August 19, 2012

Twilight: Blood Appeal

Twilight, pp. 85-90.

The rest of the morning passed in a blur. It was difficult to believe that I hadn't just imagined what Edward had said, and the way his eyes had looked. Maybe it was just a very convincing dream that I'd confused with reality. That seemed more probable than that I really appealed to him on any level.

We open this week with another piece of unintentional irony. Once again, Stephenie [sic] Meyer manages to get both aspects of a particular situation wrong at the same time. She has even odds to get at least one right, but Twilight is such a masterpiece of suck that it's consistently wrong at a number of levels simultaneously.

It is true, of course, that Bella shouldn't appeal to Edward "on any level". First among these, of course, is that vampires eat people. Edward's attraction to Bella is like a person falling in love with a deer. Would you feel anything approaching romantic love for something that you hunt, kill, and eat? Now, to make the vampire mythos as sexually neutered as possible in this story, we'll eventually find out that the Cullen clan don't eat people anymore. (Come on, not even a Dexter or Morpheus the Living Vampire we-only-prey-on-bad-people thing? No. The vampires must be as nonthreatening as possible for maximum faux-bad boyness.) But as we'll discover, this doesn't in any way decrease their desire to eat humans. It's just that these are Zen vampires that hold their desires in check. So the point still stands. Edward has eaten lots of people, and he'd still eat people now if he didn't practice safe feeding. The notion that he'd have true romantic feelings toward a person is unthinkable. (Again, the Edward-as-villain plotline is just straining to come out here.)

That the prey animal Edward has a totally unbelievable fixation on is Bella makes it even more ludicrous. In all his decades of unlife, he's never come across anyone as enchanting as a 17-year-old girl he's shared probably four minutes of conversation with? I guess her high school-level command of the process of cell mitosis is pretty impressive stuff where Edward comes from! We'll be told later that Edward is drawn to Bella primarily because he can't read her mind. (Because Edward does that, you know.) Now I know I'm hardly the first to make this observation, but really, it's too easy:

Maybe he can't read her mind because there isn't anything to read.

But Meyer can't just get this wrong. No, a rich, powerful, dark, and mysterious man falling in love with the heroine for no discernable reason is part and parcel of hack romance novels. (Novels of this type written by good authors provide female protagonists who are believably irresistable to such men.) Any old crap writer can be not bothered to craft a plausible scenario in which two characters in a romantic story could actually fall in love with each other. It takes someone as monumentally untalented as Meyer to both do that and have an unbelievable scene in which the heroine recognises this fact, but for no reason at all! As noted, if you know Edward is a 100-year-old vampire, you can't believe his attraction to Bella. But Bella doesn't know this. All she knows is that Edward is a year ahead of her in school, is hot, and is kind of a creepy jerk. Why wouldn't she appeal to him? So far, every boy at the entire school has been asking her out! The most popular girl in school has made her her best galpal. And if that isn't enough, she's new to this tiny, isolated town that probably hasn't had any new blood since the Carter administration.

To cut Meyer as much slack as possible, this could possibly work if Bella were sheltered, naive, and socially inept, the way good Mormon parents like to think their good Mormon girls are. (They aren't.) In short, maybe if Bella had actually lived in Forks her whole life and been raised by Charlie, maybe I could buy that she reached age seventeen without seeing herself as attractive. But Bella grew up in Phoenix, raised by her pseudo-hippie New Age mother whose first question when she hears Bella likes a boy is, "Are you being safe?" I can't believe I'm saying this, but "he really likes me?"  is immature for high school. Think about what that means.

Even if Bella consciously rejects relationships, dating, and the high school social scene, it's not credible that she has no understanding of how it works, and since her arrival in Forks, she has shown she does know how the game is played. Once again Meyer wants to have her cake and eat it, too. She wants Bella to be popular and liked and desired even as she's standoff-ish, tragically hip, and withdrawn. She's written Bella as both naive and jaded, narcissitic and empathetic, passive-aggressive and...well, she got that one consistent. Bella has belief and understanding that she could never have formed without going through experiences that can't possibly have left her as innocent as she has to be to keep this "I don't know know why boys like me" foolishness going.

At this point Meyer informs us that Bella's mooning over whether or not Edward really said he wasn't going to talk to her because they shouldn't be friends hasn't been taking place in solitude. No, she's been doing this while--and I hope you're sitting down as you read this--ignoring the person she's with. That isn't my judgement; Bella tells us so. It's poor Jessica she's ignoring, again. Jessica, who apparently has no friends other than Bella, despite Bella's never once so far listening to anything Jessica had to say that wasn't about Edward. This time "Jessica babbled on and on about her dance plans...completely unaware of my inattention." That's our Bella!

Jessica finally stops "babbling" when she mentions Edward (because all talk that isn't about Edward is babble by definition), who's sitting alone instead of with the rest of the Cullen clan. He motions for Bella to come over, and Jessica reacts to this with "insulting astonishment", even though Bella is "star[ing] in disbelief". Right, so Jessica's disbelief that Edward would want to see Bella is insulting, while Bella's disbelief of the exact same thing at the exact same time is not. That's our Bella: She's right and everyone else is wrong, even when they have identical thoughts. I mean, I can't think of a more naked sign of authorial favour. When you're wrong, I'm right, and when you're right, I'm right. Isn't this the same person who earlier on this very page declared it more likely that she hallucinated an entire conversation than that Edward would find her appealing "in any way"? Yet Jessica's "astonishment" at this very thing is "insulting"?

Edward wants to see her because he "decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly". When Bella rightly points out that he's not making sense, he says, "I know[!]" and leaves it at that. Then why did he say it in the first place? Because he's the kind of person we here in normal-people land call something that rhymes with "brass pole". He eventually says he's "giving up" on trying to stay away from her. The two then descend into a bottomlessly silly exchange in which he says it's a problem that he says too much around her, so he says it so that she doesn't understand what it means. So why is it a problem? And how can he accidentally say "too much" if it's nonsensical? Then we go over the "I'm warning you, I'm dangerous" rigamorole all over again, because we readers are too dumb to get it the first 37 times.

Or maybe Meyer thinks that if she keeps saying it, we'll believe Edward really is dangerous.

*Okay, I know I've said that attending high school for eternity would be a horrible fate. I mean, listening to teen-agers prattle on about nothing day after day as year after year slips past....So, Edward doesn't do that. I get it. But what exactly does he do? He doesn't talk to anyone, doesn't appear to study (he just reads the teachers' minds to find out what the answers they want)...what does he do in school for seven hours a day?

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