November 25, 2012

Twilight: Unreliable

Twilight, pp. 152-156.

Jess drove faster than the Chief, so we made it to Port Angeles by four. It had been a while since I'd had a girls' night out, and the estrogen rush was invigorating. We listened to whiny rock songs while Jessica jabbered on about the boys we hung out with. Jessica's dinner with Mike had gone very well, and she was hoping that by Saturday night they would have progressed to the first-kiss stage. I smiled to myself, pleased.

Our Bella is glad her friend is getting on the rebound the man she herself rejected. I'm sure she finds the whole thing amusing. I'm surprised she doesn't flat-out tell Jessica that Mike only asked her out because Bella turned him down, since Mike hasn't shown any interest in Jessica at this point. You might say that we wouldn't know since Bella doesn't register any male interest in anyone except herself, but I would counter with Mike's confused reaction when Bella suggests Jessica to him.We're also back in our comfort zone of Jessica "jabbering on" and Meyer's clunky, unnatural narration ("first-kiss stage", "estrogen rush"), but I have to wonder what Jessica's waiting for, here. Honey, this isn't a blind date. You've known this guy for a long time, and you've obviously been pining for him for a while, too. I don't think one kiss is exactly moving too fast. Of course, in Stephenie Meyer's Mormon-tacular universe, maybe it's Mike who's refusing to get to first base. You know, because of his True abstinence Love for Jessica that he discovered deep in his heart only moments after Bella turned him down.

But wait, whoa, hold on a minute. "Jess"? When did she become "Jess"? Bella has never once listened to anything Jessica has had to say that wasn't about Edward. As I pointed out before, Jessica's only dialogue printed in the book is Edward-related. Any other time, she, well, she "jabbers on". Bella hasn't done anything with her outside of pretending to listen to her at school. Jessica was at the beach thing, but Bella went there on Mike's invitation and never spoke to Jessica once during the whole thing. This is a girl she's known for two months and has continually ignored over that entire period....and now all of a sudden she's "Jess"? Get real.

Oh well, to be fair, Jessica does get some dialogue here that isn't about Edward. Instead, it's about how Bella is a character who doesn't make sense on her own terms:

Both Jessica and Angela seemed surprised and almost disbelieving when I told them I'd never been to a dance in Phoenix.

"Didn't you ever go with a boyfriend or something?" Jess asked dubiously as we walked through the front doors of the store.

"Really," I tried to convince her, not wanting to confess my dancing problems. "I've never had a boyfriend or anything close. I didn't go out much."

"Why not?" Jessica demanded.

"No one asked me," I answered honestly.

That's right, it's once again time to indulge Meyer's penchant for having it both ways. Bella, the girl that every boy wants and every girl wants to be, has never had a boyfriend "or anything close" (whatever that means). And why not? Because she's uppity and judgemental and thoroughly unlikeable? No, silly, it's because no-one asked. At a (presumably) relatively large public high school in Phoenix. Sure, every male we've seen in Forks has asked or will ask her out (except Edward, but when he's ready to take her out, he'll tell her), but apparently she was a social pariah in Phoenix. I guess Arizonans have an inborn hatred for transparent wish-fulfillment author self-insertions.

I do like that Bella "answered honestly". I could lambast this as yet another example of Meyer's egregious overuse of adverbs or of her pathological fear of using the word "said" in her dialogue, but I'd prefer to think Meyer's finally starting to catch on that Bella does like to lie and so she needs to point out that Bella is actually telling the truth here. But to no avail, since even Jessica's not buying it.

[Jessica] looked sceptical. "People ask you out here," she reminded me, "and you tell them no."

I think we might have an instance of Meta-Jessica here. Somehow, despite Meyer's incredible writing ineptitude, she accidentally created a character, one that refuses to dance to Meyer's tune. Meta-Jessica recognizes Bella's passive-aggression for what it is and calls her on it. But Meyer is strong in the Dark Side of the Force, and Meta-Jessica is quickly hushed up by the power of faux-emo moping. After all, it's been two pages since Bella last moped about Edward's not being around, so we get this:

The girls'-night high was wearing off in the wake of my annoyance at Tyler, leaving room for the gloom to move back in.

Whew! I thought for a minute Bella might be able to go a few hours without spiraling into an Edward-inspired depression. Zis bullet has been, how you say...dodged!

Bella then exhibits her narcissism (or typical teen-aged selfishness, according to some comments) by interrogating the other girl on this girls' night out about whether or not the Cullens missed two days of school because of her, specifically. Not just Edward, apparently, but all of them.

"Um, Angela..." She looked up curiously.

"Is it normal for the...Cullens"--I kept my eyes on the shoes--"to be out of school a lot?" I failed miserably in my attempt to sound nonchalant.

"Yes, when the weather is good they go backpacking all the time--even the doctor. They're all real outdoorsy," she told me quietly, examining her shoes, too. She didn't ask me one question, let alone the hundreds that Jessica would have unleashed. I was beginning to really like Angela.

So, why do you like Jessica again? Oh that's right, you don't.

Meyer really needs to stop calling attention to how ridiculous it is that the Cullens have integrated themselves so thoroughly into their surrounding human society if they can't even be viewed in direct sunlight. I guess world-class surgeon Carlisle isn't on call during these "backpacking trips" to avoid the sun. How lucky for him; I'm sure many doctors in the world would love to know how he manages to avoid being on call whenever he wants. And the Cullens must miss a lot of school in the spring. Even in the Pacific Northwest, there are lots of sunny days in May. And the Cullens have somehow lived in Forks for four generations without anyone noticing that none of them ages. (Remember, Jake's great-grandfather made a pact with the Cullens, the same ones.) This just doesn't make sense on any level. But Meyer wants to have it both ways, so by authorial fiat, she gets it. The Cullens have lived in Forks for about a century, a tiny town that doesn't have nearly enough high schools for them to graduate from a different one every four years, without even changing their names, and no-one notices because Meyer doesn't resolve contradictions in different parts of her novel; she just fails to notice they exist because she doesn't bother to edit. Connor MacLeod survived in plain sight as an immortal for decades, but that was in New York City, where it's a lot easier to hide, and under different names. He didn't move to a town of 3000 and live as "Connor MacLeod" for 200 years without aging a day. Oh, and he could come out during the day.

Bella goes off alone to find a bookstore while her friends go do something else. Bella does this because, she says, she likes to go to bookstores alone. This isn't surprising, since she likes to do everything alone. The only reason she came on this trip at all was to distract herself from moping about Edward. (And of course it didn't work, because she likes moping about Edward.) If Edward had appeared in school that day, you can bet she wouldn't be on this little excursion right now.

In the Twilight film, Bella goes inside the bookstore she finds and purchases a book about folklore, as she's still doing research to determine if Edward is a vampire. In the novel, naturally, even this bit of proactivity is denied her, in part because she already knows Edward's a vampire by means of her privileged access to the author's mind, but mostly because Meyer can't bear to write her fauxtagonist actually doing things.

I wasn't paying as much attention as I should to where I was going; I was wrestling with despair. I was trying so hard not to think about him, and what Angela had said...and more than anything trying to beat down my hopes for Saturday [when Edward is supposed to take her to Seattle], fearing a disappointment more painful than the rest, when I looked up to see someone's silver Volvo parked along the street and it all came crashing down on me. Stupid, unreliable vampire, I thought to myself.

You know, that's the trouble with vampires. They're unreliable.


  1. Also worth pointing out that Conner McLeod DID get caught eventually - his tactic was no longer flawless with the record keeping abilities of the mid 80s, and if they ever tried to bring Highlander* into the 21st century they'd need to think of something a fair bit cleverer - it's not like he never does anything notable, he's clearly been arrested several times before because he's familiar with the procedure.

    *Shame they never made any sequels to Highlander. What's that? No, I'm sorry, I can't hear you. You'll be saying there were sequels to the Matrix next.

    1. To cut Connor some slack, he gets caught primarily because it's the Gathering, and so he has to kill Fasil in a semi-public place and then the Kurgan attacks him while he's being tailed by Brenda. I never thought about his conduct indicating he's been arrested before, but yeah, it does seem to. While I adore his interrogation scenes, they do suggest he's no stranger to being questioned by '80s police officers.

      In fact, I like to think that that's what triggers the Gathering. The film gives no explanation for why it happens in the '80s, of all decades (just as it gives no explanation for immortality), and since you know my love for ambiguity, you'll not be surprised that I think leaving it unexplained is for the best. Still, my completely unfounded thought is that the Gathering occurs when the immortals can no longer effectively conceal their existence.

      Which just makes the Cullens' hiding in Forks, under their original names, all the more ludicrous. I mean, they register in public high school, which requires proof of birth, residence, vaccinations....

      Do the vampires keep up with their vaccinations so they can attend public school? And if so, does the nurse notice they don't have a pulse?

    2. Oh, absolutely - I was pointing out that even with the precaution of changing his name Connor still got caught in the 80s. Attending high school over and over again in the 21st century, in the same state? And always calling in sick when it's sunny? As Jules would say, "that's not the same ballpark, that's not even the same sport".

      Quite apart from anything else just how bored would you be if all you'd been doing for decades was going to high school? Connor gets it - he hasn't been an antique dealer for centuries, after all. If you're going to spend your immortality on PE lessons for the next 200 years, just do whatever it is kills vampires in Meyer's world and get out of the way so that someone who won't waste their gift can have a go.

  2. Well, all girls go to the book store when they want to gloom over a man. It's quiet there and no one would see the despair.hahaha The language is even older than I am and I've never heard a teen speak that way. Oh, and she got popular because she's the new girl in town. No matter how ugly or fat, everyone wants to go out with the new girl or be there friend...Like that's true. Those of us who have moved around knows that is NEVER the case. Maybe it's like the movie Ground Hog Day. No one knows the same day is repeating over and over again. Yes, that's it.