Twilight: The Food Analogy

[Content Note: Rape]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 13, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 13: Confessions

When we last left our star-crossed couple, Edward was explaining how he constantly wants to rape kill eat Bella.

   “How do I explain?” he mused. “And without frightening you again . . . hmmmm.” [...] “You know how everyone enjoys different flavors?” he began. “Some people love chocolate ice cream, others prefer strawberry?”
   I nodded.
   “Sorry about the food analogy — I couldn’t think of another way to explain.”
   I smiled. He smiled ruefully back.

When it comes to analyzing Twilight, I think "sorry about the food analogy" is one of the most frequently quoted lines in this book. Certainly, it was considered punchy enough to lead off the Twilight and Philosophy book. But I am willing to confess myself entirely baffled by the line: what is Edward trying to say here and what is he apologizing for, precisely? 

Edward seems to be apologizing for using a food analogy in a manner that reduces Bella to food, rather than to a person. And normally I would be on board with that -- it's not appropriate to reduce women to food when discussing non-food things like, for example, rape. This is, in fact, a common argument employed by misogynists and it is an analogy that I have deconstructed in the past:

Lions eat zebras, just like men rape women! It's analogies like these that make me want to dig out a retro English police outfit, complete with inflatable novelty billy club, and style myself the Analogy Police. I'm not going to start singing "The Circle of Life" over here, but these two things are not even remotely the same. Lions eat zebras because if the lions don't eat something, they will die in a matter of days. I am pretty darn sure that never before has a man died from not being allowed to rape someone. Beyond that there comes a point where the phrase "apples and oranges" ceases to be adequate. How about "rape is a social phenomena that varies widely across cultures depending on the hostility of that culture towards the concept of female choice whereas lions as a species tend to have level consumption rates based on a shared biological need, furthermore men are not mindless robots with zero control over their ravening penises."

So, yes: it is utterly inappropriate to use a food analogy when talking about rape. Do not do this thing unless you want to look like a world-class douchcanoe.

But! Edward is not illustrating an urge to rape with a food analogy. Edward is employing a food analogy in order to talk about wanting to literally eat Bella. His analogy reduces her to a piece of meat because that is exactly how a part of him views her: as meat. And it seems to me that when you are explaining to someone how much you want to eat them as opposed to wanting to eat all the other kids at school, a "food analogy" isn't inappropriately reductionist -- it's spot-on.

Maybe Edward's apology here is supposed to convey his apologies for viewing Bella as food in the first place: "I'm sorry that I view you as food, whether I describe it in those terms or not." Or perhaps he is apologizing for the gaucheness inherent in outright admitting that he sees her as food: "I'm sorry that I'm using such coarse language to describe what is essentially a food craving but should not be admitted as such to you in this way." Yet his actual apology -- "sorry about the food analogy" -- seems to be less about discomfiting Bella by viewing her as food and talking about her as food, and more about a tacit acceptance that the analogy is somehow inappropriate here. As it indeed would be if he were talking about sex instead of eating.

It almost seems like Edward has forgotten that the rape threat hanging in the air has been cloaked in the metaphor of vampirism thus far. Which I find interesting, because the Doylist decision for an author to use vampirism as a rape metaphor is a decision to use a "food analogy" for something which is not food at all. Employing vampirism as a rape metaphor is a way to take what is ultimately a free choice to override someone's bodily autonomy and make it instead a physical compulsion to override someone's bodily autonomy, by linking the act of rape with the act of eating and the drive for individual survival.

Because rape and eating are not the same thing, this is one of many reasons why it's problematic to link them. No one, as noted above, has ever wasted away and died from Not Raping Folks. Many, many people have died from Not Eating Food. Linking something such as eating, which is a biological imperative in the sense that You Will Die if you don't do it, to something like rape, which is only a "biological imperative" in the evo-psych bullshit maybe-it-might-help-perpetuate-your-genes-but-maybe-not sense of the word is illogical and offensive when used as a rape-apologist argument and potentially very problematic when used as a literary device.

And maybe that's why Edward is apologizing here: he's sorry about the whole food analogy thing as applied to the metaphorical rape that he's metaphorically contemplating when he stares at Bella in her sleep from the corner of her bedroom.

But if that is his meaning, it's very meta of him to say so.

53 comments:

Silver Adept said...

Why not use this for something constructive? Perhaps because, in the end, Alice sees humans the same way other vampires appear to - "mostly harmless, sometimes food, occasionally interesting." If that's the case, though, then food is probably not analogous at all...

Silver Adept said...

Why not use this for something constructive? Perhaps because, in the end, Alice sees humans the same way other vampires appear to - "mostly harmless, sometimes food, occasionally interesting." If that's the case, though, then food is probably not analogous at all...

Silver Adept said...

As Movie!Alice explained it (to the best of my recollection), Alice cannot see all futures, only the one that everyone is currently on. Which suggests she may be able to see long-developing trends that don't rely on individuals (this, her prescience with the stock market), but not necessarily what Edward will not have for lunch when he decides at five-minutes-to that he's going to Subway instead of his planned trip to Burger King. (That is, until Edward decides to change, all Alice will see is him at Burger King. After Edward decides, Alice can see him at Subway.)

...oh, goodness. Alice is a Seldon psychohistorian. Werewolves are collectively The Mule. Which, if true, would make the Twilight saga the story of a giant (series of) Seldon crisis(es) regarding the survival of (the family/vampires). That would help explain the seeming determinism and remarkable lack of agency or options on Bella's part - if she's the linchpin of the crisis, she eventually has to end up in a situation(s) where she will have only one choice to make. Closing off options for her is the "right" thing to do, then.

Of course, then we're cribbing from Asimov. Perhaps the Bella with the truck TARDIS would understand it all.

Anyway, actual point was: I think Alice can only see one timeline at a time, which leaves her unable to forecast the timeline where someone makes an alternate decision until they make the decision. Normally, it's not a problem, because a lot of people decide things before they do things, but it leaves Alice vulnerable to a timeline where there's only a short window between decision and action. In a chess game, Edward would have to move spontaneously, without deep thought or decision-making, to be able to beat Alice. Chess on instinct. Perhaps if they played with a single minute on their game clocks?

Silver Adept said...

As Movie!Alice explained it (to the best of my recollection), Alice cannot see all futures, only the one that everyone is currently on. Which suggests she may be able to see long-developing trends that don't rely on individuals (this, her prescience with the stock market), but not necessarily what Edward will not have for lunch when he decides at five-minutes-to that he's going to Subway instead of his planned trip to Burger King. (That is, until Edward decides to change, all Alice will see is him at Burger King. After Edward decides, Alice can see him at Subway.)

...oh, goodness. Alice is a Seldon psychohistorian. Werewolves are collectively The Mule. Which, if true, would make the Twilight saga the story of a giant (series of) Seldon crisis(es) regarding the survival of (the family/vampires). That would help explain the seeming determinism and remarkable lack of agency or options on Bella's part - if she's the linchpin of the crisis, she eventually has to end up in a situation(s) where she will have only one choice to make. Closing off options for her is the "right" thing to do, then.

Of course, then we're cribbing from Asimov. Perhaps the Bella with the truck TARDIS would understand it all.

Anyway, actual point was: I think Alice can only see one timeline at a time, which leaves her unable to forecast the timeline where someone makes an alternate decision until they make the decision. Normally, it's not a problem, because a lot of people decide things before they do things, but it leaves Alice vulnerable to a timeline where there's only a short window between decision and action. In a chess game, Edward would have to move spontaneously, without deep thought or decision-making, to be able to beat Alice. Chess on instinct. Perhaps if they played with a single minute on their game clocks?

chris the cynic said...

If Edward really considered the whole thing a danger to Bella, and really considered the only good solution for them to be apart, and actually cared about Bella, he'd sic Jasper on her. She's already full of a combination of apathy, scorn and hopelessness, shouldn't be too hard for someone who manipulates emotions to expand the apathy and scorn (hopelessness is already there) to include Edward. While he was at it Jasper could try to raise Bella's emotional level regarding things not related to Edward. Bella would stop being interested in Edward, and she'd be lifted enough out of her depressive state that she could find something she was interested in (maybe painting pictures of dragons, maybe fixing engines, maybe deconstructing bad novels.)

If that wasn't enough, because Edward has noted his own lack of ability to control his reaction to his imprinting-like response to Bella, Edward would sic Jasper on himself.

Problem solved.

He hasn't done that. (So far as I know.) So, yeah, for all his talk about I'm a danger you should be scared we shouldn't be here, it's like I'm in withdrawal and you're the best specimen of my drug of choice I've ever seen, I really want you to be safe and you're not around me, he doesn't really seem to give a damn.

chris the cynic said...

If Edward really considered the whole thing a danger to Bella, and really considered the only good solution for them to be apart, and actually cared about Bella, he'd sic Jasper on her. She's already full of a combination of apathy, scorn and hopelessness, shouldn't be too hard for someone who manipulates emotions to expand the apathy and scorn (hopelessness is already there) to include Edward. While he was at it Jasper could try to raise Bella's emotional level regarding things not related to Edward. Bella would stop being interested in Edward, and she'd be lifted enough out of her depressive state that she could find something she was interested in (maybe painting pictures of dragons, maybe fixing engines, maybe deconstructing bad novels.)

If that wasn't enough, because Edward has noted his own lack of ability to control his reaction to his imprinting-like response to Bella, Edward would sic Jasper on himself.

Problem solved.

He hasn't done that. (So far as I know.) So, yeah, for all his talk about I'm a danger you should be scared we shouldn't be here, it's like I'm in withdrawal and you're the best specimen of my drug of choice I've ever seen, I really want you to be safe and you're not around me, he doesn't really seem to give a damn.

Kristycat said...

The slot in society she's managed to carve out for herself is of a certain size and if she were to suddenly grow a square pair of shoulders and acquire a healthy tan she'd no longer fit in it. She's not a person who's all that secure in her conception of herself — what would happen if she were suddenly to start looking like somebody else?

That being said, this bit resonated with me - I always thought I had a healthy conception of myself, but it's odd how certain changes in your "expected" image affect you. Strangely, when I dyed my dark hair super-light blonde, it seemed perfectly natural, but when I cut it short a few years back, I practically didn't recognize myself in the mirror. I didn't know how to dress, how to do my make-up, how to use my body language as a short-haired person - apparently a HUGE part of my self-image, inside and out, includes "person with long hair"! Who knew?

So I can kind of understand how someone who was used to having their body a certain way - even if maintaining that involved unhealthy-for-them habits, even if it had negative side effects such as frailty - might find it super scary to think about changing their habits and therefore possibly changing the image they present to the world. (And I hasten to point out, except in the case of *extremely* disordered eating, that's ok. While I personally think it's best to eat healthy-for-you, it's also true that there's no moral mandate to be healthy - it's your body. If you're happy with the way you look, comfortable with your choices, and not in danger of imminent death, it's really nobody else's business if you're "too thin" - or "too fat," for that matter.)

Kristycat said...

The slot in society she's managed to carve out for herself is of a certain size and if she were to suddenly grow a square pair of shoulders and acquire a healthy tan she'd no longer fit in it. She's not a person who's all that secure in her conception of herself — what would happen if she were suddenly to start looking like somebody else?

That being said, this bit resonated with me - I always thought I had a healthy conception of myself, but it's odd how certain changes in your "expected" image affect you. Strangely, when I dyed my dark hair super-light blonde, it seemed perfectly natural, but when I cut it short a few years back, I practically didn't recognize myself in the mirror. I didn't know how to dress, how to do my make-up, how to use my body language as a short-haired person - apparently a HUGE part of my self-image, inside and out, includes "person with long hair"! Who knew?

So I can kind of understand how someone who was used to having their body a certain way - even if maintaining that involved unhealthy-for-them habits, even if it had negative side effects such as frailty - might find it super scary to think about changing their habits and therefore possibly changing the image they present to the world. (And I hasten to point out, except in the case of *extremely* disordered eating, that's ok. While I personally think it's best to eat healthy-for-you, it's also true that there's no moral mandate to be healthy - it's your body. If you're happy with the way you look, comfortable with your choices, and not in danger of imminent death, it's really nobody else's business if you're "too thin" - or "too fat," for that matter.)

Silver Adept said...

@Chris - we could be charitable and say that Alice's vision either creates Stable Time Loops when the not-foreordained pathways are taken, or that Alice's ability is able to forecast possible futures at an extremely rapid clip and then automatically prune those futures that do not result in the desired outcome (whatever that may be) such that Alice will always be acting to bring about that branch of futures with the desired outcome, even if some of the details can't be predicted.

Or we could make Alice more like the character in a midseries episode of Fringe that has the ability to calculate probabilities and outcomes, even in the butterfly effect, such that they can set up highly improbable chains of casualty to their desired outcome (demonstrated first by setting a pen on a mailbox).

Still, even in these cases, we have to wonder why Alice isn't dispensing her foreknowledge more often, or seen acting in ways that are supposed to have ramifications for the future, like discreetly drawing Bella away from a potentially lethal situation involving a van and Bella's truck. A textual "talking about the future changes it" would be nice, if nothing else. Or a discussion about "fixed points" that generally unwind time if you try to avert them.

Silver Adept said...

@Chris - we could be charitable and say that Alice's vision either creates Stable Time Loops when the not-foreordained pathways are taken, or that Alice's ability is able to forecast possible futures at an extremely rapid clip and then automatically prune those futures that do not result in the desired outcome (whatever that may be) such that Alice will always be acting to bring about that branch of futures with the desired outcome, even if some of the details can't be predicted.

Or we could make Alice more like the character in a midseries episode of Fringe that has the ability to calculate probabilities and outcomes, even in the butterfly effect, such that they can set up highly improbable chains of casualty to their desired outcome (demonstrated first by setting a pen on a mailbox).

Still, even in these cases, we have to wonder why Alice isn't dispensing her foreknowledge more often, or seen acting in ways that are supposed to have ramifications for the future, like discreetly drawing Bella away from a potentially lethal situation involving a van and Bella's truck. A textual "talking about the future changes it" would be nice, if nothing else. Or a discussion about "fixed points" that generally unwind time if you try to avert them.

chris the cynic said...

There are definitely some charitable interpretations of how time viewing/time travel works that could deal with some to the causality stuff.

For example if we assume that the time turner in Harry Potter results in seemingly impossible time loops because what it actually does is start from the position where it wasn't used and then loop and loop and loop until the result converges into a single timeline with a stable loop in it (and if the looping doesn't converge it throws an error message) then that, I think, solves it.

If what Alice sees is the future that would result from her looking into the future until she saw something that she liked, and that's why she's so willing to do something for no reason other than, "I saw that I would do it," then that can potentially fix causality with respect to her actions.

But even if she isn't scar tissue on the surface of the universe, there's still the question of why not get Bella out of the way of the van, why not tell Edward that it's safe and he doesn't need to worry, why not use this power for anything constructive?

Alice could be Trance Gemini when I was looking for the quote I wanted, I found this one that I don't recognize:
OK. OK, Trance, you can do this, you know you can. There is a perfect possible future where everything will turn out just fine and the odds of creating that future are only one million, six hundred and seventy-one thousand to one. More or less.

The one I was looking for was:
HUNT: That's one possibility.
TRANCE: There are others, you know. In fact there are one million, three hundred forty two thousand and sixty three others, and some of them? Some of them are really great. There's even a mathematical possibility that everything will turn out perfectly.

chris the cynic said...

There are definitely some charitable interpretations of how time viewing/time travel works that could deal with some to the causality stuff.

For example if we assume that the time turner in Harry Potter results in seemingly impossible time loops because what it actually does is start from the position where it wasn't used and then loop and loop and loop until the result converges into a single timeline with a stable loop in it (and if the looping doesn't converge it throws an error message) then that, I think, solves it.

If what Alice sees is the future that would result from her looking into the future until she saw something that she liked, and that's why she's so willing to do something for no reason other than, "I saw that I would do it," then that can potentially fix causality with respect to her actions.

But even if she isn't scar tissue on the surface of the universe, there's still the question of why not get Bella out of the way of the van, why not tell Edward that it's safe and he doesn't need to worry, why not use this power for anything constructive?

Alice could be Trance Gemini when I was looking for the quote I wanted, I found this one that I don't recognize:
OK. OK, Trance, you can do this, you know you can. There is a perfect possible future where everything will turn out just fine and the odds of creating that future are only one million, six hundred and seventy-one thousand to one. More or less.

The one I was looking for was:
HUNT: That's one possibility.
TRANCE: There are others, you know. In fact there are one million, three hundred forty two thousand and sixty three others, and some of them? Some of them are really great. There's even a mathematical possibility that everything will turn out perfectly.

chris the cynic said...

My memory, which comes from people telling me things as I have not seen the movies or so much as touched the books after Twilight itself, is that Bella is perfectly seeable but she has a habit of hanging out with unseeable things. Alice can't see werewolves or vampire-human hybrids and possibly other things as well.

I assume that Alice and Edward potentially result in a feedback loop. Consider a chess game between the two. Alice can see what Edward will do and thus plan against that, thus finding her way to a game in which she wins. Edward can read her mind and see that making those moves will result in him losing and so decides not to make those moves, which will change the future that Alice sees, allowing her to chart a new path to victory, which Edward will see in her mind and decide not to make those moves, changing the future that Alice sees...

And I wonder to some degree if Edward leaving in New Moon can be the result of Edward reading Alice's mind, seeing that they're all going to live happily ever after with Bella as a vampire, saying, "Fuck that," since he doesn't like the idea of Bella as a vampire, and leaving in hopes of averting the happily ever after.

-

But for the present I think I have to assume that Alice isn't being consulted much because otherwise Edward should not be worried about bad things happening since he should know that things will work out at least until the first local fursplodes and makes gaps in Alice's vision.

So, yeah... if Edward is worried about bad things happening to Bella he really should be consulting with Alice, who is already on his side, and yet he so very clearly is not.

Of course there are times when Alice isn't consulting with herself when she really ought to be. It never occurred to her that while checking for the weather might be important to maintaining the masquerade it might also be useful to check for important events, like say out of control vans, that would otherwise be unexpected when they occurred within spitting distance of the Cullens? When tasked with keeping Bella safe it never occurred to her to check to see if, I don't know, Bella might end up in the clutches of a hostile vampire?

chris the cynic said...

My memory, which comes from people telling me things as I have not seen the movies or so much as touched the books after Twilight itself, is that Bella is perfectly seeable but she has a habit of hanging out with unseeable things. Alice can't see werewolves or vampire-human hybrids and possibly other things as well.

I assume that Alice and Edward potentially result in a feedback loop. Consider a chess game between the two. Alice can see what Edward will do and thus plan against that, thus finding her way to a game in which she wins. Edward can read her mind and see that making those moves will result in him losing and so decides not to make those moves, which will change the future that Alice sees, allowing her to chart a new path to victory, which Edward will see in her mind and decide not to make those moves, changing the future that Alice sees...

And I wonder to some degree if Edward leaving in New Moon can be the result of Edward reading Alice's mind, seeing that they're all going to live happily ever after with Bella as a vampire, saying, "Fuck that," since he doesn't like the idea of Bella as a vampire, and leaving in hopes of averting the happily ever after.

-

But for the present I think I have to assume that Alice isn't being consulted much because otherwise Edward should not be worried about bad things happening since he should know that things will work out at least until the first local fursplodes and makes gaps in Alice's vision.

So, yeah... if Edward is worried about bad things happening to Bella he really should be consulting with Alice, who is already on his side, and yet he so very clearly is not.

Of course there are times when Alice isn't consulting with herself when she really ought to be. It never occurred to her that while checking for the weather might be important to maintaining the masquerade it might also be useful to check for important events, like say out of control vans, that would otherwise be unexpected when they occurred within spitting distance of the Cullens? When tasked with keeping Bella safe it never occurred to her to check to see if, I don't know, Bella might end up in the clutches of a hostile vampire?

Ana Mardoll said...

[CN: Diet Talk, Disordered Eating]

I think everyone is on the same page, but for the viewers at home: There's a difference between how food/eating/bodies work in fictional Twilight world and how they work in reality.

In reality, many people are thin no matter what they eat or do, and many people are fat no matter what they eat or do. (This is basic HAES 101 stuff, and not up for debate in this thread.)

In Twilight-verse, as we've noted before, the narrative regularly calls out Bella's avoidance of food and seems to imply that this avoidance makes her attractive by keeping her thin and frail and faint much of the time. The connection is subtle, but it's definitely a FedEx arrow that I think is there, and is exacerbated by how frequently it's called out in Twilight that Bella is not eating.

So when we talk about Bella Is Thin Because She Doesn't Eat, we want to be careful to point out that this is Meyer's (wrong) conceptions of how the world works, and not reality. (In the same way, we have to be careful when we call out the Bella Is Lovely Because She Is White issues.) Which is what Kristy and bekabot are doing, and I'm providing commentary on, lol.

Re: Disordered Eating, Mental illness of any kind makes things more complicated. In general, health is not a moral imperative (HAES 101) and it's largely a personal right to determine what and when and how to eat without auditing. But individual situations are going to vary, and there's definitely a difference between "This is how I treat people in general" versus "This is how I treat Bob, my close friend who is struggling with serious issues", because individual situations pretty much always require tailored solutions.

Ana Mardoll said...

[CN: Diet Talk, Disordered Eating]

I think everyone is on the same page, but for the viewers at home: There's a difference between how food/eating/bodies work in fictional Twilight world and how they work in reality.

In reality, many people are thin no matter what they eat or do, and many people are fat no matter what they eat or do. (This is basic HAES 101 stuff, and not up for debate in this thread.)

In Twilight-verse, as we've noted before, the narrative regularly calls out Bella's avoidance of food and seems to imply that this avoidance makes her attractive by keeping her thin and frail and faint much of the time. The connection is subtle, but it's definitely a FedEx arrow that I think is there, and is exacerbated by how frequently it's called out in Twilight that Bella is not eating.

So when we talk about Bella Is Thin Because She Doesn't Eat, we want to be careful to point out that this is Meyer's (wrong) conceptions of how the world works, and not reality. (In the same way, we have to be careful when we call out the Bella Is Lovely Because She Is White issues.) Which is what Kristy and bekabot are doing, and I'm providing commentary on, lol.

Re: Disordered Eating, Mental illness of any kind makes things more complicated. In general, health is not a moral imperative (HAES 101) and it's largely a personal right to determine what and when and how to eat without auditing. But individual situations are going to vary, and there's definitely a difference between "This is how I treat people in general" versus "This is how I treat Bob, my close friend who is struggling with serious issues", because individual situations pretty much always require tailored solutions.

bekabot said...

(Discussion of Diet Talk, fat stereotypes, body issues: more of the same)

"Point of order: while you're probably right when it comes to Bella in particular, I do want to point out that some people are just naturally skinny regardless of whether or not they skip breakfast and lunch, and also that there really are people who skip meals or eat very lightly for reasons other than wanting to lose weight."

FWIW, I think Bella's a three-fer; she is skinny, she is a light eater, and she's weird about food. But that isn't a part of the background of Bella's life, it's part of the foreground. The book places the whole issue front and center: Bella eats about once a day; mysteriously, she obtains a boyfriend for whom she literally is food and who (we gather) eats about once a week. Bella can tell when the boyfriend hasn't eaten, because then his eyes turn black, acting like the Empty gauge on the dashboard of a car; and she's concerned when he hasn't eaten, because he gets testy and (presumably) has less of the energy necessary to resist his urges. She makes dinner for her father, after a long hungry day. The plot of Twilight, cooked down (no pun) can be summed up as follows: to her boyfriend Edward, Bella is a snack. Can he keep himself from treating her like one long enough to allow the author to write another book?

If Bella were "just a thin person" less emphasis would be placed on all of this. But so much is made of it that without it the plot of Twilight, and of all books which come after it in the series, would be unintelligible. That's a measure of how important the text thinks it is. So it's not either-or. Bella really is a skinny person, and she really is an abstemious eater, and she really is a pale person (when she withers in the first section of the last book she only takes to a logical conclusion what she's been threatening to do all along) and she really is a person possessed of the idea that all these things (physical slightness, nacreous pallor, no eating in public) are things which are expected of her and which are dicta which she'd better obey. She's right, they are. They're like a Romantic heroine's TB: both a badge of specialness and the specialness itself. Without the badge and blight of specialness, the heroine would no longer be a heroine; she'd just be part of the supporting chorus, like Jessica, Angela, and Lauren (a thought which can't be borne).

So, yes, Bella is skinny but — there's no "just" about it. Bella is skinny, within the terms set by the Twilight books, her skinniness is important enough that she attends to it sedulously (and the text does too).

bekabot said...

(Discussion of Diet Talk, fat stereotypes, body issues: more of the same)

"Point of order: while you're probably right when it comes to Bella in particular, I do want to point out that some people are just naturally skinny regardless of whether or not they skip breakfast and lunch, and also that there really are people who skip meals or eat very lightly for reasons other than wanting to lose weight."

FWIW, I think Bella's a three-fer; she is skinny, she is a light eater, and she's weird about food. But that isn't a part of the background of Bella's life, it's part of the foreground. The book places the whole issue front and center: Bella eats about once a day; mysteriously, she obtains a boyfriend for whom she literally is food and who (we gather) eats about once a week. Bella can tell when the boyfriend hasn't eaten, because then his eyes turn black, acting like the Empty gauge on the dashboard of a car; and she's concerned when he hasn't eaten, because he gets testy and (presumably) has less of the energy necessary to resist his urges. She makes dinner for her father, after a long hungry day. The plot of Twilight, cooked down (no pun) can be summed up as follows: to her boyfriend Edward, Bella is a snack. Can he keep himself from treating her like one long enough to allow the author to write another book?

If Bella were "just a thin person" less emphasis would be placed on all of this. But so much is made of it that without it the plot of Twilight, and of all books which come after it in the series, would be unintelligible. That's a measure of how important the text thinks it is. So it's not either-or. Bella really is a skinny person, and she really is an abstemious eater, and she really is a pale person (when she withers in the first section of the last book she only takes to a logical conclusion what she's been threatening to do all along) and she really is a person possessed of the idea that all these things (physical slightness, nacreous pallor, no eating in public) are things which are expected of her and which are dicta which she'd better obey. She's right, they are. They're like a Romantic heroine's TB: both a badge of specialness and the specialness itself. Without the badge and blight of specialness, the heroine would no longer be a heroine; she'd just be part of the supporting chorus, like Jessica, Angela, and Lauren (a thought which can't be borne).

So, yes, Bella is skinny but — there's no "just" about it. Bella is skinny, within the terms set by the Twilight books, her skinniness is important enough that she attends to it sedulously (and the text does too).

Ana Mardoll said...

(No matter how many times I read this exchange, it cracks me up.)

Ana Mardoll said...

(No matter how many times I read this exchange, it cracks me up.)

chris the cynic said...

If not for Alice's causality crushing paradox precognition, a completely valid thing would be that Alice can only see the future that would have resulted from her not looking into the future. Because what she sees allows her to change her own actions, and others can change their own actions in response, so every future she sees becomes outdated the moment she sees it. She knows what would happen if she acted in this exact way going forward, but really, even if she tried, she couldn't get it exact. The moment has passed.

Which means that while Alice can see how people would react to what she would have otherwise said and done, she can never be completely sure how they'll react to what she actually says and does. (Though she can probably get a pretty good idea by simply running through various, "What if I try..." scenarios in her head and trying to imitate her preferred one perfectly. That should work in the short term before the minor variations between what she saw herself doing and what she actually did have a chance to snowball into a much bigger thing via other people's free will.)

chris the cynic said...

If not for Alice's causality crushing paradox precognition, a completely valid thing would be that Alice can only see the future that would have resulted from her not looking into the future. Because what she sees allows her to change her own actions, and others can change their own actions in response, so every future she sees becomes outdated the moment she sees it. She knows what would happen if she acted in this exact way going forward, but really, even if she tried, she couldn't get it exact. The moment has passed.

Which means that while Alice can see how people would react to what she would have otherwise said and done, she can never be completely sure how they'll react to what she actually says and does. (Though she can probably get a pretty good idea by simply running through various, "What if I try..." scenarios in her head and trying to imitate her preferred one perfectly. That should work in the short term before the minor variations between what she saw herself doing and what she actually did have a chance to snowball into a much bigger thing via other people's free will.)

chris the cynic said...

I don't really buy the handwave. The butterfly effect should have crushed her powers. Yes, some predictions can be made by dealing with the aggregate rather than the specific, but for the most part any seeing of the future more than the next few moments is going to rely on a lot of decisions that haven't been made yet. Even the two minutes of the main character in Next would seem a stretch.

One person who makes decisions spontaneously does something, her power (under argued limitations) couldn't foresee that, people react to it, in the process changing their own decisions, her power couldn't foresee that, suddenly it's a new world in which the entire family is hunted down by a mob rampaging with pitchforks, but wait, that person who wasn't sure how to react changed their mind. Now it's a global utopia. That's nic- Wait, now they're waffling. Utopia, pitchforks, utopia, pitchforks, crap spontaneous person acted again and now everyone in the room is changing their decisions. One person is considering nine different possibilities, another five, another just two, which would lead to flashing between 90 futures if not for the fact that three people seriously have no idea what they're going to do now making them dead zones of vision, and everything that they affect (everything within a spherical area centered on them starting at radius equals zero and expanding at the speed of light) must likewise become a deadzone. Within .04 seconds the entire world is a dead zone that Alice cannot see. But that assumes that Alice cares all that much about what's going on at the antipodal point. More likely she's more interested in what's going on in the room, and her sight of that is going to be a lot more limited than .04 seconds into the future.

chris the cynic said...

I don't really buy the handwave. The butterfly effect should have crushed her powers. Yes, some predictions can be made by dealing with the aggregate rather than the specific, but for the most part any seeing of the future more than the next few moments is going to rely on a lot of decisions that haven't been made yet. Even the two minutes of the main character in Next would seem a stretch.

One person who makes decisions spontaneously does something, her power (under argued limitations) couldn't foresee that, people react to it, in the process changing their own decisions, her power couldn't foresee that, suddenly it's a new world in which the entire family is hunted down by a mob rampaging with pitchforks, but wait, that person who wasn't sure how to react changed their mind. Now it's a global utopia. That's nic- Wait, now they're waffling. Utopia, pitchforks, utopia, pitchforks, crap spontaneous person acted again and now everyone in the room is changing their decisions. One person is considering nine different possibilities, another five, another just two, which would lead to flashing between 90 futures if not for the fact that three people seriously have no idea what they're going to do now making them dead zones of vision, and everything that they affect (everything within a spherical area centered on them starting at radius equals zero and expanding at the speed of light) must likewise become a deadzone. Within .04 seconds the entire world is a dead zone that Alice cannot see. But that assumes that Alice cares all that much about what's going on at the antipodal point. More likely she's more interested in what's going on in the room, and her sight of that is going to be a lot more limited than .04 seconds into the future.

Ana Mardoll said...

ARGH. There is so much wrong with this book, that it's impossible to pin down if everyone is a horrible garbage person or just terribly written. Because the thought occurs that the Cullens should NEVER have "accidents" because Alice should be able to scan for that stuff every morning before they leave the house. It's not like she apparently has anything better to do with her time.

And yet Jasper will flat-out attack Bella in New Moon because she cut herself. You'd think "checking to see if my boyfriend will attack my brother's girlfriend at her important birthday party" would be on the morning to-do list.

Evan said...

... that he's totally fine with the idea of Bella dying via his actions. Just not a van and not via his teeth. Methods of Bella-death beyond that Edward is down with.

BELLA: But, Edward, if you drive this fast we might hit a VAN!

Evan said...

... that he's totally fine with the idea of Bella dying via his actions. Just not a van and not via his teeth. Methods of Bella-death beyond that Edward is down with.

BELLA: But, Edward, if you drive this fast we might hit a VAN!

Ana Mardoll said...

Speaking of powers that aren't used, doesn't he have Alice to one side constantly assuring him that everything is going to be okay? Can he not use her as an early-warning detector to protect Bella? ("Don't go bowling with Bella tonight, you'll eat her. Tomorrow's hiking trip is still okay, though.")

(Which, in itself, is kind of weird. She sometimes can't see Bella because of Shield, right? But she does see that Bella will end up as a vampire and friends with Alice, right? That's how I remember the movies, anyway -- it's been awhile since I read ahead in Twilight.)

Something along these lines would at least convey caring.

Silver Adept said...

@chris - Your points, they are quite valid. Which then leads to previous discussions about how Edward could also take steps to remove himself from Bella or get assistance from the family so as to avoid putting Bella in danger, if he cares for her as a person, anyway. Which, at this point in the novel, I do not believe he has actually done. The Food Analogy is just one more in the string of statements and actions by Edward Cullen that shows he still sees Bella as an object.

Silver Adept said...

@chris - Your points, they are quite valid. Which then leads to previous discussions about how Edward could also take steps to remove himself from Bella or get assistance from the family so as to avoid putting Bella in danger, if he cares for her as a person, anyway. Which, at this point in the novel, I do not believe he has actually done. The Food Analogy is just one more in the string of statements and actions by Edward Cullen that shows he still sees Bella as an object.

Silver Adept said...

Strangely enough, this is one of those times where I think Edward is being honest, because it serves his purpose to impress on Bella that he's dangerous and always on the verge of losing his control. Not that he actually will, but if he can convince Bella he's dangerous, maybe she'll actually try not to be enamored of him and push him away. Normally, "I want to eat you" would do the trick, by maybe he should have led with "I break into your house at night and watch you sleep"?

@Smilodon (CN: BDSM)

Done right, those non-consensual-seeming bits are basically the War Of The Worlds broadcast - if you weren't there at the beginning to know, you wouldn't be able to deduce it. With Edward, there's been no explicit declarations anywhere (something that Fifty Shades of Grey at least makes a perfunctory gesture toward), so we have no clue. Which triggers our "this is problematic" sense, because, outside that explicit framework, it really is problematic.

Silver Adept said...

Strangely enough, this is one of those times where I think Edward is being honest, because it serves his purpose to impress on Bella that he's dangerous and always on the verge of losing his control. Not that he actually will, but if he can convince Bella he's dangerous, maybe she'll actually try not to be enamored of him and push him away. Normally, "I want to eat you" would do the trick, by maybe he should have led with "I break into your house at night and watch you sleep"?

@Smilodon (CN: BDSM)

Done right, those non-consensual-seeming bits are basically the War Of The Worlds broadcast - if you weren't there at the beginning to know, you wouldn't be able to deduce it. With Edward, there's been no explicit declarations anywhere (something that Fifty Shades of Grey at least makes a perfunctory gesture toward), so we have no clue. Which triggers our "this is problematic" sense, because, outside that explicit framework, it really is problematic.

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