touch into something hyper-sexualized unless they've been specifically taught to do so. After all, people who just happen to be virgins don't automatically also have a history of never touching, kissing, hand-holding, or otherwise having physical contact with other people.

But people who have been taught to hyper-sexualize all contact by the virginity fetish crowd very possibly do have backgrounds entirely void of any physical contact with others. And the people in charge of the virginity fetishization movement absolutely expect fictional characters to align to this untouched and untouching ideal, and the characters in Twilight most certainly do conform. The sexual revolution has not undone Edward's victorian principles, and his over-powering blood-lust prevents him and Bella from having anything more than the most incidental contact. So in a book where the characters must remain virgins and abstain from any kind of sustained kissing or other contact that might lead to sex, what's an author to do in order to maintain the sexual interest of the reader? Why, have him carry her everywhere, of course!

Willoughby @

Colonel Brandon @

There's even a vote for those pictures, on which man carried Marianne in "the most romantic way". And I want to be clear: there's nothing wrong with finding the act of being carried (or the act of carrying) as pleasurable and sexually exciting. I myself wouldn't mind being carried by Colonel-Brandon-as-played-by-Alan-Rickman, were the offer on the table. I certainly don't fault Bella for enjoying being lugged around in the arms of Edward and/or Jacob as the series progresses.

But the problem here arises when being carried is the only allowable form of physical contact between our protagonist virgins and that carrying can only come about as a direct result of Bella's disability. So we have here a Bella who isn't carried because she wants to be carried, or because she likes being carried, because expressing desire and receiving what she wants would be problematic for the virginity fetishization crowd. If a woman is allowed to say I want you to carry me because it gives me sexual pleasure and then that thing actually happens, then we've just allowed a woman to voice her desires and use her agency to bring herself pleasure, and we can't have that!

So instead the carrying must be something that is forced upon Bella by circumstances: she's not being carried because she wants it, but rather because she needs it. Any sexual pleasure she gets from the utilitarian act of lugging her around in order to save her from tripping over her own ankles is purely secondary. And now the "helpless routine" message is layered down even worse: not only do you have to be helpless in order to get your man, but you also have to be helpless in order to receive sexual gratification. You can't have kisses, because those have to be saved for your wedding night, but you can have close physical contact ... if you cultivate a disability such that a man must carry you in order to prevent you from hurting yourself when trying to walk.

There are many reasons why Bella's falling-over is one of the most upsetting aspects of Twilight for me.

It's appropriative, by using a serious disability that many people struggle with as a substitute for a well-rounded personality and a convenient plot device.

It's dismissive, by reinforcing that the forgetting of disabilities (by family, friends, and lovers) is something less than legitimately upsetting, and something more akin to love and romance.

It's infantilizing, in suggesting that the most desirable women are ones who lack the agency and mobility to move their own bodies, and by severely restricting Bella's movement capabilities.

It's fetishizing, by incorporating immobility into virginity fetishization, and suggesting that pre-marital physical contact should be restricted to rendering needed aid instead of desired touching.

And even having said all that, I feel we've still only just scratched the surface of how utterly fucked-up the use of Bella's disability is in Twilight. Because there is so, so much wrongness in writing an informed-yet-deadly flaw into a female protagonist in order that the people around her can ignore her suffering when convenient, can belittle her when they want to feel superior, can be attracted to her for her weakness, and can haul her around in their sexy arms whenever the narrative can justify it.

There is a wrongness in it that goes beyond telling young women they need to be weak in order to be attractive, or that the only physical contact they can have without guilt is the contact required to offset that weakness. There is an awfulness that goes beyond the appropriation and infantilization of people with genuine disabilities. And there is a badness that is the result of so much more than just taking an unfortunate trope and dialing it up to eleven.

I don't know if there are enough years left in my life to discuss all the many ways in which the Twilight series is horribly wrong in its treatment of Bella's disability. But we're going to find out, one way or another. Stay tuned.


Silver Adept said...

@Brin, @chris -

There's a missing definite article there. If she's stopped to be quoting the Shel Silverstein title, the line would read "What's where the sidewalk - sorry, pavement - ends?"

It's all nitpicky, I know.

chris the cynic said...

It's all nitpicky, I know.

No, I appreciate the correction.

Rakka said...

I don't see how cotton could be that bad. Yes, keeps the moisture in, and I wouldn't use it for inmost socks for a hike but really, we've done 1-2 week treks with 15 to 25 kilometers a day in cotton underwear (and some midlayers too! oh noes!) and are demonstrably still alive. Now, jeans, hell no, especially not if you can't trust it not to rain and the foliage is dry and all that, but it's not like cotton turns into poison if you sweat in it a bit. (I think I own all of one moisture-wicking t-shirt, excluding the linen shirts for re-enactment stuff. I haven't noticed it being remarkably more comfortable than cotton ones.)

DavidCheatham said...

Yep. And when you're dealing with nonhuman characters, you *can* play that for amusement, or at least interest: "Oh. Right. You have to eat, don't you? That seems...inconvenient."

Yeah, I thought maybe that was what was going on, but it really doesn't work with 'five mile hike'. If it has been a twenty-five mile hike or something, it's now 'Haha, the vampire forgot that normal humans can't walk twenty five miles, and, even if they can, that and twenty-five back out would take up the entire weekend.'

But five miles doesn't work there. Plenty of people can do it, plenty of people can't.

And that doesn't really work for _Edward_, anyway. Other vampires, yes, but Edward should be somewhat aware of what humans think of as normal.

Also, I'm a fairly fit, non-disabled youngish person, and someone taking me on a "surprise" five-mile hike would get a "surprise" smack upside the head. Because: no.

There's like three levels of fucked-up-ness here:

1) Bella has a disability that includes movement problems. I think that's been explained enough in the article.

2) Even without anything they'd consider a disability, many people cannot hike five miles. Disabilities are impairments that interfere with 'normal' behaviors, and hiking five miles is not something people are often expected to do, at least not in America. (I, along with about 25% of the population, cannot roll my tongue. This is not any sort of 'disability', but it does mean people should ask before scheduling a vacation for people where they _had_ to do that to get to where they were going!)

3) Even if she can hike five miles, she's doing it _cold_. She presumably doesn't regularly hike, and thus will be sore tomorrow...when she has to hike out. Does she even have proper shoes for hiking?

DavidCheatham said...

First, this seems, at first glance, like forgetting someone is disabled, but isn't even really that. If someone has an impairment that keeps them from walking five miles, there's really no way a random acquaintance would even expect to know that, as that _is not something that commonly comes up_.

Or, to look at it another way, there's forgetting someone is disabled even after they've told you, and then there's forgetting someone is, statistically, _average_ and thus might have problems with things that a significant minority of the population finds difficult.

'What do you mean you can't walk five miles?' 'What do you mean you can't carry 75 pounds?' 'What do you mean you can't sing?' 'What do you mean you can't roll your tongue?'

I have no idea what percentage of humans can do a five mile hike, but even in Bella's age group, it almost certainly isn't 90%. So _even if_ Bella had no stated disability at all, Edward really shouldn't just assume she can do a five mile hike. Hell, even if she can...if she _doesn't_ hike regularly, she's going to be really sore the next know, the day she has to _hike out_. Nice planning there.

Second, it's doubly problematic here, where Edward knows Bella _does_ have a disability that is somewhat related to 'walking'. Yes, Edward, please assume that falling down is _exactly_ the extent of her disability. Just go ahead and assume she doesn't get vertigo or heat stroke or other problems that might _also_ apply to a hike. Clumsiness and falling down is just a magical cute disability that could not possibly be caused by a more serious problem that she has not decided to spend the time explaining to you. (And, additionally, please assume that she isn't part of the population that wouldn't have trouble with a five mile hike for reasons _unrelated_ to her disability.)

Third, Edward, you do not get to whine about how long it is taking to drive somewhere when you have added two hours to the trip via hiking.

Silver Adept said...

Edward, you're a jerk. You know full well how difficult crossing flat terrain is fir Bella, and you're going to throw in the extra hazards of hills, roots, and other objects that will trip her. For five miles of hiking. Surely there's a nice park you could close for the day using your fabulous wealth that would be much easier on her and would let you sparkle in private.

I also can't understand why Bella doesn't have any sort of emotion related to her disability. I don't have clumsiness to the point of being disabling, but I still drop things and trip over flat ground and hook my toes on cords or corners. Right after an episode like that, I'm usually angry at being so klutzy. If it happened as much as it does for Bella, it might stop being angry-making, but there would probably be a resigned sigh of disappointment or acceptance that "it happened again." Bella seems to be lacking any reaction to such a thing. I could be wrong, though - after a while, maybe it stops provoking a reaction. I don't know.

I still don't like the "Helpless Women Are Sexy" trope.

Brin Bellway said...

“Don’t worry, it’s only five miles or so, and we’re in no hurry.”

Only five miles. Only five miles. You're so accustomed to vampire superpowers, you've completely forgotten what it's like to hike five miles in a human body, haven't you Edward? You shouldn't just spring five miles on someone, even if it were pavement and she had a decent sense of balance. I don't suppose you thought to bring half a gallon or so* of water for her to drink? Because Bella sure won't have known to, with you keeping her in the dark. And I bet that "light, sleeveless shirt" she's wearing is cotton, too.

*Actually, it'd be five miles each way, wouldn't it? Make that a whole gallon, and some food as well.

Let's wrap up Chapter 12 today

In that case, I'll go ahead and talk about the last sentence of the chapter:

Edward seemed to take a deep breath, and then he stepped out into the bright glow of the midday sun.

I get the feeling we're supposed to react to this with horror and WTF. After all, if Twilight weren't popular enough for knowledge of the plot to spread through osmosis, and all the insider-knowledge I had was what was on the back cover, I would think Edward's about to burst into flames. (Even knowing better, I can still kind of feel that shock.)

P.S. The more I think about that hike, the worse it sounds.

JonathanPelikan said...

“Don’t worry, it’s only five miles or so, and we’re in no hurry.”

Congratulations, Edward, you are now exactly as measured and sensitive as this guy.

Not nearly as hilarious, though.

hf said...

In a romantic story, it is used to show that X really does know Y very well, despite them being apparently poorly suited for each other. It's often used as a way to overcome problems introduced earlier in the story, to make it seem like they really should be together. And it's often contrasted with some other suitor who gets it totally wrong.

And the other place this trope shows up is in comedies where, despite being in a long term relationship with them, X _grossly misjudges_ what Y would enjoy, despite how little sense that would make. Thus implying, by the logic of the trope, that they are not suited for each other, thus resulting in comedy to prove otherwise.

I feel like the author meant it as a form of number one. If I were writing it that way (presumably for money and in a hurry) I'd have Edward offer to carry her immediately. He could combine this with an apology for not thinking like a human (per GeniusLemur) even if he planned it that way. And then Bella has to restrain herself from saying "Yes!" too loudly.

This probably wouldn't work for S Meyer because it gives Bella 'too much' agency.

Never having read Twilight, I get to see if the next chapter provides evidence for or against this theory.

DavidCheatham said...

And this entire thing is problematic narratively, too. There are two places that 'I will surprise you on this date' is used in narratives.

In a romantic story, it is used to show that X really does know Y very well, despite them being apparently poorly suited for each other. It's often used as a way to overcome problems introduced earlier in the story, to make it seem like they really should be together. And it's often contrasted with some other suitor who gets it totally wrong.

And the other place this trope shows up is in comedies where, despite being in a long term relationship with them, X _grossly misjudges_ what Y would enjoy, despite how little sense that would make. Thus implying, by the logic of the trope, that they are not suited for each other, thus resulting in comedy to prove otherwise.

Now, it would seem possible the story is trying to deconstruct the trope, except it's clear the story doesn't have anywhere near that self-awareness, and 'You should actually know something about the person you are dating' is not something that leads itself well to deconstruction. It is a 'true trope', it's just exaggerated in fiction.

In other words, I have no idea what the story is trying to convey, narratively speaking. The story _appears_ to be implying that Edward and Bella are _not_ suited for each other, because Edward is an asshole who can't be bothered to figure out that Bella would not enjoy hiking.

Granted, Edward _is_ an asshole who can't be bothered to figure out that Bella would not enjoy hiking, but it's sorta odd for the story to not only accidentally say that, but then structure that using a trope that leads exactly to the conclusion 'And thus they are not well suited for each other'.

DavidCheatham said...

I'm really not sure how it became so cool to break a law that exists to make the roads safer, but it can stop being cool any day now.

I've wonder if that started in America with the forced nationwide speed limit of 55 in the 70s, not for safety, but to save gas. I wonder if that disconnected 'Drive the speed limit' and 'driving safe' in people's mind. I have no evidence for the prevalence of speeding before and after that, but have always wondered, because it had to be annoying to people to be told 'Yes, this road was perfectly safe at 65, but you must now go 55 to save gas...the gas you yourself paid for, and probably waited in line an hour to get.' Logically, using less gas helped everyone, but there had to be some 'Hey, I _earned_ this gas and I'll use it however I want.'

Regardless of the cause of the disconnect in people's mind, the fact speed limits are still often too low only contributes to it. We now seem to be in an inescapable trap where everyone assumes speed limits are set ten miles too low, so everyone drives ten over, so they have to set speed limits ten miles too low....which would be fine, logically speaking, except that some people figure as long as they're going ten over, they might as well go twenty over. Or thirty. Or forty.

Marie Brennan said...

While I'm not sure I'd call it a disability, per se, I do have an ankle that likes to occasionally twist itself and deposit me on the ground for no readily apparent reason.

I have the same thing, actually. Sometimes my ankle will overturn when I'm walking across a perfectly flat, level, unobstructed surface. It doesn't do it so often as it used to, but instead I've developed a thing where . . . I don't even know what it is; I just think of it as a nerve getting pinched somewhere in the joint, though whether that's correct or not, I have no idea. My ankle will HURT if I put weight on it or move it in a certain direction, and be fine otherwise. And after a few minutes, the problem vanishes as if it never existed.

If I were on a hike and wrenched my ankle because of those problems, then yeah, my attention would be on trying not to cry, no matter how hot the guy carrying me was. (Probably MORE if he's hot. Because nobody likes to start bawling in front of someone they want to impress.)

Kristy said...

While I'm not sure I'd call it a disability, per se, I do have an ankle that likes to occasionally twist itself and deposit me on the ground for no readily apparent reason. So I suppose that's similar to Bella's "clumsiness."

I do identify - sorta - with how Bella acts like her clumsiness ain't no thang. For me, at least, the knowledge that every now and then excruciating pain will just happen... well, after a while, that's just how the world is. It's not something I consciously dwell on often, because it's "normal." (Subconsciously, yes, my brain is nigh-constantly scanning for uneven ground and calculating the optimal angles to fall at, in much the same way that it keeps track of how deeply I need to breathe to feel comfortable and how thirsty I am, but I don't expect to see those processes in a narrative.)

What I don't identify with is how she reacts to it. Yes, falling is inconvenient and embarrassing and irritating as fuck. It's also goddamn painful. I mean really goddamn painful, and scary, every time. I don't care how sexy the guy carrying me is - hell, I could be tag-team carried by Elliot and Hardison from Leverage, and I wouldn't be able to relax and enjoy it because my ankle (& probably knees) still hurt, and I'm too busy trying to reassure myself that nothing seems broken and trying not to cry. I mean, at BEST hot-guy might be a silver lining, but not much of one. Just sayin'.

Trynn said...

My reaction to the sparkle was before Twilight was popular. I just... I remember skipping most of that scene... I was reading the books for the vampire chasing part, not the romance, heh, so I kinda skipped the romance scenes...

5 miles, for me, is doable. It takes me about two hours, and afterwards I will be needing food, water, and a place to lie down.

I have gone on a last minute 12 mile hike through the woods. We had a lunch break, and I didn't find it all THAT bad, but like, I was told that this was the teacher's idea of a reward for his class: a 12 mile hike. I was like, man, in that class, if that was the reward, I'd work super hard to be BAD cuz, that doesn't sound like a reward to me.

Boutet said...

Bella's disability really makes me think of foot binding. Well, the trope itself makes me think of foot binding. It has the same idea of attractive helplessness and somehow manages to convey a certain level of flippancy about financial matters. If Bella was in a family that struggled to afford even the basics her disability would have to be a lot more of an issue. If she needed to work in order to help keep her and her dad fed/clothed/housed, didn't have any way to afford health care, couldn't afford a vehicle to get around with, then the disability would be a lot less of a cute character trait and much more of a day to day struggle. Only the women who were intended to marry into wealth had their feet bound, because only wealthy men would be free to enjoy her helplessness rather than being burdened by it.
I know Smeyer mentions Bella's financial struggles... but so far she only seems to literally mention it. She doesn't actually show Bella struggling with it or working to deal with it.
That was a pretty rambling comment, but it really struck me while I was thinking of bound feet that this trope taken to the level of Bella can really only be an attractive one to a person who has the sort of financial situation where at least one family member can be unemployed without the rest of the family struggling to balance the finances.
I guess it's lucky for Bella that she's working on marrying into a family where, presumably, the entire extended family can live in comfort without employment.

Anon said...

I have two major points to make.

1. I am about as clumsy as Bella. In the 'If you give me a flat surface to walk over I can and will fall over' way. This is combination of repeated ear infections as a child which left me with impaired balance and an ankle which was permanently damaged at age 11.

Despite the fact that I laugh when I've fallen over it's less than funny. I only laugh because it's laugh or cry and crying is usually pointless and going to do absolutely nothing to help me. My clumsyness is the reason I always have plasters and painkillers with me, will never wear high heels (and that scene later with Alice and the shoe shop pissed me off) or anything less than solid boots and rarely wear anything other than jeans.

It's something I have to consider wherever I'm going, which is a pain, it makes seasons like winter very annoying (ice is the worst) and, especially on rocky terrain, means I have to go much slower and watch the ground.

2. Oh Meyer. Go on a surprise five mile hike, please. I dare you.

If Bella is wearing sandals or cheap trainers she is going to walk straight THROUGH them. If she's wearing things that aren't completely worn in, she she going to have blisters and be in pain by the time she hits five miles. I don't know much about the territory but if it's that bad then unless she's wearing something designed for walking she's not going to have a fun time of things.

That's not even considering not having any water, whether she's wearing appropriate clothes and the fact it's uphill.

Anybody taking me on a surpised 10 mile hike (since I assume Edward meant 5 miles there, not even considering coming back) would be laughed at, asked if they hiked often and then explained to very slowly that if they want me to go hiking then I need my (wonderful, comfortable) hiking boots, my backpack (with a first aid kit, a knife and various other just-in-case things), a water bottle and some prior warning. Then they would be left there as I hopped in my car and went home. Now they get a surprise hike home.

Also, this isn't five miles over level ground. This is five miles on what seems to be either a little used hiking trail or straight wilderness up hill. A completely different animal.

Brin Bellway said...

And this is where a certain breed of That Guy shows up to talk about how women should just dress sensibly all the time because *he* doesn't like heels and short skirts anyhow

There's also the issue of defining "sensible".

Personally, I find it comforting to have as much of my skin covered as practical. Problem is, all of my lovely covering clothing--save for clothes given to me against my will and clothes I bought for the sole purpose of wearing on hikes--is made primarily or exclusively of cotton. Are there really people out there who think I should avoid cotton on the off chance of a surprise hike? (What am I saying, of course there's somebody somewhere who thinks that.)

esmerelda_ogg said...

Whatever you do, there's somebody somewhere who thinks it's wrong / destructive / selfish / harmful / skeevy / do as you please!

Isabel C. said...

Yes, this. (Well, sort of. Despite pagan leanings, I'm really only Nature Girl as long as Nature behaves itself to an approximation of early May in Southern California.) I don't mind walking; I walk a lot; but there's a difference between walking when you're prepared and/or dressed for it and when you're not.

And this is where a certain breed of That Guy shows up to talk about how women should just dress sensibly all the time because *he* doesn't like heels and short skirts anyhow and we should feel reassured by what gets him hard, and I would like to invite That Guy to take a flying fuck at a rolling donut. Preemptively.

Susan T said...

Right? I like hiking. I would do it more if I could. But I had a surprise six-mile round trip walk in unpaved areas while wearing a pair of Chucks that weren't well broken in and entirely unsuitable clothes. The blisters made the following week *awful*, I had to tough them out and go through my standard routine.

esmerelda_ogg said...

Not so sure about that - I'm old enough (darn it) to remember before the 55 mph speed limit, and I can definitely say that in the sixties and probably fifties speeding was felt to show a sort of bad-boy-rebel coolness. Also, I've read bunches of old fiction including mysteries from the twenties in which the (very rich) detective loves to drive frighteningly fast, and then there's Northanger Abbey in which the obnoxious young guy whose name I can't remember offhand brags about his fast horses.

tl;dr - I think this is more of a "young / defiant / sexy (at least in his own eyes) male" trope - and a very longstanding one - than anything else.

AdrianTurtle said...

In some ways, Meyer seems to treat Bella's clumsiness and physical dependence more like an external constraint on her movement, like wearing high heels, than like an intrinsic disability. When it's a problem, it really gets in the way, even though it makes her look less threatening and more attractive. Yet when it's not a problem, it's not a problem at all. (Is it ever a problem when she's alone, or only when she's in company?)

Fantasy makes metaphors literal, and often exaggerates them. High heels distort balance, so a woman wearing them to make her legs look better is more likely to cling to her date's arm. A tight-laced corset makes it hard to take a deep breath, so a woman wearing one to look fashionable is more likely to get dizzy and need to be supported. Nearsightedness is not disabling if you wear glasses...but it used to be that "everyone knew glasses made a girl look ugly," so my grandmother only wore hers in private and my aunt never wore hers on dates. (I don't know if Meyer thought of that, or if she grew up in a world where girls just get pretty glasses.) A girl is constrained by what a girl is expected to do, by how she is expected to be. It throws her off balance. It's kind of creepily true.

Isabel C. said...

I agree. I mean, I've gone ten-to-fifteen over when conditions allow--a clear, dry day, a straight stretch of highway, and nobody else around for miles because it's like 11 AM on a weekday and I'm in New Hampshire for random reasons--but there's "accounting for conditions" and then there's "hey, going too fast is cool," and where the hell do you have to get to that you can't get to at the speed limit?

Also, Boston highway people: yes, I drive at the speed limit or under, most of the time. I'm a relatively new driver and I don't trust my reflexes, entirely; I'm also in the right lane, and fuck you. Stop tailgating, and stop honking, and take some sort of pill, only not while you're driving.

depizan said...

Also, I am really sick of authors/creators putting out the message that safe driving is uncool and unsafe driving is cool. Social pressure around driving already runs the wrong direction - just try complaining about people speeding as opposed to about people driving slowly, or try asking a friend who drives badly to behave if you're in the car. Or observe how people are generally sympathetic if someone gets a speeding ticket.

I'm really not sure how it became so cool to break a law that exists to make the roads safer, but it can stop being cool any day now.

depizan said...

Well, technically, it's ten miles - five out and five back - plus whatever time they spend in the meadow. I'm the sort of person who likes walking/hiking, but if someone wanted me to do that, they'd better have told me first. I'm going to want food*, water, and to know what we're planning to do about bathroom necessities.

*Of course, I always want food. All plans must involve food, or I get cranky.

Boutet said...

This comment makes me want someone to add a scene to the book where Edward romantically and broodingly pulls a mashed up roll of toilet paper out of his pocket and then uses Vampire Stealth to spy on Bella while she pees in a bush.
For her protection, of course. Otherwise it would be creepy! *sarcasm*

Makabit said...

And five miles does not seem too long a walk to me, but I don't have quasi-disabilities that would make it challenging. And my husband insists that on our first date I took him on what he describes as a 'forced march', and I describe as 'a pleasant walk back to my apartment'.

Makabit said...

This sort of thing gets my head all mixed up culturally, because I think of parts of the Orthodox Jewish community when I think of restrictions on physical contact between men and women, and it's not the same at all. Unrelated men and women don't touch, married people don't touch publicly, and having a suitor pick you up, unless it's an actual medical emergency is Just Not Done. And virginity or lack thereof does not change any of this. So the idea that you can't kiss, but can cart one another around baffles me. Either you can kiss, or you can't, and if you can't, you sure shouldn't be carrying one another anywhere.

Now, this would have been a very different book if Bella and Edward had been haredi, I'll just say that...and also that I would personally find it a more interesting book, since I get being shomer negiah, but the whole Virgin Thing does not make cultural sense to me, and is way too confusing for words.

Jeannette said...

Re: Movement Disabilities Make Women More Attractive

It's obviously not same as the Chinese practice of foot-binding but it is interesting to note the similar underlying themes of fragility and inability to move as inherently desirably in women.

Boutet said...

Haha, sorry, I didn't see this comment until after I had made mine! I followed this link back around 7pm and forgot to refresh for new comments before I posted. Otherwise I would have given you a nod for opening the topic before I did :P

BaseDeltaZero said...

I have no idea what percentage of humans can do a five mile hike, but even in Bella's age group, it almost certainly isn't 90%. So _even if_ Bella had no stated disability at all, Edward really shouldn't just assume she can do a five mile hike. Hell, even if she can...if she _doesn't_ hike regularly, she's going to be really sore the next know, the day she has to _hike out_. Nice planning there.

Eh. Five miles isn't *that* bad. It might take a while, and you might have to make several stops along the way, but most people could do it eventually. Definently not something you want to just drop on someone out of the blue.

Back when I was in Scouts, five miles was okay. It was the surprise 12 mile hikes dumped on us by the Scoutmaster who was under the impression we were actually Marines that were the problem...

Honestly, this might be a place where the carrying would make sense. It's a chance to show off teh suporpowerz.

In other news, related to 'informed flaw that is potentially lethal'... Ar Tonelico's Misha, who is described as clumsy and afraid of heights (which makes her even more clumsy). Ar Tonelico takes place on a floating continent. As in, dozens of kilometers in the air. This... this is not healthy.

depizan said...

"Edward seemed to take a deep breath, and then he stepped out into the bright glow of the midday sun."

I get the feeling we're supposed to react to this with horror and WTF.

I think you're probably right. Oddly, I don't remember having a reaction to the whole sparkle reveal. I don't know whether I'd already been spoiled, whether I was just that uninvested in the characters, or whether I figured it a) wasn't that kind of book and b) we were already dealing with atypical vampires since they were out in daytime without a problem at all.

Elise Kumar said...

5 miles is about 8km. I have walked 100km for charity so 16km (8km there and 8km back!!) doesn't phase me at all as far as the pure distance goes. But if someone said "surprise! we're hiking 16km" and I didn't have proper shoes or sufficient water and food I would be REALLY PISSED OFF (and I don't have a movement related disability and I'm pretty fit and do a lot of walking and tell people I do a lot of walking and that I am interested in walking: Bella and I are pretty disimilar when it comes to propensity to hike through woods is what I am saying), what the heck Edward.

START SELF PROMOTION Anyone who after reading this post thinks "oh hey I would like to read Pride & Prejudice again", I am actually doing a thing on my blog where we read Pride & Prejudice (the version without Zombies) together (and all the text of the book is included so you don't need your own copy). So yeah. That's a thing. END SELF PROMOTION

Isabel C. said...

Yep. And when you're dealing with nonhuman characters, you *can* play that for amusement, or at least interest: "Oh. Right. You have to eat, don't you? That seems...inconvenient."

But again, not really what Meyer seems to be doing here.

Also, I'm a fairly fit, non-disabled youngish person, and someone taking me on a "surprise" five-mile hike would get a "surprise" smack upside the head. Because: no.

GeniusLemur said...

And you can use it as a moment of weakness on HIS part. "Oh! You can't walk five miles with no effort/absorb a 100 mph car crash/fly/etc! How stupid of me! I completely forgot! I guess I'm so used to hiking with my family... I'm terribly sorry!"

But that would make make Edward a) not perfect b) show some sympathy and understanding to Bella and c) *gasp* apologize.

Marie Brennan said...

My husband calls me 'Army,' after a pack mule he had in Korea.

Is it wrong of me that I find this adorable and would laugh my head off if my husband gave me a nickname like that?

(Then again, I take pride in being able to pull my own weight. So an affectionate name that implies such a quality, while also implying stubbornness, would kind of be appropriate for me.)

Regarding the hike: I do not have a disability, and when I'm on research trips in London, I have been known to walk ten miles or more in a day. I would STILL be pissed if my husband sprang something of that scale on me without warning (and, as others have said, apparently without provisioning me for such an undertaking). I strongly suspect Meyer has never hiked five miles in her life, and has no practical sense of what that means; alternatively, she's a gung-ho mountaineer who (like Edward) has lost all sight of what's "easy" for other people. My money's on the former.

David's right that there are two ways in which the surprise date usually gets used, narratively, and neither of them makes a bloody bit of sense in this context. Whether or not Bella's problems are a disability from the perspective of the characters, Edward KNOWS Bella is "clumsy." And he thinks taking her on a hike where she'll probably sprain an ankle is a good idea? I can only process that if I assume he WANTS her to get hurt, and is looking forward to making her even more helpless and dependent on him.

And yeah, edenz -- I have trouble imagining that even the most caveman-type guy would actually be charmed by the level of weakness Bella exhibits in this book. Unless they're crossing the line into proto-serial-killer desire for a completely helpless woman (hmmmmm . . . .), that's got to get really old after a while.

The thing that intrigues me here is, as Ana brought up, the weird knot of tension around physical contact. There's a whole cluster of tropes that revolve around making characters touch one another when they've been trying to avoid it: bandage a wound! Huddle together for warmth! Pretend you're a couple when you aren't but secretly wish you were! Etc. And they work because they leverage the push-pull tension of attraction and reasons to resist it.

Carrying Marianne works because it's the Regency, and everything's so repressed and proper that it feels natural for people not to say what they really think or touch one another except in very defined social circumstances (and this is why hand-kissing and dancing become so deliciously fraught). Plus it's a moment of high drama in the story. The problem is that Meyer has tried to port that kind of behavior to a situation where it doesn't fit nearly so well: there's less good reason for these characters not to touch, AND fewer circumstances where they will be expected to. If she were willing to let Bella get actually injured, she could do hurt/comfort, but then a) Bella might be bleeding, which would be just TOO MUCH ACTUAL TENSION for this story, and b) it would imply Edward had failed as her protector. And we can't let him be imperfect like that. Ergo, as with so many things in this book, she tries to deploy something she apparently doesn't understand, and makes a botch of it: Bella is inconceivably "klutzy," to the point where it would be a painful and debilitating condition for any real human, and ends up being Edward's purse dog.

And I'm supposed to find that appealing. ::is boggled::

edenz713 said...

I would also say that it's trivializing, in that it presents disabilities as conditions that are only inconvenient when it's convenient.
For all that being "clumsy" is presented as being attractive and something that women are supposed to be - this is only acceptable on the guy's time table - i.e. when he wants to be romantic. If that same clumsiness resulted in not being able to go grocery shopping, or clean, etc. I don't think that would be presented as adorably romantic.

Brin Bellway said...

And what's where sidewalk- sorry, pavement- ends?

I thought that phrasing sounded wrong.

KNicoll said...

The Guide was rebroadcast in the Washington DC area on Saturdays in, hrr. Sometime in the eighties, let me see if I can work that out... it would have to have been ... I'm guessing 198...5. Might have been 4, though, if it was autumn rather than spring that I'm remembering.

So that's another opportunity for him to have not heard it. ;)

Thomas Keyton said...

“Do you want to go home?” he said quietly, a different pain than mine saturating his voice.

Pain? Pain? This five mile hike was your idea, your choice not to tell the woman you supposedly love in advance - and even if you have genuinely forgotten how to act around people whose minds you can't read whenever you choose, here's an idea: maybe ask your family members for tips - and your reaction to realising it's a problem for Bella isn't concern, isn't "oh crap, I forgot, I'm so sorry", but is pain, like the important thing is that it hurts you... I'm starting to think Edward's kind of an asshole.

GeniusLemur said...

On the "prickly" dialogue, as Ana so delicately put it. I doubt Meyer was going back to classical stuff. The banter/teasing/verbal jousting/bickering with a theoretical undercurrent of attraction has been a cliche of romantic plots and subplots for a long time. My take on it, which I think I've mentioned before, is that it's about the difficulty of writing and (for movies/tv) acting out romance vs the ease of churning out reams of bickering dialogue and acting irritated until its time to mash lips.

And, as with so many cliches' Meyer botches it, giving us dialogue that's not playful, not banter, not even sniping with an undercurrent of attraction. Although these characters are supposed to be truly in love, it's full to overflowing with honest hostility.

Aspermoth said...

I used to have a job in a town some distance from where I lived – about six miles, to be precise, although I didn't know that at the time – and I would get the train there, although sometimes my mum gave me a lift in. And one day, I decided to try walking to work out of interest, following the route I was normally driven. This was all either pavement or walking along the side of the road. There were no trees, rocks, or branches, and I do not have a significant movement disability.

IT TOOK ME OVER TWO HOURS. Plus, when I finally got there, I bought and drank an entire packet of Fruit Shoots because I was so thirsty, even though I'd had a can of lemonade on the way.


GeniusLemur said...

Edward stepping out in the sun and bursting into flames sounds oddly correct. It makes logical and dramatic sense for Edward's (theoretical) motivations: he loves her so much and is so worried about hurting her that he considers this the only solution. Of course this would leave Bella traumatized and lugging around a huge load of guilt the rest of her life, but I doubt that would stop him.

welltemperedwriter said...

I find myself thinking about how this ties into the inevitable moment in horror/thriller/etc movies where the terrified woman is running away from the monster and it looks like she'll escape and then whoops! inevitable she trips and falls and is lunch.

The first self-defense class I ever took deconstructed the above and pointed out that if you ARE wearing the high heels that caused you to trip and fall, then hey, pull those suckers off and make a few holes in the guy's face with them.

But that can't happen in the movies cause it's far too assertive and nobody's gonna rescue her if she rescues herself...

GeniusLemur said...

When Bella's not driving fast enough, Edward's all "hurry up." When they get out and start walking, it's "we're in no hurry." Then Bella mentions she'll be slow, and he moves on to "I can be patient if I work hard at it. He's like a pendulum.

Still there's one way that Edward is indisputedly perfect. Whenever the opportunity arises to show some concern/understanding/respect for Bella, he royally blows it 100% of the time.

Kelly G said...

The whole be weak and fragile to get the men leads to trivialization of disability. I believe that this is one of the reasons many people with disabilities (that are not extreme) are regarded with suspicion that they are lying or at least exaggerating :(

But I agree the whole thing reeks. And I'd not thought of the angle of virgin who needs an excuse to have physical contact with a man

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