Twilight: Removal of Agency

[Content Note: Agency Loss, Buffy Spoilers]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 12, Bella and Edward's relationship is observed by Billy Black and Bella worries that Billy may inform her father Charlie. Later, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 12: Balancing

When we last left Edward and Bella, they were planning their outing for the next day.

Edward let slip the fact that the majority of his family aren't keen on his dalliance with Bella. They are concerned that if Edward loses control and kills her, they'll all have to go on the lam to avoid pointed questions. This is actually a reasonable setup: Edward has been spending a lot of private time with Bella, and I'm pretty sure that she's told Jessica that she's going out with Edward tomorrow and they're driving to another town. So Edward does seem like a likely suspect if Bella turns up missing. Additionally, it seems reasonable that the entire Cullen masquerade wouldn't hold up well to a serious police investigation.

Bella is concerned. She does want to still go out with Edward, but she doesn't want him to get into trouble if an 'accident' occurs. So Bella leaps into action. ACTION BELLA AWAY!

First there is Mike to deceive:

   In Gym, Mike was speaking to me again; he wished me a good time in Seattle. I carefully explained that I’d canceled my trip, worried about my truck.
   “Are you going to the dance with Cullen?” he asked, suddenly sulky.
   “No, I’m not going to the dance at all.”
   “What are you doing, then?” he asked, too interested.
   My natural urge was to tell him to butt out. Instead, I lied brightly.
   “Laundry, and then I have to study for the Trig test or I’m going to fail.”
   “Is Cullen helping you study?”
  “Edward,” I emphasized, “is not going to help me study. He’s gone away somewhere for the weekend.” The lies came more naturally than usual, I noted with surprise.

Then Jessica:

   Following the same instinct that had prompted me to lie to Mike, I called Jessica on the pretense of wishing her luck at the dance. When she offered the same wish for my day with Edward, I told her about the cancellation. She was more disappointed than really necessary for a third-party observer to be. I said goodbye quickly after that.

Then Charlie:

   “You know, Dad . . . ,” I began, breaking into his reverie.
   “What’s that, Bell?”
   “I think you’re right about Seattle. I think I’ll wait until Jessica or someone else can go with me.”
   “Oh,” he said, surprised. “Oh, okay. So, do you want me to stay home?”
   “No, Dad, don’t change your plans. I’ve got a million things to do . . . homework, laundry . . . I need to go to the library and the grocery store. I’ll be in and out all day . . . you go and have fun.”
   “Are you sure?”
   “Absolutely, Dad. Besides, the freezer is getting dangerously low on fish — we’re down to a two, maybe three years’ supply.”
   “You’re sure easy to live with, Bella.” He smiled.
   “I could say the same thing about you,” I said, laughing. The sound of my laughter was off, but he didn’t seem to notice. I felt so guilty for deceiving him that I almost took Edward’s advice and told him where I would be. Almost.

And that's all in pretty much one page. I'm pretty sure that's the fastest and most decisive that we've ever seen Bella act.

But before we deal with that, can I reach for the low-hanging fruit and point out that "[Jessica] was more disappointed than really necessary" line? That line makes me sad. I'm quite certain that it is supposed to fit into the overall framework of Jessica being concerned that she'll lose Mike to Bella, but my brain can't help but fold it into the growing pile of evidence that meta-Bella is severely depressed. My guess is that Jessica genuinely is concerned for her friend -- she seemed more than happy to hear that Edward liked Bella, and we'll recall she had a low opinion of Edward, so my guess is that she was happy that Bella was happy and now she fears that Edward has broken her heart -- and that Bella just can't accept the idea that she might be worth sadness and concern from her friends. That makes me sad.

And it makes me a little angry that S. Meyer really did fail to include a reasonable sample of healthy girl/girl friendships in this book. I gather that Alice will be on board later (though for Twilight at least, she seems less like Bella's friend and more like Edward's trusted employee), but pretty much every other girl in this novel so far has been portrayed as jealous and two-faced and back-stabbing because they blame Bella for the fecklessness of their men. I know this is typical for YA novels, the setting up of pretty and popular girls (though in this case, less pretty and less popular than the protagonist) as literary obstacles to be overcome, but I'm frustrated and annoyed that friendly girls in Bella's life are the exception rather than the rule. And that instead we are given pseudo-friends like Jessica and Lauren who pretend to be nice to Bella, only because they believe it's better to keep their pretty-and-popular enemy close by. The nearest thing we've had to an actual friend so far is Angela, and she's a "friend" largely by virtue of the fact that she doesn't speak. There's nothing wrong with that, but in this conversation-oriented novel it makes her almost invisible.

But let's move on to the fact that Bella, for possibly the first time in this novel, is being decisive and acting with agency! Yeah! Except ... she's acting with agency in order to essentially undermine Edward's agency. Um ... yuck.

Bella wants to go out with Edward, regardless of the risks. Fine. But she wants to shelter him from those risks as well. Less fine, since that's really his decision to make and not hers. And she accomplishes this by deliberately doing things to undermine his agency, things that he doesn't want her to do, and things that she's doing without warning or his consent. Very not fine.

Tomorrow on their outing, Edward will ask about Charlie and what he knows. Bella will tell him that she's carefully made sure that no one knows that they're out together, and that no suspicion will fall on Edward if Bella doesn't come home. In other words: she's removed the barrier that he was relying on to keep from killing her.

   “And did you tell Charlie what you were up to?” he asked.
   “But Jessica thinks we’re going to Seattle together?” He seemed cheered by the idea.
   “No, I told her you canceled on me — which is true.”
   “No one knows you’re with me?” Angrily, now.
   “That depends . . . I assume you told Alice?”
   “That’s very helpful, Bella,” he snapped.
   I pretended I didn’t hear that.
   “Are you so depressed by Forks that it’s made you suicidal?” he demanded when I ignored him.
   “You said it might cause trouble for you . . . us being together publicly,” I reminded him.

Edward is angry. Good. He should be angry. Possibly for the first time in this novel, I am completely on board with Edward's anger here. But he's angry for the wrong reasons. He's angry here because Bella's life is the most precious thing in the whole world to him and here she's being cavalier about her safety. That's not a bad reason to be angry, but it shouldn't be the main reason.

Edward should be angry because Bella removed his agency. He was very careful to verify that Jessica knew they were going out together today. He tried to convince Bella to tell Charlie as well, though he dropped the subject when Bella refused. But this safety net, this social barrier, is important to Edward. Edward believes that it is useful and necessary in order to keep his behavior in line. Edward will later compare Bella to a drug addiction, saying that his yearning for her blood is like a craving for heroin. (Which I suppose, being a telepath, he would actually be in a position to judge.) By removing the barriers that Edward put in place in order to control his addiction, Bella is actively harming him and trying to take away his agency and control over himself and his actions.

Edward should also be angry because Bella isn't just maneuvering herself into a position to be killed; she's maneuvering herself into a position to be killed by him. She's making it as likely as she possibly can that he will be responsible for her murder, and that he'll have to live with that knowledge for the rest of his unlife. That's a truly heinous thing for her to do, and it shows just how selfish her "selfless" actions are here. By trying to protect Edward from the police, she's created a situation in which he may have to live with the guilt and horror that he murdered the one person he's ever romantically loved.

So far in my watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I've been frustrated that while the show seemed willing to tackle what it would mean to kill the person you love (Buffy killing Angel), it has largely dodged the issue of what it would mean to maneuver someone you care about into killing someone they love. Xander Harris is at least partially responsible for the latter; he deliberately chose not to tell Buffy that she might encounter a souled Angel in her battle, because Xander wanted his romantic rival dead. And the only way that could happen is if he -- Xander -- pushed his friend Buffy into killing the person she loved.

Bella is playing both the victim/Angel role here as well as the puppeteer/Xander role here. She's gone out of her way to make it very hard for Edward to resist killing her, and then upturned her big eyes at him and said, essentially, doesn't this prove how much I love you? And the answer is: no. It doesn't prove that she loves Edward; it proves that she thinks more about herself, and about the fantasy in her head, than she does about the actual person she loves and their feelings and wishes. If Bella wanted to protect real!Edward, she would listen to him when he says he needs and wants a social safety net; instead, she moves and acts for the fantasy!Edward in her head, the one who will take this as even more evidence of her pure unadulterated True Love for him, that she would so selflessly sacrifice herself for him! D'aww!

Fortunately for Bella, her author also prefers fantasy!Edward since we never get anything more than some grousing and general grumpiness in response to her actions here. But it shouldn't be this way. After an entire novel full of Edward being angry and upset, now is the time that Edward should be genuinely angry and upset. Bella took his agency away, and she didn't even warn him until they were halfway to the middle of nowhere together.

I could kind-of sort-of forgive this a little if Bella was doing this for people other than Edward. If she thought that Charlie would be killed in a police investigation into the existence of vampires, or that Jessica would be murdered to cover up the fact that Edward was with Bella that day, then I might be able to see something of value in Bella's decision here. It wouldn't still be a wholly morally good decision, I think, but it would be a complex and serious look at a morally ambiguous situation. I could even forgive a little if Bella was doing this not for Edward's sake, but for his family's.

But those situations, that latter one especially, would require Bella not telling Edward that she's removed the safety net. A Bella who had thought through all this carefully and decided that vengeance would just cause more harm than good would also be a Bella who understood that telling Edward that she'd removed the safety net would be the opposite of a loving act. Or she'd at least tell Edward what she'd done before they left the house together, and not once they'd gotten halfway to wherever they were going. If this hypothetical Bella really felt the need to be truthful, she'd be proactively truthful and give Edward the agency to decide how to react in response*, rather than only being truthful when asked directly.

Ultimately this scene isn't about protecting Edward, or the Cullens, or Charlie and Jessica. It's about proving that True Love means caring so much about the person you love and so little about yourself that you'll protect that person from harm ... even if it means putting them in more harm's way. (This will be an ongoing Twilight theme, actually! Stay tuned to Edward leaving Bella in New Moon!) In order to prove the purity of her love, Bella will leap into action for possibly the first time in this novel.

And Bella will exercise this new-found agency only long enough to take Edward's agency away.

* For example, Edward could choose not to go out with her, once she'd told him that she removed the safety net. Or he could choose to go get a chaperone to bring along; Carlisle, perhaps, since he's supposedly never had an 'accident'. But these things would involve risk, and there's a chance Edward would walk away from this outing, which is not what Bella wants. So by removing his safety net and not telling him in advance before they leave, she is ultimately being manipulative and selfish, neither of which reconcile well with love.


chris the cynic said...

Snarky Twlight

Edward: And did you tell Charlie what you were up to?
Bella: Of course.
*Edward facepalms*
Edward: You were supposed to- this whole confrontation is supposed to be based on- For the love of God Bella! Did you at least make it so Jessica is unaware we're together?
Bella: Now why would I do a thing like-
Edward: We're characters in a story, we have to do what the story says, you're supposed to make it so no one knows we're together then I get all-
Bella: We don't have to do anything, start taking responsibility for your own actions.
Edward: How many people know?
Bella: I told various people on 18 different continents spread across six different worlds that you and I would be together. I also told them that if they didn't hear from me afterward they should come looking for you, and advised using a combination of weapons with high penetration, like the type you'd use to hit a graboid through 20 feet of dirt, and flame throwers since vampire innards are so very combustible.
Edward: You told them how to kill me?
Bella: I don't actually think you can kill me, but if you do I will not go unavenged.
Edward: You're supposed to be more concerned about minor inconveniences to me than your own life.
Bella: Not gonna happen.
Bella: Besides, if you lack self control to such a degree that you'd kill the narrator of the story you're in then you're a danger that needs to be dealt with.

bekabot said...

Well, one of the things I've been arguing for years is that you couldn't get away with filming Dracula as written (by Stoker) today, because everyone who saw the result would think all the male characters were gay. Although: for about a quarter-century prior to 1900 and for maybe 10 years afterward homoerotic literature flourished and thrived without ever becoming what we'd think of today as queer. A sharp focus on the on the rivalries/preoccupations of men was not unusual for a book written at the time when Stoker wrote Dracula, although it's a pretty reliable indicator of what kind of book Dracula was (is). Stoker was a contemporary of Rudyard Kipling and H. Rider Haggard and Talbot Mundy, all of whom wrote what were, in essence, YA books of the kind aimed at boys rather than girls, but marketed to an audience of adult men. At least Stoker has female characters, which is more than you can say for Rudyard Kipling or Talbot Mundy or even for H. Rider Haggard, most of the time. These were not the only kind of books being written during that period but they were a highly distinctive sub-type of fiction and, as fiction, they were very influential. Many of the books we think of as "classics" belong to this group.

The Dracula story most people are familiar with seems to me to be the one presented in the 1931 movie starring Bela Lugosi, whose plot elements are mostly borrowed from the Stoker book but whose "feel" seems (to me, again) to owe more to The Vampyre by John Polidori. Dracula as played by Lugosi has got much more in common with the Polidori vampire than with the Stoker one (who is a ghoul, full stop). Dracula circa 1931 goes out into society and sweet-talks women. Dracula circa 1897, as imagined by Stoker, doesn't bother with any of that: he just bites them. (Different times; different moralities.)

bekabot said...

"Nah, then you just get an 'Edwina, the dinosaur who didn't know she was extinct' situation."

Yeah but...our science hero vampire, whoever he is, wouldn't quite be in the same situation because he would know he was scientifically impossible once he'd proven it himself. So it's close, but not the same. (IMO.)

"It's more the influence of Dracula that I was talking about. This is how I think he's seen in the twentieth century, based on what I know about mainstream culture."

You're right, which is why I think that the present-day conception of what a vampire is ("suave bored aristocrat") owes more to John Polidori than it does to Bram Stoker (whose portrait of Dracula is closer to the "insatiate night hunter" Slavic idea).

What I mean is: I like the Francis Ford Coppola Dracula movie a lot, and it's stayed high on my list of "here's what I want to see again when/if I get the chance" for the last 20 years. But. Nothing could be further from the underlying gist of the Stoker novel than the idea that Dracula could get the inspiration for his let's-go-invade-England plan out of a yearning to reunite with a long-lost (female) lover. Bah. The connection between women and territory exists in the Stoker novel too, but it runs in the other direction. When Dracula savages Lucy and Mina he's telegraphing to the men connected with them (who are the characters with whom he's having the real conversation) that he's poaching on their grounds and that there's not much they can do about it. In Bram Stoker's Dracula, women are the medium by means of which the message is delivered, and men are the parties to whom the message is delivered. There you have the Stoker division of labor. (The reason I'm picking on a movie I'm personally fond of is that Coppola decided to title it "Bram Stoker's Dracula", a sin for which I'm surprised Stoker's ghost hasn't risen and haunted him.)

Tigerpetals said...

Maybe, but Dracula is the one that's known, which is possibly why that movie's title is what it is. The story may be different, but it refers to the one people are familiar with.

esmerelda_ogg said...

Actually, I read a story along these lines years and years ago in Fantasy and Science Fiction - probably in the late eighties, about the time HIV / AIDS was entering public consciousness and there was worry about contaminated transfusions. In the story, the idea was that vampires could identify various blood-borne diseases by taste without being infected, so a couple of vampires did just about what you suggest, setting up a consulting service for blood banks. (If the vamps approved it, the blood was safe for transfusions; if they found it was contaminated, they drank it.) I have no idea who wrote the story, but I think I kept the issue - I'll see if I can find it.

Isator Levi said...

I don't know much about Masquerade, but its successor game Requiem definitely works from a theme of vampires being the same essential people for eternity, and how the humanity they need to hold onto lest it be lost forever is jeopordized by the impulses to indulge an inner beast of of violence and depravity.

Although the game also functionally works to allow that vampires don't actually have to kill to sustain themselves, and it's socially encouraged for them not to (although they still need to primarily feed on fresh humans).

The depravities are expressed in more varied ways.

Smilodon said...

CN: Depression

I think Edward's on to something with his "Are you so depressed by Forks that it’s made you suicidal?” I mean, I think we've mostly already decided that Bella acts depressed in the beginning of Twilight. And to decide that your life has less value than someone else's inconvinence ... Bella is not in a good place. And it's a pattern that she'll repeat in the next book - she copes with her (explicitly in-text this time) depression by deliberatly putting herself in risky situations.

chris the cynic said...

One solution would be, "I have told people, whose names I will not disclose to you, that I am with you. I told Jessica and Charlie that I was alone."

Isator Levi said...

I shall keep that in mind, thank you.

I do often struggle with how non-specific to be about spoilers that can't be directly inferred as relating to the matter at hand. Suggestions like this are helpful.

Thomas Keyton said...

How many people did she kill avenging her death? From what I've gathered, it was only a small group of people responsible - maybe Rosalie just counts in a more sensible way?*

*Obviously if it's Rosalie explaining what counts, my question is silly.

GeniusLemur said...

Of course, in Twilight specifically, and the genre in general, the vamps might talk a mean game about how they can barely control themselves in the best circumstances, but as the story unfolds, they never lose control or even come close.

Mime_Paradox said...

“You’re sure easy to live with, Bella.” He smiled.

There are as many people as there are grains of sand on the beach, each with their own particular way of thinking, and yet I cannot conceive of a universe in which this sounds like something anyone --particularly a parent talking to their kid--would say.

Silver Adept said...

Bella has backed herself into a nice corner, hasn't she? Keeping everything set up nicely so that she can die without muss or fuss and without inconveniencing Edward. And then we get more of the unreliable narrator. I wonder what really happened in Twilight, because Bella keeps showing signs that her recollection is not completely accurate...

chris the cynic said...

Actually, as I recall, in the movie where most of the world's population had been turned into vampires which left them with too little blood to go around, only starving vampires were apt to turn into serial killers, provided they hadn't been that way as humans. The entire idea of, "I'll turn you into a vampire and then you'll understand," was brutally subverted. (And yet, in spite of that brutal subversion, I don't think the person who attempted it ever came to realize that he just happened to be evil and vampirism had nothing to do with it.)

chris the cynic said...

Unless, of course, Chris has already written something like this...

Is this the droid you're looking for?

depizan said...

Ha! I thought I vaguely remembered something of the sort. It is the most sensible response to that question, at least when put the way Bella put it.

"You...don't eat people, right?" is a reasonable question. (Especially given vampire mythology.)
"Why don't you eat people?" is a scary question.

Will Wildman said...

Telling Edward that people know they're together just makes them targets.

But as Ana points out, Edward wants other people to know because that will increase the stakes and so help him not devour Bella. If he does, the Cullens won't go on a murder spree in hopes that this throws off suspicion; they'll just have to book it out of town really quick. (Bella might reasonably not assume this, but it doesn't appear to be part of her thoughts in any case.)

Isator Levi said...

Hmm, good point.

It is... something that I think people who would be familiar with it would be able to infer from context and wording, and that anybody who isn't should go ahead and not decode.

chris the cynic said...

None of which addresses the two key points made in the main post:

She could have told this to Edward before they got on the road. She chose not to. Thus he didn't know what he was getting into until he was already partway in it.

She lies a lot, this whole situation is the result of her lying to multiple people. If she wasn't going to tell Edward the truth before they got on their way, she might as well have lied to him when he asked. He doesn't actually need people to know for his safety net to be there, he just needs to believe that people know. He can't read her mind, otherwise he wouldn't have to ask, so this would be a good time to lie. (Though, as noted, if vengeance is feared against those who know Edward was there, which it doesn't seem to be, maybe she wouldn't want Edward thinking Jessica knew.)

GeniusLemur said...

And once again Miss I-hate-to-lie-and-stink-at-it. Lies easily and without the slightest twinge of conscience.

On the female friends (or lack thereof): Bella could have friends, but that would take valuable words that could be spent mooning over Edward's alleged perfection.

Isator Levi said...

"If this hypothetical Bella really felt the need to be truthful, she'd be proactively truthful and give Edward the agency to decide how to react in response*, rather than only being truthful when asked directly."

This difference between proactive honesty and responsive honesty brings to mind Xlhonl sebz Chryyn Zntv Znqbxn Zntvpn.

(And if that isn't an appropriately sinister looking rendition of those words)

Although there, he had the excuse of being an alien being with an explicitly disparate perspective behind why he should be honest despite his agenda.

Will Wildman said...

This is such an unexpected role reversal (active Bella doing harm to Edward by ignoring his needs and dismissing his addiction [analogous to her disability?]) that I am left scrabbling for words. An excellent post.

Silver Adept said...

@bekabot -

Point taken. It's just a show, it's just a show...

Silver Adept said...

@bekabot -

True, it's not the same, And a good writer would be able to tease out the story of our science hero figuring out what kind of !Vampire they are. Edwina would certainly be the convenient hand-wave or explanation of how our science hero exists despite science saying they can't.

bekabot said...

@ Silver Adept-

What you're talking about is a lack of specifics, which, however annoying it might prove to people who have a thing for specifics (I am one and I'm guessing you are too) is one of the things that makes for horse racing and fan fiction, which is why it's unwise to object to it too strongly.

bekabot said...

"A mythical - and in the case of Dracula, hypnotic and high-status, which means he uses force that isn't brutally violent and he's at the top of society, more things women are supposed to hope for - predator paired with a weak human represents the extremes of gendered power dynamics. The women authors are dealing with them."

I agree with most of this, but Dracula itself is a strange case. Dracula is a thoroughly homoerotic story, and it was modeled on the young-male-centric boys' romances with which it was contemporaneous. The true, deep, meaningful relationships in Dracula all subsist between male characters (with the passing exception of the BFF bond between Lucy and Mina which starts off the English section of the book). Female characters in Dracula are territory for the male characters to fight over. Van Helsing can ensure the purity of the British females where Dracula can ensure their defilement, and that's about all there is to that. The question in Dracula is: which older male preceptor are the young men of the novel going to follow, Dracula or Van Helsing? (Renfield is there to illustrate the consequences of making the wrong decision.)

Tigerpetals said...

It's more the influence of Dracula that I was talking about. This is how I think he's seen in the twentieth century, based on what I know about mainstream culture.

Silver Adept said...

@bekabot -

Nah, then you just get an "Edwina, the dinosaur who didn't know she was extinct" situation.

Ronixis said...

I like the idea of a Science Hero vampire who has used their long life to obtain vast amounts of scientific knowledge.

bekabot said...

"I like the idea of a Science Hero vampire who has used their long life to obtain vast amounts of scientific knowledge."

Wouldn't it be cool if he ended up proving that vampires are scientifically impossible and disappeared in a puff of larnin'?

Tigerpetals said...

TW for mention of violence:

I think vampire romance is the heir to gothic novels, in which the heroines were generally trapped in a house and afraid it/their husband/some-who-isn't-their-husband-yet was secretly trying to kill them. Given the cultural context that promotes powerful men and weak women, these kinds of novels deal with the logical implications of that - someone more powerful than you is someone who could be very dangerous indeed, and women are supposed to love people more powerful than them and be happy to submit. A mythical - and in the case of Dracula, hypnotic and high-status, which means he uses force that isn't brutally violent and he's at the top of society, more things women are supposed to hope for - predator paired with a weak human represents the extremes of gendered power dynamics. The women authors are dealing with them.

This is a short summation of what I've read on the topic (or various topics, really) and my own thoughts.

Brin Bellway said...

Forever Knight had an episode

Somebody remembers Forever Knight other than my mom?

(That particular episode doesn't sound familiar to me, so either it was after season 1 or it wasn't one of the episodes I paid attention to when Mom got the S1 DVD last Hanukkah.)

Silver Adept said...

@Brin and @chris -

We remember Forever Knight, too - it was great to watch and enjoy.

Silver Adept said...

@depizan, @Ana -

Also, something that most vampire shows/books/mocks don't touch on - if vampires are supposed to be immortal, are they immune to bloodborne pathogens and diseases? Does vampire venom kill microorganisms? If so, surely a brilliant vampire makes a deal with blood collection organizations - anyone who's donated blood and fails the "safe for transfusion" test has their blood shunted to the vampire for consumption. You still have a safe blood supply and you don't have to risk a feeding.

Or the CDC discreetly contacts a vampire clan about using the venom as an antimicrobial - either as a vaccine or as a treatment - perhaps to stymie the vast infection rate of HIV in risk-prone areas. Maybe they're still trying to figure out how to tone it down so that injection don't result in conversion, or how to tailor it to only attack certain cells, but surely sometime knows and is trying to work on it. Maybe Carlisle.

So, yeah, the whole "thirst for blood = serial murderer" idea leaves a lot to be deconstructed.

depizan said...

There's also talking to Edward about what would happen if he were to kill her. Then she would know who is or isn't at risk and could make a more thought out choice. If she knew that all that would happen is that the Cullens would leave town in a hurry, then there would be no reason to remove the safety net Edward wanted. It would also make Edward having told people look better from her point of view (after all, she should be unsure whether he's putting those people in danger).

Actually, this is the point where the vampire romance genre and I tend to part ways. Vampires are never simply hemovores, they're always one step away from becoming a serial killer of humans (or have been one in the past or are one or...). I do not understand this creative choice. It seems fraught with unfortunate implications - ones that tend to be missing from other supernatural romances (werewolves, for example, are generally given control of their changes - or are treated as only dangerous on the full moon when "the beast" takes over.). Why are they de-monstered, but vampires never are?*

Its not just the element of danger (I only like romance when adventure is attached to it, personally.), its that the lover might _be_ the danger. Why is this appealing!? Obviously it is, or there wouldn't be zillions of vampire romances. But I do not get it. I just find it creepy. I know it's a YMMV your kink is okay, even if it's not mine, kind of thing. I'm not saying it's wrong to find it romantic, _I_ just seriously don't get it.

But then I don't get vampires in general. I have many friends who love Vampire: the Masquerade. I can't really get into playing a vampire, nor do I care for the "High School Cliques: the role playing game" aspect of it. I'm vampire impaired, it seems.

*I'd love to see a vampire romance in which the vampire, on being asked about their diet looks at their questioner with some distress "Of _course_ I don't eat people! Do you? You said you weren't a vegetarian." *edges away*

Unless, of course, Chris has already written something like this...

ancusohm said...

I think I have to disagree with the people who think Bella should have lied and told Edward that other people knew they were together. If he did kill her, he would want to cover things up as quickly as possible which could involve him (or one of the other Cullens) hurting or even killing the people who Edward thinks that they know he was with Bella. Telling Edward that people know they're together just makes them targets.

Although... I suppose she could lie to Edward without putting anyone in danger, if she told the truth to Alice that no actually knows they're together. That way, Edward has his safety net, but, in the event that he does kill her, Alice would know (she would see it happening, right? I mean, killing Bella would be a spur of the moment decision, so Alice probably wouldn't see it happen far enough ahead of time in order to stop it from happening, but she would be able to call Edward afterwards and say "Hey. No one actually knows you were with Bella today, so we don't need to kill/intimidate anyone else"). Wait... at this point in the story, does Bella know Alice can see the future?

Oh, random question, does anyone know what drives twilight!vampires to drink blood? I mean, is it just the smell or does the sight of it send them into a frenzy too? If it's just the smell, you think there'd be a way around it. In the real world, cauterizing a person's nose can greatly reduce their ability to smell (although I believe it's quite painful). You would think there would be a vampire equivalent of that. I mean, I know twilight!vamps are ridiculously tough, but you would think that they could use a blowtorch or something to burn out the smell receptors in their nose. That would probably be pretty painful even for a twilight!vamp, and not being able to smell anything would be bad, but I think it would still be less bad than being constantly tempted to kill everyone around them.

Oh, wait, I just thought of a less violent method. Edward could have Carlisle draw some of Bella's blood. Then Edward could have Carlisle chain up Edward (there has to be some kind of restraint that can hold a vampire) and leave an open sample of Bella's blood just out of Edward's reach. After a while, I would think Edward would habituate to the smell so he wouldn't be so tempted to kill Bella. Although, that would be an agonizing experience, and Edward might not be willing to subject himself to that.

GeniusLemur said...

Yes, it does. My post was about if you do it the "right" way and hew very closely to everything the rulebook says.

chris the cynic said...

I actually do think that Bella gets some credit for thinking through the risks. She knows that she might die, she has considered the consequences on some level or other and sees them as being worth it (because... imprinting?) but the consequence that she doesn't want is for it to fall back on Edward.

That's, actually, probably the only consequence she has control over. She can't very well do much of anything to comfort Charlie, Jessica, Rene, Angela et al. if she dies but not tip them off that something is up if she lives. At least not without making them wonder if her sudden change of character was her preparing to commit suicide, which come to think of it might have been a better cover.

She's suddenly cheerful and nice to everyone and tries to make them happy as possible, if she disappears then that's a well known symptom of the time after someone decides to kill themselves but before they make the attempt so suicide would be a reasonable conclusion, which doesn't tangle Edward in a murder investigation, if she doesn't disappear then she was just having a good day. Trouble is, if people know that that can be a sign of impending suicide, rather than learning about it after the disappearance, it's not going to comfort them much.

But what she can do in anticipation of her possible murder is try to influence the direction of the investigation, and by distancing Edward from herself she's putting it in a non-Edward direction.


Where she loses credit is in not considering the unintended consequences on the probabilities of various events. She's looking at things from what seems to be, "Either I live, or I die," and working with that dichotomy. If she lives then no harm done, if she dies then she protected Edward and his family.

What she's not considering is that her actions can change the probability that she dies. She's not considering the psychological effect this is going to have upon Edward, the fact that it will up the probability that he loses control, the fact that it means that he's going to be more nervous about losing control, have to be more on his guard the the whole time, and have a greater probability of having to spend the rest of eternity in guilt and shame.

If the probability of Edward killing her were fixed, she wouldn't be making things worse for him, she'd just be disobeying his expressed wishes, which isn't good but when you're talking about your own death I think you get at least some say in how things go down, but the probability is not fixed and so she's making things worse for him.

And, as with all things in Twilight, without the knowledge or consent of the person affected.

Isator Levi said...

Perhaps, but the specific point was about whether or not he had actually consumed human blood in a manner that makes his "record" worse than Rosalie's.

As for the compassion... I don't really see the idea of powerful psychic enhancements of major personality traits as something necessarily governed by evolutionary imperatives (the idea of vampires "evolving" is already kind of weird considering there's no actual avenue for transmission of hereditary traits), and I don't really see a contradiction between compassion for humans not extending directly to animals.

That and how it's apparently also developed according to his awareness of and specific resistance to the change as it was occuring.

Isator Levi said...

That said, the implications of the idea that he has such compassion while also tolerating (and even maintaining friendships with) vampires with no such restraints aren't really considered.

chris the cynic said...

Also, something that most vampire shows/books/mocks don't touch on - if vampires are supposed to be immortal, are they immune to bloodborne pathogens and diseases?

Forever Knight had an episode in which someone was trying to cure something based on the idea that it was impossible for the two diseases to coexist. Vampires get infected with the not-trying-to-be-cured disease and some die of it. But the solution is found when they realize that the cure doesn't work. The two diseases can't coexist, but the one they're trying to cure killed off the other one.

So the vampires get themselves infected with the other one, which has no harmful effects upon them because almost all diseases don't bother them in the least, but does get rid of the harmful-to-vampires disease.

Thomas Keyton said...

I think even with Carlisle there's supposed to be a thing about how he actually doesn't taste the blood

Except they have enhanced senses, so he's going to be smelling it all the time.

According to the wiki, he resists it with his superhuman compassion, which is an odd superpower for a member of a species evolved to be super-special-awesome better-than-you predators, and raises questions about how a personality trait so strong it becomes his special vampire power doesn't kick in when he hunts animals (either his compassion is exaggerated or the blood lust is so strong that it feels like a nosebleed should set them off), so the refusing to taste excuse might actually be the more plausible option.

Isator Levi said...

I disagree with your assessment.

Boutet said...

"vampires are not like vampire bats - drinking half their own body weight a day and having perpetual diarrhea"

I might like Twilight if Edward had perpetual diarrhea. I would at least be entertained by how Smeyer would swing that around to romance. Maybe his farts smell as lovely as his breath. She would be drawn in by all his butt-perfumed moping in the mens room at school.
It would explain a lot of the painful facial expressions in the movies.

Jeannette said...

Doesn't it rather depend on your GM (or "Storyteller")? Perhaps it's just because of the various friends I have who obsessively play Exalted, but I get the impression that whilst there are many broken things about the ramshackle of a system that they are trying to constantly with errata, they alter the world in earth-shattering ways on a fairly regular basis.

depizan said...

Oh, storytellers throw out large portions of "how it's supposed to be" all the time. Just not - in my experience - when it comes to Vampire. I've played furry superhero Werewolf, for example. And I've heard of plenty of world altering Exalted games. Somehow Vampire doesn't attract that sort of storyteller, or attracts them less often.

GeniusLemur said...

Also known as "Vampire, the Mopesquerade." But seriously, Whit e Wolf is very bad about creating worlds where a) everything (and I mean everything is utterly dark, corrupt, tainted, etc. so it's no fun (black vs self-loathing one shade above black morality). and b) Everything in the world is so locked down, your characters can't change anything or make any sort of difference, so it's no fun. Vampire is kind of the exception in that your characters can play petty power games with each other, so there's something they can do. In Exaulted, forinstance, everything is so stacked against your characters making a difference, there's literally nothing they can do with their amazing powers.

depizan said...

Oh, yes. I've played Vampire: the Masquerade. I just didn't like it much. I'm more into playing heroes than playing immortals who set up cliques and complicated social orders and struggle not to lose their last shreds of humanity by munching on people to death. Which isn't to say that one couldn't play a heroic vampire in the game. But the game mostly seems to be set up for playing a game of difficult social interactions spiced with bloodlust and depravity. Not really my cup of tea.

(Seriously, I don't do evil or dark. It just isn't something I find fun. I have exactly one Dark Side SWTOR character and I'd probably have deleted her by now if she weren't part of a team with friends. Otherwise, it's all Light Siders (though not all Light Side choices...) all the way. My rpg (pen and paper or computer) heroes are pretty solidly no darker than a Type II Anti-Hero. A few of them have had moments of, ah, shooting Greedo, but I generally am all about Guile Heroes, Science Heroes, Action Survivors, Badass Unintentionals and the like. Vampires just don't come in those flavors.)

Edit: Though if vampires ever did, I'd be a heck of a lot more interested in them.

rikalous said...

Ah yes, the vampires who can be stalled by a pile of grain that they'll be compelled to stop and count. (Ah-ah-ah!) Good times.

Also cool: The penanggals (not sure if that's the right pluralization), whose heads separate from their bodies at night and go flying around, trailing their guts.

Isator Levi said...

I think even with Carlisle there's supposed to be a thing about how he actually doesn't taste the blood, specifically so that he doesn't risk losing control, and that it isn't necessary anyway because the transformation is caused by injecting venom.

Smilodon said...

I read a short story where the vampire chose to take blood from living victims because he was worried that, once human institutions failed (as he believed they inevitably would), the blood banks would disappear, he'd be back to hunting, and he didn't want to lose his edge. I don't recall him killing, but I'd say that his morality was somewhat lacking despite that.

DavidCheatham said...

The really weird idea in all this is Bella's idea that Charlie, if Bella disappears, is just going to forget about her cancelled trip.

'Well, my daughter was going on a trip with Edward, but canceled, and then disappeared...I better not investigate the idea that she decided to break up with him or something and he kidnapped her. Instead, I will start by looking for Bella...*throws dart at map* Nevada!'

Seriously, the 'cancelled' trip with Edward is _the only clue anyone has_ to Bella's whereabouts. How exactly does Bella think police work happens?

Then, of course, people starts investigating the trip more, and see a non-restrained Bella via a traffic camera or gas station attendant or something. So apparently this isn't a kidnapping at all, and Edward...helped Bella run away from home? Or did he belated tell her to tell no one where she was going, because he is a serial killer and planned to murder her? (Both those are rather too close to the truth.)

I can't imagine where this investigation goes from here, but it sure as hell doesn't lead _away_ from Edward.

Bella, this plan of yours to 'clear' Edward makes very little sense. And, incidentally, Bella, you've forgotten the people Edward might have told. You know, because he _wanted_ people to know?

If Bella actually didn't want Edward in trouble if he did killed her, what she needs to do is have in her pocket or suitcase, something to be found by the vampires _after her death_, a 'I've canceled my trip with Edward and have run away from home with some boy I met on the internet.' letter, along with a note saying to mail that from LA or something. And it should also explain there is stuff hidden in her bedroom to support that.

The only thing that will clear Edward of Bella's disappearance is something pointing elsewhere that it would be hard for Edward to fake, like a signed letter, not her saying 'I'm not going on the trip'.

redsixwing said...

And tools that begin to hunger for blood if unused for a prolonged time.

Pretty sure my jeweler's saw is one of these. @_@

Rakka said...

Being obligate hemovore shouldn't mean being a serial killer waiting to happen. Considering vampires are not like vampire bats - drinking half their own body weight a day and having perpetual diarrhea - they should be capable of finding better solutions.
Then again, I'm more fond of the "original" vampire mythos where they are dangerous but rather narrow-minded and OCD-y. Also, vampire pumpkins. And tools that begin to hunger for blood if unused for a prolonged time. All of those are more interesting than mopey goffic angst magnets.

Also, Depizan, thanks for the heads up, now I'll know to say no thanks to VtM rpgs.

Isator Levi said...

"Also, vampire pumpkins."

Another reason to read Digger.

(I know it's an actual folk legend, but an opportunity for a plug is an opportunity for a plug)

Elise Kumar said...

In my own attempt to read this book I never got much further than this, and it was this section that put me off. I just couldn't stomach the idea that this was supposed to be *~*romantic*~* because... ugh no.

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